An Elegant Mind’s Handbook

Elegance is as natural as breathing.

When you conduct yourself with elegance you are engaging your authentic self, the part that I call your Constant Traveler. This elegant aspect of you is always with you. It is who you are before you think about it and choose otherwise.

Engage the Guide within you by choosing the most honorable and compassionate response that you can imagine at this point in time.

You were meant to live an elegant life! Learn how to turn reaction into response by becoming friends with your Constant Traveler today!

EXCITING NEWS!

My new book has been published by DeVorss & Company!

An Elegant Mind’s Handbook is now available for pre-order on Amazon via the link below.

I deeply appreciate your support!

https://smile.amazon.com/Elegant-Minds-Handbook-Transforming-Reaction/dp/0875169090/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1597784418&sr=8-2

And I’m feelin’ good…

I’m not rich. I’m happy.

Maybe I’m way off base here but the money I do have leads me to believe that money can make you feel better, for a time, but if you don’t care for you…inside…nothing in this world will make you feel better about yourself.

We hear this all the time. It’s getting to feel like the same poop, different pile, when people say that nothing external will make you feel better about yourself.

In real life, there are no guarantees. What makes one person feel good may never satisfy another person. It is a matter of trial and error.

Considering I’m not financially wealthy (at least not a this time but I am open to the possibility!), I have found that a combo of internal and external things have led to my current level of happiness:

Relationships

  1. Creating a solid, enduring bond with my life partner and 2nd husband, Mark. He is a huge part of my sanctuary – my soft place to fall, my confidante, my sounding board, my fellow brainstormer, and adventure companion. Being those for him, as well, deepens the experience more than words can describe.
  2. Establishing a deep friendship with the person I call my Constant Traveler. She is the most honorable and compassionate version of myself that I can imagine, at this point in my life. I access her through contemplative writing. This is how the external can support the internal – if not for my husband’s support (the peaceful home we have built together) it would have been a lot more difficult to access the space in which she and I chat.

Caring for others

  1. I have found a lot of happiness, satisfaction, and personal growth in caring for my husband and (now adult) children. Parenting is challenging but you can become a much better person if you choose to be. Being of service in my community is another way to feel good now. Many times we don’t feel good about ourselves because we are focused on what we are giving away (sacrifice) instead of what we are receiving (gratitude). Making your service be about them and not you frees you up to receive the stuff that will truly feel good. Making your interactions about seeking to understand before being understood is life changing.
  2. My critters have been a lifelong external source of serious play, internal peace and spiritual growth. I consider them my furry gurus. Animals have so much to teach us about love. I have come to believe that every animal is enlightened, it is we humans, who entertain the illusion of superiority. We really need them to show us how to live as elegant beings. I love Cesar Milan’s approach to rehabilitating dogs and training people. He says, You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. Critters invite us to learn kindness, compassion, and courage, through their elegant vulnerability.

Accomplishments

  1. Setting goals and achieving them is one of the best ways to feel good about yourself. It begins with a vision. Creativity, the ability to form the vision, is our birthright as human beings. Using our innate ability to dream it up and act it into reality, step by step, is satisfying on all levels.
  2. Fears and regrets hold a toxicity that can sabotage even the most promising life. Nobody who holds a lot of fear or regret feels good about themselves. Fear is energy. It may have physical results, but the origins of our fear begins in our mind. It is the same with regret. Facing your fears in a systematic manner (getting support as necessary) and taking action to put as many of them to rest as humanly possible is the best guarantee that you will feel better about yourself. As we say in my corner of the world, Give ‘er! Then, no regrets.

Let your internal dialogue result in decisive, effective action.

These are a few ways that we can begin to feel good about ourselves today.

Life Lessons

As I see it, there are really no mistakes in life, but there are miss-takes. You do what you do when you do it because it is who you are at the time. When you know better, you do better. Think of it as an opportunity to do it over.

It has been decades since I was a teenager, but I am a strong visualizer and, when I think of it, I can feel the stifling heat of the heavy knit sweater (that I wore to school every day in June) to cover what I felt were my skinny arms. My skinny arms were a symbol to me that I was less than worthy. Nobody could have told me differently.

I look at teenagers these days, wearing only a t-shirt on bitterly cold days, or wearing a hoodie or knit hat on very hot days, and my heart goes out to them. I wonder who they are trying to please? Who, or what, are they are trying to hide from?

I remember the feeling…

I remember being very impressed with the military and police recruiters that came to our school and presented to us. I thought I may join the military or police after I graduated high school. Looking back, this proves to me how disconnected I was from my true nature. I thought it would give me some form of status, but it would have been pleasing someone else and their version of what was important. It was not for me.

My point is, I was always trying to please everyone except for myself for three reasons:

  1. Because I was taught that living for myself was selfish and wrong.
  2. Because I wanted to be important. In the jungle-wasteland that I saw every time I opened my eyes – only the combat warriors survived.
  3. I felt that my dreams were not valued. An artist didn’t do real work in my world.

I believe that the biggest life-changing miss-take (as in film, a miss-take is simply one that the Director wants to do over, ps you are the Director) is to view our choices as set in stone.

Even huge messes can be cleaned up given enough time, patience, and effort. The true gift of life is that you have time.

Keep in mind that you will make choices based on what you know now. Once the choice is made you will live the consequences of your choices. Cultivate an attitude of introspection and contemplation, but not self-depreciation and self-flagellation. In other words, flaying yourself raw over every little miss-take or miss-step will only make your situation worse and keep you from learning from the experience.

I see 50 and 60 yr old men and women doing this every day and it is sad.

