Saturday, December 29, 2001

Embracing The Unknown

I've been feeling lately like a change is coming. You know the feeling. It comes from deep inside and manifests itself in unease, restlessness, edginess, excitement and anticipation. It's that feeling that has prompted this article.

“Knowledge is power.” You've heard it said, I'm sure. Someone made this point to me just the other day. It made me think, given my current feeling, I'm really pretty powerless these days. Yes, there are many instances in our lives when the more facts/information we have, the better decisions we can make.

But what about not knowing? How powerful can that be? When I am feeling the discomfort of not knowing, it most often means an insightful transition is on its way. So, I think that one of the most powerful things we can do is step fully, freely and without hesitation into the unknown. To become comfortable with the unknown is to experience freedom and become powerful in a less traditional way.

I was talking with a great coach, Andrea Wistar, about this subject a couple of weeks ago. She said that stepping into the unknown is like navigating in a fog. You can't do a thing about the fog. But you can go inside and know who you are in order to know where you are. You trust yourself. And when you trust yourself to be who you are, no matter what happens, nothing can be taken away from you.

To make that leap without all the answers, to step into the darkness without expectation of what is to come, to embrace the unknown as not just a place to begin but as a place in which we wallow, rest and soak up our inner essence is incredibly powerful. A sense of generosity can then occur as you discover your core and from that core, you can act more spontaneously. Amazingly, the parts of you that require “the facts” are no longer needed.

Treating the unknown as something to figure out can promote helplessness. Acceptance of the unknown allows you to let go of frustrations, strife, struggle, anticipation, and disharmony and allows a full sense of self acceptance and gratitude. The unknown is where your imagination can take hold. And it's imagination that transcends time and place.

“The moment where you show up, in whatever form, no particular answer expected, you hear a dialogue with something other than yourself, a voice that is speaking out from the world.” ~David Whyte

“Sometimes you've just got to let go. We put our lives on hold to the unknown and all we do is lose more of our life.” ~Corey Geyman

The highest form of ignorance is to reject something you know nothing about. ~Wayne Dyer

Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle. ~Annie Besant

Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Let It Ripen

When we have a crucial decision, we often feel that we have to weigh our options, make a list of the pros and cons and then, based on the information gathered, make a decision. The temptation is to look first for formulas; if I do this, then…and if I do that, then…. But often, formulas just don't work.

There was a time when I thought making progress and developing myself meant finding the right formula and pushing through crucial decisions. Often, I would resist the push. I was tired, scared or unsure of what I needed/wanted to do next. But my mindset was that I could not make progress without quickly moving myself through the decision.

Now, for me, decision making is much like the yoga I've been practicing for 30 years. In a yoga pose, I inhale, exhale, and move deeper into the pose. Inhale, exhale and move deeper into the pose. Inhale, exhale and move deeper into the pose. At some point in the process, I will experience some pain from the stretch. At that point, I back off just enough to relieve the pain and hold the pose.

And in decision making, I am now much more apt to take a step/action towards what I want and check for discomfort. If there is none, I breathe, take another step and check for discomfort, breathe, take another step and check for discomfort. At some point in this process, discomfort will likely come as it often does with each new endeavor. At that point, I back off slightly and hold the pose.

I was recently visiting with my friend, Maggie Foley-Burgess. She came up north for the weekend and brought her famous banana bread. We were discussing this month's newsletter and she said it's often our “drive-thru” mentality that makes us feel we have to decide/act instantaneously in order to get satisfaction as quickly as possible. However, Maggie says, "this does not sustain us." I agree.

Often what we have when we are facing a large and crucial decision is a green banana. And in “green-banana” decisions, our option is not to make the decision but to let the whole thing ripen.

It's not the action we take, but the insight as we "hold the pose" that grows (evolves) us. Let it ripen.

“Banana bread is just no good with green bananas.” ~Maggie Foley-Burgess

“When you see geese heading north or south, depending on the season, you know that there is one part of the world that knows where it belongs and it's going there; it's on its way.” ~David Whyte

"An undefined problem has an infinite number of solutions." ~Robert A. Humphrey

"It's all right letting yourself go as long as you can let yourself back." ~Mick Jagger

Wednesday, September 05, 2001

Niche Picking

Labels. They're just one word or a phrase we use to categorize ourselves. And they can have a huge impact on the way we interact with others and approach challenges.

We start acquiring our labels at birth. Some we choose to take on ourselves but many more are given to us. I, for instance, was called an independent child. In some ways, that label has served me well, but not always. It was many years later and through working with my coach that I discovered I was not independent, but I had a strong need to be unrestricted. A big difference in my opinion but easy to see how others would label me in childhood as independent. I am not independent. I do want and need people around me and in my life. I am a coach, you know! I do, however, not want to be restricted in any way by the important people in my life. Until I got that, my relationships were a bit of a struggle. I was using the old acquired term of independent to describe myself and it was no wonder that the important people in my life were confused when I requested help. And no wonder I was frustrated when those same people didn't come to my aid when it was so obvious to me that I needed them. “Oh, you're so independent, we knew you'd be all right.” Worse yet, because I believed I was independent, I rarely asked for help when I truly needed it. Independent was my brand, my trademark, my tagline, my niche.

Later, assessments most often labeled me an introvert. I was once told that I would not be a good educator (a degree I was pursuing at the time) because of this tendency. I continued to pursue the degree (probably because of my yet undiscovered need to be unrestricted—tell me I can’t do something and that's the very thing I want to do) and went on to be an excellent teacher.

I've taken the Myers-Briggs, the DISC, a coaching style assessment and endless others. I learned through the assessment in Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, that I'm an HSP. Now if you love taking assessments and/or you use assessments in your practice, bear with me. I still enjoy taking a good assessment myself. And most of the assessments support each other with remarkable consistency.

“So what's the problem, Deb?” you're probably saying. For me, it's that when you're done answering sometimes a hundred questions, the outcome is boiled down to just a few powerful words, your labels. But the power of assessments really lies in their inquiry, not in the results. Assessments, like a good coach, ask the great questions. But the labeling that comes after taking the assessment can impose limits on your development. Far better to answer the questions and then be intuitively honest with yourself about yourself.

“Once you label me, you negate me.” ~Kierkegaard

“The obscure we always see sooner or later; the obvious always seems to take a little longer.” ~Edward R. Murrow

“Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive.” ~Robert Persig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” ~Josh Billings

“One of the hardest things in life is having words in your heart that you just can't utter.” ~James Earl Jones

“Human beings, for all their pretensions, have a remarkable propensity for lending themselves to classification somewhere within neatly labeled categories. Even the outrageous exceptions may be classified as outrageous exceptions!” ~W. J. Reichmann

“Opportunities are seldom labeled.” ~John H. Shield

Wednesday, August 01, 2001

What's Perfect About Imperfection

Let me try something new but please, please, please, let me do it right and well the first time. If we always do things well, always do things right, and people know us as someone who always gets it right, then we've set ourselves up. It's costing us. As my friend John Bailey pointed out just yesterday, it gets lonesome and tiresome being the one in control, waiting for the world to catch up.

Looking at things from the bottom up isn't all bad. When I was a child learning to downhill ski, the first thing my instructor taught me to do was fall down. We spent a whole day falling. I fell while standing still, I fell while moving forward, I fell with my skis on, my skis off, going downhill and even while side-stepping uphill. It got pretty silly. But somehow, through the process of learning to fall, I learned to ski. Interesting. I don't remember much about the skiing lesson, just the falling lesson. We would be in the process of attempting something new on skis, the instructor would command “fall!” and down we went. What a wonderful way to learn. Nobody got to be perfect.

Many years later when I took a solo white water canoeing class, guess what we learned first? You got it! How to dump the canoe. First we dumped in still water and then the instructor took us to the river and we learned to get ourselves in every possible bad situation that river had to offer and fall out of the canoe. Everyone came to the class pretty nervous about our ability to perform and everyone left the class soggy and tired but extremely giddy.

Why do we feel we have to be good at something to try it, that we have to succeed at something in order to enjoy it, that we have to do something right before we feel accomplished? Striving for perfection can create frustration and disappointment. But doing something imperfectly leads to new insights and a new way of looking at things.

Here's what perfection is costing us:
  1. Spontaneity. Perfection is a way to be in control. But control limits spontaneity.
  2. Process. When we focus on perfection, we're in the game for the product, for mastery, not the process. We compare ourselves against people who are further along in the process and can't enjoy our own progress.
  3. Completion. The higher the goals of perfection, the lower the hopes of completion.
  4. Mystery. There is mystery all around us and enjoying the mystery evolves us. Perfection doesn't honor the mystery. 
  5. Authenticity. Striving for perfection does not allow us to be authentic.
When we let go of perfection, allow ourselves to do things imperfectly, we come to see how perfect we are, just the way we are. It's a subtle difference but it's true. Our lives can be more perfect when we let go of perfection.

