Practice, Practice, Practice [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Before Jonathan left town he gave us a book of daily devotions from his spiritual tradition. It is a significant book for him. It was his mother’s favorite and now it is his. He  starts his day with it, reading a passage, meditating on its meaning, and carrying the meditation through his day.

A mind needs a focus. Jonathan is one of the most positive people I’ve met and this lightness of spirit is not an accident. He carefully attends to the story he tells himself. He exercises his muscle of interpretation and, because he is looking for it, he will always sort to the positive. He assumes a positive tale.

One of the lessons I learned while in Bali goes like this (almost a direct quote from Budi): In Bali, when two cars crash, the drivers do not get out and begin yelling and blaming the other driver. Instead, they get out of their cars and greet the other driver because the gods meant for them to meet that day. They try to discover why they were brought together.

Sometimes I think the whole journey is a master class in focus-placement and assumption-making.

Early on in our life together, Kerri taught me this phrase: leave the outbreak of baggage behind. We carry yesterday’s baggage into today’s experiences. It’s possible to carry a lifetime’s collection of baggage into each and every moment. Heavy living comes from looking at life though the baggage-layer.

The first meditation in Jonathan’s book is the same first principle found in every spiritual tradition: Be present in this moment. Your life is not what happened yesterday; it is what is happening right now. If you are looking for your life you will miss it if your focus is backwards or forwards. It sounds trite in a world awash in Hallmark cards, Successories, Motivational Moments or books of daily devotions.

It’s trite until put into practice. It’s easy to say ‘be present’ or ‘make no assumptions’ or ‘be the change you seek’ or ‘focus on the positive’ or… It’s a whole different ballgame when the trite phrase comes off the aspirational wall and enters the daily grind.  Presence, the sensitivity to life happening right now, is not an achievement. It is an awareness that comes from practice amidst a world screaming for your attention.

Everyday a clean blackboard. I suspect that thought was Jonathan’s real gift to us.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about

 

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See The Mica [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Recently, Kerri wrote about making a “mica list.” I thought it was a great phrase and an even better idea.  Capture the small, shiny bits, those sparkling moments amidst the gray rock of each day that are often overlooked. In other words, pay attention. The gem-moments are everywhere and most often missed in the rush to be some other place.

Mindfulness is not a new idea. The desire to be present in life is an ancient aspiration. It is the message of all the masters. Life goes by. It can be missed. Open your eyes, see the mica.

In terms of the senses, it is impossible not to be present. As for the ever-busy-storytelling-mind, it is can be almost impossible to be present. The dance of life between the senses and the story. I love this quote by David Abram:

“A story must be judged according to whether it makes sense. And ‘making sense’ must be here understood in its most direct meaning: to make sense is to enliven the senses. A story that makes sense is one that stirs the senses from their slumber, one that opens the eyes and the ears to their real surroundings, tuning the tongue to the actual tastes in the air and sending chills of recognition along the surface of the skin. To make sense is to release the body from the constraints imposed by outworn ways of speaking, and hence to renew and rejuvenate one’s felt awareness of the world. It is to make the senses wake up to where they are.” ~ David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

We picked the green leaf lettuce for a salad just as we always do. It went unceremoniously into the basket. Other items were piled on top. A cucumber. Bananas. Diced tomatoes. Chips. Wine. Checking out of the store, Leticia, our checker, held up the green leaf lettuce and with great enthusiasm and humor pronounced, “Green leaf…the forgotten lettuce!”  We howled and saw the beautiful vibrant green as if for the first time. “Everyone buys romaine. I don’t know why people like romaine. Green leaf is so much better!” Everyone in line agreed. A lettuce-induced communal moment.

Mica. The green green leaf lettuce. The laughter in the grocery store. Leticia. And, later, the flavor. Oh, the salad that we made…

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FORGOTTEN LETTUCE

 

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Circle Back To Change [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A long time ago, in addition to naming my posts, I used to number them, too. Today, as I considered what to write, I realized that I had an old post sitting on my desk top because I’m slowly (very slowly) working on a maybe-someday-book called For Art Sake. I opened the old post and laughed aloud when I read it. It is  from a younger version of me writing about the wheels of change [I’ve made a few edits]:

1174. MEET THE FIRE

In order for the phoenix to rise it must first burst into flames and be reduced to ash. Every rebirth requires a death. I imagine the phoenix does not relish the flame but after a few cycles it recognizes the necessity of the fire.