  1. Living for yourself is the first step in living your best life. Nobody can live your life for you, breathe for you, walk in your shoes. Value your personal autonomy even if your tribe does not. Give yourself respect. Respect is like an oxygen mask on a plane – if you don’t put yours on first you won’t have any for others. Respect without self-respect isn’t respect, it is idolatry.
  2. Find people who live boldly and live large. Those who understand the difference between a combat soldier and a peaceful spirit warrior can help to guide you. These are the guides who can teach you how to say a firm and respectful No, thanks. This isn’t my gig. Keep your gaze steady and clear, and keep firmly in mind that you are here to pull your own weight. No matter what you have been taught, there are no free rides. If you believe there are, there will come a day when you will feel bitterly disappointed at how your life has turned out. Regret and resentment are bitter pills to swallow every day. I say this because a vast number of us believe that we should be able to rely on others (parents, etc.) to bankroll our dreams. If you have the benefit of support it is wise to express gratitude and rock that opportunity! If you do not have support, carry on, my friend. There are folks who will also teach you how to keep up with them, not rely on others to carry you. In the world of the peaceful spirit warrior, Nobody owes.
  3. Learn to firmly and peacefully say Yes! to your dreams. This means also saying Yes! to taking personal responsibility for what shows up every time you open your eyes. Make a plan, craft a strategy, and put in the effort to become world-class. Classy. Simply elegant.

The most gargantuan lesson that I have learned from my past is this:

It is always the perfect time to begin again. Rock on!!!

One Decision Away…

One decision away. It is a statement of truth. Choice is the most powerful tool available to us. By exercising our power to choose we have access to a universe of possibilities. Within each choice lies the ability to alter our timeline in all directions – present, future, and past, so it is important that we work this muscle.

Consider it like this:

You see an interesting question on Quora. You are curious as to how folks would respond to this question, so you decide to investigate.

One of the responses particularly resonates with you. You like that person’s vibe. As you read along you are struck by something they wrote…something you never considered before, perhaps, at least in the way they described it.

As you ponder that thought you realize that WOW! that statement is totally true! It means something to you and to your life.

All of a sudden your mind sparks with recognition – what you have just discovered rings so true for you that you have to use it in your life. It now seems so obvious that you feel a little freaked out.

You have just experienced a WOW! moment! Words OWisdom that change you in an instant. It is like you recognize it as yours.

Many of us are more familiar with those instants in time that change us for the worst. We are unaccustomed to seeking out and recognizing the times in our lives when a WOW! moment hits us with a knowing that our spirit recognizes as truth, but these moments have the ability to change our lives forever…for the better.

I know from experience that those moments are so sparkling and fascinating that once you experience one – once you know they are real because you lived it – you become truly passionate about finding more.

And each WOW! moment is a gift that keeps on giving. From that moment on, your decision to incorporate this knowing into your life changes your life. What you experience now changes, what you envision for your future changes, and what you experience as your past changes as well, because what you will experience as your past has yet to be lived.

Our memories are our past. Our past is our memories. Every moment is delivering you into a fresh new life, if you choose to see it that way. If you take this moment in time wait 5 minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks, or 5 years…when you consider your past from this moment on…you will clearly see that your past has changed.

I am not talking about changing your childhood, traumatic events, or resurrecting loved ones. I do not believe that we can alter actual events from the past because the past is now an illusion…a memory…no longer real.

But we can change the way we think about our past by choosing to invoke our creativity and consider an alternative ending to the story – one that is truly beneficial (and perhaps as possible as the one we selected to believe).

Either way, when we look back at that event, our decision to change our story and letting ourselves be changed by the process, also serves to alter the past from that moment on.

The choice to walk creates the path ahead. Like stepping stones that light up only when stepped on, our decision to zig or zag, where we choose to step, illuminates a path that will undoubtedly be new to you because you haven’t lived it yet.

This way of thinking is so exciting to me because it means that no person is a slave to their past! We can all change it by making the decision to do so, opening our mind and heart to inspiration, and acting on that inspiration.

In this way, every decision makes you a winner. This is the power of choice.

The Mastery Mindset

Every time I sparred with my Taekwondo instructor, Glenn, I would get frustrated.

It was like he knew what I was going to do even before I did.  Every kick, every punch…every block…was countered with ease and what seemed like enjoyment.

How did you know I was going to do that? I would ask.

You telegraphed it, he would say.  I could see it in your eyes.

What???

So, a martial artist must not only have the physical skill to beat an opponent, but she must also have the mental skills of a world-class chess master?

I had to develop a Mr. Mayagi kind of enigmatic vibe in order to spar like a master?

At that point in my development that seemed like a daunting task, but I was determined that at some point in my martial arts journey, he wouldn’t enjoy sparring with me quite so much.

Glenn was a fine teacher and I learned a lot from him, but it took me a couple of decades to learn his secret, which, as it turned out, was an art, but not a secret.

He had learned, over the years, the art of patience.  That the most effective defense was in how he countered offense.  He simply readied himself, observed me, and waited for me to act.  I never surprised him, except maybe the time when one of my wild kicks connected with his shin…

There are other aspects to the art, as well, but he didn’t have to use them when he sparred with me.

I never found a way to counter his strategy because I was too intent on action.

Glenn simply watched me defeat myself.

Power moves

It has been said that when a novice achieves the level of black belt, their training has just begun because now they know just enough to become a serious student.

Up until that point, the novice is facing a steep climb up the mountain of mastery.  They must learn the moves and repeat, repeat, and repeat them, with intention and focus on the proper form until they can execute those patterns of movement with ease.

Practice strengthens the neural pathways in the brain that start to form when the student begins martial arts training.  When these connections become strengthened to the point where it is easier to do it right than to do it wrong, it becomes what we call 2nd nature.  The student uses the open and curious mind of the beginner (our 1st nature) to learn what will become 2nd nature.

