Why Limit Yourself?

Pearl Jam sang it true, so many years ago, in their epic song, Daughter: She holds the hand that hold her down.

It’s really a great line. I can feel my head bobbing to the music, just writing it down. It’s a great line until I realized we live and die alone on this earth. So who’s hand am “I” holding, if not my own?

The culture around us tells us it’s society. It’s our family. It’s our upbringing. It’s our economic background. All of these things create a riptide surging against our best efforts and potential.

It’s not to say that these things aren’t important. They are. But they are external limitations. It’s about time we learned how to blow the roof off of our self-imposed ceilings. Pack you bags, reader, for we are going to Austin for a demonstration of what it looks like to no longer hold the hand that holds you down.

__________________

My buddies and I picked South By Southwest in Austin, Texas for our annual moronathon.

We had been meeting with each other (some of us) since the 10th grade.  Now that we were in our 40’s it was time to upgrade. We were interested in food, music and just being with each other. Serious down time in a seriously fun city.

We landed in SXSW ready to have some fun. We saw some shows, ate at Franklin Barbecue. Drinks at Peche. Coffee at Houndstooth.

Donnelly (co-founder TH3RDFORCE) came in the last Saturday morning of the festival. We were eating breakfast.  He walked up behind me and gave me a nice big hug.

I see you boys aren’t drinking yet?

We looked blankly at him after days and days in bars giving out free drinks.

A round of Bloody Mary’s arrived as if on cue. Drinking start time. 10 a.m. Check. This is never a good sign.

We had a few shows we hoped to catch, Cloud Nothings, were at the top of the line. So we cued up and it didn’t look good. Finally someone came and said, you’ll never make it in.

In a state dejection we wondered down the street.

Free beer. Free beer.

As one, all of our heads turned to the right.  Hearing that siren song we went into to bar. A brewery from Colorado was offering whatever they had on tap for free from 12-2.

At this point we commenced Olympic style drinking.

A few hours later we were wondering down to see Drowning Men. Let me tell you this is a great band. More people need to hear them. They have opened up for one of my favorite bands Flogging Molly several times over the years. In fact, they were the first band to sign to FM’s label.

Basically had a few more bloody Mary’s. Austin is famous for them, sometimes serving a bloody Mary decked out with brisket, sausage and ribs on top (not joking)


Anyway as the show times was drawing near there was a line for beer and Tullamore Dew whisky (sponsoring at least this show). I was behind a guy who was giving everyone a hard time, not in a mean way, just taking the piss out of them. I started laughing and we started talking.

We shared a drink and then he was all, I’m off. He hopped on the stage and picked up a guitar and the band started warming up. That was so cool. Had no idea I would be sharing drinks with a band member.

The concert was literally 5-8 people (and this is no disrespect to the band) and us. Nobody knew who they were and it was way too early for a show. So they played their hearts out. Afterward I bought the band some shots and we hung out. Great guys.

After the show we were walking down the street and we saw all of these vip tents. I kept saying to my buddies, we gotta get into one of those, we gotta get into one of those. That looks fun.

Finally my friend Roger said, lets’ go here, to the Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill. I said, OK. They headed for the VIP tent, I ducked out to the bathroom. I got a text saying we are in. Just come in, tell them you are with us.

Us? Now we are an us.

I walked up to security pointed at my friends, they waved me in and I sat down.

How the hell did you pull that off?

Well, said Roger, we walked up to the lady working the front entry. I went right up to her and said, do you have room for us?

She said, who are you?

I told her, he is, pointing at Bill, Billy, and we are the kids.

Billy and the kids? Now if I spend time looking on this list will I find you?

No. But that’s not your fault. We are the next big thing. So big, nobody even knows we are here yet.

Remarkably, she laughed and said, I’ll give you 30 minutes Billy and The Kids.

Since we all grew up together or had known each other for 20 years plus it only took about ten minutes until we reverted to jackass mode. We ordered drinks, oddly enough, only amaretto and gin. Only those two drinks, each mixed three different ways. Food came. Plates full of deliciousness.

We had entered a VIP tent. The inside was full of music insiders. Music insiders and us, a group of degenerates. Anyway, we started getting rowdy and having a lot of fun. As a group, we are not known for our subtlety.

Both Brian and I are former newspaper reporters and photographers. We crowd watch for fun. About the same time we noticed that people were looking over at our table. Pictures were being taken. We were becoming a thing.

The lady who had let us in seated us directly behind her in the front. She looked back once in a while, laughing. We waved.

