I’m on an airplane reading a book on my iPad. the book is titled Extreme Ownership written by some Navy SEALS captains. Excellent book with war stories and leadership lessons. I have newfound respect for those guys. Anyway there is a photo in the book with a ton of ammunition laid on the table, a poster of the SEALS skull patch, and pictures of SEALS lost in combat. I’m zooming in and around the photo when I notice the person to my right gazing over me. I realize I’m a Persian man on an airplane looking at fire arm and death symbols. I immediately put away the device and turn on a cartoon on the seat monitor to balance the equation.
Would you rather be wise and worried or foolish and happy?
This is a question I’ve been asking people, and what comes up is that wisdom comes when you let it go. My young cousin replied, “I’d be foolish and happy because then I get to learn more.”
I was working on my laptop earlier preparing a question deck for a communication workshop. I was fielding questions in mind and one in particular stood out. Soon as I came to write it, it escaped me. I waited a bit, seeing how it would resurface. It was a no show, so I shifted to the next thing. The question shortly reappeared which was: Do you think your opinion matters?
I might have an opinion on something, but I don’t fixate on it. I like my thoughts to breath freely and my self-worth is not tied to an opinion. I’m more interested in dialogue and formation with something bigger. Steve Jobs often said, as do Gestalt Psychologists, that the whole is more than sum of the parts. You can have a group of people in a room chattering about what they think, but a group does not necessarily make a team.
So what makes an A team?
I’m in the Philippines airport for a transfer flight and I go to buy a water and snickers. All I have is Taiwanese Dollars and the guy at the counter says “only US Dollar.” I asked where I can convert the currency and a white middle aged man standing next to me just pays for it, referring to me as brother. He was a retired Marine, also heading to San Diego, and we chatted a bit. He reminded me of being simple and flexible like Gumby (the cartoon character). Pointing to the circular table we were by he said, “there is a small span of things you can control, the rest just let go.” He emphasized the value of kindness through small acts. We also got into the nature of women. Basically we covered everything in 5 minutes before his wife called.
All you need is something out of nothing to change everything, into what the soul ever is, a dream. The dreamer’s job is to merge joyfully into that nothing, here and now, and death is the last and only vail in the way. Befriend death to dance with life. Such is the nature of yin and yang. With a calm compassion it yields into itself, and to all. It knows its inner substance so it knows peace, flowing balanced in dynamic ease.
‘Be like water,’ said Bruce Lee.
During a recent workshop titled happiness and success I asked, “How do you want your life to be remembered?” One yelled out, “I don’t want to be remembered!” Another girl told her partner, “I want to live a simple life.” Her partner responded passionately, “People always say ‘I want to be simple’ but they don’t know what it means!” The girl’s eyes lit up with a thousand smiles and nodded in confession. He continued, “I also want to be simple and really want to know how.”
Death is the best teacher on living simply so I followed with, “on your final breath what advice would you give yourself today?” People said things like, “Accept things as they are” and “follow your heart.” Then I asked them to write or draw something that expressed this feeling.
Setting a life goal is a meditative act, and the point is not the goal but the journey that attracts it. Any effort for achievement is inherently simple, a gentle letting go, until all you’re left with is the essential feeling that got you started, where one arrives at the end of expectations. In the words of Lao Tzu:
By letting go, it all gets done;
The world is won by those who let it go!
But when you try and try,
The world is then beyond the winning.
Last year when I was thinking about my next steps, I decided I want to do something that fevers my passion, like teaching, somewhere that offers comfortable pay. I would have never expected that this decision would lead me to China for a time of my life.
Happiness is closeness to the essence of things,
not as a mental puzzle but a felt-sense inside,
simple or complex, fast or slow like honey,
I saw you at the edge of emptiness and quietly fell in.
At the end of the workshop the man merrily admitted, “Sometimes I’m confused.”
“Confusion is a good dance partner,” I replied.
Once during dinner I was talking with Andy and I quoted a dear friend, “Death is the invisible mold of everyday life.” He mistakenly repeated, “Death is the invisible mole of everyday life…” and genuinely considered it.
I died laughing.
To be human is to tell stories and the world draws meaning from the stories we tell ourselves. Daily experience is merely a set of narratives that makes it real and memorable. There is a feeling of comfort and connection that defines it for me.
The aim of somatic studies and artwork is to be autonomous with the body and consciously explore our inner narratives through play and discovery. In this way, memory is not a fixed phenomenon, but one that develops and emerges through experience. With the emergent as partner, our images grow and reveal themselves in bountiful ways. How we mindfully engage the creative process is the work of art (McNiff).
As a multi-sensory discipline, Expressive Arts (EXA) is based on the idea that perception is etched in the flesh and we can change the way we think by engaging the senses. By consciously activating sensory interaction, the body has a chance to re-pattern itself and breathe new life into its images. EXA’s often cited dictum stretching the range of play is akin to playing with clay (Levine). The more malleable the clay, the easier to shape it and the wider the range for discovery. The more stiff, the less shaping can occur and more limited in meaning the shape can afford.
Late night hunger. Noodles and I walk the wobbly sidewalk tiles, eyeing a restaurant next door to my apartment complex. It’s called the Rabbit God. I’ve always noticed it but never been inside. We step in and the first thing I see is a group of men sitting on the floor, tending to a drunk friend. We order the signature rabbit dish and the place quickly turns into an orchestra of yelling and vomiting while one remains passed out on the floor. Meanwhile a lady is on the phone, kicking and yelling at the drunk men.
Noodles offers to change tables so there is a column blocking them from view. She is talking to me but I’m frozen in disgust and confusion. “why are we here,” is my thinking. The natural thing to do may have been to just leave, but somehow my thought did not stretch that far. Noodles seemed to acknowledge the sewage scene but was more amused by it than me. The place reeks of vomit and zombie adults. On the column next to our table is a poster of the pixar animation film, Madagascar, with the lion and friends, in cartoon color and smiles. There is group sitting at a table not far from us. They seem to not even notice the madness before them, quietly talking among themselves.
Inside the bone of your right shin there is a circular crevis, and there lays a ship wreck where in the captains cabin I found a sowing needle and made a moon sweater for lady octopus. She liked it, it was red. She wore it for a week straight, even when she went to bed.
On our way back from a 40 mile bike ride to a nearby mountain. Shoes and clothes drenched, relieved to have made it this far. The steady rumbling of the engine and intermittent squeaking of the windshield wipers. The side windows foggy, swarmed with rain matter. Occasionally, a droplet would streak diagonally across the window in dismay of the other particles. Seated comfortably, reflecting on my field of fortunes.
I had never been on a long distance bike ride before and seeing that Andy was an experienced rider and a cool cat to journey with, I began to amuse the prospect of a cycling trip. Unfortunately, our weekends were always different. Mine are Monday Tuesday and his were Wednesday Thursday. It seemed like we either had to use up some of our off days or just go at separate times. So actually we did nothing and one day our manager said that he had been called on to some trip by corporate and Andy will need to switch his weekend days to Monday Tuesday for that week. We were keen to cycle.
I lost all the data on my ipad, my main productivity tool. One day at work I pulled it out of my backpack and somehow the system had reset to original settings and had wiped everything clean with nothing stored on iCloud. All the stories I had written and the time I had spent on them. Vanished. Luckily, I have things written on my work computer and in various notebooks. And the source of my memory remains intact, my mind. More specifically, the heart of my mind. But at the time, my thought was “this sucks balls.”
Later that day, I held a poetry workshop and a lesson that arose from one of the students’ stories was: somethings we cannot control, just be happy.
I’m trying something new this week: my first handwritten weblog. hence this post.