Show me what you see

Creators focus on outputs rather than the general populace who focus on inputs.*
(Ben Hardy)

We connect to an inner place of wonder, and thus we are open to recognising the spirit of wonder in the world around us.**
(Kelvy Bird)

Ben Hardy writes about the benefits of journaling for people who want to be responsive rather than reactive, who make their own stimulation.

We’re not born as reactive or responsives.  We learn how to crave input or to believe we have more than enough input and now it’s time to do something with it.

Journaling is where the reality of what is can meet the imagination, as Maria Popova writes, we are provided with the ability:

‘to transcend what is and envision a different, better version of what could be’.^

She shares this in her blog on the work of Wallace Stevens concerning the pressure of reality and the power of imagination.  Stevens writes:

“The imagination gives to everything that it touches a peculiarity, and it seems to me that the peculiarity of the imagination is nobility, of which there are many degrees. […] I mean that nobility which is our spiritual height and depth …. But there it is.”^^

This imagination is the beginning of output.  It is our peculiar output.  It is to find and use our generative centre, to take input and turn it into some new output.

Ben Hardy describes how:

‘Most people live their lives on other people’s terms. Their days are spent achieving other people’s goals and submitting to other people’s agendas.

Their lives have not been consciously organized in such a way that they command every waking, and sleeping, moment of their life. Instead, they relentlessly react at every chance they get.

For example, most people wake up and immediately check their phone or email.’*

Instead of turning on the radio or picking up the phone, any of us can decide to begin the day with some journaling.  Then, the first thing we change is the day itself.

It is messy output.  I find the experience of journaling means that although I know the point of entry, I have no idea what will happen in the space it creates and, so, I do not know where I’ll re-emerge, but I know I will, with something I will then aim to contribute to others, usually small, but that is no matter.  In this way, I see journaling as following the shape of the hero’s journey written of by Joseph Campbell.

I believe journaling allows us to create new mythologies, the kind Campbell believed we needed when he wrote about the kind of stories for helping us to grow and contribute:

‘But for young people, the world is something yet to be met and dealt with and loved and learned from and fought with – and so, another mythology.’*^

Campbell is in conversation with Bill Moyers who himself reflects on this missing mythologies:

‘Everything was taken care of because the story was there.  Now the old story is not functioning.  And we have not yet learned a new.’^*

These new stories or myths will only begin to form when we are open to the times in which we find ourselves, the pressure of reality as Stevens would name it, and we are able to be our “output selves” and bring our imagination to bear:

‘The relationship of myths to cosmology and sociology has got to wait for a [person] to become used to the new world [they] are in.  The world is different today from what it was fifty years ago.’*^

While we enjoy our changing world it brings with it a disorientation we can struggle through.

Writing our journals, we find we’re writing our own stories, and in writing our stories, we find the way forward.

(*From Ben Hardy’s blog: Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life.)
(**From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the New.)
(^^Wallace Stevens, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the New.)
(*^Joseph Campbell in Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^*Bill Moyers in Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)

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Uncovering the remarkable in the ordinary

As light dims, as every [autumn] absorbs the leaves into the ground, as nature collapses inward to retreat through winter, so spring follows.  Bulbs, once dormant, burst forth.  The chartreuse of spring and the gold of summer return.  Harmony.*
(Kelvy Bird)

With these long days, I love to step outside the front door and spend a few moments taking in the new day.  The greenness, the noises of a world waking up, the birds wheeling through the air with all their chatter, a few remembered words to help me focus in to the sacredness of the ordinary.

I find myself wondering whether our preoccupation with tidiness being the most important thing takes away so many of these wonderful, simple, messy things.

Tim Harford reflects on what happened when an eighteenth century attempt to measure and standardise forests lost so much of the messy:

‘But the local peasants lost out – they were no longer able to access fallen trees for firewood, saps for glues, medicines and firelighters, acorns to feed pigs and other resources too messy and trivial to register one the official surveys of the forest.  And since these resources had never been registered in the first place, whatever the peasants lost did not officially count.’**

The tidiness of modern life with its work demands, housing and educational needs and more take a heavy toll, often beyond those we can think of.  We lose sight of the messy, the wonder all around us which may in fact be the place we find the thought or idea or smile that will carry us through the next challenge.  Hugh Macleod is pondering how growing older can change our perspectives, though we don’t have to grow older to see in this way:

‘So if you need to start improving your life, instead of coming up with grand schemes, you might pay more attention to the little stuff.’^

(*From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)
(**From Tim Harford’s Messy.)
(^From gapingvoid’s blog: Pay attention to the little stuff.)

Messy journaling

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.*
(J.M. Barrie)

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.**
(Joseph Campbell)

I began journaling just over twenty years ago.  I’m wary of sharing my own practices because our must is to grow our own, though sometimes the stories of others help us to find a completely different trajectory.

