Empty The Dishwasher Slowly [on Merely A Thought Monday]

empty the dishwasher slowly box copy

In the dark ages, when I did my driver’s ed course, I remember reading an experiment in which two cars drove the same long distance route; the first car followed all of the speed limits. The second car drove as fast as possible. The second car, the speeder, arrived only a few minutes, 120 seconds, ahead of the rule follower. The illusion of speed is, well, an illusion.

We just drove a few thousand miles and along the way were passed by more than a few hurry-up-cowboys. In each case, their gain would be minimal. Often we’d catch them (and pass them) within a few minutes. It’s a game I can’t help playing: does the addiction to speed, the anxiety of I’m-late-I’m-late-I’m-late, or the anger of I-have-to-get-there-first actually produce significant gains?

An angel gave us a beach house to use for a week. My normal morning routine is predicated on the fantasy of efficiency. I can cook breakfast, clean and put away dishes while also sorting out and making lists of all the things I think I need to accomplish each day. At the beach I was always the first one awake. I’d start the coffee, wander around and open the blinds, and, after staring at the surf, I’d begin to empty the dishwasher. The waves lulled me into sanity. There was not an ounce of rush-and-get-it-done in my body. Efficiency was nothing more than a distant memory. I enjoyed my morning. Fully. I began wondering if I was just like those speedy drivers? Deluding myself with an idea that, in reality, gained nothing but a wee bit more stress.

What if the idea was more than to get the job done fast? What if the idea was to do the job well and well included the absence of manufactured, self-imposed stress? These are things I already know but have to remind myself to live. And, since all of life appears to me as an analogy, my latest reminder to live what I already know is now a simple dishwasher. Empty it slowly. It need not be at a beach house because, in fact, the beach house has very little to do with dropping delusions/illusions of achievement.

Will it matter if I empty the dishwasher 16 seconds sooner? So I can get through it to the next task that I will rush through so I can get to my next task? Is my efficiency real or in service to anything useful? Probably not. Actually, certainly, not.

Will it matter that I am present in my actions and mindful in my day? Will it matter that, instead of pushing myself to concocted efficiencies, that I arrive at an empty dishwasher 16 seconds later?  Will it matter if I carry that way of being throughout my day? So, that, instead of pressing myself to get it done faster, I allow myself to live my life well (and, yes, I use that word intentionally with a double meaning). To be in it rather than get through it.

Imagine what I might gain.

 

read kerri’s blog post about EMPTY THE DISHWASHER SLOWLY

 

beachfeet 1 website box copy

 

 

Put It On A Post [on Not-So-Flawed Wednesday]

littlefreelibraryBOX copy

Paul often told the young actors he taught: never underestimate your power to influence or impact another person’s life. Stepping onto a stage comes with a responsibility. I loved his advice and thought it was much more universal and should be heeded everyday. What you do matters and it matters in ways you probably will never understand. We are always and in all ways participants in the butterfly effect.

In a short walk around our neighborhood you’ll discover several Little Free Libraries, an idea that came from Todd Bol as a tribute to his mother. She was a lover of books and his idea to honor her caught on like wildfire. In 2009 he built a little schoolhouse shaped box, put books in it, and stuck it on a post outside his house. He invited his neighbors to borrow them. He had no intention of creating a worldwide movement yet in the 9 years that have elapsed since he built his box, Little Free Libraries have popped up in over 80 countries. It became a movement. An entity with a mission. People borrow books. People share books and ideas. Neighbors stop and check out what might be new. The boxes themselves are often little pieces of art that Joseph Cornell might have assembled. Little Free Libraries are community connective tissue.

Todd Bol died last week. It seems only right on this Not-So-Flawed Wednesday to stop and take note of the very big ripple one small box on a post set into motion.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Todd Bol

 

 

buffalo adirondack chair website box copy

KS Friday

jacketymadjpegMany years ago, when I was riding around the country slaying dragons, thinking I might help save a troubled world, I wrote a post entitled You Make A Difference. A few days later, in my inbox, was an email with a link to a song from a musician I did not know. “I read your post,” she wrote, “and thought you might appreciate hearing my song with the same title.” I listened more than a few times. She was right! I loved her song. I jotted her a note thanking her. That was the first time Kerri and I communicated. It would be a few more years before our paths crossed again. Another post, another response, a surprising and casual email chain would lead me to this woman who would someday become my wife.

Over and over the lesson is the same: it’s the small stuff that matters. My life turned on an email. I never told her (until today because we are sitting together writing posts) that, on the day she sent her song to me, I was sitting in Seattle wondering if anything I did or had ever done in the world mattered. It was one of those days. And then I opened her email. She made a huge difference to me on that bleak day.