With their physical form mastered to a significant degree, this is the point where the student can begin to enrich and deepen their practice.

Mastering moves does not make a master.  One must also master the mover.

The master understands that the only opponent he/she has is themselves.

This person is always in control of themselves.  This state establishes an observation point from where they can relax, breathe, and observe their surroundings. This vantage point offers them perspective.

The master is always at home.  This can also be called presence or being present.  The master is alert.  He has intentionally widened the gap between stimulus and response and made a home there.  Having traveled long on treacherous terrain, she honors this space because she understands its value. This is where authentic power is found.

Like an eagle surveying its territory, he understands that this is where he can be the most effective, conserve the most energy, and act with the most precision.

The Tao teaches us that humans live best in a state of calm with intentional bursts of action.  Psychology also teaches us that if we live too long in a state of active vigilance, of fight or flight...that when our sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated for too long, we become exhausted.  It can make us physically and mentally ill.  Accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest aspect of our humanity, allows us to return to a calm state where we have the presence of mind to relax, breathe, and observe.

According to the Tao, to live in a state of perpetual action, with occasional intervals of calm, is a state that goes against our 1st nature, our natural state of being.

Nature always wins because it knows nothing of winning and losing.  It is what it is.

Those who challenge what is defeat themselves.  

The Nature of Nature

When I became aware of the nature of nature, the way of the natural world, I began to observe it all around me.  Astonished, I kept being both delighted to find it and confused because I hadn’t seen it before.

When the student is ready the teacher will come…I began to understand it’s meaning…

I became more and more fascinated by what I could see now that I had learned how to relax, breathe, observe, be silent, and listen.

As it turns out, the master instructor also utilizes silence – she listens, thinks twice, and speaks once she has gathered the information required for skillful action.  For the master, effective action is the result, the reward for their observation and patience.  No action is ever wasted.  In this manner, success and defeat offer their own rewards, because the master understands the value of experience.

The master, like the student, is always learning.  Every student is her master instructor, because, as the master teaches the student, the student teaches the master what she needs to learn to become a better master.

As I progressed through my belt levels in Taekwondo, it was interesting to spar with black belts because it made me step up.  I got to test my limits because I knew they knew how to give me just enough to make me work hard, but not enough to (intentionally) injure or discourage me.

By doing so, they honored us both.

When I became a black belt myself it was interesting to spar with lower-level belts because it taught me restraint.  They taught me how to teach.

By doing so, I honored us both.

All mastery is self-mastery. The moment the master stops learning is the moment he ceases to be his own master.  It is, truly, the moment of defeat.

Every human being alive can attain this level of mastery…the mastery of the self.  It takes daily practice – a calm state, a relaxed breathing pattern, enhanced observation skills, but most of all, patience.

If the journey is the destination, can you live with that?

Translation: Creativity Is

Where there is silence, one finds the anchor of the Universe – Tao Te Ching

The third installation of this peaceful spirit warrior trilogy involves translating it, applying it to life today.  How can what was revealed in that dark, silent night of spiritual awakening be translated to the light of today?

It is my wish that these thoughts may support and encourage you, in some small way, as you go about your day.

The peaceful warrior wakes up each day open to Inspiration.  In the world of the warrior, nothing is ever wasted.  No open door ignored; no opportunity is wasted; no challenge left unaddressed.   The peaceful warrior anticipates and accepts the everyday, ordinary miracles that are the pathway to peace.  Silence is the means – crafting a way through the clutter and embracing that which is harmonious.

Be still, and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

Speak only when your words are more beautiful than the silence – Arabic Proverb

Silence isn’t empty.  It’s full of answers – Buddhist Teaching

The best answer to anger is silence – Marcus Aurelius

Silence is a source of great strength – Lao Tzu

*************

Let’s translate it using an excerpt from An Elegant Mind’s Handbook:

Being Silent

If you cannot be silent, you cannot listen.
If you cannot listen, you cannot be a true parent, or lover, or friend.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot be calm.
If you cannot be calm, you are at the whim of distraction.

If you cannot be silent, you cannot grow.
If you cannot grow, you cannot grow wise.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot learn.
If you cannot learn, you cannot achieve mastery.

If you cannot be silent, you cannot hear the voice of inspiration.
If you cannot hear the voice of inspiration, you cannot dream.
If you cannot be silent, you cannot be silenced.
If you cannot be silenced, you will always be afraid.

If you cannot be silent, you cannot find peace.
And regretfully, peace can never find you.

*************

Silence is the ultimate creative act.  It is the alpha of all manifestation as well as its omega.

In these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to be quiet.  In silence, we can gain clarity and think.  The COVID-19 virus is a threat to our physical body.  We who have been sleepwalking through life, living in a Dreamer’s Xanadu where modern medicine, our hero, rushes in to save us when we are sick.  In this version of paradise, we, the people, have more power than Mother Nature.  We dictate OUR terms.  What we are experiencing is Mother Nature’s elegant response.

Mother Nature sounds Her call.
Sirens wail, and cities fall,
And the people say,

“Who will help us in our time of need?
As we justify our savage greed?
Who will be there when we’re broken…
on our knees?”

‘Cause it won’t matter what we say,
or how much gold we give away if the
sun doesn’t rise.

If the sun doesn’t rise on another day.

By now I may have lost you.  Perhaps you are thinking…this is way too bleak for me, I’ve had enough of that…

The truth is that sometimes reality sucks.  However, the old saying, When the going gets tough, the tough get going, is reality as well.

Who will you be after you have run the COVID-19 gauntlet?

This is where the nature of nature, the vital force of the Universe, inspires us to action.

