Archives for category: Performance

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In a note last week to her parents whom we know well a young woman recounted a conversation they had almost thirty years ago. It ended with their mutual conclusion that it was time for her to leave home. It was not an easy decision for any of them. She was completing eighth grade.

The prospect of her absence from her family as she grew into adulthood loomed large, but what prevailed over convention was a compelling gravitational pull. In was, in the words of Joseph Campbell, to follow her bliss, and for this young girl her bliss was dance.

Her path took her many places. She danced in New York and venues in Europe, Russia and South America. She created her own company and along the way discovered a love of teaching.

The occasion for her note of gratitude was the culminating performance for her Master of Fine Arts degree. She choreographed and danced in a 30-minute piece of her creation involving twelve other dancers. She chose the music and integrated graphics created by art students who attended one of her rehearsals. In the audience her parents beamed along with siblings, her husband and her daughter.

Words from Kahlil Gibran came to mind.

Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself…

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; for even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

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Last week I joined some friends in harvesting ice for their refrigeration system. Much more than an annual ritual it is only one element in the composition of their chosen path of homesteading. Living off the grid, they have been creating a life of self-sufficiency that nurtures mind, body and spirit and leaves a minimal carbon footprint on the planet.

Cutting and retrieving 120 pound blocks of ice requires teamwork, and our friends are able to join with staff and volunteers of a local summer camp to share in the labor and harvest. A necessity before electric refrigeration began to replace the ice box, gathering hunks of frozen water has become an annual tradition of the Rockywold Deephaven Camps since the late 1800s. They continue to use the ice boxes of yesteryear for their refrigeration.

As this 2-minute video of this year’s operation reveals, today’s ice-collecting methods include some contemporary tools – e.g., gas-powered saws, winches and trucks. Sparingly, our friends use some of those devices as well for cutting and gathering firewood and transporting heavy loads, although they use manual block and tackle pulley systems to lift the ice blocks into place.

Covered in a foot of sawdust to insulate them from the summer heat, the blocks are stored in an ice house and will last up to 12 months. Harvesting ice is a throw-back for sure to days when folks tapped every resource available for survival in northern climes and banded together to help each other make it through the year.

In today’s world of short-term grab for greed and convenience, I celebrate occasions that highlight both the ingenuity and determination of self-sufficiency and the mutual interdependence of community.

Ice Harvest 2016 (1) IMG_0377Ice Harvest 2016 (3) IMG_0376Ice Harvest 2016 (4) IMG_0384Ice House 2016 IMG_0392

 

 

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Are you one who defers or deflects? I am too busy. I am not ready. I am not capable. I am not worthy. I am afraid too many of us have bottled up our real passions or dreams and put them on hold for some future “when the time is right.”

If you are one of those folks, call yourself out and resolve to make a change. With a new year just beginning, what better time than now?  The following poem by Judith Gass may help inspire a break through to “the full and magnificent tides of your own longing.”

Why are you waiting to begin your life?

Do you think the world must care and come soliciting?

Listen to the knocking at the door of your own heart

It is only faint because you have not answered

You have fooled yourself with preparations

Time left laughing while you considered possibilities

Wake up, you have slept long enough

Wake up, tomorrow may be too late

 

When you finally dare open the door

Your life will begin arriving

Cautiously at first unbelieving that the gate

So long locked against the tide has finally been opened

Then with swells of neglected dreams

Then with waves of joyful revelation the sea will follow

You will be swept by the full and magnificent tides of

Your own longing

That no one else can give you

That no one else can claim.

 

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From the earliest days of language humans have told stories about their experiences and ascribed meaning to those incidents. Listeners believed the stories to be true or changed the account. At some point the stories began to incorporate events that had not yet happened or were not tangible.

According to Yuval Noah Harari in his Ted Talk What explains the rise of humans? our ability to construct stories and act upon them as if they were true distinguishes us as a species. What sets us apart is our ability to imagine and to act collectively as if it were reality.

