Seeing Others

“Look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them.” – Jon Kabot Zinn

One of the first books I came across in my own spiritual and personal journey of discovery was Jon Kabot Zinn’s Wherever You Go, There You Are. It is a great little book on mindfulness, with short chapters and entry level practices.

25 year ago, when I was in High School, I once had a girl friend say to me “you don’t see me, you see your idea of me.” Looking back, it was probably something she read in Cosmo that week, but to me, as an already introspective, insecure, 17 year old, it was a bit of mind bender.

Whether she understood the more metaphysical aspects of how that was phrased or not what she was really saying is “I don’t think you see me through all your own bull shit.” My own fears, goals, insecurities, and teenage needs were impacting the level of connection she felt from me.

To be honest, at 17 I think most of us are overly caught up in the development of who we are becoming, and that is a natural part of our development – but yeah it does impact the people around us negatively sometimes.

It wasn’t till I committed to a meditation practice years later that I began to realize that I can see someone for who they are, underneath the language of my thoughts about them and my agendas of how they might fit into my life.

It takes constant practice. We are taught and develop in our society in such a way that our own self interest and self understanding comes first. It is why we are all so inspired by stories where someone gave up everything for others, and why stories of personal success at the expense of others have traditionally ended with some great tragedy. (though that might be changing…)

Odds are the next person you talk to is infinitely more amazing and interesting than you allow yourself to believe.

Let them be more than the role you have assigned them in the act of your life. Let the edges of what you do not know about them come in a bit. Ask them a question, and then listen.


Continued Progress

“I am suffocated and lost when I have not the bright feeling of progression.” – Margaret Fuller 

Here lies a common and persistent problem for us, not just as individuals, but as a culture.

Progress is a cultural idea, and one that has served humanity well, when it has been thought out and directed. Medicine, sanitation, supplies of food and water, all of our daily needs are more easily met through the achievements of progress. But progress is also responsible for the devastation of natural environments, individual problems with physical and mental health, and war and all that comes with it.

Its the same for us as individuals. Individual success can be built on failed relationships and broken promises much easier than if the time is taken to tend to those things.

If all that what value is progress and all that we want to feel if happiness and freedom, it is easy to forget the realities of everyday life. Sometimes we feel stuck. Sometimes we are overcome by sadness and grief.

Chasing progress is admirable, but not if you are running away. When you run you cannot see clearly the devastation you may be leaving in your wake.

If you are lost in the wilderness it is not wise to keep going in the direction you are going without trying to determine where you are in relation to shelter and water and food.

If you are “suffocated and lost” in life, don’t just pick any direction and go. Pause, get your bearings and choose your direction. Do it consciously, aware of the impacts it may have on your health, your relationships, and the world itself.

Making conscientious and deliberate progress is significantly more valuable to you and those around you than rushing out in any direction in order to feel you are moving forward.


…”on the fatigue of your bones.”

Never tire yourself more than necessary, even if you have to found a culture on the fatigue of your bones. – Antonin Artaud

“Never tire yourself more than necessary…” Sound advice, but its the 2nd part that is most interesting to me today.

Living and working in the shadow of our financial and cultural center of productivity I know bankers, lawyers, plumbers, artists, chefs, and small business owners who claim to work more than 60 or 80 hours a week. Most of them have families, they try to maintain interests outside of work, and maintain a reasonable level of health.

Productivity is an unspoken value at the heart of our culture. The fight against idleness is one of beliefs brought to this country by the New England Protestants. It drives Profit, something Ben Franklin spent a fair deal of time discussing.

Odds are, when you are not working you are consuming the products of someone else labor, so that even in your leisure you are driving production.

& that is what it is. This isn’t a political or economic critique – it is an exploration of the ideas which impact our quality of life.

What the second segment of this quote says, to me, is don’t let the popular culture dictate the life choices you make. 

When you are too tired find something that will enliven you. When fatigue sets in rest, Create a life outside of your work that is creative and restful and so full it could be called its own culture.

This could be said, though perhaps in a more critical tone, as “don’t let the machine grind you up.” & there is no judgement here. The “machine” does some good culturally, but you are not a cog in the wheel. You are a human being capable of great creativity.

Don’t let drive toward increased productivity tire you to the bones. Don’t rest by shutting off or spending and consuming more, blindly.

Create a culture for yourself. Engage with friends, family, and activities which speak to your soul. This will ease the fatigue on your bones more than 4 hours in front of a TV.


Taking Yourself Too Seriously

The more you find out about the world, the more opportunities there are to laugh at it. – Bill Nye, The Science Guy

How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter? – Woody Allen

We are pretty strange creatures and the world is a pretty strange place.

& it doesn’t matter if you are hung up on logical rationalism or professing an ancient set of beliefs handed down from god. You still cannot know what is going to happen tomorrow with 100% certainty.

As humans we are capable of both logic and transcendent visions. We are capable of great humility and grandiose arrogance.

