January 31, 2011
The Power of Fire, Drumming, Chanting & Vortexes
I'm certainly not new to dancing, nor am I new to drumming and chanting. That said, I experienced a powerful ritual recently that merges exercise, expression, empowerment, psychology and spiritual worship all under one roof. (or the stars in some cases).
Imagine an event/ritual with this combination: the fun and creativity of Burning Man expression (face and body painting if that's what you want to do), the humanist element of spiritual worship (regardless of your religion -- gratitude and love is what holds court, not God), psychology (because your schtuff can all come out through movement not sitting on a couch talking to a PhD -- I'm not condemning this btw, just suggesting there are other ways for healing and growth), exercise and physical movement (to keep toxicity where it belongs, moving through you and not staying stagnant inside you), and lastly, empowerment through chants and language that elevates not reduces you.
I have chosen not to mention the place or name of this event for confidentiality purposes and to respect the space attendees consider sacred and private. Respecting the privacy of what comes up at these events is an essential part of what makes it all work, or purr as I like to say when something is really working.
A lot of preparation goes into the event itself, such as learning the guidelines of what certain words or noises mean, how to know when silence is more powerful than sharing something, or how to pay attention to the beautiful relationship between the drummers and the dancers. In most cases, you'll do both, so it's important to know what to 'give' the dancers when you're drumming and vice versa, in order to make the experience purr.
Once cleansed, you line up in two lines and face each other, and then slowly you fold into the middle of the circle and move up the middle to re-enter the building, almost in a wedding-like receiving line fashion.
There are some aspects to the early part of the ritual (the quiet, meditative part at the beginning) that is very similar in experience to the Labyrinth Walk, a non-denominational ritual that involves movement on a spiritual journey - towards and always in motion. Some of the earliest forms of labyrinths are found in Greece, dating back to 2500-2000 B.C.E. and early Christian labyrinths date back to 4th century, a basilica in Algeria.
With the fire circle ritual, there is often a fire in the middle of the circle and a border to the circle around it, where movement takes place inside the circle. In our case, since it was inside and there were fire regulations, we had a massive metal bowl propped up on an iron stand, filled with water and floating candles.
The circle itself was closed in by a glowing white chord that lit up in the dark, roughly an inch or so thick. When inside the circle, you are walking into your 'foundation' which is an area of focus.
It could be unconditional love, peace, or frankly, anything you choose. Outside the circle, you prepare yourself for that place so that when you walk into it, you are in that place, feeling it, breathing it, being your authentic self, whatever that is.
Movement felt forced to me in the beginning although over time, once I got out of my head, nothing but natural flowing energy moved me to do whatever I did inside the circle. Some people skip, others move in stride -- slowly, quickly, flowingly, energetically, happily, spiritually, all depending on where they are at any given time. Some people just walk. The key is to keep moving since movement is a symbol of life and how we live life. Have you ever noticed that how people do anything is how they do everything?
This is why constant movement inside the circle is so important just as it is inside any vortex. The ritual's guidelines/rules keeps you in motion even when you feel like you want to stop. When you stay in motion even when you're feeling stuck, things begin to open up and get clearer - both in your head and your heart.
We explored the energy of vortexes, where we looked into the early work of Viktor Schauberger, who was an inventor of what he called "implosion technology." Schauberger developed his own theories based on fluidic vortices and movement in nature. He coined Observe Nature and then Copy Nature and was known for observing fish and their behavior in rivers. In his work with vortexes, he realized that everything is affected by the 'vortex' and believed that all life IS a vortex.
The circle we moved in and around was a vortex just like tornadoes and water are vortexes as is our inner ear. When you change the pattern and direction of a vortex, interesting things happen. Sure, there's turbulence, but there is also an inner calm that occurs as has been evidenced by objects, such as a birthday cake, being swept up in a tornado and then being spit out unharmed and untouched.
Tornados breath everything in its track IN and then spits everything OUT. Refer to a great book called Sensitive Chaos, which explains the simple flowing phenomena of water and air, and how we can use that understanding to "read" the living meaning of water.
All of this comes back to the importance of keeping things moving inside the vortex, in this case, the humanity "fire" circle where the attendees' job was to keep everything flowing: our hearts, our minds and our bodies.
There are two directions you can move in the fire circle and you can choose what each direction means for you. For example, moving counterclockwise towards the inside rim of the circle could mean holding on whereas walking clockwise in the inner part of the circle could mean letting go and releasing.
Dynamics of the group participating inside the circle change frequently, but it happens with respect for what others want to experience. Being in touch, listening and allowing silence creates the space to understand that dynamic.
You could be moving to a mid-tempo beat, then the drum energy may simmer down and someone may start to recite a piece from Shakespeare or Eckhart Tolle. Later, it may move into a chant or a silly song. Ultimately, this means that the entire fire circle is organic and its energy depends on the players in the circle at any given time.
When someone starts to sing a song, people often chime in. If someone begins a poem, people may just listen and respond to it through dance or movement, and a chant often takes on a life of its own. Example: I am the power and I honor you and I empower you to be who you are. The energy is almost always positive and from a place of love and gratitude.
