Truly Powerful People (142)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am 18 years old and work at a school for developmentally disabled children and adults. I spend the majority of each day in the therapy pool: the water is VERY warm to help with mobility, to soothe and loosen the stiff or frozen muscles and joints of the students.

I love this work because the simple things are never taken for granted. A student, Danny, has been working for months to catch a ball. One day in the pool his little frozen hand managed to stretched open and a miracle happened: it closed in time to catch the red sponge ball. After a moment of stunned silence everyone in the pool roared in triumph. Word spread outside the pool and down the hall. The whole school cheered and people cried; Danny caught the ball. By the size of the celebration a visitor might have thought we won the world cup (we did).

This is what I learned: when eating takes Herculean effort, when walking down the hall requires all the energy that you have for a day, when the greater society will never know how to include you, when it takes all the love in your heart and effort in your body to open your hand, you are much more capable of seeing the miracles; they are all around us.

Sometimes when I have stopped seeing, when the colors of this world go dull and flat, I remember Danny and remember that the miracles are riding the bus with me or sitting in the next desk, or driving in the car that just cut me off. I remember that each of us has something that we desperately want to do and strive to do and fear to do. I remember that it may not seem like much from other people’s perspective but each of us, in one way or another, is trying to open our hand and catch that little red sponge ball.

Truly Powerful People (141)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It was very quiet during my morning walk. There was no breeze coming off the Sound, even the birds were still. Although it was very early the sky was steel grey; the cloud cover drooped like a heavy blanket over the city. No movement.

As I walked in this quiet I thought about how adept I have become in my life at looking inward. I am an introvert so it should be no surprise (to myself) that I am expert at inner gazing. I used to need quiet to rejuvenate. Parties and large crowds of people exhaust me, though not so much any more. I am changing and I was trying to identify what exactly is changing.

As an introvert I have spent a good deal of my life marginalizing myself. When I was young I listened to myself and judged my responses to other people. Did I sound smart enough? Why didn’t I say…? Why did I say…? My witness had a scorecard. It occurred to me as I walked that, if you are standing at your margin (as I believe most introverts do) you will of necessity look inward. Just as in many traditional cultures, the shaman lives on the edge of the community, at or just outside the outer ring of the community circle and one reason for this is so that she can see more clearly the community. She looks inward.

I realized that the change I feel is about moving off the margins. I am walking toward the middle of my circle. I am occupying my center. If you stand in the center of your village, outward is the only direction you can look. I know how to gaze within. I am learning now how to stand in a center and look out.

The story is much different from the center of my being than it was at the margins. My witness no longer needs to keep score; all the wars are over. In the center lives the most profound stillness.

Truly Powerful People (140)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Have I told you that I am in awe of Megan? I’m brushing up on my sherpa skills because she will soon rule the world and I want to follow her wherever she goes. I figure if I can carry stuff she’ll let me tag along.

Recently, she came to Seattle with Lisa and Avery – to put her feet in the salt water, to see the only place on the planet that rains nonstop throughout the summer, and to be in the only boat that the orcas decided to play around and swim under. Oh yes, and we ate a lot of great food, too.

While she was here we talked about what it means to have a big life (I think she is destined to have one). After returning home, this is what she wrote (I share this without her permission because I delight in the trouble this will bring):

“And somewhere in marveling at the different patterns of my learning, the big waves of “aha” and the gentle realizations, I am realizing that a big life for me doesn’t necessarily mean a succession of big events, but rather a big presence in the little moments. There will be great waves of experience and small, gentle pools of being and that both play their role and both are equally as valuable. Big comes in the awareness, in marveling at the smallest things, in details that are a miracle lost in the bigger picture, in the ability to be in complete awe of something others walk past every day and never appreciate.”

What is there left to say? We are all destined to have great big lives but very few people realize at 80 what Megan already understands at 25. Also, note the poetry in her soul; she gets this thing about the power and beauty of language creating beauty and power.

What big presence (presents) will you find in the little moments today? Remember, I’ve already called dibs on carrying Megan’s bags.

Truly Powerful People (139)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

In my head today I am having the most interesting conversation. The crux of the matter is this: could I love myself, truly love myself, if I did nothing for the rest of my life? What if I sat on a park bench tomorrow, gave up all pursuits, let go of all ideas of service or gain, swore off all forms of productivity; could I still love myself?

I am the son of good puritan Iowa farm stock. More than once in my life I have heard people speak of my father as a good man because he was a hard worker. Both of my grandfather’s were blue collar, hard working business owners that “did well” in the world. One was a milkman; he owned a dairy in Monticello, Iowa. The other had a business fixing sewing machines. They belonged to service clubs and sometimes attended church; we don’t talk about those things when we talk about how good they were; we talk about what they did and how hard they worked. We talk about the virtue of their toil.

