Choose To See Them [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I love my morning ritual. Babycat bumps my legs, guides me to his bowl. DogDog springs from his crate for a brief pet before bounding outside to clear his zone of squirrels. It is the same everyday. It is always new and different. Both/and.

Something happens when the expectation flips, when the wondrous is sought not in the monumental but in the small, day-to-day experiences. I know it reads like a cliche’ but it is no less true. My morning ritual, your commute, the day’s chore, in truth, is never the same. Each day is new even when we brand it with ‘routine.’

The wondrous sparkles in the routine as well as the profound. Doing the dishes today is not the same as doing them yesterday. It seems obvious. This day of life is not the same as yesterday. Another cliche’ with a truthful center: ‘sameness’ is a lens, an expectation worn on the eyes of the mind. It dulls life before life happens. It is the expectation of tedium. Why expect tedium? Why cultivate apathy? The marvelous, the wondrous becomes visible everywhere when we remove the same-old-same-old lens, the been-there-done-that expectation.

Wondrous things are everywhere. All we need do is choose to see them.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WONDROUS THINGS

 

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Stand In A Greater Story [on not-so-flawed Wednesday]

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Three years ago today Kerri and I were married. It was the single best day of my life. We were married on 10/10 and the ceremony began at 11:11 exactly. Our friends tease that the reception started, not mysteriously, at 12:12.

The great advantage of a second marriage is that you feel no obligation to meet expectations or obey any “should-dos.” It was a blue jeans wedding. We wore black (like we do every other day of the week) and matching Frye Boots. Our ceremony was a storytelling. Kerri wrote a song for me. There were lots of hugs. A ukulele band played us out and we spontaneously skipped down the aisle just like we’d skipped out of the airport on the day we met.

At the reception (12:12 on the dot) we had a food truck serving burgers and sweet potato fries. There’s a back story to burgers and fries but I’ll save that for another day. It’s enough to note that the food truck wasn’t a random idea but part of a greater story – as with everything we planned for our passage ritual into togetherness. We had Yamaha’s daisy cupcakes and MaryKay’s brownies. We had hula-hoops and kick balls. We danced until after dark and moved to the beach for a bonfire. So many special people came from all over the country to celebrate with us. A legion of friends and family helped us make it happen; our wedding was (and still is) the love equivalent of a barn raising.

A greater story. Second chances do happen. Broken roads sometimes lead to vibrant gardens rich with lessons, endless appreciation of the small things, and a sense of utter amazement that this is where life brought me. Brought us. I was wrong to write that 10/10/15 was the best day of my life. In truth, it marked the source of a river of best days. Each an anniversary, a day of life in the story of ‘us,’ a greater story.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about FRYE BOOTS ON A RED CARPET

 

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Follow Your Feet Home [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I’m not sure how it happened. At some  point, early on in our life together, we began documenting our travels with photos of our feet. Feet in snow, on sand, on brick, tile, carpet, turf, and tundra. Our favorite wedding photo features our feet (red carpet, Frye boots). When pet sitting DogDog and BabyCat, 20 regularly receives photos of our feet on the dashboard. “Stop sending me pictures of your feet!” he rants, though I know he secretly appreciates being included in the foot photo loop.

It’s become a ritual and like most rituals no words are necessary. We just know what to do. On the subway Kerri will glance my way, the camera emerges and we raise our feet. In the museum, I point to the floor and we stand together. Click. At a wedding, Kerri raises her eyebrows and our dressed-up-feet know just what to do. In the forest, without notice, our boots come together. Click.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy clicks her heels together, chanting, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” I think of Dorothy and her ruby red shoes every time our feet enter their ritual photo mode, every time we are in a new and strange place and the camera comes out as our feet come together. I think, “Home is here. Home is right now, right where our feet have found themselves. Home.” Click.

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read Kerri’s blog post about FEET

 

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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

Play For The Light

Photo by Wes Morrissey. See more at rocknfish.com

Photo by Wes Morrissey. See more at rocknfish.com

I’m hanging out listening to the handbell choir practice. I meant to bring my ipad so I could write while hanging out but I forgot it so I had to go old school and find a pen and some paper. The pen was easy but the only paper I could find was the back of an old church bulletin. I opened the bulletin and found the language for the communion celebration, “…he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it saying, ‘Take this and eat. This is my body, given for you….”

In reading the words I was thrown back in time (a meditative handbell soundtrack is very useful when being cast backwards in time). Many years ago, just after I moved to Seattle, the Makah tribe attempted to revive their traditional whale hunt. The entirety of their traditional ritual life stems from the hunt – the whale is their central god much as the buffalo is central to the worship of the plains tribes. In the early 20th century the Makah voluntarily suspended the hunt because European whaling techniques had devastated the whale population. Consequently, with no central ritual, their community fell into disarray. The revival of the hunt brought intense opposition and a media circus of epic proportions.

At the time, I was taking a masters degree in systems theory with a focus on Cultural Mythology and Transformational Art and, so, was enrapt by the collision of cultural perspectives. Through one lens, the hunt was an unnecessary slaughter of a whale. Through another lens it was a communion meal; the hunter is deemed worthy and chosen by the god (the whale), the god gives his life to nourish the people (spiritually and literally), and the people, in turn, perform the rituals of rebirth that bring the god back to life. It is a cycle of death and rebirth, the god nourishing the people and the people revivifying the god through their rituals and attention to life.

The central word is “communion;” to commune with the divine – regardless of faith tradition. And, in the end of the day, when the shopping is all done, isn’t that what this season is about? Does it matter how we mark the return of the light, the winter solstice, the return of the god to eventually bring life to a barren winter landscape (I’m writing metaphorically, too), the fulfillment of a prophecy, as long as we truly experience communion with something bigger than ourselves? It is an awesome responsibility to revivify the god – especially when the return depends upon how we live our lives and perform our rituals.

