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Friday, December 13, 2013
I love flashmob videos, and I've searched for some that express the highest ideals of the holiday spirit. It was one of my best excuses ever to spend time on YouTube.
I wish you all a lovely holiday season and the best New Year ever.
Beautiful dance moves and a surprise ending that redefines Christmas.
This remains one of my favorites.
This isn't holiday themed, but it took place during the holiday season and must have given a lift to many weary travelers.
A virtual flight to the North Pole
Have you ever noticed that two or more kittens instantly create a flashmob?
Friday, September 13, 2013
Have you ever made a promise you didn't want to keep? This happened to me recently.
I received an unexpected call from a radio show in Charleston, South Carolina. The caller asked me if I was ready to be interviewed.
No, I was not. Although I usually note pending interviews (and any other appointments) in my calendar, I hadn't made a note of this date two months ago, when the initial arrangements were made. To add to the confusion, I also hadn't received the two reminders the station had sent me.
I felt totally unprepared and very apprehensive about risking that an unknown number of people would hear me acting like an idiot. This, not incidentally, forms the foundation of many of my fears about marketing work, and it was easy for me to figure out how I "forgot" this appointment.
Since I had about a thirty-second window of opportunity to make a decision, the above thoughts flashed very quickly through my mind. Others joined them. First, and most important, I'd promised the interview, and I consider a promise a responsibility. In line with that commitment, I thought about the announcer, who would be faced with a gap in his programming and about listeners, who might be looking forward to the interview.
In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that the promise, as a matter of integrity, decided me. You've probably been in similar situations where keeping your word trumped all other considerations. In such situations I've discovered that I can either
A. Endure a situation and remind myself that I'm a good person
B. Suffer through it with accompanying resentment
C. Turn it around and have my promise lead me into finding possibility in my circumstances
C., of course, sounds very attractive, but it also sometimes seems unattainable. I can't remember how many times I've unknowingly chosen B., making the fulfillment of a promise I already didn't want to keep much worse by reminding myself how much I didn't want to do it.
I find two lessons in this.
The first is to make promises wisely. If I have a negative feeling about it, I'd do better not to make it. Maybe a good person keeps her promises, but she doesn't have to agree to every request.
A classic example is one of fidelity between partners or spouses. Do not make this promise with your fingers crossed. Don't agree because you think it's the right thing to do. Don't make it with the anticipation that you'll break it. Don't even make it in a spirit of resentment, i.e., "This is what I have to do to have the relationship I want, but I don't like it."
The most important promise you can ever make is to be true to yourself, to honor and listen to your feelings, to thoughtfully consider any reluctance, and to come to a decision that sits comfortably with you.
I promised to take on the radio interview because to be true to myself as an author in these times, I need not only to write but also to take every opportunity I can get to move through my resistance to self-promotion. That's a commitment I have to myself.
Having decided to keep this commitment, I also decided to find a way to make its fulfillment enjoyable. I reasoned that the topic, questions based on my book, Animals Have Feelings, Too, was one I knew quite well. If even one human companion got an insight into ways to resolve an issue with a cat or dog, my time would be well spent. Finally, I told my reluctant self that I might have fun.
My commitment paid off. Bob Charles, who interviewed me, was friendly, knowledgeable about my book, and passionate about animals. He asked useful questions. Listeners from around the world asked more. I spent an entertaining hour talking about cats, dogs, and Bach Flower Remedies.
Bob described me as one of the nicest people on the planet. I'm sure there's a very long line ahead of me, but I didn't mind hearing it. I have been invited to return to the show.
Overall, it was a huge win, mainly because I kept my promise, not just to Bob but also to myself.
And the life lesson was priceless.
If you'd like to hear the interview, the link is below. As I noted above, it's about an hour long.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
I haven't posted on this blog for a long time, mainly because of personal disruptions that shifted my priorities elsewhere. I won't say life has gone back to normal, but last night in reading the poem below, I realized that it's time to shift my priorities back to where they belong. I intend to do what is right for me.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
“I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you– – just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
I'm getting authorial this month by participating in a collective promotion for indie authors, Indiethon May. The authors will have articles posted on the blogs of others. I will have two guests this month.
I find such group activities to be one of the nicest aspects of independent publishing. It's a great way to meet nice people—much better than parties, which I generally don't like.
It also gives readers a chance to discover some new authors. I welcome you to visit the central site for this experience at indiethon.com
My book, Big Dragons Don't Cry, will be featured on Saturday. If you're not familiar with it, this is where it lives on Amazon. The dragon gets lonely and would like visitors.
Friday, March 22, 2013
In the early 1990s I moved to upstate New York from Manhattan. The shock of seeing mountains and trees instead of skyscrapers and sewers awakened a sudden urge to learn watercolor. (Until that time, my experience in painting had been in high school art classes.)
In the beginning of the watercolor journey, I had clarity of intention. I wasn't aiming at fame or commercial success but to approach painting as a kind of active meditation. Since I was aware of the healing power of color, I believed that working directly with pigments would provide balance and vibrancy to my life. Finally, the flowing nature of watercolor appealed strongly to me.
It was important for me to have these clear intentions. It would have been also good if I'd remembered them.
While I was learning technique and developing talent, I loved painting. After a while, though, I fell prey to the lure of exhibitions and sales. I started to get less enjoyment from painting.
One of my errors was that I didn't consciously decide that I wanted my work to appear in shows and to sell them. I drifted into that longing without owning it and deliberately setting goals. My much greater error was allowing the idea of material success to both overpower and diminish the joy in the act of creation.
This is the fallacy of deferred gratification, which can be expressed as "I will be happy when ————." The foundation of this fallacy is that idea that one struggles and suffers in the service of some distant notion of happiness. Happiness is there and then, not here and now. In other words, it's never, because by the time one reaches a goal (like being juried into an artists' association, selling the first painting, etc.), one can too easily decide that the real goal is a show of one's own, the winning of an award, or whatever sits on the distant mountaintop you must scale.
I'm not speaking against goals. I'm speaking for balance and the idea that any goal that crushes the joy of creating is way too heavy.
Look at your life. Where is joy missing?
In narrow terms, maybe you used to play the piano, but when you realized you weren't going to play Carnegie Hall, you stopped.
In more general terms, maybe you used to love your job, but you became very competitive, and the idea of promotion became more important than the creativity of problem solving.
Maybe you had children because you wanted to help new beings grow and flourish, but somewhere around the 900th load of diapers, the joy drained away.
Don't let your survey discourage you. That area of your life is like a fire that's gone out from lack of tending. Go back to your original intentions and re-experience. Poke that fire until sparks begin flying. If you commit yourself to this revival, a steady flame will begin to burn. Warm yourself before it, and don't forget to add more wood.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Very short. Because I am humbled at the moment. (It won't last.) I've just finished watching a video about Louise Hay, best known for her book, You Can Heal Your Life.
If you're familiar with her work, you'll enjoy this video.
If not, consider giving it a look.
Creativity can express itself in many forms, and every moment in life calls us to either choose to do what we've always done or to choose to move forward into a dangerously exciting and creative future. You Can Heal Your Life
Saturday, February 23, 2013
I once read an interview with Deepak Chopra in which he said that generally people spend their lives in activity and rarely, if ever, take time out for contemplation, or to simply be in their own presence, unaffected by outside distractions. We are, he concluded, not human beings, but human doings.
Lately I've been realizing how much I am a human doing. My secret (sometimes even to me) ambition is to micromanage the universe. In thinking about the source of this urge, I traced it to the fight/flight instinct.
It stems from the most primitive part of our brain, sometimes called the reptilian brain. However, what makes us different from the reptiles is that they had a more accurate perception of danger. They didn't spend most of their time fighting or fleeing.
We humans expose ourselves much more to what looks like danger. In addition to what we hear and see on news programs, other forms of media can affect us.
I was watching a program on the Internet today when a commercial came on. It advertised a TV series about a serial killer. Featured in the clip were bodies, gunfire, and blood. Anyone who watches this program will be treated to many more multisensory prods that tell the undiscriminating primitive brain that it's in danger. This kind of sensory input encourages us to see threats everywhere and magnify or misread ordinary occurrences.
I had written the first part of this blog when I had to go for a dental appointment. (Now, that is a true threat.) On my way there, I saw a car parked in my lane. It had probably broken down, and all I thought was that I would be late for my appointment. Enter road rage.
A truck pulled up behind me, blocking my view of the next lane. Then the driver got out, causing even further obstruction of my view. Magnify road rage. Then, to my surprise (and chagrin), I saw that he was directing traffic so that drivers in my lane could safely move to the other lane.
That emphasized to me that my insistence on doing could cause me to see a threat where none exists. When I came home, I made a list of the reasons why DOING is so important to me.
I'm nervous if I don't DO.
I get scared if I don't DO.
I'm afraid to BE.
They'll sneak up on me.
And I'll be DONE.
I'm not worthy if I don't DO.
Then I made some notes in favor of BEING.
When I am BEING,
I'm allowing intuitions and insights to flow in.
I'm opening the door to inner creativity.
I'm receiving guidance about how and when to DO.
