Pieces | Does it Matter?

When you find something that resonates with your spirit,
does it matter where it comes from?

First, read the following three comments (there might be a quiz):

“Knowing there is a world that will outlive you, there are people whose well-being depends on how you live your life, affects the way you live your life, whether or not you directly experience those effects. You want to be the kind of person who has the larger view, who takes other people’s interests into account, who’s dedicated to the principles that you can justify, like justice, knowledge, truth, beauty and morality.”  – Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist


  “In the theater you create a moment, but in that moment, there is a touch, a twinkle of eternity. And not just eternity, but community. . . . That connection is a sense of life for me.”  – Teller, illusionist


“Joy is human connection; the compassion put into every moment of humanitarian work; joy is using your time to bring peace, relief, or optimism to others. Joy gives without the expectation—or wish—of reciprocity or gratitude. . . . Joy immediately loves the individual in need and precedes any calculation of how much the giver can handle or whom the giver can help.”  – Erik Campano, emergency medicine


Then, ponder: What do these all have in common?

Other than being reflective, positive, thoughtful and other-centric?

All three are responses to questions posed to Atheists about their moral values and motivations…what gives them joy and meaning.


In reality, when asked about their moral values or what motivates them in life, atheists use words that sound downright spiritual, very much like the words religious people use in fact, with a few noteworthy differences. To create his book,  A Better Life, Photographer Chris Johnson asked 100 atheists about what gives their lives joy and meaning. To some Christians the question is equivalent to asking an elephant where he gets his chocolate ice cream. The answers might surprise them even more. Themes include love and connection, compassion and service, legacy (leaving the world a little better), creativity and discovery, gratitude, transcendence, and wonder—all heightened by a sense that this one life is fleetingly transient and precious.


Another piece in this interesting, slowly forming puzzle. One that clearly requires an open mind.

For more thought provoking responses, you can read the entire article or dive deeper and get the book.

This has me intrigued. I’d love to know what you think, when you find something that resonates, does it matter where it comes from?

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Where the Cool Birds Hang Out

During what we know as the darkest days of winter, one of my close friends took me out one early December morning to see the geese.  This might seem a bit unusual but the back story is that years ago I fell in love with Canadian geese after reading James Michener’s “Chesapeake’ while living not far from the eastern region of the Chesapeake Bay.  I was mesmerized by how Michener’s geese became prominent characters in his epic generation-spanning story.

My friend is a professional photographer with a specialty in avian photography. You should see this man’s work.  He knows where all the cool birds hang out; and I doubt there is a bird he hasn’t met. He knows of my affinity for these beautiful creatures and their V-formations and for the last few years has been inviting me out to see them while they make our area their winter home. It finally worked out with our lives and schedules.

I will be honest; I was hoping, expecting really, to see them in the hundreds of thousands. I wanted that immediate, dramatic visual impact. The wow of what that would be like. The images I could capture. As it turned out, the geese had chosen a location other than the spots we picked; we weren’t invited to their morning party.  We certainly saw some geese, just not hundreds of thousands

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There they are, my geese. Beautiful in any amount.

I had my camera with me of course. We talked, I snapped. We walked, I snapped; my shutter punctuating the easy, comfortable conversation between my friend and I. We are like family to each other; he much like another older brother. I asked him a deeply personal question at one point in one of our many meandering conversations and as soon as I asked, I offered him an out, letting him know I understood the depth of what I was asking and that I understood if he didn’t want to respond. His reply to me was to proceed with answering my question.

I kept taking photos, sure that in the early morning, dreary overcast light, and no geese to speak of, that my attempts to capture anything were futile, but far be it from me to lay off the shutter when that camera is in my hand. I had to move on in my day when we got back; I put my camera away, changed and resumed my busy day. The holidays were upon us and combined with life, work, shopping, wrapping, baking and the kiddo, I totally forgot about my images from that morning.  I think too, that I somehow, at some level, assumed I would be disappointed when I went back to look at them; kind of the one eye shut with a sideways grimace, thinking to myself:  “That’s all I got? Bummer.

I just went back to my photos from that morning a few days ago, and while smiling at the memory of the time shared; seeing the images after weeks had gone by, I also remembered something important.

We can tend to set ourselves up with our expectations.

We go into a situation or moment with our minds made up of what it is supposed to be, or look like, or turn out like.  We often forget to just let ourselves see the moment for what it really is. Just because it looks different than we expected, is it less than? Is it not as good?

