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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Row

may-you-be-small-crop-jpegSometimes the way forward is akin to rowing a boat: facing backward is the only way to get proper leverage. Today, to stir my pot, to get some leverage and new energy, I revisited three books that I wrote but never published (or limply offered to a tiny audience). It was a revelation. It’s as if the man who wrote those books in the past meant for me to read them today. The man who wrote them was not ready or clear enough to birth them. The man who read them today knows just what to do (including rewrite some odd bits). Here is the introduction to the first of the three books:

I’ve generally stepped in every pothole, tripped over every opportunity, broken the family dishes, and made every mistake a person can make. I feel fortunate to be alive. I used to try and hide the mess behind a veneer of “knowing.” Eventually I realized that in order to find what I was seeking I had to stop pretending that I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I now recognize that the more I learn, the less I know. Life is not about knowing stuff. Life is vibrant when engaging with the un-known. Seeking is messy business. Being human is messy business. To pretend otherwise is…well, to pretend.

One day, while exhausting myself pretending, I realized that I was telling myself a story of fear. I realized that I was the only person invested in my fear story. I realized that I’d cast all the other people in my story as dangerous characters. I believed that if they really knew me they’d shame me. I realized that I was the only person in my story feeling pain, frustration and exhaustion. So, why was I telling myself this story? This was not the story that I wanted my life to tell. That day I began changing my story.

At some point, each of us comes face-to-face with the story of our lives. When we do, we have the choice to retreat further into hiding or to take off the mask, turn around, and walk toward the thing we fear the most. This is to seek the bear.

Every human being who has walked the face of the earth has come to the same crossroad; those that faced their bear left behind clues about how to do it. They left us messages about how best to stop hiding, how to turn and walk toward fear, what to do when it is time to stand in front of the bear’s cave and how to welcome the encounter. The clues and messages are found in the stories they left for us. The stories are maps for navigating our inner geography.

Our ancestors understood that stories are a participation sport. Our lives are mirrored in the tale of adventure. We know what to do in our personal story because we identify with the heroine/hero in the story. Their journey of transformation is a guide to our journey of transformation. Their follies and foibles give coherence and direction to our messy passage. Their death and rebirth is a map for our death and rebirth. Their story is a call for us to step more fully into our adventure-story.

As is true in all life-lessons, it’s a perfect loop. I’m back where I started (apparently) only with new eyes and a few more years of experience. Order from chaos, chaos from order, I suspect we are all, one way or another, rowing in a perfect circle.circle-peace-earth-jpeg

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Listen To The Story

750. 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 found another rich tidbit in the archives and have updated it slightly:

Where is the story that unites us? Story is the gravity that holds communities together, pulling individuals into a common orbit. It is the irresistible cadence of invitation: come. Sit. It is singular and essential; it holds the space of affirmation. It reinforces the knowing of, “This is who we are. This is where we belong.”

Story is the gravity that holds us together, this we’ve forgotten. And like the musicians in an out-of-tune orchestra, when we no longer recognize our common story then the gravity reverses itself, we spin off into the void, alone in a cacophony of inner monologue. Hell is a community of individuals lost in the fog of their own story. Hell is the universe that has forgotten the existence of shared music. Hell is where you compare yourself to others and in a comparison the others will always win. In Hell you think you have to be perfect so you are never good enough. Hell is where you invest in false notions of who you should be, have to be, could have been. In Hell there is no present moment because you are too invested in the fears of the future and regrets from the past. It’s a dense fog, an inner wasteland. In hell you are alone. Staying in Hell takes a real commitment to the story that you tell!

Not only is story capable of holding us in a coordinated orbit and conversely, blinding us to each other, story also holds the power of guiding us through the wasteland and back to the garden. The old stories are like maps capable of telling us. “This is how your trials will look and feel. These are the challenges you will face. This is what you can expect.” Knowing the stories won’t save you from your trials but they will bring greater meaning to them. Stories guide.

Every human that has ever walked the face of the earth has been born, grown to adulthood, wondered what was theirs to do, loved and lost, fulfilled themselves or not, grown old, and died; their advice comes to us in the form of a story. If we listen metaphorically, the wisdom it holds will spill its guts. Stories don’t need to be tortured to reveal their secrets, they are eager to share. However, treat them as fact and they will clench their jaws and clutch their fists and hold their breath until they pass out. Their treasure lives beyond the realm of facts, beyond the superficial. Read a story as literal or as fact and you cage what is wild. Listen deeply, go beyond your chattering intellect and engage it, feel it in your body. Story desires a relationship with you.