What do you do when you hit a speedbump at 70 MPH?

I’m having such a great time with the abundance that’s arrived. As each new crop begins to grow or mature, I feel its potential. Wow, what I’ve always wanted! Some of the new businesses that are part of this garden are happening so easily that the little voice wonders, “When’s the shoe going to drop?”.

As I was watching that question arise again today, I realized that there is a deeper wondering that is asking for my attention. It is, “How do you make sure you don’t get lost in all the excitement?” Oh, I can feel my tendency to move around from new creation to new creation. I’m not giddy, but I’m distracted all the same.

Writing has become a sacred companion. It serves my growing awareness of myself and helps me keep perspective of what’s real and not. So, when I let it go without any consideration, I’m abandoning my commitment to remembering who I am and why I’m here. I know, from past experiences, this doesn’t produce very good outcomes.

Good reminder that there’s something more important than the fruits of my garden – ME. If I lose myself while the garden blooms, whose going to be around to enjoy it? Certainly not ME. I’m not going to ignore the garden, just remember its place and feel the joy of allowing my fingers to move across this keyboard and rejoin you in conversation.

Sacrifice Not Required!

Today was a peculiar day for writing. The weather is perfect. It’s sunny, the temperature is in the low 70s and there is a gentle breeze. My relatively new office overlooks an amazing stream and the outdoor pours in, inviting me to come out and play.

Guess what I want to do? I want to have a temper tantrum, which could look like sitting here staring outside, and feeling angry that I’m here and not there. Yet, I sit here with my fingers poised over the keyboard and wait for writing to pour forth. Surely there is something that needs to be expressed.  I get it, I’m going to share with you my frustration about being at the keyboard, rather than walking barefoot in the grass.

It’s good to remember that distractions take many forms. One that’s very familiar to me is worry. My worries are generally about something that’s either going to happen or should happen, but probably won’t. Today though, my distraction is annoyance. The alternative to writing appears to be so attractive that I forget, temporarily, why I write.

I love writing. When I write, I see things more clearly, I connect with you and I expand my abilities as a teacher. I see that part of the nature of my distraction is the illusion of sacrifice. My little voice is protesting my choice of activity with the warning that if I don’t go outside RIGHT NOW, I will miss out on the best day of the year. The voice is very convincing. I’ve followed it many times.

I realized a while back, that the type of sacrifice the voice is using to induce me to abandon writing isn’t real. I can write and spend some time outside. This won’t be possible if it sit here paralyzed by “writers block”. I decided about ten minutes ago, ENOUGH. I’m going to have some fun writing about my dilemma and not put any attention on the voice’s dire prediction. I know I’ll be outside in no time at all.

How often do you allow distraction to take you away from what’s important? It happens so subtly. One minute you are getting ready to do what you love, and the next you are drifting in thoughts. You discover later (could be minutes or hours or days) that you have been lost.

Remember distraction comes with a high cost, as the present moment will never be here again. OK.. now it’s time to go outside

Reap what you Sow!

A year ago, I stopped producing Business Matters, a weekly, nationally syndicated radio program I created in 2008. I was a bit burned out and wanted to broaden my horizons. For the most part, I forgot about the program.

Fast forward to six week’s ago – I was listening to a news interview program on the radio and was reminded of my frustration with the national media. I find the content is narrow in scope and the essence of what’s going on is missing .  I feel that the role of media is to inform listeners so they are equipped to make the best decisions possible. I initially started Business Matters to fill this perceived void.

My frustration grew over the days after listening to this broadcast and I decided to again start producing Business Matters, at least every other week. It feels great talking again with people who are making things happen. The old energy is back!

This prelude is to disclose a surprise, which is the lesson I’m sharing today.  After I ceased production of Business Matters, I left the website up with the program’s past broadcast archives. After the first new program, I was curious to know the interest it was generating. As I looked at a few months of data on our online audience, I found that over 15,000 people a month were downloading the program’s archives.

