Walk Through The Studio

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

While working on the comic strip and getting the book ready for publication, I’m spending many days alone in my studio. I like the solitude. If I don’t meet someone for coffee or dinner, it is common to be twelve to fourteen hours by myself. I recognize this gift. Most people I know would give anything to have twelve hours of quiet, focused creative time a month. Not long ago I was lucky if I had two hours a week to devote to the right side of my brain. Now, I have to be very intentional to maintain my relationships beyond my project team.

The time by myself has fostered a unique perspective. When I leave the studio, I feel often as if I am watching a movie. It’s as if I can see people enact their dramas. They are not relating, they are performing. They are not listening they are trying to be heard. It seems as if people are performing their idea of who they are. They might as well be scripted! If you consider a pattern of behavior a script then they are, indeed, scripted. So am I.

I usually walk to the studio in the morning and walk home again very at night. Each way takes me roughly an hour because I like to walk slowly and my studio is across town from where I am staying. I like to pay attention to what’s happening around me so I try not to rush to get “there.” The practice is to keep my focus in the process – which is another way of saying to keep my focus in the moment or on the relationship. The practice is to be where I am. I get to see the early morning dramas and the late night dramas. I’ve come to think of my walks as episodes.

Ana-The-Wise once told me that my task in life was to make all the world my studio. I used to think of my studio as the place of my creative action. If I wasn’t in the studio I couldn’t create. She challenged me to flip my assumption. It occurred to me today that I’ve finally flipped my perspective – the world is now my studio. It is ironic that flipping my perspective has opened my eyes to the amazing acts of creation that surround me each day. My relationships are a creation. The way I walk through my life is my creation. What I see is literally my creation (an interpretation is a creative act). There is never a moment that I am not in my studio. Now, the distinction is whether I’m in the populated or secluded variant. Either way, it amazes me.

Listen To Fuji

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

Over the next few days I’ll be hanging out with Judy’s cat, Fuji. Fuji is a wise old soul and her needs are simple. She wants attention when she wants it and not a moment before. She is unequivocal when she wants space. She requires food and water and has specific preferences for her food. Fuji is not a goat. Fuji is very clear about what she wants and expects. Fuji has very clear boundaries.

This morning was my first morning alone with Fuji. I’ve never had a cat. I am a dog person. I assumed that I would have trouble understanding Fuji’s needs without a cultural informant but in a relatively short amount of time Fuji taught me the essentials of cat communication. Fuji is a love and appreciates being greeted in the morning. We had a nice pet and then she walked to her bowl and stared at me. Her message was clear so I put food in her bowl. Next she drank a prodigious amount of water and I refreshed her supply. While I filled the water dish Fuji settled into her favorite spot on the back of the couch and yowled at me. I responded immediately and rubbed her ears and beneath her chin until she was sated with attention. Then, she slept.

As a coach I often have conversations with clients about proper boundaries. As I watched Fuji drop into sleep I marveled at how easy our communication had been. There was no hinting, no guessing, no apologizing, no timid offers, no power games, no diminishment, and no justification of need. She told me what she wanted and when she wanted it. I complied when I could. There was no confusion and no miscommunication.

Don Miguel Ruiz writes that the most potent act of self-love is being impeccable to your word: say what you mean and mean what you say. It is self-love because it is not predicated on the needs of others. It is not dissipated by worth issues or control games. Impeccability is predicated on the understanding that your needs are valid and yours to communicate without justification or defense. In this sense, clarity and transparency are expressions of self-love.

Fuji is a great teacher. Note: as I came back this evening Fuji opened an eye and said, “Pet me, please.” I gave her a pet and she fell back into a deep, restful sleep.

Wake Up

770. 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 night I had dinner with a dear friend. We had not seen each other for months and had lots of ground to cover, lots of stories to tell, and lots of changes to report. We talked of our losses and our discoveries. We waded into our fears and confusions. We challenged each other to reframe certain parts of the story. We laughed.

I can’t remember another six month period in my life that has been this dramatic in terms of change and growth. Certainly there have been other periods of change – relationships ending or beginning, career pivots, moving to other parts of the country – but nothing that compares to the most recent period. And it continues. It is as if I am standing in a still center and watching the universe weave a new web around me. The old fibers are falling. Space is cleared. The new web fills the emptiness almost immediately.

A few days ago I began class by leading a meditation. It was a seed meditation. It began with a focus on the breath, the breath cleansing and clearing space for a seed, the space cradling the seed (each person was the seed), there was warmth and rest and protection. Finally there was impulse, a new form, a tender shoot cracked from the seed, pressed through the soil, broke through the crust and found air and the sun. And as the tender shoot drank the rays of the sun and grew toward the warmth, the seed sent roots in the opposite direction. There was growth in two directions, root fingers reaching deeper into the earth, plant tendrils reaching higher toward the sun, both drinking from life to come alive.