“If we are forever yearning for more, we are forever discounting what is offered.” ~Julia Cameron

"Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life." ~Dr. David M. Burns

“Perfection is not about what is being done, but rather about the one doing it.” ~Charles Powell

"I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God's business." ~Michael J. Fox

Monday, July 02, 2001

All I Really Need To Know

All I Really Need to Know I Learned at the 3rd Annual Cool Coaching Campout

Last month, my buddy Drew and I hosted the 3rd Annual Cool Coaching Campout. I want to thank all the campers for an insightful kickoff to summer. I thought it might be fun to share with you some of the things I learned that weekend.

1. Any event that has fun as its underlying theme will serve to evolve you faster than all the classes, workshops and self-help books you want to take on.

“Hard work never killed anybody but why take the chance?” ~Edgar Bergen

2. When strangers come in to your life with a sense of playfulness, you get to look at yourself in new ways.

“We find comfort among those who agree with us--growth among those who don't.” ~Frank A. Clark

3. New people bring new questions.

“What do you get when you cross an insomniac, a dyslexic, and an agnostic? Someone who lies awake all night wondering if there really is a Dog.”

4. And speaking of dogs, cooking outside with two dogs patrolling the perimeter makes for fast cleanup.

“If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.” ~Phil Pastoret

5. Ohio, Ontario and Michigan can connect in more ways than geographically.

“Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends.” ~Mary Catherwood

6. When eight people want the rain to stop, it does.

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein

7. Don't discount the guy who describes himself as “driven.” He has an interesting story to tell.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~Dale Carnegie

8. It's often more fun to paddle in circles than to just go downstream.

“Do the common thing in an uncommon way.” ~Booker T. Washington

9. An ex-Marine can coach by the seat of his pants.

“When I hear somebody sigh that ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’” ~Sydney Harris

10. When you put a bunch of people with different rhythms, ways of being and internal clocks together, the fire just can't go out!

“Spring is nature's way of saying, ‘Let's party!’” ~Robin Williams

It's quiet in my backyard now. The dogs are lying in the sun and waiting for me to take them for a walk. I enjoy the peace and serenity. No sounds but that of the creek bubbling on its way to the river. But there's a part of me that misses the laughter, music and outrageous questions that energized every moment of the 3rd Annual CCC. Thanks to Jen, Kemp, Brian, Julian, Deb, Dan and Drew for shaking my life up for one very fine weekend.

Sunday, June 03, 2001

The Folly of Goals

The picture on this page is from a paddling trip my friend Deb and I took to Quetico a few years ago. The old car was sitting along the portage trail. We were tired and hungry and had some distance to go before we could set camp. Even so, we hopped in the car and spent a ton of time trying to get the camera hanging just right in a tree so we could set the timer and get the pic. With a little creative play and a lot of laughing, that time out made the rest of the day a breeze. Beep beep!

The dictionary defines a goal as ‘the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.” It's that word “effort” that bothers me. Here's the interesting thing I've discovered about goals. The more effort I put towards a goal, the less perfect my present becomes. And the less perfect my present is, the more goals I set. Goals can be seductive and cause me to strive.

Let's say you're on a well-worn forest path. The goal is the large oak tree at the end of the path. Many have been there before you so you believe if you just follow the path, with effort, you'll reach the goal too. It's a long trek and not everyone has survived the journey so you become extremely focused on the goal and you plan methodically, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, step-by-step, your journey. In order to take this exhausting journey, you believe that nothing, but nothing, can distract you from your goal. Do you make it? Maybe, maybe not. But in your determination and your striving, you purposefully put on blinders to keep you from distractions. You gear yourself each day with a work-hard attitude in order to attain your goal.

But distractions are the very thing that makes the present so rich. Perhaps one of the distractions is another hiker who has already reached the goal tree. He would tell you, if you had taken the time to listen, that this goal is not worth the effort. It is old and fading and it is no longer able to support you. But in your desire to reach the goal, your head is down, focused on each step you take on the path, you ignore or totally miss the hiker. Perhaps the distraction is another path, less worn but obviously starting to be used. But in your nose-to-the-ground mode, you pass right by, never knowing that this path leads to two oak trees, just as beautiful as your original oak goal and a much shorter trip.