The drinks kept coming. Finally, I got that feeling. The one saying someone is having issues with you. Turning around, I saw a bunch of very fine looking fellows. They looked, to be honest, a bit too fine. A bit too orchestrated. These were not our people.

As I sat there nursing my drink, disgusting by all accounts (amaretto and ginger ale) I saw them looking at us, not too kindly, and then the satellite was dispatched to our table.

Hey, he said, who the hell are you guys anyway?

Roger, way past drunk, said, We are Billy and the Kids and I don’t like the way you are talking to us. He was laughing. Billy and I got very quiet, putting our drinks down and me, taking off my glasses. Focusing on this person now, in front of us. Who are we? We are having fun. You guys look like you are posing for a gap commercial.

He got the message, and went back to his group. By this time people were stopping by. Saying hello. It had been long past an hour and to be honest I just couldn’t take the sweet drinks anymore.

We signaled we were leaving and asked for the bill. The waitress literally beamed at us. Gentlemen you are in the VIP tent. Everything here is comped.

It’s free? Yes, Billy and the Kids. We looked up and their was our angel. Smiling in the Austin sunlight.

On the way out we stopped to say thanks and give her a couple bills. She took the money, laughing.

You guys stole the show. You know who that is? They are Young the Giant. You totally stole their show. This was a top spot and all everyone was talking about was who you all were. That made my SXSW.

It made ours too.

 

__________

I really had a tough time with this post. I wanted to edit out certain parts of it. Ever notice how people always appear better on paper or film than they really are? I wanted you all to see how the TH3RDFORCE works. The TH3RDFORCE is the synergy between the body and mind working together. When you give in to the flow and pull of time interesting things happen. Not any part of my was interested in getting rejected at the VIP tent. But part of our group was certainly prepared to do what it took to make that entry reality. And that is why, it’s important to choose your friends well. They can shore up weaknesses and bring you together in such a way that very little is impossible.

Get Away? From What?

 

I was tired. My tires screamed on the highway. My eyes were blurry. A few hours longer. I sank back into the seat of my pickup and let the road push me about the driver’s seat as if it were somehow navigating these turns.

A few days earlier I was overcome with an intense need to be alone. I checked with my boss, got Monday and Tuesday off. After work Friday I drove on up toward Colorado.

Climbing altitude from the middle of Arizona I could feel the air cooling. Stars danced along the top half of my spider-web-cracked windshield.

I drove until my eyes betrayed me. Thought I saw something in road. Hit the brakes. Nothing but wind in trees. I slowed down a little. Took the turns a bit wider. Adrenalin would give me another half hour. I was so tired though I decided to follow a turn off in the road.

I got out of the truck and locked the hubs. Started climbing Box Canyon road. The road cutback across the slumping belly of the canyon. Every once in a while, the tires would spin out.

I drove until the road ended in water.

Through the floating dust of the headlights I could see tire tracsk on the other side of the river. I figured it was maybe 8 feet across. Had no idea how deep?

Back in the truck. Rolled down the windows. My eyes were watering. I looked up and hit the gas. The truck lurched into the water, spraying me from the open window.

I came awake in that instant. A live wire buzzing in the early morning darkness of an August night. Water went over the windshield. I heard rocks kicking up under the truck bed.

The other side of the road hit hard on the front end of the truck. Bucking like some kind of demented bull, the truck and I hurtled out of the creek bed onto dry land.

Tires skidded as I stopped the truck and walked back to the water. My tracks already gone. I took a quick walk around and discovered I was actually on a little island. The road continued further into the canyon. Shrugging my shoulders, I opened the bed of my truck and threw my sleeping bag on the ground. I climbed in and felt my body let go.

I was asleep under the Rockies. This is what I came here for.

Next morning I woke up the first time. It was cold. The sun didn’t find me in that canyon for a few more hours. I burrowed deeper. By the time the sun’s rays warmed my sleeping bag I was climbing gently towards awareness.

I woke up stretched and looked around. Even in my haze I knew there was something wrong with the white rocks. I rubbed my eyes. Yep. Those rocks were ribs. I had thrown my sleeping bag within ten feet of a half-eaten deer.

Mountain-lion tracks were everywhere on that little island.

I started a fire and made some coffee. As I stared at those bones in the sunlight, I began to question my motives for being here.

Ostensibly I needed a break. I told myself I needed to have the mountains and sky fill my mind and heart with their stark outlines. I needed to get out of the valley heat of the Arizona desert. I had to be somewhere nobody knew me. I had to cut myself off from the known.

