Decide What to Be and Go Be It

I recently met up with a dear friend in a quaint gathering spot near the St. Croix River.  He’s a Minneapolis-based musician who has experienced great success in his 20-plus year entertainment career.  Regionally he’s recognized most everywhere he wanders, so it was nice we could chat without interruption.

He spoke of  intuition, his next greatest thing, and shared what was heavy on his heart.   He’s a gentle spirit and a kind soul whose mission in life is to serve.  His music is his gift and he has shared it with millions, with ambition to touch millions more.

What fascinates me most is not his extraordinary talent nor his claim to fame; rather his motives for doing what he does.  He feels deeply the plight of others and embraces their pain in his creative expression.  He sings from his soul and makes other spirits soar.  His music brings hope and they forget their grief for a moment.

I asked him once when he knew he was a singer and he shared his story as a painter.  He approached paint with the same passion as song, but it never colored the canvas in the same way.  He painted houses by day, sang blues by night, struggling to provide for his family.  He watched other painters make tedious work easy and realized deep down he lacked the necessary skills for professional painting.  Later he was fired by his foreman.

Afraid and alone, he sat in his car and pondered the direction of his life.  In the darkness of that moment, his epiphany came. He knew he would never paint like professionals, but he realized they could never sing like James Brown. It was then he decided to be what he has become.

From a distant view, some see his success and say he was lucky and blessed.  I’ve been privileged and honored to know the inside truth.  Luck is where preparation meets with opportunity and blessed is a belief in magic and miracles.  He has had a hand in both.  He is always prepared and his faith is his guiding star.

I look to him for inspiration each time I fall short of my life goals and the words put to melody remind me to:

decide what to be and go be it.

Orangutan Leadership

In the wild, and particularly in captivity, orangutans pursue the coveted power position of “alpha” by asserting their dominance and demonstrating their power by doing three things.

First, they fist their hands and pound their chests for extended periods of time.  It’s been said this causes them great harm, but their desire to be alpha overrides their sensory for pain. Next they screech and grunt until the oxygen to their brain is restricted and they become delusional.  Finally, they excrete enormous amounts of poop and toss it at the other apes.

This is how the alpha male is decided – irrational injury to self; delusion grunting; and loads of dung throwing…

In the world of apes, the alpha is the position of power and strength, but is not to be mistaken as leader.  He is not designed to lead. The alpha’s job is to protect territory and fight or frighten off invaders.

With the alpha in place, the apes co-exist in a state of harmony; and that balance is found in the natural order of things.  The apes seem to live in the law of abundance because the troop works together to find and harvest food.  They instinctively know where to find it and never take more than they need. Nor do they hoard more territory than their troop can harvest.

They live like families. They pick off each other’s irritants (bugs); play and laugh; tackle each other; and communicate dislike of certain behaviors.  They treat “extended family” with a sense of courtesy, too.  The apes in the troop create pathways to the food source knowing these pathways will be used by other apes dwelling in the territory of another alpha.

Orangutans are the first non-human species documented to use ‘calculated reciprocity’ which involves weighing the costs and benefits of gift exchanges and keeping track of these over time.

It’s not a stretch to recognize their similarities to man. In fact, the word “orangutan” comes from the Malay words “orang” (man) and “(h)utan” (forest); hence, “man of the forest”.

Perhaps important lessons of life (and business) can be learned from our counterparts in the jungle:

  • harvest only what your troop needs
  • don’t claim territories that aren’t yours
  • treat others with courtesy and help them remove their bugs
  • create shared pathways
  • don’t confuse delusional, dung-slinging alpha behavior as leadership; power is not leadership
  • learn to live in harmony with other apes

My Moment of Truth

Following a rash of bad luck that included two car crashes, a break-in, identify theft, a faulty furnace and a rejection letter from Disney, I sought refuge from the chaos in the comfort of my soul.

I sat in meditation and invited The Creator to join me to explain the irrational logic behind a natural world that causes strife, pain and anxiety, when all I wanted was peace. I sat in full expectancy of the great Divine, listening from my heart, and waiting with patience. It did not appear.  Life’s great mysteries were not solved and great wisdom was not magically infused. Feeling rejected and alone, I loudly declared through tantrum and tears that I no longer believed.

