Run With Bodhi

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

Bodhi the dog and I have bonded. He is my dog even though he isn’t. We talk shop. We swap stories. I tell him about my days and he listens as long as I keep petting him. Once, my hand stopped moving – so engrossed was I in my story that Bodhi popped my hand with his snout to remind me of my true purpose. Bodhi is not subtle where attention is concerned. Bodhi knows what is important and usually my stories of daily woe are not relevant in the face of “love me now.”

Before the snows came I took Bodhi for a walk and for reasons still unclear to me I decided he needed to run. So we ran. I was wearing my clogs, which are not the best shoes for running, and I can report without shame that Bodhi literally ran me out of my shoes. He was confused when I stopped. I was confused when I stopped; one moment I was shod and the next I was sprinting in my socks (I used the word “sprint” to try and impress you but the truth is that I was limping and wheezing by the time I lost my shoes. As a former distance runner I have grand notions about my capacity to run distance but I was smacked after three blocks. It is probably technically correct to admit that Bodhi didn’t run me out of my shoes, rather I staggered out of them).

The word “bodhi” means enlightenment or awakening; bodhi is knowledge of the nature of all things. When I am with Bodhi the dog I am with one who possesses bodhi. He never invests in my dramas or commiserates with my woes. Things that happened a moment or an hour or a day ago do not really concern him. Bodhi is concerned with this moment, this opportunity for loving. Tomorrow does not concern him at all. In fact, I’d be surprised if Bodhi carries the concept of future anywhere in his consciousness. Bodhi’s concern is with right now, this moment, and he has the uncanny gift of bringing me out of my future/past investments. He simply pops me with his snout and I am reminded that what really matters is right in front of me all of the time.

Let Go The Separation

720. 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 Sunday night and I am reviewing my week. Sometimes I am astounded at how much happens in a single week of life. I’m sure this is always true but lately I am acutely aware of the passing of the days, the variety and richness of my experiences every day. I started to make a list and after filling a few pages I stopped. There was no point in going on because the point was made: there is no list capable of capturing the enormity, the passing of a single week of life.

In order for lists to be meaningful the items need to be separate, discreet. Generally, this is how we look at our lives, things on a list: grocery shopping, driving kids to daycare, lessons, dinner with friends, a trip to the gym, etc.; separate achievable actions checked from the list.

From another point of view there is no separation. Place the emphasis, not on the achievement, but on the quality of process, the level of presence and meaningful engagement, and the list blends into a single experience with many textures and colors. The separations are constructs and largely false. How can I separate experiences like the conversation in the gallery from the chips and salsa and beer from the walk along the river?

Last Sunday a friend made me dinner to celebrate my birthday, I flew on a plane with a woman who was very ill so we talked of the comforts of being home, I stood by the river on a freezing cold evening and watched with awe the geese swirling like locust in the sky, I sang “Yesterday” with Lexi on Friday night, drank too much coffee and sat up half the night writing emails, walked through the galleries of the Joslyn museum, stopped in awe at the El Greco and Thomas Hart Benton and laughed through my first grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When did one experience stop and the other begin?

I flew, I sang, I celebrated, I stood, I drank, I walked, I stopped in awe, I laughed… They are only separate actions because the limits of language make them so – or because I might have chosen to see my life as a list. I could write: I lived. I could write: I loved. These are also true.

I stood over the Missouri River watching the ice like enormous frozen lily pads flow beneath me. Depending upon where I looked they seemed to be rushing by or almost standing still. It depended upon where I placed my focus. When I focus on achieving my lists the days rush by as I race through my days. When I let go the separations, all days become varied and rich; the moments like the icy lily pads move by me though I have to distinct impression that I am standing still.

Know The Value

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

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I once read a series of books in which the main character, a successful real estate broker, so despised the emptiness of his life that one night he took off his clothes and walked away from his life. He literally left everything behind. He stepped away from every illusion that he maintained. From zero, he rediscovered himself and emerged a man rooted in the essential, living in the present. He relinquished the culture of comfort and embraced the textures and struggles of a life unprotected.

These past few months, as I stepped away from what was known and am now wandering, I have thought often of these books and this character. Just as the character learned that his needs were never fulfilled by possessions and always fulfilled through relationships, I am learning that I can only truly offer my gifts to the world when I fully allow myself to fully receive.