I came to the mountains to meditate. I wondered, coffee-warmed cup in hand, If I were really all that interested in meditation, why I did I burn up 16 of 96 hours driving? I thought, at the time, that my dramatic exploration was as much a distraction from peace as the life that put me in that truck hurtling over unknown creek beds.

Have you ever found yourself making excuses on when you will begin doing whatever it is that you have been putting off? Well that’s how my excuses found me. I was not impressed.

I had a good laugh. Finished my drink and drove a few more miles to a camp site. Set up my tent properly and spent the next couple days meditating and walking.

As I drove home I passed by that island. The bones were licked clean. I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I bounced along that creek bed to the other side.

Months later I waited for that feeling to well up inside me. It never did again. I had started meditating daily, again.

There was nowhere to go.

Photo courtesy of Boxcanyonblog@blogspot.com

 

The Road To Nowhere!

 

 

This is our third week in our series of how to have the best 2015 you can have.

How did it go?

Why start a post asking you, the reader, how it went?

Well this is how it went for me, the writer.

I spent a couple hours this morning writing this last installment. I had woven the Talking Head’s song, Road To Nowhere, through the bones of this baby. Amidst all the rapid-fire typing, I was interrupted with a question. I had to get out of word to check something, while I had multiple files open.

Where am I going with this?

Yes, you guessed it. The proverbial dog ate my post.

When asked to save, I said no, because two of the three files I had open definitely could not be changed.

Wha la.

So that’s it. I’ve decided no more posts. It wasn’t meant to be. Fate worked against me. For the first time ever a post didn’t save, so that means that I am not following the Dao. Every time I try to save, it doesn’t work, that must mean it’s time to stop. Nobody is reading this anyway. I have better things to do. I quit.

Does all of this sound a little familiar?

It sure does to me.

When I was confronted with my loss I laughed for a few minutes. It was such a great post, in hindsight it would really have been Pulitzer material if only the cold, calculating hand of fate hadn’t separated us.

There it is again, 20/20 hind sight/Pulitzer prize winning. If only. . .

So there I was, strumming my new favorite ditty: I wrote a post to nowhere, come on inside.

So disappointed. So what.

We take our hits and get back up. Simple as that. When Bill and I are San Diego in three weeks we will have a good laugh over a beer and plan for our best year at THIRDFORCE.

Maybe it’s time we simply get rid of the excuses. Stop making up reasons why things happen. We don’t know. We will never know. The only thing we can change is our response to what happens to us. These changes in the way we respond to the world do not come easily.

But what is there worth doing that doesn’t come at a price?

When you are breaking new ground expect challenges. Expect failure. You are after all asking your nervous system to change. Not only are you asking your nervous system to change you are asking it to forge new ground. Believe me, the last thing the nervous system wants is to work. That’s why we have a subconscious – it takes far, far less energy than our conscious thoughts.

Good news is we all know it’s true. Breaking new ground takes effort. The bad news is, the culture works against us. There are an endless supply of people out there telling you about going with the flow, following the way or the Dao. 

One of the most ridiculous memories of my 20’s and during my Chinese Medical school was when a student came waltzing into class late. The teacher at the time was famous for two things:

1) She would cut you to bleeding pieces, smiling the whole time as your life’s blood circled down the drain.

2) She ran a tight ship.

On this day the student came in the teacher began her smiling assault. He hardly moved a muscle.

Why are you late? Why do you think you can come in here when you like. I was up hours preparing for this class to teach. All you had to do was sit there and learn. Why? Why?

In reply, he said, I was following the Dao, you know, the way. My body told me to sleep in so I followed.

The Dao? She replied, sneering through her smile, red stick lighting the wall to the side of her.

The Dao, smile fading.

Yes, he said, The Dao. You should try it sometime. Nature is my teacher. In the meantime you are filling in. Quite well I must say.

Needless to say he was kicked out of class and brought up on all kinds of student behavior charges.

The funny thing is some of the students agreed with him. Their intuition was telling them to stay in bed longer too. Winters in Portland, Oregon are an abysmal affair. Lots and lots of rain and down time.

A few of us were at a pub about a week later and the incident came up. Everyone, shockingly, was on the student’s side.

I said, to the group. You know I lived in a temple in Korea. It was a combination of Rinzai Zen and Daoist practices.

All heads, swung as one to me.

And we did change our patterns with nature.

Nodding.

In fact we did sleep in during the winter.

You see, they said, we knew it.

Yep we got to wake up at 3:30 am and start meditating.

Spirits dampening.

During the summer months it was back to 3 a.m. If you are following nature than you understand just how regulated and consistent it actually is. We might, in modern times, even be able to forecast the sunrise and sunset a month in advance. Can you believe it? The sun and moon don’t veer off course because they want to.

