Care & Feeding of Us

The roar of hammering and sawing has begun! The reshaping of the kitchen is underway! The reducing of our whale-size house and belongings–down to a respectful salmon-size, is practically levitating.

And, right in the middle of this ocean of movement…. comes a poem. A poem that has me rocking back and forth on a stair, in an empty house, in an evening sunbeam, crying. It gently strips away everything, back to a key ingredient for everyone I know–and especially the elderly and the teens I know and love. Love yourself. Love yourself. You only get one life, and its completely yours, for your own creative meandering. Embrace the whole agonizingly exquisite thing.

LOVE AFTER LOVE

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

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“Idea Sex”- Mastering the Intersection

I’ve said before how I love James Altucher‘s thought process–even if it is off-grid, cryptic, or unsavory to listen to (his personal stories and insights are painfully hard-earned). He is an Idea Machine. Here’s one that is so super fun I had to write it out:

Making your ideas have sex. “Idea Sex.” Here’s Altucher:

“Stan Weston had an idea that would change the lives of little boys forever. He knew that girls liked to play with dolls. But boys had no dolls to play with. Boys liked guns and action. Dolls + Action == ??He made a doll based on a soldier, gave it a plastic gun, and called it an “action figure”. He named it GI Joe. Stan Weston didn’t come up with the newest newest new thing. All he did was combine the simplest concepts and made something that millions of kids loved. ‘The best way to make a living with your imagination is to develop innovative applications, not imagine completely new concepts.’”

That’s it. Make two lists of what people love. Combine them. Have fun. The best ideas always come from mating. Think of Hollywood. When they pitch an idea its never just “I have this idea”. Its always “It’s “Tarzan” meets “My Dinner With Andre” ”When you says “its like X +Y” then people all lean back and their own elegant imaginations begin to dance with your ideas.

Mating two unlikely bedfellows, for fresh possibilities. Like

Peeping Tom + social platform = Facebook.

Peeping Tom meets Photo Camera App = Snapchat.

 

Here’s some things I’m wanting to innovate new forms or processes for:

acrylic painting

poetry

beatniks

therapy

attachment

writing

portraits

organic building structures

meditation

zumba

teenagers

ageing

playing fiddle

playing mandolin

playing piano

mindfulness

photo books

vacations

homestay students

senior photos

systems for creating

systems for planning

socializing

remodeling

diet

photos

reducing Iphone addiction

gut health

artistic lifestyle

goal setting

getting in the woods

Feel free to apply x+y to these for me, and leave innovations in the comments. I’d love that!

Example: I need someone to shop for a car for me. I have to let this old Beetle go. But you’d have to really know me and care that I got something that makes me happy. In return, I would paint them a picture. Or something else personal. Where is the online business for that? Online friending crossed with meaningful services. 

Here we have a bit of idea sex: how to paint something others like + how to use your photos. This is how I see Ivy Newport’s online class “figurescapes.” She takes printed pictures, makes copies, uses gel medium to adhere, embellishes with drawing, and then paints the pictures. A little unlike “paint by numbers” which was another version of idea sex from the 60’s: maps + paint + numbers= possible okay painting.

Here’s a couple of my paintings. I love seeing process, and so always try to show my own.

 

 

 

 

 

No Clowning Around

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Forget College: invent yourself

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Has anyone else noticed how much pressure and scrutiny is coming down on our teens? To design a profound life by age 18?  By senior year, you better have a great, big, status-oriented career goal to tell everyone about. And trust me, people are going to coming out of the woodwork asking.  Teens are no longer inheriting their family business or farm—they’re expected to invent their lives starting at about 17.  So much pressure.  Just 30 years ago, most senior high students weren’t asked, so where are you going to college? What are you going to do with your career? The obvious response these days, from about 90% of boys my son’s age is: “I don’t know. I sure like playing video games though.”

We were at the beach, ironically to get senior photos taken, and some guy in his 50’s wanders by and says “So where are you going?” Me, the photographer and my son stood in silence, surprised at this short-hand.  I found it annoying. His presumptuous, middle class, college-bound, flippancy. Its classism.

I liked my son’s steady response: “oh, I’m sticking around here.”

But the pressure. I’m stung by it every day. You see, my son is not going to college. He’s doing a gap year, or maybe many gap years. As far as any of us can tell, he doesn’t know what to do except go get a joe-job and start earning money. He wants a car and an apartment with friends. This is about as far as he can see. Okay, he has applied to several fire stations in the area, hoping to get sponsored for fire fighting training. But. He may not get chosen.