As I sat with this news, I remembered how easy it is for me to create new ventures, projects or businesses. It’s kinda like sowing seeds. Sometimes, though, I forget to consider how the seeds have grown. I end up walking away just before harvest time. This sobering revelation is just sinking in.

I wondered if you experience this as well. How often do you start things and then walk away just before they’re ready to fully blossom. Just a thought for your Saturday evening consideration.

Until later,

Thomas

What’s In a Name?

Once again, our four-year old Michael shows what an amazing teacher he is. We have recently moved from suburbia to southwestern Wisconsin. This has been a dream of my wife and I for some time and we are very content with our move. As with any new location, we are finding some of the local peculiarities that people may have forgotten to mention the sixty times we visited the area.

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I was traveling (fortunately for me) one September day, when I called home to learn from my excited wife that our home was being invaded by asian beetles. These lady bug look-a-likes were pouring into our home from any crack that was bigger than a pin head. I am not exaggerating when I say pouring in. The windows and doors of the house were coated with these little creatures. Hundreds were making their way into the house, in fact, my wife resorted to using a vacuum cleaner to hose them up as they sneaked in through the doors and windows.

We found out that this is a normal occurrence each fall. We also discovered that a small population of these beetles make a permanent residence in your home until the spring.

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If this wasn’t enough, we also experienced the fly emergence. Flies are the fall companions of the asian beetles and anytime a door is opened, they invite themselves in for our hospitality. In addition to vacuuming beetles, we also had fly strips up in logical places, like light fixtures and ceiling fans.

Most of us were pretty annoyed with these squatters in our private space, but not Michael. Michael liked these little beetles. In fact, he liked them so much that he started calling them “Burts”. Like, “there goes a Burt up the wall”, or “look at that Burt on our dinning room table”. He even felt like the flies should have a name too, so they are Freds.

About this time, our 11 year old, Kamran was at the farm for the weekend. He is not fond of insects at all and these beetles were really annoying to him. When he heard Michael calling the beetles Burt, he stopped his normal complaining about the bugs. He started talking with the Burts in the house and his frustration with flies seemed to dissolve as well as he followed Michael’s lead and called them Freds.

This relationship with the beetles (Burts) and flies (Freds) continues into winter. There are still a small cadre of Burts enjoying the warmth of our home and when they crawl onto the table or land on our heads, we smile, invite them to go somewhere else and that’s that. Just yesterday, Michael came in to the kitchen holding a Fred and said with great reverence, this Fred died. I am going to take him outside now.

So what is the lesson of Michael? He has shown me that if I can identify personally with something in my environment that I might normally want to either marginalize or treat in an inhuman way, my whole experience changes. Rather than treating something as an anno

ying thing, I realize that it has value and should be treated with respect. Yes, even insects are living beings. They may not have a mind such as ours (actually, that may have some advantages at times), but they are still a wealth of mystery. How do they know when to awaken from their long sleep? How do they know how to find food and water. How do they find others of their own kind? Mysteries that I can’t explain.

Michael shows me that there is benefit in engaging these insects rather than being focused on their elimination. Even the death of a fly can be an event that is treated with reverence.

How does this play out in a broader context? I first think of the term “collateral damage” that is used by the military and politicians to explain civilian deaths and injuries in a military conflict. It can also be used to explain the displacement of people because of war. When I hear about collateral damage of over 1 million in Iraq, what do I feel? If I don’t have a personal picture of those who are affected, its not much more than words to me. How can I personalize something that I knowis not in keeping with my values so that I am aroused to action?

Thinking about the lesson of Michael, I know that I can use my intuition to have a sense of the people impacted. I can remember that they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, grandmas and grandpas. I can remember my grandparents or parents. It is in that moment that I begin to get a sense of the impact of what has happened, and I know I can’t stand idly by.

This awareness extends everywhere. Since I am a middle class white guy, how can I feel what its like to be poor or disenfranchised? I can talk to those who are and get to know their stories and from that understanding I can remember that everything is personal.

