Snap Your Fingers [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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When I was roaming the world working with corporate types, tilting at windmills, I would tell my be-suited crowd that words matter. I’d relay a story I heard from Don Miguel Ruiz. He told his audience that people in the United States completely misunderstood the word, “spell.” He said, “You think to put a spell on someone is magic, like hocus-pocus. But, that is not it at all. Tell a little girl that she is fat and you will have spelled her forever.”

She will hate her body. That is a powerful spell.

Words matter. Tell the nation that the “Democrats are vicious” or that the news is “the enemy of the people” and the enchantment is undeniable, angry.  Push the spell through a propaganda machine and it magnifies in intensity. Like a ritual drum, the thump-thump whips the glassy eyed adherents into a red frenzy. Insist that long debunked conspiracies are real or that the deep state is out to get us all and the spellbound will see demons threatening everywhere.

The nation body splits and just like the little girl looks with hatred at the other part of itself. A powerful spell.

‘Hoax’ thump-thumped in the face of undeniable fact and the mesmerized fall into line, repeating what they are told to repeat. “Cluck like a chicken!” the hypnotist suggests and the sleepers dutifully cluck. Common sense surrenders to the spell.

Teachers of consciousness use different techniques but are in general agreement about how to awake from a nasty spell. Step back. Doubt what you think. See what is there and not what you think is there. Detach from your attachment to what you want to believe, to what you are being told. The salesman always wants you to buy the car. He is not your friend. He does not have your best interest in mind. He will use his words tell you anything. Despite what you are told, this car will not make you happy, it will not solve all of your problems. It will not make you sexy or powerful or complete. Uncouple from the words, the spell being woven, and see.

If she is lucky, the little girl one day wakes up and realizes that the hatred she experiences is not her own; it was planted in her with a word. The hatred she wields against herself and turns on to others is not of her creation. She learns that she must snap her own fingers and call herself awake. The hypnotist, she understands, only has authority if she continues to cluck and sleep.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WAKING UP

 

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Sing A New Song [on KS Friday]

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If there is anything certain about we human beings, it is that we are uncertain. We are a festival of questions and doubt. The good news is that our questioning, our doubts and uncertainty are also the epicenter of our adventure impulse. Creativity begins with equivocation.

No explorer, sailing into the unknown to find the edge, brought along a barrel full of answers. No artist ever stood in front of a blank canvas with a brush loaded with certainty. A good relationship with the mystery necessitates a healthy ambivalence. We follow the impulse to an unknown, often unreasonable expectation.

Kerri was preparing for a final rehearsal with the band for the Christmas program.  She played one of the selections  and exclaimed (just as she did during the previous rehearsal), “I don’t like this piece!” Most of us would simply make peace with it or go to the drawer and find a replacement. Not this time. I watched the muse tug her. She got that far away look in her eyes. Some inner horizon beckoned. She stepped back  and then returned to the piano and began to play. She scribbled notes. She sang a few lyrics and wrinkled her brow. Sang again. Muttered, “That’s no good.” Played some more. Scribbled.

She sailed her ship into the vast ocean of promise, a new song. By the time guitar Jim arrived at the rehearsal, she was smiling. “What do you think of this?” she asked.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOLIDAY SONGS

 

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It’s a gorgeous song and someday I might convince her to record it. In the meantime, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Allow [on KS Friday]

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“If we allow time for soul, we will sense its dark and luminous path. If we fail to acquaint ourselves with soul, we will remain strangers in our own lives.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

These days are edge days. We began to feel strangers in our own lives. That is a sign to be heeded. It’s time for us to sit in silence.

“Beauty inhabits the cutting edge of creativity – mediating between the known and the unknown, light and darkness, masculine and feminine, visible and invisible, chaos and meaning, sound and silence, self and others.” ~ John O’Donohue, Beauty

Kerri doubts her beauty. And then she approaches the edge. She stands at her piano. When she plays all doubt leaves the room because the polarity finds its middle way, there is no this or that.

