Gold in the shadows

The shadow originates in all the negative experiences a person has accumulated, and part of the task of becoming free is the retrieval of the banished shadow. There are many difficult riches trapped in the shadow side. [Carl] Jung said the shadow held 90 percent gold.*
(John O’Donohue)

Innovation, like evolution, is a process of constantly discovering ways of rearranging the world into forms that are unlikely to arise by chance – and that happens to be useful. The resulting entities are the opposite of entropy: they are more ordered, less random, than their ingredients were before.**
(Matt Ridley)

There is gold to be mined from our most difficult experiences.

It’s not bullion, but ore.

Innovation refines the ore into something not only precious but beautiful.

Story is innovation.

In story we are able to gather the most precious things of our lives and shape them into something more.

Even now, my most painful memories provide me with hope and motivation and even energy.

In her latest book, Bernadette Jiwa lists the four differences between a good and a great story:

  • A good story tells.
  • A great story engages.
  • A good story informs people.
  • A great story moves people.
  • A good story chronicles events.
  • A great story invests people in the outcome.
  • A good story changes how we think.
  • A great story changes how we feel and what we do.^

As the first reader or listener to our story: we must create a tale that engages us at the deepest levels of our being; that constantly moves or motivate us to keep growing; that includes a greater future purpose that is larger than ourselves; and, one that changes us deeply – DNA-deep.

Mining is difficult but the outcomes is worth it many times over.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Matt Ridley’s How Innovation Works;
^From Bernadette Jiwa’s What Great Storytellers Know.

What’s in a day

What if you were given a whole day to pursue something important to you?

No interruptions, just the time to focus, imagine, create.

You have it: it’s called today.

Or what if you knew that today contained some treasure that would bring you joy, wrapped and hidden in its moments and hours, stillness and busyness, noise and silences.

How would you go into today differently?


Each thing comes alive in the sun: how a stone vibrates to the sun is how it absorbs the light energy at that frequency and the rhythm of the frequency is the key to its colour. The frequency fillets out a specific colour from the spectrum of light an this then becomes the colour of the object.*
(John O’Donohue)

vibrant (adj.) 1550s, “agitated;” 1610s, “vibrating” (especially “vibrating so as to produce sound,” of a string, etc.), from Latin vibrantem (nominative vibrans) “swaying,” present participle of vibrare “move to and fro” (from PIE root *weip- “to turn, vacillate, tremble ecstatically”). Meaning “vigorous, full of life” is first recorded 1860. Related: Vibrantlyvibrancy.**

Everyone vibrates uniquely to bring a different “colour” into the world.

To bring this specific colour, it is necessary to find our light environments for bringing this out: the stories we create, talents and values, the atmospheric mix of ideas, experiences, people and truths.

Some things to take a playful look at.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Gap or gain

The following words delighted me so much when I read them yesterday that I shared them at the beginning of each dreamwhispering conversation in the day.

The poem The Table is by Edip Cansever who sold carpets in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and wrote poetry:

The Table
A man filled with the gladness of living
Put his keys on the table,
Put flowers in a copper bowl there.
He put his eggs and milk on the table.
He put there the light that came in through the window,
Sounds of a bicycle, sound of a spinning wheel.
The softness of bread and weather he put there.
On the table the man put
Things that happened in his mind.
What he wanted to do in life,
He put that there.
Those he loved, those he didn’t love,
The man put them on the table too.
Three times three make nine:
The man put nine on the table.
He was next to the window next to the sky;
He reached out and placed on the table endlessness.
So many days he had wanted to drink a beer!
He put on the table the pouring of that beer.
He placed there his sleep and his wakefulness;
His hunger and his fullness he placed there.
Now that’s what I call a table!
It didn’t complain at all about the load.
It wobbled once or twice, then stood firm.
The man kept piling things on.*

Later in the day I heard Lauren Greenfield being interviewed about her documentary about the time-share billionaires David and Jackie Siegel’s dream to build the American Versailles, a 90,000 square foot mega-mansion which would make it the largest home in the States.**

The housing collapse then happened, and they lost and then regained the mansion which remains unfinished, but listening to David in a clip from the documentary, one could only come away with the impression that he was a deeply dissatisfied and unhappy man.

Cansever’s poem is an example of a gain mindset – look how far I’ve come, see what I have, while Siegel’s is a gap mindset – there is so much missing.

*Edip Cansever’s The Table, quoted in Kate Clanchy’s How to Grow Your Own Poem;
**Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles.

Entering the day

We awaken and return to the world when the colours return at dawn. There is is a beautiful word in Irish for this: luisne – the first blush of light before dawn breaks.*
(John O’Donohue)

The action in a universe of possibility may be characterised as generative, or giving, in all sense of that word – producing new life, creating new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning, contributing, yielding to the power of contexts. The relationship between people and environments is highlighted, not the people and the things themselves. Emotions that are relegated to the special category of spirituality or abundant hero: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion, and compassion.**
(Ben and Roz Zander)

I enter the day:
its newness and freshness,
its skies, blueness and cloud,
its stillness and busyness,
its silence and noisiness,
its trees and pavements,
its doing and being;
taking only my openness –
I do not know what I will find,
or what will find me.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Benjamin and Rosamund Zander’s The Art of Possibility.

I have confidence in me

At the core of the world and at the core of the soul is silence that ripples with the music of beauty and the whispering of the eternal.*
(John O’Donohue)

Story is a metaphor for life, and to be alive is to be in perpetual conflict.**
(Robert McKee)

Ben Hardy tells the moving story of Rosalie, whom he met when she was in her eighties.

Rosalie had a traumatic experience more than fifty years earlier that had prevented her pursuing her dream to write and illustrate children’s books.

The traumatic experience?

During an art class, the teacher had corrected her drawing, but no-one else’s.

Rosalie presumed this meant she couldn’t draw, a thought she had whilst watching her teacher that developed into a story that was to shape the rest of her life.

When she told her story, she relived the moment.

It’s a tragic story, Hardy reflecting:

Trauma, in a variety of forms is part of each of our lives. It includes any negative experience or incident that shapes who you are and how you operate in the world.^

I could only hope that Rosalie will find a way to try to open her dream before she dies:

We are kept from our goals not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.^^

Trauma robs us of imagination, which is necessary for uncovering the future.

Without imagination, we are held by our past.

Or rather by one perspective of the past which is quite possibly inaccurate.

What if Rosalie had crossed paths with someone who would meet with her for regular story-writing and illustrating sessions, playfully exploring ideas and thoughts, learning to treat failure as a way of learning and growing, points of leverage towards greater possibility? What might her life have become?*^

Works of art are born from the conflict of life. […] Life is about the ultimate questions of finding love and self-worth, or bringing serenity to inner chaos, or the titanic social inequities everywhere around us, of time running out.**

From the encouragement of others, we find our own courage.

Confidence as full, intense trust instilled by others, environments and contexts is important, but at some point we must uncover the inner confidence we need for fuelling our imaginations, ignoring everybody – as we sometimes must, and producing our art.

You can do this. Now you must find out why.

Which is to say, failures and discouragements are simply the means by which we hone our art – whatever that art might be.

Take it from Maria.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Robert McKee’s newsletter: The World According to Writers);
^From Benjamin Hardy’s Personality Isn’t Permanent;
^^Robert Bracht, quoted in Benjamin Hardy’s Personality Isn’t Permanent
*^I’ve just read on a little more in Ben Hardy’s book and Rosalie dras her first picture in more than fifty years because of their encounter.

Everywhere else is hiding

Rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter.*
(Abraham Maslow)

I encourage those I’m working with to keep two lists as we’re journeying in conversation together.

They are about noticing energy.

One is for the most enervating experiences, the things that drain and deplete in a way that takes an unusually long time to recover from.