This is a beginning for me. I will continue to work with the lesson of Michael as I become more aware of the places where I act with inhumanity and change that behavior, as soon as I know it is happening.

I would love your comments on the lesson of Michael.

Until later,

Thomas

On Writing Well or How to Do What you Love and get Paid for It.

images.jpgI am a fan of Sharon Astyk’s blog. She offers a wide variety of wisdom on important global issues. Perhaps more important, she is a subsistence farmer, who offers wit and advice on how to live in a simple, more self-sufficient life. She is also an accomplished author of three books, “Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front” (Sharon Astyk), “A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil” (Sharon Astyk, Aaron Newton) and “Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation” (Sharon Astyk).

One of Sharon’s recent blog postings moved me. As you can tell, she is a serious writer. In the posting titled, The Writing Life, Sharon offers one of the most thoughtful, helpful and inspirational pieces about doing what you.

I work with many folks who are trying to bring together their passions and purpose with work. They often complain that you can’t really do what they love and have a good livelihood. That’s not my experience and Sharon’s piece pokes a big hole in that belief.

Sharon’s personal story is about doing what she loves because it’s the right thing for her to do. She didn’t start out writing so that she would make a lot of money or to have lots of readers. She says that when she started blogging (she recently celebrated her 1000th blog posting), she didn’t know if there would be more than four people reading her blog.

Some will read Sharon’s piece and say she was lucky. I don’t believe in luck. I believe that Sharon is listening to that inner muse we all have. Some call it intuition will others may refer to it as sixth sense. This inner guidance is ignored by most of us because we have been taught that the only real source of direction is our logic of the opinion of others who know more than we do. I guess Sharon missed that lesson.

So whether you are a writer or someone who is wandering around with the question “how do I do what I love?”, this article will serve you well.

Until later,

Thomas


Whose life is it anyway?

I am still shaking my head after I read this headline, “Majorities of Americans Lay at Least Some Blame for Economic Crisis on Media and Advertising Agencies for Causing People to Buy What They Couldn’t Afford”. This comes from a Harris poll that was conducted in late March.

As I was thinking about this a picture came to mind. It was of an advertising person with a shotgun. He had this shotgun pointed at the head of a man. The man was walking with his head down into a WalMart. The two walked down aisle after aisle filling a shopping cart with stuff the man didn’t really need. You could see other similar pairings of ad folks with guns of various types forcing men and women “shoppers” to fill their carts. At the checkout people were digging into their pockets to pull out their shiny credit cards from BofA and Chase and Citibank. As they left WalMart, the consumers felt the sun on their faces and as they walked to their cars the ad folks disappeared and the shoppers developed a case of amnesia, not remembering it was the ad people who “forced” them to buy all this stuff they didn’t really need.

You know that I am having a bit of fun and feel sadness, too. There is a deep-rooted belief in our land that someone else is responsible for our lives. In surveys like this we can see that we project this responsibility onto advertising agencies. The problem with this approach is that nothing will change. I will project the responsibility for the next thing I don’t like onto some other group and happily believe I am an innocent victim.

What if I am responsible? What if I created this situation? I believe that I have responsibility for the current economic crisis. I know that I did not always act in a way that was sustainable with my business and how we used our money. I know that I supported a system that was focused on maximum profitability and had little concern for people and their communities. I know that I can be a force for changing what isn’t working, and it starts with accepting completely my accountability and never projecting it onto anyone else.

I invite you to consider taking responsibility as well. Change requires enough of us to act with accountability to achieve a tipping point that creates a new system. A system that brings back our focus on humanity, and releases our attachment to growth at any cost and mindless consumption.

Please tell me what this stirs up in you.

Until later,

Thomas

An antidote for FEAR!

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You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
………..
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

This opening and closing of Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese awakened in me the music of the heart.

When I look over the blanket of fear that cloaks so many of us, I know that this fear isn’t real. It has been created in our minds without any consultation with the heart.

