Go Spelunking [on KS Friday]

Arnie is among my team of wise-eyes. In response to a recent post, he wrote that he was relieved that I was stepping back into the light. “Darkness,” he wrote, “has never been the place from which I observed you to start.”

I am also relieved to be stepping back into the light. And, I am most grateful for my foray into darkness. It was necessary. It was useful. “The anger burned off a resistant layer of the onion.” I wrote in reply. “It burned away many of the resentments I was carrying, opened a channel to the voice I was withholding. Nature is not balanced in a world that makes room for light alone.” I was out of balance and needed to walk into that dark cave. Again. There is great power to be found at the dark center of the earth. After defeating the monster Grendel, Beowulf had to go into the dark forest and dive into the dark bottomless swamp to confront a more dark and terrifying monster, Grendel’s mother. He emerged victorious and forever changed.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet.

As the night the day. The day the night. Darkness is necessary to perceive the light. It is not possible to thy self be true without a good grasp of the whole truth, including the bits we ignore and deny. I’m only now understanding that this dance in the dark has been central to my lessons and my non-stop-pondering these many months. It is neigh-on-impossible to be true to yourself, to be whole, without embracing the full spectrum of your self. Without both sides of the moon. Self love, it seems, requires a love of ALL parts of your self. Dark and light. There’s plenty of room at the table.

Nature, your nature, is not corrupt or bad. It is nature. There is no judgment in nature, just interrelationship. Cycles and dances. Seasons of growth and rejuvenation. Birth and death. Rather than applying a scalpel it is more useful to go spelunking.

There is no denying we are living through a very dark time. It is the understatement of this young century to suggest that we are finding – again – a host of monsters in our very dark cave. We can, as we have in the past, run from the truth that we find, or, we can at long last pull up a chair, sit with our monsters, and have a chat. Monsters tend to transform when given some time and attention. When light is brought into darkness and darkness is led into light.

It is symbolically perfect and appropriate – deeply human – that the darkest night of the year is the time when many traditions celebrate the return of the light. It is natural, this progression into darkness. It is natural, this journey into light. Roots gather energy during the cold dark months. We rest, knowing that, with the return of the light, there will be much work to do. New crops to plant. New thoughts to harvest and share.

read Kerri’s blog post about NATURE SETTING THE STAGE

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Fly The Middle Way [on DR Thursday]

a watercolor sketch for Icarus

My call with Norm could not have been better timed. For some reason I’d recently dipped my toes into an old thought-pool and our conversation was like a ripple across the water. He is working with a team dedicated to self-empowerment, articulating purpose, making better relationships and a better world. I laughed as he reminded me of a younger version of myself.

A few days ago I wrote a phrase twice on a piece of paper. My Whole Life. My Whole Life. The phrase could mean “my entire life.” It could also mean “my flawless life.” I’m hard-pressed to conjure up a single example of someone who considers their life-story whole.

The words “purpose,” “power,” “voice” and “strength” populate the contemporary quest through the wasteland. We seek our power. We search for our unique voice. We hire coaches. We consume curriculum. We attempt to tune ourselves to wholeness like we tune our cars for the road.

There is a profound lesson in all of the great stories [stories are terrific guides…] and it is simply this: you can’t find “it” out there. You already have “it” and will, if you are lucky, realize “it” when you give up the search. Stand still. Feel the sun on your face.

The penny dropped for me while working with a group in the Netherlands. Everyone – every group I’ve ever worked with – wants to know “how?” There must be a prescription! What are the guaranteed six techniques to personal power? John O’Donohue wrote,“The gateway to our deepest identity is not through mechanical analysis.” In other words, there is no prescription. There isn’t a list. There are no tools to fix what is broken.

Parcival had his illusion shattered. The more he fought the dragons the worse the wasteland became. The grail castle came back to him only after he took off his armor, only after he completely relinquished and forgot about the fight.

None of this is to suggest that the search is ridiculous. It is not. It is a necessary process step in the cult of the individual. It is a necessity for people who believe themselves to be powerless to climb on a warhorse and ride into a personal hero tale. The knight will also need to flee from or fight with the inner-dark-anti-hero, the one who cries “fraud” or “loser” or “worthless” that serves as the shadow, the balance point of every power quest. The more he fight the dragons the worse the wasteland becomes.

“Let go of the hero,” Harald taught me, “and the anti-hero will also disappear.” Then, and only then, do we find the the middle way and the selflessness that comes with it. Some traditions call “it” presence. Some call “it” illumination. Some call “it” self-actualization. Some call “it” getting neutral or detachment. Some call “it” wholeness. Most locate “it” in the middle way.

