7 January 2018
In the spirit of the New Year and in timing with recent highlighted social issues and the Golden Globes, I’d like to give some space here to Daphne Merkin in her attempt to provide some context and wider perspective. I’ve always appreciated her often piercing, subtle and keen observations on the human experience, including her in-depth, honest considerations about long-term depression. But beyond this, I find it admirable that she takes on such a socially touchy subject with great courage and elegance, knowing full well in advance that it’s not going to make her life or career any easier.
In this sense within my own frame here of creative personal skills development, I consider her observations and manner of expressing them to be an accomplished performance of many of the themes, qualities and specific skills I’ve addressed here in this blog over the years (including the more subtly quiet undercurrent of support for real feminism). It’s not the answers she may allude to as much as the qualitative personal process in the questioning, including the underlying willingness to reach beyond rigidly reactive, common opinions in the search for a more expansive understanding. I hope you can take a few minutes to read her article…
“For many weeks now, the conversation that has been going on in private about this reckoning is radically different from the public one. This is not a good sign, suggesting the sort of social intimidation that is the underside of a culture of political correctness, such as we are increasingly living in.”
“Perhaps even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be — and perceive themselves to be — as frail as Victorian housewives.”
“These are scary times, for women as well as men. There is an inquisitorial whiff in the air, and my particular fear is that in true American fashion, all subtlety and reflection is being lost. Next we’ll be torching people for the content of their fantasies.”
“Although I found the article you linked from Daphne Merkin to be intelligent and somewhat insightful, I also felt that she – and by association, you – is being insensitive to the very real abuses that some women have been suffering through, for which the #MeToo movement has helped to bring to light and also give them a forum to express their struggles. You have a reputation for being a strong defender of women’s rights, and I don’t quite see why you’ve taken on such a position and role within this issue.”
Thank you for writing in. I understand what you’re saying here.
The position and role I’m taking is one of highlighting and supporting “the qualitative personal process in the questioning, including the underlying willingness to reach beyond rigidly reactive, common opinions in the search for a more expansive understanding,” as I mentioned in my blog post above. I like Daphne Merkin’s courage, honesty, grace and genuine attempt to provide an independent, wider perspective — all qualities my work and this blog seek to encourage and support (as well as the subtler aspect of taking on any negotiation from a perspective that tries to avoid intensified polarity with an enemy to unquestioningly blame).
As she mentioned in her article, this is a “bona fide moment of moral accountability,” one that can perhaps develop a momentum sufficient to cause a shift in male abuse of power in general and sexual abuse specifically. But for that to happen, the conversation has to include a deeper willingness to really listen on all sides, as well as a developed skill to openly, creatively look into the subtleties in play. That parallels all kinds of difficult negotiations, including where I believe the focus on “very real abuses” might be better directed, much of which is beyond the relatively comfortable and somewhat abstract considerations of the highly privileged (such as but not only, of course, the thousands of Rohingya women and girls who have been and are being raped, tortured and often left to die in an inconceivable hell, for whom the cost of a $10,000 sexy black dress or tiny percentage of a $165,000,000 house would certainly cause a significant shift, today).
I’d also like to take a moment here to thank the impressive women who responded to my blog post— and Ms Merkin’s article — with enthusiastic support from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America, some of whom I know have suffered through difficult dynamics with male power abuse in their lives (and probably to some degree with me in my often overly assertive manner). Your willingness and ability to stretch out beyond reactive outrage to seek a more nuanced, balanced, graceful cohesiveness in the conversation is sincerely appreciated and a guiding inspiration. You are the ones we should be listening more to, and I intend to do that.
15 November 2017
“In old notions of growth and development there was always this idea…that somehow we needed something to push against in order to grow. Now there’s almost a feeling that growth should be delivered to us…
Around us, the forces are not kind in terms of either recognizing, awakening or encouraging beauty. But, actually, this should be the impetus and the spark to do it…
The question is, when is the last time that you had a great conversation? A conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversation a lot in this culture. But when had you last a conversation in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew? That you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you’d thought you had lost? And a sense of an event of conversation that brought the two of you onto a different plane? And then fourthly, a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterward?”
Thank you, Paul, for your excellent timing in sending this along. There are some wonderful jewels interspersed throughout that augment and give unique nuance to many of the themes we’ve explored here, and make the investment of time in listening definitely worthwhile.
22 October 2017
“I started to reflect quietly on my journey…looking at the place I am now. My heart had broken in so many pieces, I never thought it could be mended. And yet, it has…one thread of gold at a time, one thread of love at a time. I remember your talking about alchemy. I think I now understand this process not in my head, but in the deepest of my heart.”
Thank you, Thérèse, for your courage, poetry and inspiration, and for your guiding remembrance of conversations we’ve shared…
“…Wabi-sabi, which means to find beauty in broken things or old things… The importance in kintsugi is not the physical appearance; it is more likely the beauty and the importance stays in the one who is looking…”
And here’s some very worthy related themes, ideas and images to explore on “the beauty of the natural world at the intersection of art and science.” I particularly like these sketchbooks of the artist, Dina Brodsky…
3 September 2017
This should be a collateral funny moment from your last video clip about remembering our humanness… Guy
How true is this? 🙌😂 from Sebastian ManiscalcoLike ===> FeedUps
Posted by FeedUps on Friday, April 8, 2016
30 July 2017
I know I’m late in getting something worthwhile on this blog after the recent Los Angeles workshop. This is just a little gesture to celebrate the brilliance and unusually enthusiastic willingness of all of you who participated in this adventure. My sincere appreciation for your depth and sincerity of engagement.
Here’s a little write-up I prepared for the event that we picked through in detail on Sunday and which seemed to make complete sense to everyone at the time (although I was also accused of being too abstract). So, perhaps this will help to recall that clarity. In reading it again now, I recognize how successfully this was accomplished over those two days…
Intent is another way to look at the idea of spirit, as in the spirit of engagement. Finally, this is really what personal spirituality is. Not concept or technique or belief or even specific project, but purposeful intent in the musicality of engaging anything at any moment. This moves from conscious motivation into the dimension of fluid qualitative embodiment — organic, spontaneous expression of virtues such as integrity, care and grace. Not for gain or even intentional influence as much as just natural personification because it’s clearly the better way to go.
It is this in full, consistent exemplification that makes for true human spiritual engagement and evolution. And the primary evidence of its existence is that these virtues show up not just within the defined arenas and frames of personal preference but across any and every engagement — not going somewhere to find sacredness, but bringing a sense of sacredness to wherever you happen to be.
Depth of conviction in intention is where the game begins to shift in new and unusual ways. This can be practiced in small, brief ways in which we lean toward more incisively generous behavior than the situation seems to call for. Over time, this sets a standard of creative quality that becomes unique. Others begin to pivot and fold into our initiatives, and the underlying tone or musicality in any shared activity moves toward a graceful unified efficiency. One begins to blend into and become a functional force of nature.
And a couple of remarkable pieces that seemed to speak toward this and hit the right notes for us all…
(“When you get older, plainer, saner…” !)
“I feel like I’m still floating after the seminar. While I haven’t yet read through the little notes I took, preferring to just let things settle, I do have this sensation of joy and lightness as I think back on our shared time.
Monday morning I woke up to song lyrics, a musical chorus on repeat. The lyrics were foggy. I tried once to find it but the words I thought I heard were wrong. And then I thought back to the conversation about the 9 daughters of creativity and ‘don’t look them up’ so I stopped my quest to find it. But I continued to dance and float as the few phrasings I remembered played on and on.
A gift was then bestowed on me very early morning. The music of my alarm growing louder as I awoke. I heard perhaps the last 8 or 16 counts of a song and froze. Could that be the song I was looking for?! This time I had to know so I looked up the radio station and found the playlist. I picked a title I didn’t know… it was the song. Lost on You. I got chills as I listened to it, could see myself in the seminar playing with it. And then when I really heard the words, I realized what a brilliant piece of music it was.
We’ve talked many times about music and its ability to help me recall very specific moments from events; we talked about it on Sunday afternoon. It’s such a visceral connection, well beyond my intellectual understanding. The gifts I have received from you over these years are too numerous to count. I am particularly grateful for the gift of music as it connects me, reminds me of the other gifts as well.” J.B.
Thank you for your appreciative remembrances and for sharing this excellent story. Here’s a little playlist I put together of selections from that last seminar, which I hope helps to call to mind some of the exceptional moments we shared…
4 June 2017
“… Silences in which you can actually breathe again, and breathe in a way in which your body is not tense or set against the world — you know? A silence in which there’s a sense of spaciousness and of discovery …
There’s a way in which we’ve been treating ourselves as some kind of recalcitrant animal that needs to be harried into its experience …
And that every morning when you wake up you should really ask yourself, and remind yourself, what it is that you were born in this world for.”
