We are What We Seek?

Do we always attract that which we are dwelling on? If I am thinking serious thoughts about serious issues, do I find myself immersed in reading, writing and discussing serious thoughts or do those find me? Does it matter at all?

I am amazed by what I observe and understand when I allow my attention to focus on a specific subject, idea or relationship. The discoveries are bold and normal simultaneously. With my eyes, ears and heart wide open, I find an array of opportunities, possibilities and small treasures. Do I attract those good things or do they appear from an ether that my scattered mind has fabricated because it is feeling overwhelmed?

Is this evolutionary brain architecture? Or is it more like when I am on the 57th floor of an office tower, I only see the surroundings and people on that floor. I can imagine Jan on the 23rd, who I am meeting with tomorrow, and the great latte I am going to get at 10 am from the shop on the 2nd but unless I am dreading or lusting for either, my focus eventually gets pulled back to the immediate.

Do I imagine that I see more expectant mothers when someone I love is pregnant? Or am I committed to watching for maternity as I have seed of the process planted in my head and heart. Does it work like the Goethe quote that I have used here before (at least three other times)? “that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”

Do I commit to the idea of motherhood, Jan or a latte and providence issues forth? There seems to be something in the imagination that can cause cascades if we choose to be open to her mystery and magic.

What happens if I commit to a disposition for a month? Say generosity – Will I get more of it, see more of it and share more of it? Another flip of the calendar page begins on Tuesday this sounds like a pseudo science experiment that would be fun to take a stab at.

If this were ‘pure science’ as described by some picky friends of mine (they are also correct) I might choose the Scientific Method.
Research
Problem
Hypothesis
Experiment
Results
Discussion and Conclusion

In my counterfeit experiment I will take liberties with all the steps.

Research – secondary and tertiary evidence (think Google) is inconsistent in its conclusion.
Problem – if people aren’t intentionally generous, they aren’t generous
Hypothesis – if I focus on generosity, she will appear much more often for me and those around me
Experiment – observe and record signs and acts of generous behavior throughout November
Results – forthcoming
Discussion and Conclusion – forthcoming in Decemebr 2016.

I will provide updates throughout but would love to have a larger sample so the pretend process offers genuine narratives and examples. Sign up for November is Generosity and let’s have some fun.

Make Next Month Remarkable,

B

Practice What You Preach

What are you practicing? I am re-reading Richard Sennet’s ” Together” ehere hr investigates cooperation. He takes us through an historical journey back to the early 16th century. When discussing chivalry as a cooperation technique he offers that chivalry is the practice of restraint and the maintenance of honor. The idea that knight’s practiced restraint was incongruous until he explained the they were practicing sexual restraint so as not to assault or rape women of the court.Seems an outrageous state when not raping someone is the most chivalric thing they could do. But the idea of practicing prompted some personal questions.

What am I practicing? Am I practicing perfectly and am I seeing improvement? I am not thinking about the running and weight training that I do almost every day which has provided improved health and fitness. It isn’t the practice of learning that takes me through a routine of reading, writing and inquiry. I isn’t the practice of healthy eating that makes me food conscious.

I am wondering about a less specific set of practices. Do I practice generousity? Am I taking intentional steps towards joy? Is there a planned routine to curiousity? kindness? restraint? improvement? cooperation? persistence? mediocrity? excellence? stubbornness? reflection? The list isn’t comprehensive but was meant to prompt me to think about what I am rehearsing by my attitudes, intentions and actions.

The path to achieve awareness is in the doing and the recognition of the doing. Becoming self aware requires honesty, transparency, reflection, and willingness to adapt. Is my practice working or is it bad practice fostering bad outcomes.

I have been dwelling on the tribalism of politics in my head, heart and writing and need to let it all go so I don’t break. Instead I am choosing to practice joy and look for ways to improve being joyful.

Mei Mei Fox of MBG wrote a post a couple of years ago entitled ” 40 Ways To Practice Joy Every Single Day“. It seems like a great place to begin. While I can’t undertake all of them every day – it seems that progress could come from trying/doing 10 each day.
For today I am making the following my own joy exercises.
5. Listen to the wisdom of elders
6. Cheerlead someone to greatness
8. Speak to yourself with kindness
13. Spend some reflective time alone
15. Pause to say thank you – and really mean it
20. Make someone smile
26. Re-gift something
29. Dress in brightly coloured clothes
37. Connect with nature
40. Pray

I am hopeful that you will take a look at the 40 and choose your own and practice them i your own way or write your list and make it habitual. The ingrained outcome comes from persistent practice and improvement.