In these months I have stayed with Alan, Judy, Megan, Mark and Teru, and Carol; I have traveled from Boston to Hastings to Champaign to Denver and Seattle. I have enjoyed the retreat of my parents’ empty home (they are snowbirds). I’ve received untold kindness and experienced the generosity of friends and strangers. And, the lesson over and over: I need do nothing to deserve it; I need only receive it. In my life I’ve learned to give but have protected myself from receiving and am apparently out of balance. Carol said, as she threw her apartment keys at me, “It’s time for you to learn to receive!” And then she laughed at the pained look on my face. Judy reiterated the lesson. Mark told me I am always welcome to stay. These generosities are worth more than gold to me.

Todd and Lone are keeping tabs on me. Mark takes me to lunch when he knows I’m in town. Chris popped me on the head and told me to drop my illusions – I know more than I am willing to admit. David called as I drove across the country to touch base and hear my voice. Kerri toasts me with java everyday; this list could go on and on. I am like the character in the book. I’ve always known that the real value of my life was in my relationships, I just had no idea how rich I really am.

Join Them

718. 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 a spattering of revolutionary fire, teachers in hotspots across this nation are finally refusing to give the standardized tests. Students are refusing to take the tests. The authorities in each case are moving to punish the teachers and students, to get them back into compliance with the rules. These administrators, teachers and students, like most educators across this nation, know that these tests are impediments to learning. They serve the antithesis of what they purport.

Recently, I had a conversation with an administrator frustrated by the stupidity of the testing regime and the culture of control that it produces. She was angry with herself and her teachers for agreeing to participate with something that they all knew to be wrong. She was angry at the waste of time and energy but mostly at the injustice to the students. She said, “It’s killing them and making us absurd.” When I asked her why she continued to support something that she knew to be wrong she said, “We all need a paycheck. Isn’t that sad!” Yes. It is.

What should we do when we know something is wrong and ill intended? What should we do when finally the few voices, the courageous teachers and students stand up and say, “This is wrong.” If history is correct, most of us will turn away and pretend we heard nothing. History is riddled with stories of people who served atrocious causes and when asked why, said, “I was just following orders,” or, “I didn’t know.” David Neiwert tells the story of a German community adjacent to one of the Nazi death camps. Each morning, the people of the town emerged from their homes to sweep the ash from their stoops and windowsills. They watched each day as trainloads of people entered the camps. They knew that no one ever left the camps. The smoke belched ash onto their homes and heads everyday yet they were horrified when they learned what was going on just a few hundred yards from their community. They claimed to have not known.

They knew. We know. We have known for decades that the forces driving our public education have nothing to do with learning; the testing regime serves the opposite of what it pretends. Finally, some teachers and students are saying, “Enough.” Don’t look away. Join them. They need us to stop pretending that we don’t know..

Move Beyond Belief

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

Judy (She-Whom-I Revere) liked my post about geese and sent this addition to me: the collective pronouns for geese are: ‘blizzard’, ‘chevron’, ‘knot’, ‘plump’ and ‘string’ of geese. I agree with Judy, I think I like ‘blizzard’ the best. Someday in idle party chat I would like to say, “Recently, I was caught in a blizzard of geese!” I would have been confused by the pronoun ‘blizzard’ as it applies to geese had I not seen them en masse the other day. My experience opened my eyes to wonder.

Words have the capacity to both imprison us and to set us free. Words are used in an attempt to describe the indescribable as the poems of Rumi attempt to do, or they can box us in, cage us in a dedication of limitation. Daily in my coaching practice I hear some variation of “I can’t.”

Can and Can’t are two very powerful words because both have deep roots in imagination. One reaches while the other rejects. One steps toward the unknown while the other resists movement. Take a look around your home or your city. Everything you see or touch, turn-on or plug-in began with an imagining and an action all wrapped in the big arms of “I can….” The important thing to note about both Can and Can’t is that they have a counterintuitive association with belief. Can’t is firmly vested in it’s belief. Can’t leads with belief. The lack of belief in possibility is a firm belief in impossibility. Can has no need for belief. Can moves without belief. Can leads with exploration and discovery; belief, for Can, comes second, after the doing is done.

