Empty The Dishwasher Slowly [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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In the dark ages, when I did my driver’s ed course, I remember reading an experiment in which two cars drove the same long distance route; the first car followed all of the speed limits. The second car drove as fast as possible. The second car, the speeder, arrived only a few minutes, 120 seconds, ahead of the rule follower. The illusion of speed is, well, an illusion.

We just drove a few thousand miles and along the way were passed by more than a few hurry-up-cowboys. In each case, their gain would be minimal. Often we’d catch them (and pass them) within a few minutes. It’s a game I can’t help playing: does the addiction to speed, the anxiety of I’m-late-I’m-late-I’m-late, or the anger of I-have-to-get-there-first actually produce significant gains?

An angel gave us a beach house to use for a week. My normal morning routine is predicated on the fantasy of efficiency. I can cook breakfast, clean and put away dishes while also sorting out and making lists of all the things I think I need to accomplish each day. At the beach I was always the first one awake. I’d start the coffee, wander around and open the blinds, and, after staring at the surf, I’d begin to empty the dishwasher. The waves lulled me into sanity. There was not an ounce of rush-and-get-it-done in my body. Efficiency was nothing more than a distant memory. I enjoyed my morning. Fully. I began wondering if I was just like those speedy drivers? Deluding myself with an idea that, in reality, gained nothing but a wee bit more stress.

What if the idea was more than to get the job done fast? What if the idea was to do the job well and well included the absence of manufactured, self-imposed stress? These are things I already know but have to remind myself to live. And, since all of life appears to me as an analogy, my latest reminder to live what I already know is now a simple dishwasher. Empty it slowly. It need not be at a beach house because, in fact, the beach house has very little to do with dropping delusions/illusions of achievement.

Will it matter if I empty the dishwasher 16 seconds sooner? So I can get through it to the next task that I will rush through so I can get to my next task? Is my efficiency real or in service to anything useful? Probably not. Actually, certainly, not.

Will it matter that I am present in my actions and mindful in my day? Will it matter that, instead of pushing myself to concocted efficiencies, that I arrive at an empty dishwasher 16 seconds later?  Will it matter if I carry that way of being throughout my day? So, that, instead of pressing myself to get it done faster, I allow myself to live my life well (and, yes, I use that word intentionally with a double meaning). To be in it rather than get through it.

Imagine what I might gain.


read kerri’s blog post about EMPTY THE DISHWASHER SLOWLY


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Feel The Music

852. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I stood with my face to the sun on the patio outside of the training room. Barney came up to me and asked, “Why did you choose to stand here?” It felt good. There was sun and quiet. He called my attention to the tree behind me. It was ancient and I was standing just on the boundary – at the circumference of the tree’s limbs. He said, “This is about right, the perfect spot. This is how you address something sacred – never face to it but open the chakras in your back and feel it. You are feeling it.” And I was…and I could.

I wasn’t doing it consciously. The grand old tree was humming and I was drinking it in. It felt like a good back massage. I stood in that spot because it felt good. A few times in my life I have performed – telling a story with a symphony – and stood facing the audience with my back to the orchestra. The sound from the symphony vibrated my bones. It warmed me. It was a musical massage. Standing with my back to the tree was similar. The vibration was as potent but not as explosive as the symphony. It was even, deep base. It quieted my mind.

Over the next few days Barney called my attention to how I orient myself to and feel power places. This is not a trick or magic or voodoo. It is not a special skill. Anyone can feel the music of the world. It requires standing still. It requires paying attention – not with your mind but with your body. It requires openness to joining rather than the dedicated separation that we practice in our very busy urban world. It requires being in life rather than moving through it.

Stand in the river. Close your eyes. Stop listening to the “hurry up” story running through your mind. Beyond the story you just might feel the exchange, the dance of giving and receiving. As Barney said, ”Nature balances. It is all a matter of polarities and you have to know what poles you are working with.” Balance is not a state of achievement but a constant dance of giving and receiving. It is movement, pulse and vibration. It is the tide.

Shovel Snow

716. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Today I shoveled snow. It’s been over 25 years since I shoveled snow, maybe longer. I loved it. I had to borrow boots. The snow was deep and powder dry so it looked like a lot of heavy shoveling but was relatively light. Stan, the man next door, came out with his snow blower. We waved, introduced ourselves and talked snow talk. There was so much snow that I had to shovel again later in the day.

Besides shoveling I let go all of my work. I didn’t open my computer until well after sundown. There was a long nap. There were pancakes and lots of coffee. I sat on a heater and looked out the window. I played. I learned how to make Runzas’.

I thought about Horatio because a week ago we attended a party and met the executive director of a symphony. Horatio and I talked about how, as children, we both loved Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. I hadn’t thought about that story in years. I associate Peter and the Wolf with snow because, when I was a kid and we had snow days, I’d sit in the basement for hours listening to an old record of the symphony with narration. I drew pictures of the wolf eating the duck, the bird circling the wolf to distract it as Peter captured the wolf by the tail. Snow and Peter and the Wolf go together in my mind.

There is a quiet that comes with the snow. That’s why I wanted to go out and shovel it. The worlds’ sounds soften; snow is a great muffler. Perhaps it is because the snow slows the pace of life – today it closed schools, businesses and roads city wide – that it inspires in me an inner quiet. There is a Hermetic Principle that applies: As within, so without. As without, so within. It was so quiet outside that I was silent inside. I mused as I shoveled that, one day, wouldn’t it be great if my inner quiet had the capacity to do for the world what snow is able to inspire in me.