The handbell choir is working extra hard. Although they play each month, this preparation is for something special. They play with a sense of stress and excitement and desire a perfection that they usually do not entertain. This performance matters more than the others because they know, just like this time last year, they are playing for the return of the light.

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Return To Your Self

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The 2014 Transformational Presence Global Summit in Vught, Holland

While in Holland I led a group through a segment of an exercise called The Dream Police. I created the exercise years ago with John Langs and Lisa Paulson – two master teachers and performing artists – while doing some work with young actors at PCPA Theatrefest. The original exercise is deeply rooted in ritual and communal transformation. The group in Holland was engaged in a more personal exploration so I only led them through the first part of the exercise.

It is surprisingly potent and I’ve learned to use it carefully. The first part of the exercise sounds simple but can be explosive: Write for 5 minutes as if, in 5 minutes, your memory will be wiped clean. All that you will know of your life, of your values, your relationships, your dreams, your identity… will be what you capture in those few moments of writing. After the writing, in a ritual act, the scribbles on the paper are left behind. Most often, people destroy the paper. They shred it. The writing is lost. The question becomes, “Who are you without your story?” It is intended to disorient so the participants might reorient to the essentials of their lives; it is a great exercise for cleaning the gunk. It can be freeing. It can be terrifying. It is always illuminating.

The reorientation process is impossible to do alone. Reorientation is communal. Until Holland I’d never left a group midway, I’d never let the exercise stop in the middle of the disorientation and had always before made sure the reorientation process was at least initiated. IN Holland, the exercise was interrupted. The disoriented community fragmented. Some left the exercise feeling liberated. Others were angry. Some were confused or frightened. All left by themselves. Disorientation makes lonely introverts of us all. Disorientation is an individual sport.

The ritual of coming back to yourself is always a ritual of returning to the community. Clarity is a boon that requires sharing with others. To come back to yourself is to come back to relationship. No one walks this earth alone. No one is capable of saying “This is me,” without the presence and assistance of others. The process can be volcanic. It can be quiet and intense. It always requires another question: “Will you tell me what you see?”

24 hours later we completed the exercise. The individuals returned. They gathered, reoriented and a new form of the community was born. I knew all was well when the newly reformed community asked, “What do we do now?” and the only available answer was, “We don’t know – but let’s find out together.”

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Serve Life

Untitled by David Robinson

Untitled by David Robinson

I’m writing language for a website. In the past my website reinventions felt like an exercise of the same old cereal in a new marketing box. This time it’s different. I am a new cereal and I’m not certain that I want a box. It makes a difficult task of telling people what I do when I’m fully invested in container resistance. As I wrangled deep into the night with clever but remarkably meaningless marketing language, I had two mini-epiphanies:

1) Last year, unlike the captain of the Titanic, I sailed my ship directly at an iceberg so that it would sink. I sank the ship with all of the fine china, the gold bars and diamonds in the safe, the furniture, the clothes and fine food. It all went to the bottom of the ocean. I wanted off the ship so why would I now build for myself a new ship? I didn’t bob around in my raft in the vast ocean spearing tuna and catching rainwater so that I might someday step back on to the bridge and do it all over again. What, exactly, am I building?

2) I have tried my whole life to squeeze myself into too small of a box (as, I suspect, all of you have, too). I have worn the jacket of coach, of facilitator, of teacher, of director, of actor and waiter and painter. I am none of these and all of these. I have made websites complete with testimonials and classes, nice pictures and e-books, workshops and retreats. The process of building a site is a two-agenda process: first, locate yourself in space and time for other people so that they might find you and, second, orient yourself toward other people’s concern so they might know why they should seek you. In other words, 1) this is where I am and, 2) this is what I provide. The pronoun is “I.”

What, exactly, do I provide? I am not a plumber or a pizza maker. Every marketing person I’ve ever known has advised me to brand myself. Brand myself as what? Brands are made up. A year ago on New Year’s eve, tarot woman told me that she didn’t see a career for me. Rather, she saw lots of expression. “Brand that!” I thought to myself. Last night I reasoned, “I am not a brand.” Neither can I reduce what I do to a pithy phrase or clever visual. That’s precisely why I sought an iceberg and sank the ship!

I’m an artist (a painter and performer) and I write. I like to write a lot. At the center of all that I do is…disruption or change or spirituality or transformation, words that sound great but what do they mean on the concrete, day-to-day experience of living. I deal in heart, intuition, and soul. Great. I hold people’s hands and walk with them into their dreams. I dive with them into their past so they might let go of their story and sit solidly in their present. I help them unbuckle the weight belt of their story so they might surface for air. Brand that.

To ask, “What do I provide?” is to ask the wrong question. This question will always lead to too tight boxes.

Joe sent me some links: short films of Stephen Jenkinson (The Meaning of Death and Making Humans). Stephen Jenkinson says that humans are made, not born. He speaks eloquently about the necessity of dying to our childhood – which means recognizing that our short lives are limited. That’s the recognition necessary to grow up. We can only really fulfill our gifts when we understand the necessity to serve life, not our life. We end. Life continues. Martin Prechtel writes of his community’s male passage rituals; young men learn that they can only serve their community when they recognize their mortality. The passage ritual is meant to bring them to the realization that they are finite. Only then can they understand the imperative to serve something greater than themselves: life. Tonight in the Taize service, Pastor Tom read a passage about losing yourself to find yourself. It is the same concept wrapped in biblical clothes.

Here’s what I want to say on my site: when you are willing to stop trying to save your life and ready to start giving it, call me. No box necessary.

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