Trust [on Two Artists Tuesday]

TRUST this one copy 2

When Kerri spontaneously smacked out this design, it was a case of process/design alignment. She simply trusted where she was going. “Hmmm,” she said, and moved on.

In improvisational theatre, it’s called ‘yes, and.’ Say yes to what you are given. Deal with what is there, not what you’ve decided should be there. Spontaneity, the freedom of movement and expression, is born of the kind of trust that ‘yes, and’ engenders. In trust, just as in ‘yes, and,’ there is no resistance. Artistry is pure relationship and requires giving up the illusions of control.

The word trust always brings me to the caterpillar (metaphors permeate my noggin). In cocooning, going to mush to be reborn as something utterly brilliant and unrecognizable, there is inevitability. In emerging from the cocoon, discovering wings, stepping to the edge of the branch, and leaping for the first time, there is trust.

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trust where you’re going ©️ 2016 kerri sherwood & david robinson

Live Your Metaphor

2mayyoubepeace-jpegA view from 30,000 feet (a meditation on metaphor):

Joe used to say that the universe tends toward wholeness. “Tends” is a precarious word of movement, like a tree that leans. Still, to me, Joe’s sentiment – his metaphor – is hopeful. He might have said that the universe tends toward confusion.

Chris and Janelle are starting a new theatre company, The Seadog Theatre Company. They are dedicating their work to exploring stories of alienation and reconciliation. Both alienation and reconciliation are words of movement. The first, alienation, is a movement away from wholeness (toward confusion?). The second, reconciliation, is a movement toward wholeness. Push away. Reach across.

Chris and I agree that all stories, from the deepest mythology to the most whimsical lampoon, are explorations of alienation and reconciliation. It is the human journey, it is humanity’s journey. It is the human experience. Journey is a word of movement, from here to there.

The Big Bang is science’s great narrative of alienation and reconciliation. Out of nothingness (formlessness) in a violent explosion of energy, all forms took shape. Stars, meteors, planets, atoms and oceans and daisies and Dog-Dog. Energy expressed in form. And then, so the narrative goes, form returns to energy. Like the tides going out the energy of the explosion will eventually turn, exhausted, and fall back toward the center in the Big Merge.

The eye blinks open, a universe comes into being. The eye blinks closed, a universe disappears. The tide comes in. The tide rolls out. It’s a cycle of movement. Metaphor.

“Your words are alienation and reconciliation,” I wrote to Chris, “mine are separation and unity. Same thing, yes?”

I’ve never been comfortable with religions because they often claim their metaphors as fact – and that freezes movement. For instance, Adam and Eve were Big-Banged out of the Garden of Eden for eating an apple from the tree of knowledge. One bite of the apple blew their minds open to differences. Separation. It is the experience of birth into this whacky world of duality and confusion. And just like all the stars and planets and oceans and daisies of the field hurtling through space and time, it is a story meant to help us seek wholeness as we stride though this field of opposites.

The universe may tend but we can intend. We can create. We can choose. We can point our ships toward alienation, we can cleave our world into us-and-them, run in fear and separation. Or, we can make conscious our stories (as Chris and Janelle intend in their theatre), we can walk the middle path (a potent metaphor), and recognize that the separation is at best temporary and arbitrary. Like the stars and planets and oceans and daisies, we will also exhaust the force of our explosion into form and fall back into the Big Merge.

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Chase The Butterflies

a detail from my painting, John's Secret

a detail from my painting, John’s Secret

Wisdom butterflies that have recently fluttered across my path:

Soaking up the morning sun and drinking coffee from the deck of Common Grounds, 20 said, “You’ve heard this one, right? There are three sides to every story.”

Standing on the side of the road peering into Judy’s car, she gave us some sage relationship advice. She said, “That’s the secret to life, you know: listen before you talk.”

Kerri was composing a song. I asked her how she starts, how she knows where to start. She said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you just need to put your fingers on the keys and follow the music.”

There is an aging pink post-it note stuck (permanently) to the desk. It reads, “Make The Adventure.”

