Space—Our ally in creativity

We are made up of 99.9% space and a tiny bit of matter.  In the emptiness of that space is a vibrant quantum force that fuels the creation of particles that make up the on going creation of ourselves in every moment.  Yet, we clutter our existence and our minds with busy schedules, agendas, post it notes, email and a multitude of messages from social media.  We can become convinced that if our agendas aren’t full to overflowing our lives are empty.  Stop the madness!  Return to emptiness—for it is here that we and our future are created.
Take a breath.  Inhale and allow your breath to extend up and out into the spaciousness of the sky.  On your exhale see a slowly circling ribbon of light nourishing the space within you and connecting you to the earth.  Notice the space around you.  Be aware of the space within your cells.  Take a moment to sink into the deep stillness of your being.

Unplug and Reconnect!

Last week I went camping with my family.  Although I had a wifi device with me, I listened to my body’s desire to disconnect.  For five whole days I did not look at a small digital screen .  I looked at trees, rivers, the dirt under my finger nails, the water boiling on the camp stove.  I focused on my family members and listened to the ends of their sentences.  I played charades by the light of the camp fire.  My brain, my eyes, my whole being, responded with an appreciative sigh of gratitude.  When I returned to the digital world this infographic caught my eye on Facebook.  It’s about the value of spending time in nature.  At the bottom right corner emerge three interesting data points on the impact of time in nature and the accompanying value to our health and well being:

  • 2 minutes  = stress relief
  • 2 hours = 20% improvement in memory and attention span
  • 2 days = 50% increase in cancer fighting white blood cells

 Take a moment to go outside.  Even 2 minutes offers significant health benefit.  Breathe.  Follow the length of a tree with your eyes all the way up to sky.  Stand by it.  Listen.

Finding Trust

Trust is a quality that I have been inviting into my life this year.  I often think of a scene from the movie, Finding Nemo, where Marlin, the little clown fish who is in search of his lost son, finds himself, literally, in the belly of the whale.  While he and his companion, Dory, are sloshing about inside the whale, he wants to grip the side of the whale’s belly for dear life, rather than go with the powerful flow that will spray him out and back into the ocean where he can continue his search.  Marlin has lost what is most precious to him in his life, his son.  In this moment he can’t imagine that letting go and trusting that whale to spit him out of his blowhole is what will save his and his son’s lives. From the depth of the belly of the whale, he can’t see that outcome.  Yet, letting go, in the face of sheer terror is the only thing he can do.  It’s the paradox of the moment.
I often think of this scene and Marlin’s predicament.   He surrendered into an absolute trust that letting go was the only way he could find what was dearest to him.  It seems counter intuitive at times that letting go of outcomes and trusting our instincts, no matter how crazy they seem, is the path to what we desire.
What would it be like to have just a little bit more trust in this moment?
Take a breath.  On your inhale, notice your energy extending up and out to touch the heavens.  As you exhale, allow a slowly circling ribbon of light go through you and connect you to the center of the earth.  Be aware of your breath, be aware of the space above and below you, to either side of you, in front and behind you. Be aware of your shoulders loosening, your mouth opening slightly releasing the tension in your jaw.  Ask yourself,  “What would it be like to have just a little more trust in this moment?”   Notice your body’s response.

In your next breath…Come back to center!

On the aikido mat, when describing how to respond to an attack, our instructor reminded us that “center is the safest place.”  Throughout the day we can get triggered by conversations, by email(!), by deadlines, by traffic, by our coworkers, our children, or our spouse.  And suddenly we’re not our best selves.  Most likely we are taken off center in those moments.  In the face of our challengers, both internal and external, moving from center is a great resource.  I find that coming back to center for me begins with awareness and taking one breath.
So take a breath.  Be aware of your breath filling your belly and extending  your energy up and out like the branches of a tree.  And on your exhale notice your breath, like a ribbon of light, slowly circling through you and connecting you to the earth.  Notice the space above and below you and to either side of you.  Notice your center—a space just below your belly button.  This is base camp, this is home.  Practice asking yourself the question, what would it be like if I could have just a little more center in  my day?

Maybe it's not about weeding!

I sit in the garden with my cup of tea.

What does my garden need of me?

I sit, I listen.  What do I hear?

Maybe it’s not about weeding!

Big surprise.

When do you take a moment and put aside your to do list, close your eyes and ask, what does my day truly need?  What does my life/my work/my family (fill in the blank) truly need from me to tend to in this moment?  Maybe it’s not on your to do list.  Maybe the most important thing you can do in this moment is to listen and be surprised!
Take a breath.  Inhale light, air, warmth, life.  And imagine your breath reaching up to touch the sky.  On your exhale, be aware of your breath, slowly circling through your body and connecting to the earth through your feet.  Be aware of the space around you, above you and below you.  Be aware of the sounds around you.  Be aware of the sound of the still voice inside you. 

The Web of Connection: No email required

Two stories of elephants came to me this week.  One story is of Lawrence Anthony, the “elephant whisperer,” who dedicated a part of his life to the care and protection of formerly violent, rogue elephants.  Mr. Anthony died earlier this year.  And unexplainably, by modern standards, the elephants he rescued and rehabilitated, journeyed hours to be in the place where Mr. Anthony had died.
Another story is of the brilliant cellist, Jami Sieber, who was invited to play her beautiful music with elephants in Thailand.  Although she had mixed feelings about this project, she listened to the call.  Not knowing what to expect, she began playing.  As the rhythm undulated, the elephants swayed their trunks, heads and ears to the sounds and vibrations.  She said (I paraphrase) that she felt a calling from the elephants that indicate a sense of coming together, of learning together.  The most powerful gift she received was “regaining hope” for how we communicate with each other.  If this connection, beyond verbal language, can be made across species, than there is hope that we can communicate with the other humans with whom we share this planet.
The elephants teach us that we are connected to each other and to every living organism in mysterious, powerful ways.  We are invited to notice the grand nature of our connections beyond what is possible through digital technology to link us with one another.
Take a breath.  On your inhale allow your breath to reach the heavens.  On your exhale, see a slowly, circling ribbon of light wind through you and connect you to the depth of the earth.  Relax your shoulders, relax your jaw.  Notice the connections you have to space, air, light, breath.  Listen to what calls you to connect more deeply.
To hear and see Jami Sieber tell her story visit here.

What would be easy and pleasurable?

My good friend Jill and long time collaborator often asks, “What would be easy and pleasurable?” when she or we are engaging in a project.  So this morning when faced with the question of doing the edits to my website myself or asking my web designer to do them for me, I heard the voice in my head say, “What would be easy and pleasurable?”  I allowed the presence of ease to crowd out the nagging concern about extra cost.
By choosing ease, I freed up my space and time to focus on writing this “breathing room” post, which has become a valuable weekly practice for me.  Return on investment?  I stay committed to my practice, I focus on what I do best, and my web designer focuses on what she does best.  There is enough to go around.  I repeat,  there is enough.
Take a deep breath and allow that breath to lift your energy up and out to touch the sky.  And on your exhale see a ribbon of light circling through you and into the center of the earth.  Be aware of space around you.  Be aware of ease.  And ask yourself,  “What would it be like if there were a little bit more ease in my being right now?”  Notice your body’s response.

Violin Lessons and Inspiration

On my way to morning meetings today I was listening to NPR on the radio, as I often do, and caught the last bit of news about Roman Totenberg, Nina Totenberg’s father. He passed away yesterday at the age of 101.  He was a violin virtuoso from the age of 11.  I was inspired to learn that he continued to give violin lessons to aspiring virtuosos from his death bed.  Now here’s a man who lived out loud to nearly his final breath.
I am inspired.  Inspire or inspiration comes from the old French word meaning to breathe in.  May we all breathe in such passion and joy and express our true essence in the world for a hundred years.   We can start with this moment.
Take a breath.  Fill your lungs with the zest of life.  On this inhale expand your energy up and out like the branches of a tree.  Now allow your exhale to flow slowly through you like a ribbon of light into the center of the earth.  Be aware of the space within you and the space around you. Breathe in inspiration,   and on your exhale know gratitude for the potential of this moment.

Leadership Coaching

Mastery: Finding Center Again

When I first began to watch and learn Aikido, I thought Aikido was about waving my arms around.  Now when I watch my teacher, Sensei, and other aikidoists, I notice that their arms follow and accentuate the movement that originates from their centers.  Aikido, I’ve now learned, is actually not about arms waving but about moving from center.
There are days in my life when I feel like my choices and activities look more like arms flailing than this graceful extension from center.  I feel overwhelmed—there’s that word—out of balance, with a resulting irritation and loss of perspective.  I’m reacting rather than acting from the center of who I am.
Mastery in aikido is not about being centered all the time, because that really is not possible.  Mastery is the ability to know immediately when one is off center and how to return quickly to center.
So, let’s revisit center for a moment:
Take a breath. Allow your shoulders to relax and your belly and lungs to expand.  Notice your energy expanding up and out like the branches of a tree.  Now allow your exhale to flow through you, slowly, like a ribbon of light into the center of the earth.  Be aware of the space around you.  Now, drop your attention to the spot below your belly button. Notice this area expanding with your inhale and relaxing on your exhale.  Ask yourself this question:  What would it be like if I could be a little more centered in this moment?  Return to this question often throughout the day.

What does doodling have to do with leadership?

My father was a doodler.  In the home where he grew up, I saw his doodles and cartoons etched in ink on the surfaces of his childhood desk and dresser.    After hours, in the fancy French restaurant he owned, he huddled in conversation with his favorite dinner guests and doodled, not only on the back of a napkin, but on the white linen tablecloths!  He doodled caricatures of local politicians, design plans to improve the restaurant, landscapes from his memory, the next week’s menu and recipes, his retirement projects, you name it!!    He was doodling long before Dan Roam could hold a pencil.  (No offense Dan.  I have all your books!)
Doodling and drawing to explain what we mean is as old as the cave paintings of our ancestors.
In 2012 we are experiencing a doodling renaissance.  Even the Wall Street Journal is talking about doodling. (See Doodling for Dollars) So what’s the big deal?  Why should leaders care about doodling?  Here are five reasons to start doodling:

  1. Brain Power Multiplied:  The combination of drawing and words (which are also graphic images) integrates the right and left hemispheres of our brains for increased vision and clarity in thinking.  It’s Vision + Details.  It’s the why + the how.
  2. Engagement:  Doodles, colors, funky print and stick figures make us smile!  They engage us in a way that volumes of text in reports and memos don’t.  We have important work to do and tough decision to make.  Let’s stay awake for them!
  3. Making complexity visible:  Einstein is often quoted these days:  “We cannot solve the problems of the world with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  Pictures, story boards, graphics invite us to think differently about complex problems.  They invite imagination and innovation. 
  4. You already know how to draw (yes, you do!):  Notice what your hands are doing when you are explaining something verbally.  They wave around.  You make circles and lines and arrows in the air.  Why invent a new communication widget when we already embody communication in our movements?
  5. Whoever tells the best story gets the worm!  When decision makers understand your compelling reasons for more money, resources, time, they will say yes.  “Whoever best describes the problem is the most likely to solve it and the most likely to get funding to solve it,” said Dan Roam, in his key note, at the most recent Non Profit Technology  (NTEN) conference.

To sum it up, doodling helps leaders work smarter, capture attention, bring clarity, use their natural abilities, and get the funding. What are we waiting for?
If you’re interested in a doodling consultation, give me a call. I can have you up and sketching in no time.