When I'm scared, angry, or in other ways dancing to the tune of the primitive brain, I can never find a creative solution to any problem. It's in that place of BEING that creativity flourishes. BEING conserves our mental and emotional energy and allows it to flow in the direction of a creative solution.
If you need a reminder to just be, consider doing one of the following:
If a cat is in your life, study it. Cats have the art of being down. If that cat jumps into your lap, relax into the experience, paying special attention to its purring (which may be the best tranquilizer around).
Squirrels and birds also offer opportunities for observation. They are both known to sit on branches for extended periods of time in apparent contemplation.
Basically, if you watch any animal long enough, you will find that it's a master of being.
Another of my preferred routes to being is to listen to one of my favorite Beatles songs.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
In my last post I described "knowing" as a way to close the door to new ideas that take you into the unknown. In this scenario, saying "I don't know" can open that door—if saying it stimulates you to shake up your certainty and to explore.
However, saying, "I don't know" in different situations can keep you on the wrong side of a closed door.
Children know how to work this response.
"How did your floor get all wet?"
"I don't know."
"Why is your sister crying?"
"I don't know."
This is also called lying, and often when we say we don't know, we're lying to ourselves. Maybe not often, maybe even always.
"I don't know" closes and locks the door especially if it has a definite and final sound. It sounds like this: "I don't know (and I never will). If you listen carefully, you may discover that "I don't know" really means, "I don't want to know" (and I have my reasons).
"How can you solve this problem?"
"I don't know." And I don't want to know, because I've learned to live with this problem. If I solve it, I KNOW that a new problem will arise, and I won't know how to live with it.
Or "If I know the answer, I'm going to have to act on it, and that might mean doing something uncomfortable."
Here's an example from my own life. Social media generally intimidates me. I have made a promise to myself to master their mysteries, but each new attempt can leave me feeling helpless.
So I DON'T KNOW.
Recently I realized why I didn't want to know. Being at least semi-reclusive, the idea of networking sounded like going to a huge party where one knows nobody and circulating aimlessly with a drink in hand or paying excessive attention to the food. That was the best-case scenario.
Here's the worst case. To launch my poor, vulnerable self into the vast sea of social networking felt like swimming in an ocean infested with sharks, piranhas, barracudas, and, quite possibly, poisonous eels. (Yes, all you nice people.) I might make social mistakes, violate rules, and attract attention I didn't want, or have other yet-unimagined disasters occur.
I don't say that this discovery instantly solved my social phobia. It did, however, free me from the idea that I was just stupid because I didn't know what a hash tag was. It meant that, rather than being ruled by a hidden fear, I could bring that fear out into the open and dust it off and decide whether I wanted to keep it.
What matters at this stage is that I have choices. That feels a lot more powerful than saying "I don't know" and bumping my head into a brick wall or closed door.
Getting out of the "I don't know" rut sometimes has to be accomplished in stages.
Stage One may be simply listening for the familiar sound of "I don't know." This can sometimes halt automatic behavior.
Stage Two may be asking yourself why you don't know and why you don't want to know, as I did about social media.
Stage Three involves a shift. Say to yourself, "I don't know, but I can." "I don't know, but I can find out." "Even though I haven't wanted to know, I might be a little curious." "Even though I haven't wanted to know, it might be fun to see what happens if I found out."
Maybe it would be.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
This is an especially powerful way to crush creativity. When I KNOW, I can't learn.
In one of its most devastating forms, I KNOW equals prejudice and bigotry. If I KNOW that someone of a particular religion, sex, gender, race, age, or any other category is a certain way, or age, I prevent the ability to see anything unique and individual about that person. I can't find points of identification and communication. I lose any opportunity for a relationship with him or her.
KNOWING closes doors on opportunity, possibility, and creativity, not only in terms of the big areas of prejudice but in more immediate ways.
If you know your kid isn't going to clean her room no matter what you do, you walk into the designated health hazard day and in your mind begin to compose the dialogue for the same fight you've had for months (worst case scenario: years). You expect difficulty and resistance, and your child fulfills all your expectations because you KNOW she will.
KNOWING not only shuts the door on relationship growth with family members and friends, it can prevent you from expressing creativity in your preferred artistic pursuit, whether it's a career or not.
This happened to me all the time when I was learning to paint. I wasn't happy if I didn't achieve a near-photographic representation of whatever I was painting. That's how I KNEW it had to be.
At the same time, I wanted to be more imaginative, abstract, and exciting with my painting, but that meant taking risks. My message to myself was, " I'm afraid to change. The unknown frightens me. I have to stay with what I know."
When I Don't Listen to Myself
When I make the decision to stay safe by KNOWING, I don't listen to myself.
