I’m an Expert….…So are you!

From the moment we take our first breath, we are thrust into a world of learning. Our parents tell us what’s good to touch; watching our every move with love and care, so we don’t come to harm. They pass on their feelings, beliefs, rules, and behaviors, and we rely on them to provide the expertise to navigate through the strange place we have found ourselves. We believe what we are told… because we don’t have enough information to consider other answers.

When we arrive at school new experts instruct in other areas we know nothing about. There are mathematical problems to solve, languages to learn, history to understand, and…of course…a new set of rules to follow. We believe what we are told…most of the time, because we don’t have enough information to consider other answers.

Finishing school, there are decisions to make. Onwards, to University, learn a trade, or start work. Wherever we go, there are voices telling us more about our subject, profession, and expectations. We believe what we are told…some of the time, because we have assimilated information and started to consider other answers. In time, we find our place, or at least, a place in the world. Opinions we’ve had along; shaped by our many encounters, take hold and feel right. We stop seeing experts as much, because we don’t have to, but they do appear when we need them. At the doctor’s office when we are sick, or when the car breaks down.
They don’t always come out and say they are experts, and although Franklin Roosevelt said, “there are as many opinions as there are experts,” we consciously and sometimes, subconsciously, decide who to listen to and why. Position, education, practice, trust, and previous experience all play their part in and we may believe they found their path through talent, hard work, insight, and maybe, a little luck.

Our lives move on, and we may already have a sense if we consider ourselves an expert in something or whether we are a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none.’ There comes a time when the outward focus on life, work, family, and career, turn in a new direction. It’s this inward glance that opens a creaking door to a sleeping mystery, bringing a desire to be alone in a place, lacking the teaching voices or rules, imposed. Nature summons us to her court of non-judgmental beauty, where thoughts find meaning and the quiet speaks until we listen.

Through the park and heading towards the water’s edge, is a sign about one of history’s undisputed experts—Albert Einstein. It says, from 1922, he rented a small summer cottage on an allotment nearby, and if I look very hard…I see him outside, puffing on his pipe and doodling theories in a notebook on a sunny day. I wonder if he were still sitting there, would I have the courage to approach? With my little understanding of mathematical formulas or theoretical Physics, I imagine there would be little to discuss.

Looking at the photograph, I hear him speak. The ray of sunshine I hadn’t noticed taking the picture, illuminates his eyes, as though to say, ‘I found the path before my contemporaries, because they held onto beliefs and rules others had taught, and I didn’t.’ Life is not about clinging onto old ideas that either we or experts have pronounced as truths, but seeing with fresh eyes when the light illuminates our hearts and minds.

Einstein found the key to the problem of relativity using time, and as I examine my journey time, it’s just possible I have believed too much what others told me…and the story I told myself…because I was taught to follow the rules and listen to the experts. It’s there, in those early years, I remember…no one taught me how to walk or eat. It’s there, in the young years, I remember…no one taught me how to smile and laugh. It’s there, in the growing years, I remember…no one taught me how to cry and dream.

And if we came with this knowledge, we have to consider that other gifts were imparted to us for this journey we take. Faith, hope, trust, love, and so much more, to carry us home again. For although we may sometimes seek the counsel of others, it’s not to get their answer, but to help us discover our own, that dwells within. For others see us in pieces and not the whole. They may see the shadow and not the soul. They make up their minds of who we are, but they don’t have enough information to truly understand. For although we may be alike, in each breath we take; our thoughts, feelings, and emotions combine in uniqueness, and I realize that each of us is an expert after all…on ourselves.

Like Einstein, our answers are found in time, and the journey truly begins when the outward focus no longer satisfies and we take the path inside. It’s our relativity we seek. To realize, we truly have all the information we need to find our answers and doodling in our notebooks on a summer’s day…to recognize our expertise and let it be our guide.

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Finding Your Higher Frequency

There are many kinds of water. The gentle flowing rivers that carve a path through the landscape—the soft rumblings of the lakes—the frozen formations sparkling in a winter chill. There is the water that refreshes on a scorching hot day and the gentle rain that feeds life. Water that cleans, purifies, and cleanses, washing away our past. It makes up 50-60% of the bodies we inhabit and we can only survive 3 days without it.

Perhaps it’s the ocean that most captures the heart and soul of water. From calm and tender waves, lapping on the shore, to mighty storms rolling and breaking, we are in awe of its majesty. With over 7 billion pilgrims travelling the road of life, we share much in common beyond our need for water—our bodies and personalities, work, dreams, smiles and tears. We crowd together for safety and companionship, yet yearn for the something deeper that is just ours—the uniqueness that makes us all different. We have thoughts, ideas, opinions, and we want someone in the world to listen—we want to be heard.