I'm not suggesting you let go of all wants and desires. In fact, have a ton of wants and desires. Desire any little old thing that comes to mind and intend for it to happen. But then let go of your attachment to it. That's where goals foul us up. When we take that desire and turn it into a goal, we become attached to the outcome. That very attachment puts us in striving mode and the striving robs us of our enjoyment of the present. Desires and intentions are a more relaxing knowing or sureness that unhooks us from the striving. And with this, action comes from inspiration rather than a set of defined steps you have determined you must take to reach the goal.

If you're willing to approach all you want with desire and intention, no stop along the way or altered path is a mistake. What freedom!

“When the future becomes far more important than the present, the destination holds more importance than the journey.” ~Thomas Leonard

"To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top." ~Robert Pirsig

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.” ~Henry David Thoreau

All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure. ~Mark Twain

Monday, May 14, 2001

Things I Can Choose To Be

A very cool coach, Andrea Wistar wrote this one and sent it my way. Enjoy!

Things I Can Choose to Be at any Moment that I am Not
Loose Cannon and Proud of It!

Weird title, huh? What it says is that a chosen behavior should not be confused with a state of being; i.e. I can choose to be lazy without describing myself as a lazy person. And more to the point, I should be able choose to be lazy without risking being called a lazy person by you. Here's an example – if I'm “taking a break,” and therefore am not responsive to your request for action, you may describe me as lazy. Is that because of what I really am, or is it a reflection of the fact that at this moment I'm not conducting myself as you would like me to? Or to put it another way, you may describe me as lazy when my relaxed behavior is interfering with your agenda for me. And the flip side is that if I were in high-energy mode, you might describe me as hyper if you felt like relaxing. So, it seems that often the word being used by the speaker says not much about the character or condition of the person about whom she's speaking, but speaks volumes about what the speaker wants from the other person at that moment. Below are a few more examples.

1. Wishy-washy

I'm wishy-washy when I choose not to make a decision or take an action in the time frame that suits you. If you think the decision or action requires the same amount of thought that I do, you might refer to me as circumspect.

2. Selfish

If I do something that appears to put my own wants ahead of yours, I may be described as “selfish.” If you think I have been victimizing you by behaving as a martyr and I unexpectedly do something that promotes my happiness and releases you from guilt, you are glad to see that I've finally taken responsibility for my own well being.

3. Hard Ass

If I hold a firm position that is difficult for you to respond to, I'm tough. If I hold that same firm position and you agree with it, I'm decisive and strong.

4. Long-winded

If I'm talking after you've lost interest, I'm long-winded. If I'm talking for the same amount of time about something you are interested in, I'm spellbinding.

5. Permissive

If I let someone do something that you disapprove of, I'm permissive. If I let someone do something that you approve of (although others may disapprove), I'm open-minded.

6. Nit-picky

If I notice detail that you overlook or think is insignificant, you will say that I'm nit-picky. If you rely on me to work at the detail level, you praise me for my great attention to detail.

7. Pushover

If you see me “give in” on an issue where your stake was damaged by my decision, you call me a pushover. If you see me “come around” on an issue where your stake was improved by my decision, you call me responsive.

8. Stubborn

If I am holding to a position which you do not agree with, you proclaim that I am stubborn. However, if I am steadfast in my beliefs or my actions, and those beliefs and/or actions are consistent with yours, you identify me as committed, persistent or principled.

9. Loose Cannon

In a meeting where most everyone is participating in primarily linear thinking, my “off the wall” idea may cause the group to refer to me as a loose cannon. On the other hand, in a situation where there has been a persistent problem and nothing we have tried has worked, I may be heralded for my “out of the box” thinking.

10. Impulsive

I do something unexpected and apparently without much deliberation which you disapprove of, and I am labeled impulsive. I do virtually the same thing, but instead you approve of it, and all of a sudden I am wonderfully spontaneous.

11. Opportunistic

I “beat you to the punch” with an idea or contact that appears to advance my career at your expense; you'd probably be holding back in characterizing me as opportunistic. But if I employ the same strategy and you are my partner in experiencing the benefits, you might be more likely to say that you are fortunate to be aligned with someone who is politically astute.

12. Secretive

If I am withholding some sensitive information that you are interested in getting, you may say that I am secretive. However, if you are the person whose sensitive information I am guarding, you will be glad that I am discrete.

If you're trying to heed the now popular advice to avoid taking things personally, it may help to keep in mind the possibility that when someone describes you in negative terms, it's often more a statement of what they want than of who you are.

