Let It Flow

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

Skip and I are talking a lot about the motion of ideas and movement of information. Ideas are not fixed. In fact, collapse an idea into form too soon and it dies. Valuation in a market is a dynamic movement. It is not a fixed in time. It is motion driven by a variety of forces. Hanging out with financial folk, I learned that money grows when it moves. Impede the flow, park the money and the growth is stunted.

The same principles apply to relationship. A healthy relationship is distinct in the flow of communication and transparency of feeling. Hide, block, edit, withhold and the relationship suffers. What is the quality of movement in your life?

Many years ago I trained to be a massage therapist and I learned that health in the body’s systems is the result of unimpeded flow: anywhere there is blockage there is disease. Health is movement.

When I began doing organizational work I learned the same lesson: a healthy corporate body is the result of unimpeded flow of communication; where there is blockage there is dis-ease. Power games often take the form of communication disruption. Withholding information is a control game and weakens the organizational body.

When I began working with artists I learned the lesson again: dynamic art in all its forms is the unimpeded flow of expression; where there is blockage there is dis-ease. Kink the garden hose and pressure builds. Block the artery and heart will seize. Stilt the communication and dysfunction and power games erupt.

Inhibit your expression and you become just like the garden hose: pressure builds and the inner life jams.

Vitality in body, mind or spirit is nothing more than unimpeded flow.

Take Advantage Of The Easy

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

Images from the past few days:

In the early morning light a young couple dance in the swirling pink blossoms raining from the trees.

A father sits at the base of a slide so his daughter sitting at the top will let go and slide.

A woman is trying to catch a train. She will miss it because she can’t carry her luggage down the escalator. Strangers intervene to help. They carry her luggage. They communicate with the conductor. She catches her train.

The mountain emerged from the mist and stopped commuters cold in their tracks. One muttered, “I’ll never get used to that.” Another muttered, “Me, too.”

A man enters a coffee house and the barista knows what he wants before he orders. The man does not take it for granted. He tells the barista, “No one takes the time to pay attention to me. Thank you.” The barista’s eyes tear up.

Carol told me that kindness is easy. It is easy to be kind. It is easy to transform the day of another. It is easy to offer your small gift to this big world. It is easy to enjoy the moment. It is easy to see the wonder. It’s easy if you pay attention. It’s easy if you open yourself to see it. The opportunities are all around us. It’s easy and it matters.

Begin With A Charge

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

Given my post yesterday I laughed out loud this morning when Saul-The-Chi-Lantern started talking about the cult of exhaustion that is sweeping the nation. He said, “Have you noticed how many people start their morning by saying, ‘I’m exhausted?’ Why would someone choose to start their day exhausted?”

Now, isn’t that a world-class question? The choice of exhaustion comes to those who believe they have no choice. After Megan hammered my thick noggin yesterday, I’ve been looking at my choices.

Saul led us through a section of the form before picking up the thought. “People talk of tai chi as some kind of cult but given the choice of starting your day with a vital charge or starting your day exhausted, why wouldn’t you choose to begin each day with a vital charge?” He laughed and continued, “I want to get things done when I get up in the morning. A vital charge is useful. I guess I belong to the cult of people who desire to feel good.”

A month ago I was in Holland with an international group of coaches. They were talking about their health care and the number of weeks of paid vacation they get every year. One of the participants asked me why Americans were dedicated to working so hard. Essentially her question was about why we are so dedicated to exhausting ourselves. Balance is not high on our priority list. Scratch the paint and look beneath her question and find a deeper inquiry: she wanted to know how I explained the gap between our identity as free people and our national dedication to servitude. We work for health care. We work more hours by far with less time off. We seem okay with the every increasing gap between the haves and have-nots. Sequestration is the best we can do because the other options would require us to take a look at the gap and its drivers. I had no answer. Denial didn’t seem satisfactory. I didn’t want to say, “We think we have no choice.”

And then I flew home and promptly exhausted myself. The universe has never been subtle with me when I need to pay attention to something. Saul’s question followed Megan’s admonition. Stillness, listening, and choice.

Saul returned to the practice saying, “Exhaustion makes no sense to me especially if I can avoid it.”

Eat For Stillness

779. 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 exhausted today. I spurned all work and cleaned the studio. I prepared canvases. I stayed away from sharp objects and power tools. I made sure not to cross the street until I looked three times. During days of exhaustion, personal safety is the best I can do.

During my cleaning frenzy I cleared space in the studio. I made space. I created space. I needed space and that meant that things had to go. I made a rule that if I hadn’t touched the book or the tool for a year, I had to get rid of it. I got rid of a lot of stuff! Had you walked by my studio today and mentioned that you liked a painting, it would have gone home with you. I’d have given you two paintings because the spaciousness – the feeling of space – was energizing in my exhaustion.

This evening, Megan shook her finger at me for not taking good care of myself. Yesterday I forgot to eat. It happens when I get focused and busy. It won’t surprise you to learn that lack of food and exhaustion are connected. Making space and eating are both great remedies for my low energy. Megan read to me a passage from a book. The passage was about listening. According to the book listening is about stillness. Inner chatter disrupts listening. Her message was about taking care of myself inside and out. I am not listening to what I need. I am not listening to what my body is telling me. She was prompting me to return to my practice of stillness with a reminder that stillness inside is impossible if I am not caring for myself outside, not eating well, not resting appropriately.

Now that I’ve created spaciousness I intend to regain my stillness. To that end, I’m going in search of some very big, very hot, very yummy food.

If Not Now, When?

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

Megan-The-Brilliant sent me a text this morning. She is attending a state teachers conference. Her text said: I’m in a conference where the keynote lecture is on the importance of creativity. Novel, huh? How many times will we say this before we do something about it?