Sitting on the coastline, looking out at the vast emptiness, we can be alone with the world and choose to speak—or be silent and listen—two words incidentally, which use exactly the same letters. In 1989, a group of oceanographers listened and made a startling discovery—a whale communicating on a frequency of 52 hertz; much higher than the normal range for whales of 17-18 hertz. At 180 decibels, whales are the loudest creatures in the world, but since hearing it, all attempts to locate the ‘lonely whale,’ (as it was christened) have failed. All these years, a whale of an unknown breed continues to swim, sing, and live. Is it searching for a soul mate?—someone to hear it’s song?

And, what of us? What are we searching for? A YouGov poll just released in the UK asked 14,000 people what would be their most desirable job. Unsurprisingly, doctors, lawyers, and investment bankers made the list. Hollywood movie star was also a choice, but at almost twice its popularity, the winner was—Author. As well topping the list for most desirable, it also had the smallest percentage for a job people would not want to do.

After all, writing is easy, right? Sitting at home, in your pajamas, pounding out successful stories? Wrong—writing maybe simple, but good writing is very hard work. Even the very best have their struggles. Then, it must be the money. The best seller and the movie that follows? Wrong again. Writers make very little. Counting traditionally and self-published authors, one third of them make less than $500 a year. We could surmise it is a dream—wishful thinking, like the lottery. We buy tickets even though the chance of winning is so low, or is it our desire for someone to listen to what we have to say?

We don’t know what people in the survey were thinking and perhaps I would be happy with some of my conclusions if it were not for the second most desirable job—Librarian. That’s right, when we are not writing, we want to be around books and being a librarian is much more than shuffling books on shelves. They help with job searches, run book groups, teach literacy, assist with research etc. It’s a complex job requiring many different skills and a high level of education.

Do we really love books that much, or is it peace we are seeking? Perhaps there is something much deeper occurring in the sea of our minds and the unconscious desire the survey participants expressed, is the voice inside, calling us to focus on creating our own unique story. In that connection, we come to realize that it’s not being heard by others that matters, but being in tune with what each of us is here to learn.
Somewhere in a distant ocean, a whale is singing at 52 hertz. Take time by the shore to rest and refresh. Perhaps by listening to the melody of the water you will discover a higher frequency in your depths and author the story, which is just for you.

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Uncommon Sense

We are a searching people. Attracted to the mystery of the rare, we dig ever deeper into the earth to bring forth treasures that sparkle and shine. We hold in high esteem inventors and thinkers who dazzle with their ingenuity and creative ideas. What we cannot have or cannot be, influences how we feel about ourselves and perhaps it’s why we rejoice in times our thoughts and actions connect in a special way. Thomas Edison said it was ‘one of the three great essentials to achieve anything.’ Emerson, that it is ‘genius dressed in working clothes,’ and Goethe described it as the ‘genius of humanity.’ It’s what we are often convinced we have so much of and others don’t—common sense.

I thought I had a clear concept of it, but two of the three quotes include the word, ‘genius.’ If that’s true, could it explain why it’s so uncommon and why we don’t have quite as much as we lead ourselves to believe? Maybe, the answer is in the definition. Before reading on, take a few moments to joint down your thoughts…

Well, what did you come up? Maybe, some of these ring true for you. Common sense is the understanding required to use sound judgement. The sensible, practical sense necessary to make good decisions, or an internal sense, regarded as the common bond or center of the five senses. It was this last one that got me thinking. What do sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing share in common?

Stumped, and lost between somewhere, nowhere, and elsewhere, my dog, taking a break between naps, wandered over and rested her head on my knee. She sat and listened as I pounded out my thoughts. Our senses are like siblings who love each other. They support each other and when one is weak or disabled, another becomes stronger to compensate for the loss. One quarter of the human brain is used for visual processing; far more than any other sense, but the wrongly convicted on eyewitness testimony, demonstrates we cannot trust what we see. So, what can we trust?

In the dog world, their vision is not as good as ours, except in low light where it’s better. Their sense of smell is anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000,000 times more sensitive (depending on the breed), and they can hear at 4 times the distance with a wider frequency range. They know long before we do that someone is coming home, can detect serious illnesses in us, and understand all our emotions. Beyond the impressive numbers is an awareness not clouded by their senses.

Perhaps the answer is in what we call a sixth sense; an intuition fed by the senses, but acting independently. We can’t explain it, but something feels different when it occurs. We see clearly, speak with wisdom, and feel a certainty beyond conscious thought. It’s a glorious feeling and we glow when someone tells us we have it. So, why is it so fleeting, and is it the answer to what we perceive as common sense? There has to be more.

