Friday, December 12, 2003

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Well the fishing boat is cleaned out and covered up. The portable ice shanty has been cleaned up and minor repairs have been made. I've got a new blade on the ice auger. I'm holding off putting canoes away for the winter. One more paddle before the river starts carrying ice floes would be nice. I've had a long two-week break from walking the dogs in the woods as we hunkered down through firearm deer season. I've gone internal and the level of chatter in my head has hit overwhelming proportions. So I've got some insights to share…

There are some unfortunate places your mind can take you when you become overly dependent on it as your source of entertainment. It starts with simply thinking about things. But too much thinking without moving your body and your mind tends to want to do something with all those thoughts. To organize them in some way. So it begins calculating, talking all those random thoughts and trying to put some order to them. Calculating brings home its close friend, judging for a little sleep over. I mean, after all, how can you begin to calculate if you're not making judgments about the validity of one thought over another. So you give judging free rein and before you know it, you're placing judgment not only on past and present occurrences, but also on a whole host of future occurrences that may or may not happen.

If you don't recognize the signs of this downward spiral and introduce some physical movement, before you know it worry will come to your party with new games to play. It happens pretty quickly. As soon as calculating decides that something you thought about is possible and judging decides it's not good, unless you intercept, worry decides to focus on it. At the point that you've worried something enough, controlling will move in to center court and attempt to handle the situation.

So what's the prescription? The two best solutions I know are, moving your body, as I've mentioned above, and meditation. Combine the two and you've got what's called “moving meditation.” Two very popular moving meditations are Yoga and Tai Chi. Both help you to quiet your mind through movement. But you don't have to run out and join a class to start your own moving meditation routine.

For physical fitness, we're told a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. Better still, 30-45 minutes three or four times a week, or best of all, 45 minutes every day. So for example, if you are walking, think about how your feet are landing on the ground with each step and how all the joints of your legs and arms and even your toes are moving as you walk. Focus on the details of your movement and become aware of how all your body parts are working. Your mind then turns to the regular sequence of your movement instead of potential monsters, real or imagined.

Not only will your walking become more graceful and fluid, but the way you handle your life will be graceful and flowing too. What have you got to lose? After all, Dorothy and her friends were obviously not practicing moving meditation on their walk down the yellow-brick road and look where that got them!

“A Zen abbot once set before an American aspirant two sets of small leg-less Japanese dolls, one pair weighted in the bottom part, the other in the head part. When the pair weighted in the head were pushed over, they remained on their sides; the ones weighted in the bottom bounced back at once. The abbot roared in laughter over this illustration of the plight of Western man, forever stressing the thinking at the expense of his totality.” From a very old book on my shelf, The World of Zen.

“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” ~Arthur Conan Doyle, in a 1896 article for Scientific America

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

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Soulful Success

I'm sitting in my tent-cottage at Maho Bay Camps in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Another beautiful sunny day is unfolding. The temperature is about 80 degrees. The turquoise bay, lush green hills, and the tree-frog serenade going on outside my tent fill me with pure peace. This week of retreat, I got to share what I know. That success is a feeling, not to be found by goal-chasing.

In our striving to succeed, we set goals. Common goals like earn more money, build a bigger business, lose some weight, remodel or build that home, buy that boat or car, get more time off. I call these goals “common” because we boil our definition of success down to the same goals everyone else has. We see someone we consider successful and then, rather than looking at how they are experiencing their life, we try to replicate the things they have by setting our own goals. For instance, we say, “If I had a home like that, I too would be successful.” But look at anyone you consider successful. No matter how much or little they possess, if they are happy, joyful, and playful, then I'm betting they have established a goal-free zone around their success.

We have three primary ways of communicating; through our language, through our bodies, and through our emotions. We've been taught over time that language rules. So when asked what success means to us, we tend to respond through language. And, the easiest way to do that is to list our goals. We talk about making moves in our careers, building our businesses, finding the right relationships, moving to the place we want to live, and the ultimate indicator of success, making more money. In fact, most of us correlate success with the goal of lots of money. But the old saying, “Money doesn't buy happiness,” still holds true. And that's true for any of the other goals I've listed here.

