Friday, July 8, 2016

Mindfulness - Part Two

Thank's to the medical community, mindfulness has become an everyday part of our language.  Don't be fooled by flood of material on the subject.  Mindfulness isn't a new topic.  The Buddha taught mindfulness over 2500 years ago.  In fact, he taught mindfulness and meditation, mindfulness' primary tool of implementation, for over forty years.

 It should also be noted that even then mindfulness wasn't an original concept.  In fact, the roots of mindfulness stretch so far back into recorded time it's impossible to know where it originated.  Perhaps the practice of mindfulness is in the human genes.  I, for one, believe that to be the case.

The simplest definition of mindfulness is: being totally in the moment.  In other words, being totally focused on what's happening in this moment, with no part of your attention anywhere other than in this moment.

We've all done that in moments of what I call "situational mindfulness."  Those are moments when the situation demands our full attention.  Life threatening moments, for one, demand our full attention, as do moments of extreme pain or pleasure.  However, when the situation returns to normal, our attention quickly leaves the moment and wanders into the past, the future, daydreams, nightmares, whatever.

For the purpose of this post, I'm not concerned with situational mindfulness.  I am speaking of mindfulness-on-demand or mindfulness by choice.  Or, for the sake of simplicity, just plain mindfulness.  Most of the self-described mindfulness gurus of today focus all their energy on meditation, which is simply a tool for building one's mindfulness practice, but shouldn't be confused with mindfulness itself.

Meditation is to mindfulness what a hammer and saw are to a building project - important but not the project.  Mindfulness, or being totally present in this moment, the only moment there is, requires a calm mind.  Before a person jumps into meditation to calm their mind they have to know why their mind isn't already calm.  Or, to put it another way, why can't I just bring my full attention into this moment and keep it here by simply deciding to do just that?

The best answer I've ever heard to that question was this line from The Last Samurai:  "Too many mind..."  Watch the clip and you will understand:

That was Nathan Algren's  introduction to mindfulness.  Later, during kendo training, Ujio defeated him in two rounds and then Algren recalled the lesson Nobutada had shared - No Mind - and he... well, see for yourself.

Mindfulness is the practice of moving into the state of "no mind" or more aptly, the state of one mind, or simply Oneness.  To get there you will have to give up anger, stress, and worry.  Obviously you can't just walk away from those "minds."  At least not until you know more about where they came from and what they are.

That's what I'll talk about in my next post on mindfulness.

Your comments are welcome.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Everything Matters

This summer marks the tenth anniversary of United Portrait Studios, a small business, owned and operated by three individuals dedicated to the proposition that "everything matters."

We so believe that simple statement that it is imprinted on our sit tickets - a combination work order/invoice/receipt.  That means that everything we do is imprinted with the words, "everything matters."

In ten years, no customer has ever asked about or even mentioned "everything matters."  That is of no concern to us.  "Everything matters" printed on their sit ticket isn't for our customers.  It's for us.  It's a reminder that everything we do, from snapping the photo to delivering the print matters.

And its more than that.  It's a reminder that no task in our business is more important than any other, no customer is more important than any other, and no transaction is held higher than any other.

And its even more than that.  "Everything matter" reminds us, the three of us who often meet ourselves going and coming as we move fast to insure we meet all of our commitments, that this moment, not that moment or any other moment, is the only moment we have.

"Everything matters" reminds us that the shy child on the set, the one who needs extra love and attention, is the only child there is.

"Everything matters" reminds us that the frantic parent calling about that special 8X10 she forgot to order but must have for her grandmother's birthday this weekend, is the only customer we have.

"Everything matters" reminds us that the father sent to purchase pictures, though he'd rather be facing a salary review or a herd of charging elephants, must receive our full, undivided attention, with a double-shot of love and understanding.

And, "everything matters" is the doorway to this moment, the only moment there is.  And "everything matters" and this post is the gateway to a blog series that I'm calling - Mindfulness and Meditation.  Join me and share your comments.

Friday, June 24, 2016

We Don't Walk Away

To live one's life without having known The Doctor, Dr. Who that is, would be like missing the last ten minutes of the third movie in the Lord of The Rings Trilogy, walk off home runs, three pointers at the buzzer, or any of an infinite number of inspirational moments.

Granted, I've come late to the classic BBC series, but that doesn't mean I'm not as devoted as any Dr. Who fan who came before or will come after me.

In case you've not met The Doctor, click the arrow and invest fifteen seconds of your time and you'll understand what I'm talking about.

"Listen.  There is one thing you need to know about traveling with me... well, one thing apart from the blue box and the two hearts, we don't walk away."

After it's all said and done, the only legacy that matters is knowing that you never failed yourself - that you never walked away.

That's not something one can explain to another.  It is only something one can live.

And, best of all, it's never to late to stop walking away.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Don't Confuse Success With Excellence

Ken Burns, filmmaker, delivered the commencement address at Stanford this spring.  I wouldn't have known that had his topic not been Donald Trump, which caught my friend Ralph Miller's attention, who forwarded the presentation to me.

I'm not going to make a political statement, however, I've included the video if you'd like to hear it.

Instead of taking a whack at Trump, which is way too easy, I'm going to take a noteworthy line from the presentation and share it with you.

The line is "Don't Confuse Success With Excellence." That seems self-explanatory... or is it?  I've thought about it a lot since I heard Burns' presentation, and though it might be self-explanatory, as is often the case with self-explanatory things, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Thanks to television, smart phones, social media and other instant electronic entertainment presentations, there is little time left for contemplation.  Information; right, wrong and neutral, is flying at us at such speed that we have established filters which automatically sort and file it without consideration to content, accuracy, or importance.  All that matters is grabbing enough from it to carry on a thirty-second conversation about it at work or at the gym.