Gratitude is a big part of the ritual. Whether you go into the process wanting to give gratitude or think about it or not, you can't help but leave the circle feeling grateful for the people around you and most importantly, for yourself.
Isn't self love, or rather lack thereof, a known factor, that holds us back from becoming our full potential? (by full potential, I don't mean becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a professional athlete), I mean stepping into your 'true' self, rather than holding back that gift and trying to replicate the "sameness" around us). Sometimes I think Sesame Street said it best. (aka, the most important person in the whole wide world is ......)
That brings me to other senses and modalities. In addition to verbal mantras and reinforcements, there's a visual component. Women typically dress in flowing clothes, often with clothes and hats, sometimes with decadent jewelry and face paint. There were other visual expression props you could add to your persona for the ritual such as angel's wings, funky and romantic hats and shawls. Some men dressed up in cultural clothing from other countries (Egypt, China, Japan, etc), others wore robes, and some just wore loose clothing.
The altar to the west is dedicated to image and reflection and on that altar were mirrors and candles. Remember that in ancient times, mirrors were believed to hold your reflection and if a mirror was shattered, it was said that your soul would be shattered. (that's where the 7 years of bad luck came from). Reflections represent why you 'showed up,' what you want to accomplish, what direction do you want to go and what is your intention along the way?
There are four altars in total and everyone pays respect to each -- north, south, east and west -- at the very beginning of the ritual. Typically two people say a few words about it and more candles are lit along the way.
The altar to the south is about experimentation and considered a laboratory of sorts. In this particular fire circle, laboratory coats were hung on a coat stand to symbolize exploration and experimentation in life.
The altar to the east is about play and there, hung hats, scarves, coats and shawls. Play sister play. Women tended to use the props here more than the men although all the men in my group had an aspect of play to their personalities. (note: our group was roughly 50 in size although fire circles can range from 20 to over 1,000 in size).
There was also a hoola hoop in this area which some used to play on their own while others used it as a prop in which to dance and play together.
And lastly, the altar to the east is about connection. This altar was the most cluttered of all and included flowers, candles, one tangerine, bones and necklaces. If you felt a particular connection to someone throughout the process, you could let them know by hanging one of the necklaces around their neck to symbolize that you shared something "kindrid" and meaningful with them.
The coolest part for me was the dynamic between the drummers and the dancers, and the mutual sharing of expression that came from a place of true authenticity and vulnerability. Even at Burning Man, albeit authentic and fabulous, it's more about art, expression and experience than it is about being vulnerable and showing your true interior -- sans drugs -- which could change by the moment, by the hour or simply not at all.
It's also about becoming more and more okay with silence but not having to do it through some form of formal or informal meditation, so it's great for people who are not naturals at meditation.
Lastly, the drumming circle itself. Dancing to it while respecting the organic nature of what is being created on the fly is as magical as drumming for the dancers is, with an intention of creating a magical experience for them along the way.
Since the drumming circle is lined up as an arch, there is a circular area in front of the drummers where a dancer can come in and show gratitude by dancing wildly or softly (typically there's more energy than less) in front of them. And this, my friends, is a very very cool experience, as a drummer and as a dancer.
A few links and resources to check out more information on fire dances and circles for those interested in learning more.
- Phoenix Fire – the West Coast's largest fire-circle gathering happens every August under the redwood trees in the Santa Cruz mountains
- Winter's Flame – weekend events held in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Fire Tribe Hawaii – circles every solstice and equinox on the island of Oahu
- Forestdance – circles in Massachusetts every August
- Vegas Vortex – hosts Mysterium, May Fire, and Fall Fest in and around Las Vegas
- Spirit Fire – circles in July in upstate New York
- Fires Rising – features a fire circle at this event every May in Pennsylvania
- Rites of Spring – a week long pagan festival with fire circle in every May in western Massachusetts
Photo credits: BoulderssResort, FireFamily, InventorSpot, FreeExtras, DrinkingDiaires, Celebratewomantoday, and VortexHouse.
November 27, 2010
Dalai Lama Posts This on Facebook Today
And, it's worth a share:
September 12, 2010
Hey Digital Maven: How Okay Are You With Silence?
Let's take a look at polarity for a minute, not chemical polarity, but linguistic polarity which does in fact change our behavior, our wants, our likes, our dislikes and so on.
The most well-known polarity items are those that are sensitive to negation and related expressions - think: negative and positive expressions. The speech and behavioral patterns that you consistently do again and again define your life experiences.
When we live 'most of our life' in a digital world, we can't possibly define our lives any other way other than digitally. The same applies to the opposite. There's only so much space, time and energy we can dedicate to a given thing - does that one thing fall into a digital realm or a non-digital realm? Those patterns become what we know, what our bodies and minds do and what we 'become' most comfortable with. While we may argue that these patterns do not define us, over time, they do in fact become part of our DNA, our make-up, our new persona, our new identity.
Among other things, I suppose I could call myself a 'digital maven.' It didn't start that way -- I'm not a daughter of an engineer or from a family who spent their life employed at HP, Intel or Apple. Quite the contrary, I'm about as opposite of a poster child for Silicon Valley as you can find, yet.....here I am, a victim of the digital revolution. (G'head, slam for me the use of the word victim, but not unlike other addictions, technology takes on its victims in the same way cocaine and alcohol do).