Nature is its own law. Human beings have been cutting themselves off of natural order as long as we have been thinking.

They looked at me not knowing exactly what I was saying. On one hand I was the only one who spent a lot of time in temples, which was cool. On the other hand, I was suggesting that natural law was not the same thing as just doing whatever you wanted to do because you thought it was a good idea at the time.

In the end, my view was tossed out. The Daoslackers won. I was, as is my most favorite position, walking that margin.

All of which to say, is that, if you are truly making new ground and changing the way you are functioning you will find it difficult, hard and above all else, deeply rewarding.

Get up. Try again. The road to Nowhere is calling. Come on outside.

 

(Photo credit, Glide Magazine)

It Was Not Your Fault, But Mine

So what defines us in the end? Is it our things? Our actions? Our relationships? Kids? Our businesses? Our Crafts? Our wine collection? Our tragic last-second loss of the Super Bowl to a bunch of cheating, lying, ball deflating. . .

What! What?

Sorry about that last line. It was very interesting. The whole state started firing the same shot. Dumb call, throwing that pass.

I got caught up in it too.

But then, my program kicked in. How did the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl? By making weird, off-kilter plays.

That’s how.

They simply did what they were doing without taking time to make an analysis whether or not that pattern still served them. It’s easy to love your team when they are being themselves and winning. As far as loving them when they are down. Well that has everything to do with how we think and how we behave.

Back to the mind, then. Where did these thoughts and feelings come from? We keep looking at our lives and mind like there’s something mysterious or aloof about our outcomes. But really, if we look closely, we will see the same pattern repeating.

We are the accumulated outcomes of our habits.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

Our patterns form states. States give birth to thoughts and emotions which ultimately our outcomes

So let’s break this down THIRDFORCE style.

How do we even create a habit? Does it take place in 14 days? Sorry Steven Covey, you were a great man, but habitually optimistic – which is not a bad thing.

According to cutting edge research in neurology, it takes at least 90 days of daily routine for something to form a habit (Check out Joe Dispenza and his work). If it only took 14 days then we would all be hitting the gym the last 51 weeks of the year.

So there you have it. That’s where we fall short in our goals.

CS Lewis said it best. We don’t don’t get into trouble because of the strength of our passions. We get into trouble because our passions are not big enough to outweigh our apathy.

Let me say it again. The problem is not that we have too many wants and needs. The problem is that we don’t fuel these wants and needs with enough energy so they become habits.

You have to see it through to the end.

Perhaps one of my favorite songs in recent times is from Mumford & Sons, Little Lyon Man. The lyrics hit so true and so close to home the first time I heard it I literally pulled off the road to listen:

Weep for yourself, my man,
You’ll never be what is in your heart
Weep, little lion man,
You’re not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself
Take all the courage you have left
And waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head

Let’s go back to last week’s post. In it, we asked a few questions:

Body: What makes you function at your peak? What throws you off your game? What can you do to “tune up” your system? Leave your car at home. Take yourself into the shop.

Mind: What thoughts are habitually showing up? Did you analyze them? Which one’s do you want to keep? Which no longer serve you?

Spirit: How easy do you move through your day? Are you fighting uphill? Certainly, the challenge is never greater than the demons in your own head telling you fail. How did you change your relationship to adversity?

Remember these changes take a minimum of three months to set. Take the time to write up a three month plan. So there you have it.

What will you do with it?

3 Ways To A Better 2015!

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Life can be confusing at times. We are pulled apart by events, circumstances, chance, relationships, beliefs, times, environment, etc. The heart says one thing. The mind, the other. And the body? After abusing it since October, well it isn’t saying much anymore, just quietly putting on those winter pounds.

But, hey, didn’t we just make a bunch of resolutions? Well, yes, the royal we did. However, in my clinic I have already seen these fall to the wayside.

So, what happened?

Let’s take a look under the hood. With all of these obstacles it’s time to take a look at our filter. Let’s see what information is coming to us and see how we are responding to it.

Our filter is the part of us observing what is happening in our life. As we start 2015 let’s have a quick look at how we can use our body, mind and spirit to have a better year.

Each of these three parts of us experiences the world in their unique way. Best practices are to nurture the three-fold path.

Each week for the next three weeks we are going to look into the future by giving you tools to alter tomorrow through modest efforts today.