Before we are human beings, we are spiritual beings. Like our senses, we compensate for losses. When we have trouble trusting, faith provides a lift. When love is missing, hope strengthens our resolve. When we disable our human senses, we are in touch with what we share in common as a people—a journey…a home to return to…love beyond our wildest imagination—a gem deep within our core—a spiritual common sense. A veil is lifted and the clouds clear; we hear a voice inside; taste the presence of perfect love, and touch the divine.

The dog is sleeping again. I know when she wakes, her tail will wag. She will be pleased to see me, and not because her senses tell her too. She doesn’t think about what is sensible, practical, or looking for a common value between what her nose smells and ears hear. There is no sound judgement, because she doesn’t judge at all.

Perhaps, that is our answer. On our journey, as we decide which direction to take, we will see a sign pointing to the somewhere between nonsense and common sense, where a gift is waiting—an uncommon sense—the pure genius of love.

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The 5 Lies of the Storyteller and How to Fix them

After an arduous adventure, the journey was finally over. With the ring destroyed in Mount Doom, we rejoiced that evil was banished to the depths. Along the way, we encountered a wise wizard, mystical elves, a dashing king; enough champions to cheer on, and they were just the supporting cast. For Tolkien gave us Frodo and his Hobbit friends—the very small ground dwellers with large feet and even bigger appetites. They were the real heroes he chose. If we uncovered winning against the evil odds and rooting for the underdog as we journeyed with Frodo, we may be satisfied we unearthed the core of the story and merit keeping a copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on a bookshelf gathering dust—or is there more left to uncover?

We are as fascinated with stories today as we have been since the beginning of time. Each takes us on a journey with someone to somewhere. We choose to go with them for many reasons, and when the last page is turned, the movie credits roll, or we wake up, we are satisfied. Glad we enjoyed it or happy it is over, we were touched and the memories of our experiences remain, calling out to us to visit again soon. They are the trilogy stories of the mind:
1. Of the word – books
2. Of movement – films
3. Of night time – dreams

There are millions of them with more appearing each day. Easy to feel overwhelmed, it’s comforting that according to Christopher Booker in his book: “The Seven Basic Plots: Stories And Why We Tell Them,” there are seven plots that cover all the stories we read and see:

Overcoming the monster, Rags to riches, The quest, Voyage and return, Comedy, Tragedy, Rebirth.

That’s much better! Turning the millions into seven is much more manageable, as we follow the protagonist (from Ancient Greek, meaning “one who plays the first part”) in their adventures. Snuggling up with our trilogy of the mind, we fully participate in a safe world where we are not judged, from the comfort of indoors in front of a toasty fireplace or on a cozy couch.

Good deal, but another type of story is always lurking in the shadows. It’s a story, not of the mind, but of the heart:

1. Of breath – our unique living story that belongs to each of us

It’s the road that only we follow, by every beat and breath we take; as we journey from a beginning to an end. We meet our share of characters and are changed by our experiences; in our words, by our movements, pursuing our dreams. We face obstacles and make choices that decide how we make the journey, so why is it that we often see the importance of our own tales to a lesser degree, and what stops us from investing our total selves in this unique opportunity we have been given?

It’s the lies…or more specifically, the lies we tell ourselves, because we feel it’s the safe road, which of course is another lie we discover later on! By that time, we have shut the door to change, found folly instead of wisdom, and can produce a list of reasons to prove the validity of our chosen approach. The mind trilogy despite all its resources: knowledge, facts, skills, and intelligence, provide us with an ample directory of excuses to support our lies.

There is no need to worry; take heart. Frodo won and you can too!

There are a whole host of lies and deceptions we follow. Here, I have focused on what I call, ‘The 5 Untruths of the Shadow.’

1. I can’t…

I have listed this one first as it’s the showstopper. When we employ this approach, we are left stuck at the starting line with no drive to move forwards. Since the depletion of energy we feel by saying, ‘I can’t,’ deprives us of the resources we are going to need to finish the race, this stubborn habit requires two steps to overcome. The first is to stop deciding what outcomes need to look like. Every ‘I can’t’ contains a pre-determined future, which we fill with unhappy endings. Removing it creates room for all the possibilities. Our minds will push to fill this space with logic, which fires up the reasoning part of the brain, but we are going to give it something else—imagination. No need to worry, when we imagine, it fires up multiple areas of the brain and your new friend will be embraced and supported by your eager mind. Practice is the key, so don’t give up!

