Work With The Energy

Sometimes I think a spiritual path is nothing more than clearing out the lies we tell ourselves. That sounds like harsh language but when I think about it, all of the illusions I’ve ever perpetuated were built upon drama-stories. Drama stories are always rooted in fear. They are steeped in an agenda that I pretend I do not know. They provide reasons why I can’t do something. They justify victimhood. They give me the illusion that I have no choices. Drama-stories are lies.

Moving through the illusions is largely a process of letting go of the justifications and defenses that constitute our personal dramas. The more we clear – the less we need to defend – the clearer our capacity for connectivity. It’s simple really: justification and defense are walls that we erect between life and ourselves. They create separation. Drop the defense and the walls fall. Life rushes in.

Lately, in my current cleaning phase, as I release the latest layer of lies, I’m coming to re-understand a phrase I’ve used for years: work with the energy and not the story. Everything is energy assigned to a form or purpose and that is true of every thought and story that passes through our heads. Thought is energy given articulation. Energy is constant but the forms are transitory. I can work to change the story by telling myself another story (an affirmation, for instance) or I can simply transform the energy, detach from any story. Yesterday morning I slipped into an old pattern and began telling myself a well-worn story of woe. The story felt tight, isolating, suffocating; it was spiraling down and I felt as if I was collapsing. I finally heard that still small voice inside saying, “This story is a lie,” and I wondered what would happen (thank you, Joe Shirley) if I forgot about the story and simply reversed the spiral. I detached from the lie (it was a lie, after all), felt the energy and worked with it to change directions. In a matter of moments I bobbed to the surface. I could breathe again. In a few more moments I felt restored, even energized. There was no more drama-story. There was no more reason why I couldn’t do everything that I want to do. There was one simple action, one small step. And then another. And another….

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Feel The Peace

Last night I went to the Taize service. It is a meditation service with lots of candlelight, repetition of music and lyric, and great opportunities for silence. It is hypnotic and peace-full. It was crackling with energy though I recognize that sounds paradoxical. Lately in me peace is vibrant.

Two days ago I talked with Heather who is starting a coaching business. The focus of her practice is based on the premise that outer space reflects inner space. Inner clarity often comes when outer clutter is cleaned and sorted. Inner space opens when outer space is organized. As I move into my new home, Kerri and I are cleaning and sorting. We’ve cleaned our space of multiple bags of old clothes, ancient files, furniture, and equipment. We are opening space and will work on it all winter. This week I will close my business to open space for the next possibility. To me, Heather’s premise is right on. I feel the space opening inside me.

Many years ago Ana challenged me “to make all the world my studio.” That challenge has been my North Star. She asked me to erase the boundaries between art and not art. Erase the boundaries between sacred and not sacred. I’ve learned since Ana issued the challenge that, like my house, I needed to cleanse myself of several trash bags of old stories (bad patterns). The trash stories concern what is mine to do and what is not. I’ve tossed out notions of who I think I need to please. I’ve dumped loads of obligations and expectations. As the space opens I’m more able to clarify my gift. I routinely ask myself these days, “What is my service (how do I bring my gift to the world)?” The cleaning now reaches deep. I have much more space than trash. I now understand that for the world to be my studio the space inside me must be vast so the space outside can be infinite with possibility.

Saul recently taught me to address myself to my concern and no one else’s. He told me I was all the time orienting myself to others concerns. He said, “Look beyond the opponent and place a soft focus on the horizon in the field of possibility. In this way, you will have no obstacle. You will offer no resistance.” Saul was teaching me to clean house. He was teaching me to seize the great opportunities that become available when the tug of war ceases and all that remains is vibrant crackling peace.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Listen To The Lake

I’m learning the many moods of Lake Michigan. It seems that each day it has an entirely different character. One day it is angry and steely grey with waves crashing against the shore like an ocean. One day it is as still as a Zen meditation. Regardless of the Lake’s mood, I am drawn to the shore to engage with it. Today I closed my eyes to feel the autumn sun radiate off the surface. “Don’t get used to this,” it whispered, gentle waves lapping the shore. “I know better,” I replied and smiled. The Lake is fickle. So am I.

With each new mood comes a dramatically different color palette that ranges through greens to turquoise to the deep purples. Sometimes the color is soothing, sometimes it is electrifying, and sometimes it is an assault. I’ve come to believe that the Lake’s color functions like a mask: it sometimes reveals the Lake’s mood and sometimes obscures it. Sometimes the Lake invites people to play and sometimes like the witch in a children’s book coerces people into a trap. The Lake teaches both faith and wariness.