20 May 2017
A small gesture toward celebrating the young women who go out of their way to include a fuller spectrum of consideration in our questions about personal development. There’s something refreshingly invigorating, and relieving, in a voluptuous dialogue inclusive of the more complex and sometimes difficult aspects of living. Just love these titles…
“Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research.”
Emily Esfahani Smith
“Values are often thought of as these very abstract things, on walls in offices, but ultimately have little meaning. But actually every single day all of us have hundreds of opportunities to make choices that are towards or away from our values. If we can start recognizing that values are actually qualities of action rather than abstract things, it helps us to thrive.
One of the first things is showing up. Instead of trying to push our emotions aside or trying to put on a happy face…literally drop any struggle that you have within yourself by ending the battle… Really just open up to the fact that we have a full range of emotions. These emotions have helped us and evolved to enable us to position ourselves effectively in the world.”
17 March 2017
“The greatest human endeavor is to bring imagination’s yearning into the preset limitations of a circumstance that won’t allow for it. You could say that this is how we create heaven on earth, at least for and in that moment.”
(Photo from Aleppo by Joseph Eid)
“By the way, your two recent music videos are inaccessible: By Design (UMG blocked it under copyright grounds), and Con Te Partiro (‘The uploader has not made this video available in your country’).”
Yes, sorry about that. It depends on the country you access my site from. You can track these both down on YouTube and elsewhere, or buy them for a couple dollars from iTunes or other sources. Here’s a couple of links to try for versions of Con Te Partiro, which goes very well with the photo above…and thank you…
3 March 2017
One advantage of having an online blog is that you can come back and correct various errors made in public, or at least insert parts to your presentation that you’d forgotten. After my last workshop in Los Angeles, I went back over my notes looking for the usual missing 40% – 60% that I’d accidentally omitted or just couldn’t find an appropriate moment to include. So, for the record, here’s some material that was designated for that event but never made it into the conversation, along with a few brief highlights of parts that did, all related but somewhat randomly placed here for intuitional evocation…
Ingerspitzengefuehl (German): The ability to think clearly about numerous phenomena and to understand how they relate on multiple levels.
The Zen Buddhist monk and scholar D. T. Suzuki gives some sense of contextual reconstruction when he writes of the experience of satori: “Satori may be defined as an intuitive looking into the nature of things in contradistinction to the analytical or logical understanding of it. Practically, it means the unfolding of a new world hitherto unperceived in the confusion of a dualistically-trained mind. Or we may say that with satori our entire surroundings are viewed from quite an unexpected angle of perception.”
Pihentagyú (Hungarian): Literally meaning “with a relaxed brain”; quick-witted people who come up with sophisticated jokes or solutions, too tiring or complex for most other people.
Lynda Barry describes her creative process as “creative concentration.” She says that when adults find themselves in a state of creative concentration they are experiencing the same things children do when they are playing. Barry says that three things characterize this kind of play: an interaction with something that feels alive, no planning, and a sense of anxiety. Her example for interacting with something that feels alive is a child that carries around a security blanket or stuffed bunny. The child knows that the object is not alive but will also claim that it is not dead either; the object is somewhere in between. She believes that at the center of any true artwork there is something alive, and emphasizes that an adult cannot find this creative life through planning what they’re going to make, write, or dance, or by watching other professionals. Instead, we must use our bodies during creative concentration just as children do when they are playing.
Desenrascanço (Portuguese): To artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation.
Desbundar (Portuguese): To shed one’s inhibitions in having fun.
Honesty generates and promotes authenticity. Honesty is a clear and timely transmission of your own actions, perceptions, thoughts and emotions. If you want people to know who you really are and engage you in real ways, the pathway to that is honesty in self-expression.
Honesty fosters courage. Courage is not the absence of fear; it is doing what you know you want or need to do, despite your fear. Courage starts with self-awareness and admitting to your own feelings, motivations and actions. Keeping a clean slate is a daily practice of courageousness, especially when you fear the anticipated consequences.
Honesty also builds trust by bringing people closer in dependable connection. It forms a context for relationships in which you are seen as representing “what is so” and can be relied on. Such trustworthiness invites and empowers others to offer parts of themselves they otherwise could not, deepening intimacy and connection over time, as well as expanding spectrum of engagement.
Majime (Japanese): Someone who is reliable, responsible and able to get things done without causing problems for others.
Dadirri (Australian aboriginal): A deep, spiritual act of reflective and respectful listening.
A huge part of the search for happiness game is about recognizing and adapting to the fact that most happiness, truly freeing and fulfilling satisfaction, comes only through producing happiness or resolution for others. The first steps in this direction involve identifying what or who you care enough about to want to make joyful, whole and free. That is, what or who you already have enthusiastic willingness to sacrifice for.
Sehnsucht (German): “Life-longings”, an intense desire for alternative states and realizations of life, even if they are unattainable.
“It is tragic how few people ever ‘possess their souls’ before they die. ‘Nothing is more rare in any man,’ says Emerson, ‘than an act of his own.’ It is quite true. Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ~ Oscar Wilde, De Profundis
Eunoia: The shortest English word containing all five main vowel graphemes. It comes from the Greek word εὔνοια, meaning “well mind” or “beautiful thinking.”
“Tap into the frequency, love
Fall from dusk to dawn, I am truly alive
The satellite that sits in frame to illuminate this shaded place
Moments don’t pass me up, no, no
‘Cause I seize them in stride
Tell them winnin’ never gave me in
When I eternally have faith
In the choices you made, it’s all by design
Go with it, mmmm
I see everything with new beams, I do dream
My eyes are glowing mood rings, you’re boring
Stop dueling with the truthing, I do think
When you think too much you’re removing what’s moving
Stuck inside a statue, look at you
Go ahead and poke, well then something gon’ catch you A petty logo, shed all my tattoos
I read all the bad news that says I’m too careful
Kid Cudi (thank you, Aimery)
Baraka (Arabic): Gift of spiritual energy or “sanctifying power” that can be transferred from one person to another.
Sukha (Sanskrit): Genuine lasting happiness independent of circumstances.
1 January 2017
(Photograph by Carl Court)
I’d like to take a moment at the beginning of this New Year to appreciatively acknowledge those who have taken the risk of staying on course with their grander sensibility of life through this past year.
I’m not talking of those who implement a modicum of calculated risk as necessary collateral gamble within a strategic business or relationship plan. Nor of those who market and sell “risk” by regurgitating someone else’s aphorisms about courage for their own public relations or who’ve recognized the lack of emotional freedom in others and have figured out ways to exploit that longing. But rather, those who take risks that go unnoticed and uncelebrated in an attempt to somehow uphold their sense of nobility within situations that don’t comfortably allow for it.
By nobility, I mean the simple embodiment of what one senses to be just and more generously virtuous within oneself – not for gain or recognition or even improvement, but because it’s what a grander world would have, what a given moment creatively calls for.
Often, this demands a muscularity of choice that can put at risk collected opinions of comfortable approval that are usually the products of a carefully constructed design. A theme I’ve often come back to over the years is “Some people have jobs, some have careers, some have purpose; and somewhere down the road there will most likely be a conflict of interest between these, and one will have to choose.” (That’s not going to win me a lot of likes on Facebook, but it does happen to be true.)
It can be tremendously freeing to spend time with someone who has genuinely come to terms with this, as the questions and struggles we all encounter in life are experienced differently. Purpose then opens into an expansive matrix of resolved intent with conscious focus. Philosophy becomes creative examination of how to get things done. Spirituality becomes necessary rituals that generate clear perspective and the kind of energy one requires to maintain grace. And any given moment is as filled with creative possibility as another, only limited by how much of oneself one can find and bring to the show.
We all find moments in which we stretch beyond the common and familiar, touch what is most noble within ourselves. And we can often recognize such relative grandeur by noticing in retrospect that this is when we like ourselves the most and experience self-respect. So, my acknowledgement here is also a quiet encouragement and reminder to us all.
I had the luck recently to be not too far away from the center of the war zone in the Middle East, where I had a number of wonderful encounters with quietly virtuous colleagues, friends and strangers, and where the above photo was taken. It’s a great image that I think captures the essence of this spirit of noble risk within seriously challenging circumstances. I wish I could give that kid some shoes, as that would make his ride through hell that much more fun.
My thanks to all who have supported my work throughout this last year, along with my hopes for an exceptionally likable year ahead. I look forward to seeing many of you soon.
16 November 2016
Here’s a little bridge between my last post and the upcoming workshop in Israel I’ll be leading in a couple weeks. Perhaps it’s interesting for those who follow, consciously or not, the various interweaving threads of themes that we can sometimes perceive in the timing and placement of events around us.
I like this conversation for a lot of reasons. Some for the range and intelligence in subjects touched upon. But mostly for the overflowing humanness in presence and engagement — humbleness, kindness, wit and uplifting humor, genuine affection and respect, and personal authenticity. Graciousness. It’s an excellent example of what I’ve referred to on this blog and elsewhere as “a real conversation.”
