Imagine The Possibilities! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” ~ Lao Tzu

I’ve had this quote sitting on my desktop for months. I’ve been on a Lao Tzu kick, a Kurt Vonnegut kick, a Rainier Maria Rilke kick…all at the same time. They are, not surprisingly, in alignment on many topics, among them self-mastery. “The secret?” they whisper. “Stop trying to control what other people think or see or feel and, instead, take care of what you think and see and feel.” Their metaphoric trains may approach the self-mastery station from different directions but the arrival platform is the same.

It’s a universal recognition: take the log out of your own eye.

Sometimes a penny drops more than once and so it is with Saul’s advice to me. “Look beyond the opponent to the field of possibilities.” “And, just what does that mean?” you may shout at your screen. It sounds like new-age hoo-haw.

Ghandi said, “Nonviolence is the weapon of the strong.” It is the height of self-mastery to bring ideas to the table rather than a gun. It is the height of self-mastery to bring to the commons good intention and an honest desire to work with others to make life better for all. Power is never self-generated but is something created between people. Power is distinctly different than control. Power endures since it does not reside within a single individual. Power lives, as Saul reminded me again and again, not in throwing an opponent but in helping the opponent throw themself. “Focus on the possibilities,” he said again and again. Throw yourself to the ground often enough and, one day, it occurs that there may be another way.

Work with and not against. It seems so simple. The bulb hovering over my cartoon head lights-up. Work with yourself, too, and not against. Place your eyes in the field of all possibilities. Obstacles are great makers of resistance, energy eddies and division. Possibilities are expansive, dissolvers of divisiveness.

I am writing this on the Sunday that Christians celebrate their resurrection. The day that “every man/woman for him/herself” might possibly and-at-last-transform into “I am my brothers/sisters keeper.” All that is required for this rebirth is a simple change of focus; a decision to master one’s self instead of the never ending violent attempt to exercise control over others.

It’s the single message, the popcorn trail left for us by all the great teachers. Instead of fighting with others, master yourself. Imagine the possibilities!

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE CEILING LIGHT

See The Adventure [on Merely A Thought Monday]

Let the adventure begin. We put the sign on the table when we moved into the little house on Washington Island. Our new job came with housing and we couldn’t have been more fortunate. Even as the job turned into a debacle, the little house grew in our hearts. It was – and is – a very special place. A few years down the road, we never give thought-space to the work-fiasco. We reminisce about the beautiful place we lived, the good people we met, starry nights, mornings in the canoe, the deer, the power of the lake right outside our door.

A few moments ago I was feeling anxious and was complaining – and realized that I have no business complaining about anything. I stopped myself. Adventures are hard. That’s what makes the experience an adventure. When people lack challenges, they create them. Jigsaw puzzles and computer games. I complain when standing on the threshold of learning something new. My complaining – as I realized a few moments ago – runs amok when I don’t know what to do. It marks the line between the fat-comfort of knowing and the utter-discomfort of not-knowing. Complaining provides cover. I expose my obvious not-knowing; I preempt the shame-strike by complaining. The moment I disallowed complaining, I once again saw the adventure. My anxiety dissipated. The adventure is a jigsaw puzzle all akimbo in the box. I’ll figure it out one piece at a time. Or not. The end result is not nearly as important as the spirit in which I bring to the task. To the moment. To my life.

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi studied, thought, and wrote extensively about flow. The optimal state of being. I’ve often wished I could invite Mihaly and Alan Watts to dinner and listen to their conversation. The psychologist and the Taoist conversing about flow, that magic space that opens when the path is hard, but not too hard, when boredom is no where in sight. The exercise, when either bored or overwhelmed, is to adjust my orientation to the challenge. Amp it up or slow it down. The zone is self-modulated, rarely an accident, which becomes apparent once the complaining stops. The knowledge that I can place myself in the zone is the spirit I hope to bring to every task for the rest of my days. It’s the practice. It is to see and choose the adventure.

Let the adventure begin. The sign now sits on our table in the sunroom where we meet at the end of each day and tell the stories of our day. While I tell my tale, I see the adventure sign, mostly in reflection, the message reversed. Each day an adventure if I choose to see it. Each day an opportunity for flow if I choose to own and modulate my steps, and place myself in flow.

read Kerri’s blogpost about THE ADVENTURE

Heed The Thwack [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Have a Drink

It occurs to me now that Marilyn J. was thwacking me on the back of the head. In her comment about my post, AGREE TO DISAGREE, she mirrored back to me something I have taught: without an antagonist there is no story. Without an obstacle there is nothing to drive the story forward. Marilyn was reminding me of two things. First,  the antagonists in my story were giving me fuel for forward movement. Second, that in my post, I was pushing against what I don’t like. She was reminding me that productive movement is toward what I wish to create rather than resisting what I do not want.