The other list is for those experiences that exponentially energise, so that even when huge amounts of energy are expended, the recovery is quick.

These are where we create our future self.

Between the highly-energising and the greatly de-energising there exists a lot of “noise” manufactured by our energy levels going up a little and down a little.

The noise is where we can become lost, or we can hide.

The point to noticing what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, who we’re doing it with and for, and when we’re doing it when it comes to our energising experiences is so we can make more of them happen.

These are our enriching environments and they are where we grow into the future.

When this happens, everyone benefits.

*Abraham Maslow, quoted in Benjamin Hardy’s Personality Isn’t Permanent.

Getting forgetful

Hopefully your future self will be far wiser and have a wider range of experiences than your current self. Your future self will have greater opportunities, deeper relationships, and a better self-view. Hopefully your future self will have greater agency and choice than your current self, with more knowledge, skills and connections.*
(Ben Hardy)

It’s an attempt to open our minds to possibilities other than the ones we remember, and the ones we already know we like. Something has to be done to get us free of our memories or choices.
(John Cage)

Where B is Ben Hardy’s quote, above, and A is John Cage’s, what must you and I forget, or let go of, in order to move from A to B?

These could be all sorts of old ways of thinking, feeling and acting/enacting.

Sometimes it seems that we have to forget something in our pasts in order to begin something new from our futures.

Other times, it seems that we must begin something new from our futures to be able to forget our pasts.

*From Benjamin Hardy’s Personality Isn’t Permanent;
**John Cage, quoted in Lewis Hyde’s A Primer for Forgetting.

Resisting resistance and more

We want to start with resistances, those facts that stand in the way of the will. Resistances themselves come in two forms: found and made.*
(Richard Sennett)

The imagination loses vitality as it ceases to adhere to what is real. When it adheres to the unreal and intensifies what is unreal, while its first effect is extraordinary, that effect is the maximum effect it will ever have.**
(Wallace Stevens)

Resistance can turn a fairy tale idea into a story idea.

My experience has been that pushing back on the resistances has brought me to life and work that is more satisfying and open than I could have imagined.

Marcus Aurelius reflected:

The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.

Most important things come to us as we enter the resistance.

Like the first strike of the chisel against stone, we notice the dislodging of a tiny piece of rock, more importantly we have learned to hold the chisel and hammer differently.

We adjust our hold and strike again.

That’s better.

Each time, we continue to improve our grip and strike.

Now we’re building muscle memory, we’re finding our rhythm.

The stone, resisting at first, finds that it cannot hold out any longer because of what we have learnt and developed through pushing back.

Perhaps our first thought had been to reduce the resistance to hardcore, but, as we have continued to press, the idea of a sculpture emerges, a shape hiding within the stone is noticed.

M. C. Richards is correct when she writes:

Ideas live in the world as we do. We discover certain ideas at certain times.^

The obstacle becomes the way.

*From Richard Sennett’s The Craftsman;
**From Wallace Stevens’ The Necessary Angel;
^From M. C. Richards’ Centering.


The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.**
(Marcel Proust)

Learning to draw is really a matter of learning to see – to see correctly – and that means a good deal more than merely looking with the eye.  The sort of “seeing” I mean is an observation that utilises as many of the five senses as can reach through the eye at one time.  Although you use your eyes, you do not close up the other senses – rather, the reverse, because all the senses have a part to play in the observation you are about to make.**
(Kimon Nicolaïdes)

You may look at the very same thing or person as someone else, but you see it or them quite differently.

The other observer shrugs their shoulders and moves on, but you remain, transfixed, noticing more and more, and smaller and smaller details.


Could it be that you have committed to looking more deeply and each day are figuring out and practising these skills?

*Marcel Proust, quoted in Benjamin Hardy’s Personality isn’t Permanent;
**Kimon Nicolaïdes, quoted in Austin Kleopn’s blog: Blind contour drawings.