That evening as I fell from the state of conscious to the unconscious, I was startled by a male voice inside my own female head alerting me to WAKE! This was my moment of truth. As I began to apologize for the rage of earlier in the day, a wave of peace swept over me and it became clear it was not necessary to seek forgiveness from an energy that didn’t t condemn or judge.

When I asked out loud, “what do you want me to do? I heard my own voice whisper, get up and write. And so I did.

I made myself a cup of hot tea and opened the half-written story of my life. I wrote with a passion and energy I had only previously experienced from completing a long-distance run. I wrote stories of suffering, drama, energy and fear. With each word, the fear attached to each story released its powerful and painful grip from the fibers of my being. I felt myself becoming free. The stories were my truth, but no longer belonged to me. They were written to be shared.

After five hours, the flow trickled and the natural stopping point came. I reached for the hot tea and took a sip. To my astonishment, the tea was still hot. I can’t explain how, but it was and I knew this was not natural. With this realization, I dropped to the floor and wept tears of gratitude for whatever had just occurred. It was on my knees, where I found peace.

From the Inspiration of that evening, the Powerful Perspectives were born.

Willow Worship

I don’t attend church on Sunday and I don’t consider myself a religious person.  I grew up Catholic and worshiped God because I feared if I didn’t, I would be condemned to a fiery existence in the after life.  It didn’t make sense to me that a being who created and allowed everything would judge and condemn me for experiencing it.

I learned in 8th grade private school that these questions, and most natural, human thoughts, were sinful and was sentenced to confession for having them.  The idea that God was a jealous God seemed ludicrous and moreover, how did humans know this?  I didn’t know why we had to give money to a being who didn’t need it, but I learned to observe instead of question.

As a child of that church, I was continually surprised by the people who proclaimed to be Catholic, but who were unkind, unfair and judged their neighbors behind their backs.

When I married a Lutheran, I taught Sunday school, read the bible, and considered religious structure an integral part of my life.  But if I’m honest, I never felt a connection to the great spirit.

Following my divorce, I went searching for God.  I researched religions and learned to meditate and pray differently.  What I learned and how it applies to my life fills a book, but the most compelling piece of my research was that of the Hindi salutation, Namaste, that was transmitted from Ancient India to the countries of South-east Asia and virtually all over the globe.

In the United States, Namaste is typically repeated at the end of a yoga class to honor the participants and instructor.  Namaste is a humbling gesture and spoken as a recognition that we are all on equal standings, we are of divinity.

Loosely translated from Sanskrit, Namaste means,  “I honor the place in you which is of love, integrity, of wisdom and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

On this early Sunday morning, I found God in the magic and miracles at Willow River State Park.   I was breaking in my new running shoes and enjoying the spectacular colors of Autumn along the trail.  The rich colors of the trees danced off the glassy water like a mirror reflecting great beauty.

Families were out for hikes, and fathers and sons fished and laughed out loud.  Their joy echoed throughout the park.  Photographers captured the splendor; and sisters supported each other on half marathon training runs.  Dogs and children splashed in the water and watched geese and ducks swim and play.

When I reached the waterfall, groups had gathered to witness a blue heron patiently wait for a breakfast trout.  Others  watched in awe as one skilled rock climber reached the pinnacle and hollered out a victory cry.  Several women were standing near and we applauded and cheered as the climber lowered himself to the ground.

The magic of that moment and the camaraderie that was created in an instant stayed with me long after we parted and prompted me to run the 167 (or so) stairs that took me to an eagle’s eye view of the park.   From that spot, I took in the sunrise and glory of the morning. I felt connected to something beyond myself and silently gave thanks for having participated in the grandeur.

It wasn’t church, but it was a spectacular way to spend a Sunday morning.  As I see it, God is not outside ourselves, but instead dwells within our hearts and souls.   Yes, I believe there is good in every church and every faith.  Spiritual leaders and fellow humans help guide the lost and lonely. They do wonderful work.  But peace and acceptance are not found inside a building or a doctrine; they are found within.

God experiences life through our eyes, ears and mind and that to love our lives and love ourselves is to love God.


Yankee Spirit

Like the game itself where there is a winner and a loser, there is no gray area when it comes to how people feel about the New York Yankees.  You either love them, or you hate them.  Typically, there is no in between. As a NYY fan, I find the passion perplexing.