Creativity is…

1. Open

An open mind gains us access to the Wellspring of Inspiration and the field of possibilities, as in Quantum Physics.  Scientists are marvelously creative people!

Translation:  Imagine you have lived deep in a forest all of your life and have never seen a door.  This word would not mean anything to you.  You could not create something you cannot imagine.  You wouldn’t even know what questions to ask to begin to find it, because in your world, it doesn’t exist.  Before you can see what is behind an open door you first must understand what a door is.

Example:  Because of COVID-19, the world is morphing before our eyes.  Many of the things we took for granted will no longer be useful in this new realm.

Opening your mind is a creative act…

One way I have been using my creativity is to remain open to whatever arises from the ashes of the old world.  Like clay in the hand of a potter, we must stay open to novel ideas.  Without it, this novel virus will become our undoing.

2. Innocent

I like to consider the way A Course In Miracles defines innocence.  It means simply admitting that you don’t know the true purpose of anything.  It is the brilliance of awe and the exception of wonder.  It is like a young child who becomes enchanted with his or her own toes…

As I envision it, innocence is receptivity.  It is the essence of Flow, of artistry.  It is the artist’s most delightful tool – because innocence is the all-access pass that allows each artist to enter the hallowed hallways where silence reigns…where everything…and everyone becomes sacred…because it is always new.  Like a wide-eyed traveler, in this manner, we are always arriving.  Our eyes cannot drink its sights and sounds and sensations in fast enough!  We are delighted by the ecstasies of beauty.

Does losing your innocence mean losing touch with the child within?

How can you write a new song if you feel every note and melody combination has already been used?

Translation:  Innocence is complete, utter, open-mouthed awe.

Example:  COVID-19 has brought with it the end of an era.  It is a world in which something both invasive and pervasive has gone as viral as a video on the internet.  The correlation between the two is clear.  It is clear that we cannot stop it anymore than we can stop access to the internet.

What I have applied in this past month is acceptance of the reality of our situation.  It involves the Stoic idea of heroic acceptance of what is happening, because it is only through accepting what is, the facts, that we can understand it and act in our best interests.  This is what I am seeing as a tactical, scientific approach to this pandemic – we must take a step back, understand the nature of the threat as best we can, and act with as much focused intention and authority as possible.  Established protocols created in the wake of similar incidents must be utilized as a benchmark, and our global authorities (the CDC and the WHO) must be given the authority to act on our behalf.

One thing is clear, we are learning as we go.  The ability of this contagion to mutate and adapt calls for extreme creativity on the part of our scientific community.

Scientists are some of the most creative people in the world!

3. Playful

Have you ever watched a child as he or she plays?  Everything is entered into with passion and intensity.  Children are masters of flow – they give themselves to their creation with their whole heart and spirit.

One of the most compelling quests of our time involves learning to play all over again as an adult.  I call it Serious Play.

However, it is clear that our creativity has been systematically trained out of us.  First, by our caregivers who did not believe that artistry is a way to make a living.  Second, by our educational system which values compliance and dogma over artistry.  Third, by conventional beliefs that create victims in need of mercy.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” — Albert Einstein

We overvalue and cultivate convergent thinking (to color within the lines, think within the box) while we devalue the divergent thinking that allowed Einstein to discover the Theory of Relativity or man to go to the moon and allows thinking space for novel approaches to novel viruses.   To the extreme, neither functions well.  Both are necessary for balance.

Translation:  We cannot think outside the box if we believe the box is all there is.  If you believe the best is behind you, you may be right, but that doesn’t make it True.

Example:   In the wake of a global pandemic, what will become the “new normal?” This is a paradox in itself because normal isn’t new, it’s a norm. The new normal is such an enormous thought that we automatically try to compartmentalize it – like assigning meaning to a company of stars. Our label does not add anything to it or alter its relation to us…but it does change ours to “it.”

Every time a beloved dies, our world decomposes and recomposes from its ashes. This “same difference” is the essence of change. Essential change embraces the paradox of different – there is no such thing in reality.

No-one or no-thing can shield us from our coming of age. It is time to embrace a world in which paradox becomes the embrace. Who will I be on the other side of my illusions? What will save me?

What can I do?

Embrace this invitation to expansion. Don’t resist assimilation into the unknown. And yes, it does involve discomfort and loss.  The futility of resisting that embrace is being realized now in our acute and collective suffering.

The Quest remains.  Will you continue to compose the present (and your future) from the ashes of the past?

My response to the Quest?  Make kindness, on every level I can possibly imagine, the new normal.

4. Harmonious

Could this be the best time of my life?
Its Inspiration gleaming like a sunbeam in the light?
What carries me along? To what do I belong?
And if it was, how could I tell this story in a song?
I wander on alone
Still searching for my home
Longing to be longed for
Eternally I roam
To what end am I racing?
Is there something that I’m chasing?
A vision of a friend that I should be embracing?

Harmony2

In the face of chaos, what does harmony look like?  How do the components of an elegant life integrate to create flexibility, flow, and resiliency?

Translation:  We must embrace our creativity, and expand our vision, to see an end to this current crisis.  Otherwise, we will always be a victim of its consequences.

Example:  In the face of adversity…when insanity raises its ugly head…I deliberately create space and retreat to my inner Sanctuary.  It is my creative space, where the part of me I call my Constant Traveler writes.  Together, in silence, we recompose…and compose our response.

You see, the egoic part of me, the part that Jung describes as the persona, gets scared.  It’s human nature to acknowledge a threat in this manner.  It is a natural survival instinct.  When it is aroused, adrenaline flows.