A few phrases I’m particularly fond of, that just naturally show up in a basically casual, enjoyable conversation…
“I’ve found it’s best not to name a relationship.”
“I don’t recommend this as a spiritual exercise. But if it does happen to you, a lot of important information is delivered to your heart.”
“First of all there was the psychic catastrophe, when the contract between people began to disintegrate.”
“The real weapons of mass destruction are the hardened hearts of humanity.”
“I recognize, in a fraternal sense, that a course correction is urgent and indicated.”
“There are times in our history when we have found the ability to change, in very significant ways, as a result of hope and by projecting our moral imagination into the future.”
“Just read your blog and absolutely love this. So much packed into a ten minute conversation, which just reminds me how much you can make happen in such a brief time if your heart and mind are rising, meeting the demands and possibilities of a real moment.
I love that new quote on your website homepage too. ‘It’s not as if the doors to these enchantments aren’t constantly opening throughout each and every day of our lives.’ This idea that mystery is always around us, that the doors to these enchantments are always there just around the corner if one is wakeful enough to engage life in a more intimate and childlike way…wholeheartedly into whatever is most compelling!
Just wanted to say these made my day. Thank you.”
Glad you like these, and thank you for your enthusiastic comment.
“There can be so much static in my daily life. I think I used to live amidst that static constantly without even realizing it. More and more I am aware of it and search for a handhold, tunnel or breath to lead me out of it, either by dropping below it or finding some way to climb up out of it. Even just reading this blog and the ones preceding immediately clear any static, calm my breathing, and transport me back to Life itself. This interview is so nourishing, and it’s placement amidst your previous posts, really concretely inspire, teach and yes, nourish by example. All these examples of “Transparent, unpretentious, genuine presence and care is all that anyone and anything really needs,” and the invitation for more “Solvitur Ambulando” both concretely and metaphorically in my own life…”
Thank you for such an encouraging, inclusive, intelligent response, which itself manifests what you’re talking about. I’m glad to know there’s some positive influence from the offerings here.
1 November 2016
“Recently, during a very difficult passage in my life, a friend pointed me to your website. I’ve found a number of helpful indicators that have been relieving to discover and read. One of your phrases on your rotating writings struck me as especially helpful, and I was wondering if you would expand on these ‘three key factors’ you’ve mentioned:
‘Anguish – discontentment, stress, anxiety to profound sorrow, rage, despair…the experts who deal with these problems all point to three key factors that reduce these for everyone: creativity, service and physicality.’”
Sure, with pleasure.
Generally, there are two opposing approaches to dealing with anguish, especially during periods of life when we experience intensified or extended versions. One is to shut it down as quickly and effectively as possible, usually with some numbing or distracting mechanism. And the other is to learn how to harness and channel it — alchemize it, if you will — into activities, projects and relationships that matter to us.
There’s a long, intriguing story throughout history of exceptional persons finding their way to their greatest contributions during unusually anguished chapters of their lives. This a pattern perhaps most easily recognized in the arts, wherein unprecedented depths and intensity of creative expression often seem to have been opened through great personal turmoil. In various spiritual traditions as well, transcendent insight or resolving clarity are often arrived at by passing through personal episodes of anguished conscientious searching that open into expansive experiences of purpose, understanding or compassion, for example.
I’m just placing that prelude here as a simple contextual suggestion that anguish itself is not always necessarily the enemy; the question is how to wholesomely navigate with and within it, producing something worthwhile from it, finding peace and joy in the process.
There’s a meeting point between the two approaches mentioned above, avoidance and engagement. After all, one does have to find enough frequent relief and sense of gladness in any given day to even see and feel the worth of applying oneself. Creativity, service and physicality are proven ways to help immediately relieve unsupportable anguish and open passageways to deeper, long term resolutions by exploiting the thing itself.
So, on to these key factors you’re asking about…
Creativity… Should really be “creative expression” in that there needs to be an outward movement away from circular, internal self-reflection — what is inside moves outside. As with each of these factors listed, it doesn’t matter so much what it is specifically as that you yourself experience release through compelled attentiveness to it.
Part of the crippling impact of deep anguish is that we often forget, ignore or claim that we don’t have time for what we really like to do. We are usually at our most creative when we lose ourselves in inspired fun. That necessitates, too, allowing ourselves to be called to what we long for from the start — “This inspires me, I sense its value.” We can find our way back to this kind of unquestioned, motivated playfulness by identifying what drove us to unselfconscious creative expression in our youth.
Even just pausing to recall and delve into those energies and emotions we used to access easily already opens doors to our essential creative spirit, and begins the process of rediscovering (and trusting in) our intuition. I think it’s important to start small, keep it sincere and ambition-free, just like you did as a child.
A friend of mine, a holocaust concentration camp survivor and psychologist, once said when we were talking about anguish, “Most deep anguish can’t really be worked through; it naturally diminishes as we focus more and more away from ourselves, especially onto those we truly care about.”
I’m a big fan of simple gestures within the circumstances that present themselves to us each day, as struggling beings and worthy projects that deserve devoted service are endless. Transparent, unpretentious, genuine presence and care is all that anyone and anything really needs. There’s already significant relief in finding the clean intent, “I just want to offer some worthwhile service.” You can go to a warzone to do that, volunteer for an urgent project, or just watch carefully for openings that come your way every day (which some have argued is already a warzone of a kind that you can volunteer within).
Physicality… This is about correctly manipulating physiological variables we have some freedom with. The more you do this, the more freedom you find. As I’ve written elsewhere, I place a high value on “above” and “below” the range of typical day-to-day physical patterns most of us live, wavelengths that stretch out in both directions, bringing our body, mind and emotions outside of the spectrum in which we experience anguish.
Meditative breathing is the simplest way to quiet and fall under mental and emotional gripping and mania, and can be done anywhere at any time. Here’s an article I wrote on it, although there’s a lot of worthwhile information out there. And there are all kinds of activities purposely designed to slow and lengthen our sensation and engagement of the moment.
On the other end, reaching above involves activities that we’re probably already familiar with but have perhaps ignored or avoided that effectively enliven our perceptions, energies and core mood. Dancing and singing are excellent (you may experientially recall), as are many forms of traditional movement that seek to break us out of lethargy and familiarity.
Also in this family of activity, as has been rightly pointed out, “People underestimate the benefit of good old manual labor.” Then there’s this, which some experts claim is the most effective of all… Solvitur Ambulando.
I hope this helps to at least expand some understanding and inspiration for exploring our options, and thank you for bringing the question here.
“The last couple of days I’ve been reading your last post on your blog. I’m stunned at how wildly inspiring, life affirming, and ‘hands on’ how and what to do it is. I am deeply grateful to you and the person who sent you the question. Your initial response, as if the person was right there with you. Immediately, I felt the authenticity in your voice which allowed for a lot of freedom to release into it. Especially, when I’m living over my head in the quote from your writing that preceded it.
I know each of these – discontentment, stress, anxiety to profound sorrow, rage and despair. I shut down for years and turned all that energy inward. Deep anguish does have a crippling impact, that I do forget. Then comes the numbing effect, ignoring and claiming there’s not enough time.
But lately, these keys are what I turn to. I guess I could say in some ways they are becoming the only options. Staying with them…holding onto that tiny underlying thread of faith and trust, I’ve seen clear and obvious examples of getting back on track. The things you have written in this post have affirmed that. What it’s done is given me dignity. With all my heart…”
Much appreciation for your generous sentiments, and I’m glad you’ve found something inspiring, life-affirming and helpful here.
12 October 2016
Some of you have been so kind as to remind me of some of the exceptional experiences shared exactly one year ago when we were in the midst of the Autumn Retreat in the countryside in France. That was a remarkable week for a number of reasons. One of those is the accomplishment of actual evolution within a real communal harmony, something that I believe is much rarer than we presume.
I always prepare for these events with different examples or arguments that demonstrate what I consider to be effective communal harmony – a crucial subject or perhaps the crucial subject for human beings. I recall the laughter, awe, silent recognition, inspired insight and respect generated from a naturally-existing example of effective communal harmony, so I thought I’d share some of my notes here to remind us and rouse our intuition with these inspiring clues for “how it’s done”…
Bees are one of the most industrious and well organized species on the planet, having existed for more than 10,000,000 years. On average, 60,000 bees live together in a communal beehive, where there are never incidents of conflict or confusion. Each bee has a specific job, which it carries out for its entire lifetime.
Before bees start foraging for food they first explore the region, examining the relation to the sun, spatial relations to specific landmarks, local conditions and proximity to the hive. Communication for foraging occurs in the release of pheromones and waggle language with encoding for distance, direction, and qualities of available food sites.