To love the 27 time world champions makes sense. They are the pinnacle of baseball magic, the team to beat and the team most aspire to be.   They are extraordinary athletes who capitalize on every opponent mistake and relentlessly pursue every play and run.   They are professionals who are expected to win; and win they do. For this, they are loathed.

I’ve heard every reason why people hate the Yankees, most of which are regurgitated from some media source or fabricated by losing opponents attempting to justify their continual defeat.

Even fair weather baseball fans will spout nonsense about the NYY payroll and how they buy their championships.  This is absurd and unoriginal.   Winners are made, not bought.  If we looked, we’d find athletes (including Yankee 3rd baseman Alex Rodriquez) who are paid fortunes, but don’t behave or often perform like winners.

As I see it, the Yankees raise the bar for the entire league.  Every stadium they visit charges a premium fee, and most games against them sell out. The so-called Yankee greed is inaccurate, too.  Tickets to watch the Twins in the 2009 inaugural season at Yankee stadium were less expensive than the same game at Target Field in 2010.   Beer at Yankee stadium costs less than the same draft at Target Field (not that I was necessarily enjoying an adult beverage).

Make no mistake, I love watching the Twins, too.  They play and behave like professionals.  They are classy sportsmen who have a ton of talent.  Beating the Yankees would make a fantastic story, but will only be compelling IF THEY WIN.

There will always be those who hate the Yanks.  Despise them for original reasons, not because they win.  Winning is why they play. This is the attitude of the Yankee organization and what makes them great.

Cowboy Casanova

Romantic relationships are not my forte.  I wonder if it is the fear of having my heart hurt again that stifles my ability to get close to another individual, or if I have not yet found the right connect.

I chose to avoid wrestling a pig (see previous blog), and found it best to also steer clear of the Cowboy Casanova shoveling the manure – decisions that have served me well.  But no matter how little involvement I had in an-out-of-hand, mud-slinging mess, I wanted to better understand my role in what was a whirlwind of a relationship, now ended.

The time we spent together may not qualify as a relationship — that would imply a significant emotional attachment or connection — but it was certainly more than two ships passing in the night.  The chemistry existed, but like the fireworks purchased on the fourth, sometimes potential proves to be a dud.

Unfortunately, this was not the first time I have run into trouble concerning matters of the heart.  I wonder if there is a subconscious draw to people who are not good for us, or if the lessons of life are wrapped in unique packages to get our attention and teach us what we need and want to know.

The dance I chose to dance last year was with a man whose energy was electric and touched my soul deeply.  For reasons that make little sense to me today, I gave him my heart and entertained thoughts of blissful togetherness. I was magnetized by his energy and wisdom and the current that pulled us to be.  When it became clear that his long-term intentions were not aligned with mine, I was hurt and bewildered by the sudden disconnect.  One moment the world was white and the very next it was black.  My heart broke and I made our ending mean I wasn’t lovable.

I understand today that is not the case and the circumstances of our union were simply designed by the cosmos to teach me to dance my own dance.  I’m guessing the cosmos also had a gift for him, but that is his to unwrap…

What remains is the lesson of two souls whose paths merged, albeit for a short time. I didn’t know it then, but the darkness of that delusion, and essentially what I learned from having survived it, has morphed me into somebody wiser than before.  I didn’t know I had more depth and strength (didn’t think I needed it), but it has proven necessary and is a gift I must have needed and wanted to receive.

The former me was naive and confused fireworks for something significant.  Fireworks are great, but fizzle fast.  Any pyrotechnic professional will tell you it’s important to read the warning labels and not confuse the spark of a punk with the dazzle of an explosion.

I tend to give others the benefit of the doubt.  I love and give deeply, without regret, but I now know how to recognize a potential scorch long before I’m too mesmerized by the glitz and glamor of the display. I can’t say I’ve become hardened, but where Cowboy Casanova is concerned, I applaud myself for reading the warning labels and recognizing him as a punk, not a significant show.  I might have missed that had I not danced the dance before.

Its not yet clear to me what the Cowboy Casanova brought to my life, but perhaps that is the gift — not knowing, but simply seeing and enjoying the show.