Archive for the ‘work-life balance’ Tag

Fruits of holiday musings

Two solid weeks of quiet introspection, and here we are back in the real world.  A problem with unconstrained free thinking is that it’s extremely hard to focus.  Without boundaries, we’re fertile ground for any whim or circumstance.  

In the past couple weeks, I’ve read a great deal, and watched an incredibly moving TED lecture, and visited the zoo, and improved my baking skills, and painted.  Painting is an especially effective way to brain dump.  I ran across this amazing quote from Christopher Alexander (thanks to Gretchen Rubin):

” … the more one understands of painting, the more one recognizes that the art of painting is essentially one way, which will always be discovered and rediscovered, over and over again, because it is connected with the very nature of painting, and must be discovered by anybody who takes painting seriously. The idea of style is meaningless: what we see as a style (of a person or of an age) is nothing but another individual effort to penetrate the central secret of painting, which is given by the Tao, but cannot itself be named.”

Sometimes you paint as worship for the beauty of the world; sometimes you paint as a way to bridge consciousness and truth.  When your awareness, hopes, and beliefs seem to get you nowhere in life, using paints is always comforting and affirming.  I’d show you some of what I painted, but I keep painting over the same canvas.  The value is in the action, not the product.

What’s the result of this vision quest?  Well, I’m starting off this new year with great expectations.  I’m more dedicated than ever to the search for my deepest authenticity.  I have renewed energy for the continuous effort to effectively use my gifts for the benefit of others.

And I’m at last going to move this blog to my own website!  I’d originally kept the two separate, to allow for more freedom of expression in the blog.  Now I realize that taking the risk of exposing my personality through my blog is an important part of establishing my business.  It’s a social media basic!  So, as of today, you can find these writings at – where you’ll need to re-register the RSS.

I mentally journeyed through many a cosmos over the past two weeks, and wondered at the mysteries and possibilities, and even experienced the despair of overwhelming confusion.  But I’ve emerged calmer and more hopeful; and excited about going ‘from strength to strength’ with you as 2009 unwinds.


Web and work

One of the maxims business experts like to throw about these days is that your business must cater to what the people want.  Certainly, in terms of making money this is true.  I tend to doubt that it’s useful advice, though, in terms of being happy.

Often, what you’re doing – especially in an entrepreneurial circumstance – is working on your deepest passions, and often there seems to be no interface with the public at large.  You’re developing a new widget, or offering a new service that you believe in 110%, but few others seem to appreciate your product.  You knew from the start that your focus differed widely from that of the masses, but it is the thing that floats your boat and involvement in some other direction would be simply inauthentic.

I do not approve of diminishing or watering down your offerings for the sake of popularity.  Will the madding crowds care a fig for you in the end?  Isn’t it smarter to stay loyal to your highest dreams, the ones you intuit will save your soul?  There’s no surer road to defeat than compromising your own truth, even if the path that is true to yourself  is rocky and full of potholes.

Thanks to the modern miracle of the internet, staying true to yourself is now more possible than ever.  With patience and commitment, you can find the precious few who appreciate your values, wherever they are in the world, and build a support (and feedback) structure that will enable your continued work.

If  ‘flipping’ or ‘scaling’ is what turns you on, the net can help you amass millions of supporters.  But if creating and developing are more to your taste, you can use the web even more productively, through dialogue, connections, and marketing.  So please don’t fall for the directives of people with base aspirations.  Please choose to find your own truth, and work on developing your gifts to their ultimate expression, and don’t worry if what you produce is not of the instantly popular variety.  As long as it nurtures your being, as long as you stay open to discovering, as long as you generously share, you’ll find not only rewards but sustenance.

The coincidence of massive layoffs currently, and the proliferation of the web seems serendipitous to me.  So many people, many of relatively advanced age, needing to find new means of support, while the web continues to open up all the resources of the world to each of us.  It’s an evolutionary leap:  perhaps instead of selling our souls to the corporation, we can now contemplate the very real possibility of developing our individual awareness and gifts.

