Monthly Archives: December 2015
When you allow yourself those moments to wonder, “what if” and “if only” without restraint, what is it that you see in your mind and heart?
Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” He was right, but it takes courage to sometimes go against the conventional thought of what we think we should be doing in order to honour what may truly feed our spirit.
Whatever 2016 brings, I hope it takes you at least a step or two closer to your real essence, an encompassing sense of fulfillment and the peace of grateful presence that only comes from being exactly who and where you need to be.
This is from a song called “Endless Sky:”
Happy New Year!
Another new year is almost upon us. Gym membership levels will spike temporarily. Liquor stores will quiet somewhat from the pace kept over the last many weeks. Diet books and personal development material will jump from the shelves. And if it truly is time for you to take on any of those – or any other – endeavors, good for you. I wish you luck. But I do have two questions for you:
- Why wait when you can start right now?
- Do you want to change something about yourself because you know deep in your cells that it’s right for you, or because it’s what you think you should be doing as you observe everyone else?
Answer quickly if you like. My guess is you’ll find the truth of a real inquiry perhaps a tad more revealing than you first thought. But I do invite you to think about it.
Maybe your experience is fundamentally different from mine? I don’t find that the times I know I really need to make a change are marked on a calendar. When it’s time, I just know it. And that can happen any time, any day. From there, it’s up to me whether I do anything about it or not.
Celebrate the arrival of a new year. Embrace the ones you love. And by all means, make a resolution if you care to. I’m all for anyone trying to improve their own experience. I’m merely suggesting that a new year begins every day, every minute, every second. Each moment that comes to us can be a new beginning.
Do you have something you’d like to change? Start doing? Stop doing?
You have the power to start right now, just as you are.
Everything else is an excuse.
This lyric is actually from a song I never completely finished, and have yet to give a proper title. But it has been one of my favourites since the moment it appeared.
There are so many massive challenges in our world that it can feel overwhelming to consider. It’s easy to think that we’re insignificant compared to some of the issues plaguing our planet. But as individuals, we matter. We matter to ourselves, and to anyone we come across today. And often the thing that lifts up someone else is a much more humble endeavour than we might first have thought necessary.
I’ve come to believe that’s the only place where positive change can really start and grow. So do what you can, for you and those around you. It matters more than we may ever know.
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Here’s how I remember it. As a little fellow, I had one of the original Han Solo Star Wars figures. It was the model made by Kenner. Han had that cool black vest over the white shirt, just like in the first movie. Of course, neither his elbows or knees would bend, and his action figure pals, Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, all had light sabers that literally slid out from inside their arms. No matter. They were all super-cool and, to me, Han Solo was the coolest. Still is.
I would have been 3 years old when the original Star Wars movie (now referred to as “A New Hope”) was released to theatres in 1977. That would make me only 4 by the time those Kenner toys were released and available. Viewed in this fashion, I’m hoping you’ll be able to see it as not inappropriate, then, that I used to regularly take my Star Wars action figures, Han Solo and all, into the bathtub with me.
As for what happened next, well, I don’t recall the specific circumstances. And even if Mom, Dad or my sisters declared that they knew, I think I’d choose to chalk up their recollections as hazy as well. But what I know for sure is that, after one particular watery cleansing session, Han Solo’s head was gone.
I’m pretty sure it came off and went down the drain.
The specific details are lost to time. I have 37(ish) years of life experience between that particular event and the person I am now. And if Han’s head did in fact swirl away with the bath water, can you blame me for blocking that from my immediate memory recall?
I know for sure that I used to have a headless Han Solo figure. Oh, I wished I could have had a new one, of course, but that not being in the cards, I played with him anyway. I loved Han Solo that much. Han Solo without a head was better than any full-bodied character. Certainly I cannot be the only person to feel this way? Or perhaps I was just the only one with a Star Wars character figure that could have doubled as the villain after Ichabod Crane, and so I made the best of it.
The exact amount of time I played with my headless Han Solo is also a detail lost to time. And so is the recollection of the exact year that I accidentally dropped him down the storm sewer on the street in front of our childhood home. I tried to fish him out with an impromptu rod made of string tied to a popsicle stick. Alas, what remained of my headless Han Solo was then gone for good.
I wasn’t able to get another one of those Han Solo figures. But he’s never stopped being my favourite character.
Some two decades after that, the original Star Wars films were re-released to theatres. To accompany the occasion, a new line of action figures were put to market under the brand line “Power of the Force.” The characters all looked like they’d been jacked up on human growth hormone. But I didn’t care. I bought one of all the original main characters, including, of course, Han Solo. This time, I left him in the package to ensure his head held tight. No bathtubs. No storm sewers. He and the others are still locked away in a box somewhere.