I have lived long enough to know that none of us truly understands the full impact our actions have on others. The smallest thing, opening a door, sharing song, ripples and ripples on.

Kerri was commissioned to write this song, originally for folks on the front line of the battle against cancer, though, like all great artists, she composed it from her very personal wellspring of experience; her brother died from cancer. Songs of inspiration can also be rallying cries and that is true of You Make A Difference. Kerri understands the profound difference between resisting the thing you don’t want (sickness) and moving toward what you desire (a cure). On this KS Friday, take in this blast of inspiration from the melange. You never know how one click might change the course of your day and life.

YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE a single track available on itunes

read Kerri’s thoughts about YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE

kerrianddavid.com

you make a difference ©️ 2003 kerri sherwood

Start Walking

photoTell Me. How can I be a learner?

My mind went absolutely blank, and I heard myself saying, Its simple. To be a learner youve got to be willing to be a fool. ~George Leonard, Mastery

I used to do a lot of work in education. My career in the theatre took a sharp left-hand turn when I started consulting with schools. The puzzles that plagued educators seemed to me easy to address. To be human is to be curious. Tickle the curiosity, begin the story and get out of the way.

Tom once told me that teaching is about relationship (not control). He also told me that the best teaching/learning needed to be directly applicable; it had to be immediate. It had to be real. It had to matter – to both the teacher and the learner. The trick is to extend the mattering into greater and deeper levels of abstraction.

An emphasis on testing is an emphasis on knowing. Great learning places the emphasis on not-knowing. It reinforces the pursuit and dispels the notion that knowledge is something achievable. Worthy questions always open more worthy questions. To be human is to be curious. To be alive is to wonder what is on the other side of the hill and then take a step toward it.

The fool George Leonard references isn’t “ the unthinking person,” it is “the carefree fool in the tarot deck who bears the awesome number zero, signifying the fertile void from which all creation springs, the state of emptiness that allows new things to come into being.”

Emptiness. Not knowing. Relationship. Mattering.

Step Into Unknown with SigThe question, “How do we/I do it?” is a great step-stopper. It is the leading edge of every personal and organizational stagnation excuse. We don’t know how. I’ve come to believe that it isn’t a natural question but is learned behavior. It is an emergency brake installed by a system that values right answers over great questions.

My wife and I have a short-hand phrase, Beaky’s Wheelchair, to remind us when we stall, that “how?” is something that can only be known after the fact. No one knows “How?” at the beginning. Beaky needed an electric wheelchair to be mobile and the world of insurance/medicare was standing still. After months of waiting, with no clue which direction to begin, we started making calls. We met every “no” with a “why not?.” We asked a multitude of foolish questions. We learned. And learned some more. Within a matter of weeks, Beaky had her wheelchair.

How do you play the guitar? Paint a picture? Bridge a conflict? Transcend a limit? Know one knows. Tickle the curiosity, let go of any notion that you need to know how, and start walking.

text from Krishnamurti as it appears in my painting

the text from Krishnamurti as it appears in my painting

 

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Feel The Thunder

An untitled  watercolor I did years ago

an untitled watercolor from the archives

I am sitting alone in the back room of a coffeehouse. The room is dark because the day is dark with rain. It is hot and very humid. The building shakes with thunder and the voices in the front room drop to a whisper. I imagine the voice of the thunder inspires awe or at least a library-esque respect. After the rumble subsides, the volume is restored. People laugh again and talk in a tumble over each other until the next rumble quiets them.

I came to work. Good coffeehouses have always been productive places for me though today I’m distracted by the thunder. Like the other patrons, the angry sky has me on alert. It is nearly impossible to focus on my thoughts when the sky has so much to say. The truth is, I want to listen to it. I want it to stop all motion, to interrupt all the little things I deem important. I want to pay attention to what it has to say.

I remember listening to a recorded lecture of Joseph Campbell. He said that the voice of the thunder was probably humanity’s first experience of the godhead. In other words, when the sky talked, people listened. Long before the weather channel replaced the oracle, connectivity between human action and the elements was assumed. Our actions mattered. The gods communicated their pleasure or displeasure with us via sunshine or tsunami. Calm seas and good sailing were signs of approval. It is a marvel in the age of humanity blowing a hole in the ozone, pouring tons of carbon into the atmosphere, having created a Texas size floating trash site in the ocean, exhausting aquifers, etc., that we can in all seriousness debate whether or not we are having an impact. I wonder if in the age of the weather channel as oracle we have so disconnected from “our nature” (our connectivity) that the debate is less about impact and really about whether or not we matter at all. If we do not recognize that our actions have impact, that the smallest action ripples through the lives of others, how can we possibly expect our existence to matter? Mattering requires the understanding and experience of connectivity.

