Practice [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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George Leonard wrote that mastery is not about perfection. It is not an achievement. Mastery is a process, a journey. It is a choice, a path, a decision about how you will walk through your life.

“For one who is on the master’s journey, the word [practice] is best conceived of as a noun, not as something you do, but as something you have, something you are. In this sense, the word is akin to the Chinese word tao or the Japanese word do, both of which mean, literally, road or path. Practice is the path upon which you travel, just that.” ~ George Leonard, Mastery

Despite gobs of rhetoric to the contrary, no one lives in isolation. No one achieves in isolation. To believe otherwise is…delusional.

Once, long ago, Roger said something like this: “When I hurt my toe, in fact, my whole body is hurt. It is a trick of language that I can think of my toe as separate from the whole.”

Paul Wellstone’s quote reads like a path, a tao. It is a trick of language on this tiny globe, this tinier country, to think that Us is in any way separate from Them. We all do better when we all do better. It is a choice that marks a path, a practice.


read Kerri’s blog post about WE ALL DO BETTER


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from my children's book, Play 2 Play

from my children’s book, Play 2 Play

About the river, Jim said something like this: I had to stop complaining, leave town, or do something about it.

Jim chose to do something about it. He got busy. Now, he’s dedicating time each week to clean and care for a stretch of the river. He’s working to make people aware of the rich life that the river supports. He’s drawing the plant life. He’s made and delivers an incredible Powerpoint presentation.

Jim came to an awareness threshold: complaining is not doing – but unlike most people, he crossed the threshold and changed. The first necessity in any change process is to change yourself. Complaining is a first step but it is where most people stop. Complaining feels good because it provides the illusion of action. Complaining can become fuel if it is followed with a step toward action.

I’ve worked with scores of people who wanted to write books or paint paintings and most came to me with a complaint: lack of time, no quiet space, or some other circumstance that blocked their happiness. When we removed complaining as an option, they created time or quiet space. They wrote. They painted. It was not magic. It was practical. Complaining requires dedicated energy. It also takes time and more than a little thought-space. Painting, writing, or cleaning the river also requires dedicated energy. The question is about where the energy is dedicated.

Ultimately, as Jim described it, the move from complaining to doing changed how he was in the world. He changed so his world could change. He stepped from helpless witness to active participant.

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Say “I Can.”

My latest addition to the Yoga series.

My latest addition to the Yoga series.

This is a bit of a confluence of thought-rivers. Two comments came across my virtual desk on the same day and collided.

1) Master Marsh sent me some wise words about a recent post concerning “can” and “can’t.” He wrote:

“There have always been plenty who will say: ‘It can’t be done.’ Ignore those. Surround yourself only with those who say: ‘It can.’ I’ve come to believe this is less about can and can’t than about the challenge of doing. And not doing is always easier.”

2) Another of my favorite readers sent this comment about a post on boundaries and choices:

I’m thinking making own-able choices is so freakin’ difficult for so many us because we were never taught/allowed to make them as children, nor are we often encouraged/allowed to do so as adults. Most of us learned at a very young age that to do as instructed – without complaint or question – meant that you were “good.” Being “good” was all tied up in stuff like being seen and not heard; accepting “Because I said so” as an explanation; being expected to abide by dictated boundaries and beliefs because of tradition or what “Other people will think.”  Operate by the rules and you are “good.” Buck that system by challenging the status quo and you are “bad.”

At first glance these might seem like two entirely different subjects. Though, as luck would have it I read them one-after-the other and I started pondering why, “not doing is always easier” and if that might not have something to do with identifying “good” with compliance and “bad” with non-compliance.

It’s a fascination of mine that in a nation that prides itself on a spirit of independence we place so much emphasis on obedience, control, and compliance. Nike sells us shoes by plucking the chord, “Just Do It!” Yet, we all know that the cowboy spirit is not welcome in grades K – 12. It’s a mixed message at best.

In the world of work, in environments heavy on control and compliance, workers can be counted on to do the minimum. Why would they show up ready to give their best when their best requires a mind-of-their-own. They, in essence, become resistant to take initiative and necessarily refuse any ownership of actions. To take ownership requires being seen and compliance is a game of invisibility. I remember a very frustrated artistic director asking me why her creative people never initiated action. She was dumbfounded when I helped her see that she was the problem. She made it a habit of negating every idea that she didn’t originate. Her staff did what all people do when punished for making offers; they stop making offers. Her “creative” team became adherents of “It can’t be done.”

No child comes to the planet with an internal line dividing “can do” and “can’t do.” Imagination makes all things possible. “Can do” and “can’t do” is learned; it marks the boundary between safe and not safe (or unseen and shamed). There is a price for domestication. “It can’t be done” is often a statement of fear and refusal to cross the line into disobedience (independence by another name). I would add a thought to Master Marsh’s comment, “not doing is always easier;” it is also true that not being seen is always easier, too. Showing up is hard. Doing is always a challenge because doing is often unpopular.

Tom used to say: “You know the value of your work by the size of the tide that rises against you.” In other words, it takes a special kind of courage to say, “this is mine to do and it matters not a whit what others think or feel about it.” It takes a special courage to say to yourself, “I’ll never know if it is possible or not until I try.”

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