Eat The Cold [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Eat the cold!” the Buddhist monk said to the shivering novice. “Eat the cold.” It is” monk-speak for embracing rather than resisting the circumstances of your life.

Non-resistance. Detachment. Hold your self lightly. Presence. Make no assumptions. Be here now. Every spiritual tradition has language for the lesson. Eat the cold. Have the experience. Suspend your judgment. See what is there, not what you think is there. Feel it without condemnation or praise.

When I was a teenager I went on a trip with a school group. The bus broke down in the mountains. We sat on the side of the road bemoaning the state of our affair. The teacher laughed at us. “We’re on an adventure and this is part of it!” he exclaimed. “Rather than fool ourselves into thinking we are stuck, maybe we should fool ourselves into thinking this is exactly where we should be! What’s here? What can we do and create here?” I remember nothing about the rest of that trip but I do remember how much fun we had on the side of the road.

Kerri’s wrists are broken. We find ourselves on a metaphoric roadside. Our patterns are completely disrupted so we are experiencing the gift of mindfulness. Putting on a coat requires complete attention. Lifting a fork. Combing out her gorgeous naturally curly hair. Buckling a seat belt. We have abandoned all notion of rushing. It happens when it happens. When she plays the piano, she does it with full attention; nothing is taken for granted.

What’s here in this storm? Maybe this is exactly where we should be. Amazed at our friendships, our first walk since the accident with Jen and Brad, the sun and wind, laughter with 20, cooing at the meal Joan made for us, flowers, brownies and wine, crawling under the healing quilt that Janet sewed.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EVERY STORM 

 

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Hear What You Say [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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A deep dark secret: we write the melange for ourselves. It makes us pay attention. For instance, Two Artists Tuesday is always an image, a photograph of something striking or beautiful that we’ve seen. The necessity of having an image each week to write about makes us practice seeing. We are always on the lookout for the simple beauty that surrounds us. And, each week (this will not shock you), we find too much of it. There is so much beauty available if you make yourself available to seeing the beauty.

In addition to images, we’ve given ourselves the necessity of listening to language, hearing the odd phrase, the ridiculous statements we make or that spill out of the mouths of others. And, like the images, there are always too many of them. We never know where they will come from. We are constantly scrambling for a pen or speaking to Siri so we won’t loose a phrase. Choosing the material for the melange is generally an act of sifting through an embarrassment of silly riches.

We had a 24 hour turn around trip to Kansas City. On the way back, too tired to drive another mile, we stopped in a rest area somewhere in Iowa to catch a nap. In my imagination there are travelers all across this nation with photographs of our sleeping faces smashed against the window of our car. Swimming out of our most recent roadside snooze, Kerri said, “That was a good nap! I was dreaming and everything.”(note: I’m not sure what “everything” refers to but that is definitely a post for another day.) I remarked that, if you can dream at the rest area, you were supposed to be there. Kerri jumped for the phone, “Hey, Siri…”

Siri, ever the grammatical maven, had a few suggestions. Think about it: a silly phrase inspired silly-phrase-correction-recommendations from a mechanical device (with a name) that is capable of speaking back-at-us (in “her” preprogrammed schoolmarmish voice). It’s a wonderful, confusing world. Unhinged. An embarrassment of riches.

[my personal favorite and almost the winner of this week’s melange: if you can dream OF the rest area you’re supposed to be there. The implications of this Siri-suggestion are ominous!]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DREAMING AT THE REST AREA

 

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Make A Curvy Road [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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The approach to the ferry at Northport is made intentionally curvy. It was designed to slow people down.

The intentional slow down is not like a speed bump or round-a-bout. It is not a mechanism to slow traffic before entering the ferry zone. It is meant to help folks to mindfulness. The place is beautiful. In a world dedicated to rushing through to the next thing, at a place on earth where the ferry will not wait for you, a winding road just might help a dedicated-race-to-the-next-thing-mind to recognize that this-moment-might-be-just-as-valuable-as-the-next. Experience it. Be in it.

It is a good design. In the many times this year that we’ve taken the winding road, it never fails that we see multiple cars stopped. People get out. They look. They take pictures. They point and talk and laugh. They stand in silence and breathe it in. It is performance art at its finest.

