Pull Up Your Hood

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

As I walked across town today the mist tried to evolve into rain but didn’t quite have enough of a quorum so it remained mist all day. I wore my hood pulled up never the less. I have a very old sweatshirt with a hood – so old, in fact, that the zipper is nearly useless and the cuffs are frayed. I wear it almost every day. During the rainy season my old sweatshirt rides under my coat so I can use the hood when it rains. It is an old friend and has taken on my shape to better keep me warm.

Last night I washed my old friend and I waited patiently for the dryer cycle to finish. I was like Calvin waiting for Hobbes. It was cold in the apartment where I am staying so it was with great pleasure that I pulled my hoody sweatshirt from the dryer and put it on, almost too warm to wear. Even so, I sighed and settled back into a big brown chair and drank in the comfort of my new warmth. I’m beginning to see that my sweatshirt functions like a security blanket; I wrap it around myself and I feel safe and comfortable and home.

When I pull up the hood I cut off my peripheral vision and I am more aware of what’s directly ahead of me. It is a paradox: I am instantly meditative when under my hood and yet I become hyper focused on my surroundings. I see less and sense more. Also, my hood acts like a costume or a mask: I enter all manner of spy novels, street gangs, and Jedi tales when donning my hood. Talk to me in my hood and you will never speak to the same character twice.

Someone asked me yesterday, in my gypsy mode, what of my possessions do I cherish and what seems superficial. My old, grey, ratty, worn, paint flecked, hoody sweatshirt (I was wearing it at the time of the question) was near the top of my list. An old friend, a constant companion, having travelled more than a few decades with me, that I can wrap around me at night when I am cold, is worth more to me than gold.

Hold The Image

692. 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’ve shared this image with k.erle a day ago, and with my class this morning and it feels like some kind of message. I can’t shake the image because it is speaking to me. Some images are powerful that way. This image wants me to pay attention. It is the image of the Wayfinder.

I came across the image in Wade Davis’ book, The Wayfinder. The title refers to the navigator in a traditional Polynesian canoe, sitting in the bow, sensing and reading the waves, the air, the stars, the rings of the moon, but mostly, the navigator holds in her mind the image of the island that they are attempting to find. Wade Davis writes that, according to the Polynesian belief, the canoe is still in the water and the Island finds them. The power of the Wayfinders’ image calls the island to them. They must simply point their canoe in the proper direction while the Wayfinder holds the image.

I ask myself as I sit in the bow of my canoe, what image do I hold? What island do I draw to myself? In my urban ocean have I developed the sensitivity to read the currents, the subtleties of energy in the waves that help me point my craft in the direction of the island that rushes from the future to meet me? Or am I out to sea? This ocean is vast. I have an image for home, a smell, a taste, an undeniable energy that makes me shake when I allow myself to fully feel it, and in the midst of this vast ocean I am taking my cue from the Wayfinders to remain still and know that the power and potency of my image will soon call my island home to me.

Ask “What If?”

691. 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 was reminded today that “If” is a very powerful word. It is a magic word that is shorthand for “imagine the possibilities.” When you think that you can’t do something, when you’ve convinced yourself that you will never be able to do…(fill in the blank); ask yourself this magic question: “What if…?” It’s alright, continue to accept that you can’t or will never be able to…; you need not change your disbelief or assault your defenses. In the midst of your wasteland, ask “what if…?” Imagine what you would do if you could? What steps would you take? What is the first step you would take if…?

Take the step. Hold onto your disbelief, invest in your limitation, and take the step anyway. No need to fulfill your dream, accomplish your impossible mission, move your mountain, or realize your potential – those phrases are misleading anyway, new age rhetoric, self-help marketing mantras that imply that your dream, your impossible mission, your mountain and your potential are some other place, things you might achieve, arrival platforms. Hint: they are really verbs, actions, and choices; you are infinitely un-full-fill-able because you are not a container with a limited capacity. You are your dream, your mission, your mountain, and your potential – you are uncontainable. Use upon yourself any ruler you choose, any metrics you think valid and at the end of the day your measurement will be false. Like a photograph you might capture a moment, an aspect, but you will never capture the all of you.