Standing by the Lake I am reminded of something that I read many years ago. We are mostly monotheistic so we carry the expectation that we, like our god, have a single identity and are plagued by many moods. That is not true the world over. Cultures (like the ancient Greeks) that worship many gods have no such expectation. They allow that they have as many identities as the gods they worship. Their gods are forces of nature and they recognize that those forces are alive and expressing through them. The wind, the thunder, the quaking earth, the changing seasons, the rain, the fertile fields,…, are forces personified. Their moods, their emotions, are akin to being possessed by a god-spirit. Love is a possession. Inspiration is a visit with a Muse. They need to pay attention to their relationship with these forces (they have a relationship with these forces), to stay in the good graces of the fickle gods.

I’ve decided that the Lake is one of the old gods and I need to pay attention to my relationship with it. I like the notion that it has the power to inspire me, possess me, frustrate me, and fill me with laughter. I know its sister, the north wind, has the power to refresh me or chill me to the bone and, of course, the driver of the sun chariot graces me with warmth and music.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Toss It In The Bin

Here’s an old question that I used to ask in workshops and retreats: what if nothing in you is broken? What if nothing in you needs to be fixed? It jumped out of the archive of my mind today as I clean my house literally and figuratively. I am revisiting the eras of my life and the geography of my growth path. I am also having conversations with people who carry the assumption that they are broken or somehow missing a piece of themselves. They are seeking wholeness, which is another way of saying that they are seeking themselves.

Where is wholeness to be found?

I spent entire decades of my life looking for the missing pieces only to discover – as we all do – that nothing was lost. The moment I stopped trying to meet other people’s expectations, trying to fulfill obligations that were not mine to fulfill, taking responsibility for feelings that were not my own, I discovered that I had all of my pieces. They were there all along. I was looking for my wholeness in other people’s eyes so no wonder I couldn’t see myself clearly! I was looking in the wrong direction.

Wholeness is not something we lose. Wholeness is something we lose sight of. Focusing on meeting other’s expectations blinds us to our own expectations. Taking responsibility for how other’s feel distracts us from taking responsibility for our own feelings. I only have one obligation and that is to realize my wholeness in the actions I take everyday. Wholeness is a practice, not an outcome.

So, as I unpack my boxes and sweep the space beneath the stairs, I smile at an old version of me that carried a broken belief so was consequently invested in finding all the missing pieces. Like a decades old birthday card, I remember it but have no attachment to it. I tossed it into the bin with all of the other out-of-date sentiments.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Dance With Alpha And Omega

When Kerri isn’t composing music or performing concerts, she is a music minister at a church. It is a great gift and irony of my new life that I am spending lots of time in a church. I have never identified myself as Christian – I do not believe that nature is corrupt, particularly my own nature – so the fundamental building block of the faith has never made much sense to me. However, Kerri is no ordinary music minister (imagine Sheryl Crow designing the music for church services). There is a raucous ukulele band boasting 50 players, a budding contemporary rock band heavy on the traditional drums; she is experimenting and innovating to help rejuvenate and rebuild a once waning congregation. Art and passion are now bubbling in the wellspring of this community.

During the services on Sunday I sit in the choir loft (side note: the pastor, Tom, is an excellent storyteller and I am at long last hearing the biblical tradition from someone who understands its oral beginnings) and lately I have been taken with the stained glass windows and banners. I am a lover of symbol and behind the altar is a huge window in three sections: the birth, the death, and the resurrection. This morning as I listened to Tom tell the story of the prophet Elijah, I studied the window. I admired the altar cloth that sported and Alpha and Omega symbol. Because I was listening to a story and taken by the Alpha and Omega as one symbol, one action, I had a no-duh moment. Every story is a birth-death-resurrection cycle. Every life is a birth-death-resurrection cycle – and isn’t that the point! When we know enough to read the stories/symbols as metaphors instead of taking them literally, they open like a lotus!

Stories begin when the main character is knocked off balance. Stories begin with disruption, when the old world no longer works, and we must leave behind all that we know and step into the unknown. That is both a death and a birth. It is the Alpha and Omega together as one action. And, isn’t that really the way life works? In living we are dying, in dying we are transforming and generating new life. I have heard it said that presence only becomes possible with the recognition of the impermanence of life. It is movement, as the cliché would have it, an ever-moving river.

In a hero journey, the Alpha Omega cycle ultimately leads to a return. At the beginning of many stories, the hero must go to the place from which no one ever returns and that is metaphoric. It doesn’t mean that no one returns. It means that the person that comes back to the village is not the same person that left. The adventure transforms the hero. This transformation is a resurrection. It is a return. It is a return that is universal to every life story. It is a resurrection open for everyone. Life is an Alpha Omega in every moment: it is a death, birth, death, and rebirth cycle. The return marks the beginning of the next leaving.