When options are identified, female scouts are sent to choose a new food source. Once a scout determines that a good spot has been found, she then returns to the hive and does a waggle dance in variations of figure-eight patterns. The dance conveys a complex code that tells her fellow hive-mates exactly where the new site is located. Distance is described in the length and speed of the rounds of the dance, and direction of the outbound flight relative to the sun is expressed by the angle of the waggle to gravity. The type of food is signaled by the odor on the dancing bee, and quality is conveyed by intensity of enthusiasm and duration of the dance.
Other bees move around the scout, carefully observe the dance from different angles and learn from it. The information is integrated into the bees’ specialized spatial memory circuits to allow for new shortcuts to the high quality flower targets.
Once the scout bees complete their directions, worker bees travel to the site to collect nectar, pollen and water from flowers, storing it in their honey stomach, which is separate from their digestive stomach. Special enzymes in the bee’s stomach begin to break down and transform the nectar into honey.
Guard bees allow the workers to re-enter the hive, where they begin to transfer the nectar they have collected to the house bees. The nectar is transferred from bee to bee, becoming thicker and more refined in the process. This final stage of turning nectar into honey is called “ripening.”
The honey is then placed into hexagonal cells in the honeycomb, where the house bees fan their wings to complete the thickening of the honey. This is then capped with beeswax by worker bees for long-term storage. The workers use this honey, mixing it with nectar, to feed newborn bees; this special mixture is called “bee bread.” The rest of the honey is used as food by the entire community through winter months when no flower nectar is available.
“Thank you for adding all this here, including the very cool diagram up top, which is just mind-blowing if you really take a moment to consider. We humans can sometimes come together into a collective force of singular intent, but (as you say) it’s very rare and almost always only reactive to temporary dire need, such as war or natural disasters (and even then…). To imagine what could be if the collective consciousness and resulting focus of action were streamlined into a single, collectively agreed-upon, direction after two days of consideration, exploration and communication(!) – 3100 waggle runs all headed to the superior source, as it were. Since we humans have only been here for around 400,000 years, maybe it’s just more time needed to figure it all out and eradicate the extraneous. Your whole post here is rife with creative clues, although one could almost reduce the entire body of personal and philosophical directives into ‘quality is conveyed by intensity of enthusiasm and duration of the dance.’ What a fantastic doctrine.”
Hey, that’s some fancy, high quality waggle dancing for quite a while there. Your enthusiasm and underlying optimism, and taking the time to express them, are much appreciated.
21 September 2016
“Many, many thanks for the recent seminar. As with all the previous events, I found it overflowing with so much of what I consider to be excellent, necessary, useful and precious content. I’ve been thinking about the weekend and going over my notes on and off since then and I’m constantly amazed at the sheer breadth of material that was covered. I can’t quite believe how much was accomplished in two days and I suspect that we didn’t even cover everything that you had planned.
And reading the latest entry on your Blog, it is sinking home even more so. Thank you for attaching both the quote and video relating to Michael Phelps. Yes, it is excellently adventitious (of course it is, that’s why it’s there)… But yes, all those hours working away in the dark, all that time spent honing skill, all those Ben Franklin hours at work and contriving and prosecuting the day’s training and in the evening asking, ‘What good training have I done today?’
I write all this by way of saying that I found, in this last seminar, a great sense of the practical application of what we learn there. Not that the other events I’ve experienced did not have this, but for some reason I was very conscious of it this time around – maybe it’s finally settling in and taking root. And that is very beneficial to me. Too often I remain in the more abstract areas of understanding and knowledge, so to continue to learn how to apply is a great gift. And by application I mean ‘real attention must be paid’ application ………
Life is Real.
Acting with the knowledge that Time runs out.
Developing one’s awareness.
Helping to generate happiness in others.
Availing of the ‘opening doors’.
The importance of Rituals and creating them for oneself.
Supple enduring concentration.
Taking the ‘long’ route.
The three circles and the importance of arriving at #2 with the fullness of #1 and #3.
The role of the Elder.
The list could and does go on and on.
Of course, I do not achieve all these and I struggle with many but I’m becoming more and more aware of where I need to focus my attention. I am very guilty of ‘fidgeting’, as I may have been all my life, but these days, even thinking or writing that word ‘fidget’ is starting to have a physical effect on me that will hopefully help me stay away from it. But to be reminded of this, to really become aware of distraction and its dangers and to have all this presented in a vibrant, lucid, emphatic and supportive way, as you present it, is invaluable to me.
An image comes to mind from one of the first seminars that I attended. It was a seminar where you had some ‘raw’ and previously unused bamboo sticks and we set about preparing them for the work. There were many of us and just a few sticks, so at times some of us could stand back and watch the process. And I have this image of Guy bending over a stick, like a cobbler of old, honing and smoothing and working the stick, making it safe for a hand to hold. For some reason this image – the attention to the smallest of details – has come to mind in the weeks after this retreat. The idea of ‘taking the long route’ to our destination.”
Thank you, Paul, for bringing all these ideas, virtues and skills home through your own “real attention must be paid application,” for honing and smoothing and working so as to make them “safe for a hand to hold.” I believe you’ve covered everything on your list and more, and with kind generosity. It’s a real joy to stand back and watch the process realized with such excellence.
8 August 2016
“At your last seminar you mentioned the dimensional difference between understanding and engaging reality. I feel I missed the moment. I thought I would find it on your blog. Would you point me to this writing?”
I think I hit that theme directly or indirectly in a number of my writings, but here’s what I had written in my personal notes for the seminar…
“There’s a dimensional difference between understanding and engaging reality, all the ways and skills we’ve developed to keep the direct experience of reality at bay and away from us. A lot of that is reaction to our vulnerabilities and fragilities, fear of the actual size of life, its mutability and our inevitable inability to really control and own it.
Turning over thoughts in one’s head in an attempt to ‘understand’ without taking any one of them linearly into a realm of experimental exploration is probably the most common pattern of such avoidance. That can be in the form of pet worries, random anxieties or favorite abstractions and obsessions, incessant internal fidgeting. These usually fall into versions of mostly unconscious, reactive repetition in security, sensuality and power/control issues.
Making something exceptional from the moment – falling into and completely engaging reality – will inevitably involve qualitative, virtuosic application. The canvas or creative space for that first demands disciplined conception, some vision or specific direction. Then you have to bring your tools and necessary elements into the space you’re occupying, making sure they’re honed and functional. And finally lose yourself in the process of devoted engagement. This is true for anything – a conversation, a work of art, a relationship, a career…”
Here’s an accessible little piece of adventitious commercial art that brings the point home from a likable angle, at a moment in time when the story is currently still unfolding; just adding this quote to give some potent context…
“I was a train wreck, I was just like a time bomb waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times when I didn’t want to be here. It was just not good, I was just so lost. Where do I go from here? What do I do now?”
“I knew one of these days when I would check your blog, there would be something new on it…. That’s a fun surprise to find, and always a little thrilling.
‘It’s what you do in the dark…that puts you in the light.’ In the dark, in one’s own internal private negotiations, and in all the moments of each day, the individual choices and all the work (shitwork and not), that others don’t see. ‘Rule yourself.’
I had never seen the video before but it comes piercingly alive next to your writing. The quote was very surprising to learn connected to Michael Phelps, to imagine him even having those thoughts at any point in his career or its construction. What a maze of thoughts…..in contrast to his streamlined and crystalline mastery in moments where I’ve watched him swim. To imagine his hard work over time, muscling and working through doubts. I see the difference in understanding and engaging reality you’re talking about. It’s a very human conversation. And, wow. Thank you.”
“I must have been half a sleep when I first read it because I missed the « hidden » links in your recent blog entry. I have enjoyed the ride very much, especially the masterful delivery of Ella’s Summertime and the compelling reading of Emerson’s ideas and life…but foremost for this idea of a deeper and more frank engagement with Reality (discovery mode <> defensive mode) and how one can either avoid that or simply fall into life with more devotion, precision, full presence and passion. It is good to recognize our little neurotic wheel in motion sometimes and stop…… to examine what is really taking place so as to change and evolve with new little steps to become healthier and more functionally sane human beings.
It’s funny and encouraging for me to see that even without knowing so there is a connection in what I read, think about and what you write about on your blog, as if I was mysteriously connected to the same deeper current even without being in contact or having read your blog.”
15 May 2016
“These are the things that the soul absolutely requires to feel alive, to feel engaged in our life: necessary touch, laughter, condolences and kindnesses in times of sorrow, shared meals, starlit nights that we sit together and tell stories, rituals that mend and tend the whole of our relationships to each other and to the green world around us, and to the sacred world. Those are the things that we absolutely require, otherwise we are scrambling and trying to fill the hole with whatever we can…”
“Yesterday, I dove into the Francis Weller video on your blog (30 November 2015). Each chapter evoked and gave breath to questions and internal sensations of comprehension and acquiescence. Such as when he speaks of primary satisfactions that nourish us, that we’ve forgotten. All simple things, so precious, that connect us profoundly to others, to nature, to the essential things of life…all this opens a new space, more concrete, simple and sane. And yes, I sense joy, a joy more intuitive and universal and related to nature. My words don’t materialize yet, not yet giving witness to my exploration, but I’m questioning in living research and this is only the debut.”