Yes, Mr. Burns, we do confuse success with excellence.  We also confuse right with wrong and black with white.  We don't do that because we're stupid.  We do it because we're into information overload, and we're afraid if we back away from the deluge we'll miss something important.  Or, to put it another way, we are drowning because we don't believe we have time to learn to swim.

The issue isn't confusing success with excellence.  The issue is taking the time to consider the issue.  It's time, and way past time, for us to withdraw, breathe, and remember what matters.  That's right - REMEMBER.  Because, Mr. Burns, we do know the difference between success and excellence, right and wrong, and black and white.  What we don't seem to know is how to step out of the river of bullshit and relax in what matters.

Tomorrow we'll look at a timeless way to do just that - it's called Mindfulness.


Insist on heroes and be one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

When You Matter

As I searched, with little success, for the right illustration for this post, I remembered The Storyteller, a print I purchased in a Seattle mall during an art sale more than thirty years ago and that was the end of the search.

The look on the fairy's face as she gazes at the storyteller is what this blog is all about.

I saw the same look on Joe Bonamassa's face as he described how he felt when he first heard Eric Clapton.  As he told the story, he was standing on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, an ambition he'd held since being inspired by Eric.  Then he introduced Eric Clapton, and the two performed Further On Up the Road together for a packed house.  Take a look:

Note for Ralph, who, in response to yesterday's blog, This Train Stays on the Track, said he would like to see Joe Bonamassa and Buddha perform together - at 2:19 in this video, Buddha granted your wish.

As I watched the video for the fourth or maybe fifth time, I thought of the first person, outside my immediate family, who inspired me as the Storyteller inspired the Fairy and Eric Clapton inspired Joe Bonamassa. Her name was Ms. Tillman and she was my first grade teacher.  Had it not been for her, I'd not be able to write this post because moments after being dragged into her class by my mother, I made up my mind that I'd die before I'd let that happen again.

As I look back almost sixty-years to September 1947, I realize, not for the first time, that Ms. Tillman knew how I felt.  She understood the resolve behind my commitment to never return to her class or any other class even if it meant death.  To her  credit, she didn't decide to put my resolve to the test.  Instead, she showed me the value of reconsidering my vow, and she did it in a way that made it easy for me to understand and take a different position.

That's what a person who cares does for one they care about.  First they make it clear they understand your position, and then they show you other possibilities.

Take a moment and think of the first person who did that for you.  Now, think of someone you've done it for.  Before you leave those thoughts, consider sharing them with us in the comments.  We're looking forward to reading them.

Now go out in your world and inspire someone.

Monday, June 13, 2016

This Train Stays On The Track

I found Joe Bonamassa because I heard a few lines of a Beth Hart song on a now all but forgotten Google search. Though I've forgotten the object of the search, I'll not forget Joe and Beth.  If you look at this video you'll know why.

Yesterday I was poking around YouTube and found Joe and Eric Clapton on a video recorded at Prince Albert Hall.  I'm not including a link to that one (it's easy to find) because it will be at the heart of my next blog post, When You Matter.

So, how did I get from Beth to Joe to Eric to Buddha? That's easy.  I took This Train - another Joe Bonamassa song/video.  I'll put the link below.  As you listen to the song and watch the fantastic vintage train film clips, listen for the line, This train stays on the track.   That line was my link to Buddha, or to be more specific, The Dhammapada.

  If you aren't familiar with The Dhammapada, here's a note from the Dhammapada - The Sayings of the Buddha, rendered by Thomas Byrom, that describes the classic:

"The Dhammapada is a collection of the sayings of the Buddha (563 - 483 B.C.E.).  They were probably first gathered in northern India in the third century before Christ, and originally written down in Sri Lanka in the first century before Christ. Dhamma means law, justice, righteousness, discipline, truth; pada means path, step, foot, foundation.  The Dhammapada was transmitted and recorded in Pali, the canonical language of southern Buddhism, and it has become the principal scripture for Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

When Joe sang, This train stays on the track, my mind flashed to The Buddha's teaching:

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.
           (Chapter 1 First passage)

Joe and Buddha are clearly on the same page.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Guiding Hands

A few minutes ago my buddy, Ralph Miller, emailed this note, under the subject line, A Blossoming New Business Venture."

"I’m thinking this might be something to earn me a couple extra bucks in my retirement!"

I know Ralph is never going to retire, and I know it isn't a possibility for me either.  However, with Ralph you never know for sure, so I thought I'd better take a look at his "blossoming new business venture."

In case you missed the opening line of the video, here it is again:

  "In today's modern world, you can watch what you're doing or you can watch where you're going, but you can't do both."

Years ago the word "multitasking" was coined by IBM to describe a computer capability.  At some point, it was applied to the actions of human beings.  That we can't do it, is the point of the Guiding Hands Video.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that we aren't up for multitasking, we continue to try, and try, and try; to the point that, though I'm sure neither the National Safety Board nor the Center for Disease Control consider multitasking a threat to humanity, I believe it has become the major threat to the long range possibility of the survival of humanity.

How many people have to die while driving before multitasking is identified as the cause of the fatalities?  How many marriage have to end?  How many wars have to rage?  How many kids have to take their lives before we do something, or more appropriately, before we stop trying to do so much and simply stop, take stock, and realize that simpler was better and best of all, it's still ours for the taking?

I suppose it isn't natural for a human to stop and smell the roses.  It takes self-honesty to stop cold and say "This isn't working.  There must be a better way."  And, it takes a hell of a lot of courage to find that way and take it.

I'm convinced that it's time for us as a species and as individuals to backtrack to the forks in the road and pick one instead of trying to multitask our way down all of them.

It probably wasn't the fork that Robert Frost chose that made all the difference.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that if he reconsidered his words today he would say that choosing only one made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, poem published 1920