We slow down, too. Each time, the race to reach the ferry evaporates from our mind. We see. Kerri stops the car, “I have to get a picture of this!” she says. I appreciate her appreciation; there are layers to good design. Each time we greet the winding road I wonder what our world would be like if our design intention was to slow down rather than race through. Rather than divert our attention, what if, like great art, the purpose was to bring us into the vast expanse of this moment?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about the WINDING ROAD

 

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Look Up [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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An evening sky awash with salmon pink and orange. Walking down the middle of the road. Strolling home.  We heard the snap of twigs and stopped. The deer was very still, suddenly aware of us. We found ourselves engaged in an old Viola Spolin acting exercise: you look at us and we’ll look at you. Who is the audience? Who is the performer? Who is the watcher? The watched?

I’ve been thinking about Quinn lately. He taught me that there is a marked difference between concentration and awareness. Concentration is a narrowing of the mind. A blocking of other thought. Resistance. Awareness is an opening to experience. All experience. An embrace. It’s a thought straight out of Alan Watts, one of the many, many authors and thinkers that Quinn introduced me to.

Walking the roads and beaches of the island, learning the nuance of this community and the needs of the performing arts center that we now guide, for me, has become an active reminder, a literal exercise of awareness, a class in paying attention. Open, not narrow. Experience rather than judge or resist.

I can hear Quinn laughing at the younger version of me who thought he had to contain it, capture and command it. The one who thought he had to know what to do. The one with a knitted brow who thought that being good at something was a matter of controlling it. So afraid to not know. The mirth-tears would roll down Quinn’s cheeks. “Look up!” he’d say. “If you keep staring at your feet you’ll miss it!”

“Miss what?” I’d ask.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE DEER

 

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Line Up! [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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Sometimes the right metaphor steps directly in front of you, stops the car (and all the traffic behind you), and says, “Here I am. Pay attention.” After a good laugh there is only one thing to do: take a picture. And wait for nature to waddle off of the road.

We are, as you might have guessed, getting our ducks in a row. Life these past few years has been chaotic. We’ve been trying to force solutions. Our ducks, we’ve learned, do not respond well to force.

Having surrendered to the reality that there was no sense in continuing to force our ducks in a direction that they would not go, we faced our insanity. We stopped doing the same old thing in the same old way, and gave over to a new unknown path. Driving down the road, discussing what we now needed to do given our full surrender and new reality, we hit a full stop when the ducks appeared with their message. It is worth noting that there are three pieces to our new puzzle (no kidding) or, better, according to our metaphor, three ducks in our row.

Apparently our ducks are lining up.

Either that or, just out of frame, is a police officer conducting a duck sobriety check. The line they are walking is less than straight so it’s proper to worry about their capacity to pass the test.

Ducks in a row or a sobriety test? Both are apt straight-line-walking-life-metaphors and since it is my mess, I am definitely paying attention to the message. Or just making it up. You decide.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about DUCKS IN A ROW

 

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Wait For It [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Nothing I have to say or will ever have to say is of vital importance. Therefore, your reply, if at all necessary, need not be immediate. Unless, of course, your name is Wendy and are considering whether or not you miss my face as much as Kerri’s. I was hopping up and down waiting for THAT reply. For everyone else, take your time. Get off the road.

Look up the word ‘immediacy’ and this is what you will find: the quality of bringing one into direct and instant involvement, giving rise to a sense of urgency or excitement. As painful as this is, here’s the truth of the matter: the sense of urgency is largely manufactured. And, most likely, it is waaaaay out of proportion. It’s true, we live in the age of direct and instant involvement. A good question to ask is instant involvement in what? With ‘breaking news!’ a constant fixture in a screaming 24 hour news cycle, hyper-short attention spans leaping this way and that, ubiquitous “buy now’ buttons flashing from every direction, and the ever-present fear of missing something in a never-ending stream of…what? There’s a lot of reinforcement in the notion that our input cannot wait. It can. None of it, none of what we have to say, is really all that important. If it was, truly was THAT important, we’d pull off the road. We’d stop splitting our attention so we could focus. We would eschew immediacy and become present.

Giving your full attention is a good test of importance.

What is important: living another day. That is important. Also, having a sense of perspective about the injected sense of urgency or excitement pervasive in this, the age of immediacy. After all, immediacy and presence are not the same thing.