It's happiness, joy, delight, relief, playfulness and pure bliss, to name a few, which are true trademarks of success. We can language that we are experiencing these feelings but our bodies and our emotions will be the final indicators of the truth in our statement.

Furthermore, goals are NOT our steps to success, but, rather, success is the path to fulfilling our goals. For example, if success is achieving what your soul intends then success does not come from more money, but money will come as a result of your success. Success is a feeling. Success is a state of being in which we feel a sense of joy, fulfillment, and achievement. And you know what? If you are not paying attention to your soul, success will elude you, no matter how many trinkets you amass.

Stop making excuses. If you're saying, “I’ll be dancing lightly when I achieve my goals,” you're missing out. I say dance lightly now and let your goals come to you out of that joy. Step into your delight, happiness, joy and let success find you. Achieving your goals is merely a byproduct.

"Success doesn't have to pull, tug, or chafe if we wear our real size." ~Sarah Breathnach

"Never continue in a job you don't enjoy. If you're happy in what you're doing, you'll like yourself, you'll have inner peace. And if you have that, along with physical health, you will have had more success than you could possibly have imagined." ~Rodan of Alexandria

"The vast majority of people have the deeply entrenched conviction that "success" promotes happiness. But it is not success that promotes happiness. When you genuinely enjoy your life, you are successful in the only real meaning of the term!" ~Tom Russell, singer/songwriter

"I have a 'Play The Melody' philosophy. It means don't over-arrange, don't make life difficult. Just play the melody -- and do it the simplest way possible." ~Jackie Gleason

"Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity." ~Paul Goodman, Author and Poet

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Bigger Fish To Fry

Last month I was on another adventure, fishing Dog Lake in Northern Ontario. That trip really brought home to me the power of the Law of Attraction.

I have been reading about and practicing the Law of Attraction for several years now. It started with Lynn Grabhorn’s book, Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting.

Recently I took a teleclass with Michael Losier, a Law of Attraction coach and author.

Here's Michael Losier’s formula for deliberate attraction.
1. Identify your desire
2. Raise your mood, feeling and vibration
3. Allow it to come to you (remove doubt)
Michael says “The speed at which the Law of Attraction manifests your desires is in direct proportion to how much you are allowing. And allowing is the absence of doubt.”

One way that helps me allow is to notice and honor the evidence. There is evidence all around us that what we are desiring and feeling good about is on its way to us.

The size of our desire and the enthusiasm we feel for it is in direct proportion to what we get back or attract into our life. Feel bad, neutral or lethargic about anything you are engaged in and you'll get back no rewards (if you are lucky) or maybe even problems. You may even get hurt. Feel good about playing small and you'll get back small rewards. Feel great about playing big and you'll get big rewards.

On my fishing trip last month, I discovered the cabin of my desires (as Michael calls it), my dreams, my meditations, my prayers. Call it whatever you like, it does not matter. You see, daily I had been raising my vibration and feeling great about spending three or four months at my fishing camp in Northern Ontario. FYI: I don't own a fishing camp in Northern Ontario---Yet! Never mind, that's just a detail. I've actually been able to picture some of the features of this camp. In September, when I pulled the boat up to the dock of the cabin I rented, I got a strong sense of deja vu. Not one feature that I had been able to see in my dream was missing!

Now I could focus on the problems of all this. I could focus on what's missing. This camp is not mine. It isn't even for sale. Is that a problem? No, not really. I'm merely focusing on the evidence that my dream is heading my way.

With my new clarity, there are a ton of possibilities:
1. This cabin will come up for sale at the exact time I am ready.
2. An identical cabin, one that is for sale, will present itself.
3. I’ll discover the property that is identical to the island this cabin sits on and I’ll build a cabin just like it.
4. I’ll just start renting this cabin for the entire summer.