Live What’s Important

712. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am sitting in the Seattle airport trying to remember the things I stressed about on this day ten years ago. I’m trying to remember the things that I thought were so important that I tensed over, felt frustrated about, anxious or angry. I can’t recall a single thing. If I broaden my view and ask what are the things I got worked-up about in the calendar year 2007, I remember a few events but the horror stories I told myself never came to pass. All the winning or losing in which I invested left only the slightest imprint. I suspect it took a toll on my body but in the end did it matter? Did my stress and anxiety make any difference in the arc of my life? No. Not once.

Today, as ran through the airport convinced that I was late for my flight, impatient for the train, angry with myself for not planning better, impatient with the security lines, I stopped cold in my tracks. I wondered if the story I was telling mattered. In the arc of my life, would it matter? No. What would happen if I missed my plane? It has happened before. I would figure it out. All of my stress was self-induced. I was not on a plane spinning out of control, I was not being chased by a hungry bear; stress in those cases would be welcome. My investment in my small world suddenly seemed silly. Ten years from now, when I am sitting in another airport, I will try and remember if all the things I thought were so important in February 2013 actually mattered. They won’t. I won’t even remember this race to a plane.

I’ve spent the past month writing about choice and becoming aware of the choices we have but do not see. I am, like all teachers, teaching what I most need to learn. I can report that once I stopped cold in my tracks and thought about it, I laughed at my dedication to stressing myself, and then walked very slowly to my gate. Even tempting fate I did not miss my plane.

I do not miss my stress. I certainly don’t need it. I stopped not beat myself up for my planning or lack of planning – that was nice. I took a breath. I even helped a man who lost his cell phone. I asked myself, “What’s really important?” I know I am trying to live the answer to that question.

Take The Train

672. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m on a train. It is night so I can see the distant lights, feel the swaying of the car, hear the whistle blow as if from a distance. I love riding trains. They are calming, peaceful. People relax when they are on a train. All around me people are sleeping and the few conversations happening are in hushed tones.

Although it might seem that planes and trains serve the same purpose, they are vastly different. A trip on a plane is nothing like the experience of a train. On the train, we are not crammed in to too tight spaces, buckled in and consistently distracted from where we are – as happens on a plane. When you are on a plane they don’t want you to think too hard about what you are really doing (hurtling through space in an aluminum tube at 30,000 feet). The beverage service and movie are there to keep you occupied. They tell me that babies cry on planes because the air pressure hurts their ears but I have a different theory: babies know they are skipping through space at 500 miles an hour and haven’t yet been socialized out of their feelings; they cry because it is the only sensible response to their predicament.

Not so on a train. Here, there is an entirely different philosophy at play. On the train, we are encouraged to look, we are free to walk about; there is a viewing deck! We are encouraged to take in our surroundings, not be distracted from them. We are on the ground. We are “in” it, not above it (if they are not yet sleeping, my car mates are staring out the window, deep in contemplation). Planes transport people from point A to point B; the “in between” space is tolerated. Trains are experiences; the “in between” space is the point. You can’t be in a hurry if you choose the train. Babies sleep on trains; they can’t help it, nothing rocks you to sleep like the motion of a train.

It is a happy accident that I am on this train tonight. And, I am amused at the theme appropriateness of this happy accident: this week I’ve been meditating on presence and slowing down – and wondering where in our contemporary lives does circumstance actually assist us in slowing down. I’ve found my metaphor on a train.

Click, Click, Click

667. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

SeaTac airport. 5:30 am. I’m sitting in the atrium holding coffee with both hands, staring into the void waiting for consciousness to catch up with my body or at least to know that my heart is beating enough to sustain life. I am not alone in my stupor though my stupor is decidedly less active than the stupor practiced by others. There is a different dull hum of voices in the morning; luggage wheels click over tile at a slightly slower rate, setting a tempo for the morning rush.

There are more business folk than families at this obscene hour. If I were a farmer I’d fly at this time of day and I’d move through the airport as if it were one of my fields. Slow, respectful. Business travelers have forgotten their inner farmer and walk with a deliberate goal in mind: get “there.” Even at this early hour and in their pre-coffee diminished capacity, they move with a studied determination. Click, click, click. No time to waste. A plane to catch. A sale to close. A deal to make. Ten minute rest interval. A trip to the gym. A light meal. Most have heads down and are answering emails as they move with intention to their portal.

Don’t get me wrong. I love business people. I work with business people. They live in a different culture than I do. They play by a different set of rules; they hire me because my rules are different and so I can see what they cannot. For instance, I do not believe that “time is money;” were we living in the industrial age that might still be true but it was an antiquated notion before my parents were born. I’m certain that “relationship is money,” that the path to efficiency is to slow down and not speed up (I can prove it). From my vantage point the prerequisite for success is cooperation, not competition. Cooperation is an infinite game and competition is finite; competition can live within cooperation, but not the other way around. I’ve learned from famous consultants that the only real purpose of a business is to serve a customer – that is cold language until you realize that the verb is “to serve” and “customer” is an antiseptic word for “human being.” Do you want to succeed in business: serve a human being. Serve lots of them. Focus on what you bring to them and not what you can get from them.

As I contemplate another cup of coffee (oh, okay…if I have to…) I want to whisper to the morning sprinters, “Markets are made-up just as are economies; they are constructs and not forces of nature; we make the rules, we thrive or suffer according to the world we make up. Let’s play a different game. Let’s practice health. Slow down. Live today. Take a look around: you are surrounded by those you serve.