Our stories constrain us and they free us. How many of us carry a story from our past that limits us personally? One of the gifts of therapy and coaching is to help people create new storylines that emphasize strengths rather than deficiencies.

How many of us embrace accounts about our race, religion, nationality or way of life? These stories unite us in common purpose. They also divide us when we view the “other” as an enemy to be eliminated.

If individuals turn to therapists to create new stories, how do we do so as a species? Perhaps, as verses from John Lennon’s iconic song remind us, we begin by tapping our imaginations in order to create a new narrative.

…Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one.

 

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Are you someone who makes New Year’s resolutions? And keeps them? I have not been one to do so. However, this year is different. I am sharing my process in case you’re on the verge.

It began with an image that surfaced on a run Christmas day. Water running off the hillside from spring like temperatures and recent rains created a melodic chorus, and my thoughts flowed with it. My resolve: to live more mindfully in the moment.

Given major conflicts in the world and the politics of the year ahead, I know I will be triggered often. Committed to deepening my spiritual path and knowing that the only things we control in life are our attitude and our effort, I identified three prompts to sustain my intention.

Pause for a questionWhen my buttons are pushed or I am perplexed, I will ask myself, “what wants to happen here?” In the instant of confusion or frustration this liberating question from transformational coach, Alan Seale invites answers that propel us out of our conventional responses into new and more expansive possibilities.

Look for the light. It is usually easier to dwell on our shortcomings and those of others rather than recognize and honor our respective gifts. The festivals of faith surrounding the solstice provide a seasonal reminder, as do the familiar words, “you are the light of the world.”

Be accountable. To help me hold myself accountable I will wear a wristband to recall my promise when the dark side appears. I have chosen one imprinted with Mike Dooley’s message, Thoughts become things – choose the good ones. I am also going public with my intention! Hence this post.

Are you making any resolutions for 2016? Can we support each other?

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In April I had a phone conversation with the new exec of an organization that had retained my services for several years. In addition to congratulating him, I wanted to assess his awareness of the money they owed me.

He knew. He shared his intention to make me whole along with others to whom they were indebted. He also said it would take time. He suggested we meet this fall after he settled into his job. This week I took him up on his invitation.

We had lunch and an engaging exchange. It is evident that he has a grasp on the challenges and has a thoughtful plan for turning the organization around. It seems to be working.

Mid way through our conversation he pulled out a print out of all my invoices, payments made and the amount owed me. I confirmed. He then handed me an envelope with a check for an installment on the balance due.

Elation was my mood on the drive home. Certainly the money is welcome. Perhaps more significant is the fact that he was true to his word. Integrity is one of my top values. I believed in the organization and had invested in it during a difficult period. He believes in making good on his promise to improve the company’s financial health and retire its debt. In doing so he conveys a core value of leadership for himself, the organization and its stakeholders.

What a contrast to so much that goes on today in relationships, business and politics, where truth is often the victim of the quest to put “me” first and “the other” down. In defining who we are and what others can expect from us, our word may be our most treasured gift.

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Perhaps the greatest gift we can give another person is our undivided attention. Being fully present means listening with every sense we have. It means creating a safe container to hold and honor the other person’s vulnerability in sharing.

The gift of presence is easier to describe than to do, much less sustain. Care givers are particularly vulnerable. Whether they are professionals like doctors, nurses, first-responders, therapists, etc. or family members tending children, elders or those with special needs, care givers face two challenges.

Like all of us they must manage the endless ringing bell of arrivals to our in-box, the daily barrage of data that lure our brains to sort and file. Distractions are a hazard to holding presence.

Having coached many of them, I have also found that care givers have a proclivity for self-neglect. In his meditation guide, Moment by Moment: The Art and Practice of Mindfulness, Jerry Braza quotes a nurse whose favorite slogan is “I can’t do you if I don’t do me.”

What does it mean to “do me?” How we answer will differ for each of us, but our answers will have the same goal: the more we can be present to ourselves, the more effective we will be in being available to others.

