Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tonight I'm too darned proud


It's prom night and my younger son is out for the evening, dressed in his grandpa's tux and a hand-tied bowtie he decided was more elegant than the clip-on bowties he has been wearing in orchestra for years. He looked amazing - very Frank Sinatra - combining the enthusiasm of youth with the sophistication to listen to classic jazz while putting on a tux.

Some of the kids he is out with tonight started with him in kindergarten. It's a long time to stay friends, through a mind-boggling sequence of changes. There are more changes ahead. Yesterday they were just in high school. Tomorrow, they'll start working on being adults. Tonight they celebrate the edge between them.

We gathered outside the limo with other proud parents. We're proud of them and of us. They are almost adults and we can almost let out the breath we've been holding since they were born. Since then, they have held our futures in their hands. Then we worried. Tomorrow they will face the world as adults, and we will worry again.

Tonight we are on the edge with them. Celebrating.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

it's too darn hot

You have probably heard the Cole Porter song, "It's too darn hot."

It doesn't actually get that hot in most of our modern, air conditioned workplaces and homes. We are 'conditioned' to believe that we can control the atmosphere by cooling the air. It's not entirely true. Today is too darn hot in Toronto, and everyone notices something slow and sultry as they move through their days.

We always know the difference between what we can control and what is real around us. We do not suffer the heat in the same way when we are in artificially cool surroundings, and yet we feel the difference between a perfect summer afternoon and one that is too darn hot.

Think for a moment about your work. Notice the difference between the bubble that you can control and the forces that move around you. Things out of our control are simply that - they are not necessarily threatening and worrying about them has no impact at all on them. You can notice now that there is a kind of pleasure in connecting with those wider forces, just as there is a kind of pleasure in synchronizing your mood to the weather.

It's never too darn hot within the bubble. Within the bubble, you can do whatever you really want to get done. Sometimes what you want is to stretch lazily, turn your brain to "coast," and declare that it's just too darn hot.

Monday, June 25, 2007

brilliance

What do we mean when we say someone is 'brilliant'?

Brilliant means something shines brightly - it radiates light. As far as I can tell, the dictionary doesn't distinguish between something that reflects light (like a diamond) and a source of light (like the sun). When we think about things that shine, it seems to me that brilliant means something that we cannot look at very closely because the light it radiates make it hard to see its edges.

Think about someone you have described as "brilliant" - if at all possible, think of someone you know or someone you have known. Hold that person in your mind, and allow yourself to go back to your experience of them. Did the light that person radiated allow you to see something more clearly?

Bright lights cast shadows. What was cast into shadow by this particular person's brilliance?

Look through the light into the person. It's hard to focus on something when it shines. Maybe this is why we often add "and" to "brilliant" - "brilliant and funny" - "brilliant and troubled" - "brilliant and beautiful."

Now think of a second adjective that describes the person you are holding in your thoughts, and take another look. What do you notice different through this new adjective?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The best ideas are frequently simple ones

Take the idea of 'just one thing'

Have you had a bad day/week/year?

Find "just one thing" you would not change. "Just one thing" that worked. "Just one thing" you feel good about.

You can do that. Anyone can do that. After all, breathing counts. So do the people whom you always want in your corner. So does the nice thing someone said that you were able to push into the background while you noticed everything else.

"Just one thing" does not make it a good day or week or year.

"Just one thing" does not mean you will instantly become successful or happy or productive.

Still. Try it.

Just one thing.

Name it. Describe it to yourself in all its complicated sensory reality. Tell someone else about it. Learn how to do it again.

Just one thing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's Tuesday - how's your week going?

Are you so engaged in what you're doing that it's hard to remember the weekend? You might be engaged because you love what you're doing and you are easily wrapped up in it. You might be engaged because a thousand things went wrong yesterday and you are so busy putting out fires that you cannot imagine a day off.

This is the week when we have the longest days in our year. This is the week that we in the north have celebrated for millenia. Long days were a blessing long before they came to me too much work in too little time.

Reclaim the joy of the summer solstice. The sun is with us (even if it's behind a cloud as I write this). Days are long and warm and nature seems to be proclaiming solidarity with her most troublesome offspring (that would be human beings, if you had any doubts).

Get outside or look outside this evening. Notice the light. Notice the air against your skin. Think about summers when you were little enough so that the days lasted forever and stretched out without limits. Allow yourself to have time. Have a good time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Have you ever lost your voice?

Most of us have gone through a day or two, here or there, where it became difficult to talk. Whether we had a throat infection or wisdom teeth pulled, we simply couldn't give voice to what was in our heads or our hearts. We noticed how much effort it took to connect words with experience and to reach out with them to someone else.

We can lose our voices in other ways. We can dig deep and find too much confusion for words to attach themselves conveniently to who we are or what we want. We can talk to people who cannot listen, a problem that tears at the soul with more ferocity than trees falling in unpeopled forests. We can talk without hearing ourselves.

Thinking about losing your voice will convince you that you know many ways to be silenced, many ways to be locked into your own experience. You don't need to linger in such states or such strategies - you know them well.

Ask yourself instead: where do I go to find my voice when it gets lost?

Ask yourself: how do I know my voice when I hear it?

Ask: If the right listener were here right now, what would I say?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

People who do things well

I had tea at the Wildflower Restaurant in Fonthill, Ontario on Friday. It's a lovely, gentle place that invites you to breathe and chat and savour. Wolfgang Sterr and his staff make sure that customers feel like guests - welcome, special, and worth a little extra care. Visit them, or call ahead and pick up a picnic to take out into the wonderful Niagara parklands.

You will find the Wildflower online at www.wildflowerrestaurant.com. If you follow the link to the Mason Jar, you'll also be able to order organic and environmentally friendly food and other products.

Someone close to my heart has also been working hard to ensure that audiences enjoy his performances this week. My son, Cary Ferguson, is performing in Hamilton on June 13, 14 and 15. It's a program of two short plays - The Devil's Parole, and Never Swim Alone. You can find out more (and reserve tickets) at http://www.blackboxfire.com.

And finally, a series of events today reminded me how rare it is to find really terrific customer service. So this is one more plug for my friends at Canadian Computer (www.canadiancomputer.com). For many years now, I've had my Apple computers serviced there (and I buy them there, too!). They really do consistently under promise and over deliver (see Seth Godin's blog http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/06/the_expectation.html).

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Technical difficulties

What do you do when the hard drive on your computer fails out of the blue. After I had patted myself on the back for having a backup (not as complete as I thought at the time, but all my user data was safe), I decided to spend a week reading.

In the past two weeks, I have started to read, read or finished reading:

Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, M.D. (Vol. 1)
The Art of Changing Brains (Zull)
Train Your Mind to Change Your Brain (Begley)
Angels Fear (Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson)
Saving the Appearances (Owen Barfield)
Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. (Bandler/Grinder)

I also previewed two books by favourite children's authors before passing them along to a young friend.

All of the books are quite specifically about the relationships between self, perception and whatever exists outside the self to be perceived or influence perception. Barfield, Bateson and Erickson all describe these relationships as they perceived them about thirty to fifty years ago. Zull & Begley present much more recent science. Interestingly, it does not seem to me that science is changing our perceptions of the relationships much - while the stories are now about parts of the brain and neuroplasticity, they are the same stories of momentum and stability and transformation that Erickson tells.

There is much in this choice of reading to suggest that people can find common ground across different generations and across different disciplines. It also suggests that there are real, significant distances to be crossed between the desire for precision (at the expense of communication) and the willingness to risk precision in order to find common ground.