Body: Treat your body kindly. Eat foods which give you long-term sustained energy. Don’t know what foods do this for you? No problem, make a food log and track energy levels. Highly functional people are 8-10 out of 10 on the energy scale. Where do you rank? Does your level change throughout the day? I had one patient say they woke up tired, drank enough coffee to dislodge themselves form home. Get to work. Space out. More coffee. Meaningless work – not the kind that accomplishes anything. Then lunch. More coffee. Big slump by 3. More coffee. They are wearing a headache by now and their neck and shoulders feel wooden. Add in some reflux and it’s time to think about going home. Home sweet home. Crack a beer. Watch TV. Repeat. We take better care of our pets and automobiles then this. First step, just figure out what makes your run better or worse.

 

Mind: Ever have an experience where you say something and then apologize a minute later? You ask yourself, now why did I say that? That’s the program. About 95% of what we do is the unconscious, pre-programmed mind. Every once in a while we get a chance to see what we really think by observing these automatic responses. Most of the time they are startling. We say something, or feel something, know it isn’t right and then end up doing it anyway. Why? It’s leverage. If 95% of us is moving in one direction, the rest will follow. Not much choice there. Figure out what you are thinking and then decide what you would rather think. I think Dale Carnegie said it best, we have people guard our banks. You should rather, guard your mind with that same level of intensity for the contents are much more valuable.

 

Spirit: When you say spirit in these, modern times, people give you a blank look that seems to say, I didn’t see that at Best Buy, what do you mean? What we mean is that the spirit is felt clearly when the body and mind are at their most quiet. I always know my body and mind are working well when I am stopped in my tracks by a night sky filled with stars or a leaf dancing in the wind. I think the spirit is so hard to get in contact with because if the body and mind are ill, it’s hard to hear or feel anything but agitation. Spend some quiet time with yourself. For the spirit, quiet is nourishment. Unplug.

Why Be Good At Going Home Early?

 

My daughter looked up at me asking, Hey Dad, should we stop believing?

She was impossibly crammed in the couch between my friend and myself, both of us elbowing her in the excitement. She squirmed her head up at me, looking.

No. This is how the team always plays. They come from behind and all of the sudden they wake up. They remember they are champions and after that, they win.

The Seahawks were trailing 19-7 with 5 minutes to go for NFC Championship game. Or was it still a game? For all purposes it looked like it was already over.

Almost everyone thought it was over.

Unbelievably, even the fans were leaving the stadium. Seriously? The stadium that the 12th Fan, not Man to my girls, built! Even they gave up?

As they were leaving I was reminded of a Jim Rohn quote. I’ll have to paraphrase, but the gist of it is: When you go to a performance don’t leave before it’s over. Think about all the time they spent practicing. All the time away from their families. If the score is bad, stay and show the team your support. With so many things to be good at in life, why choose leaving early?

Dad, why do we believe?

Because without faith, there is nothing worth living for.

She was quiet for a time. Then looked up again as we scored a touchdown.

Does that mean if they lose we have nothing to live for?

No baby, they might lose. That doesn’t even matter. What matters is we believe in the possibility that they may not.

The Seahawks scored again. There was Green Bay Field goal. Complete chaos was breaking around us. For the first time in my life I felt the deep adrenalin rush of watching, I mean really watching, a sporting event on television.

I’ll have to back up here a bit. Bill Donnelly, Co-Creator of TH3RDFORCE, had few greater joys growing up than inviting me over to his house to watch football.

I hated football.

I did, however, suffer from adolescent-boredom syndrome. It’s a terrible burden for both the afflicted and their friends. So I would sit there or up in his room reading books while the game went on. I always hoped his team would win because if they didn’t it meant he was in a bad mood for the whole night.

So how did I find myself in this particular situation, elbow to elbow with crazy Seahawks fans?

Fate. No other word for it.

I married a Canadian. She hates football for not being hockey. It’s a crime the NFL will never come back from. I have two daughters. I thought I was safe. I thought I had seen my last pro game in high school.

Then Rowy struck. What is a Rowy, you ask? She is my daughter and she’s crazy about the Seahawks. She got into the sport last year. At her school they had Seahawk Fridays. Kids got to wear their jerseys, hats, etc.

Soon enough she told me she was the only kid in her class without a jersey. We asked her teacher. Her teacher said, well yes, she is the only one in our class. She said this giving me the look. Not the you should feel guilty look but much worse, the my God, why don’t you know about this look? Pity, that’s what it was. Pity.

Off to the store to feed the machine. I felt a little ill paying for the NFL jersey. The sting was softened by my kids immediately putting them on.