Who knows what else? There is a multitude of other possibilities that I can't even think of yet. Some of them probably bigger than my little list here. So it's not my job to figure them out. My only job is to stay open and allow.

Notice I've mentioned nothing about affording this camp even if it was for sale. Money is a goal and goals are hard work. It's not money that will make us feel good. It is what we can do with the money that excites us. Excitement is where we need to stay. So just like finding the cabin, money is a detail. We've all got bigger fish to fry!

"The chore of the superior man is to swallow as much of life as he can hold. That way you are the best food for the one whose job it is to eat you." ~Eduardo Calderon from Jeff Salz's The Way of Adventure.

"The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, Just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat." ~Napolean Hill

"Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire." ~Orison Swett Marden

“Man can learn a lot from fishing – when the fish are biting, no problem in the world is big enough to be remembered.”  ~Oa Battista

"Some go to church and think about fishing, others go fishing and think about God." ~Tony Blake

"Fishing isn't a matter of life and death. It's much more important." ~Unknown

Friday, September 19, 2003

Your Big Yellow Bus

It's September. The bugs are gone, the tourists are gone, and so am I! I'm ending this month in one of my favorite places, fishing in Northern Ontario. Tales of the ones that got away and those that didn't next month.

The big yellow school bus is coming down my road again. The neighborhood kids seem happy. The dogs are not. The kids are no longer around during the day and Jersey is going to drop a little weight without all the treats they have been bringing her this summer. I must admit that when I see the bus, I feel sorry for those poor suckers. And I express my gratitude that I'm no longer going back to school this time of year.

But I am noticing that September stirs in me the urge to learn and do something new. How long do we have to be out of school before we lose the September urge? How long does it take, how many generations must pass, before we lose our agrarian urge to harvest in the fall?

As soon as the days get noticeably shorter, as soon as the nights are a little crisper, and as soon as the big yellow school bus starts appearing in the morning I get energized to learn. I could tell it was starting last week when I bought a new hiking skirt and a batch of socks. They are soft, fluffy chenille socks. They're perfect for fall weather and sticking my feet into them makes me feel oh so very good. The urge to write is stronger too. I've got more newsletter ideas than I can hold in my little brain so I picked up a batch of 25 yellow legal pads and more pencil lead just for the occasion. And read. Yesterday I went to and ordered ALL the books I've had on my wish list for some time. And I've bought some new PDF software that I'm now learning as I play with some new coaching offerings. You'd think I was getting ready for school myself. New clothes, new software to learn, new books to read and a writing frenzy. Yup, as much as I think I've graduated, the back-to-school syndrome seems to be ingrained in me. I know it's not just me. My coaching practice always picks up this time of year with new clients wanting to make big changes. I think we're all ready to learn a little something new about ourselves.

So as 2003 begins to wane, take on some new environments, meet new people, and learn something new while wearing something new.

Between now and winter break, your assignment is to surrender control rather than seize it. Learning is never about taking control, but about letting go and trusting. Since the big yellow bus was a place where we could all go internal, especially on the morning ride when we were not quite awake, put yourself on that bus now. You're in 3rd or 4th grade and on your way to school. You didn't ride the bus to school? That's okay. You can play too. If Mom or Dad drove you, put yourself in the family car. If you walked, imagine yourself on the path. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the one thing I've been dreaming about since those bus rides of my childhood; the thing I've always wanted to do but have not done yet? Don't know what that is? Ask a close friend or family member. Ask the person who sat next to you on the bus. They'll be all too willing to tell you what you've been saying for years you've wanted to do.
  • What's the one thing I loved doing as a child—the thing I wish I were doing instead of riding this bus—that I have stopped doing as an adult?
If these take some learning, then get the book or sign up for the class. If they mean buying some supplies, new clothes or gear, get them. Now get on your own Big Yellow Bus and take the ride!

“Dreams are the touchstones of our character” ~Henry David Thoreau

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Living Light

I've been decluttering in July.