We decided as a family a ways back, that a degree for a degree’s sake isn’t worth the debt. Wait until you know what you want to study or specialize in and then commit –heart and bank. But, holy cow, the river floweth with parents and eager seniors all around us–heading off to college! And we’re standing on a rock in the river feeling the undertow, the pressure, the fear of NOT sending him off to college.

Meanwhile, in Italy, where we just visited for a couples weeks, Georgio is graduating with honors from his high school, and guess what? There’s NO college for him. There’s NO pressure for college. There’s NO jobs beyond labor jobs in Italy. Interesting huh? The country has no money, no strong economy, no big trade supplies. This was shocking to learn, and for about an hour I wished we were Italian and that the only expectation on my son was to head out to prune the olive grove.

Life is long, and our paths are non-linear, and we change and grow and suddenly know and act from that knowing. This idea calms me down, and helps me trust my son has his own process, his own life path, his own perfect unfolding, in perfect timing. Here’s a great quote by Anais Nin:

“We do not grow absolutely chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations”

Here’s a painting that starts as a self portrait and ends up wildly different than I originally planned. That’s my life in a nutshell too. There’s not one element of my life today that I imagined for myself when I was 18, 25, or 29. Only at age 30, did did I begin making a choices that show up in my life today at 52.

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“One of the most widespread superstitions is that every human has their own special, definite qualities: That a person is kind, cruel, wise, stupid, energetic, apathetic, etc. People are not like that… we are like rivers… every river narrows here, is more rapid there, here slower, there broader, now clear, now cold, now dull, now warm. It is the same with people. Every one of us carries the germs of every human quality, and sometimes one manifests itself, sometimes another, and the person often becomes unlike themselves, while still remaining the same person.”

~Leo Tolstoy

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In the end, I’m not sure who I was painting. It started out as a self portrait. But, I had to make changes, I had to respond to something inside of me while I was painting, that would help make the next dab of paint make sense. It was all in the moment. In the end, I can look back and scan for meaning. But, like life, I was just doing what was in front of me at the time.

“Do I contradict myself? I contain multitudes.”  ~Walt Whitman

 

The Power of the Yawn

Yawning: every creature that has a spine yawns. It’s a built in repair circuit which triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms everything down in your body.

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Yawning is particularly useful when your body is stressed, injured, or ill. If you’ve got a head ache, try yawn “surfing”– where you literally try to yawn over and over–in most situations, your headache will ease up.

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Yawning is very good when you’re scared or upset. Try for at least three minutes of non-stop yawns, including gentle stretching, making little noises, gently rubbing your face or eyes. If you’re doing it well, your eyes should be watering.

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If you’re able to yawn for 10-15 minutes, your stomach may growl. By now, you’ve probably already yawned once?

images-4Twenty to forty minutes of non-stop yawning can also decommission stagefright. Do it until just before you walk out on stage, or in front of the camera.

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Humans have been yawning since the beginning of time, often as a stress response, sort of like dogs. Have you ever noticed when your dog is stressed they stretch, yawn and shake it off? We’re the same. My mom used to work at a community mental health clinic and would no sooner get in the car to drive home….and her body would begin yawning….all the way home. She never understood it– until she learned about yawning as discharging stress from the body.

Babies and kids are masterful yawners.

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Yawning is contagious. Try yawning at a meeting with others. Many others around you will involuntarily yawn. Like laughter and even tears, humans discharge built up tensions through these emotional releases. Discharging is a powerful. natural way back to feeling good again.

Even the Dali Llama yawns.

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(I was yawn surfing the whole time I was trying to write this! So funny!)

Bruce Lee and the Creative Life

Bruce Lee was highly ranked in our childhood home. Between Kung Fu and Bruce Lee tv episodes, my brother Eric became a 12 year old, karate-chopping wonder, who dazzled us with his whipping chock-o sticks. This quote takes Bruce Lee a mile higher in my mind:

“Research your own experiences for the truth…Absorb what is useful…Add what is specifically your own…The creating individual is more than any style or system.”

Every decade produces its molds, but its reassuring that every decade produces the mold-breakers. The original thinkers. My brother Eric is one of those. “The creating individual is more than any style or system” points to our endless capacity for using the creative forces of the universe inside and outside our brains….to form and live a personal truth.

It seems I am always searching for the path toward a deeper authentic life. Sometimes I touch in on it, and feel electrified. Everything opens up. Other times, the old roles, the stale traffic patterns, the recycling dumb thoughts slowly closes me up into the trance of day to day. Yawn.

“We will discover the nature of our particular genius when we stop trying to conform to our own and other people’s models, learn to be ourselves and allow our natural channel to open.” ~Shakti Gawain.

I’ve been listening to Sigur Ross for a touch of brilliant, near-angelic tones to paint by.