It’s a great question: How many times will we say this before we do something about it? It’s a question that generations of educators have been asking. Literally. Generations. How many times will we say this before we do something about it? Later in a phone conversations she said, “If I hear another person state the obvious I’m going to puke.” She also said, “I’ve had it.”

I’ve heard that a lot lately. The amazing educators, the fire starters, are taking their fire elsewhere. When survival is the best a teacher can do, when thriving is out of reach and dowsing fire is the aim of the system, the choice is to be dowsed or to go make creative fire where fire is welcomed. Think of this: teachers can leave in disgust but students have no choice but to be dowsed. And make no mistake, their fire is being dowsed. And, as levels of absurdity stack upon levels of absurdity, listen to the overriding complaint of businesses about new hires: where’s the self-direction? Where’s the critical thinking and capacity to innovate? Why aren’t we preparing our students for the world of work? Answer: Because we are dowsing their fire with buckets of wet tests to feed metrics that tell us nothing usable. We are patterning them to complacency.

Fire is dangerous to test makers. Educational fire is anathema when answer regurgitation is the goal.

The disjoint between what we know and what we do is vast. It is a farce. If you doubt what I’m asserting, think how ludicrous (sad) it is for a keynote speaker in the 21st century to address educators on the importance of creativity. The speech is only necessary in an arena that has stripped creativity from the system.

After the call with Megan I remembered my recent conversation with Robert. His son is just starting school and he was appalled by what his son’s teachers are being forced to do. He said, “There’s no room for creativity. I’m not talking about art or music – I’m talking about any form of creativity. It’s a wasteland.”

Face The Sun

777. 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 gorgeous in Seattle today. It was the kind of day that people escape from work, play hooky, take extra long lunch hours, or leave early so they can get into the sun. I made up a reason to walk across the city to an art store. I needed some more paper and Mod Podge. I’m certain there is a closer art store but I convinced myself that they wouldn’t have the kind of paper I needed or would charge me too much for Mod Podge. I justified walking in the sun for an hour. My strategy was successful. I pretended I was exhausted so I could walk slower. That worked, too.

On the way I saw people napping in the sun. All of the city’s benches were occupied by people dedicated to sitting still. All the faces were tilted to the sun. Like me, people walked slower so they might prolong their time outside. It was as if the entire city went Zen (with the exception of the drivers who were desperate to get somewhere so they could park and get out of their cars).

The great paradox in this day of lollygagging is that I was more productive today than any other day this month. A little sun greased the wheels of my brain and the ideas flowed. I was inking cartoons and talking on the phone and before I knew it I’d inked everything that was drawn and nearly completed my full list of calls. Skip sent an email proclaiming that he, too, was having an extraordinarily productive day. A little sun can work magic to a vitamin D starved populace.

Even though we live in boxes that shelter us from the elements and sleep according to electric light and not the rising and setting of the sun, we are still intimately connected to the pull of nature. This morning as I descended Queen Anne hill, the vibrant force of spring – birds in chorus, buds bursting open, a full palette of colorful flowers – stopped me in my tracks. It lifted me from a rain soaked stupor and I spontaneously stretched my arms and yawned myself awake. A woman passed me on the stairs and said, “It’s electric, isn’t it.”

Allow Your Inner Odd To Shine

776. 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 was a day that awoke my inner sociologist. It was a Salvador Dali day filled with the surreal and the surprising. It began with a voice calling me from a deep sleep. The voice was saying, “Food! Food!” It was an imperative so I swam to the surface of my consciousness and I found Fuji the cat sitting on me, staring at me, meowing the word, “Food.” I’m not kidding. I blinked my eyes once or twice to make sure that I was awake. Fuji was saying “food” or at least a sound that was identical to the word “food.” I sat up and looked around the room for leprechauns or perhaps the Mad Hatter. When I knew I was safe I crawled out of bed and fed Fuji.

Later, as I walked to the ferry, I passed a group of elders. From a distance I thought they were teenagers because they were plugged into their iPods. They were chatting and poking each other on the shoulder and doing a mini boogie down the road. They were school kids in the bodies of grandparents. Again, I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was awake. I was but was by then I was suspicious of what might be waiting around the next corner.

What was around the next corner was a woman standing in an open plaza doing a monologue. She wasn’t preaching. She wasn’t standing on a box recruiting an audience. She was not on the phone. She did not appear to be crazy. Her bag was on the ground in front of her and she was having a fight with someone invisible to the rest of us. She paused in mid sentence, bowed, picked up her bag, and walked away as if she was on her way to the office and nothing unusual had happened.

After my meeting, now on the Seattle side of the Sound, I was walking back to my studio when I heard a lovely female voice singing a Beatles song. Across Pioneer Square stood a woman with a microphone. Next to her was a man playing an electric guitar. She sang with all her might. No one paid any attention. People walked by as if no one saw her and suddenly I wondered if I was the only person on the Square that saw her! Maybe I was like the monologue woman! Maybe people were passing me wondering what I was staring at! I held my ground for another moment and then faded into the crowd.

I have a sneaking suspicion that everyday is surreal, that these marvels are always present just around the next corner but we’ve grown numb to them or are afraid to engage with them because they might be dangerous or require some responsibility on our part. We imagine that it’s better to pretend that the oddity doesn’t exist and so we just keep walking. We fade into the crowd lest we stand out.

As I faded into the crowd I liked the idea that I was someone else’s oddity. What is odd for you is not for me and vice versa. The riches of my day were not in the norms, not in the moments that met my expectation. The riches were in the surprises and the surreal. Imagine how rich we would be if all of us agreed to allow our inner odd to shine! My inner sociologist is appalled by the idea but I think it has real merit.