This is no flippant question. I work with too many people that hate themselves because they are not doing what they want to do or they think they need to do more to be valuable. I am hard on myself if I do not achieve everything on my list each day- as if I didn’t do enough to earn my love.

What if loving myself had no requirements; what if loving myself had no conditions? What if loving myself had no connection to my doing or not doing? What if loving myself was the beginning point, the first assumption, the prerequisite,… the structure of the land so that all of my behavior (my actions), like water, followed this path of least resistance?

I do not think I would do less work. I am certain I would work differently. I am certain I will work differently. How can I possibly be truly powerful if my center point is anything other than love?

Truly Powerful People (138)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am a master of writing myself notes. I fill multiple notebooks every year. They are choked full of excited scribbles, enthusiastic lines and arrows, doodles and stars: all attempts to catch my thoughts before I lose them. Thoughts are slippery devils that jump into my path and then disappear while I look for a pencil.

I have a variety of strategies to capture them. I track them through the dense forest of my mind. Sometimes I set traps for them. I dig tiger pits. I have sexy decoys and have learned mating calls: an evasive thought like “the default story” will come out of hiding when I tempt it with the amorous cry of “the necessary action.” Easy prey!

Of course, there is a serious flaw in my thought-hunting prowess. Open any notebook in my stack, flip to a random page, point to any note and ask me what it means. I will stare at the excited scribble – often a terrific phrase, perhaps useful for a line of poetry, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was supposed to cue. What was the revelation, the connection, the greater ah-ha?

Even when captured those trickster thoughts only leave an alphabetic footprint and somehow the greater meaning slips away.

Truly Powerful People (137)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It is 1984 and I am teaching my first acting class to high school students in a summer theatre program. I am certain that I do not know what I am doing and am more interested in hiding than in confessing my disbelief in myself (I would learn later that great teachers know that they know nothing so there is nothing to hide); I am still under the misguided notion that a teacher should be the answer-man.

I have been preparing for weeks and although I have a degree in acting, although I have just spent a year in an intern program for actors, although I actually have lots of thoughts about what to teach actors, I am still convinced that I know nothing and need to pretend that I know something of value. I have meticulously constructed my first day so that there will be no room for questions (questions are dangerous when you have to be the answer-man). My plan leaves no air for breathing and no chance for uncertainty: control is the driving force and agenda of my plan (education based on the teacher’s needs and not on the student’s needs will always lead to a culture of control).

The students enter the room for the first time and I am immediately thrown out of my plan, knocked off my center, standing naked in barren land of what-do-I-do-now; what I had identified as the beginning point, the zero point, is still too far advanced for my students. Control is no longer the problem; I actually have to begin where they are, not where I assumed they would be – which is to say that I have to start asking questions. I hadn’t considered that their zero was different than my zero. In the first 5 minutes of my first class I was required to say, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” What a gift!

By some divine wisdom I knew enough not to force them down a road of meaninglessness coverage of material based on my need to control their destination. We started where they were. We pursued questions that were relevant for them. We had a blast and everyone learned – especially me.

These are the lessons from my first class – they are life lessons:
• Know nothing.
• You have to be knocked off center to grow.
• You have to be willing to stand in the discomfort; to deny the experience is to protect yourself from learning
• “I don’t know, let’s find out” is the where the juice of life is. It is also the key to great teaching and learning.
• Cultures of control (internal and external) are signs that the essential intention is lost in a jungle of fear. What you are trying to hide is the thing that most needs to be seen.

Pay attention to what you are trying to control; release your grip and you’ll always find the love.

Truly Powerful People (136)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Several years ago I wrote these notes to myself:

It is a necessary movement, when you cease looking for answers in other people you will step into the present (living with the question). Let go of the idea that there is an answer! Life lived in pursuit of an outcome will set up a false expectation; try to contain life and you will kill it.

In the movement from answer-seeking to embracing the questions, there are stages or levels:

1. The slowing down. When you stop seeking answers in other people, you begin finding your answers within yourself. You have to slow down to hear what’s in there.

2. Change the self-talk. You start to doubt the validity of the chatter; instead of confusing your self with the chatter you separate from it and develop the capacity to witness it. You are not the chatter. You are not at the mercy of the chatter. You can work with it. You begin to understand that your language has power and you have the capacity to change your language and change your self-talk. This is the warrior phase, you will necessarily be at war with yourself while you learn to separate yourself from the blather.

3.Recover seeing, sensing, feeling. Living in choice, you will have the opportunity to cease fighting within yourself. You will no longer need to turn off your feelings, disconnect from your impulses, or deny your self.

