Ride The Lion [on KS Friday]

watershed the songbox copy

Let’s just say that 2020 is off to a rough start. If I was to get out my old-school label maker and slap a sticky tape descriptor on last year, on 2019, it would be the year of contention. 2020 is shaping up to be the watershed. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk.

Broken contracts [literal and metaphoric]. Broken wrists. Broken dreams. All of our presses have stopped. We are moving very, very slowly through our days. We are having long conversations about where we’ve been, our successes and failures, dreams realized and those that went to ashes in our mouths, and where we want to go from here.

Unless you are being chased by a real lion, fear is mostly a function of imagination. In the real-lion scenario, fear is a life-saver that makes world-class sprinters of us all. In every other case, sans lion, it is a made-up monster that chases.  Running does no good. This chasing monster requires the opposite of the real lion: stopping, turning, and looking squarely into the eyes of your own dark imagination. The only relevant question is, “What’s wearing the mask of this monster?” Shame? Failure? What should have been? What will never be?

It is a turning point. Stopping. Breathing. Turning and staring back at your wild-eyed scare-fantasy and realizing that it’s merely a mechanism to prevent you from being where you are.  Standing in this exact moment is the only place from which you can enact change. It is the single location in which you can fully, unequivocally appreciate your life. Self-made monsters always dissipate when scrutinized.

Running away casts you as both runner and lion, chaser and chased. Fear the imagined-lion, be the runner. It splits you in half. The sky is falling! The sky is falling! And what if it is not falling? What if the lion-monster chases precisely to prevent you from standing still?

It’s a vicious circle, an energy eddy, this hyper-active dark imagination. It is true, if you think about it, that an imagination that is capable of so much doom is equally capable of fixating on the light side. Ride the lion. Better yet, give it wings so the ride is uncanny and wondrous. The ultimate human choice is where we decide to place our focus.

The story we decide to tell follows the focus-choice. Standing still, the only place from which we can see the array of choices and available stories, we are once again learning, seems to be the gift of the Watershed.

 

 

WATERSHED on the album AS IT IS is available on iTunes& CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WATERSHED

 

 

skylake website box copy

 

watershed/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Stand Out [on Two Artist’s Tuesday]

you be you bus copy

You be you. If you think about it, who else can you possibly be? As trite as it may seem, this appeal on the side of a bus captures in simple marketing language one of the greatest paradoxes of living life in the most individualistic culture on the planet. We are reinforced to be hyper-unique but hammered repeatedly to fit in. It is the ultimate split intention. It is why we have such a ubiquitous self-help industry and so many preachers-of-purpose-seeking. Asking, “Where do I fit in?” is a terribly hard question to answer when the expectation is to stand out.

I suspect our current dedication to division is, to some extent, built upon this paradox. Split souls are generally angry souls and anger is an easy organizing principle to exploit. Tribes of anger need nothing more than enemies to bridge the split. A good enemy, real or imagined, can provide to an angry tribe both a sense of individual purpose and a place to belong.

I heard a term the other day that frightened me: low information voter. Years ago I heard an economist speak at a conference and his message was profound. A healthy democracy requires an educated populace. Without the capacity to sort through the heaps of rhetoric, pull apart the agendas to see beyond the manipulation, without some simple capacity  for analysis, or a bigger picture, then votes will be cast from simple, uninformed and often angry belief. In other words, democracies fall when its members do not care enough to know what they are voting for. Power will always corrupt. The brilliance of a democracy is that the people are meant to be the ultimate check on power. In order to be the check, they have to look beyond the political party line and ask, “What really happened here?”

The leaders of angry tribes need low information voters. It’s the only way they can stay in positions of power. It feels good to fit in. But, in a culture known for its individuality, it feels all the more satisfying to stand up, to stand out and ask, “What’s really going on here?”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU BE YOU

 

savannah selfie WEBSITE BOX copy

Give Over The Melody Line [on KS Friday]

as it is songbox copy

Spiritual teachers across traditions suggest that the reason we suffer is that we focus on what we think should be/supposed to be instead of on what is. The dedication to being someplace other than where you are will split you every time! The notion that you can be someone other than who you are (at this moment) will cleave you in two. And so, we have traditions of mindfulness (be where you are) and acceptance (be who you are) and forgiveness (be at peace with who and where you are). The cliff notes version: stop hewing yourself in two and you will stop suffering.

This is the seed-idea that inspired AS IT IS. This is what is supposed to be. All is as it is, as it should be.

I delight when Kerri tells me the story behind a composition. This morning, as we listened, she asked me to pay attention to the melody line. The flute mostly carries it. The keyboard – what she is playing – is in a support role. She said it this way: the keyboard gives over the melody line. The flute gives it back. The keyboard returns it to the flute.

No resistance. Relationship. AS IT IS. These, too, are spiritual suggestions for mending the hew. I’ll add to my canon as a practice for presence: give over the melody line.