Icarus did not listen to his father who warned him not to fly too close to the sun as it would melt the wax holding together his wings – and to not fly too close to the sea as the water vapor would make the feathers of his wings too heavy for flight. “Fly in the middle,” Daedalus cautioned. “Fly the middle way.”

Icarus, so the story tells us, became enamored of his ability to fly, so lost in his new power, that he soared toward the sun. Only when he was plummeting from the sky did he remember his father’s caution, “Fly the middle way. Fly the middle way and live.”

read Kerri’s blog post about ICARUS

Icarus, acrylic, 30.5 x 59.5

icarus ©️ 2004 david robinson

Look In The Mirror [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

red cup mirror copy

A few years ago Morris Berman wrote a book, Coming To Our Senses, that jumps with both feet into the complexities of mirrors. Believe it or not, there are societies that are not singularly obsessed with self-image.

What do we see when we look in the mirror? What image do we think we ought to project? Create? Reinforce? What image do we think we ought to match? What do we think we need to hide? What about that hair or those crow’s feet? What do we look for in the image that stares back? Have we ever considered that the image in the mirror is the reverse of what’s actual? That we will, in fact, always see the opposite and never see ourselves as we are?

What amazing power do marketers possess when crafting the images that sell stuff? Models with perfect profiles, men with Greek bodies, all of those images filtered through the magic of Photoshop to heighten, hide, or somehow manufacture a more desirable perfection, an unattainable you. That is the point, after all: to create a perfection that no mere mortal can attain. To create a purchase path, a product possibility of attaining the ideal, even for a moment.

On the island, there is a terrific little coffee house, The Red Cup. Someone at The Red Cup must have read Morris Berman’s book or at least caught on to the power of a mirror. They know, even after a few cups of good coffee, when washing your hands in the restroom, you are likely to look in the mirror and find something that needs changing, something lacking. And so, as a counterbalance to the programming, they offer a simple alternative, a suggestion, in fact, a possibility for what you might choose to see in the mirror: you are so cool, and intelligent and strong and fierce.

read Kerri’s blog post about THE RED CUP

 

feet on the street WI website box copy

Infuse Them With Hope [on Two Artists Tuesday]

THIS AsYouIs copy

Go to the AS YOU IS website and this is what you will find:

As You Is® was created to start conversations… to cause total strangers to smile… to make people think… to get others to feel so accepted they break out in impromptu dance… and to put a serious chink in the armor of racism.

Our hope is one day children can embrace being uniquely themselves, where they feel safe being different and where old people —like our founder Michael Fornwald — can age gracefully or ungracefully sans self-contempt.

Please join us by infecting others with hope one hella cool t-shirt or cap at a time.

It happened to us, just as Michael intended. Strolling down the aisle of the farmer’s market, we saw the shirts and stopped in our tracks. “What is that?” I asked Kerri. She smiled, and then laughed, and finally said, “Let’s go find out.” We talked with Michael for the next 20 minutes. He shared his story. We shared ours. We talked about acceptance of self and others. We talked of the need for hope in these ugly, divided times. And while we talked, others saw the shirts and stopped in their tracks.

We stepped aside and watched as people did double-takes. Some hovered and talked. Some danced and laughed. And talked. Some ventured into the center to talk, as we did, with Michael. The shirts started conversations.

Call it a brand or call it a mission, in Michael’s case, it is both. It’s genuine. It’s based on the premise that acceptance of others begins with acceptance of self. You’d be a fool to argue with the premise.

Amidst our divided national narrative it is a serious and legitimate question to ask: would you rather infect others with hatred or with hope? Michael’s answer is clear and he’s doing more than talking about it.

We are the proof that it’s working. We walked away infused with hope, stepping just a little bit lighter, and the conversation he inspired in us hasn’t stopped in the weeks since we happened upon his shirts.

as you is website screenshot copyGO HERE. BUY SHIRTS. SUPPORT THE INFUSION OF HOPE

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AS YOU IS

 

be kind collage with color font copy 3

SHOP KERRI’S ‘Be Kind’ DESIGNS

 

cropped head kiss website copy

 

be kind designs ©️ 2018 kerri sherwood & david robinson

 

