Notice The World

my latest painting. another addition to The Beach Series.

It’s a constant source of the giggles for me now. So many things that used to seem so complex and unknowable, so serious and weighty, have morphed into utter simplicities. And, I’ve unwittingly accumulated or created shorthand phrases, adages, that encapsulate the simplicities.

Stephen used to ask me, “Why don’t people see how important art is? Why don’t people value the arts?” He is a prolific and gifted painter and, like most artists, was struggling financially. I used to sit around with other artists and actors asking the same type of questions. Why don’t they value us. Our conversations made us into a frustration-club, so certain were we that we carried in our art pouch the cure for the worlds’ ills. But the world, they, were not noticing us. No matter how great our play or heartfelt our paintings or how loudly we proclaimed and marketed our work or trumpeted our capacity to help people to think or feel more deeply – to change the world! – the community (they) seemed mostly inattentive (to us).

Art as castor oil. Non-profit non-prophet.

Wearing my corporate consulting hat, I taught this core principle for years: you can never determine what other people think or feel or see. And, it took years for this simple adage to penetrated my life – especially my artist life (we do, in fact, teach what we most need to learn…).

I still believe in the importance and great power of the arts but not in the same way I did all those many years ago. I actually believe in it more than I once did only now it seems so simple: ‘Do what you love…,’ so the saying goes. Do what you love because you love to do it. That’s all. The world (how’s that for a sweeping generality!) does not need to be saved or changed. Mostly, it needs less frustrated artists waving to be noticed while perpetuating the narrative that they are undervalued. The world could do with a wee bit less of ‘us and them.’

The simplicity: I would much rather root my energies, my focus, my creative powers in the love of it all. Frustration makes the well run dry. There is no us and them when standing solidly in the love of creating. The real power of the arts – the only real power of the arts – is to open access to the commons, the shared space beyond separations (real or imagined). At best, artists reach across boundaries, not create them. In the end, artists (I believe) are mirrors, not medics.

Kerri gave me this new adage for my collection (and I giggled): It’s not about the world noticing you. It’s about you noticing the world.

Change Nothing

a detail from In Peace I Pray.

Thoughts from the mountain.

I grew up with these mountains so it should come as no surprise that I get quiet the moment I step into them. Like a too-tight coat the chaos I wear in my day-to-day life simply drops off; stepping into the mountain is to step out of the noise. Literally and figuratively.

Tom once told me that people change when they are ready. Rich once told me that people change when the pain of staying the same grows greater than the pain of making the change. Change when you are ready, change when you are in pain. Skip taught me that a business intending to change people was destined to fail. It is a fool’s errand. Business is about business not change. I loved this bit of advice from Skip because he is a natural-born change agent, a mentor of mentors (and, poetically, entrepreneurs). In a moment of frustration Kerri told me that people don’t change, they simply become more of who they really are. The masks drop off and we unwittingly reveal ourselves. Change as revelation.

As I hike through the snow toward the summit I wonder if change, at least the human notion of change, is as made-up as the rest of the stories we tell. It is in the forest, which is a festival of the cycles of life, that ideas of different ways of Being seem…superficial. Disconnected. Within seasons there are plenty of changes that roll around and around and around again. Perhaps this thing we call ‘change’ is nothing more than a recognition of the cycle, a readiness to release our dedicated resistance to life? A readiness to release our stories of limitation and division.

Kerri caught me staring at the mountain

Toward the end of his life, Joseph Campbell said that he suspected that all life (energy) was consciousness. There is 1) energy and 2) the forms that energy takes. Although seemingly disparate, seemingly separate, all forms fall back into energy. He said, “The universe throws forms up, then takes them down again.”He might have said that change is nothing more than the cyclical movement between energy and the forms it expresses.

Jim taught me that the art of acting was the art of being present. I know that when I stand in front of a canvas and begin to work, all notions of time disappear. Another day on the mountain, sitting in an adirondack chair midway up the slope, basking in the sun on warm day, we watched Kirsten snowboard. She flew by us several times. When she rides, it is clear, there is no other place, there is no past or future. There is now. She is vital, alive. In that place, riding the present moment (the only place that actually exists), the noise drops off. I know, and Jim knew, when fully in this moment there is no need to pester yourself with misplaced notions of being somewhere else, being anyone else.

 

a blast from the waaay past: August Ride. I lost track of this one and if you know where this painting is, let me know.

Use Joy Language

joy-croppedTripper Dog-Dog-Dog has moved through several names in his 3 years on earth. He has a cornucopia of names. For a while I dropped the “Tripper” part of his name and simply called him Dog-Dog. Now, much as a mother might use their child’s middle name, we only call him Tripper when he’s in trouble.

Lately I call him Dog-a-Dog (or doggadogga). He answers to Wag-A-Wag. He is an Australian Shepherd and has a bobbed tail that never stops wagging. He is a happy, happy boy. When I let him out in the morning I call him Fuss Bucket. When he comes back in I call him Poop Sack (for obvious reasons) or Bark Monster or Fur Ball. He sheds like a champion. When he circles through the rooms of our house looking for a safe place to deposit his bone, I (cleverly) call him Bone.