Make Your Practice Remarkable,
B

Icons and Bull’s Eyes

What are we chasing? False gods, idols icons? Or are we on target to hit a bull’s eye that defines our raison d’etre? Is there any meaning found in a new car with a shiny hood ornament or a new Apple with a bite taken out or shoes with someone else’s initials? Are we defined by how many square feet we occupy – withe more being better not worse? Are there objects or possessions that you fill with uncritical adoration, at least in the shortest of terms?

All generalizations are false. including this one” ~ Mark Twain

That being said ” we are always better if we are pursuing meaning rather than materialism. It is weird that the word material means relevant, important and significant but materialism is none of those things. The stuff we hold and horde and lust after are immaterial and their shine fades within ticks and tocks of the capture.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain (again) (showing my literary biases again).

I come to this troubling conclusion by looking at the accumulation of 11 years. When we moved last, we did a major purge and now closets and book shelves and storage spaces are jammed. We have added a second property and soon a third and stuff is piling up there too. I have hundreds of books and every year I donate a couple of boxes to a local literacy charity. I borrow ~ 100 from our library every year and still somehow I find another shiny cover that lures me in. I now own about a dozen pairs of shoes (and can somehow justify needing another pair), I have 6 pairs of snowshoes – snowshoes, really. There are so many technical running shirts and race t’s that they take a full drawer, 20+ colored shirts, socks and socks and socks. You see where I am going – too much stuff and I confess too much attachment to meaningless stuff.

The books and shoes and shirts and jackets were once supposed to make me better at something – health, running, writing, coaching, networking, a better dad, a better man, someone who could be loved. The hole I/we are trying to fill can’t be plugged with meaningless objects. Only meaning making will fit the hole and make us whole.

Find your mission and make it so.

B

Messing with Mindfulness

Living in the moment is all the rage. Being present without thought of past or future but only embracing what is in front of you now is a mantra I have heard often. I know that I live through time too much. I rarely stop and seek the aroma along the journey. I have mixed feelings about being totally present. Mindfulness can lead to obsessive self interest – the selfies culture that records the nuance and minutiae springs from being hyper aware of ‘now’ in what I see as unhealthy behaviour. But being mindful in a difficult conversation removes the edges of anxiety and emotion. I can see the discussion unfolding in front of me like a hockey game – I get to be part of the broadcast crew (neutral but interested).

I tend to try presencing when I am alone on a journey. Driving across the prairies can be monotonous so I meditate on what I am encountering. How is the scenery changing. the geology?the topgraphy? the surface of the road? How many cars come towards me in 2 minutes? Where are they going? I have seen some amazing stuff when I turn my attention to the moment rather on the past, the future or some fantasy. Fifteen pronghorn antelope crossed the highway in front of me, at a full gallop, and without breaking stride dipped under the bottom strand of a 3 wire fence. I have witnessed red tailed hawks hunting in pairs, sunlight glistening on a canola field and for a stretch of 32 km, not another car in sight.

The journey is interesting and when I live in the current situation, the destination magically gets closer faster. It is like when I tell my grandkids that if “they go to sleep, I will take a shortcut” magic. Time’s elastic nature slows in the moment a speeds in the aggregate. I don’t gaze down the highway or wonder about what is in the rear view mirror. I am sure that my focus is sharpened when I don’t try hold too much time simultaneously. When I walk a familiar path, after the first 10 minutes, I find I can fall into the rhythm that I am hearing in the here and now.

I don’t practice mindfulness all the time. I find forcing it exhausting, when around more than one other person. I can’t manage it when I feel there is deadline or I am brushed with rush. I haven’t figured out where it fits in my creative or athletic processes and if I have limited control over the situation I find it impossible.

The mind and time shifting properties of meditating on this moment are overblown and under appreciated depending on the messenger. Like everything I encounter, it is easy to say and harder to do but today as I journey across the city on foot, I am open to what those minutes will offer.

Make Today Mindfully Remarkable,
B

Feedback Fails

Do you offer advise, solicited or uninvited? Do you provide feedback to friends, colleagues, bloggers, writers, businesses, servers, legislators? How much drama is involved in the way you advise, criticize, or offer feedback? Does conflict arise when you provide helpful suggestions?

How do you receive input about what you are doing or should be doing? Are you grateful or resentful or ambivalent? It can be tough to take feedback that we hear as negative. When I hear advise that seems contrary to what I already believe I can get defensive. It has been years since I threw a big hissy fit but not that long ago I did a pretty good job of pouting.