The same image (metaphor) is everywhere: the caterpillar must first cocoon and then be reduced to mush before the impossible happens. The leaves must fall from the tree before the root can replenish, revitalize, and do the impossible: bring forth new life.

The healers in Bali assured me that a wound is necessary to open the door to the gift – each of them had suffered a devastating wound or loss en route to fulfilling their healing power. The journey through the wound was necessary to realize and fulfill their gift. The heroes cycle, the belly of the whale, the quest through the wasteland, finding joyful participation in the sorrows of the world; change is a fiery, difficult business.

In my life I’ve worked with many, many people in all manner of change and transformation processes. It is surprisingly common for people to want their phoenix without experiencing the flame. It took me a while to realize that people (organizations and otherwise) were hiring me under the guise of helping them transform but in truth they really wanted me to help them circumvent the fire.

People go to great lengths to avoid the flame. No one willingly seeks the wound and no one transforms without it. No one in their right mind jumps out of bed in the morning ready to jump into the abyss and yet the adventure is impossible without it. If a full rich experience of living is the aim of our limited time on this earth, then the fire is necessary. The fire is part of the ride.

Fire avoidance is what dulls an otherwise vital life. Comfort is certainly a worthy aspiration but as the only aspiration it deadens, it limits the life-color-palette to taupe. The trick, as all the stories teach us, is never to avoid the fire (you can’t) but, once there, to be alive in it.

After ashes comes honesty. With ashes comes a deeper knowing, call it faith, that  somewhere deep inside, the phoenix-in-you will someday rise just as spring will always return.

[Kerri took these photos. They are the treads of the massive tires on the enormous earth moving equipment that is transforming our beloved Bristol Wood into a high ropes course. We grieve it daily, watching the woods reduced to ashes]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE WHEELS OF CHANGE

 

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Walk Off The Path [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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This is a tale of two quotes. Both are from Jiddu Krishnamurti who is currently sourcing my start-of-the-day reading.

“To be religious is to be sensitive to reality.”

Kerri and I love to walk. In our first few years together we’d walk the streets and parks of our neighborhood, morning evening, midnight, sunrise. Each day, regardless of weather, we’d walk. Lately, we’ve gravitated to a few local trails. More nature. Less concrete. More quiet. Less noise.

When we walk we very intentionally leave behind all of the mind chatter, all the fearmongering of the day, the battles with abstractions. It’s as if we shift a gear and easily pay attention to the actual world around us. We look. We listen. We sense. We point out beautiful things. We stop and close our eyes and listen. “Did you hear it?” Kerri takes pictures of the extraordinary marvels that surround us. They are everywhere. Brilliant red berries in a winter landscape. A nurse log. The astounding color and texture of a strip of bark. Deer prints, like ballroom dance patterns, in the mud. A distant owl.

Our walks are my church.

“Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion or sect.”

I am living a life that is not going according to the plan. Some of my best decisions turned out to be my worst. Some of my worst decisions have turned out to be my best. Lately, I’ve been looking for jobs. This is new to me as I’ve been fortunate and capable most of my adult life of creating work. The gift of looking for work is the necessity of making a list of past experience. A life review called a resume.

I’m finding my work-life-review to be like our walks in the woods. Quiet. Sensitive to the realities. At this age-and-stage I am no longer what Kerri calls a strider. I am not climbing over bodies to get to the top office suite. My sword shattered some time ago. My armor is off and most likely by now covered in moss. Saving the world, becoming the next Picasso, finding the Northwest passage and all of the other battles of abstraction are no longer drivers for me. I have no desire to summit Everest. I have an endless desire to stand in this moment just as I am.

I have (for better or worse) walked a pathless path. And, I suspect that is true of all of us despite what topography we scribble on our resume maps. Truth is a personal path, the face behind the mask.