Thank you for taking the original gesture, staying with it and growing something real and vital from it – illuminating it along the course of the conversation, as it were.
I think we often forget that, yes, of course we all have many things to do, but when we really pause and look closely, these “things that we absolutely require” are the brightly colored threads that hold everything together. And in many cases, all the things we’re doing are like trying to find our way into a moment where and when we can engage or offer someone a primary satisfaction. People often turn away in intimidation or cynicism from big words like soul or sacred, but whatever you’re really hoping to do or long for, it is going to be somewhere in that field of play, however you want to word it or whatever it may look like on the outside.
I’m particularly fond of your “opens a new space, more concrete, simple and sane,” and wholeheartedly agree. I like the idea that what we’re looking for is the sustainable sensation or experience of enchantment to carry us through all the rest. Something that ignites and keeps alive our core intuitive inspiration that we can then fold into whatever it is we need to do. I don’t see that as some kind of spiritual pursuit; just the most fundamental human yearning and personal skill.
A few quotes that I hope help to light your way in your living research…
“…At three o’clock we left her to accompany Neruda to his sacred siesta, which he took in our house after solemn preparations that in some way recalled the Japanese tea ceremony. Some windows had to be opened and others closed to achieve the perfect degree of warmth, and there had to be a certain kind of light from a certain direction, and absolute silence…”
“’I don’t have time for enchantment and I don’t even know what that means,’ she said. ‘There’s a million things and people waiting for me, like porcelain cups stacked upontop of eachother that will allfallover if I don’t hold them firmly and decisively in place.’ He paused and glanced at her, ‘Well, with all those cups to balance, sounds like you could use some enchantment to help in that.’ As if to punctuate his point, he bit into the pomegranate and spit a seed out across the table, which landed into her mouth just as she was about to continue speaking.”
“Beauty, Inspiration, Magic, Spellbound, Enchantment, as well as the concepts of Serenity, Intimacy and Amazement. They have never ceased to be my guiding lights.”
“I completely agree with this. When I think of the moments I value the most, those that will stay with me to the end of my life, they are the moments when these primary satisfactions were given or received. Moments of fluid mystery in real life between human beings, moments that I never want to end, and in reality, never do end. Moments suspended in grace where everything is so real with this taste of paradise, the infinite.
Enchantment… It’s like I’m reading this and seeing it for the first time. It’s a powerful word in the images it produces and the energy it carries. And yes, that makes complete sense, this durable sensation or experience of enchantment that we’re searching for. The ideas of marvel, magic, mysterious effect in their purest and most concrete sense, in their simplest definitions.
I really like these extracts you’ve included from the three authors that guide and integrate through these different images.”
Thank you. Just a brief thought to add to your considerations…
It’s the strangest thing…everyone longs for some kind of sign, experience, piercing clarity that reveals the existence of something grander running through the repetitive patterns of mediocrity that so often govern our lives. Something that changes and gives clarifying significance to everything, gives us palpable meaning and direction, not just in our head but in the core of our being. Yet, we pull back from the ways we perceive these: intuition, conscience and sense of the divine. As if any hint of mysticism is a direct threat to our common ambitions and safe-and-securely understood rules of engagement. Maybe it’s a help to retreat from the intimidating words, look for the actuality in a simpler way, like a child does in a discerning hunch, a caring consideration, a sensuous feel for the sublime. It’s not as if the doors to these enchantments aren’t constantly opening throughout each and every day of our lives.
7 April 2016
Q & A
“I love the idea that accessing your sites and finding all the hidden jewels can and should be a bit of an effort on people’s parts, but I do think that having a more obvious place to respond directly to what you have posted will offer more of an ‘invitation’ for public dialogue. I was wondering if it would be possible to have an area for responses built into your blog? This is the site I check into to follow your postings, and I have looked up and down it several times to find where I can respond to what you post. This happened recently after listening to the beautiful music of one of the new playlists…I listened, was moved, and wanted to post something there that would also encourage others to listen.”
Okay, that sounds fair enough. This blog was originally conceived as an evolving art piece that would allow for some fluctuation of subject matter yet keep the central theme of pertinent, natural human potential and development, as I see them anyway, in sight. Like a river making its way through turns, hills and valleys, or an exceptional conversation…that intentionally seeks unusual, revealing angles and experience, and hopefully is also a decent representation of my work in general while still being accessible for anyone. So, I want to be somewhat discerning about what’s included in that public dialogue.
I certainly appreciate and encourage response, which also serves to guide me toward variations of themes that people are actually interested in. It’s true that there’s an extra step in the process that probably requires “a bit of an effort” to pause and consider before responding, like walking to a friend’s house to talk instead of just texting her or him. Still, on the top right of this page you’re now reading from, you can click on ‘Contact Us’ and write whatever you’d like, which I’ll receive personally. On the bottom right of this same page, or any page on this website, there are six sites under ‘Additional Resources’ that open into dozens of ‘Leave a Reply’ options that others will see and which I’ll also eventually receive.
Thank you for your “hidden jewels” comment.
“I’ve enjoyed some time not only on your blog but also the other pages that have come up. The music playlists are a welcome addition to the early morning hours. Sitting quietly with your thoughts on information, consumption, and curious about how that all fits into morning contemplations… It seems like for years now I’ve carved out more space in the mornings when I feel alive and alert to play with ideas, yet find myself with some query over the idea of how that plays into overconsumption or even what the term means.”
I admit to being a fan of the idea that evolution, of anything but especially a human being and the experiences one struggles with or looks for progress and resolution for, requires some intentional linearity, what the Buddhists sometimes call supple, enduring concentration. That can open into contemplation, a great word – “1: The action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time; 1.4: A form of prayer or meditation in which a person seeks to pass beyond mental images and concepts to a direct experience of the divine.” However you want to word it, how one engages time and how many different directions you (don’t) turn, look or think in a given period of time are crucial factors, for example, in“it takes both proclivity and application to look beyond what is given into where it came from and where it might be taken…” or even seeing clearly what’s right in front of you.
Grandeur, I believe, in any field of work or play, exploration, relationship, art…comes mainly through staying with something longer and more attentively than is usual, after others have turned away and moved on to something else. I also believe that limitation (and suffering in general) – personally, relationally, mentally, emotionally, artistically, spiritually… – is most often self-created by various forms of internal fidgeting, which so often is simply “Right, got that; what’s next?” leading to unending superficial missing of the entire point yet not noticing and having a lot to say about it anyway. That impulse, “What’s next?”, is the preference for consuming the next thing, and that can even be a question, “On to the next question…” The problem is, the first thing was never really gotten, not completely, not to its roots and flowers – its meaning and imaginative possibility.
A pianist acquires all the information she needs to play a complex sonata by reading the sheet music in three minutes. Then there are the three months of setting aside other appealing distractions and impulses to allow the music – in practice and contemplation – to drip out of her head and expand into illuminations in all her bodies so as to know it and embody it. She then has something unique to say, something to give back that will move someone else into new experience. That’s a sophisticated process in many ways, but the simplest part of it is just “I’m going to stay here with this one thing until I know it.” Back to our Buddhists, that’s all that Buddha did. But if you follow the trajectory of anyone who is really exceptional at what they do, you’ll find a similar ethic.
Just obscure musings from a silly blog. Thank you for the comments and questions.
“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
“Just wanted to express a few things concerning your last blog, even if a bit clumsy, realizing more and more how any of the threads you give us can be taken and explored in so many directions if one has enough curiosity and endurance, so that our world expands rather than contracts…
The first time I read your last blog I felt some kind of tremendous elation and joy for all that was presented and rushed to write you a note, then had a second thought, that I should take more time to stay with it a bit longer.
I went back reading and revisiting the hidden jewels links this morning, I noticed a link that I missed the first time: “seeing clearly what is right in front of you.” I started to watch it and burst into tears, not quite sure exactly why, I felt so deeply touched and nourished inside and was amazed at the art you created, the care, attention to details, original presentation with so many angles and possible directions to explore further, you taking the time to present something unique even though many things could very well go unnoticed, just like real life. But when you stay a little longer with things (the grand noticing) the beauty and complexity of things start to hit you back and you find yourself in a very different place…marveling at the beauty of life.
I was thinking of my music, like the incredible journey of making parchment (and that is just to have empty « paper »! you would still need to write the text and paint the illuminations), it feels so much like a slow and laborious process, but it helped me realize that it is ok to be, to go slow rather than rushing into a final product. It encourages me to redefine or find a more balanced relationship with time, especially because our society is radically at the opposite of that, wanting to have everything as quickly as possible.