We can make our own choices and create the necessary life balances but that doesn't mean we don't fall prey to the addiction. Pattern repetition: repeat, repeat, repeat. Ever have this feeling? I'm a mouse caught in a digital and social media maze -- please let me out.
I grew up in an environment where access to a digital life was limited and discouraged. The mantras I received included getting an old fashioned education, reading literary masterpieces and more than anything else - world experience. "Get your hands dirty, and walk on the dark side, the tough side and there.....there, you'll learn how to get ahead in life."
If it came easily, my grandfather believed, it wasn't real, or at least not sustainable. Two main things that fell into the easy category as a teenager: TV and fast food. Both were off limits without some kind of negotiation. We were also a family who held onto a rotary phone for longer than most.
Falling into technology twenty years ago had its rewards then as much as it does today. Innovation is exciting - you can feel the pulse of leading edge.....you have an opportunity to see it, hear it, taste it, feel it, and experience it.
If you're not an early adopter at first, the digital world soon converts you into one. Suddenly you wake up and you've become a geek, unclear of how you made it from luddite to digital maven. It's not as if there's a single moment where a lightbulb goes off and you suddenly can fix your pal's PC or set up your aunt's cell phone. It's gradual like all addictions.
Once you move into that world, it's hard to turn back to a mindset where silence becomes your truth rather than your digital persona.
Let's face it - while many will argue that their digital persona, in other words, who they are online, IS their physical persona, it's not the same - it can't be. The medium changes us, whether it's a large monitor, a small mobile screen or a GPS gadget. As humans, we simply respond differently to human touch -- sound, sight and smell in the physical world than we do in a digital, virtual one. It doesn't mean that innovation and progress isn't blurring the lines (read: singularity), but it's important to acknowledge the distinctions for us to understand the digital addiction and how it can and does lead us further away from presence, and further away from silence. Singularity enthusiasts and futurists may think differently about this of course.
Enter my world. This world is one which never shuts off and is rarely disconnected from the web in one form or another. In other words, life is almost never offline. What does almost 'never' lead to?
Almost 'never' leads to a world where silence can't exist, at least not as we have known and understood it for centuries.
Enter Silicon Valley, a place some call its own planet. Others call it a insular bubble shut off from the 'real world.' It doesn't mean that everyone who lives in Silicon Valley is living in an insular bubble, but what it does mean is that the technology culture Silicon Valley has created is all digital and as such, removed from the way the rest of the world thinks and lives.
I moved here after the 2000 crash, but before the recent economic downturn when start-ups were not getting funded, companies were not hiring and the outlook was grim. That said, there was still advancement - products were still being launched, companies were sold and innovation ploughed ahead economic surplus or not.
The early adopters and creators continued to throw invites my way for every new social media service, plug-in, mobile feature and software download under the sun; I got a daily dose of them for months. In this increasingly 'more authentic than ever' time, I was asked to 'friend' people I never met or heard of on Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn, MySpace...........the list goes on. And on.
Are you tired yet? At what point do you say "get a life, enuf already." It's not about keeping up with the Jones anymore; it's about keeping up with the digital mavens and these mavens keep coming at you from all sides. Their persistence is so prolific that you can't really escape them if you work and play among them, nor can you create uninterrupted time for silence.
Ahh yes, that magical word: Silence. Being connected to all of these disparate digital worlds takes time, energy and focus because for the most part, these worlds are silos even though there's an attempt to integrate more and more of them. Integration isn't happening fast enough nor is it a priority, and so we continue like mice in the maze of ever exploring one path (i.e., social network with no clear value-add or problem that it solves) after another.
*Check to see what my friends are doing on Facebook, do status updates and write on their walls.
*Find out who poked me and why and then respond.
*Respond to comments in MySpace world.
*Answer questions from people who send me notes on LinkedIn despite the fact that they have my email address and have known me for a decade.
*Check messages on the six vertical market social networks that promise to keep me appraised of the latest in the world of my top passions and interests.
*Check aggregator for top news and to sift through favorite blogs and sites.
*Read Google News. Read Yahoo Alerts.
*Check Google Analytics. Check Statcounter. Check feeds.
*Check blog post comments. Respond.
*Respond and monitor spam on blog. Respond and monitor spam on Facebook. Respond and monitor spam on.....
*Try to find useful and important stuff in email in the midst of useless and irrelevant stuff.
*Wonder daily how on earth you got on so many newsletter lists for so many companies. Try to unsubscribe and note that the volume continues to go up despite your best effort.
*Update location on FourSquare. Update again on Gowalla.
*Tweet something useful on Twitter or retweet someone else's thought provoking comment. Tweet again. Respond to tweets.
*Update status on LinkedIn.
*Write Blog Post. Respond to comments and emails about blog post.
*Make silly correction from something someone didn't like from blog post they see as inaccurate but isn't really.
*Update contact database.
*Do back up.
*Copy files over for trip and then do again. Back up. Do it again.
*Synchronization. It always works flawlessly right? Don't get me started.