We can do three things: be mindful of our own needs, give ourselves permission to meet them and make the time required. When we recharge our batteries with rest, exercise and spiritual practice; when we expand our minds, cultivate the relationships that are most dear to us and have fun, we are better prepared to extend and sustain the gift of presence.

What is one step you can take today that will help you most to “do me?”

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Which is more effective in solving difficult problems, a group of intellectual superstars or a team of individuals who focus on building relationships? In his latest blog Alan Seale shares the answer.

Seeking to understand what makes some groups more successful and productive than others, researchers at MIT brought together hundreds of volunteers, put them in groups and gave them very difficult problems to solve. As was expected some were more successful than others.

Contrary to expectations, the highest achieving groups were not those made up of “superstars’ or people with exceptionally high IQs. Instead, the research showed the key to success was the social interconnectedness of the people within the group.

These findings are congruent with Alan’s own work on transformational presence and leadership, and I urge you to visit his website to learn more about his teaching and coaching. Being present to another person creates a container of safety that invites sharing and taps talent.

Embedded in Alan’s blog is a TED talk presented by entrepreneur and thought leader, Margaret Heffernan. In the talk she describes the MIT studies in greater detail and makes a compelling case for how building social capital leverages organizational effectiveness.

Describing the successful groups in the study, she used a phrase that sticks with me still: Bringing out the best in others is how they found the best in themselves. Given the fissures in relationships today, be they between two individuals seeking to strengthen their partnership or tribal adversaries who must learn to coexist, this is a compelling bridge to build.

Who or what brings out the best in you? When and how do you bring out the best in others?

Bob MacArthur

A dose of anxiety can help us achieve our peak performance, but too much stress can immobilize us and endanger our health. Think of toxic conditions at work, conflicts in relationships, acting to please others and over-committing ourselves. How do we find the balance?

Our body has an amazing capacity to regulate itself in seeking balance, homeostasis. Think of how it maintains its core temperature. When cold, it shivers to generate warmth. When hot, it sweats to dissipate heat. These are involuntary responses. If we pay attention, we can use them as barometers of balance and health.

For example, when our brain senses we are in peril, it floods our body with adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones that mobilize us to fight or flee. We can feel our heart pound and our pulse race in preparation. However, if the real or perceived danger is sustained and our emergency response chemicals persist in our body, they can damage our heart and weaken our immune system. At some point symptoms of dis-ease will surface in discomfort, pain or lumps.

We compose our lives with the decisions we make. Becoming aware of our body’s signals to us is the first choice in regaining equilibrium. Other decisions include seeking help in resolving intractable conflicts and declining when asked to add one more commitment to an over-extended schedule. Choosing to make time for self-care is essential – walk, read, ride, practice yoga, meditate.

There is a Buddhist invocation that reminds us of the goal to seek balance in living. I have adopted a version of it as an aspiration for composing my life. It is simple but full of truths to ponder.

May I dwell in the great equanimity free from attachment, aversion, aggression and prejudice.

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In life and in leadership having a vision is a keystone to success. A vision is an imaginary destination. The fruit of our creativity and our sense of possibility, a vision taps our longing for a sounder self and a better world. It inspires our attitude and guides and sustains our effort.

At some point in his life my father seized upon a maxim that became his signature admonition to his family: Be always kind, be always true. I have adopted it.

For me this vision is an aspiration that grows from two roots. One is nurtured in the spiritual soil of love and loving kindness. The other springs from a core value of integrity, captured in the advice of Polonius to his son Laertes in Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

Having a vision does not mean that one always achieves it. I am painfully aware of coming up short in fulfilling my own, as I am sure family and friends will attest. On the other hand, if we achieve our vision consistently such that we are not stretching, it may be that our vision is too small.

Our personal visions must be large enough to embrace those of others. The daily media bombardment of the abuse, violence and warfare we inflict upon each other and the primacy of deception in commerce, politics and foreign policy cries out for a vision of kindness and truth.

What is the vision that guides your life today or that of your organization? Does it spring from your truths, your gifts and your longings?