Is there a better way to offer and receive frank observations?

Build a hero sandwich. When I was actively writing politicians and government departments, I crafted the hero sandwich every time. The meat of the messaging was surrounded with a positive message about how grateful or impressed I was with something that they were already doing. The meat in between was specific to the issue or expectation not pointed at a personality trait or characteristic.
I always am more receptive when offered the hero, even if I recognize the format. I feel the feedback is sincere and valuable if they are taking the time and care to think about what they want to share and hoe they are sharing.
As mentioned above I try to focus on the issue, the practice, the situation not the person. Ad hominum approaches can be forceful but are almost always hurtful. Rather than saying that a colleague is lazy it is better to suggest that delays or missed deadlines or incomplete assignments create difficulties for others.
Even when the feedback is difficult or specific to performance, a passive voice rather than active. Saying ” the data you provided was flawed” rather than you gave me bad data” will be received with less resentment.
I have felt deflated or challenged depending on how I heard the message.
If the issue or criticism is pointed towards performance I try to offer specific examples and specific remedies. When I have gotten a general review I usually don’t know what I am missing or how I can change.

Sometimes I am not ready or willing to hear anything. Not advise, suggestions, praise nor glowing reviews. I suspect that my gentlest and best framed feedback hasn’t always bee appreciated. I do appreciate having someone say ” I have some concerns, when would be a good time to have an honest discussion”. I haven’t used that approach but recognizing that it improves my reception, I will be sure to offer it in the next opportunity.

Is there feedback you should be providing? Have you asked someone to let you know what they think about something you are doing or creating? Do we all need trusted critics or honest confidants? My answers are yes,yes,yes.

Take the next opportunity to give better advise and receive advise better.

B

Tribal Discomfort

I am a fan of Seth Godin and Jeff Goins’ interpretation of tribe. A place where we belong, where we add value, where we are challenged and where we are cared for. The world I watch in mainstream media seems to leave a different impression of tribal membership.

It seems that if you align, affirm or sign up for anything that is ideological or partisan, you need to shut off your brain and accept a complete package no matter how unpalatable it might be. I have been accused of heresy, treachery, and disloyalty when I criticize or question an idea, an intention, an action or an individual that is part and parcel of the doctrine, dogma, plan for domination.

I have been introduced by zealots, conservatives, liberals and environmentalists as “the most ideologically promiscuous person they know”. In each case I think it was meant to be a slight but I have celebrated that they noticed and that I was transparent in my confusion and curiousity.

The current US presidential race has seemed to this outside observer to be void of content and full of tribalism. Supporters and detractors are wedge uncomfortably in one camp apologizing for behaviour or ignoring inconsistency but not wavering or reconsidering. It seems that the candidates could say, do, or be accused of anything and the tribe still aligns with the original investment.

Do we get so far down a road that retreat is too big a pill to swallow? Can we invest time, money and reputation and then find it impossible to admit that our decisions might be wrong? I worry and wonder where I am intransigent. Am I blinded by the mantra and message in some area of my life and unable to be interested and inquisitive?

The concern I am expressing seems exemplified in the current political arena but could be as easily seen in religions, activist organizations, team fan clubs or anywhere else we profess allegiance. I hope to strive to be pan-political, pan-religious, pan-issue, and agnostic about the home team.

That’s as close as I am getting to posting about the US Presidential race.  I trust that the system will pick the right person and if it doesn’t that the self correcting mechanisms of democracy will apply a correction.

 

Make Today Remarkable, by being less strident,

B

Acts of Kindness

I don’t have any particular problem with the motivation or mission of Kindness &Co. and think they have landed on an idea with the Kindness Movement. I like the Kindness & Co + Pick The Brain, Kindness Kit and can see myself using it. Where we have a tiny difference is around Random Acts. I believe that anything thta is left to random or organic is best to be left all together.

I prefer Intentional Acts of Kindness. I set out each day prepared to be kind. Not just in situations where I happen to notice someone or something and take a momentary leap and provide some generousity. For me if I am on the lookout for kindness, I see it in others and am aware of it in circumstances. I more often pause and reflect (sometimes for a few days) about how I might inject some thoughtfulness and gentleness.

John McKnight says that “generousity is the only lubricant that will make our neighbourhoods viable”. I love that sentiment and understand it to mean that we need to become fountains of kindness for each other with so much helpfulness, graciousness and hospitality spilling over the top that we are splashing each other in puddles of goodness and grace. When I am wet with drops or a deluge, I can’t help being kind.

