Priming the Pump for Inspiration

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Over the past few months, I’ve felt frustrated. I love writing. It’s like dancing for my soul. Yet, when I sit to write only a stray sentence or two comes and nothing else.

I became interested in this phenomenon. What was the cause of what is commonly called “writer’s block”? As my frustration grew, I sat less often to write. I felt despair that I would be able to get back in the groove, so to speak.

I read my past writings. Some were good, and I wondered who wrote them and my frustration increased. I would sit quietly early in the morning and make sure I didn’t have distractions. Nothing changed. A few sentences came and that’s it.

One day I picked up a book of poetry by Billy Collins. I was grilling hamburgers and wanted to read between turning the burgers. As I read, my mind felt freed. Ideas came flowing and the apparent blockage was gone.

The next day, I continued the practice of reading what inspired me and left me with questions. Boom. Ideas flowed and the blockage wasn’t there. As I thought about this, I realized that my mind had gotten into a rut so to speak. Busy doing stuff and little or no time to disconnect and allow the creative flow.

I wondered if this isn’t at the root of all creative blockages. We get caught up in the rhythm of life. The getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed routine that becomes all life is. This routine gets more and more entrenched, and creativity ebbs until it’s mostly gone.

The way out is to stop. Find out what inspires you. Could be seeing a movie; walking in the woods; gazing at a sunset; a fine meal. Whatever it is, approach it outside your routine. Make the time to fully enjoy the experience. I don’t claim that my realization is universal or will help you. What I do know is that it is right for me and may help someone else reading this. If it does, let me know.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

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There was a moment when I realized that the end of my life was getting closer. I’m not afraid of dying or that the time is shorter than I realized. It’s just sobering to know, with absolute certainty, the end of coming at full speed.

I look around and wonder, what would I be doing right now if say, I found out I have 3 months to live. Of course, I would be acting differently than I do today. I would make sure I said goodbye to my children and wife. I would seek out friends and teachers and thank them for all the gifts they shared.

Each morning would be a gift that I would appreciate for its preciousness. Each interaction would be treasured because it could be my last with that person.

An interesting question, I have is, “so what keeps me from having this experience of preciousness right now?” Is there some special signal I’m waiting for, like a doctor’s prognosis, before I treat my day as a gift?

The answer I have is hilarious. I’m afraid to change my status quo if I don’t have to. While I’m living without the fullness of being present in each moment, I’m choosing to be stuck until a stick of dynamite is lite and the fuse is burning quickly down.

I write this note because one of my great joys is writing. I love to write, as I am here, from my heart. Write because I feel alive when I do. Write, because it is who I am.

So without the death sentence being presented by someone else, I grasp this moment and write. Write for myself and if you find it valuable you as well. Write as if my life depends upon it, because a life of being present does.

I will continue to bring my heart and soul to these pages and share that with you.

Beware of leaping off the cliff

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First, a reminder- I’m writing this blog for myself. I’m a continuous work in progress, and I use this blog as a place to help me sort things out. Even when I occasionally write in the third person, what I’m writing about is something that is in my face and calling for my attention.

Do you ever notice how quickly you leap into something with no consideration for the purpose of your engagement? You may say, “Not me, I’m very cautious”, but as I consider this phenomenon in me and those I know, I have the feeling it’s something that is part of all our lives.

Say I’m walking in the mountains and I’m in the midst of the most beautiful sights imaginable, I can be distracted by a passing thought that has no linkage to what I’m doing right now. More practically, I‘m writing at my computer and a random thought appears. Maybe I wonder about what’s happening with an old friend, or what the weather will be like tomorrow. Whatever the distraction, I immediately leave what I’m writing and Google the area of inquiry.

This non-deliberate distraction is what I’m calling jumping off the cliff. Instead of walking along the path that I’ve laid out for myself, I jump off the cliff into thoughts or activities that don’t have any purpose except to scratch the itch, so to speak, of a random thought.

A word of caution about what I mean by “walking along the path I’ve laid out for myself”. I’m not referring to blindly following a plan set down in the past. I’m talking about the deliberateness of this moment. It’s like deciding I’m going to walk from the living room to the kitchen so I can pour a glass of wine. Sometime after arising from the couch, and before I arrive at the refrigerator, I’ve forgotten why I’m in the kitchen. My attention was placed on random thoughts that arose, and by engaging them, I have now forgotten my path.

Today, I’m going to pay attention to the distractions that take me off the path. Each time I have chosen to focus, I have a calmer, more fulfilling day.

Thomas

P.S. I did not follow a few thoughts to find out what emails I have as I was writing this. You know what?  They are still there now, and the world didn’t dissolve because I chose to finishing writing rather than switch to my email. Imagine!!

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

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Ever hear the ticking of the clock that defines the parameters of your day. This clock tells you to hurry up or you’ll be late. Later in the day, looking at this clock brings up a sense of all that is yet to be done or will be left undone as the day ends.

What about a new relationship with your clock? What if the clock you feel is telling you that this moment is the most important moment of your life. Your clock becomes a constant reminder of the changing nature of life and the only thing that you can truly do is to experience all you can RIGHT NOW.

No longer is the sound of TICK, TOCK stalking you like the alligator in Peter Pan. Instead is the steady rhythm of life as you live fully every moment of every day.

What’s your bias?

upordownI had another opportunity to learn a bit more about myself yesterday. I was traveling and had an early start. I arrived at LaGuardia airport and immediately went to the TSA pre line. I just love the easy way through airport security. I noticed that I was, in fact, feeling special because I could go through security without taking off my shoes or belt or jacket. In fact, I didn’t even have to take my computer out of my bag.