On a recent phone call, Skip offered wise counsel about how I see my role in a new business, “Find your own metaphor,” he said. ”What is the metaphor that will keep you energized, that taps into your 10,000 hours?”

Sitting behind his drum set, waiting for rehearsal to begin, John said, “Our job is to make the art, not to determine its reception.” And then he said, “What do you think?” and laughed.

Josh took a belly punch from the universe yesterday. He said, “I want to be angry but anger does me no good. I have better things to do with my life than get angry.”

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

A detail from my painting, An Instrument of Peace

P-Tom weighed in with this: “Faith is scandalous,” he said, “It pushes back against everything we experience.”

Dog-Dog raced across the yard in hot pursuit of a butterfly. I’m wagering that he knew he would never catch it, but the chase was glorious.

Change Your Focus

a watercolor from 2003, House On Fire

a watercolor from 2003, House On Fire

Life can change in an instant. There are collective moments. There are personal moments. For years, my dad kept articles about the conspiracy theories swirling around the Kennedy assassination. It was the moment that marked the end of things as he knew it. Life would never be the same. For many years I shared his fascination because my first memory is an image from John F. Kennedy’s funeral which we watched on black and white television: a soldier leading a horse with empty boots reversed in the stirrups. I suspect that the image was potent for me because it was potent for the adults caring for me as they watched the funeral of the president.

Many years later, on a beautiful September morning in 2001, I sat in front of another television set and watched the Twin Towers fall. I thought, “Life will never be the same.”

With the recent anniversary of that day, on another beautiful September morning, Kerri and I read aloud to each other a book, 102 MINUTES: The Untold Story of the Fight To Survive Inside the Twin Towers. I was surprised by my reaction to the book. It felt a return to the place where we got lost. Like my dad, I missed the innocence that vanished in a single day (doesn’t each generation experience this loss? I imagine my grandfather yearned for a world before the atom bomb).

Throughout the reading, two potent and related metaphors would not let me go. First, a two-part metaphor for what I believe ails our nation. With a hyper focus on profitability, many long standing high rise safety precautions were minimized in the Towers. Less escape stairs meant more rentable space. Structural fire prevention measures are costly so they were either written out of the code or ignored. No one believed these twin Titanics could fail and when they did, the greatly reduced escape routes were either severed by the planes that hit them or were inadequate to accommodate the evacuation of the buildings. Additionally, communication between the police and fire departments was broken – they had the capacity but lacked the will. They did not use their updated systems because they were fighting over who would be in control. Their polarization crippled them on the day that they most needed to communicate.

So, the metaphor. One of the themes of my life (and, therefore, this blog) is the importance and necessity of a conscious placement of focus. Where you focus matters. Focus is a creative act. Our hyper focus on profitability took down the world’s economy in 2008. We’ve deregulated our financial institutions, removing all the safety precautions so that we might, as my pals in the financials services once told me, “Print money from nothing.” And the structure weakens. The wealth of the nation is in the hands of a shrinking few even though, as I learned in Economics 101, a healthy capitalist system is built upon a healthy middle class. No one believes this Titanic can sink. Communication between those who are supposed to be looking out for our safety, The House, The Congress, etc., are famously polarized. They have the capacity but lack the will and do not exercise their communication in the fight over who will be in control. In the meantime, we need them to communicate; waiting until the Tower falls will be too late to start. Our focus is on the wrong stuff.

 A sketch working out some details for House On Fire

A sketch working out some details for House On Fire

Which, brings me to metaphor number 2. This is the metaphor that cures us. The other story of those 102 Minutes is a story of kindness. People reaching for other people. When the disaster struck, the gap between custodian and CEO disappeared. The social divisions were irrelevant. People helped people simply because they needed it. They recognized that they were living a common story, a shared story, not the story of division that predominated a single moment before the planes struck the buildings. Everything changed in a moment. Or, perhaps everything became clear. People died to help other people. Their focus changed.