The same rule applies to almost all powerful words: those that imprison us are planted firmly in belief; they are arguments for limitation. Those words that liberate our imaginations are vested in possibility and exploration; for words like “can,” “imagine,” and “discovery,” belief is not necessary. Belief follows; belief comes second after experience and wonder.

Shovel Snow

716. 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 I shoveled snow. It’s been over 25 years since I shoveled snow, maybe longer. I loved it. I had to borrow boots. The snow was deep and powder dry so it looked like a lot of heavy shoveling but was relatively light. Stan, the man next door, came out with his snow blower. We waved, introduced ourselves and talked snow talk. There was so much snow that I had to shovel again later in the day.

Besides shoveling I let go all of my work. I didn’t open my computer until well after sundown. There was a long nap. There were pancakes and lots of coffee. I sat on a heater and looked out the window. I played. I learned how to make Runzas’.

I thought about Horatio because a week ago we attended a party and met the executive director of a symphony. Horatio and I talked about how, as children, we both loved Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. I hadn’t thought about that story in years. I associate Peter and the Wolf with snow because, when I was a kid and we had snow days, I’d sit in the basement for hours listening to an old record of the symphony with narration. I drew pictures of the wolf eating the duck, the bird circling the wolf to distract it as Peter captured the wolf by the tail. Snow and Peter and the Wolf go together in my mind.

There is a quiet that comes with the snow. That’s why I wanted to go out and shovel it. The worlds’ sounds soften; snow is a great muffler. Perhaps it is because the snow slows the pace of life – today it closed schools, businesses and roads city wide – that it inspires in me an inner quiet. There is a Hermetic Principle that applies: As within, so without. As without, so within. It was so quiet outside that I was silent inside. I mused as I shoveled that, one day, wouldn’t it be great if my inner quiet had the capacity to do for the world what snow is able to inspire in me.

Go Back To Basics

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

Yesterday in my post I wrote the word “aquifers” but at first badly mistyped it and wrote “aquafire.” Isn’t that a lovely word collision! It sounds like the name of a garage band! I did a quick Google search (is there any other kind?) and found that aquafire is the name of a restaurant in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s also the name of a water heater company in New Zealand! You’ll not be surprised to learn that it is also the name of a company that makes floating fire pits, a fire protection company specializing in sprinklers, a blog about fishing, and a sauna and steam bath company.

According to western classical thought there are 4 elements that combine to constitute all matter: earth, air, fire, and water. Aquafire, according to the classical way of thinking, might be steam or lava or acid or a good jalapeno salsa. Once, I was in the ocean and was clobbered by a wave and met the rocky coral bottom with some unintended force; I could consider that experience aquafire.

I like the notion of elements as applied to obstacles; I have been known to think, “It only looks like an enormous boulder in my path. Apply a little heat and then let’s see what you look like!” The boulder calls my bluff every time but the threat of combining elements always frees my imagination so I can see the many possibilities instead of the single impediment. Problems become possibilities almost immediately when you consider their elemental make-up: problems and possibilities are both ways of seeing; they are choices. So, a good question to ask is, “What is the basic element of choice?”

The Greeks (and others) added a 5th element or quintessence. The medieval scientists called it, “ether,” which was considered to be the element that filled the universe (above our atmosphere). To the Greeks, quintessence was the air breathed by the gods and was distinctly different than the air we mortals breathe. It was pure, essential. Essence. If there is a basic element to imagination, choice, possibility, memory, intuition, and inspiration, I’m certain it must be ether, a touch of quintessence, the breath of the gods made manifest here on earth in you and in me.


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

During my drive from Champaign to Omaha, just after sunset, it began to snow. There was a swirling wind and in a matter of moments it was a white out. The road was mostly invisible. Cars immediately fell in line behind cars. Trucks slowed and set a careful pace. People cooperated without debate, without knowledge of the other drivers’ political affiliation, gender, race or sexual orientation. We needed each other. There was no power game or status imperative. All the silly illusions fell away. We needed each other and we did what came naturally. We cooperated.

