State The Obvious

Sometimes it is necessary to state the obvious (to myself). Sometimes, for me, the potency of life is found in stating the obvious: children are born and children grow up. They leave home. They become parents. Parents become grandparents. Grandparents grow old and pass away. At no point do things stand still.

Or, the obvious can be stated another way: children have dreams. They pursue their dreams or run away from them. Either way, they pass through the stages of becoming – and, at some point, believe that they have actually grown into something (doctor, clerk, lawyer, teacher, vagabond, parent, athlete, etc.). They learn that their dreams are infinitely more complex than they realized. All dreams come with challenges, regrets, and discomfort. Regardless of the path, at no point do things stand still.

We want to “get there.” We desire to arrive. Usually, the misperception of arrival leads to crisis when things change. And things always change. This river of life never stands still. It is never static. It is never fixed. The moment of birth begins the progression to dying. And, depending upon what you believe, a new form always arises when old forms fall away. The new form, the new leaf, turns brilliant colors, withers, falls to the earth, becomes soil and mineral, feeds the root, and reemerges as the grape that ripens, is picked, and becomes wine.

Where is the arrival?

Even inner stillness is fluid. Try to hang on to it; grasping always disturbs the pond. Stillness is more akin to surfing than to stasis. Chaos and order are not opposite sides of a polarity; they are essential phases in a single cycle. Ripples are necessary to experience stillness. Fulfillment and emptiness are necessary to each other. One does not gain without losing. One does not live without dying.

There is no arrival. There are fluid moments of recognition, moments of presence (a word that is often mistaken for an arrival). Presence, otherwise known as consciousness, might be defined as the awareness and appreciation of each moment amidst the realization that things always change. To try and stop the river, to hold on to the moment, to try and stop time will always bring frustration. Presence describes your relationship with change.

This is the obvious thing: nothing is certain. Nothing is still. We always step into uncertainty. We always step. We are never still. Our steps are always into the unknown because no one has ever lived their moments prior to the living of them- despite what the to-do list and cubicle illusion might lead us to believe. Realize it and life is rich and mysterious. Resist it and life is rigid and rich with hardship.

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Eat For Stillness

779. 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 exhausted today. I spurned all work and cleaned the studio. I prepared canvases. I stayed away from sharp objects and power tools. I made sure not to cross the street until I looked three times. During days of exhaustion, personal safety is the best I can do.

During my cleaning frenzy I cleared space in the studio. I made space. I created space. I needed space and that meant that things had to go. I made a rule that if I hadn’t touched the book or the tool for a year, I had to get rid of it. I got rid of a lot of stuff! Had you walked by my studio today and mentioned that you liked a painting, it would have gone home with you. I’d have given you two paintings because the spaciousness – the feeling of space – was energizing in my exhaustion.

This evening, Megan shook her finger at me for not taking good care of myself. Yesterday I forgot to eat. It happens when I get focused and busy. It won’t surprise you to learn that lack of food and exhaustion are connected. Making space and eating are both great remedies for my low energy. Megan read to me a passage from a book. The passage was about listening. According to the book listening is about stillness. Inner chatter disrupts listening. Her message was about taking care of myself inside and out. I am not listening to what I need. I am not listening to what my body is telling me. She was prompting me to return to my practice of stillness with a reminder that stillness inside is impossible if I am not caring for myself outside, not eating well, not resting appropriately.

Now that I’ve created spaciousness I intend to regain my stillness. To that end, I’m going in search of some very big, very hot, very yummy food.

Step Toward The Pond

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

This is one of those days when I don’t have a thought in my head. It’s cold out and I have been writing all day. My thoughts generally float around at about 30,000 feet so to bring them down to ground level is often difficult for me. My inner archeologist complains about the altitude; he likes to brush dust off of small things and look at them with a magnifying glass. He gives me that look of disdain and I tell him I can’t help it. In truth, I would have done well in life as a hot air balloon. I could have carried Oz to far away lands and back again with no problem.