 

AS IT IS on the album AS IT IS, available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AS IT IS

 

by the fire in breckenridge website box copy

 

as it is/as it is ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

Expand Your Bubble [on Merely A Thought Monday]

alex honnold quote box copy

Everyone has their insurmountable mountain to climb. Everyone has their fear to face. Everyone bumps against the edges of their comfort zone. Everyone.

And, the beauty of this life is that the insurmountable mountain is different for everyone. What seems easy to you might be impossibly scary to me. You show me it is possible. I show you it can be done. We inspire another look at what’s possible.

In the film, FREE SOLO, Alex Honnold says that, for him, fear is not something to be conquered. Comfort is something to be expanded. And, comfort is expanded through exploration and practice. Through experiences and reaching. Testing and discovery. Trying again and again until what once looked like a monster becomes known. It’s remarkably practical. It is what education is supposed to be.

How we ask the question determines the paths we see or don’t see. It’s all in the language we use. “Facing a fear” is oh, so, warrior-esque. We are inundated with “going to battle” metaphors. Defeating a part of myself in a battle against myself seems…contrary to the bigger picture. Win by losing. Division as the only available route? Armor, armor everywhere.

There is wisdom in putting down the swordplay. There is hope in choosing cooperation instead of conflict. Instead of picking a fight, instead of perpetuating the power of the fear, how much better might it be to turn and look. Really look. Study. To reach and test. To take a step. To try and fall down so that you might try again with a little bit more experience. Study. Open to possibilities.

It’s a pattern. Focusing on the obstacle, fighting the fear, is learned. It’s a great strategy for keeping yourself afraid and encased in armor. Other patterns are available and far more productive. It’s possible to climb like Alex: study your mountain, learn the terrain, practice the difficult moves over and over, internalize safety, and one day, when you are ready, when you have a relationship with something other than fear, climb your once insurmountable mountain.

 

read Kerri’s blog post on COMFORT ZONES

 

 

million dollar highway, colorado websitebox copy

Unify

a watercolor from 2003, House On Fire

a watercolor from 2003, House On Fire

Stay with me. I actually have a point.

If ever I teach actors again, or coach people in any endeavor, or communities/businesses seeking betterment, I will only have two things to teach: 1) Grounded-ness and 2) Focus placement on the unifiers. These two concepts are really  one looping concept but for ease and the sake of being understood, I will offer them independent of one another.

As focus placement goes, an actor on the stage has two options and depending on the focus placement they choose, they will either create the play or destroy it. A focus on how they look or sound or feel destroys the play. It is a self-focus in an art form of relationship (all art forms are made vital in relationship). A self-focus breaks the relationships and effectively locks the audience out of participating in the story. It makes the actor giddy with fear, easily distracted, alone. Conversely, the actor can focus outside of themselves, on the other actors on the stage, on the energy between, on their pursuit. An outer-focus creates relationships and serves as a magnet that pulls audiences into the story. It facilitates participation, creates relationship, and shared experiences. It unifies. Literally.

The actor who listens to him/herself pulls up their root. They unground themselves. The actor whose focus is outward, who is actively pursuing relationship, creates grounding. In fact, they must be grounded to create vital relationships. It is a first principle. Grounded-ness begets grounded-ness; it unifies. It strengthens. It invites. It clarifies truth.

The same principles apply off the stage or out of the studio. It is, however, more complex off the stage. It is much, much, more sticky.

And here’s the point: It has been said that nothing is better at uniting a community than having an enemy. It’s true. A common enemy provides an outer focus. It provides another team to defeat. It works so well that leaders across the ages, leaders who would otherwise look insipid, leaders who, like a bad actor, have a self-focus, a control need, have concocted all manner of enemies. It is a deflection. It works for a short while but what starts as false unity strips a community of its true binder. It separates and splits. It diminishes. It destroys.

Here’s the sticky part. One of the oldest tricks in the book for controlling a community is to split them, to locate the enemy within the community. And then, for good measure, magnify the split. In the early colonies – that ultimately became The United States of America – it was a strategy known as The Giddy Masses (see Ronald Takaki’s excellent book A Different Mirror). Make the people giddy with a false enemy. Uproot them. Deflect them so they cannot join in relationship and be strong as a community. Self-focused leaders cannot survive a unified, healthy populace. It is a strategy: separate the people so they cannot see the movement of power.

Today I started to read the news but stopped after only a minute. Building walls. Expelling Muslims. Enemy creation everywhere! Fox news and MSNBC are great giddy creators. It’s a bad story poorly told. It weakens all players. The primary actors do harm to their audience. Grounded-ness, a first principle, can only come to all when the actors choose to focus on the relationships, see the unifiers, to create rather than destroy. Groundedness comes when the audience engages, questions what they are being told and open (rather than close) their minds.

Grounded-ness. Focus placement on the unity. The principles that make great art also make great society. Fear, the province of the bad actor, the lot of a passive audience, although temporarily effective, can only destroy the play.