Your inner Sanctuary, your creative space where the most compassionate and honorable part of you speaks, can become your retreat.  I suggest spending as much time there as possible.

5. Humble

Pride may goeth before a fall, but a peaceful warrior knows that humility comes after.  Humility is found on the other side of catastrophe.  Humility tempers the temper as it neutralizes the ego.

A humble spirit works from the understanding that we are all in this together.  Of myself, I can accomplish nothing of value.  I will never get anywhere worthwhile without you. 

Life is relationship.  All that we think, perceive, do…is in response to something else, in relation to our observances of it.

Humanity has been scared awake.  Now we know that Mother Nature is in control.  Humanity is not the boss, but, if we are wise, humility can rule.

We are not in control of events, but we do have a choice – do we react without considering the consequences, or do we take the time to craft an elegant response?

Those who believe in enemies will always find them.

Translation:  Humility is accepting the unacceptable.  The enemy is within.

Example:  People have been reacting to the COVID-19 virus with fear.  For some people that means stocking up on ammunition and taking up arms.  Who, or what will they be fighting?  A virus?

You cannot fight a dinosaur.  Dinosaurs exist only in the mind.

A creative response involves vision, not reaction.

6. Feeling

We feel we have been strong-armed into feeling things we have spent a lifetime denying.  Denial of our deep sadness is a symptom of synergetic imbalance.

Under Stressure…

We are being forced to admit that we have created lives of quiet desperation, as Thoreau posited, in which we expend so much energy running from those things we fear that we have, quite literally, run ourselves off of our feet.  We are succumbing to the stress and pressure, or stressures of these uncertain times.

Our primal reactions – fear, aggression, and defensiveness overwhelm our bodies.  In this weakened state, we become the victims of every level of sickness.  Sleep becomes challenging, further depleting our already taxed adrenal and immune responses.  This virus is self-serving, but it also serves as a symbol of how the virus of fear can overwhelm a vulnerable host.

The counter-measure to feeling vulnerable to external sources is embracing vulnerability within, creating an inner Sanctuary where it’s alright to shed the tears of sorrow, loss, and misery.

It is important, in this new age, to understand the elegant constructs of creativity.  Creativity must flow, certainly, but it thrives on the structure of its own creation.

Consider the structure of music – the primary beat that is established through drum and bass to compose the foundation for a song.  It flows through the inspired drummer and bassist.  Consider the vitality and beauty of the harmonious musical notes that flow through the inspired pianist or guitarist.  Consider the elegant silence present between the notes.  Each element is vital to the song’s existence.

Translation:  Humans survive, and thrive, with a plan.  We must create a plan to save as many lives as possible, but also to save what remains of our own lives, those parts that are essential, valuable, and worth keeping.

Example:  I have been utilizing what I call the 5P’s of Effective Action:  Proper planning prevents poor performance.  With every life crisis, I have been fine-tuning my plan.  It is composed of the life-promoting elements that care for my mind, body, and spirit.  Each time something unexpected and challenging arises (which it inevitably does) I enact the plan.  It isn’t complete, but it works much better than starting from scratch.

I believe it is better to prepare for a threat than to try to make up ground once the threat is introduced.  COVID-19 has catapulted humanity into a new frontier, and, like ants in a nest that’s been stirred with a stick, we are scrambling to mitigate the damage.

If you haven’t formulated a plan that you can enact during the next crisis in your life, I invite you to do so.  Now is always the perfect time to begin working on caring for your mind, body, and spirit.

6.  Resourceful

Inspiration is all around us, but we must be open to it.  Humanity has survived and thrived through eons by recognizing the strengths inherent in our connection to others and in shared community resources.  As we brainstorm, we feed each other with new ideas.   This creates a synergy (where one plus one equals ONE), where the sum is greater than the parts.

The internet is a symbol of this shared knowledge as well as of our shared connection to one another.  It is up to us how we use it.

Translation:  I may have a deep pool of resourcefulness within me, but many times it is you who awakens the giant within.  What have you to show me today, my Teacher?

Example:  I do not consider how others are using our shared knowledge, I only pay attention to my own usage.  This, as I see it, is my sphere of influence.  My search for inspiration is what gets me up in the morning.  During this crisis, I have been practicing with even more focus.

When the going gets tough, the warrior gets going…

I anticipate and appreciate those everyday miracles of everyday life.  I have learned that because I value them I am never disappointed.  This practice has served me well, and I have been actively searching for, and sharing, something colored beautiful to think about instead of dwelling on suffering and fear.

If I can do something about it I will, however, if I cannot, it does no good to dwell on it (or read about it over and over).

7.  Innovative

Creation is finding active solutions that become our responses to challenging situations.  Humans are ingenious beings!  I am amazed at our ability to create new programs and services quickly.  Consider the following innovations that have been activated and put into place since this crisis began.  These are just a few:

Health monitoring – the development of an app that allows an individual’s temperature to be monitored by phone, as well as a shared data pool that will contribute to a clear, workable protocol for future emergencies.

In Canada and other countries, doctors can now treat patients online.  They can also practice remotely via robotic “virtual doctors.” 

Purchasing groceries online – this is a relatively new program for local grocery stores, at least in my area.

Buying local – as supply lines become disrupted, our focus on supporting local businesses and buying local has become even more important.

Translation:  Extreme adversity has the potential to bring out the best in us.  It’s much healthier to focus on our best than our worst.

Example:  Before the state of emergency, I was going to the store to buy my groceries.  Now I am using their online services and finding it quite efficient.  The groceries are prepared by the store staff and we make a call when we arrive to have the groceries delivered to our vehicle.  This process has its glitches, but they are getting worked out.  I will continue using it in the future.  This practice compensates (at least in a small way) for the loss of jobs in this sector by creating a demand for employees to shop for me.  During the COVID-19 situation, this also keeps me out of the grocery store, meaning, a reduced threat to the health of retail staff.