I still have the original book I’d taken to the United States and to a conference back in 1998.  I see that I played around with some entries before the 15th May but on that day I began journaling every day.  At the conference, I’d just been in a session with the pastor of a church of more than 20,000 people admitting he couldn’t pray for more than five minutes.  He told of how he’d tried all kinds of way to help but none had worked until he’d tried writing his prayers out long-hand.

Whether it’s prayer, reflection or meditation isn’t the point.  The critical thing is hearing someone’s story and thinking, “I could do that,” and then begin to practice something different.

Hugh Macleod makes total sense to me when he writes:

‘Creativity is the practice of keeping an open mind – and the thing about practice is, well, you need to keep practicing.’^

Nassim Taleb adds a little more edge, how something that is more demanding for us can help us to know not only that we are alive but how we are alive:

‘An idea gets to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion.’^^

Journaling is another practice that can become a life habit if you give it a chance.  Avoid thinking, “I’ll see how it goes.”  You’ll need to commit to it for a longer period and then, no matter what, keep to it.  I found the truth of this again when I committed to blogging every day, an extension of my daily journaling.  I wanted there to be a further degree of difficulty, something that was outside of my reach.  Again, I saw the practice of another and thought, “I could do that.”  In this case it was Hugh Macleod’s story of blogging and doodling.  So I began doodling although I’d never doodled before.

My original commitment was to blog every day of 2014, no matter wha – just putting some doodle out there no matter how and (and there are lots of bad ones).  Something happened in those 365 days that have projected me into a different life.  Doodling, creating a book, visual scribing, and book illustrating were never on my horizon in 2014.  Things become possible because of turning up every day and journaling in a messy way.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes the kind of flow I believe we can uncover in journaling:

‘”Flow” is the way people describe their state of mind when consciousness is harmoniously ordered, and they want to pursue whatever they are doing for its own sake.’*^

Journaling for its own sake is the messy part of journaling, how it takes on a life of its own.  We don’t know what will emerge when we begin writing.  And please don’t try to tidy up what we write, to make it conform to some ideal of writing or working or producing:

‘The trouble is, when we start quantifying and measuring everything, we soon begin to change the world to fit the way we measure it.’^*

The thing is, we’ll only measure the easy to count things, and the really interesting things – because they don’t conform, – we’ll ignore.  It’s why you can go on a nice tidy course or programme that lays out the abc or xyz of how to improve your life and it doesn’t do it for most people.  But find your rhythms for being messy and something will happen.

Where are you asked how your heartbeat is matching the beat of the universe?  (My aim is always to help people know who they are so they can devise the ways and means of developing – it’s why I’m cautious to say too much more about my own playfulness in journaling.)

Be messy but be disciplined about it.

Be messy for at least three months but a year is better.

Start with the notebook and pen you have but allow the journaling to speak to you about how it wants to develop – there are some thing that have remained the same for me over the 20 years but many things have changed and developed as an expression of the personal flow of my journaling.

We need this kind of aliveness to it.

Don’t find the easy path, though, as Ryan Holliday counsels us:

‘The path of least resistance is a poor teacher.’⁺

(*J.M. Barrie, quote in Ben Hardy’s blog: Keeping a Daily Journal Could Change Your Life.)
(**Joseph Campbell, quoted in Kelvy Bird’s Generative Dialogue.)
(^From gapingvoid’s Chase down your dreams.)
(^^From Nassim Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes.)
(*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)
(^*From Tim Harford’s Messy.)
(⁺From Ryan Holliday’s The Obstacle is the Way.)

That’s not my style

When you change the way you see things, the things you see change.*
(Wayne Dyer)

Gratitude has been found to demonstrably change people.**
(Ben Hardy)

Add humility and faithfulness to gratitude and you have a powerful triad.

How we see ourselves, how we see the world around us, and the small but powerful actions we shape are the very things that can change us, especially when magified by journaling.

To write something down not only ensures it isn’t lost but allows it to grow and develop into more – more that we can see or feel and, do, do right now.  I am increasingly encouraging those I work with to engage in some reflective journaling, enabling them to see more through the flow of writing.

Visual scribe Kelvy Bird tells of how she moved beyond copying the style of others, important as it is to help us learn:

‘After one or two years of dedicated journaling, where I wrote words alongside sketches, I realised that my style – my true voice – was going to have to be something new, to me and to others.’^

It’s one thing to know when something isn’t our style but how do we identify what is?

One or two years to identify what is authentic may seem a long time but it’s a lot less than a lifetime of never knowing.  Whilst journaling may not be something we are used to doing, sometimes the tools that demand much of us are the most useful ones of all.