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Step Into The Dot

Kerri and I are bringing our work together in a new form: Be A Ray! More on this tomorrow

Kerri and I are bringing our work together in a new form: Be A Ray! More on this tomorrow

Raquel and I had an extraordinary conversation yesterday. We always have extraordinary conversations that serve to shake loose the penny in my mind that needs to drop. Yesterday’s penny was about the question of a universe by design versus a universe of utter chaos.

So much of this past year seems by design. There have been too many serendipities, too many perfect circumstances, too many uncanny seeming coincidences. Last year I told her I was in a fast moving river racing toward my destiny. I could feel it. I can feel it. Raquel asked if perhaps that has always been true and that I was simply seeing it now.

My response to her question surprised me. I told her that all of my life I’ve had one foot in each universe. When the tides seemed against me or things were uncomfortable, then I was convinced that I was a bobber in a chaotic ocean. When I had one of the mystic/profound experiences that have become the hallmark of my life, when the tides seemed to go my way, I found it convenient to believe in a universe of a perfect design. I told Raquel that this year I’ve finally understood that I can’t have it both ways. I am either a bobber in a vast ocean or I’m here by design. Or, more to the point, I understand that the chaos I experience is my response to the design. Both feet are in one idea. The universe-by-design (a universe of participation and co-creation) must be true in the uncomfortable moments as well as the profound. It has to be true in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. There is only one tide. It is a game to pretend otherwise.

In the past few years, the theme of my growth has been to finally see where I have been living with one foot in and one foot out – and to at last put both feet in. If you are driving to work waiting for retirement, you are one foot in. If you have a backdoor plan in your relationship, you are one foot in. If you are seeking proof of your faith, you are one foot in. You’d be amazed at what becomes visible, what you see, when you cease dividing your intention, splitting your presence, and stand with both feet in. Kerri and I call this, “stepping into the dot.”

[to be continued]

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

Honor The Split

after hurricane Katrina I was invited to write an illustrate a children's book. There is only one copy: the original went to a child displaced by the storm. This is the first plate. The book is called 'Peri Winkle Rabbit Was Lost.'

After hurricane Katrina I was invited to write and illustrate a children’s book. There is only one copy: the original went to a child displaced by the storm. This is the first plate. The book is called ‘Peri Winkle Rabbit Was Lost.’

Another of the revelations that tumbled through my mind yesterday concerned “splits.” I’ve written often about split intentions, a concept that the fabulous Viv McWaters encapsulated for me when she offered the Chinese proverb: Chase two rabbits and both will get away. Much of my organizational, educational and creative coaching life has been in service to clients who come to me when they have split their intention and are watching both their rabbits escape. I helped them unify their intention and, therefore, clarify their pursuit.

The dark side of the moon that I rarely talk about (and that came clear to me yesterday) is the necessity of a split intention at certain points in a process that make growth possible. The best example is the split that happens within a caterpillar’s body once it cocoons. The encoding for “butterfly” activates, the caterpillar’s body reads it as a cancer, and a battle ensues. A split occurs: to remain a caterpillar or to become a butterfly. Old systems do not easily let go so the caterpillar’s body fights and nearly defeats the inner butterfly intention. However, the resistance makes the butterfly code grow stronger and it fights back. This back-and-forth inner debate progresses until finally the caterpillar’s body collapses into mush (in story cycles, this “mush phase” is the step into the unknown). The mush slowly takes on a new shape and a new identity emerges. The final necessary battle is the newly formed butterfly’s struggle to exit the cocoon. Help a butterfly out of the cocoon and you will kill it; the final struggle is necessary for the wings to grow strong.

This necessary split plays out in humans, too. All change (all stories) begin when the main character (you) are knocked off balance by an event or an inner imperative. This is the moment of a necessary split intention: do I stay or do I go. After being knocked off balance we do the same thing that the caterpillar’s body does: we run to safety and grab onto what we know. We fight off the necessity of change, denying the imperative, grasping for the feeling of security we no longer possess. This is a necessary phase! This debate, running to the safety of home and hiding – and then walking to the edge of our known world and staring at the horizon – and running back home again, creates heat. It gets energy moving. This back and forth, this inner split intention is necessary. It makes the imperative grow impossible to ignore. It is the process necessary for the main character (you) to understand that what was once secure is now suffocating. The discomfort of the unknown becomes more attractive than the safety of the known because of this inner split, this tug-of-war. When, like the caterpillars body, everything goes to mush and there is no way to go back, the only way forward is to step into the present moment without form or identity. Letting go of the known, stepping into the unknown, is the beginning of reunifying the split. Stepping into the unknown is a commitment to a single rabbit to chase.

The split creates the heat necessary for change. At the right moment in every life story, just as in the caterpillar’s transformation, a split intention is essential. To rush through this phase is just as devastating as trying to help the butterfly out of the cocoon. Trying to eliminate the discomfort too soon is a sure way to stay split and ultimately kill the transformation.

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 (Amazon)