In talking with my friend I realized that the meditation perfectly described this period of change. The seed, asleep for so long, has cracked open and there is growth in all directions, deep roots reaching for warmth and stability while new vibrant stems lift and reveal leaves capable of absorbing more and more light, producing more and more growth. Life feeding life. Our discussion at dinner was not really about rapid change. It was about waking up. It was about refusing to sleep through another day of this lifetime. It was about drinking from life in order to return nutrients to life. It was about following the deep natural impulse to crack open and grow.

Make It Up

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

This is a random report on a random day.

The fun began when the Rejuvenation Fairly tried to insert herself into my new comic strip for entrepreneurs entitled Flip. As you may or may not know, the Rejuvenation Fairy smokes unfiltered cigarettes and cusses like a sailor. I’m trying to keep Flip relatively clean so I feared the rudeness the Rejuvenation Fairy could introduce into the world of Flip. I managed to hold her off for today but I know it’s only a matter of time before she wiggles her way in. She is nothing if not persistent. And she is very funny. And Flip is a cartoon strip so funny is a good thing. I will lose this battle.

The moment after I placated the Rejuvenation Fairy I discovered that Freddie Mercury had cast himself as an entity in Flip. I use the term “entity” specifically. He will now play the role of the “soul of business.” At first I protested but the more I thought about it the more I laughed and thought Freddie would appreciate his casting as an entity identified as the soul of business. So I’m going with it.

Of course, casting Freddie unleashed all manner of havoc when the Rejuvenation Fairy learned that Freddie was in but she was out. The characters in my mind are as jealous as actors in the real world. They vie for rolls. They get snarky when someone else gets the role and they do not. I amuse myself with their dramatics so I allowed the Rejuvenation Fairy to pitch a fit. I sat behind my casting agent desk and replied to her protests, “It’s not fair,” I agreed. “You are right.” I commiserated. Life is not fair. Especially in a world that is entirely a figment of my imagination.

What I most appreciate, what my characters have taught me is that it is all a figment of my imagination. We are creating this world together as surely as I am creating the Rejuvenation Fairy or Flip or casting the lead singer of Queen as my soul of business. All of our wrangling, our dramas, our power games, and our cultural misconceptions are concoctions. We make them up. We hurt or love each other in our imaginations long before we act it out on the world stage. This is the key to propaganda and it is at the heart of every abuse: I first must diminish you in my mind before it is okay for me to inflict my story upon you. Or, I must first recognize the power of love and feel it within myself before I am capable of weaving a story of love. Tell the story and that is what you create. Or, to say it another way, it is all made up. And it is all true. Both, and.

The Rejuvenation Fairy is telling me. “Enough already.” Freddie has a lyric that he’d like to sing but I’ll save that for another day.

Bring It

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

This afternoon I taught a Business of Theatre class at Cornish College for the Arts. The students were seniors in the final weeks of their degree programs. Their assignment was to make project pitches as if we, the class, were granters or investors. My job was to support them to get better at doing project pitches. Through the several pitches, two themes emerged that became the focus of our conversation.

The first theme: rather than pitch their ideas as great, almost all the students justified or somehow diminished their idea. They defended it prior to an attack.They were unconsciously seeking reinforcement or approval of their idea. Or, to be clear, they sought approval as if I was the keeper of worth for their idea. Had I said, “What a stupid idea,” they might have agreed with me. The need for my approval trumped their personal point of view. My approval was more important than their idea.

Theme number two is related to theme number one: they entered the relationship assuming that the granter (me) had all of the power. As pitch makers they cast themselves in an unbalanced, powerless position. They came as supplicants. They assumed that the grant maker held the golden key to open the door to their project/dream. In this play (a pitch is a play) they cast themselves as impotent.

Both themes were unconscious. Both were based on assumptions of lack.

Every artist, if they are to thrive, must reorient at some point in the arc of their career. They must leave behind orientating according to what they might get from the world and reorient according to what they bring to the world.

Grant makers, foundations, investors and auditors have no power over an artist – unless, of course, the artist is oriented in the relationship according to what they might get from the relationship. At best, a granter can support a route. They might open a pathway to fulfilling an idea. There are hundreds of routes. There is one dreamer. The responsibility for manifesting the dream is the dreamers not the granters.

No one need apologize for his or her dream. No one need justify why it is important. It is a dream. It is an idea. It is a desire. No one else need approve; the approval belongs to the dreamer.

The students and I discussed the power of bringing the dream to the world. We played with the perspective shift that happens when artists own the responsibility for their dreams and refuse to define their role as impotent. Bring the dream. Stop seeking your worth in the responses of others. Bring it. The granter will fund it or not and that should have no impact on whether the dream is pursued or not. Bring your best game. Bring it everyday. If you have a dream, create it. There are many routes. Explore them all and in each case pitch your best game.