You see, August and September are my favorite fishing months and I've got a few fishing trips to Canada coming up. So while most of you were at the beach, on vacation, camping, boating, and generally taking summer head on, July was my month to make changes in preparation for play. This year I decluttered myself and the house.

I took a 5-day detoxification teleclass from Coach Mary Kay DuChene. I've been doing detoxification eating for years but Mary Kay took my habits to a whole new level and I'm definitely feeling the difference.

Next, I grabbed Karen Kingston's book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui and I tackled the house. Last time I read Karen's book, it was February, 2001. It was time to read it again! I'm happy to report that after the month of July, I'm living lighter than ever!

“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

Sunday, July 27, 2003

The Spirit of Adventure

I just returned from the first of what I'm sure will be many Adventure Coach Outings on South Manitou Island in Lake Michigan. This one was designed to help coaches make nature, the outdoors and adventure a part of their practice and offerings.

Thank you, Randy, Robyn, Joelle, Kelly, Karen and Mary Kay!

Besides entertaining me with some outrageous antics and humor, these coaches from Colorado, Minnesota and Ontario helped me expand my definition of adventure. I'm so much clearer about what I want adventure to be for me.

Risk: To embark on a true adventure, I must experience some dare and the courage to push beyond adversity and boundaries. This is not to say that my adventures must be life and limb threatening. While I enjoy a little adrenaline now and then, I don't have to chase tornadoes or triumph over nature in some way. The risk can come from stretching myself a little more by dropping an old belief I have held and trying something new.

Expansion: Through exploration and discovery my knowledge and experience expands. I learn something new or get clearer about my environment, others, and myself.

Wandering: In my adventures there is some unknown, some mystery. I feel adventurous when I wander just enough that I don't know how something will work out, who I may meet, how I might get from point A to point B, or maybe even when the adventure will end. Even better if something is left at the end of my adventure that remains unsolved.

Internal: My adventures are as much internal as they are external. Even when adventuring with others, part of what is happening within me is very solitary, very personal and internal. And if I've done the internal part right, it continues long after the physical adventure has ended.

Earned: I want an adventure that gives me the feeling of having “earned” something. Of having paid my dues in some way. And my reward is that at the end of the adventure, the simple things in my life now feel exquisite.

"Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. The soul that knows it not knows no release from little things; knows not the livid loneliness of fear nor mountain heights where bitter joys can hear the sounds of wings." ~Amelia Earhart

Saturday, June 28, 2003

The Yeah-But Whine

Have you got a case of the “Yeah-But” whine?
Yeah, I’d love to do that, but…
Yeah, that makes sense to me, but…
Yeah, I totally support that, but…

For most of us, what follow our “buts” are either no resources (time, money, support…) or that others will judge us in some way?
For example:
Yeah, I’d love to take that class, but I just can't find the time.
Yeah, I’d love to have a garden, but I just don't know how to get started.
Yeah, I’d love to work more from home but what will my boss say?

Now there are two components to the “Yeah-But” whine:
1. Everything that comes before the but, what you say you would love to do.
2. And everything that comes after the but, why you feel you can't.
So if you find yourself “Yeah-But” whining more than you would like, first ask yourself, would you really love to do or be what you are saying “Yeah,” to. If so, then how can you change the “But”? Stay with me here. “Yeah-But” whining is curable. It just takes a little insight and introspection.

The attraction principles say we can have exactly what we desire if we're willing to express the desire, really FEEL getting what it is we would love to have, and letting go of any attachment to when and how it will show up. So if you've analyzed your “Yeah-But” whine and the first part is so very true for you, then drop the “But” and add one of my favorite words, “And.”
Yeah, I’d love to take that class, AND I know the time will present itself.
Yeah, I’d love to have a garden, AND I know the right resource is on its way.
Yeah, I’d love to work more from home AND I'm sure I’ll get the support I need.