Choose Your Path

another detail of And Now

a detail of my painting And Now

Months ago Steve told me that he’d read my book. “I liked it,” he said, “But the only thing I don’t get is the first chapter. What do you mean when you say that we don’t have problems, we have patterns?” Since we were in the middle of a rehearsal we didn’t have the chance to discuss it. I forgot about that conversation until yesterday. I was digging through some old notes and found my original note, the first time I told a group that they didn’t have a problem, they had a pattern. I was facilitating a very dysfunctional group and having a great time untying their collective dedication to misery. Afterwards, I wrote extensive notes because the day’s conversation spun my dials. In rereading these notes I find them more relevant today than ever. Here’s what I recorded:

On the road to power the path splits: one path leads to power-with-others. The other road leads to power-over-others. The fork in the road is determined by where you seek your worth. It is, when all else is stripped away, a matter of focus placement. Where do you seek your worth?

            1) If you seek your worth from others, you will take the path to power-over others.

          2) If you seek your worth within yourself, you will take the fork that leads to power creation with others.

If you seek to glean your worth from others you are essentially trying to control the uncontrollable (what other people think, feel, see,…is out of your control). Control is a fear path and requires protection, shielding, etc..

When people stop trying to control what they cannot control, when they place their energy and focus not on what others think of them but on what they think of themselves, they open. They become safe in the world primarily because their safety is not located in what others think (it is located in themselves).

To pay attention to the self brought from the group an assumption that they would become self-absorbed; they would ignore or disconnect from others. I asked them to imagine this: make the basic assumption that they were loved, that they were already worthy beyond measure. A healthy self-worth does not require self-absorption but its opposite. Respect for others is not possible in the absence of self-respect. Given the imagined assumption of self worth, what might be possible? It all depends upon where they place their focus (where they aimed their focus). Focus placement is a learned pattern.

I have always been interested in comparative religions and have often been confounded by the split that runs through the three primary western faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – all people of the book sharing a common root). To stir my pot Linda and Bill loaned me a book that speaks to the split in the Christian tradition entitled If Grace Is True by Philip Gulley. The essence of its message: what you see (and therefore, what you believe) depends upon where you place your focus. You can focus on the god of righteousness and retribution or you can focus on the god of grace. If your focus is on righteousness and retribution, you will necessarily believe in a chosen people, an us-and-them paradigm, and fear will be your driver (power-over). This god will send hurricanes to punish. If, however, you focus on the god of grace, then there can be no divisions. Grace is for everyone. This god does not send disasters nor takes sides with who wins wars because division is made-up by humans seeking power. Grace creates power-with.

Our nation, at this moment, is in a heated debate about where to place its focus. Standing at the fork it is embroiled in a dispute about which path to take. The danger on the path of power-over is that it invariably and inevitably eats itself. Fear is a potent driver for a little while. Pushing others down to elevate your self might feel good for a time but will always blow back on itself. Diminishing others is a lousy path to (dare I say it?) true power.

For a short time in the 80’s I did work at a school in Los Angeles that served children in gangs. We played a lot. We laughed as a way of loosening the grips of fear-seeing. The epicenter of our work together always came down to this truth: any idiot with a trigger finger can take a life. It is easy to push others down. It takes a heart and a mind (and a community) to give life. The real work of courage is to lift others up; that is what using your gifts in service to the world is all about. And, in the end of the day, the only difference is which path you choose, where you decide to place your focus, and which pattern you decide to reinforce.

 

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WATERSHED on iTunes:  Kerri Sherwood track 10 on AS IT IS

watershed: an event or period making a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs.

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Reverse The Direction Of The Pull

TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS

Reverse The Direction

FOR TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS, GO HERE.

Doubt

Pidgeon Pier - acrylic on canvas

Pigeon Pier – acrylic on canvas

It’s been months since I had a good chat with the stained glass window. I hadn’t realized that the conversations had stopped. The summer was a blur of unplanned travel and I suspect during the chaos of coming and going that I simply stopped asking questions.

This morning we awoke to snow, the first of the season. Snow arrives silently and inspires inner silence. Steeped in the snow’s quiet I heard the window’s greeting. “Ah, Welcome back.” And so began our conversation about doubt.

Doubt is a double-edged sword, it has two distinct faces. The first face, unlike the snow, is noisy. Doubt does not arrive in silence. It demands to be heard. In the middle of my conversation with the window I heard P-Tom say, “Fear makes us doubt our belief and believe our doubts.” This face of doubt is a crazy maker. It makes muddy the inner waters. It makes all fears come true.