Next came the Super Bowl. Safe, I thought, we don’t have cable. One of our friends has a daughter about the same age as my kids. He called and invited us to his Super bowl party saying the kids could play. Laughing, I told my wife, yeah right. The kids heard and that was that.

We watched the game. I have to admit. I kind of liked it. Gone were the grotesquely fat, slow, football heads of the past. In their place were the Seahawks who looked more like lacrosse and basketball players than the behemoths I remembered.

This season I didn’t even think of the whole Seahawks thing. But wouldn’t you know it. Rowy asked if we were watching the game this weekend.

The game?

Yeah, the Seeeeeeaaaaa HAwkssss.

Fate stepped in. My parents were over for dinner.

Sure, my Mom said. You can come over. I’ll even pick you up.

We never missed a game. Not one.

And that’s how I found myself sitting in the living room. You see by now I had been won over by the sheer athletic ability of the Seahawks as well as their strangeness. Let’s face it. They are as eccentric as any characters in any novel.

Back to the game. It went into overtime. Russell Wilson, the quarterback, had scored perfect 0 in ratings until the last few minutes.

After two absolutely perfect throws the Seahawks won in overtime.

He went from a 0 rating to a 100 rating.

Why?

Pete Carrol, the head Seahawks coach said it best, Russ has an internal conversation going in his head that doesn’t allow him the possibility of giving up.

As the game ended and the room exploded, I found myself grinning like a school boy. I hugged my daughter and for the briefest of moments felt a hand on my back. It was Donnelly reaching through time, probability and space – a high five for the team.

Lessons learned: Don’t leave early, never give up and never say never.

Silence and Stars

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Loneliness is a common theme from patients at the clinic.

Sometimes they come in, worse for the wear, after years of social misfitry. Sometimes they had a social group, say college, but outgrew that set, staying in the same town. Other people move to town for a job and have trouble connecting to people in/outside of work. Even worse, people who are married with kids and still feel isolated. Alone. Lonely.

A patient came in a while back. She was complaining about her lack of social life. I asked her a few questions telling her, in the end, to study friendship. Find a friendship mentor if she needed.

Do something.

I got the impression she wasn’t really listening. Although she was asking questions, she wasn’t waiting for answers.

She came back the following week with an idea.

I think what’s wrong is that I don’t engage people with enough questions. I am not showing enough interest in them. I am not letting them know about me. You know what, it all comes down to, she said, talking rapid fire without breathing. I’m talking about filling up the room with so much information that they can’t help but become glued socially to the execution of my delivery.

I cleared my throat.

She looked expectantly at me.

I feel like running out of this room just listening to your prep. What you are talking about is a form of social assault. In fact I’ve already taken a few hits. I can feel them. Inside. Hurting now.

She looked back at me. Eyes tearing.

Too rough, I thought. We didn’t say a word for a few moments.

I can see the way you are looking that I hurt your feelings. Would you rather I help you or agree with you?

Yes, help.

But do you see the difference? If you kept talking at me the only thing I would know if that you were streaming endlessly a conversation that I was not interested in.

So what are you saying then? I don’t get it.
Perhaps what you need is some space in between the questions.

I still don’t follow.

No problem. I believe that questions are only part of the equation. Statements too. These are mostly the least useful part, by the way.

They are?

Yes, more often it’s the space between questions that count.

Years ago my girlfriend was always wondering what my buddy and I did all night. It became kind of a game with us. She would go out with her friends. Come back home happy. What did you guys do? Nothing. Oh come on. Must have been something. Nope. She was intrigued by how close we were. So far in that town, she hadn’t connected well with anyone.

So one night she stayed home.

“Can I hang out with you guys,?” she said.

Sure.

We had a great dinner. Put on some music. Afterwards we grabbed some beers and sat on the couch. The evening came softening the Arizona light. As it got darker we put on some music. Leaned back into the couch, pulling on beers as needed.

A couple of hours later she got a bit antsy.

We kept sitting there. Taking sips of beer and talking occasionally.

About an hour later she stood up and said, You guys suck. All you do is sit here drink beer and listen to music. This is it? Really? This is what I have been wondering about?

She was right.

On the surface that’s all we did. On a deeper level the more comfortable the silence with someone the better I feel around them. The better I feel about myself.

I want someone to be there with me through the good and bad times. Laughing when it takes us. Talking when we want to. Sharing a calm moment in an otherwise constantly spinning life means more to me than the chatter.

Mostly through, I want someone in my life I can climb on my roof with. Bring a bottle of great wine up there. Put on some blues and have enough quiet in our hearts to watch the milky way paint the sky in unbelievable shades of white, purple and black.