You see, the “but” negates your desire. The “and” supports it. You don't have to overcome the challenge that follows your “but,” you just have to replace it with the possibility inherent in the “and” and feel that possibility. If you can't feel that one, then feel something else that jazzes you. It's only important that you attach a good feeling to what it is you desire. For example, if you can't feel good about…
Yeah, I’d love to take that class and I know the time will present itself.
Then try…
Yeah, I’d love to take that class and the lilacs are beautiful and smell so rich today.

All that matters is that you drop the “but,” replace it with an “and” and attach a good feeling. Infinite possibilities open up when you attach a good feeling to your desire.

Try it. It's easy. And stop “Yeah-But” whining your life away.

"You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself 
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...."
~Dr Seuss

Sunday, June 08, 2003

My May Fishing Break

Did I tell you I was headed to Northern Ontario the last week of May for some fishing? Well, I'm back, exhausted, sore, and very, very happy. A wonderful week, just me, the black flies and, of course, the fish. My count was about 160 fish in the boat, 3 lures lost, and probably another 40-50 fish escaped me before I landed them. A dozen portages, 8 lakes fished, 6 creeks paddled both up- and downstream and 7 waterfalls (viewed, not paddled). I ate fish every day and had moose stew one night. I saw one bear, countless grouse, woodcock and hummingbirds. I hit one beaver with my lure (he surfaced at the very moment my lure landed). We were both surprised and no damage done to either of us. And the whippoorwills were rowdy every night.

Speaking of waterfalls, last month's challenge was to find Plunge Falls in Northern Ontario. Dave Morgan took me up on the challenge and even sent me the map. I'm impressed, Dave!

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Take The Plunge

A few years ago I was paddling an unfamiliar series of lakes in order to access Killarney Provincial Park in Northern Ontario. The map said I had to portage around The Plunge Falls. That name alone had me on high alert. Additionally, the day was getting late and a thunderstorm was moving in. The last thing I wanted to do was miss my portage and take “The Plunge.” So I was a bit like a gazelle in lion country, listening for the roar of falls, looking for my portage trail and anxious about the incoming electrical storm at my back. I was using all of my senses, constantly scanning for danger and revising my route-to-safety plan as my environment changed. I had the loan of an island cabin if I could make it there before the storm so I was pushing hard and reluctant to stop and set up camp. But I knew I’d have to get off the water if the lightening started.

After about six hours on the water and the non-stop stresses of the impending falls and storm, I became full of doubt. I doubted I had been right about how long it would take me to paddle to the cabin. I doubted I knew where I was on the map. I doubted my ability to do a solo paddling trip like this with any kind of proficiency, ever. I just totally doubted myself.

I truly thought I would have reached the cabin after six hours of paddling. And yet, I hadn't portaged The Plunge Falls yet. And then, there it was! No, not the falls. I saw the island and the cabin that was my destination for the night. I stared at the map in disbelief! I had taken the Plunge and not even known it!

The Plunge Falls is still on the map I use today. And even though I've paddled this trip several times since, I have yet to encounter those falls. I don't know if this is an error or a mapmaker’s idea of a joke. I just know that I have a new perspective on the old saying, “Take the plunge.”

  1. Whatever the plunge might be, it is never as bad as we anticipate.
  2. When you're focused on something as an impending threat, you lose your orientation, even if you have a map.
  3. The language we use to describe something can create more concern than the thing itself.

I made it to the cabin before the storm. I made it to the cabin without flying over the falls. That night was one of the most beautiful electrical storms I've ever seen. And I got to experience it high and dry with warm food and drink in my belly.

Coach's Challenge:
Here's a bit of a research project for you. I've given you enough hints. Find The Plunge Falls I apparently went over and email your research details to me. Please put "The Plunge Falls" in your email subject line. If you've found the right falls, I'll give you a free coaching session and and a big fat mention.

I Don't Know Why I Swallowed The Fly: My Fly Fishing Rookie Season by Jessica Maxwell was a gift I could not put down once I started reading. While describing her new-found passion for fly fishing, Maxwell also reflects on time, space, nature, her relationship with her father, and the "fishiness" of a stretch of river water. For years I've been telling my friends that fishing is as good as, if not better than, sex. Maxwell gets to this point too.