[although I did not intend to write a public service announcement, I did… so for more, go here to read the 25 scariest texting and driving accident statistics]

 

read Kerri’s blog post about IT CAN WAIT

 

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See The Stars [on Chicken Marsala Monday]

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One of the reasons I like to travel is that it disrupts the ordinary. It breaks all the patterns that allow me to sleepwalk through my days. I remember standing on a street corner in London watching commuters hustle through the rituals of their day, lost in their ordinary. While, at the same time, their ordinary was a marvel to me. Everything was extraordinary, the sounds, the smells, the rhythms; it was all new and strange to me.

Hard times wake us up. Celebration days help us look at life anew. Pattern disruption. It’s all a miracle, easy to see, when we take off the story-lens of dull and habitual.

One night, just after Chicken popped onto the scene (fully formed like some wacky Greek cartoon god) there was a meteor shower. As we struggled out of bed in the middle of the night I felt like complaining. Sleep beckoned me back to my warm bed. That’s when I heard the thrill-call of my little-live-life-monger, in an enthusiastic sing-song, Chicken hailed, “You can sleep anytime….”

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read Kerri’s blog post about STARS SHOOTING ACROSS THE SKY

 

www.kerrianddavid.com

 

you can sleep anytime… ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood

Listen To Your Teachers

my yoga companions

my yoga companions and a belly-belly

Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog and BabyCat (aka Slim, Sumo, Belly-with-a-Mouth) join me for my morning stretch and yoga. I need only walk to the yoga rug and my practice mates come running. I suspect they are not invested in the quieting of their minds or keeping limber. Their attendance on the rug has a simpler, more pure agenda: attention and pets.

Our preparation looks something like this: BabyCat wraps himself around my ankles and purrs. Dog-Dog jumps with enthusiasm and nearly knocks me over. With a Sumo-sized kitty warming my ankles and a circus dog leaping all around me, my gentle, quiet practice begins. As I drop forward to touch my toes, Dog-Dog rolls over for what we have lovingly dubbed a “belly-belly.” Clearly, Dog-Dog is an opportunist who sees all things as an opportunity. He is, therefore, a very happy spirit.

BabyCat is more strategic. He waits patiently until I move into a downward-dog pose so he can inhabit his favored spot and nibble my hair. It is counter-intuitive but true that BabyCat is more vocal than Tripper Dog-Dog-Dog. As a strategist, BabyCat complains a lot. He is an adherent to the philosophy of the squeaky wheel getting all the grease and BabyCat knows how to squeak the wheel. He is, therefore, as a necessary prerequisite to wheel squeaking, never satisfied.

photo-3My yoga companions have served to make me more mindful though it took me a while to recognize the teachings of my rug mates. At first I thought of them as distractions: they are very demanding of my attention. I thought they were getting in the way. I contemplated shooing them from the rug but, in truth, they made me laugh and what could be better for any healthy practice – for a healthy life – than laughter. It occurred to me that I’d rarely laughed in the many, many previous years of my practice. I was missing the essential ingredient and nearly banished it from my life-rug!

Next, I had to learn to move slower with much more intention so as not to topple or step on the squeaky wheel. I became much more present and aware of even the simplest movement. Awareness is a muscle and BabyCat is a gifted instructor of the fine art of awareness.

As an opportunist for fun, the Dog-Dog believes every pose is, in fact, a bridge to run under or an invitation to wrestle so I’ve had to learn how to root myself in every moment of my practice, particularly the in-between moments. I cannot afford to be ungrounded, even for a single moment, or the master Dog-Dog will have me sprawling on the floor. Saul-The-Tai-Chi-Master would be proud of my new capacity to remain grounded while in motion. Dog-Dog is an excellent teacher!

Perhaps their attendance on the rug with me has a more complex agenda after all: they recognized that their human needed to welcome more laughter into his too serious practice (life), he needed to find a deeper, easier grounding. And, in my predisposition the think I am higher up the chain of consciousness, I foolishly believed I was giving my love and attention to them but the opposite has been the case all along.