I stopped speaking. We sat in my office looking at each other.
Oh she said, looking at me in a way that let me know she was thinking about something. So I don’t own a house. What am I going to do about the roof thing? And wine? I don’t . . .

These Shoes Were Made For Walking

I went out on a limb several months ago and bought some gorgeous old-school wingtips. They arrived. They fit perfectly. Hermes started stalking me. It was embarrassing at first, but hey, if that’s what it takes.  Life was good and then a buckle broke within the first week.

Sent them back for another pair.

They arrived. They were beautiful. They were stylish. They were wet walking through a puddle.

What? Hermes, suddenly looked less interested.

Looking down I saw the heel had delaminated, letting water in.

I sent them back.

In a flourish of well-oiled leather these monuments of style and flair came back to me. They still fit like a glove. They weathered puddles. We were in love. Hermes started showing up again.

Stepping out of my truck about six months later I felt a piercing lance of nerve, not pain, but sensation rocket through my foot. Thinking nothing of it I went inside to the chaos of my home. Hermes looked at me sadly, staring at his winged feet.

Few days later, nerve sensation, this time pain. A single bolt. I looked down at my lovely shoes and thought that’s strange. Haven’t had that one before. That jolt of pain severed the line connecting Hermes to us. That electrical feeling must have reminded him of Zeus, lightning bolts and all.

In the following days it became worse. I started to get that nerve pain on the weekends as well.

It was time for a change. I looked lovingly at my shoes, polishing them with a tear in my eye and said to them, breath a tremble, good b. . . What you need is a good insole.

$100 later (for two identical pairs) I matched the highest rated insole with my most cared-for shoes. It was a match made in in a tightly sown heaven.

Insole meets shoe decides to get together with foot. Just not enough room in these babies.

So I loosened my straps and everything was fine. For a while.

Took a week off of work and those shoes. Came back, gleeful that my feet didn’t hurt all day.

Woke up last night, ankle and foot pain. Sitting here typing I can feel the electrical current on the plantar surface of my foot ebbing and flowing.

I’m done.

Having never had a good fit and then throwing away another $100 to make what didn’t fit, worked in my life I am calling it quits on these babies.

Take a look at your life and see what doesn’t fit. Find out where the synergistic link has devolved into wishful thinking.

Make a change. Don’t wait for the pain. And certainly, don’t compound the pain with vain effort.

Let 2015 be the year, as my children have taught me, to let it go!

Flex Your Head

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 Ever take a look at the program running you? You know, the one reading this writing. It has to be asked sooner, or later, who is reading this stuff?

Program you say?

Yes, we call them expectations and assumptions. These are the pre-conceived, unconscious parameters that define what we experience. For the most part it’s not a problem. These assumptions save time and energy.

However, these assumptions do become a problem when we are doing anything but repeating patterns. Think of it this way. All of our experience points in the direction we are going in. The routine and monotony of daily life is so insidious it’s hard to even be aware of it taking over.

I had a good taste of it this weekend.

I was in Seattle for a seminar. I took the family so they could have some city time while I worked. My daughter and I woke up early to find a bakery in Pike Place Market. I also wanted to grab a coffee.

As we walked out of our condo we hit the streets and I was suddenly. . . Uncomfortable. There was dirt. Noise everywhere. People. Did I mention the people, in various states of disarray? From the walk of shame (singles staggering towards home after an unplanned sleep over) to the people who call the streets their home. Busses. So loud. Like shrieking banshees calling out for blood in the dimly lit and stinking streets.

Did I mention I am not a city person?

I went to University 15 miles outside of Washington D.C. At night I would look up at the orange sky stained from far too many lights. At times I couldn’t take it. I would hop into my car and drive into the Shenandoah mountains. I would drive until my eyes couldn’t focus. Pull off on a dirt road and then throw my sleeping bag down at the ground. I remember my eyes being so tired and the air cold. The feeling of my tears streaming down my cheeks as I looked up at the stars and the Milky Way. I recall, working my mouth into words as shooting stars carried my prayers with them on their nocturnal journeys.

What was that?

Oh yeah, people yelling at each other in an alley. We are moving quickly. We find that French Bakery right outside Pike Place Market. Order some baked goods and then head back to our condo.

As we are crossing the street a homeless person is talking to me. I turn my head forward, pretending he is not there. He stops walking. I am now looking at him. Tensing. Getting ready. I’m sinking into my knees, breathing deeply. This is all automatic. I don’t even think about it.

He’s now pointing to his wrist where his watch should be. The sound cuts in, “can you tell me the time?”