*Download new updates and upgrades for software, hardware, web browsers, mobile phones....
*Download new apps for phone, laptop, iPod, iPad, Droid, Blackberry, do it again.
*Upgrade to new operating system: Phone, Laptop, Blackberry, iPod, iPad, Droid. Do it again.
*Download new printer drivers.
*Windows Crash. Firefox Crash. Chrome Crash. And yes, Apple fan boys, iPod Crash. It happens almost daily and I own five.
Since I work in this industry, go there I must, at least to some degree. Create more boundaries, more balance, you might say. And I do and others I know have tried also. In making that conscious choice however, bear in mind that the inevitable happens: you move yourself further away from your 'digital tribe.' If you are not fully integrated into your 'digital tribe' yet you're not 'out of it' either, you're living a luke warm 'digital existence,' at least in the eyes of the tribe.
Yet, if you have your toes dipped into the waters of the digital tribe, you're not fully living in the tribe that lives, breathes and honors 'silence' either. No-man's land. Doris Lessing remains a great read for those who have never been attached to any one label, any one culture, any one name.
When there's nothing to click, nothing to push, nothing to update, nothing to respond to, silence takes over. It can be disconcerting at first, especially for the digital maven. For example, watch a digital maven board an airplane. As they walk onto the plane, they're checking text messages -- head down -- paying little attention to the announcements or people around them. They check into Foursquare, send out a tweet and make a phone call the instant they sit down, thereafter begrudgingly switching their device off when the order comes from the cockpit.
Continue to watch. They'll look around, then back down to their lap, then at their device, which is turned off. They play with the keys anyway just like a smoker coddles the unlit cigarette when they're forced to abstain. They're at a loss where to turn and what to do. Read a magazine? A Book? Unless it's on a Kindle, it would appear foreign, out-dated.
The neurons don't know how to fire up that part of their brain - it's out of practice and 'hooked' on digital connection.....addicted to that digital connection. Enter the world of no silence. Silence doesn't have the juice they need, the 'hit' that keeps them engaged, connected, in motion. Hey Digital Maven, ask yourself an important truth: "how okay are you with silence?" Then, sit with the question for a long, long time. In Silence of course.
September 08, 2010
On Philosophy: A Partially Examined Life
An interesting post over at Open Culture (love this blog). Philosophy: A Partially Examined Life. In the piece, he says of his experience of philosophy from his studies at university: "we loved philosophy but preferred it as an avocation. There was something about the professionalization of philosophy that seemed to go against the spirit of it. We preferred the “partially examined life” to the examined life." I can relate and felt the same way, hence my change to Sociology, then Psychology, then Anthropology. (Not that any of these didn't bring on the same reflections).
They created a philosophy podcast with discussions that were informed but not overly academic, less like a classroom lecture and more like a conversation over drinks after class, and unified by the question of what makes philosophy worthwhile. They covered topics ranging from Plato’s conception of the examined life to Nietzsche’s immoralism, God and faith, to the philosophy of mind. Podcast here.
August 02, 2010
Breaking Through with Tony Robbins on National Network NBC“Breakthrough” is a new summer reality show on NBC with Tony Robbins, which started last week. Many know Tony from his empowerment seminars and audiotapes, which are marketed worldwide, making Tony Robbins synonymous with motivation and life coaching. He has also written books and for years, held 2 day to week long seminars on getting your life on track and creating empowering choices in your life, whether that be around relationships, finance or your professional 'destiny.'
Given that I have done a number of Tony Robbins seminars myself and have met him personally on more than one occasion, the way he is often portrayed in the press doesn't do him justice, nor is it always accurate. People still respond to old infomercials from twenty years ago - a bit like pigeon-holing Ron Howard into his role as Richie in Happy Days when years later, he has gone on to become producer and director of well-known respected films.
C'mon people, move on - haven't you progressed in your career development and the things you have done in the past two decades? Tony has come a LONG way since the late-night infomercials he did early on in his career. Today, he spends his life work not just running seminars that help change people's lives for the better, but he coaches major luminaries, politicians, sports heroes and Hollywood celebs as well. Additionally, he has a non-profit foundation, which provides assistance to the homeless, elderly and inner-city youth, and feeds more than one million people in nine countries every year through its international holiday "Basket Brigade."
The New York Times article on his NBC debut writes, "Mr. Robbins is well spoken and persuasive, but the series is a reminder of how unusual his looks are for a man in the counseling field. Enormously tall, dark, with big teeth, high cheekbones and the hint of a five o’clock shadow, Mr. Robbins looks more dangerous than safe and more wolfish than shepherdly; he could pass for a Bond villain."
Anyone who knows Tony personally would be in stitches over this description......I still laugh at it re-reading it the fifth time around. Clearly the reporter hasn't met him if they think he could pass as a Bond villain after looking in his eyes or shaking his hand. But yes, Tony is tall and has a powerful presence. But, given her reference, it makes it seem like all counselors should be shepherdly and safe. Egads. Think about it, if you're a type A athlete who is muscular and 6 foot something, might you not want a personal development life coach who can not only get you to deal with where you're stuck emotionally, but also physically match you?