“If you think you can…or if you think you can’t…you’re right”

– Henry Ford

2. I have nothing new to contribute…

How much we do embrace our uniqueness? With over 7 billion fellow pilgrims, we have a tendency to diminish our journey as being insignificant. Don’t…you have been called here by name! Think of books—there are only so many words and ways to combine them, yet it doesn’t stop us from wanting to read does it? When you were born, a new soul was summoned here to accomplish something. Seek it for it is for you alone.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”

– Howard Thurman

3. I don’t fit in with what the world wants…

Indoctrination is pervasive in our societies. Our schools lay out a required path to the work future. Our workplaces, necessary steps to take if you want to be successful. Our media, what beautiful looks like. How do feelings of not smart enough, successful enough, and attractive enough, support your journey? This is not our home. We are visitors here and when we are away from home, do we not seek what gives us joy and happiness? We don’t ask the world to decide. Being in the world doesn’t mean we have to be of the world, and just because there are powerful messages in the shadows, it doesn’t make them right or truth. Ignore those voices and follow the one that speaks inside of you.

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places”

– Dalai Lama

4. I am not creative…

At first glance, you may think this an odd choice, but how often do we compare the gifts of others to what we see in ourselves? The great violinist, artist, thinker, or idea. We fall short and the comparison limits us to seeking what we have been given. We see gifts as the world defines them and rate them as society says they have value—in the riches of possessions and wealth of money. We say, ‘if I can’t be that good, why should I bother, because someone is always better.’ Creativity is not about a human end, but a spiritual process; where the connection opens a channel to the true treasures; given to support your journey, and in doing so, the journey of others. Before creativity is doing, it’s being, and when we create space, we open the door to the greatest creations—love, forgiveness, kindness, and compassion.

“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found”

– James Russell Lowell

5. I have no purpose…

You are the narrator and protagonist of the only story that matters—yours. There is something you need that you don’t have, and your story, your purpose, is to find it—with every step; every breath. You must trust that it will be revealed to you, so listen and watch for the signs. No matter what anyone says, don’t expect it at a particular time or under certain conditions. People will cross your path. Some will be a blessing you will embrace and others, lessons you will want to push away. Accept all you encounter and take time for self-reflection, not judgment. Embrace change, for without it we are stuck in the land of shadows, and when all seems lost and forsaken, ask for guidance in the quiet stillness. It will come.

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”

– Albert Einstein

Take some time in honesty to look at the lies you tell yourself. If they are some of the ones I describe or others, they are all the untruths of the shadow—fear. The moment we agree to a lie our mind finds every reason to support it. That’s why our answers can’t be found in the trilogy of the mind. The answers have to be elsewhere. We call the place many names: heart, heaven, soul, spirit, light, love. Whatever is right for you, name it, and go there every day to banish fear from your story.

At one time or another, we will experience all of Booker’s plots, but there are 2 more I need to add. Although they can fall under one of the headings he identifies, they are too important to leave unannounced. They are, lessons and growth, because the former will occur often and the later is my hope for your story.

It brings our total plot stories to 9—the same number of the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, who began a journey in Tolkien’s story. Blowing off the dust, it turns out there was more to uncover…Frodo didn’t say ‘I can’t, or think about the outcome when he said he would take the ring—he didn’t reflect and say he had nothing to contribute—looking at the others, he could have surmised he didn’t fit in, but didn’t—he didn’t rate his gifts—nor consider a different purpose—he just said, ‘I will do it.’

He completed his journey, not because he was unafraid, but because he wouldn’t allow fear to sway him from his path, no matter how difficult it became. For whatever is bad in our world, it has no hold over us when we say that lies and fears will have no place in our stories, and like Frodo, the story we share before we take the final ship home, will be one full of love and hope.

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow – What are we here to Accomplish?

Standing in a field of lavender, walking in lush woods, or resting by a brook as its waters gently meander by, there is something strangely familiar about this earth we call home. It’s there sheltering beneath the forest canopy of creation, that we find ourselves called to a journey. Surrounded by beauty, with nothing to fear except what we make up, we draw a deep breath and begin the quest with a lingering question—what are we here to accomplish?

When Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz, found herself in a new world she was told to follow the path to a place to find her answers. We too are pulled to see each step we take as progress towards a destination. We travel to work, go on holidays, and get to the shops when we need something. There is comfort when we return and contentment when we cross a task off our list—we have accomplished.

Through the twists and turns of life we face many dilemmas on which road to take when we encounter forks along the way. We place pressure on ourselves to make what we believe are the best decisions, and as we stumble along worries creep in. Our energy becomes focused on what’s around the next corner or hiding in the shadows. Our perceptions blinded by what we agree to fear, lead us away from the awareness of who we truly are to a place of unknowing, with only one conclusion we are sure of—we’re not in Kansas anymore.