“Society is like a lawn, where every roughness is smoothed, every bramble eradicated, and where the eye is delighted by the smiling verdure of a velvet surface. He, however, who would study nature in its wildness and variety, must plunge into the forest, must explore the glen, must stem the torrent, and dare the precipice.” ~Washington Irving

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.” ~Elwyn Brooks White

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction.” ~Albert Einstein

“I have an existential map; it has 'you are here' written all over it.” ~Steven Wright

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Lighten Up!

The news of late is not where I want to spend my time. Yes, I'm aware that there's a war on that has most of us conflicted, that for many of us it's tax season, and I know what the stock market is doing, or, rather, not doing. But today I noticed the pillie-willies (that's pussy willows for those of you who did not grow up in the Martin household) in my woods are budding. That's where my reality lies. In nature, there's so much to lighten us.

I just got back from another fishing trip in Canada. This was an ice fishing trip as we were far enough north that there were still a couple of feet of snow in the bush and 15 to 20 inches of ice on the lakes. The best part of the trip, as always, is the group of avid fishermen and outrageous wise guys I travel with. We always have fun, mostly laughing at each other's antics. Even though I was kept awake well into the morning of our last night at camp with silly pranks, I was appreciative. It's been awhile since I've had one day string into the next and the next and the next with such nonsense. Time and energy got spent as though there were an endless supply. And keeping me awake well into Sunday morning offered the opportunity to see the northern lights, Aurora Borealis, something I would have otherwise slept through.

Everyone came to camp with their own stresses. Most of us are self-employed professionals and small business owners. So there was a lot involved for each of us to get away. From an outsider's view, watching this group's effort to get ourselves north may make you want to counsel us to give it up. But, we all know the value. We're old hands at expending the effort in order to reap the silliness reward.

So we went. And once at camp, we fell into our familiar routine of banter, laughter and childlike antics. Nothing mattered but a good time and we pursued that with gusto.

I'm back home now and the same pressures to get things done (it's spring you know) are here. One look around the house and the yard and the “shoulds” start to pile up in my brain. But they just don't have the same hold on me. “It will happen, It's not too much, All in good time” I'm delighted to hear myself say.

Some Suggestions:

Lighten Your Mind: Unplug the TV and get outside. One of my clients found that unplugging the TV was not enough. It was just too easy to plug it back in. So he duct taped the plug! That did it. A much better use of that duct tape you may have stocked up on, eh?

Lighten Your Load: What do you have around the house that can go? Just one box will work wonders.

Lighten Your Schedule: Put some time each day on your schedule just for you. And if you're really brave, drop the schedule and trust that it will all get done.

Coach's Challenge:
Right now, this minute, don't wait; call the lightest person in your life. You know who they are. The one person you know who can go from gloom and doom to silliness in less than 10 seconds; the person who literally illuminates your space. Schedule a play date.

“There is always a treat in your future. A walk, a snack, a bone, a nap, a doggie treat from the trash man, a doggie treat from the meter reader, some left-over potato chips from the UPS driver's lunch... Expect abundance.” ~My dog Styx

“If something you rolled in bothers you, shake it off. Then shake it off some more.” ~My dog Jersey

“Fishing is worth any amount of effort and any amount of expense to people who love it, because in the end you get such a large number of dreams per fish.” ~Ian Frazier, “The Fish's Eye”

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Freedom in New Beginnings

It's March. Here in Northern Michigan, the days are getting longer with the occasional taste of spring-like weather. And the light of the day is different. It seems to have more color to it. There are two grouse in my front yard. They have emerged from the snow-covered woodpile after three long months. On my daily walks with the dogs, I'm noticing more mouse tracks across the snowy field by my home. The grouse and the mice are certainly vulnerable. Brown bodies on a snowy white background make them much easier prey. Yet they are free.