When I began writing this blog, I dreamed that it was a repository of the music of my heart, for my heart is the place where true guidance emerges. Guidance on living a passionate, fruitful life filled with service and abundance.

How can I say that the current fear is an illusion? Let’s say that I choose to join the millions of fearful Americans in their mood today. Would this fear be based upon what I am experiencing now, or what I am concerned I will experience in the future? The answer is that it is about the future.

If I were to simply look at the present moment and experience what I have, I would find no room for fear. I have a warm home, plenty of food, a warm family, I am doing what I love. Then what would I fear? I could fear that one day I may not have adequate money for my family’s needs. I could fear the loss of my home. I could fear harsh consequences for others in my family and community.

This fear is not real – it is not today’s reality. Putting my attention on it accomplishes two things. It changes my mood so that I don’t fully enjoy what I have now. It also can easily become a “self-fulfilling” prophecy. If I see a future filled with fearful experiences, it is very likely I will create those experiences.

Some may wonder if I am a person like Don Quixote, “tilting after windmills”. That hasn’t been my experience. I continuously focus myself on what is important right now. My guide is feeling what is true, what is so. This feeling is accessible when I remember to look with my heart.

What my heart reveals today is that great change is ahead. I can walk through this change in peacefulness. I know that I have all the resources I require as long as I remember to live in the present moment, not choosing to be distracted by the past or paralyzed with fear of the future.

Until later,

Thomas

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Friendship and Writing

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This past evening, I was reading a series of letters between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, 6th Poet Laureate of the U.S. As I eavesdropped on this warm and intimate conversation, the depth of real friendship reached out and touched my heart.

Here two people, who rarely saw each other and didn’t chat by email or phone, built a bond that lasted over 30 years. In genuine love and care, they tended their relationship like a careful gardener who knows just when to water and the right time to put on a little fertilizer. Their writing spotlights the art of communication, not just words written in haste like most of our emails, but words formed at the intersection of deliberateness and spaciousness. They bring forth a practice of reflection mostly vanished and much needed.

The short except of these letters from the October 2008 issue of Poetry Magazine has inspired me to return to pen and paper. This blog posting was first written by hand and then, with care, typed so I can share it with you.

I feel excited for each word I share, and make sure each carries the song I wish to sing today.
Until later,
Thomas

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New Years Resolution

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On this New Year’s Day for 2009, many of us participate in the practice of New Year’s resolutions. We look at areas of our lives that we want to improve – perhaps it’s our health, or our financial situation or primary relationship. Whatever the area(s) we feel need improvement are, we feel that the new year is a blank slate where we can write a new chapter for our lives.

Not unlike many of us, I am also drawn to this practice. As I was talking with my wife about the year ahead for us, I remember the years past where resolutions were so heartfully made, and then dropped by the wayside within weeks or days of January 1st.

So why does all this good intention go unrealized? I believe there are two primary reasons. The fist is that we don’t really understand change. Changing the way that life works out for us requires us to change our behaviors. Most of our behaviors are developed over time and become unconscious habits that are activated automatically.

To change our behaviors requires that we engage a practice that is focused on the change we desire. The first step in the practice is to recognize that the behaviors that create the situation I want to change exist. Through this recognition, I can watch the behaviors as they start and then begin the process of changing them. The second step in the process for change comes through a new choice on how to engage the situations that I encounter.

For instance, if I am trying to lose weight, I must first recognize the habits I have for putting food into my mouth. Maybe I hear a little voice that says, “Oh that will really taste nice, let’s give it a try.” when I spy a tasty pastry at the local coffee shop. Before I know it, the pastry is in my mouth and mostly consumed. By recognizing that there is this little “voice” that goes off when I see that pastry, I can move from an automatic response to deciding in this moment whether that pastry is really something I want to eat.

As I think about the changes I choose to make for 2009, I ask myself “what new practices will I begin to support these changes?”. So that it’s not only an intention, like saving enough money to pay off my credit cards, it’s also a series of practices that will help me recognize my current spending behavior, and support me in changing that behavior so that I can really accomplish my intention.