Sometimes it is enough – it is necessary – to stand at the piano with hands nowhere near the keys.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

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Walk To The Other Side [on DR Thursday]

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There is a ping-pong table in my studio that is piled high with paintings that are not yet stretched. And, because these paintings are constantly moving, pulled and tacked to the wall to be shown then placed back in the pile, they are stored with no particular order. This process of random stacking and re-stacking allows us to see the pieces from many different points of view; what was top is now bottom. It affords new perspectives, it helps me see again as if for the first time.

PileIt is such a simple thing and yet so hard to do – to let go of what we think is right, allowing a new perspective of something that we think we understand.  The word I’ve learned to pay attention to is “think.” The skill of an artist is to see beyond what they “think.” The gift of the artist is to help others see beyond what they think. To pop open new perspectives and make space for new possibilities.

It is easy to confuse thinking (interpretation) with ‘seeing.’ They are not the same thing. It is so easy to believe ‘stuck thinking’ is ‘being right.’ It’s a good practice – a healthy practice – to spin things around a bit. To doubt what you think so you might have a more direct experience. So that you might see. So that you might learn. So that you might experience today as different from yesterday.

Life, as they say, is always found in the direction of not knowing.

Kerri calls this morsel BLOWING WISHES. It’s what you see if walk to the other side of the ping-pong table.

 

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BLOWING WISHES

 

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greet the day/blowing wishes ©️ 2011/2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Dance With Parallax

My favorite word of the week is ‘parallax.’ Horatio pulled it out of the word bin during our latest conversation about art and artistry. We were discussing the difference between what an artist sees in their work and what others see – and how artistic “sight” changes over time. I scribbled the word along with the phrase, “the difference in what you see and what others see. Perspective over time.” After our call I looked up the word in my dictionary:

paral-lax (noun) 1. Apparent change of position. 2. Angle measuring star’s distance from Earth.

Many years ago in a fit of vulnerability I showed my mentor, a great theatre and visual artist, my paintings. I lined them all up for him to see. I followed him around the room as he quietly studied each piece. Finally, after taking in all of my work, he asked, “What’s the meaning of the spheres?” I was dumbfounded and had no idea what he was asking. “Spheres? What spheres?” So he led me back around the room, revisiting each painting, showing me the three spheres that appeared in EVERY single painting.

“What’s with the spheres?” he repeated, knowing that there wasn’t an answer but there was certainly a vast new question. My universe spun a bit that day so astounded was I at my inability to see the unifying principle in my own paintings.

I needed his eyes to see my work. Isn’t that the point?

When I think back on that day, on that younger version of my self, I revisit the fear, the raging vulnerability I felt in sharing my paintings. I feel again the deep doubt I held against myself. I recall the nausea of inviting someone I admired into my house of doubt. I somehow believed that, to be an artist, I had “to know” what I was doing – yet knew with certainty that I had no idea what I was doing. I knew with certainty that he would see through me to my lack of knowing.

And, he did. Thank goodness. “What’s with the spheres?” Such a simple question yet it spun my universe and pitched me through the portal of a new perspective.

I learned that day that artistry has nothing to do with knowing. Life has nothing to do with knowing. Knowing is an illusion, temporary at best. Knowing has everything to do with hiding.

Making a life, as Master Marsh just reminded me, is an engagement with the unknown. It is to have experiences. It is to make meaning of the experiences. If you are lucky, you learn to have the experiences first, and make the meaning second. It is to understand that, in this dance of knowing and not-knowing, sight and blindness, chaos and order, consciousness and unconsciousness, there are no fixed points. There is dance:

dance (noun) 1. An act of stepping or moving through a series of movements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Doubt

Pidgeon Pier - acrylic on canvas

Pigeon Pier – acrylic on canvas

It’s been months since I had a good chat with the stained glass window. I hadn’t realized that the conversations had stopped. The summer was a blur of unplanned travel and I suspect during the chaos of coming and going that I simply stopped asking questions.