What is so frightening and at the same time so wonderful about a new beginning? What excites me is the freedom inherent in every new beginning. What scares me is that I am vulnerable. Yet I can't separate the two. If I'm to be free, I'm to be vulnerable. I become energized by the possibility of freedom that a new beginning brings. When I seek to lessen my vulnerability by trying to cover all the contingencies, I actually diminish my freedom and the new beginning becomes too small for me.

Freedom is our original motivator. As a child, I was driven by freedom. Freedom incited learning to crawl, walk and feed myself. Freedom was in my heart when learning to ride my bike, swim, or read a simple book. Without a strong desire to be free, there would have been no sense in placing myself in such vulnerable situations where I’d likely failed numerous times before I succeeded. As a child, any endeavor we attempted was successful if we achieved a little more freedom for our efforts.

Now, as adults, we often give the vulnerability part of a new beginning more importance and weight. Thus we feel the freedom a new beginning will bring and then immediately weigh it against our vulnerability and lose our orientation. In doing this, our new beginning becomes a much smaller endeavor that no longer represents freedom but, instead, security. We diminish our endeavor to the point where it no longer serves us and, in the process, lose a little more freedom.

Our lives and work must envelop freedom or they come down to nothing more than a means of providing.

"People frequently say to me you're such a free spirit! Aren't spirits made to be free? We are all free spirits. We must choose to practice freedom." ~Sark

"We must determine whether we really want freedom--whether we are willing to dare the perils of...rebirth... For we never take a step forward without surrendering something that we may have held dear, without dying to that which has been." ~Virginia Hanson

"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of fear is a freedom." ~Marilyn Ferguson

"When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability... To be alive is to be vulnerable." ~Madeleine L'Engle, "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art"

Monday, February 10, 2003

Sunny Side Up

My dad always ordered his eggs sunny side up. On those spring days when he would take me to the woods mushrooming, we would stop at our usual country restaurant where he would proclaim, when asked how he wanted his eggs, “Sunny Side Up!” In my childhood innocence, I was sure he was making a statement, just for me, about our day together. It either never occurred to me or I suppressed understanding that sunny side up really was a way to prepare eggs. Once we were in the woods, he would have me go through this routine of removing my “normal eyes” and pulling my “mushroom eyes” out of my pocket and installing them for the task ahead. Always, before we left the house he'd ask, “Do you have your mushroom eyes?” This little ritual eliminated any “hoping” we'd find mushrooms. I just "knew" we would. With our mushroom eyes in, it was a done deal. All that was left to do was fill our bags.

Lately I've been hearing the word “hope” a lot. But every time someone expresses a hope to me, they seem to be caught up in worry or concern.

My dictionary defines “hope” as:
“the feeling that what is wanted can be had or events will turn out for the best. To look forward with desire and reasonable confidence.”
Now that seems pretty optimistic. However all but one of the examples in my dictionary were pretty disheartening. As though hope is a last resort. Here are the examples my dictionary used for hope:
“to give up hope”
“there is little or no hope of his recovery”
“the medicine was her last hope”
“her forgiveness is my constant hope”
“I hope that my work will be satisfactory”
“we are hoping against hope for a change in her condition”

Thinking that the definition of hope seemed so optimistic while the examples seemed so dire, I looked up "optimism."
“A disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.”

Well that got me thinking about the difference between “desire and reasonable confidence” as in hope, and “expect the most favorable outcome” as in optimism. So here are some of the differences between being hopeful and optimistic that are rattling around in my brain.

When I hope, I am often focusing on what I don't want to happen. My hope is used as a tool to put my fear at bay. I am trying to suppress a potential negative outcome with my hope. So hope becomes merely my obsession with beating the odds. 

When I am optimistic, I skip right over the negativism and expect the most favorable outcome. With optimism, that element of worry contained in my hope is not present.