Unroll The Generosity Perspective

from the archives: EmbraceI’m eavesdropping. Kerri and Pastor Tom are in the next room having a planning session. I just heard P-Tom say, “The generosity perspective fell down. Woody rolled it up and put it under the table.” I laughed out loud. They are talking about a banner but, taken out of context, it is a terrific and ominous phrase!

If you take a gander at the daily news, follow the political circus, count the people trampled in the crush to buy stuff the day after Thanksgiving, you would be hard-pressed to find a better phrase for our times. The generosity perspective fell down. And, to add icing on the metaphoric cake: Woody easily rolled it up. He put under a table.

This land is your land. This land is my land. This land was made for you and me.

I’m convinced that there is another side of the coin. There is no denying that meanness exists in our world. Humiliation is a game played everyday through social media and beyond. Yet, I still believe that there is a disconnection between the rhetoric and the lived experience. I see and experience terrific acts of generosity every day. Some are small acts, some are vast – unfathomable, some are spontaneous, some are planned but all are generous. In fact, when I really pay attention, I find that the incidences of generosity far outpace the acts of cruelty.

Cruelty makes for good gossip and good gossip is cruel. And so, meanness sells. It is good for advertisers so those are the stories we broadcast. Generosity, on the other hand, erases victim stories and so is rarely yummy-fun to talk about. Acts of generosity are less potent as a selling tool.

Cruelty is easy to see. Generosity requires an intentional focus.

This morning I bumbled into a TED talk by Patti Dobrowolski. I learned that the odds are 9-to-1 against making change even if the change needed is life saving. Her message is great: draw the story you want to tell. Literally, draw it. And then tell it. If we want a different story we have to imagine a different story. If we want a different story we need to tell a different story. If we want a different story we need to act a different story.

If Woody easily rolled up and stashed the generosity perspective under the table it should be equally as easy for Woody to reach under the table, unroll the generosity perspective and hang it for all to see.

 

Make A Pie

Taking  a walk with K.Dot and Dog-Dog

Taking a walk with K.Dot and Dog-Dog

Stay with me. This post is not nearly as curmudgeonly as it might first appear.

Many years ago I was directing a play in Santa Fe. It was the week before Halloween and I went into a coffee house. I was taken aback to find the place decked out for Christmas. Since then I’ve kept a running count of the first day in the fall that I see Christmas appear in the shops. As you might have guessed, it is earlier and earlier every year. This year’s arrival date: October 3rd.

I laughed out loud this Thanksgiving season when I heard an advertiser shout that, this year, Black Friday begins on the Monday before Thanksgiving. The whole week is black! Mark my words, next year Black Friday will begin on the Friday before Black Friday. Soon, the month of November will be decked in black while also decking the halls.

As has become our national custom, the midterm elections began the day after the last Presidential campaign and the new Presidential campaign began the day after the midterms. Are we never out of an election cycle (a rhetorical question)? It is the only example I can cite in which politics is running ahead of the rest of the advertisers.

I’ve not had a television for a few years so I’m a bit behind the wheels of progress. This morning, as we made pies, we turned on the Thanksgiving Day parade and I was wide-eyed with wonder that the entire affair is now a not-so-veiled advertisement for products, television shows, and musicals on Broadway. Along with each float came a cut-away commercial for the sponsoring company (I learned how to bake a lot of new desserts and was prompted more than once to rush out and get the ingredients NOW). Even the shots of Al-in-the-crowd were interviews, not with the crowd, but with celebrities; I heard when their show airs, and learned what their character might eat on this holiday and be grateful for if they were not imaginary. I was also prompted to text the network and tell them what I might be grateful for so that I might feel a sense of participation.

Take a step back. There is so much noise. There are so many competitors for our attention. I read that our attention spans are shrinking and how could they not shrink (or flee into hiding) under such an unceasing assault. Apparently with a shorter attention span it takes longer and longer to get our attention. I can’t help but think it is all stuffing and no bird.

Each year I work with people actively seeking for meaning or purpose. They tell me that something is missing in their lives. The pattern is to purchase-for-fulfillment but commerce makes for a lousy core and inevitably shows its true colors as a temporary numbing agent or distraction. And that’s the point. Seekers cease seeking when they learn where to place their attention. They step out of the noise cycle. Instead of navigating the noise they simply turn it off and take a walk or a nap. Instead of texting the network they look at their loved ones and say, “Let’s make a pie.”

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