This morning we awoke to snow, the first of the season. Snow arrives silently and inspires inner silence. Steeped in the snow’s quiet I heard the window’s greeting. “Ah, Welcome back.” And so began our conversation about doubt.

Doubt is a double-edged sword, it has two distinct faces. The first face, unlike the snow, is noisy. Doubt does not arrive in silence. It demands to be heard. In the middle of my conversation with the window I heard P-Tom say, “Fear makes us doubt our belief and believe our doubts.” This face of doubt is a crazy maker. It makes muddy the inner waters. It makes all fears come true.

There is another face of doubt, not born of fear but arising from love. The 5th Agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz is this: doubt everything that you think. To doubt what you think makes little sense without the preceding agreements, the most powerful (to me) is this – Be impeccable to your word: speak your truth and nothing else; do not blame or accuse or make others responsible for your pain (your thoughts and actions); own your thoughts; own your actions. Or, better said, love yourself enough to express your love and nothing else. Don Miguel writes that impeccability to your word requires self-love. In this context, this other face of doubt is a step forward. Coming from love, to doubt what you think is akin to cleaning up the dirty dishes. It is to not take anything too seriously. Thought is nothing more than storytelling and to doubt the story births detachment from investment in the story. Detaching from the story-investment brings quiet, like the snow.

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Be A Hypocrite

742. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Apparently, I am a hypocrite. I do not always practice what I preach. Most days I believe that I am my brother’s keeper. Yet some days I walk passed someone in need; I turn my head and pretend not to see them, saying to myself, “This is not mine to do.”

I believe in anchoring my life in love and yet sometimes I enshroud myself in a wet blanket of fear. I say things I do not mean. I judge and run back to my safe place.

I believe in the power of possibility and yet there are days that I fill my cup to overflowing with “I can’t.” I invest with gusto in my disbelief and hide my gifts beneath a mound of doubt.

I preach the virtues of going slow. I believe in being present and yet at times I find myself racing to get somewhere. I tailgate other drivers wanting to “get there.”

I believe in the power of language and yet I have said hurtful things and am often unaware of what I am actually saying.

I believe intuition trumps intellect every time and yet I regularly justify and reason myself out of following my gut instinct. I spend an inordinate amount of time in my head (I call it my office) and talk on and on about being more in my body or in nature. Empty words.

I believe in loyalty and trust and yet at crucial moments in my life have chosen self-preservation; I did not throw myself under the bus to save the other.

I believe in self-love yet have given the farm away more times than I can count. I hurt my self regularly with my unwarranted self-judgments and unrealistic expectations. I hold myself to standards that I would never expect from others.

There are gaps everywhere. I am flawed, flawed, flawed. Accuse me of almost any hypocrisy and I will look you in the eye and admit my imperfection. I am human and by definition that means I am messy and riddled with contradictions. Hold me to a standard of perfection and I will utterly disappoint you. Ask me why I say one thing and do another and I will get angry and defend my belief even as I know that I have betrayed it with service to yet another belief.

What I do not believe is that the world is black and white. I do not believe in absolutes. For me, truth is found in the paradox. Life is lived in the contradictions. I grant my life the same principles that make color vibrant: there’s nothing like a touch of red to make the greens pop. If you really want to see the orange, surround it with something blue. As Quinn once told me, all religious traditions have one thing in common: they instruct us to find the middle way, seek the path between the pair of opposites. It is impossible to find the middle way by eliminating the contradictions; one must test the boundaries to know where they are. As Dan Pink writes, “Clarity depends on contrast.” Given my massive contradictions, I expect someday to be utterly clear for at least one brief moment. In case you expect my clarity to last be forewarned that I will most certainly follow my moment of clarity with wholehearted dedication to some new spectacular confusion.