Perhaps it’s in some way so much better than we expected. Or maybe even better for us in ways we just simply cannot see yet? I don’t know the answers to these questions, I just know they are important questions we can ask ourselves in these moments. That disappointment can cloud our ability to see what is, when we are more focused on what is not.

I don’t think it is a matter of placing value on the outcome: good, better, or worse.  I am thinking that it is more about somehow finding a way of allowing ourselves to see things as they are. 

In reviewing my images, I noticed a few things I didn’t expect, didn’t think was there…

…I could see that the dreary, cold, overcast morning lent itself to a beautiful palette – a dramatic monochromatic background.

…I remembered that in the fallow season of winter, when all signs of life feel dormant; there is something to behold in the stark contrasts of the landscape. That something is happening even when we don’t see the obvious signs. Life is preparing for, well, life.

…I could see that the absence of geese in large amounts, reminds me that sometimes there is beauty in flying solo. 

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Flying solo

I realized, with a new perspective, that if we are open to the possibilities, that sometimes we learn that what we didn’t expect to find – can be just as beautiful as what we had in mind – in just a very different kind of way.

In looking back at this morning, seeing through my images from a day that finally came to fruition, spending time with my good friend, safe in his trusted presence, I understand in a new way how sometimes we need to not only be open to what is right in front of us, but also be willing to step away for a time, and then come back to look at things with new eyes.

It’s more than possible that when we find what we didn’t expect, it can be just as beautiful as what we had in mind. That what is beyond our mind is limitless.

C’mon, take a walk with me…click on the images below to hang out with all the cool birds….

What might this day reveal to each of us?

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Jumping

When change is on the horizon, no matter how big or small, it can have a trickle down effect to the present moment. Things start to look different, feel different, and in fact, are different.  When change is necessary, or just inevitable, the process is at once exhilarating and enervating.

It’s so easy to want to keep things the same, simply because we recognize the landscape and are familiar with the language of the road signs. We know what to do, our next movements are predictable without the need for thought or consideration.

When we start down a path of change, it is normal to recognize, in a a cognitive way, that there will be twists and turns, and bumps  in the road that we can’t anticipate; we just know that we must accept that that is to come.

But, on some days, I have to admit, these undulations I encounter along the way leave me feeling like I want to jump out of my skin.   Too many competing thoughts racing through my mind; things I know I must deal with, sort out, accept, process, knowing that this will require that I patiently spend time  in an unfamiliar place, with an unknown language.

When we initiate, or at the very least, welcome change, we are essentially opening the door to the new. But in so doing, in this transition, we also find that we must let go of something. That something can be tangible, or intangible, and no matter, letting go is usually not easy.

Image From Collosal.com – click for more images and info!

Image From Collosal.com. As part of the 2012 Archstoyanie festival in Nikola-Lenivets, Russia design firm Salto created this gargantuan trampoline installation called Fast Track.
Measuring nearly 170 ft. (51 meters) the bouncy road is nearly the length of a city block.

So, with this feeling of wanting to jump out of my own skin today, when I came across these these images, of a 170 ft trampoline in a Russian Forest, I realized that perhaps, when you feel like jumping, maybe that is exactly what you should do…in whatever way works.

Do you ever feel like jumping out of your own skin when things get a little uncomfortable?  Without a city block’s length of trampoline, how do you find your jump?

This Dot. That Dot. Connected.

I was reading something the other day, from a book whose title I am not going to reveal, for fear you might all find me to be somewhat of a nut (or more of one!). But no matter our individual bents or philosophies on life, perhaps this is something worth thinking about…

‘Thoughts are things…and may create crimes or miracles.’

‘There is no such thing as an idle thought, for so called idle thoughts are the building blocks of more complex patterns of thinking…thought patterns grow with feeding, and as thought patterns grow, they gather momentum…’

Whoa. I like this; thinking about thinking.

In reading this, I realized it not only resonated with me now but that it connects with something I heard while attending a national professional development conference a couple of years ago. It was a session I almost skipped, because something in the session write up – the one in the program book everyone carries around, their informational GPS device for the duration of the conference – seemed, well, a little touchy-feely to me. Which generally is fine in my book, make no mistake, but this was a conference with more than a thousand people in attendance and not a lot of hi-how-ya-doing interpersonal interaction.