I'm not a professional athlete nor am I over six foot tall and I know I'd opt for someone with Tony's energy and presence than a shepherdly, safe counselor who what, starts the clock, stares at and listens to you from across the couch for 59 minutes until the bell rings? Hell, that's not what I call transformative work even though I'm not discounting that it can be helpful for some people along their life's journey. Bottom line, there are more effective techniques and approaches out there and Tony has mastered them.
It's time to rethink the paradigm and rethink the speed at which we CAN change our lives and break our old patterns. Transformation can be almost immediate. What I mean by this is that change happens the moment you make a DECISION to make change your patterns - really make that decision.
There are countless things that Tony walks people through in his seminars to break your patterns and create a life worth living but the big one is this: Rewrite Your Story.
A rewrite isn't done by seeing a shrink for months or years on end trying to analyze why your story is what it is and slowly migrating from an old you to a new one. It happens the moment you DECIDE to rewrite that story. It's yours to create and his point is a simple one - you're the author, so why not write an incredible life story?
Some kudos for Tony's new show below. And yes, as it may appear from my tone, I am also a fan of his work. More at Breakthrough Insider.
July 09, 2010
A Look at Godin's Linchpin: Get Uncomfortable & Get out the CowbellThose who are already fans of Seth Godin's work will find his latest book Linchpin among his best, if not his best, and those who have never heard of him will get glimpses of his words of wisdom from his previous works of art Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow and others.
A world renown branding and marketing expert, Godin's lessons and pitch to the world is really about how to live an authentic life. Sure, I love his writing and agree in principle with everything I've read, yet the real magic comes when you realize the power of meshing his Buddhist-like approach to being present, choosing happiness and YOU as the leader in charge of your life and making hard painful decisions to leave complacency and fear behind so you can start creating your real art.
He begins by reminding us what century we're living in. In other words, things have dramatically changed - we no longer have to be a faceless cog in the machinery of capitalism. We now have a choice, as the migration completes itself from two teams (management and labor) to a third team - the linchpins.
We no longer need to be faceless cogs in a bureaucratic mediocre system. We can choose our own path by stepping into our art in the same way other linchpins have done: Colonel Sanders, Jack Bauer in 24, Michael Jackson, Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, Oprah. This is what Linchpins do - they step out of the faceless system, draw their own maps and create art that matters. Consider "this art" that you are here in this world to create, as gifts that change people and potentially change the way the world thinks.
He brings us back into the mediocre world - you know, where 'average' comes from. Among other things, he blames traditional schools which have conditioned us to do 'our jobs' and follow instructions. It makes us feel safe to fit in, doesn't it, but following the status quo has never made anyone indispensable.
Let's revisit the 'safe to fit in' part. If you think about it, when you feel most alive, the moments you can remember where you are in your zone and doing remarkable work, ask yourself, "were you fitting in or were you stepping out on a limb and creating art?" In these moments, the Linchpin took over and pushed the Lizard Brain aside. Seth refers to the Lizard Brain as the persistent obstacle that sets us back. The Lizard Brain often sabotages the progress we have made and stops us from creating our best work. Refer to a great post Seth wrote on 'quieting the lizard brain.'
The Lizard Brain stops us from saying what we think is important at the right time, and holds us back from making remarkable things.
|Do not internalize the industrial model. You are not one of the myriad of interchangeable pieces, but a unique human being, and if you've got something to say, say it, and think well of yourself while you're learning to say it better.--David Mamet|
Where Seth merges from taking ownership of living and winning in your own life to the business world is the crossroads where the same principles apply to the products and services you are trying to sell. You can win in the short term on selling cheaper, faster or even the best quality but where you really earn your place in the market is with humanity and leadership. He asserts: "the only way to get what you're worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people deeply care about."
When you do the latter my friend, not only do you win and start living a remarkable life, but so will the products and services you represent. They'll take on a life of their own because that authenticity and remarkableness will ensure that your what you create is true art, whether that be a physical product, how you interact with a customer or recommendations you make to a client.
This question and response is probably one of my favorites in the whole book and there are a lot of really great take aways: "Why is society trying so hard to kill our natural-born artists?" When we try to drill and practice someone into subservient obedience, we're stamping out the artist that lives within.
What average managers and CEOs don't embrace is the notion that the universe always provides when we allow creativity and gifts to flow back and forth, somehow not only do we win, but thrive. Zappos' corporate philosophy is a great example of this. The more you give, the more the market gives back reminds Seth. "Abundance is possible, but only if we can imagine it and then embrace it."
He talks about the NEW American Dream and how to live it, the one that markets around the world are embracing:
--Make judgment calls
--connect people and ideas
...and we have no choice but to reward you.
As always, Godin weaves humor into his work with titles like Would Shakespeare Blog? People will Laugh at me and Anxiety and Shenpa, the latter being a Tibetan word that roughly means 'scratching the itch.'
And, as always, he talks about the importance of passion. It's no surprise that the most successful client relationships I've ever had are with ones who are also musicians or artists. There's a line at the bottom of my business card that says "Those Who See The Invisible, Can Do The Impossible." Some people read it and are confused or even worse, don't even notice it because they don't live their lives paying attention to where remarkable may show up in the details. Others read it, pause, nod and with intention either say "nice, really nice" or something to that effect. And, others get excited and say, I love this. Chances are I wouldn't have an outstanding relationship with the former group of individuals but would be able to collectively create magic with the latter.