8.  Cooperative

Artistry is about creating a vision.  I love the exercise of considering how many people have contributed to my wellbeing.   Consider the hundreds and thousands of hours of creative thought, ingenuity, planning, design, and construction that went into the smallest of items that you take for granted each day.  These make our life so much easier, but they wouldn’t happen if we didn’t understand that we are stronger together.

Canadian politicians (and many others worldwide) are working together and sharing resources in a way that may never have been seen before.  Traditional antagonisms between parties are put aside as we all work together to neutralize this shared threat.

The concept of a basic universal income is being enacted, at least for the period of recovery from a pandemic.  This will give our policymakers valuable data for the future.

Translation:  No action or achievement is accomplished in a vacuum.  The Elegant Arts (forgiveness, compassion, acceptance, freedom, patience, humility, silence, trust – and appreciation, from which the ability to value the rest springs) are always pursued in the spirit of cooperation.

Example:  This state of emergency has revolutionized the way we view our food delivery.  Without farmers to grow it, truckers to transport it, grocers to stock their shelves, and the retail staff who go to work each day in the midst of this crisis to keep us fed, this situation would be much worse.

Some will say they are just doing their jobs.  Some will say they really don’t want to be there and are scared each day they go to work.  These folks are a valuable resource.  They are so much more than essential workers.  In the spirit of cooperation, it is up to us to keep them as safe as possible by staying at home as much as possible.  That is what I do.

9.  Grateful

An artist is grateful for the gifts she finds within.  She is grateful for the words she speaks and shares and for the Inspiration behind them.  Artists know that to share Inspiration is to keep feeling it.

Gratitude is the song

Translation:  When we are grateful to others we are acknowledging that we are cared for, supported, and loved.

Example:  This public health crisis has made all of us deeply aware of the courage and strength of doctors, nurses, orderlies, janitorial, and all medical staff that care for us when we are sick.

As a Canadian, I am more and more grateful each day for our medical professionals and our health care system.

10.  Courageous

Courage is the essence of an artist.  It is a willingness to put yourself out there and reveal who you are in a public manner.  It is a willingness to show your beauty even when you know that others may not see it, or value it.  It is being the light in the darkness – letting nothing or nobody limit your brilliance.

The warrior must find herself in the depths of her own being.  This is the opposite of battle.  It isn’t victory or surrender – it is vital to drop all thoughts and talk of war. 

This journey is peace – blending, integrating, accepting, and imaginative.  It is composed of free-flowing effervescent curiosity.  Strong-arm any part of it and find yourself stuck.  Suspended.  Inhibited.

The peaceful spirit warrior drops her armor, shields, and weaponry, one by one.  The world that at first seems upside down becomes right-side up.

Translation:  Courage is the essence of a peaceful warrior.

Example:  I have found infinite value in the teachings of The Tao.

It teaches us that humans live best in a state of calm with intentional bursts of action.  Psychology also teaches us that if we live too long in a state of active vigilance, of fight or flight...that when our sympathetic nervous system is overstimulated for too long, we become exhausted.  It can make us physically and mentally ill.  Accessing the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest aspect of our humanity, allows us to return to a calm state where we have the presence of mind to relax, breathe, and observe.

According to the Tao, to live in a state of perpetual action, with occasional intervals of calm, is a state that goes against our nature.

Mastering moves does not make a master.  One must also master the mover.

The master understands that the only opponent she has is herself.   The one who challenges what is defeats himself.

This is the nature of reality.

When I became aware of the nature of nature, the way of the natural world, I began to observe it all around me.  Astonished, I kept being both delighted, and confused, because I hadn’t seen it before.

When the student is ready the teacher will come…

Slowly, I began to understand what this saying meant!

I became more and more fascinated by what I could see now that I had learned how to relax, breathe, observe.  To be quiet and listen.

As it turns out, the master instructor also utilizes silence – she listens, thinks twice, and speaks once she has gathered the information required for skillful action.  For the master, effective action is the result, the reward, for their observation and patience.  No action is ever wasted.  In this manner, success and defeat offer their own rewards, because the master understands the value of experience.

All mastery is self-mastery.  The master, like the student, is always learning.  Every student becomes his own master instructor, because, as the master teaches the student, the student teaches the master what she needs to learn to become a better master.

The moment the master stops learning is the moment she ceases to be her own master.  It is, truly, the moment of defeat.

Every human being alive can attain this level of mastery…the mastery of the self.  It takes daily practice – a calm state, a relaxed breathing pattern, enhanced observation skills, but most of all, patience.

COVID-19 has brought us face to face with our fear, our true adversary.   Will we allow fear to rule?

Translation:  Become a peaceful spirit warrior and let all thought of war dissolve into silence.

Namaste…I wish you well, my friends…

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising is the second installment in the story of this peaceful warrior.  It is what happens when a person offers themselves, in full-body immersion, to whatever comes.  It is the embrace of reality.  It is the dissolution of illusions…of fantasy…the epilogue to the story of who was cast into the depths with such abandon…

What truly is left when you let your story go, as you would a sweat-soaked, smothering cloak?

What lies beneath?  What part of your story is worthy of its resurrection?

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Every fantasy, be it of love or hate, deprives you of knowledge for fantasies are the veil behind which truth is hidden.  To lift the veil that seems so dark and heavy, it is only needful to value truth beyond all fantasy, and to be entirely unwilling to settle for illusion in place of truth. – A Course In Miracles

In the stillness, I hear silence.  This I know.  There is no confusion.  There is nothing else.

