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)

Step On The Stage

My performance with the Portland Chamber Orchestra of "The Creatures of Prometheus. I wrote and performed the piece for PCO.

My performance with the Portland Chamber Orchestra of “The Creatures of Prometheus.” I wrote and performed the piece for PCO.

Craig is laughing at me and with good reason. Through a post he asked a simple question about people building boxes around themselves. He issued a singular challenge: to apply what I found in his post to my writing. I’ve had more ideas and random ruminations than I know what to do with; he opened a big can. Before I let it go, I want to wade into the last part of his question: when did I know to create my stage?

Craig positioned a stage (showing up) as the polar opposite of a box (hiding) so I read his question as asking when I decided to show up. I’ve learned that a stage can be a strategy for hiding, too, so “showing up” means much more than just being visible.

Many actors get on the literal stage because they are seeking appreciation or approval from the audience. When anyone mounts a stage, either literal or metaphoric, to seek approval, they split themselves. By definition, they must hide their intention (to seek approval) and in so doing, give away their power and potential. Young teachers often pass through a growth phase in which they seek the approval of their students; they want to be liked and their need for appreciation neutralizes their capacity to teach. Ironically, in both cases (actors and teachers), the moment they cease splitting their intention they become great at what they do and their respective audiences can’t help but appreciate them. That’s the way power works.

Several years ago I was working with a corporate client who was upset because he felt uncomfortable with what he’d learned from my workshop. I told him that I could either serve him or please him but I could not do both. I understood that my job was to help him grow and that necessarily required discomfort. If he wanted to be pleased he needed to hire someone else.

I hid for years. I split myself for decades. My dear friend Roger once said that one day in his middle 30’s he realized that he was no longer becoming someone. He was someone. Everyone navigates the “becoming.” It is a necessary and vital growth phase and is often filled with fears of inauthenticity and split intentions; everyone wants to be appreciated and everyone sacrifices their primary intention in a mad dash for approval until one day, if they are lucky, they realize the only approval they need is their own. My revelation came when I was preparing to go on stage to perform. I realized that I was steeling myself against the audience (preparing to hide). I was assuming that they were going to judge me, which is a form of approval seeking. It was like a cold slap. I’d never had a bad experience with an audience. I’d only ever experienced appreciation and support and wondered why I was steeling myself against the very people I was there to serve. My need for approval dropped like a stone. I went on stage, perhaps for the first time in my life, present and powerful. I didn’t need anything from them. I was bringing life and my gifts to them and that was all that was required. My whole world flipped. No armor. No mask. No need other than to offer my gift on that day to that specific group. Whether or not they accepted my offer could no longer be my concern.

I’ve since learned that discomfort is a very valuable thing. It is present anytime learning and growing is happening. In fact, if there is no discomfort, there’s no learning. And that is the plaque nailed to my stage.

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

Go here for hard copies (Amazon;-)