“What if” you started taking small steps without belief? What if you acted “as if” you could? Where might you someday find yourself? Magic and miracles are not dependent upon your belief; they are dependent upon your action. They are dependent on your capacity to realize that you, yourself, are fluid, moving, changing, dynamic,…, a living vital being. “What if” you started stepping in the direction of your “I can’t?”

Sense Half A Breath

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

Last year Carol learned to sail. She went to the Center for Wooden Boats and took lessons from a man who’s been sailing all his life. He taught her that a sailor must learn to feel and see the elements just a moment ahead: he said she needed to sense what was a “half a breath ahead.” With the lead of “half a breath,” she could adjust, anticipate (not with her thinking mind, but with your knowing presence) what was coming. He taught her that it was folly to think that she could be any further ahead than half a breath, any further ahead and the conditions will have changed before she got there.

Today I stepped into my day believing I knew what I was going to do. The winds changed, the rains came, the sun broke through, the café closed, the phone rang, the rehearsal ended, the phone rang again, and finally I gave up and was surprised by Doctor Who. I stepped into the day invested in my folly fully believing that I could see beyond half a breath. I am still learning to sail and need to bring my sights much closer to my present moment. I close this day recognizing my folly and my lesson, sitting more easily in my boat, no further ahead than a single breath, knowing that although I am closer than I was this morning, I am still too long in my anticipation by half. And I hope that is always true.

Catch It On An Index Card

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

He was walking down the center of the street. He was wearing a backpack, heavy coat, a thick sweater cap, rubber boots, and was playing the violin. Actually, he wasn’t really playing; he was sawing. He was making sound pulling the bow across the strings – sometimes fast, sometimes slow; there was no discernable pattern. His face was as determined as his march down the center yellow lines, his rubber boots thunking on the wet asphalt. The cars moved over to avoid him as if he was on a bike or perhaps was a traffic cone. I heard an kid say to his friends, “This dude’s needs different boots – he’d keep better time with something less clunky.” I took out an index card and made a note. I live in a mad, mad, mad world that has no idea how mad it is and I like to capture some of the more absurd moments.

On the other side of the street a man in a suit glared at the parking meter. He hissed, “Come on!” and gave it a thwap atop its green dome. He looked at no one in particular and shouted in frustration, “I can get a happy meal at McDonalds faster than I can pay for parking!” I took another index card from my pocket and wrote the phrase; it was too good to let slip unrecorded. It reminded me of a phrase Tom uttered in frustration a few years ago: Sacramento County took over 5 years to approve a map of land Tom was trying to parcel and sell. One day at the county office, after yet another delay, he put his head against the wall and said, “We won World War Two in less time than it’s taking these people to approve a map!” I wrote that phrase on an index card, too.

I went into the Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House to get an afternoon coffee and to write. There was a young couple posing for a photographer but also trying not to draw attention from the other coffeehouse patrons. It was the best split intention I’ve ever seen. The photographer was aware of the couple’s discomfort so was she was antagonizing them by making lots of noise and moving furniture around and giving them instructions in her big-girl outside voice. The couple shrank and tried to disappear before the camera. I’d give anything to see that proof sheet! After the photo-torture session was over, the barista asked the couple why they were having their photograph taken and they said meekly, “We’re getting married.” Everyone in the coffee house uttered a collective, “Ahhh!” The young couple blushed and disappeared. The photographer, packing up her camera said, “I wonder if they realize that people are going to look at them when they do the ‘I do’ thing. This might just be the worlds first invisible wedding.” I reached in my pocket and pulled out another index card.