There is a collision of two great thoughts that I appreciate. The first comes from my friend Roger, a director of plays and studier of humans; he once told me that denial was one of the strongest human impulses. The second thought comes for E.O. Wilson (I’ve rattled this off more than a few times) who said that the strongest human impulse is to belong. Combine the two thoughts and you get an amazing collision of impulses: a species called humans that need to belong to each other but deny it. This contradictory impulse makes possible The Gap or Old Navy; can you deny that you shop at a chain store to express your individuality as a way to belong? I can only imagine that the Martians are having a hey-day studying us.

And then the illusion drops, the second strongest impulse retreats and only the first remains. We need each other. We drive into a white out. The hurricane wipes our city off the map, the earthquake knocks our houses off their foundations. We pull together, put down our need to be right, and line up to help. We see our belonging. We see this thing called “”the common cause,” namely, survival.

The question, then, is obvious: do we need to wait until we’ve exhausted our fuel supply, depleted our aquifers, or warmed our globe before we suspend our denial and see this thing called “the common cause?” More and more contemporary science is finding that we have it all wrong: survival is not something achieved by the fittest; survival is a cooperative art.

See The Magic

713. 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 I saw thousands of geese fly over the fields at sunset. They were going back to the river for the night. From a distance in the pale blue winter sky, they looked like shimmering strands, forming and reforming, I had the impression that I was looking through a microscope at DNA in flight. And then they flew closer, took on another shape, more dense, all the strands coming together en masse, morphing like magic into a congress of geese. Flying directly over my head their wings took on the gold and purple of the setting sun, shocking me in their transformation. Their direction was specific, intentional, with no visible leader or apparent decision maker; they were of a single mind.

Magic is not the illusion of sawing a person in half; it is not a man who seems to disappear from a locked box. Those things are tricks. Magic is a relationship to something vital and alive. Who would choose to have a relationship with an illusion when it is possible to have a relationship with the setting sun or to participate if only as a witness to a migration that is centuries old? This is why we go to the theatre or visit an artists’ studio; the arts are not illusions they are a relationship to something ancient, a deeply unique human impulse that reaches back millennia. The arts are at one moment both a personal and a shared experience. There is a reason why dictators clamp down on the arts when seizing power: a community with vital living art knows its direction and intention with no visible leader; the decision makers are the stories we tell relative to the actions we take: there is no gap between interests and values. The arts hold the center and when they are lost, the community begins to legislate rather than communicate. Entertainment is, after all, the least of the functions of any art form and become ascendant when rules have replaced stories as the societal glue.

Live What’s Important

712. 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 sitting in the Seattle airport trying to remember the things I stressed about on this day ten years ago. I’m trying to remember the things that I thought were so important that I tensed over, felt frustrated about, anxious or angry. I can’t recall a single thing. If I broaden my view and ask what are the things I got worked-up about in the calendar year 2007, I remember a few events but the horror stories I told myself never came to pass. All the winning or losing in which I invested left only the slightest imprint. I suspect it took a toll on my body but in the end did it matter? Did my stress and anxiety make any difference in the arc of my life? No. Not once.

Today, as ran through the airport convinced that I was late for my flight, impatient for the train, angry with myself for not planning better, impatient with the security lines, I stopped cold in my tracks. I wondered if the story I was telling mattered. In the arc of my life, would it matter? No. What would happen if I missed my plane? It has happened before. I would figure it out. All of my stress was self-induced. I was not on a plane spinning out of control, I was not being chased by a hungry bear; stress in those cases would be welcome. My investment in my small world suddenly seemed silly. Ten years from now, when I am sitting in another airport, I will try and remember if all the things I thought were so important in February 2013 actually mattered. They won’t. I won’t even remember this race to a plane.

I’ve spent the past month writing about choice and becoming aware of the choices we have but do not see. I am, like all teachers, teaching what I most need to learn. I can report that once I stopped cold in my tracks and thought about it, I laughed at my dedication to stressing myself, and then walked very slowly to my gate. Even tempting fate I did not miss my plane.

I do not miss my stress. I certainly don’t need it. I stopped not beat myself up for my planning or lack of planning – that was nice. I took a breath. I even helped a man who lost his cell phone. I asked myself, “What’s really important?” I know I am trying to live the answer to that question.