Here there is no “me.”  Yet I remain immersed in It.  It is this paradox that has led me here.  No breath of life can interfere here – that force that I so feared has dissolved along with my last fleeting thought about it.

It matters not where “here” is; it is enough to know It is.  Words cannot suffice, but speak them I must in order to invite It to where I am.  It only became It when I became me.

I understand that in my focus upon the fantasy, I substituted “It” for the “other” and allowed the other to decorate my dark, barren room.  I no longer care to indulge in fantasy.

Perhaps that is the reason the door on its hinges stands quiet?  The incessant chatter has ceased into silence, and stillness rests.

From that, I know I am aware.  I listen.  To do otherwise would involve caring, and that I truly do not.

And so, there is no interference.  Silence, in perfect clarity, is released.

I hear…that is all I know.  It is white and full and pure.  Ever present, It surrounds and envelops.  It reveals, in the vacuum of space, Its infinite frontiers.  It establishes and perpetuates the foundation each and every musical note…its magnificent maestro.  It weaves its infinite web through thought and word and symbol…all we that hold dear and all we do not.  I travel with It

Silence is my eternal creator.

It offers no burden.  It weighs nothing at all – by matter nor by judgment.

As I share in Its stillness, I am refreshed.  I gratefully acknowledge this Inspiration.

Through It, immersed in these energies, I am not alone.  In the act of surrender, the tremendous weight that was my veil of flesh has become no more… I let its heavy, dark burden slip away, flowing…smooth as elegant silk on softly polished flesh…

Is this what others have called, peace?

When I gave up the fight to be methe fight left me to what was left – everything else.

Releasing the fantasy that never was left me with what was.

I have a new understanding as I extend this thought.  Sharing peace is knowing peace.  And I cannot share with myself alone.  Truly, I am not alone!

I continue in silence and feel myself quickening…there is movement…quick in my veins.  I think…I will call it Inspiration.  It doesn’t matter what I call It, as It is all there is.

This is where I begin, immersed in this energetic flow, in the realization that It was where I am all along.

The quickening has brought this awareness, wrapped in the presence of silence, and with it…all energy, all frequency, all possibilities.

The perception that took my life shows itself as what it is when viewed through all, and I am renewed and released from those confines.

My bleak, barren room is neither bleak nor barren as I release all perception of it.  It has become nothing.

Here, I am overflowing.  Neither am I old, nor full of dread…

This release holds such appeal and such freedom from that which I thought I knew! It opens me up and allows me to see what I have created in a new way…with a new lightness of being.  With all that I truly am…I feel It – the undoing of every singular miscreation…every solitary thought.

When I release, so am I renewed.  My miscreations are perpetually undone through Inspiration.

Like the legendary Phoenix, I feel myself arise from my own ashes, transformed, a being designed not to cringe, but to embrace.

I now understand why I am still here...my being bridges the gap between that which is known and that which cannot be known.

I am a body bridge.

In stillness, I remain.  I feel its flow wash over me and through me.  It is ageless.

This flow, this energy I feel…this Inspiration…this is Its language.

Inspiration.

I feel it when I share it.

 

Part III – Translation – is coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Remains

It’s interesting…what happens when you are struggling with thoughts about life, belief, purpose, and the death of all that you know for sure.  In the wake of deep suffering…what remains?

What truly survives the death of what we believe we are?  Are we courageous enough to travel there?

The following is the first installation of a trilogy I wrote in 2013, while I was struggling to come to grips with the tragedies and deaths of over 15 friends and family in a little over a decade.  Truly, nothing was the same – a stranger in a strange land, my world didn’t look the same, my thoughts didn’t feel the same…

These posts describe what happened when, like Alice in a dark version of Wonderland, I threw myself down the rabbit hole.

When I write about becoming a peaceful warrior, this story, presented in three parts, is this warrior’s genesis.

Join me, if you are willing, as we head deep into the Abyss.   I invite you to journey with me and explore all three parts of this story.  Perhaps you will discover what I have learned, having emerged on the other side – the only way beyond fear…is through it.

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I look upon that which I believe I have created and I cringe.

How could I have created my suffering?  I certainly would not have chosen to create this.  I see so much misery and hate in the world.  There is no way I would have created THAT.

When I am told that we are all One and Love is all there is, I cringe.

There must be something other than Love that has created suffering and pain and loss and despair.  And it acts through me because what I feel most times is not Love.  Or I must be something other than Love…

Then I am told that what I am feeling isn’t true.  That it is all an illusion.  But I feel this misery and I feel pain and I get diseased…and others do heinous things to one another that I would never create and do not condone.  I see this misery and I feel angry and hateful towards those who I am told are my brothers and sisters.

It is they who should cringe, I think.

I need to create Heaven on Earth, I am told.  I really don’t know how, so I look to others to see how they do it.  They seem to love much better than I.  I guess I could pretend…to act like it until I feel it…but that seems like living a lie.  How can a lie lead me to the Truth?  I don’t understand but I take this option as it seems like the best possible choice.

I begin to say I am in love with everything and love everyone…I do wonderful things and feel good for a year and a day, but deep inside my pain continues.  And I feel myself growing very, very old.

I really try.  My words may say what at times I do not feel, but know I must repeat them.

My mind betrays me.  Is there one thing in which I can trust?

This something “other” can only be one of two things, I surmise…either there is a force at work that can effectively oppose Love (and acts through me and others), or I effectively oppose Love.

The former creates a desperate fear in me and a vulnerability that makes me cry out for help and protection.

With it, I am always afraid, but perhaps I can strike a bargain, considering…

…this thought, although frightening, is infinitely desirable and I valiantly defend myself from accepting the other option…

It incites such deathly fear in me so as to make me plead for my soul, as I would then honestly agree that I am guilty of this enormity.  I would have to admit that I cannot seem to stop myself.  I am a wretched creature in the grips of something bigger than I.