Hope feels passive. My optimism does not deny struggle or loss but encourages me to embrace them and find the opportunities within. With optimism, I become an active participant in what goes on around me, both good and bad, because to remain the optimist I must dissect even the regrettable condition and find that in its parts there are some opportunities to be seized. I can do something.

But here's the big one for me. Hope asks me to focus on the future. It makes me wait. And when I'm focused on the future, I'm not fully present. When I'm optimistic I stay present. And in the present I can be responsible and responsive. I stay mindful of what I can do and who I am right now. And that's where I'm most creative.

So for me the difference seems to all boil down to this. It's like the third day of rain on an extended camping trip. I can sit in my tent and wait and hope for sun or I can grab my shampoo and treat my optimistic self to a shower. By the way, dad always said “mushroom eyes” work better in the rain.

"If the Sun and Moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out." ~William Blake

"Barn's burnt I can see the moon." ~Masahide

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Just Taking My Time

I'm late. I tried to post this note on the first Monday of the month. But this month that Monday happened to fall on my birthday. My 50th to boot! So pardon the delay. I promised the dogs and myself a walk in the woods along Hopkins Creek. And after my friend Corey brought her rowdy crew over for a little birthday celebration, that's exactly what we did. I reflected a lot and “Time” kept coming up for me. No surprise there, I suppose. A “milestone” birthday and a walk in the woods will do that to you.

One of the wonderful things about our retreat in the Virgin Islands last November was the pace of island life. Schedules were very loose. Things started and ended on time only if you were willing to give up your understanding of what “on time” meant. I noticed this first when I landed in San Juan and I needed to catch my “puddle jumper” flight to St. Thomas. That flight was scheduled for 4:30. We finally took off about 6:00. There were no emergencies, no equipment failures. It was just that 4:30 apparently meant any time between 5:00 and 6:00. What surprised me was that it didn't take me long to embrace “island time.” It was much more difficult to come back to schedules.

Michael Flaherty, author of “A Watched Pot: How We Experience Time” says we're pretty good at speeding up time. What we're not so good at, he says, is slowing down time. This, because it requires some self-indulgence. He says other cultures and societies, like the Virgin Islands I'm sure, are much better at this. So I'm discovering that with just a little self-indulgence, the emphasis shifts from time to timelessness. Nagging feelings of having to get somewhere or accomplish something simply disappear.

Todd Rakoff, Author of "A Time for Every Purpose: Law and The Balance of Time" distinguishes between two kinds of time, natural time and social time. Natural time he defines as events like the sun setting and rising or the moon going through a complete phase from new moon to full moon. Social time he says is events like a work week, a lunch hour, family dinner hour, etc. Rakoff says that societies shape time so they can coordinate what people do. And so for most of us who say, “There's just not enough time,” our problem is probably less about a lack of time and more about coordination of the time we have. For example, you may easily have an hour in your day to eat dinner with your family. This is probably also true for all your family members. A problem only arises when an attempt is made to find that one hour that works for everyone (coordination). So “having enough time” is really a collective social problem, not a personal problem. This insight may not be a solution, but it certainly is helpful for me to know it's not personal!

Most of you know I don't make New Year's resolutions. But I'm willing to try a “half-century” one. I'm stepping into timelessness at least once each day! Here are the reminders that we (the dogs and I) came up with on our walk.
  • Doing nothing or something I love, even if it benefits no one but me, is productive.
  • Natural time rules! Sunrises, sunsets, moon phases, seasons and my body's urge to rest or for nutrition will get more of my attention.
  • Take a look at each event and determine if it really is necessary to coordinate others and their time. If so, do it with minimum impact. If not, let it go!

My dogs are so smart, don't you think!?

"There is no time like the pleasant." ~George Bergman
"What is this life if, so full of care, We have no time to stand and stare." ~W. H. Davies

"Time--our youth--it never really goes, does it? It is all held in our minds." ~Helen Hoover Santmyer

"We need time to dream, time to remember, and time to reach the infinite. Time to be." ~Gladys Taber

"May you stay forever young," ~Bob Dylan