At the start of the session, the presenter brought out a guitar and in what I can only describe as a very campfire song-like style, began singing – and  asking us to sing along. What? I silently cursed myself for not heeding my own internal first thoughts – as by now, you surely know that I am not that kind of angel. Singing and I unfortunately do not peacefully co-exist (in my dreams yes, in my car yes, in reality, no.).  But, I played along, well, to be honest, I lip-synced, so as to appear that I was playing along, and spare the other attendees sitting oh so near to me.

Within moments though, I realized I had made a good choice; it ended up being one of the best sessions I attended that week, with relevant, pertinent information I could bring home and actually use in my job. Life is funny this way, yes?

I scribbled notes on the hotel notepad I had grabbed from by the phone in my room, and apparently tucked away those two little pieces of paper in the time since, finding them again only recently (realizing I had failed to make note of the presenter’s name…).  When I pulled them out, at first all I saw were the words Stop, Keep, and Start, and I wasn’t sure why I had kept them. Then it slowly came back to me.

The presenter focused this portion of the session on how our brains think in patterns, seek out patterns really.  And that in the context of creating more good in our lives, cultivating more success, achieving our goals, and to help develop a more positive outlook, get us further down our own paths towards wholeness, growth,  understanding, mindfulness, peace, etc.; that we should perhaps consider these three questions:

 — What should I stop doing?  —

— What should I keep doing?  —

— What should I start doing?  —

I can think of a zillion scenarios in my own life in which I could, should, implement this: running more, eating less, eating better, communicating more clearly, improving my time management, becoming a better writer, trusting my own instincts, second guessing myself less, being  a better parent, being a better friend.

If I allowed myself, my list would be longer than Santa’s list of good boys and girls.

While reading my you-might-think-I’m-a-nut book, I connected one dot with another.  It made it more clear, for me, this connection that our brains do want to find patterns, and that we can actively feed our thoughts in ways that help them gather momentum; a momentum that hopefully causes  an avalanche of positive, innovative, constructive, affirming thoughts that move us closer to what we want, or want more of in our lives.

So, you know what I’m thinking? I wonder what you think about all this thinking.

Are you a percolating perfectionist?

I got into a great conversation the other day with two crazy smart ladies, and it was one of those conversations that kept on going in my mind, even after we all walked in our own directions back into our respective days and lives.  While I couldn’t begin to convey the whole discussion, it was centered on the differences in how we get things done, solve problems, and absorb new information.  It was one of those discussions that left me with more questions…and I am here to mull them over with you.

When working out a problem, or better yet, a solution; or simply when in the midst of a creative storm { it is kind of a storm up in the brain when an idea is getting hammered out…} how do you approach it?

Are you more of a percolator, who likes to sit on an idea, let it bubble up in your mind, heat up and then when it reaches the perfect temp, it’s ready to be enjoyed, consumed, served up?

Or do things snap, crackle and pop into place?  Ideas just appear in your mind, clear as a bell with plans, instructions and blueprints all mapped out for ya?

When you are working on something, whether it be big or small, important or inconsequential, what’s your approach?

Are you more of a perfectionist, working it from every angle, re-working it again, starting over when you notice the tiniest imperfection?  Do you agonize over every little detail…

or are you more of a ‘finish-ist” and just want to get the gosh  darn thing done? Maybe you find more satisfaction in a job done, instead of a job super duper totally completely perfectly done?

What about when you need to really get productive, and get some things accomplished?

Are you more of a multi-tasker, and have your head spinning in 50 directions assuming that since you are spinning faster and faster and faster that you are actually getting more and more and more accomplished?  Think that’s true? 

Or do you get your focus on, dig deep, push aside the 49 other things demanding your attention and just pay attention to the one thing that needs YOU right now?

Now, what about inspiration? Where and when do you get your best ideas?

Do they come to you, literally out of the blue,  by way of suds and loofahs in the shower, or by way of  logging loads of highway miles? 

Or are you more of a list-making, brainstorming, mind-mapping, there’s-gotta-be-a-way figure it out kind of person?

At the end of the day, we each have our own way of attacking a problem, seeking out a solution and engaging in the creative process. Sometimes for me, the creative process is more exciting than the finished product; the ideas and hope of what’s to  come, when nothing was there before.

This dialogue with these two smarty pants gals, made me appreciate how we all come to this process in such unique ways, and not to mention the generational impacts of technology and decision-making influences in our lives.

And in case you are curious, I am a percolating finishist multitasker who gets her best ideas while blow drying her hair in the mornings with a split down the middle on lightbulb vs. mindmap!  Who knew!

What about you?