Our intuition and inner wisdom is always giving us new possibilities for thoughts and action. It might say, "Use that color," "Try treating your child like a human being who's interested in sanitation?" The protective self says, "Scary, unknown, dangerous, no."
To live creatively, though, we need to step off the familiar track. Creating is making something new, and sometimes that involves risks.
To do something new, you can't say "I know." Remember that "I know" equals "No." Solution
Start by noticing how often you say or think either "I know" or "No." Then do something small, a minor deviation in your routine. Listen to your intuition and do at least one thing it suggests.
Keep a record of your yes votes, and see if your life gets more interesting.
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Probably one of the most inspiring speeches given in the past several decades is the "I have a dream" speech.
In my continuing musings about goals, plans, resolutions, and intentions, it occurs to me that dreams make the top of the list.
Nothing is more inspiring than a dream that pulls you toward it, leaving all your resistance, fear, and petty concerns behind.
Have a dream today—and every day.
Friday, January 11, 2013
This year I realized that the words "resolution" and "goals" didn't excite me. I wanted a word that had movement and energy, so I chose "intentions."
I also wanted a theme. I could have laboriously worked one out. Fortunately, my writer's group, Artistic License, has a member, Marilyn, who's a tarot expert. We've been critiquing the book, and the process (plus her brilliant and lucid explanations) drew me into a deep interest in tarot.
I decided to choose a tarot card that could be a key phrase for the year.
Here's my card.
This felt totally right. Thus, my overall goal is to increasingly act out of inspiration. In making choices, I will ask myself, "What inspires me?"
This will guide my writing choices, promotional and networking choices, and, most of all, life choices.
I intend to publish a book of advice for cats, for which I am the lowly conduit. The book is currently entitled Cats in Charge: A Guide to World Domination I am targeting April or May for publication and have compiled a list of bloggers/web sites whose owners review books about cats.
In August or September I will publish Book 4 of A Dragon's Guide to Destiny, Book of Sorrows.
I will continue to work on a novel called Dystopia in Drag, intending a 2014 publication.
I thought the dragon series was over, but to my surprise, I got ideas for a fifth book. This one will be called (I think) The Rainbow Dragon.
As far as life choices, I realized that conscious intentions led to mindfulness, which leads to being in the moment. I couldn't ask for a better guidance system for this year.
A fellow member of Artistic License, June Diehl, has also posted her intentions and tarot card selections. It's a terrific post, and you can read it here..
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
As I noted in a previous entry, I'm beginning to set goals for the new year. Before formally doing so, I take time to imagine what I want. One thing I know is that an individual's life doesn't change until (s)he can imagine a different way of living.
In thinking about the future, I realized I could learn from my fictional characters. In the series, A Dragon's Guide to Destiny, each main character is challenged to imagine a world very different from the one they know.
Melancholy Druid knows he's the Dragon of Destiny, but he is sure he'll fail to accomplish his purpose, in part because all humans have it in for him. Learning to trust a few humans and his own abilities will move him closer to his goal, but can he take that risk?
Tara, the Chosen Kitten, harbors a similar mistrust of humans. She also fears giant dragons. Can she imagine a world in which large and small, human and feline, can join forces?
Human Serazina has unlawful psychic gifts that could lead to her incarceration in the World for the Chronically Crazy (and that would be only the first of coming attractions). Although she must exercise those gifts for her world to be saved, she will have to risk her life to do so.
Phileas, Guardian of Oasis, lives in the tightest mental straightjacket of all, imprisoned by a rigid tradition of mental superiority that suppresses his emotional intelligence. Though he realizes that these limitations are jeopardizing the people he's sworn to guide, he fears that a world in which emotions are fully expressed will be one of chaos.
Like Druid, I often doubt my ability to succeed. I also, like Tara, sometimes question the willingness of others to cooperate in the fulfillment of my dreams. In earlier years, I felt that my gifts and talents were unrecognized by society, and I regularly check to see if this belief is resurfacing. Likewise, I know it takes commitment to keep the creativity flowing.
Each of us may have different limitations in our ability to imagine a different world, but if we want our lives to accommodate our deepest desires and dreams, we need to imagine worlds that our new selves can happily inhabit.
I used to live in a world where my novels lived only in my computer. Before that situation could change, I needed to imagine a world in which they were published, read, reviewed, etc. Without these mental architectural drawings, I had no way to begin.
Now I'm thinking it's time for me to make the stakes as high for myself as I do for my suffering fictional friends. That's going to call for a lot of imagination.
And some inspiration. If you're considering setting some high-stakes goals, you may benefit listening to the music that helped me write this blog.
Both are by John Lennon
Happy New Year!