Let's go back to passion. Godin puts it in these parameters: passion isn't project specific, it's people specific. Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate. He goes on, "perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen. The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin."
So by now, you surely have an idea of what it mean to be a linchpin as defined by Godin. Among other things we have discussed, it's the person who makes a connection when it's not part of their job. That connection becomes a gift. Being open is art. And art is a gift.
Enter the Lizard Brain again because I know we've all had this experience. You work hard, you create your art and it falls on deaf ears. We didn't please everyone and Lizard Brain steps in to pull you back into the mediocre world to ensure you're safe and accepted by all. Remember the rejection that painter Jackson Pollock suffered through before critics declared him a genius. All of us want to make our art for an audience at the end of the day - we hope to change someone as a result of it; we likely even want to change ourselves in the process.
There must have been some mentor or friend in your life who told you before you reached adulthood - you can't please everyone -- and nor should you try. The same applies to your creations. Seth puts it in this way, "if you don't pinpint your audience, you end up making your art for the loudest, crankiest critics. And, that's a waste. Instead, focus on the audience that you choose, and listen to them, to the exclusion of all others. Go ahead and make this sort of customer happy, and the others can go pound sand." Well said Seth.
He refers to Steven Pressfields The War of Art, where Pressfield calls our inability to easily free the daemon "the resistance." Enter Seth's powerful chapter on the Resistance, a tough chapter for those fighting the shift.
Here's the resistance at work - it's your Lizard Brain again, which is the part that the daemon has no control over. He writes, "it (lizard brain) will invent stories, illnesses, emergencies, and distractions in order to keep the genius bottled up. The resistance is afraid. Afraid of what will happen to you (and to it) if the ideas get out, if your gifts are received, if the magic happens."
There is something that Tony Robbins always brings up in every seminar I've ever attended and every one of his books I've ever read: "the quality of our life is in direct proportion to the amount of discomfort (and I'd add uncertainty) we allow ourselves to live with," or something to that effect. (Tony - sorry if I got the exact quote wrong)
You get the point. Seth is on board with living and breathing this value as well and brings it up with examples throughout the book. He says, "the road to comfort is crowded and it rarely gets you there. Ironically, it's those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing. Inevitably, we exaggerate just how uncomfortable we are."
I'll add - discomfort not only brings engagement and change but passion, purpose, and our true art to rise to the top and make a difference.
As I make my way through the book, I see a lot of life lessons from one of my favorite authors and buddhist thinkers: Pema Chodron, and then later, Seth references her. Why am I not surprised to learn that he's also a fan? I've read every one of her books and if you haven't, don't miss out on learning from her bright light and inspiration.
The place where Pema's insights come into play is his section on Anxiety. What Seth suggests is the very Buddhist (very Pema -- sit with it and be present) route. Frankly, it's the only way. Not only can you not unleash the Linchpin inside you if you feed that anxiety, but you'll never feel at peace with your choices or the world around you.
Sit with it, acknowledge it, explore it, watch it, befriend it...and just when you feel that its getting overwhelming and you want to flee, sit with it even longer. I've done this time and time again (I just wish I were better at it), and a funny thing happens. The pain, the suffering, the resistance starts to dissipate and fade away. It works but it's not easy to do particularly if you're new to it and even moreso, if it involves a place or person or thing that has had you in a "stuck" comfortable position for years. Time to move on.
The last thing I'll mention in reference to his book is the concept of SHIPPING. Think about how many things you've started over the years and not finished. You never shipped the damn thing - your precious art. Somewhere the Lizard Brain showed up and its annoying "it's not safe out there" little voice came up with excuses, "I don't have the time, I don't have enough money, I don't have the resources, the product or service wasn't perfect."
I have spent my life helping companies SHIP...products, services, websites, blogs, books, movies. We always ship, but sometimes the art wasn't good enough, or the timing was off, or we shipped into a market that wasn't ready for it. There were other times when we shipped the wrong thing and the real art was the idea that got tossed because the idea was too "big" - perhaps too much of a "purple cow" - for the team to handle. Fear set in. Resistance took over. The Lizard Brain won.
As I read this section and thought about how many products and services I did ship, I was brought back to the one I'm trying to ship now and how long it is taking to launch. It still hasn't shipped - part of me wants it to be perfect, part of me wants the art to be just right and part of me wants the plan to finished before I give it some wings.
The bottom line is that whenever there is lack of movement and progress, I can't sleep at night. Why? Because this launch is created from nothing but passion, nothing but art....so the conflict is between serving clients on the other side and serving my art on the other. The art will ship this month, ready or not, because I've set a date. Setting a hard date with a goal next to it moves idea and poetry in motion to reality and increase the likelihood of getting to go.
Getting to go and releasing your gift is what its about. Linchpins, he writes are "geniuses, artists and givers of gifts. They bring humanity to work, they don't leave it at home. The hard work isn't lifting or shoving or sharpening. the hard work is being brave enough to make a difference."