As you say with the pianist, it still takes time and creativity to process (to mature in the barrel), integrate a piece of music so completely that every part of us is then able to give it back with the appropriate qualities and spirit so that it has more meaning and impact at delivery.
I’m myself wondering if it would be a help to have a way to register for your blog so that when there is a new post we immediately get it into our inbox, although I can see that you might want to keep the “effort” alive by having us check ourselves. The problem though is that we are distracted and consumed with so many things nowadays that it is hard to remember what the real priorities are.
For me reading your posts always puts me back on the right track, keeps me awake, provokes wilder, broader thinking, encourages new discoveries and gives me a deeper sense of purpose staying focused on what truly matters. Your posts are like a beacon of light when lost in the darkness of a threatening sea, and the lighthouse is always sending its light.”
Thank you for taking the time and care to respond so voluptuously. I do appreciate the affirmations, and am also glad that you find some worthy things in this blog and take it as seriously as you do. Although the more encouraging experience in reading your letter is just that you felt compelled and followed that up with greater investment, including through time…to whatever, and wherever that may take you. It’s an excellent example of the theme in motion here (also as extension of the nature and purpose of conversation preceding it). I particularly like your gesture to genuinely pause and reconsider, not be fooled by appearances or initial reaction, take hold of and fall into the moment, independently own it, which I think is so often the missing piece in being able to see and produce something truly original, personal, nuanced and powerful.
“…so that when there is a new post we immediately get it.” That kind of goes against everything being discussed here, and I do like taking a stand on some things, even if that means being overly idealistic about it and taking the consequences for that. I think we should all take the personal freedom and responsibility for our own priorities, whatever they are, and back that up with our choices, otherwise they’re not our own real priorities. Besides, the shelf-life of the relevancy of this conversation seems long enough, and anyone can check in here whenever they’re inclined.
Thank you again for your passionately sincere appreciation and encouragement.
19 March 2016
Over the years, many of my friends and colleagues have asked for the playlists I put together for my seminars and retreats. Here’s one that was particularly popular at my recent event in California last month. I have a lot of luck to have a marvelous spectrum of musical consultants from all over the world (including my passionately curious and musically astute children). This has helped enormously in discovering and learning about many different kinds of music from various cultures, genres and styles. Choosing and assembling sequences is complex work in itself, but certainly nothing compared to the virtuosity and creative inventiveness of the composers and musicians themselves. My appreciation and respect to all who generate such light and continue to shine it my way.
“I recently tapped into your last blog posting of the musical play list; fantastically appreciated. I too have wanted to inquire regarding access to some of the great music you help introduce us all to; thank you so much! I dabbled a bit in percussion in my younger years, never really excelling to any appreciative degree, so I am enthralled beyond words at the percussion piece you included of Stan Neufeld playing Front Of The World. MIND BLOWING mastery – the placement of stick strikes along their length, the tones and sounds accomplished by strike placement on the different locations of the drum heads and symbols, the precision….WOW!!! I’ve found myself plugged into that performance, and an hour later realized I’ve been sitting there just hitting repeat; captivated, invigorated, revived.”
Thank you for your comment and appreciation. On a different musical spectrum, here’s another recent playlist I hope you’ll all enjoy…
1 February 2016
1) The action of living or having one’s being in, among.
2) Consorting (with); intimacy.
3) Behavior, mode of life.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
“Your highlighted quotes on your most recent blog post seem to suggest a failure of people to enter into what you call ‘the real conversation of life,’ and also an unhealthy attachment to information and the search for insight. Isn’t the exchange of insightful information the conversation itself? I don’t get what you’re after here. Also, ‘all forms of personal evolution and growth in all schools of thought are built pretty much exclusively on this’ (conversation) seems to conflict with what I know of those schools. Isn’t serene stillness, the contented being in the moment, the destination and ultimate sign of ‘satisfying, relieving, healing and fun’ as you put it?”
Man, you guys can be demanding. But I like your critical exigence.
“Isn’t the exchange of insightful information the conversation itself?”
You can move through Facebook pages or blogs for five minutes and collect enough insightful information for a lifetime. Then what happens? Qualitatively, how is your day different? Do you feel satisfied, relieved, healed and having just had a ball? And with a clearer, more resolved sense of direction and meaning, like, “Okay, it all makes sense now and life is great!”?
I think a real conversation (read authentic, revealing, more completely invested in) is one that evolves by entering into unknown territory very quickly. And that territory is noticeable through direct sensation of full-bodied “illuminations,” compelling experiences of mystery that don’t just sit in the head as two-dimensional bits and pieces of interpretation of reality. Versions that can lead to this in the schools of thought I mentioned include, for example, piercing compassion in all forms of therapy, attentive non-judgmental presence, confession or expression of gratitude in religious rituals, bursts of creative inspiration, unique appreciation and care in intimate communion, and forms of meditation, prayer and contemplation.
These frames or platforms are for the most part formal, synthesized versions of what can take place organically within any good, spontaneous personal conversation. There are many different moods or colors to such conversations, but they all produce real discovery, relief and resolution —visceral fulfillment — often completely transcendent of any information or even insight.
I almost want to say that a great conversation is one that you don’t even recall what was specifically said, just the excellence of the company kept.
A side note to the above… It’s sometimes suggested that all the above is too “deep,” which, frankly, directly contradicts the consistent experiences others and I have in such conversations, which almost always includes more fun, joy and laughter than anywhere else. The point is, I’m not arguing for more depth to make a conversation real. One only needs familiarity with depth so as to access more of the person or project in front of you. Once that’s accessed, you can put whatever you want in there — “a smile, a song, a tender kiss…” — and it will get in more completely. That is, entering into some kind of exchange with someone, something or oneself such that there is discovery of previously unknown freedom. Getting out of the inward-spiraling ordinariness into the experience of being closer to a child again in a universe of wonder with infinite possibility.
Information and insight don’t lead to that. Take any one piece of insightful information, any one, and craft it linearly into something that is itself the actualization of that insight, and now we’re onto something. A great writer and dear friend recently wrote me as part of a long conversation we’ve been having over decades, “it takes both proclivity and application to look beyond what is given into where it came from and where it might be taken…” Simply, yes. Practice this in conversation and eventually you become capable of being a source of freedom for others in their aching, “Would someone pleeeaase listen to or tell me something I don’t already know, help me experience something different?!”
“Isn’t serene stillness, the contented being in the moment, the destination and ultimate sign of ‘satisfying, relieving, healing and fun’ as you put it?”
Probably. But as that’s been described in all kinds of mystical writings by those who suggest they’re there, this is communing in conversation with the divine. The ultimate real conversation, as it were.
But, even so and in any case, isn’t the point and purpose of finding “contented being in the moment” so that we can expand it out to include those around us who could use it…lean whatever exchange a bit further toward something divine? That’s the real conversation I’m suggesting. And one has to listen and look very carefully to make sure that something truly satisfying, relieving, healing and fun is being had in that conversation.
18 January 2016
“You’ve got some great stuff throughout your website and blog. Still, I’m trying to understand how what you offer is different from, say, any number of social media pages with wise or insightful quotes, or blogs with specific advice for personal struggles and questions. It seems as though the world, especially the web, is just filled with ‘Think about this…’.”
Now that’s a comment I can work with. Thank you.
I don’t know about effectiveness in difference, but my intent and hope, as stated in my first sentence on this blog, is that it “provides some compelling resources.” Hopefully original, more carefully researched, chosen and timed, too. Every link here, for example, opens out into a number of directions for exploration, all of which I’ve personally explored, support and find worthwhile, with different angles on and unique voices about what I consider to be key parts of what one might call “the real conversation of life.”
Like for any conversation, a statement or question is offered that can be ignored, extinguished immediately, disappear into the mass of background noise, juggled with competing incoming stimulations, or engaged with sufficient conviction to take it somewhere unique. Much of the intuitive thread throughout all my work, including here on this blog, is “Why don’t you try taking this somewhere unique?”
Few things, if any, are as satisfying, relieving, healing and fun as a good conversation, whether that be one conducted with words, touch, silent heartfelt presence or caring consideration from a distance. Indeed, all forms of personal evolution and growth in all schools of thought are built pretty much exclusively on this. These produce our most fulfilling, enlightening and resolving experiences. They are also where and when we find ourselves liberated from the various cages we squirm and fidget within.
Specifically concerning the internet and everything we have access to there, but also including the world in general as most of us relate to it, I tend to lean toward…
We do not need more information, not even insight, but a new determination to sidestep rampant consumption of miscellanea, seize upon one or two intuitive illuminations and make something from them.