Back to being humble, grateful and faithful.  When we practice these things we put ourselves in the place of discovering our generative heart and to be able to help others find theirs.

As I read Marie Howe’s poem Singularity, written in tribute to Stephen Hawking, imagining a moment before what we know as the universe exploded outwards, it feels pregnant with possibilities of humility and gratitude and the possibility of faithfulness.  Beyond our crazy stories of inequality and injustice, superiority and inferiority, consumption and catastrophe, to the possibilities we might find to live with each other, with our world and everything in it, and with ourselves.

‘Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.
   Remember?

There was no   Nature.    No
them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home’^^

(*Wayne Dyer, quoted in gapingvoid’s blog Unlock the key to happiness.)
(**From gapngvoid’s blog by guest Ben Hardy: Unlock the key to happiness.)
(^From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)
(^^Marie Howe’s SIngularity, from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Singularity.)

If the world is your oyster …

It’s not a race, it’s a journey.*
(Seth Godin)

If this is true then everything changes.

We don’t have to give up if we can’t win.  There’s just another stage of the journey.  Every day a new opportunity

Ben Hardy points to journaling as the key to unlocking this.  It’s astonishing what can happen when we start writing things down, how these change, what we can overcome, how we can recover.  I’ll be returning to this in the next day or so.  Hardy suggests journaling for gratitude:

“Gratitude is having an abundance mindset.  When you think abundantly, the world is your oyster; there is limitless opportunity and possibility for you.”**

More important than beating the competition is is identifying the thing that sets your heart beating faster, finding the motivation to act, to keep journeying.

“The world is your oyster” is an interesting phrase.  You might want to try two or three minutes of reflective journaling on it.  See where it takes you.  Reflective journaling is about opening your notebook and starting to write, ignoring punctuation, spelling, editing and structure.  Just go with the flow.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: How far behind?)
(**Benjamin Hardy, quoted in gapingvoid’s blog: Unlock the key to happiness.)

The prefatory theory

Prefatory: serving as an introduction, introductory.

What if we could know with a certainty that everything leading up to this moment in our lives has only been an introduction?

What will we do next?

This is the power of the “flip,”  To turn something over and see what it looks like from the other side.

Maria Popova, introduces me to Marie Howe’s wonderful poem Singularity, considering Stephen Hawking moved from his theory of the dying star reducing to a dense singularity and flipped this to a theory of how everything began:

‘But then Hawking did something radical – he took his final death-stage and flipped the arrow of time to consider what would happen if that singularity exploded outward and began expanding.  He theorised that is how the universe began.’*

Howe’s poem is beautiful and I will be returning to it in the near future but we are all capable of flipping.  Here are some questions to help you home in on how:

What is your curiosity?
What would you name your peculiar and exceptional talents as?
What do you imagine and hope for?
How have your experiences woven into a story?

These are important questions because everyone has an answer or a response to them.  These things, in some shape or form, are to be found in each one of us.

When Hawking turned a singularity of ending into a singularity of beginning, he provided us with a picture of how can’t can become what if?

‘Maybe every “can’t” is a gift in disguise, a twisted offering to reframe within the present moment to reframe to a mindset of “what if?”‘**

We have a choice.

‘more than ever, more of us have the freedom to care, the freedom to connect, the freedom to choose, the freedom to initiate, the freedom to do what matters’.^

(*From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Singularity.)
(**From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)
(^From Seth Godin’s What to Do When It’s Your Turn.)

The rise of the hero

But eventually everybody, I believe, needs to set an example. Either to your kids or to your friends or to your spouse or to your peers or to the world in general.

Everybody needs to stand for something. Something that matters.*
(Hugh Macleod)

The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and power to serve others.’**
(Joseph Campbell)

Two stories caught my attention on the radio yesterday.

The first was exploring people’s stories of video game addiction.  The second was a plea from a children’s writer for time to be made for daydreaming in schools.  They are not unrelated.

The universe is energy, and for a while – maybe eighty years or so – each of us is provided with some of this energy to give free expression to.  We’re all aware of this energy because we’re all made of it – it’s just a case of having the time to find out how to uniquely channel it.  Kelvy Bird describes it this way:

‘Source.  Life force.  Around us, in us, a wellspring of energy to tap into at any moment.’^

We can end up in the technology cul-de-sac, though.  Technology for the sake of technology is a dead end.  We have to develop our human capability to imagine, to imagine the difference we can make.

This isn’t about a technology-free future.  Humans produce technology, it goes with the territory  It is about being free to explore who we are and what is our contribution.  Technology can enhance this.  It can also hide it.

(*From gapingvoid’s blog: What does real leadership mean?)
(**From Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers’ The Power of Myth.)
(^From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)