It’s tempting to feel we made a mistake. Took a wrong turn or were led along the wrong trail. When something goes wrong we struggle to make sense of our experiences, and feel the need to apportion blame, most often to ourselves, to find solace. It’s easy to be miserable and find others on the path, like the lion, tin man and scarecrow who understand, because they chose to believe the same story. The solution is not found by seeking or fearing the wizard, but by simply reclaiming one important memory—we are here on a spiritual journey.

Once we acknowledge that truth there is no need to focus on the destination because we already know there is no place like home because we have been there. The key to our journeys is to recognize what we have, before we seek what we think we need. Dorothy only had to click her heels three times to get home. The lion, who wanted courage, the tin man, a heart, and the scarecrow, a brain, all came to realize that they already had what they sought.

The choice to embrace the gifts we came with changes how we approach our journey. The faith that reveals there is nothing to fear behind the curtain and that choices are not hurdles, but necessary steps for us to grow in our understanding of what we need to learn here. The brightness and warmth of the sun above us which turns our path yellow to light the way—our yellow brick road. The hope that reminds us, although the road may be unfamiliar the surroundings are not. In the majesty of towering trees and bright butterflies feeding on beautiful blooms, that are the familiar gifts of home that protect us from harm and surround us with peace.

There is no need to fear on our spiritual journey for there are many roads, but it’s all one path; where we are held, supported and loved all the way. Perhaps resting at a crossroads we will come to realize what we are here to accomplish and already half way home—that over the rainbow is not that far to travel after all.

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Bridges or Walls? Choosing The Stones We Are Given

As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, my slideshow presentation discusses the questions, Bridges or Walls? What will we do with the stones we are given? Click on the link to open the presentation – http://bit.ly/1Ea9xG3

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Life…By the Numbers

At one time or many throughout our lives we ask ourselves a question – why are we here? I wish I tracked and recorded my thoughts in all the times it has occurred for me. Perhaps like you, my answers have spanned a spectrum; from learning to love unconditionally, finding a purpose, and when I was a small boy, becoming a fireman. Some ideas have left. I decided to leave fighting fires to those bigger and braver, but the burning desire to understand my journey still kindled a flickering flame to send me searching. Where to look was the first task. Weaved in the layers of the olive branch of spirituality? Under the philosophers’ stone perhaps, or was the answer elsewhere?

Of course, nothing and no one is perfect and our shadows have an annoying habit of creating new ways to shake our faith in whatever we believe. As enemies appeared I would take them on, one at a time, sometimes two or three in one go. Vanquishing these fears was tough and although I don’t want to brag, it goes without saying that I was pretty heroic. Just as I thought I was making progress a road block obstructed my path. Just how long do I have here to find this truth?

It’s tough running this race of life when you don’t know if our time here will be endurance or a sprint. Ultimately, we can only put off today to do tomorrow for only so long. One day, tomorrow won’t arrive. Stubborn problems merit a special approach. Some call it ‘thinking outside the box,’ but for me it’s ‘dwelling within the circle,’ because no matter what we believe, we are all included in this journey. More alike than different, all paths take us to our death and home.

William Deming said, “In God we trust—all others, bring data.” His words seemed like the perfect place to start to my ‘how long do I have’ dilemma, as there is no shortage of statistics to fill the void. There are already algorithms, which predict life expectancy which include factors such as poverty, habits, exercise, geographic location, hobbies (stamp collecting is safer than skydiving), occupation and stress. Genetics is another factor and progress is well on the way to map our genes to forecast in the family factor. I’m unsure how they would account for the human silliness dynamic, like looking at your phone when crossing the road, but my circle analogy and a zero look very much alike, so it seemed like the perfect place to start.

Looking at the world we live in, we might add, ‘…and lots of it…’ to the end of Deming’s quote, for we are overwhelmed with numbers on every aspect of our lives and living. Could the answer be as simple as a mathematical formula? Time to check it out.

The numbers day begins with the alarm clock sounding. Breakfast, we are told is the one meal not to skip, and although I distinctly remember growing up eating food it’s now all about the numbers. One glance at a cereal packet reveals a long list of unpronounceable ingredients written in an alien sounding tongue, along with the percentage breakdowns advising various intakes of fat, vitamins and the dreaded C word—calories. After a bowl of 200 I open the morning paper which reports a new study by the Cass Business School at City University in London. After two decades of research it reports that the Body Mass Index (BMI) cannot be relied upon because it doesn’t distinguish between fat and muscle. It says to keep your waist circumference to less than half your height. Worse, it says a waist to height ratio of 80% or more could reduce life expectancy by up to 20 years. Not good news for my search!

Turning the page, unemployment is up, the stock market is down and the weather forecast reports a mostly sunny morning with a 60% chance of rain between 3pm and 6pm. Reaching the car, the fuel gauge reads close to empty, but the manufacture says it gets 30 miles to the gallon so I should be able to wait until after work to fill up. I spend the journey glued to the speedometer driving at the optimum speed to conserve fuel as described in my car handbook. At work, my boss wants a spreadsheet with the latest profit figures with a presentation of why the low numbers are very good news.

After locating the best priced gas on the way home I pick up the mail and head indoors. One is an advert telling me I have won a holiday (apparently a one in a million chance) and my car insurance informing me my rate will be going up. According to their analysis men in my age group living with a 5 mile radius of my home have a higher rate of claims. Pondering whether to move, I scan my social media. Two new friends on Facebook, a couple of new likes and four retweets are welcome news. At dinner, the kids relay their latest grade point averages and how they would be much smarter if ‘someone’ bought them the latest iphone. I am distracted, wondering if I have drunk the recommended number of glasses of water for the day.

Turning on the news, the cost of living is up as is the cost of dying. A government spokesperson argues that the latest negative opinion polls on their job performance don’t reflect what they have been hearing. Apparently, they have proof that numbers aren’t everything. Switching to the History channel, it says Plato, the Philosopher and Mathematician, had, “Let no one ignorant of Mathematics enter here,” written above the entrance to his academy, and the average life expectancy in the Bronze Age was only 26. Finally some good news about life expectancy! It’s been a long day, but thankfully no longer than 24 hours. Turning off the TV it’s time to set the alarm and jump into bed. Got to get those recommended 8 hours in. And if by chance I can’t snooze, I know I can always count sheep!

Ok, maybe a little oversimplification, but you get where I’m going. Our thirst for data has reached epidemic proportions and shows no evidence of slowing down, because we are sold that statistics add credibility. What isn’t shared so often is that results change as the measurement system is altered and that like money, data has no worth except the value we attribute to it.

When a baby is 10 weeks old they begin to laugh. At 16 weeks it happens about once an hour, and at 4 years they giggle every 4 minutes. And adults? A measly 15 times a day. Before we learn to count we discover joy, in smiles and laughter, with not a number in sight. Perhaps it’s a signpost of where our true treasures are located. If there is a peace to be found it’s hiding behind the barriers we raise, what we make up, and whatever we give value and meaning.

And me? I settled on my solution. I am right behind Deming’s quote. I trust in God, that if I create space I will hear the voice that will reveal my answers and my path. I don’t know how long I have—I don’t need to, because I did the math and I have today. The root of the word mathematics comes from the Greek, meaning, ‘to learn’ and I hope to continue to find joy and laughter when the figures don’t add up. To learn to take care of the only number that really matters—to count my blessings.

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Stories and the Placebo Effect

Since the earliest times we have been searchers. Beginning with the daily quest for food, clothing and shelter, our forbearers must have marveled at all they encountered. Perhaps it was in a cave long ago, flint or twigs created the first spark, and the new magic of fire kept them warm. I like to think it was a eureka moment, when they felt a belonging that gave them a purpose to make the first sounds of joy and laughter. Before the flames they discovered companionship and the need to find meaning to the forces that played outside the safety of their camp.

The grunts and sounds were not enough to express their observations and feelings. They needed a new magic and perhaps the first words slipped in unnoticed—a name for themselves or the sun and moon that sparkled in the sky. Their discovery brought new power and a need to explain the forces behind the words. When the sun shone, they worshiped it; when the thunder came, they asked for forgiveness for perceived wrongdoing. Gods were created in the images they saw all around.

As the men hunted, they probably were not aware the women were back at camp creating another miracle. With babes in arms, perhaps it was singing to soften the tears that made it happen or the desire most fully to express the deep feelings of love. One word spoken joined another and language was born.

Since the old times we have built on what started in a forgotten cave. Over time, the numerous Gods became one, with many names and ways to worship. We created God in our image as we understood, in our search for truth and meaning. We are still trying to comprehend the forces of our world and although we continue to journey to understanding, there are agreements. Scientists would point towards the forces of gravity and electromagnetism amongst others as defining forces, and others to the immense power of love and forgiveness.

We would like to believe we are smarter, understanding our world and ourselves better than those before us. Our burning desire to communicate hasn’t dwindled, but despite our longer lives and increasing ways to express ourselves, too many times war and violence are used to settle disagreements. Is it possible we took a wrong road, somewhere in the past? Or is it just our nature to be frustrated with each other and lash out because we have lost hope of finding better solutions?