We have a new phrase in our lexicon though it feels ancient: social distancing. In thinking about what Marilyn wrote to me I have decided the real social distancing that we are experiencing has less to do with stay at home orders or six feet of space or wearing masks; it is about the distance between the world inhabited by the red and the world inhabited by the blue. They are, I believe, no longer merely divided, they are distinctly separate realities. What makes sense in one reality looks like utter nonsense in the other.

I just took a dive into quotes by E.O. Wilson. He wrote something about brilliant enemies and I wanted to find it: “Without a trace of irony I can say that I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.”

This is point of Marilyn’s head thwack. Redouble your energies. There is no denying that my daily disbelief at the malignant narcissist and his propaganda machine is driving me in new and as yet unknown directions. It has filled me with fear for my family and friends. It is also filling me with energy and it is up to me to live what I believe and use my redoubled energy to move toward what I desire to create rather than become “the thing hate:” an angry absolutist incapable of listening. A resister. An energy eddy.

Or, as Saul-the-Tai-Chi-Master so often reminded me, “Look beyond the obstacle to the field of possibilities.” That is where all of life is truly found.

[note: if you want to feel good about humanity or just need some perspective in the time of pandemic, Google quotes by E.O. Wilson. Or, better yet, since we are in this for a while read one of his books].

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this NOT SO FLAWED WEDNESDAY

 

handshadowstones website box copy

 

Sacred Looking In with color copy 2

Suspend And Rest [on KS Friday]

rest with frame copy

Kerri took a fall earlier this week and broke both of her wrists. For a professional pianist there are few injuries more debilitating and frightening. Needless to say, our world stopped. We’ve stepped out of time.

Judy once told me, after her husband suffered a terrible stroke and she became his full-time caregiver, that she could not think about tomorrow or even an hour ahead. The moment at hand, the task immediately before her, was all that existed. I understood in an abstract way what she was experiencing. The weight of presence. The unbearable lightness of presence.  All that exists is now. Today, I understand what Judy experienced beyond a simple abstract appreciation. At this point, there is no sense in thinking ahead.

A sip of coffee through a straw. Move the hair from her eyes. Help her sit up. There is the task at hand. That is all. And in “that is all” comes a great gift: instant perspective on what has actual importance and what does not. In these past several months everything has felt like a fight to swim upstream. Today, since Monday, there is no fight, there is only stream and it carries us where it will. We let go and are resting. A whole rest.

It is ironic to me that since her fall, in addition to the pain and the real fear of losing her capacity to play the piano [read: lose who she understands herself to be], we have laughed more in four days than in four months. We have let go. We look at what-this-time-last-week appeared to be so heavy with importance and merely shrug. Not important. It floats away. Or we float away from it. In this whole rest there is no capacity to push, no desire to paddle or resist. Suspended, we rest. We take this bite, sweet or savory, and that is all.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHOLE REST

 

ks website header copy

 

footprints in sunlit snow website box copy

Run In Circles [on Two Artists Tuesday]

It may not be immediately apparent, but this is a video of a solution. It is a celebration of non-resistance in the face of a force of nature. DogDog (also known as Tripper, also known as Dogga, also known as Don’tDoThat!) is a backyard killer. In his enthusiasm for life he runs circles -or – more accurately, he plows circles. No plant is sacred, no patch of grass is safe. For a few seasons we tried multiple strategies to achieve some semblance of backyard order only have Don’tDoThat! plow a new circle.

if you'd like to see TWO ARTISTS copyOne morning, watching the madness, Kerri sipped her coffee and said, “Why fight it?” She went in to the house and ordered a round-a-bout sign, careful to get one for left lane drivers so it would indicate the correct direction of his travels. DogDog is, after all, an Aussie. We planted his sign in the center of the velodrome, added a bit of wild grass around the sign and VA-WA-LA! Order (or, at least, the semblance)

On Two Artists Tuesday, a DogDog inspired reminder to lay down the fight; sometimes you can define the desire lines and sometimes you have to let them define you.

read Kerri’s blog post about DogDog Round-A-Bout

www.kerrianddavid.com

dogdog round-a-bout ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood