Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.*
(Mary Oliver)

If you can pay attention every day, you are so very rich.

If you can be astonished and grateful for all that you see, you are even richer.

If you allow yourself to see how rich you are and then do something with it, I am rich.

(*Mary Oliver, quoted in Sue Fan And Danielle Quigley’s Do/Inhabit/.)


Sooner or later we must distinguish between what we are not and what we are. We must accept the fact that we are now what we would like to be. We must cast off our false, exterior self like the cheap and showy garment that it is […] We must find our real self, in all its elemental poverty, but also in its great and very simple dignity […].*
(Thomas Merton)

As the circle of light increases, so does the circumference of darkness.**
(Albert Einstein)

These last few days I have found myself reflecting on my limitations, feeling the animated challenge to further embrace who I am rather than who I am not.

I am convinced this to be a daily and lifelong adventure because as we know our true self better we also come close to the unknown possibility of who we can become in that direction.

(*Thomas Merton, quoted in Ian Morgan Cron’s The Road Back to You.)
(**Albert Einstein, quoted in Martin Amor and Alex Pellew’s The Idea in You.)

We may yet find hope in the wilderness

And there’s a special kind of resilience that comes from the level of scrutiny that happens in the wilderness. I know those experiences left me with a truer belief in myself and a much stronger sense of when I’m not being true to what I think is right.*
(Pete Carroll)

We will always need to be humble enough to accept that our heart knows why we’re here.**
(Paulo Coelho)

Well, it looks like the wilderness.

It’s not high-profile, there’s no advertising budget and there’s no prepackaged dreamwhispering course in glossy packaging. I can be hard to find, but you’ll find me in the wilderness; it’s where I found hope and where I seek hope with others.

Part of this wilderness experience is two people listening deeply to one another in a simple conversation that lies on the far side of complexity without distraction, before the return to civilisation and all the busyness and noise they’ll find there.

Hope is far more than optimism, connecting with what we know and feel deep down inside about why we’re here. It is not easy, as Maria Popova writes so powerfully here, but it is possible for all to find it:

To be human is to be a miracle of evolution conscious of its own miraculousness — a consciousness beautiful and bittersweet, for we have paid for it with a parallel awareness not only of our fundamental improbability but of our staggering fragility, of how physiologically precarious our survival is and how psychologically vulnerable our sanity. To make that awareness bearable, we have evolved a singular faculty that might just be the crowning miracle of our consciousness: hope.^

If you want to find hope around these two questions, find me in the wilderness:^^

Who is my Self?
What is my contribution?

(*Pete Carroll, quoted in Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.)
(**From Paulo Coelho’s Aleph.)
(^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: An Antidote to Helplessness and Disorientation.)
(^^This is probably the closest I get to a hard sell.)

The call of the wild

You have to raise your vision. If you don’t have a dream, you don’t know here you’re going.*
(Shaz Saleem)

We enter solitude, in which also we lose loneliness … True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation.  One’s inner voices become audible. One feels the attraction of one’s most intimate sources.  In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives. The more coherent one becomes within oneself as a creature, the more fully one enters into the communion of all creatures.
(Wendell Berry)

What is your dream?

It may be hidden beneath the noise and busyness of life and yet there it is, perhaps only audible as a whisper, yet untamed and unrelentless, still calling to you from your wild places:

We connect to an inner place of wonder, and thus we are open to recognising the spirit of wonder in the world around us.^

A dream is distant horizon we are moving towards, a big picture you want to create. Once articulated, you’re able to work on the details every day that will allow it to become reality.

Perhaps this is how you started out in your working life, but you have had your head down for so long, working on all those details, you don’t even know if they’re the right ones any longer. When you lift your eyes to the horizon you don’t recognise the dream any longer and you tell yourself to get real and focus on the things that matter.

I believe your dream is still there, perhaps even greater than ever, and when you go to the wild places you will find it again … or perhaps for the first time.

This is the thin silence. It’s why I’m a dreamwhisperer.

Thin silence is not the past and not yet the future. It is both input and output. It is a holy place. Repentance here becomes an alignment to a future hope.

There are still wild places in our world that we can venture to, but the first wild place then is an undistracted place of solitude. Whilst we might not all be able to trek into Nature, we can each find a place of quietness to enter into the thin silence for at least a few moments each day. One of the most risky things we can then do is to write down our dream.

I have a dream to …

(*Shazia Saleem, quoted in Martin Amor and Alex Pellew’s The Idea in You.)
(**Wendell Berry from Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Wendell Berry on Solitude and Why Pride and Despair are the Two Great Enemies of Creative Work.)
(^From Kelvy Bird’s Generative Scribing.)

The everyday magic of turning up

When you feel the rush of fear as you put your point of view, your art, or your idea out into the world, this is not an invitation to step back into the shadows; it’s a sign that you are at the edge, right where you should be, exploring how things might be.*
(Martin Amor and Alex Pellew)

Who is my Self?
What is my contribution?

I’ll do it! sounds great but it means nothing until we actually turn up for the first time and then repeat.

Joseph Campbell’s identifying of the hero’s journey in stories from the deep past to the present and from all around the world makes clear to us that part of human consciousness is our need to step out and do something meaningful that will, in the process, change us: an adventure.

Take a look at the edge again. The fear comes from our human past. It’s not a mighty leap in front of you, it’s one step – the smallest iteration of what you want to do with what you have now.

You’ve begun.

(*From Martin Amor and Alex Pellew’s The Idea in You.)

Notice love do

Never write a scene that’s merely a flat, static display of exposition; strive for this ideal: to create a story design in which every scene is a minor, moderate, or major turning point. Only then will your story structure stand firm.*
(Robert McKee)

you just need to make stuff, every day if you can, until something interesting appears**
(Martin Amor and Alex Pellew)

Small is quite a different thing to nothing.

Small things lead to moderate things lead to major things; we can try and get to the big things first but, really:

every idea starts out small.**

Turning up every day to the things that energise us and to mess around and play with what we notice most of all turns a moment into a minor turning point in a scene. Moderate and major turning points are more likely to follow.

This is not only about what we do. Turning up to what we are passionate about is also about who we are. The two were never meant to be separated.

(*From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: The Building Blocks of Your Story.)
(**From Martin Amor and Alex Pellew’s book The Idea in You.)

The choice

[Good’s] existence is the unmistakable sign that we are spirit creatures, attracted by excellence and made for the good.*
(Iris Murdoch)

So long as the gift is not withheld, the creative spirit remains a stranger to the economics of scarcity.**
(Lewis Hyde)

Then bring your gift, create a disequilibrium, not only in the minds but also in the hearts of others.

(*From Iris Murdoch”s The Sovereignty of Good.)
(**From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)

Survival of the fittest

[P]ersons of tomorrow, though fully alive as individuals, are also at home in their relationships. Capacities such as loyalty, partnership, friendship, altruism, empathy, solidarity, support, nurturance and followership, are necessary ingredients for thriving in the 21st century.*
(Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester)

The fittest are those who fit into their local environment most harmoniously, naturally and fully. The subtitle [to On the Origin of Species] could have been Survival of the Most Harmonious.**
(Brian McLaren)

I had not realised that when Charles Darwin replaced his term natural selection with Alfred Russel Wallace’s suggestion of survival of the fittest they had meant how the fittest species are those best fitting in with their environment.

The human species now must choose whether it fits in with its changing environment. Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s characteristics of twenty first century people helpfully guide us and Brian McLaren names the following characteristics out from survival of the fittest necessary if we are to both survive and thrive as a species:

survival of the best adapted (as opposed to those those who deny reality?)
survival of the most adaptable (as opposed to those who refuse to change their habits?)
survival of the most attractive (as opposed to rewarding unattractive behaviours?)
survival of the most diverse (as opposed to homogenous societies and cultures?)
survival of the best organised (as opposed to a lack of appreciation for and curation of complexity?)
survival of the most cooperative (as opposed to those who are out for themselves?).

These survival means connect us with the rest of natural world, arguably the most meaningful thing we’ll ever do.

(*From Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)
(**From Brian McLaren’s God Unbound.)

The blessing of limitations

The principle of Creative Limitations calls for freedom within a set of obstacles. Put simply, if you give yourself constraints, you will push yourself to new heights of creativity. Constraint, discipline ad limitation inspire stunning creative achievements; unrestrained freedom usually ends in a sprawl.*
(Robert McKee)

You can’t do everything, no matter what anyone tells you, and that’s a good start.

You are who you are because you have chosen certain things to be interested in over other things. This has allowed you to explore certain paths and many other things they have lead to, but it’s also left other paths behind.

This is our prime way of limiting ourselves.

As well as being limited – though I would say gifted – in certain ways, there are external limitations, those which come to us and those we decide upon. These provide us with purchase.

To realise we can’t do certain things and to embrace the limitations we find ourselves with makes it possible to get specific about making things happen.

Brian McLaren tells of an evolution in medium ground finches that took place in a single generation following a prolonged drought. Only the birds with stronger beaks had survived as they were able to break open larger seeds – the only seeds left. The next generation were born with four per cent stronger beaks. This is quite astonishing and it is the possibility of evolution we’re all born within:

The mind is our beak […] and the human mind is even more variable than the brain.**

And the heart and will, too.

We’re changing, growing, developing as we work within limitations, disciplines and constraints. As Robert McKee goes on to say:

Talent is like a muscle, without something to push against it atrophies.*

We are capable of constantly evolving; Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester imagine how we are now developing competencies for the 21st century:

Persons of tomorrow […] embrace the world. They engage with their existential reality in a spirt of hope, courage, invention and play.^

(*From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why You Need Writing Limitations.)
(Jonathan Weiner, quoted in Brian McLaren’s God Unbound.)
(^From Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester’s Dancing at the Edge.)

The apogee of anger?

There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have.*
(Howard Thurman)

What if the anger you feel is not about something being wrong out there this time, but something is wrong in here?

Or what if, instead of citing the facts, you look for the meaning:

I take the story literarily rather than literally, which means I look to it for meaning, not facts.**

There’s a difference between seeing and noticing, and anger is a pretty blunt emotion that needs a lot of noticing once we’ve seen it – perhaps even being the apogee of anger.

(*Howard Thurman, quoted in Brian McLaren’s God Unbound.)
(**From Brian McLaren’s God Unbound.)