Observing urges

To continue this rumination on joy, I must clarify a little.  There’s a vast difference between happiness and joy, for instance.  I think we can manufacture little sources of momentary happiness for ourselves, but joy is an encounter of entirely different dimensions.  Joy is a wellspring which, once located, eternally feeds us.

We traditionally use religion as the vehicle towards our joy, but these old standbys have crumbled in the past few decades, their mores and promises have proven unhelpful in our time.  Many Americans have substituted financial success for joy, and abandoned the search for anything more meaningful.  Certainly, the demise of organized religion is the biggest difference between us and our ancestors.  Without it, we must individually re-invent our joy.

The first step in the journey is calming the mind, releasing your clutch on everyday tensions.  You must allow the possibility that you are not in control, and open wide to the instructions from the universe, which can be subtle, whispered hints.  You must cultivate your sensitivity so that you can hear the directives.

Note that this is not about some new religion; the instructions from the universe are instructions from your inner self, and the ‘being still’ that I recommend has to do with transcending the petty details of society and conditioning so that we may glimpse a larger reality.

So the technique I want to share today comes from the theater, from an exercise we used to do in rehearsing improv.  It’s called ‘urging.’  Four or five of the group stand within a marked-out ‘stage.’  There is one directive:  move only when you must, move according to your deep urges.  The spectators watch as the ‘actors’ begin to explore their urges.  Some move frenetically, others do not move at all.  The door to authenticity begins to give. 

You can do this in any quiet moment, if such moments exist in your life.  Be still, and then observe your urges.  Let whatever you discover inform you; it is sacred information.

More about Joy

Though growing old ain’t for sissies, one of its major benefits is the slow coming to understand mysteries that have plagued us for decades.  A thought that’s been enlarging in my awareness is that life is meant to be a journey towards joy. 

More and more, I order my activities according to what I really want at this moment.  The trick is knowing what you really want.  Opting for actions that seem attractive but are not aligned with your ultimate pleasures will not work.  It requires quite a bit of sophistication; the ‘gimme gimme’ of youth has nothing to do with realizing joy.  You have to have an idea of perfection, a vision of ultimate joy, and your choices must continually refer back to that ideal.

But once solidly aligned with your ideal, you have a sure way of being, one that remains in close contact with your joy at all times.  You see that it’s unnecessary to take any action that’s unrelated to your joy.  You consider, at every juncture, only what will make you really happy.

The conundrum for many is how to find their joy.  Things thought to be happiness-creating end up empty.  There certainly is no prescription that works for everyone; it’s a solitary search for every individual.  I try, in this blog, to make little suggestions, like inverting your spine, or doodling.  The only suggestion that is truly universal, though, is to set the intention.  You have to consciously want to find your joy and believe in the importance of this mission before you’ll get anywhere with the project.

For that matter, I’m beginning to think that studies in approaching joy are all that we ought to be teaching young people in school.  We should be learning from the git-go that our responsibility as humans is to live our joy.  We should be taught methods in using creativity – both personal and group – and we should be bred to understand that all other effort is subordinate to the search for profound happiness. 

Few adults today were taught anything like this; our grooming was more along the lines of fear of judgement and poverty, fierce competition, winners and losers.  We seek ‘success’ much more than happiness.  We’re sadly out of touch with our native creativity. 

So I’ll keep up the patter here, hoping to cajole readers into a search for their personal joy.  For today, I return simply to breathing; inhale deeply, exhale slowly, take a 15 second break to perceive and appreciate the instant purification that oxygen supplies.  This is where the search for joy begins.

The old toe touch

In these giddy days of major change, it’s instructive to compare our general outlook with that of folks 50 years ago or so.  Noting the stories of African-Americans who in the 60s never imagined we’d change so much as to vote in a black president, I’m proud of our ability to progress, and I’m also reminded of how our maturation has resulted in a different approach to life.  So much has changed all around us, and our inner changes have quietly tagged along; now we’re products of the new technological world, citizens of the globe. 