Before church this morning I was meditating on life as motion. Life never stops moving. Growth is movement. Learning is movement. It is when we try to stop the movement that we create pain for ourselves. In a physical body, the blockage of movement is the place where toxins accumulate and the same is true in a spiritual body or communal body. It is all movement. It is Alpha Omega in every moment.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Intend The Glitch

Watching a video on “Glitch Art” the other day I heard this phrase: you have to understand a system before you can break it. A glitch in computer code is an anomaly or mistake that creates a hiccup or break in the system. It is a mistake that can make some very interesting imagery. Glitch artists seek the mistakes. They seek the beauty that comes from what others might view as a problem. And my favorite artistic moment as expressed by the glitch artists: at some point they start creating problems in the code. They intend the glitch (which makes it no longer a glitch).

Penicillin is the result of a process glitch. Science is often the art of surfing for glitches, finding the anomaly within the pattern. The word “experiment” implies an orchard of happy mistakes that reveal new insights. The word “unique” means distinctive, exceptional, singular – something out of the ordinary. In other words, a glitch.

Art and Innovation (in the USA) are equated with the new. Artists and innovators try to help us see the world in a new way – or even better, they help us see the world anew. Seeing anew always requires pattern disruption. It requires a challenge to the assumption set, a smack to the status quo. It requires a glitch.

Consider this: learning – true learning (not the answer driven drivel currently running rampant in our education system) and seeing anew are fundamentally the same thing. To learn is to see the new or to see anew. At the heart of art and science – the reason for math and English, economics, politics, ethics, social science,…, is an orientation to the question (as opposed to the numbing notion of a right answer).

Like the glitch artists, no one simply finds the new. It is not something that can be sought or predetermined. It is something we bumble into. It happens when you one day ask, “Hey, I wonder why that happened?” Or, “I wonder if it would work better if…?” It begins with wonder. Wonder leads to experimentation and questions within questions within questions that lead to more experimentation and more questions. This is also a good definition for being vitally alive. Wonder and step toward it. Orient to the question, do an experiment, and tomorrow ask a better question. Do this everyday and someday, just like the glitch artists, you will find yourself doing what all artists know as life-giving: you will intend the glitch, play with the mistake, and learn to see the world anew again and again and again.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Tell The Story

With Tom’s passing comes a renewed interest in producing The Lost Boy, a storytelling/one-man-play about Tom’s ancestors and how he discovered his role in his lineage. We made a hearty run several years ago at producing the piece. Prior to that I spent two years interviewing Tom, walking through family graveyards, unpacking old boxes, looking at photos and artifacts, visiting property that used to belong to his people. We spent many late night hours drinking wine and talking story.

We started work on the play because late one night Tom turned to me and said, “I need you to help me with something.” If you knew Tom you’d know how unusual it was for him to say something like, “I need help.” I sat down and for the next several hours listened as Tom told me an incredible story of lost-ness and found-ness driven by an obligation he felt to his great grandmother. “I have to tell this story,” he said, averting his eyes and adding, “I don’t know how to satisfy my obligation to Isabelle.”

The piece was originally to be performed by Tom. After several attempts I’d written a viable draft that he liked. A terrific band, Mom’s Chili Boys composed music for the piece. In the months before our first read through I felt something was wrong with Tom. He seemed sometimes lost, occasionally disoriented. For our first read/play through of the script we invited a few friends. We had dinner, laughed a lot, and moved into the living room where the Chili Boys had set up their instruments. The reading began well. Tom was a natural storyteller and he was present and vital in the first act. The music was heart-full. And then somewhere in the second act Tom got lost. Literally. For a moment he did not know where on the planet earth he was. I saw the panic in his eyes. His wife Marcia took his hand. After a moment he returned to us though I will never forget the look of fear in his eyes. He had no idea what had just happened to him. We stumbled through the rest of the script but I knew we were too late. Tom would never be able to personally fulfill his obligation to Isabelle. He called me the next night and asked that we stop all work.

As he slipped into dementia, The Chili Boys and I revised the piece so that I would tell the story. We attempted a few half-hearted workshop performances but a roadblock always emerged. The time wasn’t right so we left it alone.

Jim, chief Chili Boy, called the other night and we talked of Tom, his passing, and the play. Jim said, “It’s time.” I pulled out the script and read it aloud. He’s right. It’s time. I have an obligation to Tom and to a woman named Isabelle to tell this story. I have an obligation to myself and to the Chili Boys to tell this story. Ironically, for me anyway, it is a story of a man finally returning to his root and at long last coming home. After my call with Jim I realized that, after the year that I’ve just lived, finding a way to return to my root story, finding my family, I’m only now capable of telling this story.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.