In the many years since then, I acquired a few other Han Solo action figures, like the version that has him in Stormtrooper armour. For that one, his helmet is removable, but his head remains intact. At least I think it does. I’ve never taken it out of the package.
This past weekend, I took my two sons with me to see the new Star Wars film (“The Force Awakens”). Of course, Han Solo is a key character in the film, the same one I’ve loved since I was a single-digit bathtub-dwelling ankle-biter back in the day. To see Harrison Ford play that part again was like being reunited with that miniature, so very innocent version of myself. It was a joy. I’ve little doubt there are many other people who can relate.
But the most special part of the weekend was not seeing the film, even though that was fantastic. No, the best part was the day before, when my 12-year-old son presented me with an “early” Christmas present that he went out and purchased, all by himself, and with his own money. He wanted me to have it to get “excited” for the new movie.
Here’s what he gave me:
The next day, he lamented that he didn’t know the figure he’d purchased was actually a bobblehead. We only discovered this because I immediately took Han Solo out of the packaging and put him on display in our home. Han’s head wobbled. My stomach tightened for a moment, but all proved to be well.
At my son’s somewhat ironic observation, I could only give him a hug and chuckle. I told him not to worry, that even if Han’s bobbling head should fall off, I would still love him anyway, and had the resume to prove it.
But what I love most was that he would even grant me such a kind and thoughtful gesture. The moment I opened his gift, his eyes sparkled at knowing he’d given me something that instantly reconnected me with my younger self. The Force is strong in that one. And he gave me the gift of a little Christmas magic.
Harrison Ford looked a lot older in the new film, of course, but he’s still the same person that portrayed my favourite character all those decades ago. And though I may now have parental responsibilities, a career and a home to care for, I am still the same guy who loved and appreciated being able to imagine his own adventures with an action figure representing the character Ford played. Even without a head.
Han Solo is still in my house. And thanks to my son and the timing of the film, I believe I’ve just experienced what Christmas is supposed to feel like for the first time a long, long time.
And May the Force Be With You.
This lyric is from a song called “Crusoe,” written in the early part of the 2000’s. I never got stranded on a deserted island like Daniel Defoe’s character did, but I would go on to experience just about everything major in my life changing all at once. And it’s amazing how your priorities and views of what’s truly valuable and worth pursuing change at a time like that.
There’s another line in that song that asks, “Well, maybe it’s the wanting that sustains you?” I’ve always liked to think about that line, too. I figure I’ll put “Crusoe” on my list of tracks to share in my Song Blog at some point in 2016.
Please feel welcome to copy, paste, send or share, or comment with any feedback.
Ultimately, we aspire to all three. But for the moment, I’m interested to know what your raw gut first reaction is if I were to say that, for this holiday season, you could be immediately granted just one of these three choices. Which would you choose at this moment in your life?
And please feel welcome to say why in the comments section or on our Facebook page.
This lyric is from a song I wrote over a decade ago, originally titled “Brave New Hope.” This particular line is in the song’s bridge, and it speaks with a perspective that I must have had in my consciousness in order to write it down all those years ago, but it was not until very recently that I truly began to embrace its essence in my every day life. Attitude and outlook are, it seems, things that are within our control.
Please feel welcome to copy, paste, send or share, or comment with any feedback.
I was first introduced to the work of Psychologist and Author, Gay Hendricks, over a decade ago when I was working as the General Manager of Delaware Speedway here in Ontario, Canada. A friend of mine who, of all things, was our beer rep at the time, let me know about a book he loved called “Conscious Golf” by someone named Gay Hendricks. He told me it had been the single most important book for him in increasing his productivity at work. Intrigued, I went out that night, purchased it and read through it immediately. It remains one of my favourite works on personal development.
Ever since then, I have been a fan of Hendricks’ work and I hope I get the chance to tell him some day how much of a positive impact his teachings have had on my life. As I look back, although it was “Conscious Golf” that began my initial interest, there remains one work in particular that I purchased a short time later and now hold in my heart with an exceptional amount of gratitude: “Conscious Living.”
Here’s a little bit about why it means so much to me.
I had owned “Conscious Living” for some time, but had only read about halfway through it. I remember it not connecting to me fully in those immediate moments the way “Conscious Golf” had at the time. So I put it back on the shelf until I felt urged to re-address it.