I'll end on a humorous but reflective note from a title in his next to the last chapter: Making the choice: MORE COWBELL. I'm not sure what visual that brings up for you but as a New Englander, it brings up a real cowbell, an old rusty burgundy cowbell that sat in our den which we used as a dinner bell when we threw large dinner parties at holiday time.
I still have that cowbell and it looks out of place in my 1930s townhouse on a steep San Francisco hill. I don't have reason to use it anymore although I've decided I'm going to think of a way to give it some life again, even if its only a few times a year. It will serve as a symbolic reminder to everyone who hears it that we all need to get out our cowbells more often than we do and ring them loudly.
As Seth so rightfully points out, "the funny thing is that learning how to add joy, create art, or contribute humanity is a lot easier than learning how to play the guitar. For some reason, we work on the technique before we worry about adding the joy."
Why not start with the joy and work backwards and see where it brings you?
Seth, thanks for shipping Linchpin, a beautifully written, engaging and inspirational contribution.
June 15, 2010
Linchpins are Everywhere: Dive for Cover!!Linchpins Everywhere, Linchpins Everywhere -- dive for cover!! Seth Godin's latest book: Linchpin which I am 75% the way through, is one of his best. It is written in Seth's usual free flowing style with conviction and passion throughout but manages to call you to action on every page. I plan to post a book review once I turn the very last page.
As always, he's straight forward. There are chapter subheads like: Where do you hide your brilliance? When did the resistance take over your life? Where do you put the fear? And, who are you trying to please?
He's also funny: Would Shakespeare blog? From Superhero to Mediocreman (and Back Again), The Problem with Bowling, Throwing Yourself Under the Bus, and Why the Lizard Brain Wants You to be Stuck?
Tony Robbins uses a figure eight metaphor to refer to our "stuck-ness". There we are climbing the ladder towards brilliance, creativity and joy and just before we get there, we sabotage yourself because emotionally, it is as much as your 'lizard brain' can handle). In order to feel safe, sabotage sets in and down you go back to the bottom of that figure 8 circle until you're so bored, frustrated, sad and pissed off that you fight your way back up again until lizard brain takes over and the cycle repeats itself.
This week, I decided to go to an unofficial Linchpin meet-up because frankly I love Godin's work, his writing, his thinking and this damn book. It turns out and little did I know, that 819 of these events are scheduled across the world and many have already happened.
Below is a video I shot at the end, where individuals came to the front of San Francisco's Georges' bar and pitched their "linchpin" project in 60 seconds to attendees. By "linchpin" project, I am referring to their passion, the thing that brings out their talent and brilliance, the thing that calls their authentic voice, and the thing that makes their hearts sing. The group was a combination of entrepreneurs, bloggers and non-profit evangelists. Have a listen:
April 28, 2010
TEDx San Francisco: Courage & ResilienceTEDxSF was held at San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences yesterday afternoon and evening. The idea behind TEDx events is to extend the spirit of TED, held for years in Monterey and now in Long Beach, with several simulcast events happening at the same time.
I attended a TEDx Berkeley recently and was planning to be on a plane to Japan in a week or so for TEDx Tokyo, but a handful of technology innovations I'm working on are keeping me stateside. TEDx a great idea and a way to bring TEDsters and other like-minded people into a room to share great ideas, network, grow and make connections, that can in turn, lead to other amazing initiatives that can make the world a better one.
Self organized, they are independent events. This week's line-up included movers, shakers, leaders, artists and creators like relationship expert Dr. John Gray, Guitar Hero co-founder Charles Huang, Fighter Nathan Quarry, counterterrorism professor Celina Realuyo, conservationist and whale lover Dr. Paul Watson and among others, advocate of the notion that genes mixed with choice can lead to success David Shenk, who I found amusing and thought: "this is someone I'd like to have lunch with someday."
Singer/songwriter Bhi Bhiman, born to Sri Lankan parents, sings his lessons. For the most part, he writes about struggle and injustice (here's a taste of his music), although he writes love songs as well as tunes that incorporate an odd sense of humor that might invoke an outburst of laughter when you least expect it.
He demonstrates how location, background, less than ideal odds and color do not need to get in the way of your passion, your dreams, your talent and your success.
I've met John Gray and heard him speak several times. I agree with his notion that women, particularly Type A, career-oriented women of the 2000s don't get enough Oxytocin. Yet, if you have not heard him speak before or read his books, he may have lost you at the the Venus and Mars book reference in his intro line.
Gray is spot on when he talks about the kinds of things that give women more oxytocin and let's be honest, we all need more of it. I know I do. The problem is that we (women) dig our own graves in that we often flea from precisely what gives us pleasure and what we really need because the hormone that gets results, particularly in business and competitive sports, is not Oxytocin, but testosterone, the steroid hormone that an adult male produces about ten times more of naturally, than a woman.
What's interesting is that testosterone lowers stress in men, but not in women. "Ever seen a man on a couch?" Gray asks the crowd and everyone laughs at the all too familiar visual, even those who have lived with CEO-type energies. "They're recharging their testosterone," he says. He adds an interesting 'updated' reference to the masculine cave 'need.' "Men used to go to their caves and come out after a recharge. Now, they're going to their caves and are not coming out." OR, they're coming out more slowly or much later.