4. Reorient and align with your nature. Enough said.

5. Stillness is possible. Action in stillness (action without story) is available.

Truly Powerful People (135)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

My dear friend was a preacher, son of a preacher. We’ve been friends for a long time. A few weeks after his first child was born we took a walk and I asked him about becoming a father; I do not have children and I wanted to know how he felt and what he thought about as his identity now included “father.”

He told me that as he held his little baby for the first time, looked at the miracle of his child, he wondered how this little being could be filled with sin as his doctrine demanded. It was hard for him to accept yet his faith required him to believe in the notion that nature is fundamentally corrupt, especially human nature.

I do not mean to step on any person’s faith. I have an honest relationship with my friend and we treasure our capacity to see the world through different eyes and dialogue about the differences; it was not an assault on his faith when I told him that I thought this notion (original sin) was misunderstood and a great example of crap thinking; it provided a brilliant recipe for cooking up a culture of self-loathers.

If you assume that you are born corrupt, your thoughts, your impulses, your feelings,… your SELF, is never to be trusted. You must literally divorce yourself from your self; inner wisdom is nearly impossible when you are obligated to seek your answers from someone else (and, to compound the disaster, you have to interpret the answers you receive and since you are interpreting from a place of corruption, you will corrupt any answers you receive. Aiyeeee! Talk about your vicious circles!).

You can never be the resource that you need. Being held accountable for your actions is a measure of how well you deny yourself. All horrors are easily explained and justified when corruption is the ground zero of your thinking. Fear yourself and see how much love you generate.

Assume corruption and you will see corruption and you will create corruption. Fear will be your driver. You might experience power over others but you will never know power with others or power within your self.

We hold miracles in our hands every day and we miss it (corrupt it); it is hard to see even the brightest light through a lens the self-doubt, self-denial, and self-judgment.

Truly Powerful People (134)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Within the “story-I-tell-myself-about-myself” school of thought, I like the idea from Don Miguel Ruiz that all people grow through 3 primary roles in their journey through life. The roles are Victim, Warrior, and Seer. A role is nothing more than a commitment to a point of view. This progression is not linear; you don’t leave one role behind and move into the other (until the Seer is realized). They are fluid with one role serving as the primary mask.

The Victim is the role played in stories of “I can’t” or stories fueled by comparison or expectations of perfection. Playing the role of Victim is not unlike being an alcoholic: it is addictive, a dis-ease that requires a truckload of self-denial and self-abuse to maintain. There is gravity to the Victim role, a powerful orbit around the planet blame; to a Victim, things happen to you. For a Victim, the answer and the power are in other hands. The Victim does not generate; reaction to circumstance becomes the path of least resistance.

The Victim is dedicated to the point of view (belief) that they have no control over their life or their thoughts. Accompanying their dedication is an abdication of responsibility, an investment in circumstance. This is the drug. It feels good to be free of actual personal responsibility. It feels good to have someone to blame; the past or the boss or the other political party. There is a unique high in telling a tale of woe and injustice. Go to any public place; listen to the gossip, the stories of “what they did to me.” Watch the body language and you’ll see the need for more of the drug.

Most people say they want power until offered the responsibility for creating their own happiness. Empowered people empower others because they’ve discovered their commitment to the Victim and made a new commitment not sip from the cup of “look what they did to me.” They’ve decided to own their thoughts, change their language, their point of view and their actions. One thought at a time, one day at a time, they gain enough rocket power to break free of the gravity of their blame story.

And, some people go cold turkey. Their shift is quantum. They drop the Victim like an old suit of clothes.

Truly Powerful People (133)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

If I can tell myself the story of not good enough, I am capable of telling myself the story of good enough.

If I am capable of holding myself hostage to a standard of “perfect,” I am capable of freeing myself to live in a world where everything is perfect just as it is.

If I am capable of imagining the worst, of assuming ill intent in others, I am also capable of imagining the best, of assuming positive intent.

If I am capable of judging myself and judging others, I am capable of forgiving myself and others, I am capable of offering compassion, of living in the center of my generous spirit.

If I am capable of seeing through the eyes of fear, I am capable of seeing through the eyes of love.

If I am capable of believing that I can’t, I am equally capable of believing that I can.

Stories of can’t, of not good enough, of hard-edged perfection, stories built on fear and assumptions of ill-intent, commitments to self-judgment, investments in self-loathing were most likely useful at some point in your past. You wouldn’t have created them if they weren’t useful. They are certainly stories of protection against feeling something, stories meant to keep you from wandering into the minefields of shame or punishment. They are story grooves cut by repetition, they became patterns of thinking; paths of least resistance for a stream of inner monologue meant to keep you quiet, still, and afraid to move.

You are equally capable of wearing a new path through the meadow. You are equally capable of creating a story of self-love as you are of maintaining as story of self-limitation.