I meet so many people who carry their mistakes like a giant sack of rocks. It weighs the down, and every time an unwanted pattern repeats itself they use that sack of rocks to beat themselves half to death.

It doesn’t matter if they call those mistakes sin or rational fallacies.

We are not meant to be this way. We all make mistakes. All of us, at sometime or another, allow our natural instincts to overcome our perceived sense of who or how we are suppose to be.

It is not the end of the world.

The best method I have seen for overcoming what we might call “self-sabotaging” patterns isn’t to fight them, it is laugh at them.

You are not just thought. You are not a holy spirit. You are human. You poop and fart. You trip over things when you are not looking. You forget to pray or think before you act. You will believe someone who is lying to you. You will lose your keys. Your mind will wonder to fantasy. You will probably do some version of each of these things everyday.

Laugh, you are only human.

Find a way of being in the world that does not require constant self disparagement. And remember…

“…In Order To Learn To Do It.”

“I am always doing that which I can not, in order that I may learn how to do it.” – Van Gogh

Most people I know don’t actually like being beginners.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I have heard clients and friends say something like, “I’ve always wanted to learn how to play guitar (or speak another language, or sail, or run a marathon.)” And I always ask, have you tried? Have you taken lessons? Read a book?

The truth is there is a huge difference between wanting something and fantasizing about it.

When we want something  we should feel compelled to take some action to achieve it. When we fantasize we may think it is something I want, but it is really just a day dream, or a lie to feel more interesting.

If you really want something don’t wait to find time, make time.

“… translated into action.”

“Inspiration tends to evaporate, leaving no trace of future conduct, unless it is translated into action.” – William James

I’ll most likely come back to this theme again and again.

We all have moments of inspiration. Times when we see a path forward that inspires us to be at our best. If we do not act on them they are nothing more than passing dreams.

Yes, as coach I am well trained with little tricks and tools to help clients make the translation, but at the end of the day, no one can make your dreams reality except you.

I believe there are 3 steps we can all take to keep our actions informed by our inspiration, even when the energy of excitement wears off.

  1. Write it down. Its easy to forget or let the thoughts of inspiration shift over time. If we get it down on paper we can turn back to it when we forget. Going back to it is also a great way to weed out the real inspiration from the foolish ideas we all occasionally have. When we write something down we are also taking it from our minds and creating a representation of it in the physical world, a starting place to plan and implement our dream.
  2. Talk it through with people who will support you and hold you accountable. When we keep our plans to ourself, we have no one but ourselves to rely on. Bringing others into to our lives and our plans helps in many ways. We have someone we can can discuss it with. On our own it can be difficult to weed out the good ideas from the bad. We may be easily distracted and need others to hold us accountable to our commitments. When we trust others to guide us, support us, and hold us accountable we find unexpected help from all sorts of places. Expand your circle of support and your world will grow.
  3. Take action every day, even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes. Even planning is an action, up to a point. When you feel the gift of inspiration, if you feel a responsibility to follow through, you need to commit to some level of daily action. Write, plan, and discus, then take clear and focused action, daily, until you accomplish your goal.

Learn more about turning your thoughts and inspiration into the actions you have to take to live a life you dream about.

What You Think

As soon as you can say what you think, and not what some other person has thought for you, you are on your way to being a remarkable man. – J.M. Barrie

When I can help a client or friend break the pattern of reactive behavior and thought and really express themselves authentically in their actions and behavior I know I have participated in something amazing.

The 1st 20 years of life or so we spend learning. Lessons from the family, community, culture, and faith we are born into are repeated and built upon until, by the time we graduate and enter the adult life we have taken in lessons that shape our world view, our interactions with others, and beliefs about the world at large that form our views of right and wrong, worthy and unworthy. When we enter the work force and find role models or mentors who have the kinds of life we want it is easy to just absorb their views into our own. It becomes much more difficult if we are constantly absorbing messages from the media or closed social circles.

If we are luck, someone along the way taught us to think about what we were learning. If we are really lucky we have had some real world experience that calls us to question our fundamental beliefs, to accept, discard, or form new ways of seeing things.

While “ignorance is bliss” it does not shape the character.

Knowing who you are, what you want, and being clear about what you think can be difficult when arriving at adulthood with so many years of programing. It takes work and a watchful eye on our behavior and thinking, especially when it is judgmental or critical of others.

It doesn’t mean we throw all of that out or need to rebel to become remarkable men and women.

It does mean we need to be clear and honest about our beliefs, especially to ourselves. Being able to separate my own view from the cultural one, claiming my values rather than accepting norms, and then aligning them with my actions with real integrity takes work and sacrifice. Sometimes it creates conflict with people who expect certain things or who knew me in the past when I was swimming in someone else stream.

Thinking is the process of trying to align thought and physical reality – realities about ourselves, our circumstances, our relationships, as well as the world, culture, and political environment we live in.

It is hard work and a challenging prospect if you are trying to do it alone.