There is another face of doubt, not born of fear but arising from love. The 5th Agreement of Don Miguel Ruiz is this: doubt everything that you think. To doubt what you think makes little sense without the preceding agreements, the most powerful (to me) is this – Be impeccable to your word: speak your truth and nothing else; do not blame or accuse or make others responsible for your pain (your thoughts and actions); own your thoughts; own your actions. Or, better said, love yourself enough to express your love and nothing else. Don Miguel writes that impeccability to your word requires self-love. In this context, this other face of doubt is a step forward. Coming from love, to doubt what you think is akin to cleaning up the dirty dishes. It is to not take anything too seriously. Thought is nothing more than storytelling and to doubt the story births detachment from investment in the story. Detaching from the story-investment brings quiet, like the snow.

title_pageGo 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.

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Leave The Wasteland Behind

[continued from Enter The Castle]

In her book, Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach tells the story of a daughter holding vigil at her mother’s deathbed. The mother regained consciousness before dying and said, “You know, all my life I thought something was wrong with me.” And then she shook her head as if to say, “What a waste.”

title_page

The full Parcival tale is woven through The Seer.

The metaphor of the moment is the Holy Grail and, more specifically, the search for it. The search for the Grail is a metaphor for a search for the self – not the roles that we think we play, the purposes that we think we serve, and not the jobs that we do. Grail seekers deal with their ‘being’ and not their ‘doing.’ When the roles are dropped, the purposes stripped away, when the jobs are left behind – beyond all the masks and definitions and importance and interpretations, labels, judgments, and pursuits of perfection, the Grail castle awaits us all. It’s a paradox: the Grail castle is found in the ordinary, the everyday.

We rarely come to the castle because of our wholehearted attachment to The Wasteland (the other great metaphor in the Parcival tale).

Parcival goes on his quest to find the Grail castle because as a young knight, purely by accident, he bumbled into it. He was invited in. He was given the opportunity to speak his truth and at the crucial moment, he denied himself. Instead of truth he spoke what he thought was socially acceptable. He did what he thought he was supposed to do and not what he wanted to do. He played his role and was polite. And his punishment for denying himself was banishment from the castle. And, worse, the whole kingdom fell into famine and he was to blame. He was personally responsible for The Wasteland. So he went on a quest to find the castle and redeem himself.

He believed himself broken and in need of fixing. The harder he tried to prove his worth and regain his wholeness, the worse the Wasteland became. In today’s world he would have purchased a shelf of self-help books. He would have attended seminars and exercised his positive thinking. He would have clarified his purpose and conquered his fear on a ropes course. He might have earned his PhD, bought a BMW, been named ‘Best-in-Show,’ and lined his wall with trophies.

The important point is this: Parcival had no idea why he failed as a young knight. He did what he was taught to do and found himself in The Wasteland. So he began a quest to fix what was broken (he identified himself as broken). He was fighting a battle to redeem himself but had no idea what he was attempting to redeem. He could only regain access to the castle by ceasing to think that he was broken. It was only when he stopped looking for perfection that he experienced himself as perfect just as he was. As the hermit said to Parcival the moment the castle reappeared, “Boy, it’s been there all along.”

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.

Go here for all digital forms of The Seer.

 

Give As Love

The stack of paintings sitting in my basement waiting for me to show them.

The stack of paintings sitting in my basement waiting for me to show them.

Sitting in the choir loft this morning I was at first disappointed that the stained glass window was silent. I was so full of questions – and have lately been so full of questions – and have come to look forward to hanging out in the loft, conversing with the window, while Kerri plays a service.

When I bring my questions the window always has something to say. The window offers a better set of questions or a startling reflection or a slap of insight. The window’s responses always come in the form of a message of return (return to heart, return to forgiveness, etc.). If I get quiet and ask my question, out of the peace, a conversation always ensues. Today, from my quiet, I asked my question about artistry, about my artistry, and I was met with an unusual silence. I wrinkled my brow. I wondered if my conversation with the window had come to an end or if perhaps my question was out of the scope of topics for a stained glass window.

There was a visiting pastor, an elder who’d been preaching for over 50 years. I sat up and paid attention when he began his sermon this way:

“Artists have a special gift. They help others see in a new way….”

His message was about love. Love, he told us, takes many forms and the form that love takes depends upon the unique gifts of the lover: a symphony is a gift of love, a painting is a gift of love. A plumber fixing a broken water main late into the evening is a gift of love. “What is your gift? he asked. Do you recognize it as love?

