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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Smile And Yearn [on KS Friday]

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I am a sap for things that at the same time lift my spirit and make me yearn. The great gift of nostalgia, the double-edge of happy memories. It is the gift of great art to open those double doors.

THE TWO OF YOU gently opens those doors. It is my go-to piece when I want a good warm smile of remembrance that evokes a healthy dose of tears. It is one of the pieces that begs me to hit the ‘repeat’ button and play over and over again. Just once more…

The cello line and strings in THE TWO OF YOU kill me. Every time I listen to Kerri’s compositions supported by an orchestra, I am astounded by the deep-river-ease flowing through the conversation between the instruments. In THE TWO OF YOU, I am pulled into that deep current and carried away to a place that breaks my heart with smiling.

 

THE TWO OF YOU on the album AS IT IS available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE TWO OF YOU

 

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the two of you/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 

Use Your Magic Wisely [on DR Thursday]

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…and the wily old story fox told the pack, “Words are like magic, misused they are tragic…”

“Words are like magic, misused they are tragic, but handled with care they bring insight and good cheer. So listen, dear friends, listen with care.” ~ The Story Fox

I wrote and illustrated Lucy & The Waterfox in 2004, long before this common era of weaponized language use.

Declan Donnellan wrote that, “There will always be a gap between what we feel and our ability to express what we feel. The more we wish the gap to be smaller, the more we want to tell ‘the truth’, then the wider the perverse gap yawns.”

The more we need words, the less capable they are at expressing what we mean. That is the blessing and curse of language: it can never achieve the goal. It can only point us in a direction. The closer we step toward ‘the truth’, the less language can actually reach it. Which, if you think about it, requires us to keep reaching for it. Conversely, we can stand directly on a lie and say exactly what we mean. Dead air.

‘The truth’ is a verb. It is a moving, alive, relational thing.

Language is imprecise and, so, easily manipulated. Endlessly interpreted to fit an agenda. That is precisely why language requires respect and care in the handling. Words are more powerful than most people understand. They are capable of starting wars. They are capable of creating peace. They are capable of inciting division. They are capable of inviting unity.

When the ‘perverse gap yawns’, when words become the weapon of the small minded, it is incumbent upon us – all of us – to listen beyond the words, to recognize and acknowledge the agenda. It is incumbent upon us all to handle our powerful magic with care and use it wisely.

Waterfox coverLUCY & THE WATERFOX is a story for children and adults about believing, following your own path, the power of word

 

read Kerri’s blog post about LUCY

 

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lucy & the waterfox ©️ 2004 david robinson

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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Listen To Them [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Saul taught me to look beyond anything I understood as an obstacle and, instead,  place my focus on the field of all possibilities. “Place your focus on the obstacle and you will deal with the obstacle. Place your focus on the possibilities and you will deal with possibilities.”

Tom taught me to choose my battles and to fight only those worth fighting. “You don’t want to die on every hill,” he said. “In life there are really only one or two hills worth dying on.”

Ironically, Quinn, one the best storytellers I’ve ever known, taught me not to make up stories. Pointing to the big tall bank building he said, “See those people up there on the top floor? They don’t know what they are doing, either. They’re just making it up, too.” Or, maybe, he was attempting to teach me to tell a better story about myself.

It is not an understatement to say that I am rich in guides, teachers and mentors.

Doug, a Vietnam vet and one of the best teachers I’ve known, one day called me into his office and showed me a tattered, ruined book of poetry. “I bought it in the airport on the way to the war,” he said. “It saved my life.” He told me the story and it made me weep. Doug taught me the power of art. So did Paul and Roger. My two MM’s (Master Marsh and Master Miller) continue to teach me this lesson. Dawson, too.

Kerri and I are in a period of change that is simmering with unknowns. It is not the first time in my life that the dense fog has come in. She asked, “What do you think will happen?” I said, “Well, ultimately we’ll die.” She punched me. “That’s not what I mean!” she groused, adding a second punch. “Geez.”

Later, after the double punch, we took a walk on the Des Plaines river trail. An elderly man came around the bend and said with great jest and enthusiasm, “I cleared the path for you! It’s all clear.”

“Clear.”  It’s a poetic term. It means ‘possibility.’ And I heard them, my chorus of teachers and guides. All of them. Loud and clear.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about CLEAR PATH

 

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Mess With It [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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A simple image skewed. It becomes something else. The original was beautiful, simple stark contrasts. Iron grey corrugated metal meeting untouched snow.  Textures. Man made meeting nature made. It looked like an abstract painting.

When Kerri is restless she plays with images. My composer wife has a better visual eye than her painter husband. She can play for hours with a single image, designing from an inner imperative that words cannot reach. “What are you messing with?” I ask, already knowing the answer. Silence. She shakes her head, my question a horsefly to her concentration.

A curator might tell you that this photo represents a dream gone awry. A door that opened. A possibility that whispered. And then, like the iron grey metal meeting the snow, the dream met the realities of the moment and tilted. The door, the possibility was a mirage, a vanishing oasis.

Of course, a curator might say it represents any number of things and we’d affix their meaning to the image, even if we didn’t want to.  Words are powerful. Sticky.

A simple image. Another day. Another step. Skewed. What are you messing with? I already know the answer. Tell me what it means.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SKEWED

 

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Lose Your Right Mind [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I have made some incredibly bad decisions in my life that set off a chain of events that led to some extraordinary, life-illuminating experiences. Conversely, I have made some incredibly good, well-considered decisions that led me to total devastation. My life reads like one of Aesop’s Fables.

The “bad” decisions were “irrational” and “spontaneous” and some of my pals  questioned whether or not I was in my “right” mind.

The “good” decisions were “rational” and I was lauded for using common sense, for my clear-eyed, right-minded logic.

Intuition, following your gut, listening to your heart has very little to do with the rightness of mind.

Back in the previous century (20 years ago), educators were awash in the term “the mainstream.” Getting divergent students back into the mainstream was the stated goal of most alternative education programs. Doug, my hero of the alternative path, champion of finding the stream that worked for the student (as opposed to channeling all students back into a single stream), used to snarl, “I’d love to see this mainstream if someone would be kind enough to point it out to me.” (note: this is not a direct quote as I’ve cleaned up Doug’s language for my less sturdy readers).

In mythology it is called the left-hand path, this route that makes no sense to adherents of the mainstream. The left-hand path is intuitive and counter-intuitive, all at the same time. It seems nonsensical to sail toward the edge of the known world. Explorers, artists, innovators, mystics, must take this road less traveled. They must wander off the main and cut a new path. They must. Their fellows will wonder if they’ve taken leave of their senses. Left their right mind. The answer: no. They are following a deeper call, something speaking to their senses. They’ve left a mainstream that appears to them like total madness.

If logic is your compass it is, of course, best to stay on the road well-traveled. If safety and security is your goal, then a known path holds what you seek.

If knowing where you’re going sounds a lot like a death sentence, then leaving your right mind for a left-hand path is the only choice that makes sense.

Truth? I think the right-mind is bit of rhetoric that has little to do with the realities of being human. We find the rational side of things comfortable so it gets good marks. No one gets a cake-walk in this life. Everyone has a mountain to climb, a valley to get lost in, a spontaneous jump to make, a gut feeling, a heart to be listened to – and some of the worst impulsive decisions inevitably lead to the most profound growth experiences. It is only after the fact, when we need to make sense of our nonsensical leap, our follow-the-heart choice, that we call on the “right” mind to make the story coherent. Just ask Aesop.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about RIGHT MIND

 

 

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