The second reason that our New Year’s resolutions go unrealized is that we can quickly become consumed with despair if we don’t see the results that we want right away. If my resolution is to find a new job and I don’t find that new job by the end of January, I haven’t really experienced what I’d like in finding that new job, and I will abandon my pursuit. I have the internal dialogue that says, “Well, it’s just too late to do anything about that now”. Then another eleven months go by without the change I want.

I was recently talking with Catherin Austin Fitts for the December 12th edition of our Business Matters radio program. She is a woman of much wisdom, and so many things in that conversation were very inspirational to me. One of the points she made is relevant to today’s topic. She pointed out that it’s never too late to start making changes in your life. Maybe we’re in financial situations where we are underwater with the value of our home compared to our mortgage amount. Perhaps, we are in a job we don’t like, but are afraid to make a change because of the “bad economy”. Maybe we are just so far overweight that we feel nothing can make a difference.

Whatever the inner dialogue about your situation, you can do something today, right now, that will be the first step to change. Don’t feel that you have to jump the Grand Canyon. Just take one step today. Then tomorrow take another step. If you forget, then the following day, take a new step. With each new step you will find the will to make real change in your life.

Blessings to each of you,

Thomas

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What do you work for?

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The answer to this question may be one of the most important clues to why life is either exactly what I want it to be, or not. This question has been one that I have come back to time after time, and I am back to it again.

I have been reading “An Open Life: Joseph Campbell in conversation with Michael Toms” (Michael Toms). I am a relative newcomer to the world of Joseph Campbell, although I have several of his books in my library (unread until now). In the introduction to this book, Toms speaks of his long friendship with Campbell and reveals a bit about his life. It is this introduction that stimulated me to reconsider the aforementioned question.

When I think about the question, “What do I work for?”, I find inspiration from Campbell’s life. He was a life-long proponent of “following your bliss”. Campbell points out that he had the belief early on that this was the way to live. Forty years after embracing this way of living, he reported that he was right. His life unfolded in ways unimaginable because he never wavered from what was calling to him as his “bliss”. In fact, he never let money be the guide for any decision he made. He felt that if you life fully alive, the money part would take care of itself.

I have said something like this to many who have participated in programs I have lead, however, I recognize that I don’t always live this way myself. It appears that Joseph Campbell made a decision early in his life to live simply. It was clear that this choice provided him with complete freedom to do whatever felt right for him. This included taking four years off to read when he was 30. Reading that, he felt, supported what he was most passionate about.

When I consider this example, I wonder, “what keeps me from embracing a life of simplicity and joy?” There are a few immediate answers. The first is that I have become attached to a “life-style”. Much of the trappings that surround me as I write are not critical to my joy or vital to take care of the things that are important to me. So why are they here? When I build my place of work or homestead, I follow a pattern. This pattern is chosen by me, mostly unconsciously, based upon what others either said or what I felt they would think of me. This creates a life-long experience of being on a perpetual treadmill.

Well… if I am so clear, then why do I continue living the way that I do? Good question, and one that my wife and I are exploring now. We have started with the process of eliminating what is not important in our home. We have not completed this and I expect we will early in the new year. We are also looking at how we “earn a living”, how we take care of the essential needs of our family (food, shelter, clothing), and how we can move away from dependence on goods and services that are not consistent with our values.

Now to the second answer to the question “what keeps me from embracing a life of simplicity and joy?” That answer is fear! I am afraid of the change I see is required to simplify and live a life more balanced. A life filled with freedom and fulfillment. This fear clouds many of my decisions, and on occasion leads to paralysis. How am I engaging this? My wife and I are tackling this together. We both see the effects of the “fear of the unknown” and are supporting each other when the fear overtakes us.

As we walk into the new year together, we are beginning to feel a change coming, and this has filled us with a sense of joy and excitement!

Until later,

Thomas

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