I blink my eyes a few times. Stare at my clock. The numbers aren’t adding up. Quickly I look up at him, “8:15.”

“Kid he says,” talking to my daughter, “Stay in school don’t end up like me. Listen to your Dad.”

He walks up the hill. I think about what he has said. I slow my pace. Take in the city.

My daughter looks up at me.

“Did he make you nervous baby?”

“No, papa. I’m glad we slowed down enough to help him.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean,” she says jumping high into the air. “We’ve been running, pant, pant, ever since we left the condo. I’m out of breath. Pant. Pant.”

We hold hands walking up the street. I’m moving slower now. Checking things out. I eject the CD playing in my head: Cities are corruption in physical form. Listen to your Dad, I think. What have I been telling her on this walk?

The danger of our automatic responses is that they dehumanize us. When we act automatically, we are actually dehumanized. Not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is a living, breathing, growing thing spreading itself across time.

Take a moment today to check yourself. See if you are reacting or responding to your environment. Take yourself out of auto-pilot. Plug into real time. See what is actually happening, not what you think is happening.

What better way to celebrate the coming Holiday Season than with a new way to look at life?

See you all in 2014 and we thank you for your support this year.

What Words Did Your Year Write?

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One of the funny things about language, culture and economy is how certain words come in and out of fashion. These word you see are not just casual letters strung together. Words make definitions and these definitions define who we are and what we do.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution you bought goods at a higher price and you often waited a long time to get them.

The tradeoff was that you knew exactly who produced what you bought. You know how they produced it. You lived in the same town and reputations were forged over a lifetime.

The word craftsman was a beginning point for business.

Flash forward to modern times when we have an industrial-technological system producing goods on a dramatically larger scale.

The pluses or easy to see: lower cost, greater circulation, continual changes in the technology used to manufacture, etc.

The negatives are we no longer know who is making what or how or even where the producers live. While the materials are certainly better, their durability is not.

There’s a frenetic energy built into our current system. When people line up at box stores in the middle of Thanksgiving just to get a good deal for Christmas, it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Awash in the flotsam and jetsam of the consumer mindset it’s easy to lose your footing.

Buzzwords on these sales are simple: prices slashed, lowest prices of the year. I perused a few advertisements and only found price-driven messages. There was not even a ghost of yester year. No hidden claims of quality or heritage.

The irony here is that producers are now returning to the craftsman model. Take Filson from Seattle. They are making by hand “heirloom quality” goods right in their shop in Seattle.

You see what they did there? They took a pre-industrial model and made it sell. They started making gear for prospectors and foresters over a hundred years ago.

People are paying up to $500 for a jacket that promises to “last a lifetime.” They don’t have sales. They don’t discount. They offer goods that do not fit our cultural norms.

And that’s fine. I absolutely love Filson gear. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. They have been doing what they do for over 100 years.

Besides having truly great quality, Filson made its mark by standing out. In a sea of technologically advanced and machined fabrics they offer handmade wool jackets. If you want rain protection, forget about Gore-Tex, they use wax. Just like the jackets I saw in Ireland back in the early 90’s.

Let’s take a lesson from Filson. Let’s see how your year stands out. Look back on this last 12 months. Take stock of the major events you experienced. Write a sentence about each event. What words come to mind?

Pick a word for each event and write it down somewhere to the side. Now don’t just pick any word. Find one. Dig deep in your word smithy and craft a word that speaks loudly to you.

Next look at the words. They will paint you a picture for the year. What did your sentences say?

An example of this could be:

  • Having a baby.                                             Joy
  • Not getting any sleep since the baby.          Deprivation
  • Getting a raise.                                            Money
  • Finishing that nursery.                                Accomplishment

 

String the sentence like this: 2014 was a year which married joy, accomplishment and positive cash flow. Tempered of course, by deprivation: sleep is hard currency at our house.

Review your sentence. How does it feel to you? Does it sound like you are making the best use of your time and resources?

Let’s look at it another way. Same events, different descriptors and mind set.

  • Having a baby.                                                 Prison
  • Not getting any sleep since the baby.              Injustice
  • Getting a raise.                                                Deserve
  • Finishing that nursery.                                    Debt

 

Let’s have some fun at the expense of our dear writer: 2014 was the year that imprisoned me in debt. I got what I deserve because there is no justice.

So, reader, who would you like to be? The former or the latter?

I like making these paragraphs. I read them as a summary or chapter review for what my year looked like. Being that it’s close to New Year’s day, it may be time to put pen to paper and see what story this year told.

Leave some of your sentences in the comments if you like. We are all in this together.