Look Up [on Two Artists Tuesday]

deer in woods copy

An evening sky awash with salmon pink and orange. Walking down the middle of the road. Strolling home.  We heard the snap of twigs and stopped. The deer was very still, suddenly aware of us. We found ourselves engaged in an old Viola Spolin acting exercise: you look at us and we’ll look at you. Who is the audience? Who is the performer? Who is the watcher? The watched?

I’ve been thinking about Quinn lately. He taught me that there is a marked difference between concentration and awareness. Concentration is a narrowing of the mind. A blocking of other thought. Resistance. Awareness is an opening to experience. All experience. An embrace. It’s a thought straight out of Alan Watts, one of the many, many authors and thinkers that Quinn introduced me to.

Walking the roads and beaches of the island, learning the nuance of this community and the needs of the performing arts center that we now guide, for me, has become an active reminder, a literal exercise of awareness, a class in paying attention. Open, not narrow. Experience rather than judge or resist.

I can hear Quinn laughing at the younger version of me who thought he had to contain it, capture and command it. The one who thought he had to know what to do. The one with a knitted brow who thought that being good at something was a matter of controlling it. So afraid to not know. The mirth-tears would roll down Quinn’s cheeks. “Look up!” he’d say. “If you keep staring at your feet you’ll miss it!”

“Miss what?” I’d ask.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DEER

 

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Hold It Lightly [on Merely A Thought Monday]

humorous thing called life copy

Roll this description around in your thought-bowl:

“The Spoon River Anthology, a sequence of free verse epitaphs spoken from [the occupants of] the cemetery of the town of Spoon River. When the collection first saw publication in 1915, it caused a great sensation because of its forthrightness about sex, moral decay, and hypocrisy…”

We saw a snippet of Spoon River performed last week at our new artistic home, TPAC. It’s almost impossible to see even a bit of Spoon River and not realize how fragile and temporary is life. It’s a not-so-subtle poetry-reminder that most of what we think is sooooooo important is, in fact, a tilt at windmills. In its forthrightness, its perspective on hypocrisy and moral decay, we found Spoon River to be remarkably contemporary.

Tom told me that he always used Spoon River to teach his beginning actors. “It’s all there,” he said, “All of it!”

He read a piece from the anthology at his great aunt Bunty’s funeral. It takes life to love life. After Tom’s death, Kerri and I performed the same piece in my play THE LOST BOY, a script derived from interviews with Tom. Words that end the first act. Words that described Bunty. Words that Tom adored:

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It’s the best of paradoxes. Kerri and I remind each other everyday that our work, our artistry is not nearly as important as we think it is. We remind each other to hold it all lightly. And in holding it lightly, we open the door to experience it richly. To laugh rather than resist. To know, that we will, one day, populate a plot on the hill, and the only thing that will have mattered is that we paid attention and participated in our moment, that we loved the little bit of life that we had.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUST

 

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Walk Off The Path [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

nurselog in woods copy

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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Wait For It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Nothing I have to say or will ever have to say is of vital importance. Therefore, your reply, if at all necessary, need not be immediate. Unless, of course, your name is Wendy and are considering whether or not you miss my face as much as Kerri’s. I was hopping up and down waiting for THAT reply. For everyone else, take your time. Get off the road.

Look up the word ‘immediacy’ and this is what you will find: the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement, giving rise to a sense of urgency or excitement. As painful as this is, here’s the truth of the matter: the sense of urgency is largely manufactured. And, most likely, it is waaaaay out of proportion. It’s true, we live in the age of direct and instant involvement. A good question to ask is instant involvement in what? With ‘breaking news!’ a constant fixture in a screaming 24 hour news cycle, hyper-short attention spans leaping this way and that, ubiquitous “buy now’ buttons flashing from every direction, and the ever-present fear of missing something in a never-ending stream of…what? There’s a lot of reinforcement in the notion that our input cannot wait. It can. None of it, none of what we have to say, is really all that important. If it was, truly was THAT important, we’d pull off the road. We’d stop splitting our attention so we could focus. We would eschew immediacy and become present.