Choose Your Experience

767. 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’s after 7:00pm and I just realized that it was Sunday. One of the privileges of wandering is that days of the week blend and become one. There are relatively few patterns so markers like workday and non-workday do not exist. This has been somewhat true most of my life. The line between work and play is indistinct. My play and my work have mostly been the same thing.

This afternoon Skip and I did a test run of experiences for our new start-up business. The audience is entrepreneurs. Some members of our team are young entrepreneurs so we gathered and talked through the content with them and then threw them into some experiences. Having been a data-basher most of my life it’s an interesting flip to do things to gather data and adjust my work based on audience responses. I learned a lot today!

What came clear to me was something that I’ve known for a while but did not fully grasp the magnitude until today. Human beings come into the world oriented to the unknown and strive to pretend that we are oriented to the known. We make meaning of chaos. And, what is chaos really? It’s a made up concept. It means, “I don’t know!” It has no use outside of the human need to make story and project order onto the world. It’s like the word, “wild.” Wild is only useful when there is an expectation of tame. Chaos is only meaningful relative to an expectation of order. Both are categories. One is generally comfortable because it provides the illusion of control and the other is uncomfortable because the illusion is of no control. Tame and wild follow the same general principle. I was in the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles and as the earth threw my house off of it’s foundation and hurtled me through the air, I learned that control was not mine to assign. I learned that wild is tame and tame is wild and chaos drives order and order collapses into chaos. It’s a dance.

It’s not the nouns that matter. It’s the verbs. It is the movement. Nothing is static. Nothing is fixed. The answers are not important. The questions matter, it is the conversation and the relationship that hold the real stuff of life. Questions and relationships are fluid. They move. Orient to the unknown and you orient to the questions. The questions will open you to discovery. Orient to the known and you orient to the answers. The answers will close you to rules and righteousness. This would seem obvious but it is not. The most potent revelation of all: how you orient is a choice. Choose to open or choose to close. Orient to the unknown or orient to the known. Orient to the infinite game or to the finite. Choose your experience.

Begin And Begin Again

766. 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, one and a half years since I started my tai chi practice, we learned the 37th move of the Cheng Man Ch’ing’s 37 posture T’ai Chi Ch’uan form. It is incorrect to suggest that we finished anything. In truth, we have only just begun. This type of practice is never finished. It is like a fine art form. There is no end to the study. It is an infinite game. The actual sequence of movements is merely the armature upon which the real learning of the practice is constructed. I’ve learned the sequence and now am ready to learn.

After the session we went across the street to celebrate completing the cycle at the teahouse. Saul-The-Chi-Lantern told us his daughter scolded his choice for celebration. She thought cupcakes or chocolate cake was more appropriate for celebrating. She told Saul that tea was no way to celebrate anything! The notion of a tai chi celebration makes me laugh. It seems like a paradox or perhaps fodder for a cartoon that might be found in the New Yorker.

During our tea celebration I talked with the other David who has been a student of Saul’s for over thirteen years. David is a life long meditator and sought Saul when his meditation practice plateaued. He told me that meditation is not something that happens in your head. Meditation is embodiment, dropping into the body. It made sense to me as meditation often begins with a focus on the breath. Years ago he felt stuck in his sitting meditation and happened upon Saul. He told me that this tai chi practice has changed his life. It restored and invigorated his meditation practice (another paradox). To David, there is no separation of spiritual and the every day. “It is all a spiritual practice,” he said.

I can’t explain it and would have a hard time providing details but this practice has changed me, too. I am more grounded. I am less stressed. I am easier in the world and feel more clear about what is really important and what is not. I’m less apt to rush. I don’t keep lists anymore. I’ve stopped watching the news or any television for that matter. I don’t want to be distracted from living. Rather than fill it up with stuff I want to open it, taste it, touch it, and feel it.

Earlier in class Saul talked of emptying ourselves. “When you empty yourself it will be as if you catch a current of energy or air and it will carry you along,” he said. “Ride the air.” He told us that it often happens after practicing for a few hours that he thinks the world has gone mad. “I go into the world or go home and there is so much stress to get things done. There is always a list, a bulb to be changed or a hole to be dug. I feel as if I just returned from the monastery to a frantic world lost in preoccupation.”

Spare A Moment

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

Once while in Bali I watched a rooster pick a fight with itself. The rooster saw his reflection in a big screen television and prepared for battle. I thought of that rooster today when I watched a woman screaming at her reflection in a storefront window. She was picking a fight with herself. She pointed at her reflection, shouted profanities, lunged forward and dropped back in a defensive posture when her adversary seemed to lunge at her.