I don’t believe it is either. We are missing the magic of another miracle—a spiritual answer that has always been there, hidden in plain sight. The baby rocked to sleep to the sound of a lullaby; villagers gather around a roaring fire to hear about their ancestors, and in a kindergarten, three year olds transfixed by the adventures of a rabbit with magical powers. It’s the power of stories—perhaps the greatest force we have ever known, and although it may be easy to dismiss their relevancy, the deeper we look, the more we uncover, the closer we get to their true purpose as healers for our broken worlds. We remember them in once upon a time and they all lived happily ever after, and before we see those phrases as childlike and best left to the past, they lay at the root of what we seek—the wisdom from the old times and a happy life. Virtually every culture has a similar beginning and ending to their stories because the message is the same to all.

The truth about stories probably arrived within generations of the first cave dwellers, lasting for many thousands of years. It was the golden age of storytelling. The era of yarns, tales and adventures, where the oral tradition caused stories to come alive, ever changing through each telling. The transformation happened in more recent times when an able few turned the spoken words into writing. For instance, in Britain, the little known sixth century hero, Arthur, of oral tradition, became merely a footnote successful warlord in the earliest writings, to king of all the land five hundred years later—complete with knights, a magical sword, and a round table—quite the transformation!

The new medium was quick to become popular, and today stories in their various forms still pull us into an enchanting place we crave to be. From hardcover books to e-books and movies, and instant electronic transmission around the world, it is tempting to believe we have taken what they started and made it wonderful, but would our ancestors be happy? They may find our fictional characters mesmerizing, but wonder why we haven’t become the Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot we write about. Why we still miss the breadcrumbs; the clues in our history and present; that the real power of story is not in the reading, but in hearing the spoken word that transforms to the spiritual through song.

The journey of voice begins when a baby enters their eighth month in the womb, as their heart rate slows when their mother is speaking. It continues after birth, when they react differently when their mother reads a story compared with someone else. There is comfort, nurturing and peace in the tones of the heart when it is shared with love. Our ancestors understood this and when their words were first recorded into writing they were not narrative accounts, but great poems, such as Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and the biblical Psalms that spoke of their stories; their wisdom.

This is their message, handed down to us throughout time. To see the connection of stories, song and spirit, that unites, not divides, that touches us so deeply it can only heal when it is shared. The signs are there. Today, at life’s most happy and sad moments we reach for the rhythm of our core to celebrate and mourn. At weddings, it’s joyful singing, love poems and after dinner stories that we see as the way to express our happy feelings. At funerals, poetry is increasingly used to sing the words the heart is too wounded to speak. According to research conducted by Professor Davis, director of the Center for Research into Reading, in England, language penetrates the emotional core of our being, stimulating the memory and emotional areas. His work with patients with dementia demonstrated that hearing poetry has helped sufferers to reconnect to the world. One patient hearing a poem spoke for the first time in a year when she heard, not read a poem, from childhood. He has advocated that each Care home should include a resident reader, to aid in memory recall, to bring comfort and calm to the wounded hearts and brains.

Stories—we live our own each day, dream them at night, read and watch them, and when that’s not enough, we make them up. Our ancestors are talking. They are pleading with us to reminisce, to remember the old days, when words became language; when language became song and our hearts touched the spiritual center that is the home of us all.

And the next time conflict is looming let’s not take the pill of argument or defend our position. Perhaps all we need is a shared campfire, where we discover the rhythm that turns our spoken words to melodies. There if we dare to believe in the force and power of story, we will see our ancestors, and know in truth and meaning that we are all one people and the need for war was just a story we chose to believe in.
www.francisjshaw.com

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The Magic beyond Beginnings and Endings

Watching the beautiful sunrise colors of autumn and witnessing the sun lose its glow as it sets on the long, warm days of summer; we stand in silent awe of the vision that graces the sky. Most say they prefer sunsets. Perhaps it’s because we see the colors as more dramatic. Sunrises come too early and we’re already thinking about the day ahead, or we’re not in a rush when the sun goes down and can enjoy it more. Whatever our preference, the world is telling us something important, but no matter how beautiful the vision, how many sunrises and sunsets do we really see in our lives?

Beginnings can be wonderful moments, full of longing, excitement and adrenalin as we birth a new adventure. Endings are different, often consumed with feelings of relief, regret, sadness and hopes for new foundations that will ignite our spirits. It’s very fitting that at the beginning of a new year, some make resolutions of what they wish to accomplish, since January is named after Janus, the Roman God of beginnings, transitions and endings.

The world gives us the framework of days, to rise, live and rest. On the surface it looks like a perfect match to encourage letting go when a day goes awry. The promise of the next sunrise is an opportunity to start over and not focus on the past, which can disable our growth. It’s a concept that fits very well with the emotional turmoil that beginnings and endings create, and there is a peace and comfort we feel when we don’t dwell too long on what’s behind us or in front of us. Taking one day at a time makes it possible to be less overwhelmed by our worries and fears, to cope with less happy moments, and enjoy our wins however we perceive them. Perfect, we have a good solution…or do we? Or is there more to uncover?