 

 

 

You Are The Giver Of Meaning

TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS

You Are The Giver of Meaning

FOR TODAY’S FEATURED PRINT FOR HUMANS, GO HERE

Meet The Fire

a work in progress. this one is slow going!

a work in progress. this one is slow going!

In order for the phoenix to rise it must first burst into flames and be reduced to ash. Every rebirth requires a death. I imagine the phoenix does not relish the flame but after a few cycles it recognizes the necessity of the fire.

The same image (metaphor) is everywhere: the caterpillar must first cocoon and then be reduced to mush before the impossible happens. The leaves must fall from the tree before the root can replenish, revitalize, and do the impossible: bring forth new life.

The healers in Bali assured me that a wound is necessary to open the door to the gift – and each had suffered a devastating wound or loss en route to fulfilling their healing power. The journey through the wound was necessary to turn on the power. The heroes cycle, the belly of the whale, the quest through the wasteland, finding joyful participation in the sorrows of the world; growth is a fiery, difficult business.

In my life I’ve worked with many, many people in all manner of change and transformation processes. It is surprisingly common for people to want their phoenix without experiencing the flame. It took me a while to realize that people (organizations and otherwise) were hiring me under the guise of helping them transform but in truth they really wanted me to help them circumvent the fire.

People go to great lengths to avoid the flame. No one willingly seeks the wound and no one transforms without it. No one in their right mind jumps out of bed in the morning ready to jump into the abyss and yet the adventure is impossible without it. If a full rich experience of living is the aim of our limited time on this earth, then the fire is necessary. The fire is part of the ride.

Fire avoidance is what dulls an otherwise vital life. Comfort is certainly a worthy aspiration but as the only aspiration it deadens, it limits the life-color-palette to taupe. The trick, as all the stories teach us, is never to avoid the fire, to protect yourself from it, but to be alive in it, to know what it is to be reduced to ashes and know somewhere deep inside that the phoenix will always rise just as spring will always come.

Enter The Castle

[continued from Tell A Good Story]

Shuttering the business, closing down my coaching practice, ending all corporate work, cleaning out the metaphoric closet – created quite a void. Standing solidly in a void of my own making I found myself once again enrapt with the Parcival tale. I’ve told this story dozens of times to audiences of all sizes, in performance and in facilitation. I wove it through The Seer as the main character’s stalking story (the story that follows you throughout your life and only opens when you are ready for it). It continues to open for me, a flower with many petal layers.

title_page

The Parcival story is woven throughout The Seer

It’s a grail quest story. Because every human being is in search of his or her personal grail (their true selves), once the metaphors are understood, it is a very useful story for navigating life. At one point in the story, after years of trying to prove himself worthy and save the world from becoming a wasteland – something that he is personally responsible for causing – believing himself to be invincible, he is defeated. A “nature warrior” knocks him off his warhorse and his magic sword shatters into a thousand pieces. Parcival strips off his armor (his role) and weeps. He lets go. He shutters his business. Despite his best efforts, despite fighting every dragon and ogre, despite defeating every dark knight, the wasteland still happened.

As is true in life, in the moment of greatest defeat, the second master appears and for Parcival it is a hermit. Parcival follows the hermit back to his cave and retreats from the world. He waits impatiently for the hermit to teach him, becomes frustrated, and finally resigned to the absence of any useful lesson, all the while, each day, chopping wood for the fire, carrying water to the cave. Over time he forgets that he was ever a knight. He forgets that he felt broken. He forgets his quest. He becomes present to the moment and is no longer invested in a role or purpose. He chops wood. He carries water. He feels the sun on his face. He appreciates his moment.

And, as is true in life, that is the moment that the grail castle appears for the second time. To re-enter the grail castle, to become the grail king (or queen), we must see ourselves as we are, beyond the role we use for armor, beyond the mission we use for meaning making, beyond the things we think we need to say, or do, or be. We have to recognize that we are enough, just as we are created, sacred and beautiful and complete. We are not broken. Nothing needs to be fixed or changed or achieved. Parcival, enters the grail castle (life) in this consciousness, speaks his truth, and the wasteland, in a single moment, disappears.

[to be continued]

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