Keep Your Hands And Feet Inside The Cart

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

— Buddhist Proverb

I love to try to wrestle things to the ground.  It is in my nature.

Last week, I wrote about struggle.  Mine and everyone else’s. But what I came to learn – yes once again – is that struggling is optional.

Often, all we need to do is to stop.  Let go.

And ask.

On a recent morning, as I struggled to bring form and clarity to the work I do, I journaled: “Please, show who my next teacher is… .”  Days later, as I wandered aimlessly on Facebook, I clicked on the page of a Friend by the name of Patrick Combs.  (Patrick is powerful, inspiring and innovative.  If you are unfamiliar with him, run – don’t walk – to discover the cutting edge transformational work he does.) On his Wall that day, he had an invitation: a single ticket to join him as his guest at an event in San Diego entitled Big Mission, Big Sales, Big Life with Lisa Sasevich.

Now, I’d never met Patrick.  I had never heard of Lisa.  The conference was 3000 miles away.  I had a full office schedule and a full docket of pending cases.

And only days later, I was across the country standing in a meeting room with 400 people I didn’t know. Dazed and confused, I had no idea why I was there.

I knew only that I was supposed to be there.

In the middle of the first day, out of the crowd, appeared a woman in full stride who walked up and introduced herself to me.  She was looking for a student.  She would become my teacher. Unbeknownst to me, she also knew Patrick, who knew she was looking for a student, but who had no idea that we would ever connect.

From those three days came information and ideas and tools and relationships and opportunities and transformations that I had never imagined were possible.  And a wonderful wise teacher who will journey with me as I bring new purpose to my work. And the vision of exciting and generative work in the days and months ahead.

I had a hundred excuses – all thoughtful and rational – why jumping on an airplane was an inconvenient, if not dumb, idea. Instead, I went for an incredible ride.

There is the old adage “jump and the net will appear.”  But how hard it is to jump.   How challenging it is to hear what our intuitions whisper to us.  How we fight what our bodies call out to us.  Time and time again we endeavor to “muscle” our way through only to end up exhausted, depleted, and deadened; and wondering why we cannot find the answers.

Having a brain can be an impediment.  Often it gets in the way of our heart.  And our heart always knows the way.

The answers are nearer than near.  If we but inquire of the Universe, they will be shown to us.

To ask, to listen, to trust.

And then to act, even when we’re not sure where the ride might take us.

Stop by for a visit at Hampton Photography.

Do You Poop Too?

Fall down seven times, get up eight times.

— Japanese Proverb

I have struggled over the last couple of weeks.  There have been so many challenges. (Don’t you love that euphemism?) Work challenges, travel challenges, financial challenges, family challenges.  In that constant, unending, “will this ever fucking let up” kind of way.

On a recent morning, I wondered whether any of my mentors, my idols, my heroes ever woke up and said, “Shit, another day of struggle ahead.”  Folks like Jack Canfield, Tony Robbins, Robin Sharma.  The motivators, the great inspirational speakers of our time.  Do they struggle? Or are there just certain enlightened folks who roll out of bed with a smile and unbendable optimism every single day?

I’m not sure. But my suspicion is that everybody struggles.

And that it’s timeless too.

This is the story they tell:  A young mother came to the Buddha’s door.  In her arms was the dead body of her infant.  With tears streaming down her face, she begged the Buddha to restore her child’s life.  The Buddha instructed her that if she were able to bring to him a mustard seed from the home of someone who had never suffered any loss, that he would be able to bring her infant back to life.  Frantically she searched only to discover what all of us already know to be true.

Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece begins:  “In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost. It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death: but, in order to tell of the good that I found there, I must tell of the other things I saw there.”

Colonel Sanders was turned down 300 times before anyone endorsed his dream.  Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 130 times before it went on to form the cornerstone of a multi-million dollar conglomerate.  Tony Robbins spoke to a room of four people when he first began his mission.  Sylvester Stallone had to sell his dog in order to put food on his table while he peddled Rocky.

Mother Theresa shared with her biographer the dark night of her own soul – her doubts, her loneliness, her search for the God she could not see – that stretched on for decades.  Imagine that: Mother Theresa lost and struggling.

A client of mine was shot in the line of duty.  His surgery required a temporary colostomy. When his “plumbing” was hooked back up, he had a difficult time “going” again.  His sister, as an “inspirational” gift, bought him the wonderful children’s potty training book Everyone Poops.

An excellent reminder.

Everyone searches.

Everyone struggles. Everyone poops.

As with one, so the other.  Ya’ just need to keep on goin.’

Vist us at Hampton Photography.