Meet The Beautiful

688. 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 one of those glorious clear nights in Seattle and the moon is round and bright and high in the sky. I was leaving the Samurai Noodle restaurant, one of those lovely tiny crannies turned into a food establishment. It’s the kind of place where you need to keep your elbows in tight or you’ll upset the table next to you and nobody cares because the chili noodles and genmaicha are to die for (the noodles are homemade, the tea is renowned, the food moans are genuine).

I stepped out into the cold night and was stopped in my tracks by the moon. I was not the only one who paused in my arc from here to there. Shoppers from the grocery store stopped, too. The moon called and we took a moment to listen. In a city where the lights blot out most of the stars and we the people are in a perpetual rush to be somewhere else, it requires a potent call to reach us, to make us look up from the ground, to bring us to a full stop for just one moment. And, in that moment, we touch that deepest of human places, the appreciation of beauty, a single breath given to the sublime.

Because the good people at the Samurai Noodle gave me a to-go cup and more hot water for my tea, I decided to sit for a while and watch people answer the call of the moon and touch the transcendent. My favorite part is the moment of recognition, the moment that the light of the moon stops the story, and for an instant, peoples’ faces relax and reflect the light back at the moon; just for an instant, a single breath, the beautiful meets the beautiful, time suspends, and there is not discerning which heavenly body is the source of the light.

Sound Glorious

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

Today as I walked north on 5th Avenue from the International District toward downtown, I went through a short tunnel or underpass. A young woman was standing in the center of the underpass, singing without inhibition. The acoustics were magnificent. Rather than singing a lyric, she was vocalizing, celebrating the range and depth of her voice. She saw me smile and stopped long enough to say, “Don’t I sound glorious!” She did.

One of the members of the coaching class I co-teach is a reverend. In class this week she offered us a biblical image for standing full and alive in personal truth: standing naked and unashamed before god. She asked, “What must it feel like to stand naked and unashamed before the world?” I thought of her question the moment I heard the young woman singing unashamed and fully exposed in the underpass.

Question: How do you know you are standing in your truth? Answer: you will find yourself singing your song at the top of your voice in a place that amplifies the sound and say with joy to a total stranger, “Don’t I sound glorious!”

Find The Metaphor

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

Metaphor alert. They might be subtle but see how many you can find… I started the day in Denver. I’ve been hiding out there writing like a demon and today was the day I had to fly back to Seattle – and I didn’t want to go. I’ve been happy in my seclusion. It was like spring in Denver; warm days and brilliant blue skies. When I wasn’t writing I was walking. No schedule but the one I created for myself. In a few weeks of writing, the book is nearly two thirds written. I’m a slow writer so I’m certain that I’m not channeling Mark Twain or the book would be done given the hours I’ve spent tap tapping at the keys.

I scheduled a Super Shuttle share ride to the airport but instead of the familiar blue van a limo pulled into the driveway. The limo driver told me there was no one else to pick up so they sent the limo instead of a van. He was a very old (emphasis on “very”) and got lost on the way to the freeway so I had to tell him where to go. His GPS was working fine (I could see it from my leather perch 10 paces behind the driver. There were water glasses but I felt like slumming it so I drank straight from the chilled bottle. My very old limo driver decided I was enjoying my ride so he went very slow (emphasis on “very”) – even though I was trying to catch a plane and even though we were on a freeway. He said, “People are in such a hurry these days.” I said, “I know!”

He shook my hand and told me it was a pleasure giving me a ride to the airport. I had plenty of time because no one was at the Denver airport. It was just me and the TSA. Just lots of blue shirts and me. I had my own private security screening. You’ll be happy to know it went very well (yes, emphasis on “very” – it turns out the TSA folks are really friendly when you are the only person going through the screening). I wanted to ask if they would give me my bottle of Sumi Ink back; they took it from me 4 years ago in Washington DC because I forgot it was in my bag; but I decided there must be a statute of limitations on ink retrieval. Best not push my luck.