Then, on an evening in 2010, I was confronted with some news that brought my perception of my world crashing down around me. At that moment, I knew that my 11-year+ marriage was in serious jeopardy and that, at the very least, it could never be the same. I have not been as completely emotionally shattered, before or since, as I was in that moment.
In a swirl of hurt, confusion and sadness, I removed myself from where any of my family were present, and wound up in the laundry room of my basement. I remember feeling like I was going to burst apart, not knowing what to do, except that I did not want to hurt myself or anyone else. I remember crying a lot, and probably vocalizing more than that. I also have a memory of just grabbing whatever I could find on the shelf nearest me, and throwing it down on the ground and stepping on it in a desperate attempt to get my confused feelings out without doing any harm (I’m not proud of this behaviour and don’t condone it, by the way. I am just being honest about what happened).
I picked this object up and threw it down multiple times. I smacked it against the dryer and laundry tub. I did this over and over until I’d worn myself out. Finally, a slumped-over exhausted mess, I stood with my head down, tears in my eyes and a hole in my heart. And it was at that quiet moment when I looked down and realized that the object I’d been tossing around was Hendricks’ book, “Conscious Living.”
Despite the circumstances, I was horrified with myself and my behaviour. The book looked up at me, now battered and creased. I thought, “Of all the things to grab, why that book? What was it even doing in this room?” It seemed as if it had to be there for a reason. In my own way, I sensed the book looking up at me, my emotional tirade complete, and hearing it suggest, “Are you done now? Open me up and have a look.” I bent down and picked it up, walked into the next room, sat down and began to read.
The contents of the book changed my life.
Hendricks may never know this, but that book was a key part of getting me through months of trying to keep my marriage together before ultimately admitting defeat, and then dealing with separation, divorce and the business of re-engineering my life as I’d known it at the time. Because of what I learned from that book, I was able to navigate those stormy waters with empathy, compassion and accountability. Years later, I’ve often said to those closest to me that I learned more – about myself and others – through that process that I don’t think I could have learned any other way. I still feel that way.
Through “Conscious Living” I began to learn about how I was unconsciously committed to the circumstances I was already experiencing (that’s a tough thing to own, and something that took years for me to fully wrap my head around). I learned about personas, why it’s so important to learn to love yourself, and so much more.
That book is now full of highlights, bookmarks and notes. I carried it around with me everywhere for a about a year and would reference it almost every day. Through it all, there are a few passages from it that still flash through my mind on a regular basis. For example:
“We choose how gently we get our lesson by how open we are to learning. Life teaches us with a sledgehammer if we refuse to pay attention. It administers the same lesson with a feather tickle if we show a willingness to learn.”
That passage jolted me awake to the idea that I’d been bulldozing my way through life doing what I thought I was supposed to do, rather than truly listening to my heart and body and seeing the signs that were pointing me elsewhere. I now see people caught in this trap every single day. In fact, it seems that much of our North American society is snared in this paradigm, and we all just keep following along, comparing ourselves to others. I still work at that every day, and suspect I always will. I am a much happier and healthier person now. I wish that for everyone else, too.
“The act of blaming is an extreme form of being right, a habit that can be your most insidious hindrance in the quest for enlightenment. Many people, when given the opportunity to be happy and vibrant, settle instead for being right.”
That bit, and the chapters of the book surrounding it, was an enormous influence in me navigating through the rocky waters of divorce. I was astounded to realize how truly unhappy I actually was, and how much I pointed my finger when I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I stopped blaming and making excuses and started being more accountable. I became a lot more interested in getting it right rather than having to be right. The challenge that came after that was still having the ability to trust in myself without relying on the rigidity I’d employed previously. But that’s another story.
Another key passage from “Conscious Living:”
“If you don’t love yourself, you’ll always be looking for someone to do it for you. And you won’t ever find it, because people who don’t love themselves attract people who don’t love themselves.”
I read and highlighted that bit years ago, but didn’t start to truly understand and work on it until more recently. It’s more difficult than it sounds.
And though it seems that half the book his highlighted, here’s one last example, for now, of something Hendricks said that electro-shocked me into a new paradigm:
“It took me a long time to figure out something I now know deep in my cells: we create the very situation we complain about most.”
Yikes. That’s a hard one to accept. But I’ve come to believe it’s absolutely true. At the time, I couldn’t imagine how I’d had any hand in creating the situation of my family breaking apart. It seemed not only absurd, but offensive. Still, I allowed the notion to float through my consciousness. It started with a couple of simple questions, directed at myself: “I wonder what my end of this was?” And, “I wonder what I can learn from this?”