To illustrate, below are a couple links I’ve been wanting to include on my blog here, as examples of sublime precision, a compound quality I highly value and believe has real worth as specific tool in pretty much anything that anyone engages. But my hope in offering these is that they don’t just make one think or feel for a second or two but generate some conscious inspiration and intent to “make something from them” in our lives today, finding and integrating our own feel and sense of sublime precision into our chosen projects, endeavors and conversations…
“This is just fantastic, and relieves some nagging issue I couldn’t even put my finger on. Talk about sublime precision. I agree completely with your emphasis on conversation and also honing attention to create from one or two primary threads. Instead of stuffing ourselves with endless consumption and distraction, however temporarily appetizing. Bringing something worthy back out into the world, into the real conversation. Also love your quiet addition of the Simon Critchley article. Someone is listening to this most excellent conversation!”
Ha. A voice out there somewhere. I thought I was just howling into empty space. Thank you for your enthusiastic response, much appreciated.
12 January 2016
Simon Critchley, philosopher, professor and author published a book-length meditation “Bowie” in 2014… “At the core of Bowie’s music and his apparent negativity,” he writes, “is a profound yearning for connection and, most of all, for love.”
“J’apprends la nouvelle du départ de David Bowie et mes pensées et mon coeur se tournent vers toi… Vous êtes liés à jamais tous les deux…sa musique et ton travail…main dans la main… Les moments magiques, intenses, sacrés lorsque nous l’entendions vivre ses chansons, lorsque chaque note, chaque mot, chaque fragment de sa voix nous guidaient et nous invitaient à le suivre… Merci à lui… Je pense à toi, à la profonde tristesse que tu dois ressentir en ce jour… Et je suis profondément triste…Sound and Vision… Station to Station… Never get old…”
“Music has gone into the dark age again. RIP DB.”
“Massive waves and waves of emotional-spiritual power coming out of a place I don’t know, but one I could see you occupying with this great artist… Such a profound, mysterious intuition in Bowie. I don’t know what to feel or think right now after such a loss and end of an epoch…”
“David Bowie has been such a part of my life, thanks to you. So many songs with such powerful experiences intertwined… And wanted to reach out with an embrace… And gratitude…”
“David Bowie, with all great visionaries…his full out engagement was always unnerving, always made me look where I was afraid to go…more real, raw and uncontrollable, alive…to live a greater life, a larger life, more inclusive with life, and more solitary with life. I feel your presence in his music, there’s no way to separate the two of you…this morning it helps me to empathize and feel his loss with you.”
Very kind. Thank you.
“I breathe real deep when the movie gets real, when the star turns ’round… And I’m awake in an age of light and living it because of you…”
“Think about my soul but I don’t need a thing, just the ring of the bell and the pure, clean air.”
6 January 2016
“Laughing is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge
“Humor is the affectionate communication of insight.” Leo Rosten
“Laughter is carbonated holiness.” Anne Lamott
“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.” Herm Albright
“Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly.” Paulo Coelho
Thank you, Carter
27 December 2015
“I strongly believe that we need beauty in its many forms, and that when it is missing from our life, we are in trouble: we feel irritated, nervous, uneasy, or even panicky or depressed. The need may be so deeply buried that we are unaware of why we are so upset.
Much of my time as a psychotherapist is devoted to helping people to treat themselves better. They need, for instance, solitude and silence, or nature, or time for play, or greater appreciation from others, and the chance to express themselves. And they need beauty.”
Photos by Eli Buren and Paul Mc Grane
14 December 2015
“Perhaps the most important life skill is the ability and willingness to learn.
By learning new skills we increase our understanding of the world around us and equip ourselves with the tools we need to live a more productive and fulfilling life, finding ways to cope with the challenges that life, inevitably, throws at us.
Learning involves far more than thinking; it involves the whole personality – senses, feelings, intuition, beliefs, values and will. Learning occurs when we are able to:
- Gain a mental or physical grasp of the subject.
- Make sense of a subject, event or feeling by interpreting it into our own words or actions.
- Use our newly acquired ability or knowledge in conjunction with skills and understanding we already possess.
- Do something with the new knowledge or skill and take ownership of it.”
I really like this website, especially the underlying tone of simple, clean “Here you go,” with no in-your-face “If you pay more, we’ll give you all you need!” It’s a nicely assembled puzzle of the various directions, categories and specific life skills that one can explore easily, presented with an honest, pragmatically guiding voice. Just a basic tour already provides a solid introduction for looking more sanely at the human landscape of personal engagement.
30 November 2015
“It is up to us to devise our own rituals. I feel that ritual rises from the earth. If we slow down and listen to the land we are on, we will know what to do. Our rituals must speak to the particular ways we’ve been shaped, or misshaped, by our culture. One of the values of ritual is that it has the capacity to derange us, to shake us out of old forms. We need that derangement, because the current arrangement isn’t working. We have ceremonies, but we come out of those pretty much the same as when we went in. You’re supposed to emerge from a ritual wondering what the hell just happened.”
~ Francis Weller
28 October 2015
What is it that we do here? By easing away from the mania that pulls on us, recalling and reconnecting with our essential spirit and callings, we regenerate our core inspiration and faith in Life and our place within it…with a purposeful eye toward facilitating evolution toward ‘More capable human beings,’ meaning grander, freer, more authentic and meaningfully effective.
How do we do that? By delving into pockets of rituals that have, across traditions and cultures, produced superior forms of insight and understanding, healing, evolution and resolution. One could call these tunnels into beauty, truth and love. And we can find access to them in any given day of our lives. These are…
Immersion in compelling engagement
Stillness in the moment
Creative interaction with art
Valiant exploration and discovery
Sincere, revealing human communion
Virtuosic application and expression
Reconnecting with nature
12 August 2015
The word wakefulness is a synonym for mindfulness. Wakefulness is described by the American physician Jon Kabat-Zinn as a state of mindful awareness. By being fully awake in the present moment, Kabat-Zinn suggests that we can live fully, with great awareness and intent, which has the potential to give us and those around us an improved sense of peace, joy and well-being.
“Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation. It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention. That’s what all meditation is, no matter what tradition or particular technique is used.
In Asian languages, the word for mind and the word for heart are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.
Mindfulness is not about getting anywhere else — it’s about being where you are and knowing it. We are talking about awareness itself: a whole repertoire of ways of knowing that virtually all come through the senses.
My definition of healing is coming to terms with things as they are, so that you can do whatever you can to optimize your potential, whether you are living with chronic pain or having a baby. You can’t control the universe, so mindfulness involves learning to cultivate wisdom and equanimity— not passive resignation—in the face of what Zorba the Greek called the full catastrophe of the human condition.”
30 July 2015
“Your reflections on presence ran through many of the conversations during your last workshop and is also a continuing theme in your written works and elsewhere. Could you condense your views on this into an easily understandable, everyday definition? What’s necessary to become more present in every moment?”
My personal sense of presence that I kind of carry around with me is along the lines of “Somebody has to be there first before acting.” The more one is there, the better the results in whatever you’re doing — more precision, subtlety, relevance…and much less dispersion and depletion. When you watch someone who is good at this, you can sometimes feel like they’re actually stretching out the walls of possibility in a given situation, literally creating open space. Much of this comes only through time and experience, eventual understanding that how one does something, not the specifics of action, is what impacts others most.
In thinking of people I know who have exceptional presence, they all embody these common traits, which I hope serves as a decent working definition:
~ Open receptivity and panoramic perception
~ Attentiveness and conviction in engagement
~ Unselfconscious equanimity and generosity
~ Close, conscious proximity to essential priorities
~ Self-generated enthusiasm and inspiration
I hesitate to give a single example of this, because there are so many variations in tone, mood and forms of expression, but here’s someone with obvious presence who also happens to be talking about the subject…
1 July 2015
“It is important to understand that the experience of joy and grace, as well as contentment and salvation, is not arrived at by the elimination of conflict, but through one’s precision of movement within it.”
“Mastery of anything is, more than anything else, the transformation of work into play.”
16 June 2015
“When you claim authority (not bogus “guru” authority, but real leadership), you’re constructing something. If you aren’t solving a problem for your audience, go back to the drawing board until you can.
Not everyone who builds is a nice guy. Steve Jobs wasn’t a particularly nice guy. But he was no troll, either. He built a hell of a company … one that added to people’s lives, instead of sucking energy into an endless attention black hole.
Attention is not the same thing as authority. You can’t just be a contrarian jackass … it’s not in service of anything.”
~ Sonia Simone
14 June 2015
Conflict Resolution Techniques:
9 June 2015
“Life consists with wildness. The most alive is the wildest. Not yet subdued to man, its presence refreshes him.
In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and the Iliad, in all the scriptures and mythologies, not learned in the schools, that delights us.
In short, all good things are wild and free. There is something in a strain of music, whether produced by an instrument or by the human voice—take the sound of a bugle in a summer night, for instance—which by its wildness, to speak without satire, reminds me of the cries emitted by wild beasts in their native forests. It is so much of their wildness as I can understand. Give me for my friends and neighbors wild men, not tame ones.