I grabbed a mocha (best mocha ever!), hopped a plane, landed in Seattle to, well yes, it was raining. Denver = sun. Seattle = rain. The light rail from the airport to downtown was delayed so I stood in the rain (wet) but I finally made it to my studio (I’m not really living anywhere at present so my studio is my temporary crash pad). I walked through the rain (more wet) to the front door of the building and found that it was padlocked shut. There was a note that said, “The front door is broken, use your key card to get in the side door.” I’ve been gone a month so I suppose there might have been mention of a key card but this was the first I’d heard of it. I didn’t have a key card. I was very sad (emphasis on “very”). I stowed my luggage in a bush (still more wet), went around back, climbed a 12 ft fence (wet, wet, wet) and found a door that still accepted keys. I got in (soaked). After I propped a door and retrieved my luggage I sloshed all the way up the stairs to the fourth floor (my shoes made that nasty squeaking sound of wet rubber on concrete floors. That noise gives me the chills so you could say that I gave myself the chills).

My inner sociologist, dry in his sweater and smoking his pipe like a true academic, took one look at me and said, “Are you aware of the choices that you are making?” He took out his notepad to record my response. I know his game so as water dripped off the end of my nose I said, “Please define the word ‘aware.’” He took a puff on his pipe, closed his book and said, “You can be very annoying – emphasis on ‘very.’”

Join The Symphony

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

The exercise in class was a word cluster, a free association exploration about stepping into personal truth. Afterward, Winifred shared an image that surfaced during her cluster. She told the group that it was as if every living being on earth was a musical note in a song. When she stepped into a global perspective, she heard all the notes combine into a chorus. As she moved further out into a more universal perspective, the planets had songs and everything combined into a symphony of notes, high and low and everything in between.

According to her revelation, no note was insignificant; the symphony, to have full power, needed all the notes – so to diminish or minimize her self was to diminish the voice of the symphony. She said, “The world needs our notes.” And then, after a pause, she added, “…within every individual is a universe and each emotion is like a single musical note. In order for an individual to fulfill their universal note, they must feel the full spectrum of music within themselves.” She said, “Even suffering is a note, a note necessary to complete the symphony.”

Her message: Living your truth means to play without inhibition in the symphony of the universe. We need your note to complete the sound.

A Snippet

684. 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’ve been working on the book all day and am toasty. So, rather than aim at coherence and miss (truly, I have not a single thought left in my head), I will share with you a short piece from the book. It’s a chat between a teacher and a student entrepreneur – though this section is only the voice of the teacher:

“Yes. The third recognition is, in fact, just that simple: you are telling yourself a story. It is probably too early but I will plant this seed now: great change is never viable in the big complicated interventions. It is always found in the simple, the small steps. The actions we need to take are rarely difficult; the story we wrap around the actions make them seem harder than they are. Look for the simplicity.”

“Before we move on it is important to put together the recognitions so far: 1) You don’t have a problem; you have a pattern. See the patterns in your life. One of the most important patterns you need to see is your word choice. 2) Your words matter because they are the building blocks of the story you tell. 3) You are telling yourself a story. Are you telling a story of “things happening to you,” or are you telling a story of, “I make things happen.” Entrepreneurs tell the latter story. The story you tell is always revealed through the patterns of your life. Do you see? It is a loop: pattern reveals story and story informs pattern.”

“You’ve already acknowledged that you don’t know the story that you tell yourself. Assume that you do not know and begin to hear the story. Begin by listening to the language you use when telling your story. What are the patterns of language you use? What do those patterns reveal about the story you tell?

“Entrepreneurs and artists have many things in common. Most significantly, they are telling themselves an entirely different story than most people tell so they see a world that is different than most people see. Seeing relationships and bigger contexts, seeing trends and patterns is sometimes called foresight. That would seem to be important skill for an entrepreneur, wouldn’t you agree?”