As soon as I invited answers to those queries, I began to experience a series of “Holy Cow” moments. I began to see myself through an entirely different viewpoint (think of Scrooge viewing himself with one of the ghosts in “A Christmas Carol”).
It took me a long time to find my legs after making these realizations. But I eventually did. And that gave me the foundation to start building myself back up again. I am better for it.
Perhaps you have your own example similar to what Hendricks’ “Conscious Living” has meant to me. If so, please do share. I have read and learned from many wonderful books since (including several by Hendricks) and I’m certain there will be many more along the way and would welcome your suggestions.
As I look back on my life so far, I can clearly see two versions of myself: the very determined guy who struggled and flailed and dug in deeper at the appearance of every obstacle, and the post-“Conscious Living” fellow who still pursues goals and dreams but feels much more fulfilled and content on a regular basis.
I like the second guy much better.
I was inspired by “Conscious Living.” I remain inspired by it.
Thank you, Gay Hendricks.
Earlier in the year, I took to the notion of creating little image slides with a lyric from songs I’ve written, mostly as a means of sharing some of the work that has not yet been recorded. It’s been fun to work on them and observe how individual lines from songs can be interpreted all on their own. I’ve been posting these on my Twitter and Facebook and thought I’d start to share them here periodically. Please feel welcome to copy, paste, send or share, or comment with any feedback. Thanks!
This lyric is a powerful question from a song called “What Says Love.”
I’ve recently come to realize something about myself. When I am fully engaged in activating a process, I feel quite content for the most part. But the moment my mind wanders to just about any perceived measurement of progress, my heart rate speeds up, my breathing gets more shallow and a sense of self-judgement begins to kick in. This seems to apply for home, work and recreation.
I’ll come back to that.
I wrote recently about the challenge I find I have of balancing between planning and acting. And my creative mind loves to wander around in the abstract, dream, set goals and visualize. Ironically, it tends to do that most while I am going about the business of taking action. Doing things and being fully engaged seems to stimulate other inspiration. The trouble is, those ideas inevitably end up manifesting into a sea of Post-It notes and other “to-do” reminders. But when I stop planning my act and am engaged simply with acting upon my plan, I feel stress-free.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that I will often feel overwhelmed before I even begin, simply from the sheer volume of thoughts and ideas constantly passing through my awareness and accumulating at an impossible rate. Alternatively, once I pause my process to check sales numbers or revenue reports, or gauge response to a social media post, or even look at how many things I’ve done around the house versus the “to-do” list I had set out for myself earlier, I seem to instantly begin judging how I could be doing better.
And yet, intellectually, I know that the cure for this stress is to simply dig back in again. Choose one thing and take action. See it through to completion. Then choose another. And repeat. Simple, right? But how long do you allow yourself to enjoy the drive before you pull off the road, check the map and set a plan for where you’re going to stop next? I confess I sometimes wait until I run out of gas, or the engine seizes. And neither of those metaphorical ideas are healthy to either planning or acting.
And … why is there even a need to plan and act when you’ve experienced that real peace seems to be best achieved by getting quiet and still and feeling genuinely present and grateful?
It’s quite remarkable to me. I find thinking about doing a thing far more stressful than actually doing the thing, no matter what that thing is. I sometimes wonder whether any other people are similar to me in this regard, because I don’t see many of my colleagues wrestling with the same mechanism as what I’m trying to describe here.
At least I am aware of it now. That’s come from many years of exploring practices like mindfulness, meditation and, quite simply, self-love and acceptance. I will keep working on it. At a deeper level, I’ve known for a while that the moment I assign any expectation to something, I seem to end up disappointed. I wrote about it with a rock song lyric I call “Crushed,” which has been kicking around since 2008. It goes like this:
I recognize the notion and it’s hitting me hard again
Never would suffice to take it slowly
I’m laying down the hammer but I feel I’m the nail again
Rigid, driven, beaten down and lonely
We started innocently with intent to behave
But quickly, curiosity will tend to accelerate
By and by, anticipation makes you a slave
Cause we want
And we crave
Crushed by the weight of expectation
Determination hanging over me
I never intended to be
Simple fascination suffocating me
I never intended to be crushed
It’s too much
Result infatuation. I love that line. And I appreciate it more now that I feel more of an observer to that lyric than a protagonist. But there still, clearly, is much more work to be done on mindfulness and staying present.
If you have any similar experiences and thoughts, I’d love to hear them.