Each and every day I pray for deliverance and for strength…but I feel this force…of my own perhaps willing (but most certainly coerced!!!) wants and what I need to survive…

This force is always knocking at my door, wanting inside.

I feel so tired of the struggle, so weary of the loss of all my loves…that are ripped from my hands with each savage act.  The effort to keep the door closed from the force of this onslaught has taken the last of my energy.

It wants in, so it can make itself comfortable.  It only asks for its comfort, it seems.  Perhaps I should let it come inside?  Perhaps then I could rest, if even for a little while…but it seems like I don’t know how to do even that right, as rest never comes.

I do know one thing…the lock on my door seems to be broken.  I don’t like to look at or through the door often, but there are times when I cannot help myself and see that awful door flapping on its hinges like a tongue-wagging between toothless gums.

And I think, “What would Love think of me?” and I cringe because, to my surprise, “it” was in there all the time.

I am weary of cringing.  I am deathly tired and the cold wind created by the wildly flapping door has chilled me to my bones.

Now that I know it is here, all is quiet.  I lay down on the floor of this still, barren room and wait for the feeling of its hand on me.  I am sure it will happen at any moment.

How will it happen?  When will be “my time?”  Will it hurt?  Where will I go?

“Do your worst,” I think. I don’t care.  It is what it is.

I lay there for what seems an eternity, thinking little…sometimes not thinking at all.

In my mind time goes by…or does it?

I really don’t care.  What do I know?  And I don’t care even more deeply.

Bleak despair takes too much of my already depleted energy.  I cannot maintain the images that have led me to this dark place.  I feel nothing.  It is a sensation of the past…feeling is.  It is a fleeting thought, one of which I have long since tired.

The room, or space, or whatever it is, is dark and barren.  Still. 

And I am here, wherever here is, still.

Motionless, incomplete, uncaring…still.

When will I leave this place?  The question continues to haunt me.

There is nothing left now, no body to love, no pain nor purpose, none to lose and none to gain, no pleasures to maintain, no God to disappoint.  I remain.

Stillness surrounds me…all that remains of my thoughts and dreams, my arguments and convolutions, my loves and my very last breath, is this…

It remains.

“Unless it does not,” I think with my last thought into the stillness.  I get no answer.

The true remains of the day, remain there, still.

 

Part II, Phoenix Rising, will be coming soon.

When the going gets tough…

How many times have you heard someone say after a tragedy, “I never thought something like this would happen in our small town. It’s unbelievable.”

Well, it could, and it can, and it did.

We have been living in a fantasy world, a fairy tale where we didn’t understand that something as tiny as a virus could threaten our health, our lifestyle, and even overwhelm our modern medical system. It was easy for us to go about our business. The USA and Canada don’t have a lot of issues that come right in the front door and threaten us.

This global pandemic is definitely a wake-up call for us, as North Americans, and for the whole world.

Now is a call for courage.  Now you must choose to face a new version of reality, and form a new vision for your life.

I am confident that you can do it. Human beings are resourceful and resilient. We will survive and thrive.

When I label me, I create me…

I describe myself as a peaceful warrior. It is a label I am fine using in terms of my character. In my world, the point is – I always have a choice.

This doesn’t mean that I always get to choose the circumstances in which I live (COVID-19 has made that obvious); it means that I get to choose whether I react (with fear) or respond (with courage).

I believe that extreme circumstances reveal the character of the person living in those circumstances.

What will you choose when you feel your choices are limited?

Give in to panic and give up?

or,

To tap into your inner warrior – weather this storm and put your life back together afterward?

As I see it, it begins with your thoughts about it. When we are under a state of emergency and shelter in place orders, we have ample time to consider who we choose to be in the face of adversity.

I’m not saying it will be easy.  Or that we won’t suffer, because we are suffering.

With the exception of some extreme weather events, North Americans have had it easy when it comes to the dark side of Mother Nature. She always had a dark side. Eastern philosophy has taught this dualistic concept for eons. There are always two sides to a coin.

Embrace your feelings. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Be a responsible citizen and stay home so you aren’t part of the problem. This also makes you a great citizen of Earth, as you are performing a vital service for humanity.

But most of all, I suggest taking this time to understand who you are as a person – what makes you tick. Deeply consider what you can do to help rebuild your society when this storm passes…because we have woken up in a new world, different for sure, but it will become what we make it.

We will need clear-eyed, focused, thoughtful men and women like you more than ever.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Think about it. Rock your wise. I believe in you.

Know Better, Do Better

You will make mistakes. You will fall down.  Treat yourself gently.

Give yourself some love – take the time you need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and begin again.

Do you offer other people better treatment than you are willing to give yourself? This, my friend, is truly tragic.

How can you be the best lover…of life or anything or anyone…that you can possibly be if you cannot give the person closest to you the chance to work through your mistakes?

Do not turn an opportunity for learning into a reason to suffer.

You know, it’s true…there will be times when we must hold ourselves accountable for doing dirt to another person. This, I believe, is unavoidable, because we cannot know everything there is to know. And we react from what we know at the time, not from some ideal of perfection to which we hold ourselves accountable.

The first step, in any recovery, is admitting our vulnerability, right?

Offering that, gently, to yourself, will not only allow you to recover and remediate what you can more easily, it will also open your eyes to a more compassionate world…one in which the “sins of the fathers and mothers” become part of the healing process…because we understand that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone falls down. Everyone acts from what they know at the time.

I would offer this gift, this secret to accountability: When you know better, simply and gently…do better.