It seems like a sad and lonely image unless you consider how often we wage war within ourselves. The woman at the window was simply expressing outwardly what was happening internally. If we did that, if we gave expression to the internal separations and subsequent battles, we’d be called crazy. The woman at the window lacked an editor. Her desperation was hidden no more. In a sense, she was more authentic than those of us who gave her a wide berth. Without an editor she was dangerous. None of us wanted to be mistaken for her reflection.

After help arrived for the woman I continued across town watching the many things we do for attention. Isn’t that what the woman wanted from her reflection? Wasn’t she looking for someone – internal or externally – to pay attention, to afford her a kindness? The young people raising money for the ACLU asked if I had a moment. The man carrying the large sign that read “How Do You Know Jesus” asked me if I had a moment. The woman who wanted some change started the conversation by saying, “Sir, do you have a moment?”

Everyone wants a moment. Everyone wants to be heard. In a city, with so many sounds and billboards and buses and sirens and people, people everywhere wanting, wanting, wanting change, a signature, a kindness, a bus, a convert or a clear path, it is no wonder that we have so few moments to give. I can only hope, that if I am someday staring at my reflection in a window, that I have kind words to say to myself rather than a fight to pick. I hope that I offer my reflection one of my precious few moments and ask, “What do you need to say. I’m all ears.” I’ll be okay if I’ve learned to stop and listen.

See Through Conscious Eyes

764. 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 walking across the city every morning and again each night late as I return from the studio to where I am staying. Since I know that I am projecting my view of the world on every person I pass, I decided that I’d play with my projection. I decided I would see through more conscious intentional eyes.

We assign a story to people in a nanosecond. Pass someone on the street and, if you’re paying attention, you’ll find that you’ve dropped them into a story compartment. Listen and you’ll hear the labels you assign to people, labels based on a first glance or the briefest encounter. If you are generally fearful you will see fearful or fearsome people. You’ll see a dangerous world. You’ll create a dangerous world. You’ll create fearful labels. You generate your labels based on what you believe.

This morning I was dreaming about the possibilities of my latest project and it occurred to me that each person I passed was possibly doing the same thing. I began intentionally seeing every person on the street as a dreamer. Almost immediately I noticed that instead of sticking a label on them, I began wondering what were their dreams. I became curious instead of protected. Anonymous commuters shimmered and became people with rich internal lives, hopes, struggles, and dreams. They became specific and unique. They became three dimensional and richly complex.

I wondered if they were walking toward their dreams or had given up on their hopes and silenced their possibilities. Since the projection was mine, I decided that, like me, all were moving toward their hearts desire. I believe that all people, even when they’ve dulled their senses, are striving for wholeness. The pathway to wholeness is always through dreams and desires.

Mostly what I noticed was my view of the world shifted. I was seeing hope and possibility everywhere so my hope and sense of possibility magnified. The tangible changes were within me. I felt energized and vibrant and light of spirit. I wondered what would our world look like if we saw each other as dreamers and keepers of creative fire. I wondered what would happen within each of us – and therefore what we created outwardly – if we looked through more intentional, conscious eyes.

Learn The Space Between

763. 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 just read this phrase in an old notebook. I’m not sure who to attribute it to though it sounds as if it came from Ana-The-Wise: Between the inhale and the exhale there is an empty state. It is from this empty place that we create.

The “space between” has emerged as the theme this week.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a class about the space between actors on a stage. The play is never about the actors or the characters, the play happens in the space between them. It is the space of relationship. It is the place where the verbs express. If the actors are honest, the space between them opens and the audience joins the story. The audience participates. If the actors are pretending, if they are dishonest, the door closes and the audience can only witness the lie.

In Transformational Presence coaching class we also worked with the space between. In this case, it was the gap between what we know and how we live. Alan calls this praxis and has defined praxis as integrating belief and behavior. He writes, “Praxis is closing the gap.” In exploring the gap we worked with the relationship between what we know and how we live. They are not separate concepts but a living relationship. The gap is a dynamic space. It is the space where you will find your fears and stories of limitation. Close your gap and you will discover and transform all the reasons you believed you couldn’t walk your talk. And, just as actors on a stage discover, bringing an honest intention to the space between (relationship) creates movement, openness and flow. Bring dishonesty to the space between and the door closes. Fear takes over. Limits flourish.

The space between is always a relationship. It is never and empty space in the sense that is a void. In meditation it is the door to stillness. Learn the space between your inhale and exhale and you will find a quiet mind; it turns out that your thoughts and breath are as integrated as the rhythms of your heart and lungs. Place your focus outside of yourself, put it on the space between you and the world, and you will find a fertile, vibrant, creative realm ripe with possibilities.