Master Marsh once asked me, “Why do you need to run at every edge and jump off?” When he asked the question I had witty replies but no real answer. Now, this is what I know: On my quest I’ve read a lot of books and had many, many brilliant mentors and guides. At the end of the day, they were/are pointers at best. The direction they pointed – always – was to the unknown. To the edges. The news from my life-review: It’s never found in a book or well worn path. It’s always found in a moment, in an experience, in a walk in the woods, holding hands.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about NURSE LOGS

 

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Release The Peace [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Peace. Compassion. Strength. Wisdom. The idea is that prayers and mantras symbolized on the flags are blown by the wind, spreading their peace, compassion, strength and wisdom into the world. It’s not a bad idea. It’s not a bad reminder.

We pass beneath our prayer flags everyday. It is our version of the Balinese split gate. A symbol of bigger things. Coming or going we pass through a moment of meditation, a fluttering reminder of the path that threads through time’s center. The place of presence. It is the place where divisions fade – even for a moment. The place where the drama-of-the-day and turmoil – all expressions of separation – fall away.

The flags quiver and dance. We stop and listen to the quiet flapping, the release of peace into the wind. The basic elements of compassion, strength, and wisdom. Water, fire, earth and sky. A renewed focus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PRAYER FLAGS

 

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Bring Peace [on DR Thursday]

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a morsel of PAX

Coming out of a deep sleep I pass through the flotsam layer at the bottom of consciousness. I call it the ‘garbage layer;’ the place where fears fester and worries lurk. It is the monster layer, the place where Grendel lives. When passing through the garbage layer I’m careful not to hook any of those thought-demons and bring them to the surface with me. Give them light and they will eat your day.

Just as I broke through the garbage layer, feeling the pull of a new day, my eyes not yet open, I was warmed by this thought:

Bring peace to your day and you will experience a bit more peace. Bring joy to your day and you will experience a bit more joy. Bring anxiety to your day and you will experience a bit more anxiety. Bring fear to your day and you will experience a bit more fear. Bring hope to your day and you will experience a bit more hope. What will you bring to this day?

My eyes popped open and I was floating on a raft of hope. A raft of my own choosing. A raft I could share.

This painting is called PAX (the kiss of peace). Like the thought that awaited me above the garbage layer, it is a meditation on the power of what you bring to your day. It is a meditation on the raft you choose to create.

It’s a simplicity. Bring peace. Experience peace. Bring hope to your day. Experience a bit more hope in your day. Share a bit more hope in your life.

 

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PAX, 24 x 24IN, mixed media

read Kerri’s blog post about PAX

 

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PAX/PAX morsel ©️ 2015/18 david robinson

Live Into Simplicity [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I am a fan of simple wisdom. Most of my mentors, the people I admire most, lived their way into simplicity. Measure twice, cut once. Know the hill you want to die on. An actor can only do one thing at a time. Write a good story backwards. Let go your technique.

I use the term ‘fools errand’ a lot because I’ve been on so many of them myself. Tilting at windmills. Trying to change the world, fighting ogres, slaying dragons. All the best stories, the simple wisdom tales, tell us that the thing we seek is with us all along and yet, we need to go looking anyway. We have to. It is the rare bird that knows who they are right out of the chute. The universal quest is always to find yourself.

Roger once told me that he went to graduate school to expedite his learning. “I can take forty years figuring it out for myself or I can go to school for three years.” It was a statement made sensible by his youth. It was a statement of arrival – of knowing – and, after a few years of living, it becomes apparent to artists and seekers alike that arrival is an illusion. Knowing is relative and ongoing. I’d love to talk to the artist he has become forty years after making that statement. My bet is that he’d laugh.  We’d laugh at the jungle of nonsense we’ve both mapped our way through.

“You can make a piece of wood short but you can’t make a piece of wood long.” You can’t force a square peg into a round hole. If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. Nothing is broken, nothing needs to be fixed. Wherever you are is called Here.

The necessary action is always clear but the story wrapped around it makes it seem complex. Simple, yes?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MAKING A PIECE OF WOOD SHORT

 

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