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

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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Be An Avid Catcher Of Your Thoughts

TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS

Be an avid catcher of your thoughts

This notion is the heart of change. It is the practice of self-awareness. Listen to the story you tell yourself about your self.  It is ripe with ideas, dreams, and yearnings. It is also ripe with fears, doubts, and comparisons. Capture the ideas. Listen to the dreams. Follow the yearnings. It’s a muscle. Develop a focus for the creative. Capture what’s useful and let the other jabber go.

Screen Shot Avid Catcher

TO GET TODAY’S FEATURED IDEA FOR HUMANS, GO HERE

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.

 

Choose Your Path

A watercolor I call, "House On Fire." It's an unusual piece for me...

A watercolor I call, “House On Fire.” It’s an unusual piece for me…

I am still unpacking from my move. My sketchbooks and journals have been bound in plastic wrap since I hauled them across the country and then brought them into the house from the Budget truck in October. I cut the wrap this morning because I was looking for a sketch to give as a gift and during my hunt I found an old work journal. It was a gold mine!

I’m preparing to facilitate a workshop on The Art of Team and the notes I found were from a team I worked with a few years ago. This organization had a history of abusive leadership. There was a serious lack of trust within the group. It was a classic case of “everyone else is to blame and nothing is my fault.” Everything was territory that needed to be guarded and protected, especially personal value. Their individual worth as human beings was always in question.

Here are notes from our world-class conversation. This is what the team discovered as it waded into the swamp of its dysfunction:

The path of power splits, there is a fork in the road of power:

One path leads to the creation of power with others.

The other path leads to power over others; a path of taking from others.

The fork is defined by where each individual seeks their worth:

Seeking your worth based on others responses will take you down the path of needing power over others.

Finding your worth within yourself will open your way to creating power with others.

Here’s the point: it is impossible to change the group dynamic and create a cohesive team until you change yourself. Every dysfunction in a team can be traced back to this root.

In this sense, people never have problems, they have patterns (This is the first recognition from my book, The Seer):

Seeking your worth from others is a pattern.

Finding your worth within yourself is a pattern.

Seeking your worth from others patterns you to orient according to what you get from others.

Finding your worth within yourself patterns you to orient according to what you bring to others.

If you desire a functional team, cease seeking to solve your problem (seeking your worth in others eyes) and begin establishing a new pattern (find your worth within yourself).

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.