Friday, May 04, 2001

What You Feel Is What You Get

I've been reading Lynn Grabhorn’s book, “Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting” and I must admit I'm inspired. Grabhorn says “we create by feeling, not by thought.” And, “What we feel is what we get.” What we're “vibrating” out is an exact match to what we will attract in. If we are feeling good (she sometimes calls it “buzzing”) and attach a want to that feeling, we get what we want. Anyway, once you're in a place of “buzzing,” and knowing what you want, the next thing to do is follow what she calls a “hit,” the idea that comes in to your head to take an action, follow a path, make a change, do something, choose.

This is pretty contrary to the way we traditionally decide to handle a want. Big or small, we most often think about what we might want, weight the options, develop a plan and then move forward, carefully. Or, if the want is urgent, we start pushing and striving. Grabhorn calls this “Hi Ho Silvering.”

So during April, I've been playing with “buzzing,” “vibrating” and acting on “hits.” I’ll admit to you that I approached all of this with some skepticism. Believe me, the word “buzzing” alone is enough to put fear in the heart of a recovering adrenaline junkie. But it's spring and I'm in an experimental mood. And I'm not good at making decisions anyway.

It's mushroom season here in Northern Michigan, a time I look forward to all year. And it's also a time when the outdoor chores grow exponentially each day. About a week-and-a-half ago, I was raking the yard and “buzzing” like crazy just because it was a beautiful day, I was outside, and with each passing minute, the yard was looking pretty good. I moved to a patch of wet leaves and got triggered by the smell of musty earth to drop the rake and head for the woods to look for the elusive morel mushroom. Now, admittedly, this particular “hit” may have been genetic as much as anything else (I come from a long line of morel hunters). But I was feeling good prior to the idea and it felt like a hit to me. I’d been getting regular mushroom email reports from my buddies and had not heard much promising news. Someone had found two, someone knew someone who knew someone who had found 24. All pretty low counts to get me to stop doing those never-ending spring chores. Here's what I got from that hit. 227 morels (2 lbs.) in two-and-one-half hours. Not bad.

Now I'm intrigued enough with this attraction thing to take Grabhorn’s suggestion to start choosing one thing each day I can switch to when I recognized my thoughts are heading south or I'm just doing what she calls “flatlining.” I started practicing switching to feeling good at the drop of a hat.

As most of you know, I've been doing quite a bit of clutter clearing. A lot of what I'm clearing out has some value and so I decided to check out eBay and see what I could do with some of this stuff. As soon as I got on eBay, it became apparent that I’d need a digital camera. Oh, well. One of the links on eBay was to another web site called eappraisals. This site will look at a digital picture of your item and give you an idea of what it might be worth. When I got to eappraisals, one of those damn pop-up windows was in my face. I really hate them and always close them immediately. But this one was a chance to win a digital camera and I was feeling good enough to say, “why not?” I registered on the last day of the contest and about two days later I got an email saying that out of over 50,000 registrants, I’d won! Yikes! The last thing I won was a cake when I was ten.

Okay, I'm really interested in this “buzzing” thing now. 224 morels when I was feeling good anyway and then a digital camera when I had decided to incorporate good vibrations as regular routine in my day. But what about those times when I'm really down and need to turn it around. Can I do that?

I was having a particularly bad day last Monday. A few days before I had my feelings hurt, I snapped at a good friend and another friend had allowed me to carp and grouse about it for a few hours (not a favor according to Grabhorn). All in all, I was feeling pretty unlovable. “Okay, Deb, let's see you turn this one around.” I started to put myself into a feel-good place and immediately got a “hit” to go to the grocery store. Of all places! Those of you who know me know I HATE to shop and grocery shopping is the worst. My idea of shopping is to put anything I need on a list and let someone else do it. And there were really only three things on the list. But, I went. I got to the store, grabbed a cart and headed for the milk and orange juice. In front of the cooler, right in the way, were a man and his three-year-old son. Grumble, grumble. I decided to try to squeeze past them and only said, “Excuse me” because of the three-year-old. You know, polite example, blah, blah, blah. Well, as soon as I said it, he perked up and proceeded to tell me he had learned “excuse me” at school from his teacher. We actually had a ten-minute conversation (well, he did most of the talking, I just asked questions) and I felt my funk begin to lift. As I said good bye to this charming child and was moving on down the aisle, he turned around and said, “Oh, and I love you.” Funk totally gone now!