Even taking one day at a time, it sometimes feels like one step forwards, two steps back. The satisfaction of beginnings let down by endings we can only forgive—to try again the next day. Reflecting, I wondered if there was a time when it was different. It was time to pack a bag and go back to the past.   

When I was a child, life as I understood it was continuous with a freedom unhampered by the concepts of days. I remember playing outside with friends. Nothing else mattered. My Mother would call to come in for meals and after multiple attempts I would begrudgingly wonder in, only to rush back out to gleam every bit of fun out of the daylight, until it was too dark or bedtime was ordered. With no beginnings or endings there was no desire to linger on problems. No need to worry about tomorrow. I lived in the light where adventures, friendship, and laughter left little room for fears. When they did occur, we made it through together, drawing strength from each other without judgment. Without warning the rules changed. Struggles, challenges and fears crept in as adults told us the days of childhood were done. We had to move on to a new world of conformity. It was strange, foreign, and unwelcomed. Suddenly there were beginnings and endings; life was no longer continuous.

There are times we look forward to the end of the day or not look forward to the beginning of the next. We become locked in a negative cycle of beginnings and endings – and it’s no fun! We can’t go back to the childhood days and if our only way is forwards, what do we do with those beginnings and endings? According to a 2007 study at the University of Bristol, 88% of those setting New Year’s resolutions fail, even though 52% were confidant they would achieve their goals. Frank Ra, in his book,” A Course in Happiness,” says, “Resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution,and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution.”

Winston Churchill’s words during the Second World War, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning,” remind us of the confusing nature of starting and finishing.

Each day we do get to start again….. It’s that same light of the morning sun that fills your heart when you hug someone you love, that same light that says I can make today different, that same light that says it’s up to me. It’s that same light that as it fades in the evening says it’s time to let go of the day and be thankful….so rest. And when we rest it’s not in darkness by but the light of the moon and the stars for the light never leaves us.

I believe it’s all about creating new beginnings and endings that are not disabling. That our best chance of success is when we journey together in the love, support and encouragement that accepts, forgives and leads us to make time for the sunrises and sunsets. Perhaps there, watching in silent awe, some magic will happen and we will rediscover the path to play and freedom that leads to life becoming continuous again.

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Soccer and the Right to Bear Arms

One hundred years ago, a ball is kicked into no mans land and men from both sides emerge from their trenches to exchange handshakes, gifts and souvenirs. They play an impromptu game, for soccer is a language they both understand. They sing carols, and for a short time unofficial peace silences the guns. It wasn’t the first time we discovered a different answer…

Four years later, as troops retire from the field of battle, wounded men remain in the open. A small man of five feet four inches, and gardener by profession, climbs out of his trench. Alone and unarmed, he makes his way amidst bullets and shells to the suffering. He treats them and carries them back to safety. It wasn’t the first time he had displayed such courage…

Over time we have hoped for peace, yearned for it. We tried to deal for it, compromise and be uncompromising, but it hasn’t been sustainable, and it often feels like we don’t live in peace, but in periods between wars. Peace, so long a dream is becoming a byword, replaced by more self-serving slogans like ‘victory,’ which tells us we have won something. It’s not the first time we have been told we are winners…

If Albert Einstein was right when he said, “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them,” we need a different approach. New thinking, that doesn’t start with a focus on the problems themselves, because that hasn’t worked. We need to look back to the beginnings, to the common ground where we celebrate that we are more alike than different. It’s there, in the valleys, on mountaintops, around campfires and beneath trees, where since the beginning of time all peoples have shared stories handed down by their ancestors. It’s there in our smiles, the language of all peoples. It’s there, when we have listened with empathy and understanding to each other and feel the pain and suffering of all who have loved and lost so much.

Only then are we ready to stand and declare our right to bear arms. Not with weapons, but by holding our arms wide with compassion for all, because no matter how hard it may be, it is the only way to build the bridges on which we can all cross. It’s not the first time we have sought peace…and it cannot be the last.

And the five foot four inch hero? He was a conscientious objector whose name was William Coltman. The most decorated non-commissioned officer of the British army during the First World War, he received five separate medals for bravery, saving countless lives as a stretcher barer, as killing went against his beliefs.   

 

As this year we mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Soccer World Cup begins in Brazil, let’s remember a game that took place on a winter’s night in 1914 and that the paths to peace are only limited by our lack of empathy, imagination and compassion to find the way. As for me, I am hoping William, the gardener, has planted a seed that says it’s not about avoiding conflict, but the choices we make when it happens. That our answers to finding peace lay in a language we can all understand.  

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