30 Hydrogen Bombs

CloudCult-44There is good news all around us. Let’s focus on some of it.

Craig Minowa is a singer/songwriter whose poetic lyrics, heartbreaking melodies, and raspy voice combine to deliver good news of the human heart. In an interview with On Being’s Krista Tippett, Minowa says his latest album is called The Seeker because “that’s what we’re here to do. I don’t know what we’ll find, but it’s really not about an individual. It’s sort of a story for humanity as a whole. And I feel like that we’re on that crust, that era, as a people, that we have the potential to wake up to a new age. We have the responsibility to wake up to a new age. There isn’t any room for pessimism anymore. Time is limited. And so yeah, it’s all on the table with this one, as far as lyrics go, of trying to wake myself and anybody around me up to the fact of ‘Hey, let’s go be good people and do a good job.’”

I have been listening to his music all weekend. Blending personal pain, theology, biology, and evolution of the earth, Minowa’s songs are so “good,” so sincere, so filled with hope and commitment to being fully human. I urge you to listen to this interview and the beautiful segments of his music it contains. You may not like his style, but surely you will be moved by his beautiful seeking for truth.

And finally, there is just so much raw hope in his music and in what he says in this interview. I am using the Greek word eudaimonia a lot these days in my workshops. It means living in a state in which you are fulfilling your highest potential. And so much of my teaching is about just that—finding strategies, pathways, and habits of mind that will lead to eudaimonia.

And while Minowa doesn’t use the word eudaimonia, that’s exactly what he’s talking about at the end of the interview when he says,

“But now we’re here, and we are incredibly advanced organisms who are not grasping our potential. And we have to be courageous about laying down our insecurities and our fears, in order to get to the point that we can really embrace that energy in us.

There was a fact that I read — all of physical matter, as we know, is made of energy, and all physical matter can be converted back into energy, and it takes a tremendous amount of energy to make the smallest particle of matter. And so in the average human body, there’s 7×10 to the 18th power joules of energy, and that translates into 30 hydrogen bombs. Just this physical body right here, the energy in it, is equivalent to 30 hydrogen bombs. And that’s my only guarantee. I don’t know about tomorrow, but I have right now, and I’ve got this power. What am I going to do with it?”

Good question for all of us, right?

What are you going to do with all that energy you have pent up inside you? What will you create? Who will you touch? What can you offer? Don’t say you don’t know how. You’ve got 30 hydrogen bombs worth of energy to help you do what only you can do.

Step into your eudaimonia.

Composing a Life

2017-Mary-Catherine-Bateson-lead-nocolormanageAuthor, linguist, and anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson is interviewed this week by Krista Tippett on the OnBeing podcast. Bateson’s book Composing a Life profoundly influenced me and my teaching of memoir writing in the 1990’s. Now, retired from teaching at George Mason University, she continues to inspire readers with what she calls a life of “active wisdom.”

This is such a lovely interview, giving us insight into her amazing upbringing as the daughter of anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and her consistent dedication to the life of the mind, and especially to considering what it means to “compose” a life. She sees life as an “improvisatory art.” But still, she suggests, a life lived well is a deliberate act, one that does not operate in default mode, but rather searches for the conditions of living and the habits of mind that allow one to flourish.

She says, “In a stable society, composing a life is somewhat like throwing a pot or building a house in a traditional form: the materials are known, the hands move along familiar tasks, the fit of the completed whole in common life is understood.”

And a bit later in the interview she says, “I like to think of men and women as artists of their own lives, working with what comes to hand through accident or talent to compose and recompose a pattern in time that expresses who they are and what they believe in, making meaning even as they are studying and working and raising children, creating and recreating themselves.”

Creating and recreating themselves. This was a thrilling thing to hear early on a Monday morning in August—an idea I have grappled with for many years; an idea that is the raison d’être of LifeArt Studio. We are all artists of our own lives. How then can we create and recreate our best selves, moment by moment? Each day we get the opportunity to live the hours well, to choose experiences wisely, to offer beneficence where we can—to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful as we compose our own artful living.

And this week, as I experienced a milestone birthday, I am particularly inspired by Bateson’s notion of “active wisdom,” a term that honors the experience, knowledge, and legacy of people moving into what she very graciously calls “later adulthood.” Bateson, true to the legacy of her own iconic parents, urges us to think of later adulthood as a time of “harvesting a life of learning and thinking and observing.”

And so, to my fellow baby-boomers, I send out best wishes for your own unique forms of composing and harvesting your life. May you go into your “later adulthood” with wisdom, insight, contentment, and gratitude for the amazing life you continue to create.

As someone famous once said, “Rock on!”



Baby Goes to Meditation Class

12112460_10153631533039280_6368652957090106424_nThis week on the blog, we’re happy to offer a personal story by local writer and life coach Eddie Selover. He first shared this story on Facebook, and I was so taken by his honest and funny depiction of what happens to everyone who undertakes a meditative practice. Meditation is hard enough under the best of circumstances; but Eddie shows us that there is more to learn when we persevere in the practice when it’s really hard.

Baby Goes to Meditation Class

I’d taken a meditation class for well over a year. There was a couple in the class, and over time I watched them go from strangers to acquaintances to dating to getting married. Eventually I stopped going to the class and didn’t see any of my fellow sitters for about a year or so. But one Sunday, there was an invitation to return, so I went back. And this couple was there, with their new infant child. After cooing over the baby, we all began our sit.

I closed my eyes and focused on my breath. “Muh-heh” said the baby. Back to the breath. “Muh-heh-heh,” the baby elaborated. No no, back to the breath. And as babies do when they’re not getting their point across, it began to fuss a little more. This went on for a while, with long enough pauses for me to wonder if it was over, settle my mind, and have it start up again… louder each time.

Thoughts inevitably arose. Thoughts like: maybe you should take that baby out of the room. Your baby is crying, you should go feed it. Why exactly did you bring a baby to meditation class, you assholes?

And back to the breath.

“Waaaaaaahh,” the baby said. And for clarity, it added: “Whaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!”

By now, all focus on my breath was lost because I was instead thinking: takeyourfuckinbabyoutofthisroomrightnow and doIhavetogetupoffthiscushion and letmeshowyouhowtorearachild and youselfishfuckinmoronsIhateyou.

It had developed into quite the ragestorm when I suddenly noticed it and thought, “Wow, I am really resisting this baby.”

And I began to explore my resistance. A tightening in the muscles. An obsessive focus on what I don’t like. A fire hose of judgment. All of me, body and mind, had become this fierce unified NO! to the experience I was having.

Just like the baby. Wait. Who exactly was the baby here? The only difference between us was: it didn’t have articulate speech, whereas I was too conditioned to be polite to give my anger voice. The baby’s full-throated objections were in fact more authentic and valid than my hopeless silent struggles with myself.

And then I had another thought: maybe this baby can help me. Every time it yowls, I can notice my resistance, and my judgment, and how I react when things or people come into my experience that I don’t like. Let’s breathe into THAT for a while.

“Whaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” the baby would repeat, only now each time when I’d feel the muscles tightening, I would smile. There’s that resistance again. This baby is awesome! Whaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh! Oh yes yes yes. Thank you, baby. It got better and better, and it went on for a nice little while longer.

Eventually the mother took the baby out of the room — noooo, baby, don’t go! I felt a rush of gratitude to that baby for showing more of myself to me. And a wave of relief that I didn’t have to be so goddamn zen anymore. And a familiar feeling that I am a very flawed human being and there’s no cure for it and I’m okay with that. And I noticed those feelings, and went back to my breath.

Eddie Selover is a well-known Orlando writer and communicator, a marketing communications professional, and a life coach. And he is most especially admired and appreciated as the organizer and host of PechaKucha Orlando, an event which features creatives and professionals sharing their passion for community, culture, and life in a unique 20×20 presentational format: 20 slides, each one for 20 seconds.   Listen to his wonderful TEDxOrlando talk here. And join him at the next PechaKucha Orlando on Friday, December 6.