When was the last time that you felt connected to the bigger whole? In the end of the day, mattering (spirituality by another name) is a very practical thing. It is to feel connected. When was the last time you stopped and listened to the thunder? When was the last time you felt its rumble in your chest, or noticed how quiet you became when it spoke?

Matter.

From the archive: 'Angels At The Well.'

From the archive: ‘Angels At The Well.’

Paul used to tell the acting students at the conservatory that they should never underestimate their power to impact another person’s life. In other words, their work – how they brought themselves to the stage – mattered. Simply by doing their work they had the capacity to open a mind or challenge a story. The caveat, of course, was that, in all likelihood, they would never know the impact that they had.

His lesson applies as much or more in daily life as it does on the stage. What if we lived as if we understood our power to impact others? What if we recognized that the small stuff matters? What if we didn’t need to know – but simply brought ourselves to our days knowing that our actions and attitudes mattered?

Sitting outside at a Starbucks in Wesley Chapel, Florida, a young woman Skyped into a bridal shower happening in Pennsylvania. It was her bridal shower and, because she was starting a new job, she couldn’t get the time off to fly home. So, via Skype, she checked in on the party and giggled at the celebration. Kerri and I sat at the next table listening to the conversation, the love and festivities. I watched as Kerri, stricken with the grief of her mother’s passing, change. Her heart lightened. It changed her focus. The young woman, with no knowledge, eased Kerri’s grief. Kerri ran into the store and bought the woman a gift card. “Congratulations on your wedding,” she said as she gave the card to the young woman.

In coffee-desperation we pulled off the highway in Salem, Illinois. We bumbled into the M&M Coffeehouse on Main Street. Mike, the owner is a master chef. He told us the story of love that brought him to Salem, the story of his love for making food and how he became proprietor of a coffeehouse, the story of how the community was embracing his gift and returning the love; the coffeehouse was now also a catering business. He was teaching cooking classes and volunteering his time to the monthly Elks club hamburger dinner fundraiser. The Elks were raising tons of funds since he started making the meals. “You never know where life is going to take you,” he smiled. Mike never knew the gift he gave us; he was simply being chatty with strangers. We needed a good dose of hope and encouragement to carry us the final 6 hours of our long drive home. He filled our hope-tank to the top.

Whether we know it our not, it matters. Always.

 

Possess It

An untitled  watercolor I did years ago

An untitled watercolor I did years ago

Last night P-Tom said, “This is the time of year that everyone is telling us what we need and where we can go to buy it.”

Yesterday I worked on website language. After a year-long hiatus I’m re-visioning what was once a coaching practice. All day I was aware that words like “potential” and “purpose” are abstractions; they are marketing terms. Many years ago, when I was first establishing a coaching practice, I read articles and listened to recordings full of advice about “how to start a coaching business;” the recommendation was unanimous: host free calls, help people see their problem, and end the call. Leave them standing in the mud so they will need you. Create lack (isn’t that a great definition for marketing?).

What does it really mean to fulfill your potential? What does it mean to “find your purpose?” Look to the layer beneath. To fulfill, to find…, these are terms from the canon of outcome and result. No one willingly seeks his or her endpoint. If there is a universal problem it is that we see our existence as something with a bottom line and hire coaches and therapists to help us do the accounting.

(Insert mantra: nothing is broken. You do not need to be fixed).

Good coaches, teachers, mentors, and therapists get you out of the spreadsheet and into the moment. Looking for the fullness of life is usually a process that requires the cessation of looking so we might see what is right in front of us. Stop the search and you will be found. As the old saying goes, life is the thing that is happening while you are running around looking for it.

I’m a world-class note taker and always take notes when I work with people. For me it’s like mapping verbal terrain, capturing inner geography. Lately I’ve been reviewing the maps before I destroy them and I find not seekers of potential and purpose, but people overwhelmed by the experience of 1) feeling lost, 2) feeling that something is missing or they are missing something, 3) feeling that they are pushing on a door that won’t open, or 4) a yearning for a different way of being. These are questions of feeling. These are questions of orientation to life (experiences of life). “Potential” and “purpose” are words of doing. These are questions of being.

What if meaning, value, purpose,… in life was not something found or bought but something that is already possessed?

Go 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.