All the variations and derivatives are terms of endearment. Dog-Dog knows and responds in kind. Love is like that. Once, sitting on a train, I watched a grandfather lovingly toss his toddler grandson in the air saying, “You’re just Rubbish! That’s what you are! Rubbish!” The boy squealed with delight. The grandfather chuckled with pleasure and repeated the toss, “You’re just Rubbish!”

Language is a beautiful paradox. It is reductive even as it points to the unfathomable universe and the infinity of love. It is referential; we sometimes forget that the word “tree” is not the tree itself. It is merely an invented-phonetic-pointer toward something too complex to comprehend.

Language is powerful beyond comprehension. We use it to narrate our worlds, both inner and outer. The words we choose create the world we see. The words we choose define the world we inhabit. In my consulting/coaching days I used to love playing with exercises that revealed how easily we come to the language of gossip and blame. It requires almost no effort. Like sugar, hate-speak is addictive. It is the mark of a lazy mind.

The language of love takes some intention and consciousness. It demands conscious effort. It requires paying attention. It requires focusing the energy of the mind and, like any focus (or muscle) it demands exercise to be healthy. And, when exercised, it becomes easy. With great love, the word “Rubbish” can generate squeals of pleasure. The name “Fuss Bucket” will engender a full body joy-wag. And, a full body joy-wag will bring the love full circle. Love is like that. Joy is like that.

In his many books, Martin Prechtel writes beautifully about the power and necessity of speaking beautifully. Speaking beautifully creates a beautiful thinker and a beautiful thinker creates – narrates – a beautiful story, a beautiful world.

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Dance With The Fire

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 5.21.46 PMLast night was Duke’s (Richard Kruse’s) memorial art show. There was an abundance of food, wine, laughter and stories. The gallery was literally filled with his paintings, prints, and sculpture. He was prolific. His paint encrusted chair, draped with his paint spattered coat, sat empty before his easel; on the easel was a large sketch pad, a place for notes for Duke and his family. I watched people approach the chair, catching their breath before sitting to compose their thoughts in the very chair he’d occupied for decades to compose the paintings that lined the walls. The chair became sacred space, a bridge between worlds.

I did not know him but I felt an immediate kinship with his work. He was a figurative painter – as am I – and given to the mystic – as am I: he worked the figure to find the soul shining inside – as do I. It was a great treat to thumb through his sketchbook. The energy and freedom of his drawings took my breath away; this was a man who needed to make art. It was an imperative made visible. I found an even deeper kinship in his imperative.

It’s hard to explain to someone who is not filled with the fire, the inner necessity to draw, dance, make music,…. It is more than a want or desire. It can be ignored but withering is the price. If it is not honored it will consume. To someone who does not know this fire the making of art appears as an indulgence. To someone who burns with the fire, anything else is a distraction; they will construct their life patterns according to the necessity of the fire.

The myth of the suffering artist is perpetuated by non-artists. The only artists that suffer are those who ignore their gift. Most people, despite their rhetoric, fear the kind of freedom and energy evident in Duke’s sketchbook. Artists run at the unknown. They develop craft so they might relinquish control in order to dance with the fire. Too much investment in control (of self, of other, of circumstance) smothers the flame. By the stories I heard, by the power of his sketches, by the laughter his life evoked, I can only assume that Duke must have been a master of this fire-dance.

 

Unbridle Your Enthusiasm

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog's trophy collection

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog’s trophy collection

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog is tough on toys. He does well with hard rubber Kongs and rawhide bones but the stuffed animal variety haven’t got a prayer. We long ago stopped buying them for him. Even as a small puppy he’d make short work of anything that squeaked or resembled a creature. More than once, moments after giving him a new toy, I found him sitting happy and content amidst a nest of fiberfill with the empty body-shaped sack of toy remnant clutched firmly between his paws. Dog-Dog has several admirers who are unaware of his destructive talents and bring him stuffed animals as gifts. Like offerings to a high priests in days of old, Tripper graciously accepts their offer and removes to the backroom for immediate slaughter. For reasons I can’t explain, we keep the heads from his sacrifices. We use the heads as sleeves for our knife set or as wine bottle covers; it’s our own little version of Game of Thrones.