Life used to be simpler, no doubt.  And it used to be perhaps more approachable.  The options at hand are so extensive now as to utterly bewilder the individual.  And since we’ve neglected care of the soul in our mad rush to technical, financial, and political prowess, it’s easy to lose your way in life today, finding yourself washed up on the shore of disillusionment.

For this Monday morning, I have just one little suggestion for keeping in touch with your basic humanity, the flow of blood and breath, the source of being.  A primary way in which we differ from people 50 or 100 years ago is that we simply move less.  Our lives and work do not require much physicality, and it’s common for people to do no more in a day than sit, stand, and walk short distances.

My suggestion is to adopt a habit of inverting your spine every day.  This does not require twisted yoga postures.  It’s just a matter of dropping down, as if to touch your toes, and letting your blood reverse course for a few seconds.  If bending is not possible for you, just letting your head drop, chin on chest, is a great beginning.  

There’s a specifically correct way to do this, but I’ll skip the details for now in favor of promoting the concept as a whole.  The more you do it, the easier it will be.  Try it once, mindfully, breathing regularly as you do it, and you’ll be amazed at the refreshment you feel.

Little practices like this can make all the difference to your attitude, courage, generosity, and energy.  I fear for a society in which we’ve lost touch with physical vitality.  Letting your body do its part in unfolding your path will brighten your awareness and bolster your hopes as you spin around the dance floor with this crazy world.

More on makings

Let me carry on a bit about this concept of ‘making.’  In the white collar world, we spend our time interacting with systems and communications; in the blue collar world, we interact with tangible objects.  Most of the time, we work on sustaining these systems and things, so as to maintain our quality of life.  So far, so good.  But in the digital age, we easily forget to spend time interacting with the world of personal imagination.  And because of this, we no longer are involved in makings of our own on a regular basis.

We eat, sleep, and go to work, right?  What time is left to follow personal whims to their natural conclusions?  And yet, if you do make room in your schedule to actively pursue your muse, you’ll open to a new and thrilling reality that provides strength, optimism, vigor, and health.

Making is a human capacity that we often stifle these days.  People naturally want to put things together, to build.  We tend to understand this in the business world, where we focus on steady growth.  But in our personal lives, how many of us take our dreams and imaginings seriously enough to make something from them?  If you dream, for instance, of beauty, or bravery, or genius, or adventure, or freedom, or comfort, or anything, do you take the time to make it in some way? 

This expression of dreams is the ultimate reason for making, but being involved in making anything – from the imagination or more utilitarian – is a huge aid to the fulfilled life.  Using your hands to shape and build is the trick, whether it’s cooking, whittling, gardening, drawing, or any other making, whether it’s an expression of inner truth or simply a regular chore. 

Don’t let the high-tech world, which would rob us of all our chores and personal makings, usurp this essential part of your human-ness.  If you’re the business owner, figure out a way to inform your business through your involvement with personal makings.  If you’re an employee, use part of off-hours every day to work with your hands.  Restore balance by nurturing your nature, which has been sorely neglected by the automated world.

Walking and wanting

I think of you, dear blog, very often when I take a walk.  There’s a mile-and-a-half stretch I cover as a daily constitutional.  Of course, in addition to energizing me, the walk is all about opening to thought.  It’s the time of my day when whatever occurs mentally I take as significant, because it comes to me in a wide awake and active state.  You don’t try to think when walking, but ideas often alight on your consciousness of their own accord.  And I suppose, I frequently have ideas about blogging because it is here that I dance around the edges of my own story, my own truth.

It bothers me some that popular philosophy suggests you can be whatever you want to be.  Not that this is untrue, but as stated it hides the real emphasis.  It’s not that you can be anything, but that you can be whatever you want to be.  It’s the wanting that makes things happen.  And you have to want very intensely. 

Contemplating your own story, discovering it as you walk or otherwise go about your life with energy and an open mind, will reveal more clearly your deepest wants.  Allowing your actions to follow these very particular wants, as opposed to those wants that are superficial and fleeting, will bring you to lasting success. 