Here is this vast, savage, hovering mother of ours, Nature, lying all around, with such beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard; and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively an interaction of man on man—a sort of breeding in and in, which produces at most a merely English nobility, a civilization destined to have a speedy limit.
We hug the earth—how rarely we mount! Methinks we might elevate ourselves a little more. We might climb a tree, at least. I found my account in climbing a tree once. It was a tall white pine, on the top of a hill; and though I got well pitched, I was well paid for it, for I discovered new mountains in the horizon which I had never seen before—so much more of the earth and the heavens. I might have walked about the foot of the tree for threescore years and ten, and yet I certainly should never have seen them. But, above all, I discovered around me—it was near the end of June—on the ends of the topmost branches only, a few minute and delicate red conelike blossoms, the fertile flower of the white pine looking heavenward.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
27 May 2015
“I’m just discovering your work through your website, which is a refreshingly elegant, articulate and original integration of so much, with this strangely encouraging stream of sincerity running through. You’ve got an enormous, volatile mass of ideas and flashlights pointing in various directions. Part of me isn’t quite sure what to make of it all, especially as it relates specifically to your ‘Personal Skills Development’ subtitle. For example, as much as I like and enjoy Wade Davis’ Cultures at the Far Edge of the World presentation linked on your blog, I don’t immediately see the connection to personal skills. In general your offerings seem more in the category of philosophy or spiritual thought.”
Thank you for writing in with your reflections. I appreciate the feedback.
My hope and intent is to provide a wide range of resources and ideas that provoke real questions and considerations under the surface of common dialogue. With a definite thrust toward clues for moving beyond limiting patterns that restrict our personal and communal evolution and experience of, as well as effectiveness in, life. Part of that is about giving different angles of insight into the why and how of developing skills, whatever they may be. I think the larger discussion, or maybe the more relevant one surrounding skills development, involves what quality of fuel is being used to run the skill. Inevitably, and very quickly, this enters into considerations of how much of oneself one brings to the show. For example, anyone can learn a sophisticated skill in an extremely short period of time, once they’re completely convinced of the need, benefit and value of doing so and find enough full-bodied conviction to engage it accordingly (“You never hear anyone practicing a language; they simply listen and then begin to speak.” — Wade Davis).
There’s a tunnel between our external skill sets and our deepest longings and passions. People with the highest developed skills always know how to traverse that tunnel. That is, personal integration and wholeness — and consequent accomplishment and fulfillment — are largely about “enlightening” the tool with the best we have in us. The tool could be anything — a voice or body, a musical instrument or paint brush, a trowel or computer. But skill is made up of capability, and that requires practiced familiarity over time with how to inject into the moment our unique talents, virtues and qualities.
Concerning the Wade Davis presentation… That’s placed there for a number of reasons. First, opening one’s mind to the spectrum of human creativity, perception and ways of living can help to free us up from our own self-created restrictive constraints. We have a lot more options than we believe, everywhere and with everything. Second, his presentation itself is a superb example of high quality fuel; obviously he’s absolutely sincere and passionately (and compassionately) engaged in what he’s presenting, the tunnel is being traversed as he goes and it’s easy to see. Third, he’s done his homework across the board over time, so knowledge into skill into accomplished result is clearly on display. (I’m also a big fan of the idea that good communication can solve 90% of all problems, and he’s a good communicator, which is a very complex, and important, personal skill.)
There you go. I hope this helps to clarify, and thank you, again.
23 May 2015
21 May 2015
by Maria Popova
“Art should take what is complex and render it simply. It takes a lot of skill, human understanding, stamina, courage, energy, and heart to do that. It takes, most of all, what a great scholar of artists and educators, Maxine Greene, calls ‘wide-awakeness’ to do that. I am interested in the artist who is awake, or who wants desperately to wake up.
Confidence is a static state. Determination is active. Determination allows for doubt and for humility — both of which are critical in the world today. There is so much that we don’t know, and so much that we know we don’t know. To be overly confident or without doubt seems silly to me. Determination, on the other hand, is a commitment to win, a commitment to fight the good fight.”
~ Anna Deavere Smith
7 May 2015
Recent discoveries in developmental psychology and other behavioral disciplines have shown that babies are born with a “first draft” of a moral mind. Among others, brain scientist, Gary Marcus, has described this moral understanding as “already defined and organized before experience.” Evolutionary psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, describes this first draft of the moral mind as consisting of five primary values. Modern cross-cultural anthropologists point to these same five primary values as the foundation of all cultures, currently and historically, and 21st century ethologists suggest the same values apply to most if not all species:
These five values are the organic origins of what could be called intuitive conscience. They are also what we experience personally as our core, essential yearnings, however distorted or confused we may interpret them: to care and be cared for; to share equally in freedom and responsibility; to belong, and to trust that what we belong to will continue; that there exists an objective hierarchy of virtue and wisdom; that there exists that which is unquestionably sacred or divine.
30 April 2015
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
~ Albert Einstein
Thank you, Shahar
15 April 2015
15 February 2015
I see more clearly than I have ever before the far-reaching results of the consistent daily rituals, how they clean out the way for us to recall the meaning of life — Yes it IS a most beautiful thing, to see and experience it more fully in other times and places. The early walks, the breathing, the slow and quiet stretching and exercising — the slowing down to hear the music of life and really listen to others, and be engaged fully in attention to the smallest detail, even if it is just the changes in the breathing of a person beside you. “Emptying out” and slowing down during the rituals can and does then lead to a profound transcendent engagement with others and can expand potentials in completely surprising ways, allowing us to be present in and move to a more profound rhythm or layer of the universe, connecting to what is really important and essential despite the fact that there are drab and diminishing parts there, too. We are able to drink water “as if” it were wine, to act as if we are in a sacred place and those around us are works of art. It turns everything and every encounter into something else, “small” becomes Huge and significant to the receiver, to the giver and all who are witness.
The work and the rituals are silken threads to being able to live with fuller eyes and heart. They provide a path or access for walking across the bridge. They allow us to be able to see and hold (but not become despondent by) the messy, sad, painful and disappointing layers of life. By slowing us down to another rhythm and thought we are connected and more in tune to another layer, level, pace of life, hearing more often the underlying music, and yes sometimes in a brilliant minor key. They enable us, compel us really, to stop running in endless circles to unsuccessfully avoid pain, sadness, death, disappointment. It invites us to dance, to glide, to discover, to connect, to make wine of water, to want to give something back.
In sharing the experience last week of a close friend’s dying, witnessing the absolute devotion and care of her of loving friends and caregiving staff, I am deeply grateful for the work and rituals that have allowed me to feel deeply and see beauty mixed with pain, to be able to clearly see and feel below the surface. I understand now and have experienced as never before the mystery and miracle of knowing: deep joy, deep sadness; emptiness and fullness; connection and aloneness; life and death — all in one, and all at the same time, understanding and acknowledging that all are intertwined and unable to exist without the other.
I appreciate your encouraging indicators toward taking more seriously the value of down to earth rituals. I particularly like your “silken threads,” Jude, to internal resolutions for “the messy, sad, painful and disappointing layers of life.” Especially deep loss. There is something mysterious yet definitely accessible to us all under the agitated waves of difficulty that allows us to feel and flow along a more comprehensive intuitive and spiritual understanding of true meaning. And to find solace, accepting serenity and even beauty within it. That’s a potent phrase you’ve added: “The mystery and miracle of knowing.”
It’s misleading or deceptive in a way that such skills are learned like any other — simple practice, sincere investment over time. Yes, like small steps, one at a time, to cross the bridge. Just a single step today.
20 December 2014
Welcome to our new website, which I hope provides some compelling resources as well as keeping you up to date with events and activities I’ll be offering in time ahead.
A little imagery that was my inspiration in conceiving this site along with my loyal friends and colleagues who’ve been so instrumental in helping to bring it to realization…
The sweet spot is a term used by audiophiles and recording engineers to describe the focal point between two sources of sound, where an individual is fully capable of hearing the audio mix the way it was intended to be heard by the musicians. Different static methods exist to broaden the area of the sweet spot.
Sound engineers also refer to the sweet spot of any sound-producing body that may be captured with a microphone. Every individual instrument and voice has its own sweet spot, the perfect location to place the microphone or microphones in order to obtain the best sound.
In tennis, baseball, or cricket, a given swing will result in a more powerful impact if the ball strikes the racquet or bat on the sweet spot, where a combination of factors results in a maximum response for a given amount of effort. The actual sweet spot on a racquet or bat is a very small area, where dispersing vibrations and spin in multiple directions are canceled out, resulting in a perfect contact point between incoming and outgoing energies.
Here’s an excellent example of the sweet spot in all the above definitions, as well as others implied, and the opening song from my last retreat (to be listened to with good quality earphones or headphones to be “fully capable of hearing the audio mix the way it was intended to be heard”):
~ Darrell Calkins