And here's the really cool twist. I was feeling so good, I decided to come home and reschedule a doctor's appointment for the next day that had taken me a month to get but was contributing to my funk because it was smack dab in the middle of a day off. Now, this I would normally not do because it's just too irresponsible to cancel at the last minute when others are planning on you. I was on my way to the phone to make the call when it rang. It was the doctor's office needing to reschedule and apologizing to me!

So that's my little experiment, for what it's worth. Grabhorn is much clearer than I am about why feeling good works so well in attracting what it is we want. I'm still wondering if good vibrations were attracting like vibrations or I just put myself in a place of feeling good to the point where I was more apt to notice and enjoy what was coming my way? I don't know and I don't care. The bottom line is, it really doesn't matter, does it?

“There are no facts, only interpretations.” ~Friedrich Nietzsche

“When you shut down your inner dialogue, you are shutting down your inventory of all the things that offend you.” ~Wayne Dyer

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it's too late.” ~Rita Coolidge

Thursday, April 05, 2001

On Finding Adventure

I have had more than my share of exciting times and I'm grateful for every one of them.

There was the time the bear came into camp at 11:00 p.m. and we listened to him consume two weeks worth of food for two people and a dog in only six hours. At 5:00 a.m., when it became obvious he had run out of goodies, we paddled our canoe out on to a very dark lake. He was still there when we went back at 7:00 to try to recover some of our gear. Probably because he'd also managed to polish off a flask of Kahula. And the time I was paddling solo on a large Canadian lake. The wind came up so strongly it was impossible for me to get to shore. I just held my own for several hours. After dark I was briefly grateful to land on an island I thought would be my refuge only to find it had been recently consumed by fire and there was no place to even sit down, let alone set camp. I've spent countless hours walking my canoe through low water rapids, carefully calculating each step, taking minutes to move 10 feet forward. And I can still barely think about the time I flooded my Jeep in a beaver pond.

People are always saying to me “I wish I was that adventurous” when they listen to my stories. But I’d like to make a distinction. Don't go to the dictionary, this is my distinction and I'm being a bit contrary again.

To me, adventure requires only awe, inspiration and appreciation. Seeing a black bear and her cubs walk a cliff on the opposite side of a lake from where I'm camped is adventure. Having a bear in camp is an adrenaline-induced learning situation. Quietly watching a moose as he steps into a lake on an early foggy morning is adventure. Having that same moose block my passage while paddling a narrow creek is an adrenaline-induced learning situation.

I’ll never stop going into the wilds and exposing myself to the risks that sometimes come. I have to admit that I'm a recovering adrenaline junkie and occasionally need a fix. But in my day-to-day life, adventure is merely an attitude to take action in order to inspire awe, appreciation and inspiration. It's a choice to not look at something the same old way but to approach it with curiosity. Adventure helps me write this newsletter, adrenaline just gives me good campfire stories.

The Top Ten Ways to Add a Little Adventure

1. Adventure Can Be Simple

Too often we think of adventure as this big thing we have to plan and put together. Arrangements need to be made, schedules coordinated, time secured, etc. Now that can take the adventure right out of adventure! Adventure can be as simple as just stepping out your door with no plan in mind.

2. Hang Out With An Adventurer

Do you know someone who has an adventurous nature? Spend some time with them. Adventurers love to lead others into uncharted territory.

3. Adventure Is An Attitude

Get that and you will find adventure in everything you do.

4. Go To The Wilds

True, adventure can be found at work, home and even in a good book. But in the wilderness, your senses become more acute. You'll smell, see, hear and feel more. A sun-soaked rock can feel as good as a down-covered bed; a light breeze or a cool lake as good as a full body massage; a campfire more wonderful than turning up the furnace; a field of flowers or just plain old earth more scent-filled than the best perfume. The best place to start with adventure is to let you body sense where all adventure comes from, the wilds.

5. Move Your Body

You'll see this in most of my top ten lists. Your body knows more than your mind ever will. Hone it.

6. Be A Child

When you were five, adventure came naturally. What did you love doing at that age? Do it. Yes, this may mean you'll have to get in the sandbox, on a swing, hang from the monkey bars or lead the cat around by a toy at the end of a string. (Hint: Kittens and puppies can teach you a lot about adventure)

7. Take The Dog For A Walk

Let him or her lead. See The Top Ten Reasons To Take Your Dog For a Walk

8. When The Directions Say Turn Right, Turn Left

9. Make Choices In Seconds

Not, hours or days. If you can't decide in a few seconds, then choose not to choose. Let it go as though you never had the choice.