Generally, society approves only certain dreams, and encourages only certain kinds of success.  The media presents a meager few pictures of success in terms of power and money.  We’re rarely exposed to the stories of success that revolve around less flashy treasures.  But the ‘treasures of heaven’ that we shore up when in touch with our own specific story are those that endure eternally.

You can be whatever you want to be, perhaps, but it may be more accurate to say your wanting will manifest eventually.  You can speed up the process through vigorous physical movement, and by examining your own story as objectively as possible.  Discovering your truth is infinitely more real than manufacturing it.

August moon

Tomorrow’s full moon will have an eclipse.  The August moon is fat with the harvest and the promise of autumn’s decay.  Pay it your full respects, lest its whispers escape you and you wind up clueless.

More on focusing

Yesterday’s focus on focus raised a big topic, which I’ll continue just for today.  We human beings struggle mightily with the question of focus.  Inasmuch as we have private rights to our own thoughts, we like to think we each individually decide where to place our focus.  To some extent this is true, and by applying stern discipline, we can select and cultivate focus that brings rewards we seek.  We can focus on work, and see some profit increase.  We can focus on losing weight, or building muscle, or learning a new skill, and earn rewards for our efforts.

Indeed, we have tremendous power to achieve through intense focus.  The difficulty surfaces when we see, however, the limitations of focus.  The tool is only as useful as the choices we make.  We may chose, for example, to focus on increasing business profits through hard work.  And while we may achieve our goal to some extent, we suddenly realize that by focusing intently on working harder, we have been blind to new methods that provide shortcuts to the same success.  Focus, in other words, can obstruct clear view of opportunity.

Maybe you focus hard on losing weight, and indeed the pounds drop away.  But in the process, you turn a deaf ear to your soul’s lonely outcry and ignore the oppression you feel from dieting.  You end up thinner, but now there’s a new problem: chronic depression.

So focus is a handy tool, but it can be deceptive.  It can trick you into thinking you’re in charge and invincible.  Which is a great feeling for the short term, but simply untrue in reality. 

Focus is like the drugstore magnifiers we aging boomers all use to boost our fading eyesight.  It’s a wonderful tool that lets us pretend we can see with accustomed clarity.  We do well not to forget, however, that the larger truth is that we’re slowly going blind, no matter how powerful the tool makes us right this instant.

In the end, practising focus and learning to use it intensely and well is a seriously helpful way to achieve your goals.  And then, letting your focus go, dropping it completely in order to open to new information supercedes your focus.  Focus, like the rules of a game, is best practised and then forgotten.


“I’m convinced that this is how the “Law of Attraction” really works. Great stuff doesn’t show up because you focus on it. You’re just able to suddenly perceive all the great stuff that’s always been right in front of you, because you focus on it.”

Sonia Simone  penned these words a few days ago.  It’s an excellent interpretation if you ask me.  The wildly popular Law of Attraction teaching is far more subtle than its preachers would lead you to believe.  The idea is often presented as a souped-up wish upon a star when it’s in actuality an intense discipline for mature adults only.

Focus is what it’s all about, and we’ve been working at developing our individual focus since we started kindergarten.  Surely a great many of us die without ever attaining powerful focus, having been distracted by ten thousand things.  We focus variously on making the grades, finding a lover, securing a job, making more money, and all those expected life achievements.  We focus when we need to and otherwise dabble.  When immediate needs are taken care of, focus glazes over.

Focusing on opening, on getting past your assumptions, prejudices, and fears, on constantly widening your perspective to include much more in your awareness than is habitual — this is the kind of focus Simone refers to.  It’s the same practice yogis and contemplatives have espoused for ages.  It’s about getting out of your own way so that you have access to all the wonders around you.

You may use the Law of Attraction to organize your thinking so that your business is more successful.  Understand, though, that this discipline of thought organization – i.e., focus – leads far beyond mundane materialism.  Opening to the gifts that are everywhere available if you can perceive them is doing business with eternal life.