I know I like this expedited way of getting through security and have my own little dialogue about it. What I didn’t realize was that this feeling of specialness also uncovered some bias I have.

Let me digress for a moment on bias. Bias is defined as “mental tendency or inclination, esp. an irrational preference or prejudice”. Bias comes from our beliefs, most of which we are unaware. The impact of bias can be as insignificant as not talking to someone because you don’t like the way they dress or as terrifying as ethnic cleansing. Whatever the level of impact from your bias, it starts with the same phenomena. My judgements of someone else cloud my ability to be aware of things as they truly are. Every judgement I have distances me from truth and sets me up for suffering.

Back to my lesson. I saw two young asian adults in front of me in the TSA pre line. Immediately, my little voice (I should name it to have some fun) was saying things like, “What are they doing here? They don’t deserve to be in this line. Why, they’re not so special”.

Then I realized that I have a bias against these young people. People I have never met and, at that moment, had no clue who they were. Not that who they are even mattered. My bias was clear and it got me to thinking of all the places where I’m biased.

Kinda took my breath away. I certainty didn’t want to see myself in that light. Yet, that’s the way I behave at certain times. This experience is having a happy ending, at least I hope so.

Sometimes a lesson keeps on giving. Later in the day, I was attending a conference. When the evening was over, I used my iPhone to request a car to take me back to my hotel. I use the Uber service and had arrived at this meeting in a black suburban. When I went looking for my car, a driver in a Chevrolet Aero (I think their smallest 4 door car) arrived to take me to the hotel.

Again the little voice got very busy. “Where’s my big car? What an outrage this is; I’m definitely going to complain about this.” Recognizing the silliness of this turmoil, I engaged the driver in a conversation. He was very kind man and he asked if I had visited the Baha’i temple in the suburbs. I said I had not, but had driven by it a number of times and it was very beautiful.

From that jumping off point, we talked about his faith, about how he was committed to unifying opposing points of view, his career as a cameraman. He told me he had produced a documentary about the temple. As I arrived at my hotel and we parted company, he presented me with a gift of a DVD of his documentary. WOW… What lessons for this day.

It has left me in wonder about what I will find as I dig into my biases and expose them. I can’t wait to see what I discover.

Practicing a little patience

This morning I was awaiting a flight to Chicago when we were informed that due to “air traffic control” our flight was delayed. In fact, the time of our departure was unknown and an update would not be forthcoming for almost 2 hours.

I watched my inner dialogue of frustration and outrage. Stepping aside from this turmoil, I felt calm and still there was an impatience beckoning my attention. Letting that undercurrent flow without engagement, I stood in line waiting to talk to a gate agent about the impact of this delay on my further travel plans.

It took 10 minutes of so for the agent to take care of the man in front of me. I spent that time, looking at the people in line and wondering how this delay was for them. The agent was the perfection of calm and care as she did her best to take care of a difficult set of options for the man in front of me.

Now it was my turn with the agent. She entered my name into the computer and started looking at my options. As she was typing away, another agent came from the plane and let her know that our delay was lifted and that we would be leaving soon.In the end, we landed in Chicago exactly on schedule even with a 30 minute delay in boarding.

The reminder didn’t end. As I was standing in the jet bridge waiting for the bags to be brought up, there was a gang of folks who pushed ahead of where I was standing. Again, I could feel the annoyance rising and rather than let it take its usual head, I settle back and watched the rest of those disembarking from our flight.

At the end of this line of folks, was a woman who was waiting for a wheelchait. This wheelchair was parked right in front of where the gate checked bags were to be delivered. Again, the little (sometime not so little) voice arose. Well, I said to myself, “the best thing to do is just take a breath and let this happen.” In a brief moment, a single bag was brought up the outside stairs. The gate agent asked the women in the wheelchair if it was her bag. No she said and as I looked it was instead my bag. The first one off.

In the end, I was again reminded of the impact my emotions have on my experiences and that I have the ability to “feel” these emotions without allowing these emotions to be the center point of my experiences. Good to remember every minute of every day. 

 

Remembering the Power of Design

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I keep looking around for the key to unlock so many doors of uncertainty in my life. The more I read the more I find momentary glimmers of light, and then I forget. Today I am returning to one of these glimmers of light to remember once again.

One of the lessons of many years of working in the world of technology is the power of design. Too often, I follow the old adage, “Fire, Ready, Aim”. I forget what I learned over forty years ago. The more attention I place on what I am creating up front the better the outcome. Too often I skimp on this vital aspect and spend most of my time “fixing” the things that I could have visualized at the beginning, but in my haste went to work building.

This lesson is much more ancient than my lifetime. I have been reading a book written by Thomas Merton about the teachings of an ancient Chinese master, Chuang Tzu. Today’s lesson was the story of the Woodcarver.

The Woodcarver

 Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand

Of precious wood. When it was finished,

All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be

The work of spirits.

The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:

“What is your secret?”

 

Khing replied, “I am only a workman:

I have no secret. There is only this:

When I begin to think about the work you commanded

I guarded my spirit, did not expend it

On trifles, that were not in the point.

I fasted in order to set

My heart at rest.

After three days fasting,

I had forgotten gain and success.

After five days

I had forgotten praise or criticism.

After seven days

I had forgotten my body

With all its limbs.

 

“By this time all thought of your Highness

And of the court had faded away.

All that might distract me from the work

Had vanished

I was collected in the single thought

Of the bell stand.

 

“Then I went to the forest

To see the trees in their own natural state.

When the right tree appeared before my eyes,

The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.

All I had to do was to put forth my hand

And begin.

 

“If I had not met this particular tree

There would have been

No bell stand at all.

 

“What happened?

My own collected thought

Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;

From this live encounter came the work

Which you ascribe to spirits.”