Material Guy

It accelerated through the col; seventy, eighty miles per hour. I leaned against a rock to brace myself.  The front had finally passed. The air was fresh and clean and cold. A hundred feet above, the ground turned to rime ice and snow.  A Columbus Day gift.  We retreated to the safety of the trees, laughing at the antics of the wind.

Standing on the high ridges – feeling the wind on my face – has always renewed me. It is there that I am re-created.  It is there that my spirit finds rest.

Many of us retreat into the wilderness to renew ourselves.  I fear that it may become a lost art.

I love email for the ease of communication.  Google is nothing short of astounding as a research tool. I am able to maintain relationships across the decades and around the world through Facebook.

The hand-eye coordination required by electronic gaming will inspire the next generation of micro-surgeons.  Computer savvy teens will create new technology beyond our wildest imaginations. Internet marketing will re-invent our economy.

But something fundamental fails us as we hurdle into these virtual worlds.

This appeared recently in the Investors Business Daily:  “Web sites where users interact in virtual worlds are growing in popularity, particularly among the young. User accounts have topped 1 billion, up from 650 million a year ago, according to a survey by KZero. Virtual worlds are computer-generated environments, like Second Life, where users construct avatar characters to interact with users.  Children ages 10 -15 account for 46% of users, followed by 15-25 year olds with 29%.”

And within days, this:  “The U.S. ‘virtual  goods’ market will hit $2.1 billion next year, up 31% from $1.6 billion this year, according to research firm Inside Network. Social online network games like Facebook’s ‘FarmVille’ and ‘Mafia Wars’ are leading the trend, the report said. Players of these social games pay real money for digitally animated items, such as plants and tractors in ‘FarmVille.’ that help them further develop their digital creations, earning the respect and praise of their Facebook friends. Facebook’s massive base of 500 million users also fuels sales for the games.”

At dinner one night, my friend Bob wondered aloud whether his grand-children would know – whether they would have the capacity to know – the joy he finds in retreating to the woods.

Virtual worlds will rob us of our ability to know the Wonder of what is Real.  They will leave us orphaned.

To walk the earth.  To know the woods.  To feel the wind. To touch each other. These are the things that ground us.

I guess I’m with Madonna.  I’m a material guy.

Before You Know It, It’s Lunchtime

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

— Lao-tzu

It seemed like it must be lunchtime.  I couldn’t tell for sure.  I didn’t have a watch. I had lost track of the hours.  But I had that vague uneasiness I sometimes get when there’s a chance I might miss a meal.

“Mile 23” the sign said.  How did I get here I wondered.

My hip flexors were angry.

I looked up.  The sun seemed high in the sky.

The soles of my feet argued with me.

My mind drifted back to the sound that they had made in the snow on summit day. There had been no wind that night.  Just the crunch of my boots as I walked the last 300 feet on that narrow corniced ridge, the great south face of Denali dropping off 5000′ to my right, 1000′ of air to my left.

Then suddenly I was beside the pool at the Hotel Aconcagua in Mendoza, celebrating the New Year in the warm Argentine summer.  A gentle breeze.  Ann and I.  Talking about Malbec and tango.  And our audacious goals for 2010: summit Denali and run a marathon.  

“Mile 25” the sign said.  “Really?” I said out loud.

Brutal cold. Heavy packs. Thin air. Nineteen days. So hard to breathe.

So much preparation.  So many months.  So many miles.

So many steps.

Denali.  A dream for forty years.  Achieved.

How long ago had I passed the twenty-mile marker?  It reminded me of the view from just below the summit ridge. The moment I felt certain. The moment that doubt dropped away. The moment that I knew that I would “do it.”

I thought of the long runs through the Farmington Valley and along the Irish coast. All the way back to months and months ago when the “long runs” were four miles; and the stretch to ten seemed an impossibility.

Slowly. Deliberately. Mile after mile.  We built it.

The tiny details. The strength training. The weight training.  The cross training.

I thought about The Compound Effect.  A great book by Darren Hardy.  An inspiration for me in times of darkness and discouragement. A compelling reminder for me that small efforts applied consistently over time make all the difference in the world.

I thought about my great partner, Ann, and her meticulous training regimen.  About the splatter of the rain on our bedroom skylight as we tugged at yesterday’s smelly socks.  About the dark dawns.  About the cold slush that seeped into our running shoes.  About the days we didn’t want to lift another load or see another stair stepper.

And I thought about the joyous day that mile sixteen slid by as easily as mile four.

And about the glory of standing on the roof of North America with my best friend under the midnight sun.

I talked my hip flexors “off the ledge.”  “Mile 26,” the sign announced.  “No fucking way,” I said.

I could hear the music in the distance.  And then I saw it:  the finish line. It was most certainly time for lunch.