10. Find a Creek and Follow It

Upstream, downstream, it doesn't matter

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes.” ~Jawaharial Nehru

“If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” ~Juan Ramon Jimenez

“You have to stay in shape. My grandmother, she started walking five miles a day when she was 60. She's 97 today and we don't know where the hell she is.” ~Ellen DeGeneres

“When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before.” ~Mae West

“We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” ~Emily Dickenson

Thursday, March 08, 2001

Clearing Clutter

Outside My Window

Lately, every time I look out one of my windows, something is going on. Since last week I've watched deer down by the creek every day, even in the middle of the day. The ruffed grouse have moved from their snowy covers to balance themselves on perilously thin choke cherry branches to pick at the buds. On Friday, they took a break from that activity to warm up to a spring ritual. Two females sat on low pine branches, I sat at the office window, and the three of us watched two very worked up males spar. Tail and breast feathers were in full form as they fought for over an hour. I'm sure it wasn't for my benefit but I enjoyed the show. And a pileated woodpecker has been down by the creek regularly boring holes the size of my fist in a dead yellow birch. I can only guess that the insects occupying that tree are restless too. Nature is definitely moving from a state of being to a state of doing. I can take a hint.

Clearing Clutter

I live in what I have always considered a pretty clutter-free home. But after reading Karen Kingston's book “Clear Clutter with Feng Shui,” I've realized I can still do with less. I started last week. The little clutter I have already cleared has had a surprising affect on me. Karen is ruthless in her suggestions (empty the trash every day!) but gentle and convincing in her approach. I have managed to give away and throw away several boxes. I truly didn't believe I had that much! The things I didn't toss, I started using again.

Karen defines clutter as:
  • Things you don't love
  • Things that are untidy and disorganized
  • Too many things in too small a space
  • Anything unfinished

She even told me that the word “clutter” comes from the Middle English word “clotter,” which means to coagulate. Okay, I get the picture all too vividly.

The problem with all this clutter is what she calls “stuck energy.” As clutter accumulates, energy around your space slows. And as that energy slows, more clutter accumulates. The result? You become what you see; tired, confused, in disharmony and disorganized. Your life is literally put on hold. There's just no space for anything new.

Here's the good news. By clearing clutter, you change the possibilities in your life. A week ago Sunday, I cleaned out my jewelry. On Monday, I received a totally unexpected gift in the mail, a beautiful silver bracelet that was just right for me. No, it wasn't my birthday. The giver just thought I’d like it. And I do! Hmmm. I think I’ll clean out the garage this week.

“Eliminate something superfluous from your life. Break a habit. Do something that makes you feel insecure.” ~Piero Ferrucci

“In my hut this spring, there is nothing—there is everything!” ~Sodo

“You can't have a better tomorrow if you're thinking about yesterday all the time.” ~Charles Kettering

“It is not the greatness of a man's means that make him independent, so much as the smallness of his wants.” ~William Cobbett

“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.” ~Allen

Saturday, February 10, 2001

Finding A Place

Remember the place you went to most often when you were a child? You had at least one I'm sure. It may have been the garden or a tree house. Perhaps it was a warm spot in some tall grass or a cool spot under a tree. Often just a chair or a pillow in the right corner of the house was enough. My grandmother's attic was a favorite of mine. Loads of information came back to me from that place. As an adult now, I still have places. They call me often.

A place is like a person. It has its own way of being. Sometimes my places are loud, sometimes they are soft, but they always talk to me. I can feel the heartbeats of my places. When I connect with the mood of a place and begin a conversation, I eventually hear something coming back other than my own voice. That's the point when I can uncover all that is underneath what I say, do, feel and think. Things happen in our lives. And the temptation is to say, “I'm lucky,” or “I'm unlucky.” But when I connect with my place, listen and let it talk to me, I know it's not about luck. It's about a worldly conversation and a gut-level knowing.

I've heard it said that you learn more from the questions you ask than the answers you give. So ask the great questions in your place and let the answers come back to you.

“Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life.” ~Burton Hills

“When you make the finding yourself—even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light—you’ll never forget it.” ~Carl Sagan

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that's where you renew your springs that never dry up.” ~Pearl Buck

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” ~Nelson Mandela

“There are places and moments in which one is so completely alone that one sees the world entire.” ~Jules Renard

“There's a moment in every day that Satan cannot find.” ~Blake

If you don't have at least one place, it's time. Discover the mood of your place and begin asking questions. Here's a start:
  1. Am I resisting anything? Resistance hints to a learning opportunity.
  2. Am I holding on to something I need to let go of? Think of an anchor. What is keeping you from soaring?
  3. Is there anything zapping my energy? An energy drain can cause stress to serious illness.
  4. Is there a need for action now? Our first instinct is often to do something, anything. But sometimes the “wait and see” approach is the way to go. Know what is right for you in each instance.
  5. Am I trying to be in control of anything in my life? Ah, "control," that's a whole other newsletter coming soon, I'm sure.
Now, listen!

Friday, January 12, 2001

Looking Back

This time last year, I suggested you simply choose a theme for the year instead of a New Year's resolution. I was attempting to do that very thing for myself this last week, find this year's theme, when I started reflecting. I couldn't stop. I finally bagged any idea of a 2001 theme and just gratefully enjoyed my reflections of 2000.

Winter 2000
I'm grateful that I could spend most of the night of January 20-21 around a small fire in my back yard watching the spectacular eclipse of the Moon. At total eclipse the moon was nothing more than a red ring in a dark and crisp winter sky and my fire was little more than hot coals on white, crisp winter snow. A month later, I found myself grateful that Gary and Sandy hosted their 13th annual Burn the Blues Bonfire. More than fifty of us spend the entire night burning old Christmas trees and anything else we wanted to remove from our 1999 lives. 

Spring 2000
In Canada on a weekend fishing trip, I was grateful Steve and Jeff thought to bring an ice auger and tip-ups as the rest of us were expecting to fish from our canoes. The canoes rode north nicely and waited patiently in a snow bank to be hauled home. I'm also grateful the cabin had a huge stove and plenty of wood as we watched the temperatures drop well below zero all three nights. And the spring of 2000 was definitely a year to express gratitude for morel mushrooms. In two consecutive days in April, I managed to pick over 10 pounds of this illusive delicacy and freeze some for this winter. Yes, I can even be grateful for things that thrive in dark secretive rotting places.

Summer 2000
Back in Canada on another fishing trip, I'm grateful for the incredible number of fish we caught but even more grateful we survived a black fly hatch. No other insect inspires such apprehension in me. Mercifully black fly relief comes at dark so we could enjoy each evening a campfire and a few tall fishing tales. I'm grateful too for my garden in full bloom across the front yard because the previous winter was mild enough that the deer didn't feel they had to eat all my bulbs in the spring. This summer also brought four abandoned puppies to the 2nd Annual Cool Coaching Campout. Thanks, Drew, for taking Tasha home. I'm grateful that I get to see those puppies regularly. My babies are all grown up.

Fall 2000
You guessed it, I'm grateful for another fishing trip. This time the gratitude definitely goes to the number and size of Northern Pike and Walleye we caught. Pike and walleye are members of the same wolfish family. Their mean temper causes them to pounce on anything that moves, edible or not. So I'm especially grateful to Randy and Steve for finding the time to stay a couple of extra days because “the fish are biting.” Thanks guys, you're my heroes!

So in the middle of trying to do some forward thinking, what has all this reflection done for me? Well, I'm not sure. I can tell you it was very indulgent and satisfying. Once I started reflecting, I began feeling immense gratitude. Research shows that the thoughts you entertain actually have an impact on your body chemistry and immune system.

I can definitely see at least a couple common threads in my 2000 gratitude highlights. Whether it was a fishing trip, a winter party or viewing the eclipse, fire, water and Jersey dog were most always present in last year's activities. There's probably a theme for 2001 somewhere in all of that and I’ll let you know if I figure it out. Or if you've figured it out, feel free to email me. But I'm willing to recognize the limits of logic. So, I'm just going to lower the flame, put the topic on the back burner and let this year's theme simmer a little. “Perplexity is the beginning of knowledge.” ~Kahlil Gibran

Happy New Year!

“May all your troubles during the coming year be as short as your New Year's resolutions.” ~Anonymous

“I feel a very unusual sensation—if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.” ~Benjamin Disraeli

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.” ~Lily Tomlin

“The way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” ~Oscar Wilde

“Earth is crammed with heaven.” ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” ~Abraham Lincoln

“Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the time we have rushed through life trying to save. ~Will Rogers

Try a gratitude list like the one I created for 2000. Enjoy the good health that comes from the great feelings.