A few years ago, on New Year’s Eve, I visited a tarot woman at a bookstore in Denver. During our session she asked me a question that felt like a cold slap in the face. “You know god’s voice,” she said. “Why do you not use it?” I mumbled a lame excuse that dribbled into silence. “Why do you not use it?” she asked again.

Sitting across the table from the tarot woman, I knew without doubt that I have, my whole life, been a great servant to other people’s artistry but a lousy servant to my own. In my life I’ve been the midwife to many people’s gifts while mine have remained mostly unrealized.

The window whispered, “A painting is a gift of love. So is a play. So is a book. These are your forms of love. Your gift is a gift of love. Love is god’s voice and you know god’s voice.”

“I do know it,” I said, timid to admit it. “Don’t we all?” I asked the window.

“Access is open to all. Few actually listen,” the window replied. “Few know how to listen. Most fear their gift and plug their ears.”

To offer my gift without inhibition is how I best express love to the world? That was old and new for me at the same time. I asked the window, “How many artists need to hear that message? How many people need to hear that message?”

“You are deflecting. You deflect your gift by serving other people’s purposes before your own. These questions you ask are the wrong questions,” said the window. “Yes, of course, all people need to hear the message. But, is it your purpose to deliver the message or is it your purpose to fulfill your gift? Helping others hear their message is not yours to do. Yours is to fulfill your gift and, in that way, help others to see their gift in a new way. You need do nothing but give your gift. They will see or not without your intervention. Love by giving your gift. It is simple. Give your gift, give your love, without reservation or doubt.”

“Love can be how you listen to a friend in need,” the pastor said. Love is not about the rules or the restrictions. Even when you try to alienate love, it will always find its way back to you. It will find its way back through you.

“You know god’s voice,” the window continued. “And you know it. Return to the truth; return to your truth. The question, ‘Why do you not use it,’ no longer matters. It, too, is a deflection. Asking ‘why’ merely delays the giving. Use it. Give it. Give as love.”

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.

Love Yourself Better

this one is from the archives. I painted this 10 years ago.

this one is from the archives. I painted this 10 years ago.

He said, “The current goal is to love myself better.” And then he added, “Not so much a goal but something that needs teaching from our own mind.” His statement begs a great question, an ages old question: Can the mind teach itself? Really, the question is can the mind see itself clearly enough to teach itself?  Or, the question within the question: Can the mind teach itself to love itself? I scribbled the questions in my notebook and beneath them I wrote, “Is love teachable? Is love reachable through the mind, especially self-love?

We’d been chatting for a while and had covered a lot of territory, from Monte Blanc pens to typewriters to soap use around the world, clean water, the difference between good and bad scotch, the shapes of the 50 states and how they might influence personal identity and we’d somehow wandered into the epicenter: self-love.

His statement nailed the universal dilemma perfectly. It was a declaration of separation. The self watching and wanting more for the self. The separation is in the language: to love myself better. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t made this statement. Which part of the self will better love the other part of the self? Which part of the mind will teach the other to love?

It is where myth meets the everyday. Every human being who has walked the earth has wrangled with separation and the yearning for self-love (re-connection to self, unity). The human journey is a walk from separation (birth, if you want to take it literally) to reunification (death). The story lives in mythologies the world round. If we were still willing to read our mythologies (religions) metaphorically, we’d see it. For instance, being expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating from the tree of knowledge is the story the ancients told of the experience of separation. The inevitable bite of apple from the tree of knowledge brought duality consciousness: male/female, us/them, mine/yours, haves/have-nots, me/you. Separation. The rest of the story, not often told, is how, through out the rest of our lives, we seek the Garden where there lives a second tree: the tree of everlasting life (unity). We journey from knowledge (separation) to everlasting life (reconnection). The death need not be literal. To die to the self is necessary to experience the SELF.

Here’s the great paradox: loving another person is an act of self-love. The path to self-love is found when we serve something bigger than our selves. Think about it: the movement is always from separation to joining, from isolation to connectivity. The obvious question is, “Connectivity to what?”

Self-love is not found when the mind teaches the mind but when the mind gets out of the way of the heart. The love is always there. Love is never missing. Self-love reveals itself when the definition of self grows beyond our own skin. According to our latest neurological science, we experience ourselves as separate because we dull ourselves to our fundamental connectedness to others. In other words, we cultivate a story of isolation and then set about the real work of our lives: to see beyond what we think.

And then he said, “You know what else I just realized?”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I just landed myself in a blog post.”

Yep.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, Visionary, title_pageSeeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

Or, go here for hard copies.