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.


This is what creativity serves. It endeavours to bring some of your hidden life to expression in order that we might come to see who we are.*
(John O’Donohue)

Creation is life, life is creation.

If we could not create it’s likely we’d implode.

Some do.

We cannot go back and we cannot remain still.

Tied to the universe, we can only continue our journey.

John O’Donohue writes about a concept from the classical period referred to as pleroma or “the urgent fullness of God”:

There is such a fullness brimming in the divine presence that had God not created, he would have imploded. God had to come to expression. Just as a true artist is always haunted by the desire to bring the dreams of the imagination to expression, the failure to follow one’s calling to creativity severely damages one’s spirit.*

Imagine that. Without the opportunity to create, there would be no God.

Whether we believe there’s a God or we are open to the unfolding of the universe, this creative imperative makes sense in our experience.

We are aware of a deep surging within, such energy that must be provided expression.

The vast unfolding of the of the universe is fastened within each of us in miniature.

We’re not able to separate who we are from what we do.

My true self and my contribution are one.

There’s something very practical and critical in this.

For hosts of people made unemployed in a marketplace that was changing before the pandemic arrived, discovering and developing creativity – think talents, passions and energies – will be the way some choose to free themselves for moving forward.

They will find themselves and then each other, forming new cooperatives, collectively using their social media groups to be seen.

We can begin today, without someone else’s permission, following the creative imperative.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

You can’t drift into your dream

Of the many callings in the world, the invitation to the adventure of an awakened and full life is the most exhilarating. This is the dream of every heart. Yet most of us are lost or caught in forms of life that exile us from the life we dream of. Most people long to step onto the path of creative change that would awaken their lives to beauty and passion, deepen their contentment and allow their lives to make a difference.*
(John O’Donohue)

Originality is about thoroughness, not shortcuts. Writers need research to feed the beasts of imagination and invention.**
(Robert McKee)

Swept away by the things that fill our lives every day, carried away from our dreams.

Dreams, the big pictures of possibility, bigger than an idea, but full of ideas and, so very complex.

Beyond romance, our dreams are so much more, waiting for us to find our way back to them.

One day waking up and our dreams will be there and work to be done.

Bringing out the journal.

Three things borrowed and altered a little from Robert McKee because just as a writer cannot drift into writing a story but needs to research, we cannot drift into a dream:

Considering exactly how the dream reflects our own experiences;
Imagining living this dream: the changes to make and how to make them?:
Finding out more about the world around the dream: people, places, systems … .

Towards realising the dream, reading all we can, going to the places and gatherings where we learn more, connecting with people living a similar dream, and living the dream in some expression or other.

Being prepared for for finding a different, better dream.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why You Never Start With “Fade in”.

Consider the pebble

We might change things in this world, yet the most minimal, seemingly insignificant object outlasts us.*
(John O’Donohue)

As an adult, I’ve come to realise that life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself. Books are clay for exactly that. Crazy adventures can be found in non-fiction, and timeless truths can be discovered in fiction. Like an artist, you blend them, and out comes a unique beauty: you.**
(Tim Ferriss)

The pebble was here long before we arrived and will be here long after we are gone.

It’s a humbling thought.

Something to keep in mind when we also have the wherewithal to create ourselves as the person we want to be and bring the gift we want to share in the world.

The two important questions I work with – Who is my True Self? and What is my contribution? – are really asking Who do I want my True Self to be? and What do I want my contribution to be?

It’s about finding our proper place in the world as the pebble has found its place.

**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**Tim Ferriss, from Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick’s A Velocity of Being.

The in-between places

People of faith and hope are often unrealistic, and the realists have little faith or hope. We shall find a way out of the present situation only if realism and faith become blended again as they were in some of the great teachers of mankind.*
(Erich Fromm)

If we could but find a rhythm of being which could balance a contemplative silence, a poetry of motion and an accompanying stillness and silence, our pilgrimage through this world would flow in beauty through the most ragged and forsaken heartlands of confusion and dishevelment.**
(John O’Donohue)

The place we seek is likely to be where reality and imagination, stillness and movement meet.

Let us not cease from our explorations.

*From Erich Fromm’s The Revolution of Hope;
**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

What’s the word for that?

When passion of feeling and technical brilliance come together, the beauty can be devastating and transfiguring.*
(John O’Donohue)

What brings out the best in you? What brings out the worst? […] Can you change your posture so that situations you’re in bring out the best instead of the worst? Ideal situations are often rare – now more so than ever. But we can define “ideal situation” if we wish.**
(Seth Godin)

In her compendium of untranslatable words from around the world Ella Frances Sanders includes tsundoku, a Japanese word for:

Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.^

I found myself reading and reflecting this morning on themes of flourishing through talents and environments.

With Spring breaking out all around, Sanders’ compendium caused me to wonder what the word might be for personal verdancy, when beauty breaks through the hard shell of our personal protection or the harsh demands from the other.

How about chlorostelńo: the ability to send forth or live our inner greenness into the most exposed and challenging parts of our lives?I’d love to hear your possibilities.

In writing about the colour of beauty, John O’Donohue proffers:

Green is the colour of growth, the colour of hope.*

It may only be a green shoot of life breaking through tarmac or concrete, but this speaks to us of what can be. If we are able to notice, this determined greenness is all around us.

In his delightful book about the hidden life of trees, Peter Wohlleben reveals how the Autumn turning of leaves to red, gold and brown is the result of the tree withdrawing and storing its chlorophyll in its constituent parts, ready for Spring’s new growth.

This got me thinking about how we can be tempted, or sometimes forced, to hide away within ourselves the beauty of our particular greenness.

Rather than growth and hope, it turns into that horrible word potential.

Or worse, it is pushed down beneath the pressure of develop generally and fitting in:

We don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on our skills and talents, because we’ve been conditioned to be humble. We largely focus on our “areas for improvement” – the things we lack confidence and competency in, to the detriment of our gifts and our genius.^^

Humble is an interesting word.

In the way Bernadette Jiwa uses it here, it means having to be dishonest about ourselves.

It should really be about being accurate about who we are and what we can do, because when we are accurate and true then we know where and how we can grow.

It can also be related to the ego or False Self, or to the eco or True Self.

The ego is likely to tell us that we aren’t doing well enough, that we have to do better if we want to count, to be noticed.

The ego can be a tyrant, especially for those who had been told how clever and amazing they were in their earlier years.

The eco, though, is likely to draw us to what we are doing well, encouraging further development, showing how we have worked hard to improve and that further work will see even more growth.

Towards the kind of growth Jiwa imagines, it’s important to identify some steps; here are some that occurred to me this morning:

We need to notice the truth about ourselves in relation to our talents, values, energies – journaling out illustrations for these so you are engaging with details rather than generalities;

We need to spend time imagining how these may be re-expressed in the future: how, where, with whom;

We need to be ready to begin straight away: we don’t need anyone’s permission save our own: the right time is always now;

And we need to reflect: noticing how our talents, values and energies grow over time and just how we are changing as a result.

May the greenness of your beauty break through.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty;
**From Seth Godin’s blog: What bring out the best in you?;
^From Ella Frances Sander’s Lost in Translation;
^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling blog: On Strengths.