I’m learning much from master Dog-Dog. Lately his lessons are about faith and exuberance for the sheer pleasure of being alive. For Tripper, every doorway is an opportunity for bounding, every fence an opportunity for discovery. Even if he hopped at the fence 30 seconds prior, his return to the same spot is no less enthusiastic. He does not assume that he knows what he will find there, in fact, he assumes that the world is new no matter which way he looks. He does not blunt himself with notions of knowing like we bipeds. He is a four-legged master of beginner’s mind. If he had an inner monologue I’m certain it would be, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god,…”

During our late night pre-bed visits to the backyard, Dog-Dog routinely stops and stands very still (unusual behavior for an Australian Shepherd), and for several moments he listens. He feels the breezes. He smells the air. He checks in with me to make sure that I am standing firmly rooted in the present moment. When he is certain that I am present with him in his quiet enthusiasm for life, that I have given up all of my stories and distractions from the day, that I, like him, am breathing in the miracle of existence, revels for a moment longer and then lets me know that I am ready for sleeping. He turns and prances toward the house, satisfied with my progress and exhausted by the sheer wonder of it all.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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Intend And Forget

I have many titles for this painting and have used it a few times for posts. It is ultimately about intention and inner guidance.

I have many titles for this painting and have used it more than a few times for posts. It popped up for me again today. It is ultimately about intention and inner guidance.

I just finished writing this post and realized that, in many ways, this is the continuation of yesterday’s thought: clear the mental static and the channel to full expression opens. So, here is part two of my meditation on inner static:

John and I were having a conversation about the passage of time. He told me that he’d recently found some old lists that he’d written of life goals and intentions. The interesting thing about discovering the lists was 1) that he’d forgotten writing them and, 2) that he’d achieved most of what he’d written. He said, “The form of what I created was different than what I’d originally imagined but I was surprised to see that I’d actually created what I intended.” It was as if he had to write the intention in order to activate it. Forgetting the intention was necessary to give it space to manifest and grow. Write and forget.

When I was first training as an actor, late in every rehearsal process, my teachers consistently advised that we let go of everything we’d rehearsed and just show up. “You’ve done your work,” they’d say. “Now, let it go and trust.” Many years later when I was directing plays and teaching actors I gave the same advice. “Let go and trust. You’ve done your work. All that remains is to be present.” From the teacher/director seat, the moment of letting go is palpable; you can literally see and feel the phase in the process when an actor needs to let go of their work to come alive. They need to get out of their own way. They need to get out of their head and give all of their focus to the relationships on the stage. The work moves from the head to the body. It is this last step that transforms their study to a living pursuit. Forgetting the work creates spaciousness and allows the art to happen. Art is always about relationship and great art happens when the relationship is clear and expansive enough for all comers.

One of the most profound lessons I gained from my time in Bali concerned this dynamic connection between setting an intention and letting it go. While I was on the island my internal monologue disappeared; one day I realized that I was completely quiet. Thought was a choice and not a plague or chattering background noise. Silence was simple when no story was necessary, when no interpretation was needed. In the middle of that silence I could set an intention (“This is what I want to do/find today”) and then forget it. Before the day was over I would have found what I intended. The steps came to me; I did not have to seek the steps. Sometimes the intention was simple and sometimes seemed complex but that didn’t matter. If I clearly stated what I wanted and returned to silence the necessary coincidence always found me. I felt as if I could see the pieces on the game board moving on my behalf. There was no internal noise to compromise my intention so there was no external discord confusing my choices. I was conscious of my connection.

Alan calls this co-creating. Work with the energy and cease trying to force things to happen. John told me of his lists and I wondered how many people have had the same experience. We make lists, we try to make the list happen, life gets in the way and we forget. And, in the moment of forgetting, we relax our grip on how we think things need to happen. We forget the form and inadvertently open to possibility. In the forgetting we create the steps necessary for fulfillment: spaciousness, trust, and quiet participation.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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Feel The Music

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

I stood with my face to the sun on the patio outside of the training room. Barney came up to me and asked, “Why did you choose to stand here?” It felt good. There was sun and quiet. He called my attention to the tree behind me. It was ancient and I was standing just on the boundary – at the circumference of the tree’s limbs. He said, “This is about right, the perfect spot. This is how you address something sacred – never face to it but open the chakras in your back and feel it. You are feeling it.” And I was…and I could.

I wasn’t doing it consciously. The grand old tree was humming and I was drinking it in. It felt like a good back massage. I stood in that spot because it felt good. A few times in my life I have performed – telling a story with a symphony – and stood facing the audience with my back to the orchestra. The sound from the symphony vibrated my bones. It warmed me. It was a musical massage. Standing with my back to the tree was similar. The vibration was as potent but not as explosive as the symphony. It was even, deep base. It quieted my mind.

Over the next few days Barney called my attention to how I orient myself to and feel power places. This is not a trick or magic or voodoo. It is not a special skill. Anyone can feel the music of the world. It requires standing still. It requires paying attention – not with your mind but with your body. It requires openness to joining rather than the dedicated separation that we practice in our very busy urban world. It requires being in life rather than moving through it.

Stand in the river. Close your eyes. Stop listening to the “hurry up” story running through your mind. Beyond the story you just might feel the exchange, the dance of giving and receiving. As Barney said, ”Nature balances. It is all a matter of polarities and you have to know what poles you are working with.” Balance is not a state of achievement but a constant dance of giving and receiving. It is movement, pulse and vibration. It is the tide.