Giving your full attention is a good test of importance.

What is important: living another day. That is important. Also, having a sense of perspective about the injected sense of urgency or excitement pervasive in this, the age of immediacy. After all, immediacy and presence are not the same thing.

[although I did not intend to write a public service announcement, I did… so for more, go here to read the 25 scariest texting and driving accident statistics]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about IT CAN WAIT

 

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Listen To Your Teachers

my yoga companions

my yoga companions and a belly-belly

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog and BabyCat (aka Slim, Sumo, Belly-with-a-Mouth) join me for my morning stretch and yoga. I need only walk to the yoga rug and my practice mates come running. I suspect they are not invested in the quieting of their minds or keeping limber. Their attendance on the rug has a simpler, more pure agenda: attention and pets.

Our preparation looks something like this: BabyCat wraps himself around my ankles and purrs. Dog-Dog jumps with enthusiasm and nearly knocks me over. With a Sumo-sized kitty warming my ankles and a circus dog leaping all around me, my gentle, quiet practice begins. As I drop forward to touch my toes, Dog-Dog rolls over for what we have lovingly dubbed a “belly-belly.” Clearly, Dog-Dog is an opportunist who sees all things as an opportunity. He is, therefore, a very happy spirit.

BabyCat is more strategic. He waits patiently until I move into a downward-dog pose so he can inhabit his favored spot and nibble my hair. It is counter-intuitive but true that BabyCat is more vocal than Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog. As a strategist, BabyCat complains a lot. He is an adherent to the philosophy of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and BabyCat knows how to squeak the wheel. He is, therefore, as a necessary prerequisite to wheel squeaking, never satisfied.

photo-3My yoga companions have served to make me more mindful though it took me a while to recognize the teachings of my rug mates. At first I thought of them as distractions: they are very demanding of my attention. I thought they were getting in the way. I contemplated shooing them from the rug but, in truth, they made me laugh and what could be better for any healthy practice – for a healthy life – than laughter. It occurred to me that I’d rarely laughed in the many, many previous years of my practice. I was missing the essential ingredient and nearly banished it from my life-rug!

Next, I had to learn to move slower with much more intention so as not to topple or step on the squeaky wheel. I became much more present and aware of even the simplest movement. Awareness is a muscle and BabyCat is a gifted instructor of the fine art of awareness.

As an opportunist for fun, the Dog-Dog believes every pose is, in fact, a bridge to run under or an invitation to wrestle so I’ve had to learn how to root myself in every moment of my practice, particularly the in-between moments. I cannot afford to be ungrounded, even for a single moment, or the master Dog-Dog will have me sprawling on the floor. Saul-The-Tai-Chi-Master would be proud of my new capacity to remain grounded while in motion. Dog-Dog is an excellent teacher!

Perhaps their attendance on the rug with me has a more complex agenda after all: they recognized that their human needed to welcome more laughter into his too serious practice (life), he needed to find a deeper, easier grounding. And, in my predisposition the think I am higher up the chain of consciousness, I foolishly believed I was giving my love and attention to them but the opposite has been the case all along.

Make A Pie

Taking  a walk with K.Dot and Dog-Dog

Taking a walk with K.Dot and Dog-Dog

Stay with me. This post is not nearly as curmudgeonly as it might first appear.

Many years ago I was directing a play in Santa Fe. It was the week before Halloween and I went into a coffee house. I was taken aback to find the place decked out for Christmas. Since then I’ve kept a running count of the first day in the fall that I see Christmas appear in the shops. As you might have guessed, it is earlier and earlier every year. This year’s arrival date: October 3rd.

I laughed out loud this Thanksgiving season when I heard an advertiser shout that, this year, Black Friday begins on the Monday before Thanksgiving. The whole week is black! Mark my words, next year Black Friday will begin on the Friday before Black Friday. Soon, the month of November will be decked in black while also decking the halls.