Set out everyday to be kind, to accept kindness and to splash someone you don’t know.

B

Don’t Be Afraid

Are you afraid? Is fear lurking at the edge of your bed ready to latch on when your feet hit the floor? Does it ride on your back all day until you finally fall exhausted into a fitful sleep? It doesn’t need to be the burden we allow it to be. In its best incarnation fear is a gift.

For regular readers you are already anticipating that my first step suggestion for overcoming fear and anxiety is breathing. Before you roll out of bed, after the startle response of the alarm clams, stop and appreciate the stillness of your body. These few moments are a gift in the present and a seed for the future. After you are settled breathe in deeply through your nose and blow out deeply through your mouth. If you are like most people, you have probably just spent 6-10 hours in a shallow breathing state and this first breath begins a cleansing.

Take another slow inhalation and at the top of the breath hold it for just 2 seconds and then release it fully through your mouth. Gauge your mood and mindset and if you are ready slowly roll out of bed and to your feet. Allow yourself the pleasure of finding stability for today by grounding yourself through your feet. Slowly stretch upwards and on another inhale lengthen your spine by lifting your head as if on a string. Breathe in deeply for the count of 7, hold for 4, exhale for 7. Don’t rush, enjoy the inspiration and the slight tension of holding the top of the breath. Repeat 7 times and then slowly step into your day. Remember to breathe deeply throughout the day and when you feel fear crawling up your back, give him a shake and inhale again.

Fear will try to creep in. Or at least what we now call fear. Real fear is the gift that has kept our species alive for millennia. The intuition that something is wrong or something is about to happen that most often we suppress because we are socialized to ignore it. That fear, the immediate recognition that the person on the elevator when the doors open poses a potential threat. Let that gift guide you and let the doors close without excuse and catch the next car. If we learn to trust that gift of fear it will help suppress the other unhealthy kind.

If I am facing a situation that is causing some dread, I take some time (and yes breathe) and visualize the event happening in a positive way with a positive outcome. It doesn’t always happen the way I imagined (but it has) but I don’t go into the moment a bundle of anxiousness. It after all is your imagination that is creating a less pleasant outcome and causing the uneasiness to grow. Turn your thoughts to a better future and you can help create it for yourself.

The practice of shunning unhealthy fear is relentless and incremental. We need to do it every day and as we become more accomplished we can accomplish even more.

B

Today’s Inspiration

What inspires you can but doesn’t need to inspire someone else. You can and should be your own creation motivated to creativity by the stuff that ‘floats your boat’. You can also create inspiration that may or may not be stimulate someone to a new idea, an different action or an iterative act of genius. It might also crash like a lead balloon. You get to be the maker and sometimes what you concoct will be crappy and won’t lift your spirits or even your mom’s.

But you do have a responsibility to create; to make something – your art; a poem, a song, a quilt, a stool, a meal, a letter, a book, a movie, a painting, a movement … You have a (many) works inside you that you must enact or the gift is wasted. Each can be uniquely you or uniquely me.

We seem to be smudging all this genuine invention and innovation with homogeneity. We look for trends and copy them. We chase someone else’s art and pretend we want to do or be that. We like and “Like’ the same stuff that our friends do and we begin to blend into a blob of sameness. The sameness can’t be very interesting, clever or outrageous because it appeals to such a wide range that it needs to be amorphous.

Creativity comes from being different unless you strive to be part of the 2017 boy band and then androgynous indeterminate shallowness will suffice. There are likely dozens of managers shaping the next pop idols so let’s be something else.

I learned today, in an unlikely arena, that I need to be more of what I am and more of who I am. I get to embrace the time of my life in ways that only work for me and I am able to conceive, initiate and produce my own masterpieces and be okay with appreciation or criticism from others. I also get to revise, adapt and edit the pieces until they are pleasing to me.

I am off on a new tangent which hopefully will serve my mission of influencing others to be remarkable in their own way.

B

Fresh 168 report

Wednesday – Sleep 16, Work 10, Volunteer 3, Friends 3, Learn 2, Read 2, Workout 4, Family 8

Thursday Sleep 16, Work 13, Family 10, Eat 5, Learn 4

Friday Sleep 18, Work 10, Family 8, Netflix 6, Learn 2, Read 2, Eat 2

What I have noticed so far is that I prioritize rest, still have too many TV/Netflix hours, had a good week with family and am amazed by on average on 10 30 miute segments that I would call work.