It's not inaccurate, but it's also not that simple.
Part of the issue that women are starting to go into their caves too, but not to restore testosterone, but because the world around them becomes so overwhelming that when they're trying to deal with or attack it all, and the home is no longer nurturing, they need to figure out other ways, things and places to get that necessary oxytocin recharge that keeps them balanced and healthy.
He very quickly warms up, and brings amusement to his talk on inherited responses: Epigenetics, Courage and Resilience. He talks about the mystery behind gene expression and how sentiment has changed in recent years.
Shenk takes us from The Bell Curve to the modern day thinking of Michael Meaney.
Geopolitical and enterprise risk management expert Celina Realuyo expert talks about taking charge of our own personal 'risks,' and setting up a plan of action to deal with them, long before a crisis happens.
She walks us terrorism examples, snow storms and power outages. Her takeaways largely had to do with the same ones World War I and II children lived by: be prepared for anything. Don't we all have an Aunt Betty and Uncle Melvin who had basements filled with huge water bottles and dozens of canned baked beans?
Fighter Nate Quarry reminds us not to give up regardless of your odds. Sometimes it doesn't take much more than knowing what your priorities are.....for him, making sure he had time with his little girl (after a divorce), being fit, strong and financially capable enough to take care of her, and not losing in a ring with someone he mentally knew he could beat, is enough.
There's always a moment and it exists for all of us, when we know we must succeed, must rise above what we're capable of and do a downward bow to perseverance and courage because it's either the right thing to do, or something in us knows that if we don't, we'll never forgive ourselves for not taking the leap of faith.
Isn't it sometimes as simple as: Believing in something bigger than ourselves just because?
Julie Wurm on Being True to Ourselves.
Michael Warr touches us with his poetry.
LOOP!STATION entertains with an enchanting mix of dreamy vocals and cello.
Below are a few random shots taken at the event.
Michael Levit, Suzie Katz and Sumit Guha
Frog Design's Kristina Loring, Poet Michael Warr, Renee Blodgett
LOOP!STATION's vocalist Robin Coomer
April 06, 2010
Suffering, Heartbreak & Empathy OR Passion, Purpose & Contribution?Two very different personalities on the TEDX Berkeley stage this past weekend: Asma Abbas, who raised the notion of compassion, emphathy, suffering and heartbreak -- how are they related to politics? She suggested a correlation between how deep we can go with empathy and the degree of homogeneity in the society.
Enter personality number 2: inventor Ross Evans, who reached his audience through storytelling, and the idea that the combination of passion, purpose and contribution result in unlimited possibilities. Compassion and emphathy are blown open and now only are they contageous like Dacher Keltner suggests, but a must if we are to find sustainable happiness in our lives.
Political theorist Asma Abbas attempts to draw out of the crowd, posing a number of questions: what do you think of heartbreak and what it means? How do you think heartbreak relates to politics? She also talks about how heartbreak relates to suffering and what suffering means and how it plays out in less homogeneous societies. She asks, "what is it that you and I would die for?
Clearly emotional about the subject, she had a hard time bringing many of us to her central point. Moving in a direction many of us who have either lived abroad or traveled extensively can resonate with, I resonate when she says, "the amount of emtoion and the range I have for it when I return to the states, shrinks. She suggests as a response to what heartbreak has to do with politics - "doesn't it have to do with who our heart breaks for? Who is it that our heart goes out to and why?
She says, "this demand that someone can make on your emotion in a world where gratitude and emphathy are low, just doesn't work. We are making a mistake if we assume that everyone is working towards the same end." She continues, "there are many ways we confront suffering. As things become more homogeneous, it becomes harder to be empathetic and compassionate." What would death mean if there wasn't life? She asserts that some people can't give up 'living suffering' because it's a way to connect with the future.
Ross Evans, inventor of Xtracycle and founder of Worldbike, takes us on a journey to Africa, where we see the workshops they set up to show locals how to use these bikes as a way to alleviate poverty and get people to medical care in times of need.
Ross also created HoliShift, to promote and evangelize the belief that passion + purpose + contribution, will give you everything that you need in your life to not only be happy, but to create miracles.
Examples of HoliShift questions could be: what is sacred to you? what powers your spirit?
We all know passion: it's what we love. When we're doing our 'purpose,' we feel as if times goes away. We're completely in flow when we are living our 'purpose.' It's how we provide value to our own lives as well as others around us. When we provide enough value, the world simply takes care of us.
It's clear that most people want to make an impact in the world before the end of their lives. When we find that intersection between the three - passion, purpose and contribution, then we will create the most impact. We understand this intersection 'naturally' as children, but over time, it gets beaten out of us.
April 04, 2010
Asma Abbas: What Does Heartbreak Have to do with Politics?
Author and professor Asma Abbas who has received her doctorate in Political Theory and Social Thought asks the TEDX Berkeley audience: What do you think heartbreak is and what does it have to do with politics?"
Asma also talks about how it relates to suffering and what suffering means in the west versus more diverse, less homogeneous societies. She asks, "what is it that you and I would die for?"