As has become our national custom, the midterm elections began the day after the last Presidential campaign and the new Presidential campaign began the day after the midterms. Are we never out of an election cycle (a rhetorical question)? It is the only example I can cite in which politics is running ahead of the rest of the advertisers.

I’ve not had a television for a few years so I’m a bit behind the wheels of progress. This morning, as we made pies, we turned on the Thanksgiving Day parade and I was wide-eyed with wonder that the entire affair is now a not-so-veiled advertisement for products, television shows, and musicals on Broadway. Along with each float came a cut-away commercial for the sponsoring company (I learned how to bake a lot of new desserts and was prompted more than once to rush out and get the ingredients NOW). Even the shots of Al-in-the-crowd were interviews, not with the crowd, but with celebrities; I heard when their show airs, and learned what their character might eat on this holiday and be grateful for if they were not imaginary. I was also prompted to text the network and tell them what I might be grateful for so that I might feel a sense of participation.

Take a step back. There is so much noise. There are so many competitors for our attention. I read that our attention spans are shrinking and how could they not shrink (or flee into hiding) under such an unceasing assault. Apparently with a shorter attention span it takes longer and longer to get our attention. I can’t help but think it is all stuffing and no bird.

Each year I work with people actively seeking for meaning or purpose. They tell me that something is missing in their lives. The pattern is to purchase-for-fulfillment but commerce makes for a lousy core and inevitably shows its true colors as a temporary numbing agent or distraction. And that’s the point. Seekers cease seeking when they learn where to place their attention. They step out of the noise cycle. Instead of navigating the noise they simply turn it off and take a walk or a nap. Instead of texting the network they look at their loved ones and say, “Let’s make a pie.”

title_pageGo here to buy hard copies (and Kindle) of my latest book: The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, Innovator, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator,…You.

Follow The Energy

737. 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 is a basic tenet: form follows energy. Another way of stating this basic tenet is: what you think is what you create. Thought is energy. Recently, Mark shared another way of saying the same thing: what you focus on expands. Focus placement is more powerful than you might imagine. It is a creative act. You see it because you believe it, and not the other way around.

Yesterday Vesna and I had a call. We talked about the difficulty of building a website with a clear offer when you are an artist, coach, teacher, facilitator, entrepreneur,…. What single label covers all forms of expression? How can people possible know how to hire you if you are a circus of gifts waiting to be given? Vesna told me the experience was like trying to squeeze herself into too small of a box. She doesn’t fit in any of the labels. Neither do I. So, we talked about not fitting. We talked about releasing completely the intention “to fit.” What if, rather than fitting, we came to the party as we are? The form will follow if we allow the energy to express. We talked about identifying the single, central purpose that unifies all of the forms of what we do. Here’s mine:

Sam used to call me his Virgil. In the Divine Comedy, Virgil is the Roman poet who guides Dante through hell and purgatory before passing him off the Beatrice who leads him the heaven; it is an allegory of the soul’s journey toward heaven. That makes me, in Sam’s definition, a guide for souls on their journey to heaven. Heaven is a metaphor for wholeness and that makes me a guide for souls on their journey to wholeness. That’s what I do. Guidance can take many forms and in my life, it does. My website will state in bold letters at the top: If you’re looking for Beatrice you’re in the wrong place! She’s not here but I know how to find her.

And, the secret of my trade: form follows energy. Place your focus on your innate wholeness: it will expand. Stop trying to fit in too small of a box; if you need a box make one that fits you. No one gets to Beatrice without taking the full tour: you can only know and appreciate your heaven if you know its opposite so take the full tour and stop trying to protect yourself from experience. I recognize this is not great marketing language for a website – especially in a culture dedicated to comfort – and now that I’ve told you all of my secrets and put myself out of business I probably no longer need a website! I have no business being in business anyway; I’m an artist…I mean I’m a teacher…uh, a coach. Well, what I mean to say is…I facilitate…make speeches…. Ah, hell…if you need me, you probably already know where to find me.