Recently in a class, after the opening meditation, one of the participants acknowledged that she’d come a long way in managing her out-of-control thinking. She said, ”I’m learning to manage my thought addiction. Sometimes I’m surprised at how quiet my mind can be.” I loved her phrase: thought addiction. I believe thought addiction is the road we take when we define our lives according to our problems. When we start to recognize the patterns of our thinking, then we can kick the habit and let go the addiction. Our personal stories reveal themselves through the patterns of our thought – not only the content of our thinking but the pace: is your thought a runaway freight train or a still pond or something in between. Most of us run between the poles of freight train and still pond; orienting according to the problems will bring on the freight train. Pay attention to the patterns and you’ll begin to move toward the pond.

I learned years ago that, as a hot air balloon, the only prayer I had for developing a still pond was to learn to ground myself. I needed a root. My route toward the still pond began when recognized I was free floating without a tether. Now that I have a good root my clue that I’ve let go of the tether is the return of the freight train. And, without fail, the train comes screaming down the rails of a problem that I think I have. Once I remember that I don’t have any problems, I have patterns, then it’s an easy reach to the root and a only a few short paces to the still pond.

Show Up In Stillness

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

It is the dark days of winter in Seattle. We are rolling toward the winter solstice and my inner bear wants to burrow beneath the blankets and hibernate. Is there anything better than a nap on Sunday? Isn’t it beautifully decadent to sleep in after a long stretch of early morning wake up calls? To stay in bed on a cold morning, read and drink coffee – my inner bear just groaned with pleasure at the thought; bears in my world love coffee almost as much as naps.

It is also during these dark days that I return to the necessity of stillness. It is easier for me to get quiet in this season. Persephone returns to the underworld and Demeter grieves so the world rests. We mortals bundle up and meditate on the year we’ve lived and the dreams we entertain. And when we wind down our reflection, we get quiet. This morning I stared out the window for a long time! Don’t ask me what I was thinking; I wasn’t thinking anything. It’s as if the cold and dark pulled the thought right out of me.

I associate inner quiet with health. To me, inner quiet is akin to the absence of war. I’ve exited the debate. I can be present to what is in front of me. I can see beyond the interpretation. In class a few weeks ago, someone said, “I want to foster stillness so it is the default mode.” Isn’t that lovely? What a gift to give yourself to foster stillness so that it is your state of being; inner noise as the anomaly. So much of our stress is a result of the story we tell; can you imagine your life if inner quiet was the norm? Another person in class said, “I have great choice in how I show up in the world. I think I will make it my choice to show up in stillness.”

Choose Your Practice

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

In preparation for our class I was reading Alan’s book, Create A World That Works, and read a passage that I’ve read at least five times but never before registered. This time, it was the passage that stood out, the passage that stood up and said, “Hey!” The chapter is about stillness and the passage that hollered is a kind of equation that goes something like this: the more inner chatter you experience, the more you will try to control your outside world. Or, flip it over: quiet your mind and you will quiet your need to control things that you can’t control.

The inner world and the outer world are not separate affairs. One of the Hermetic Laws is, “As within, so without” and I understood the concept in story terms: quiet the racket inside and you will not live a life of racket on the outside. Yet, I hadn’t understood it in terms of the impulse to control. It makes sense to me: a life full of racket is a life full of the frustrated attempt to control things that you can’t control – which feeds the internal racket. It is a feedback loop.

I worked with a group this week and we played with the concept of “controlling what you can control and letting the rest go” – as it applies to personal and organizational health. A healthy person, a healthy organization is not invested in things beyond their control. They focus their energy and action where it is most effective. They are not invested in what other people think or see or feel; those things are beyond their control. They are invested in and responsible for what they think or see or feel. Their worth is in their own hands and not in the hands of others. Inner chatter, what you think, is a controllable. Every meditation and self-help book on the planet has clues about how to quiet the inner chatter. Add this to the pile: let go of what you can’t control, care more for what you think than you care about what others think. Chatter is a pattern and so it quiet; it is simply a matter of the practice you choose.