Here’s a piece that went one way, and then the other:
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Painting & Brain Coaching

…I’m going to put my Behavior Psychologist HAT on for this post. Because I’ve just listened to a thrilling Podcast with James Altucher interviewing Jim Kwik, and he’s got some awesome life pointers. If you’re like me you’ve read and heard dozens of self help schemes. I love it when they speak to me and feel fresh and even fun to go deeper with. Feeling blue? Or directionless? Like you’re treading water? Here’s 10 aspects of your life to bone up on. Read through the list, then go back and read each one, taking a moment to close your eyes and imagine the next step toward adding or deepening that practice.

I created this acronym to help recall these later: WISDOM

W~ writing. Carry a small notebook and journal and jot down ideas, creative insights, observations, goals, gratitudes. 120 geniuses were studied for commonalities, and journaling was top of the list.

I~Imagining/creating. See if you can make a habit of intentionally creating helpful images in your mind. Create and rehearse those images. What is an important problem to solve in school, work, home or creative life? Get in the habit of creating helpful mental imagines to solve it. Powerful. (Read Shakti Gawain for more training on this).

S~ Self Talk. Your thoughts control your perception. Be sure you’re rehearsing “I can do this” “I love myself” and “its all going to work out” thoughts. Watch your inner voice ALL the time– force it to positivity.

D~ Diet. By now we all know we are what we eat. I’m personally a gluten-free vegie and meat monster. Eat organic. Eat vegetables and grass fed beef. But be a flexitarian, okay? Try not to be rigid about food. Trader Joe’s and Vitacost can supply you with tons of good, organic foods for cheap.

O~ Order/Organization. Clear your house of clutter. It feels so good! Get rid of stuff you don’t use. Your space is like your brain, we need order and space and free room for creating good moods, and being our best creative self.

M~ Meditate. People who meditate for 15 minutes each day are more resilient facing stressful situations. If you want to lead a big, bold, creative life, you need to meditate. Meditation thickens the tissue in the frontal cortex that protects you against stressing out. Try Tara Brach’s podcast for helpful guided meditations.

S~ Stress Reduction. Everyone has some anxiety. Our culture does it to us.  Research says cognitive behavioral skills are as effective, and at times more effective than anti-anxiety medication.

Here’s a basic CBT skill: The Three C’s: calm the body (breathing and relaxing the jaw, muscles, and eyelids); correct the goal (check your thinking, is it causing your own stress? Change the goal. Example: at a party, go from trying to get everyone to like you (not achievable), to taking a deep interest in others. Create a list of questions to ask before a party and seek to make other people feel interesting. (Thats an achievable goal);  confront the situation in a new way.

Remember that socializing, with people who love and understand you, is hugely stress reducing. Who do you need to hang out with more often? I hang out with my friends every Friday night to catch up, listen to each other, let down from the week, laugh and feel love. Oh, and drink wine.

E~ Exercise. Get oxygen to your brain before a creative project. 25 minutes 5 days a week. Join a walking group if you hate exercise. Mountains of research points to exercise for mood stabilizing, health, and enhancing mental capabilities. But marathons are unnecessary.

L~ Learn. Keep those neurotransmitters forming new brain pathway! Learning new information, new music, new art techniques, reading books on new topics, learning to play an instrument and learning a new language will ward-off dementia~ and boredom. The internet and YouTube are great for that.

B~Brain health. Basic brain hygiene: take fish oils and B vitamins, go to bed and get up at the same time every day, get 8 hours of sleep a night, always wear a helmut in adventurous sports, play multi-tasking games, avoid Nyquil, and keep learning new things.

Here’s a painting I’ve been working on and several pics to show the painting process. My obsession with hands continues. Thanks everybody. IMG_3599   IMG_3064   IMG_3065   IMG_3067   IMG_3536   IMG_3601   IMG_3600   IMG_3599

Building Your Healthy Couple Bubble

A couple bubble is a power tool.

Everyday, I continue to be blown away at the effects of teaching others–and practicing at home–what a secure couple bubble feels like, and how to care for it.  It’s a very basic concept of behaving reassuringly toward your partner (I apply it as a parent and friend too).  When 2 people commit to providing this for each other…things change fast.

 Here is Eva Van Prooyen, M.F.T., from the PACT group to describe elements of a secure couple bubble:  “Healthy, secure relationships are a source of vital energy…people feel good when they understand how to be successful partners. We are energized by a secure connection to another person. Our need to be securely attached is so powerful that it can get us through the hardest of times and help us float through day-to-day routines with ease, skill, and grace.

 Secure functioning is based on a high degree of respect for one another’s experience. Interactions and shared experiences are fair, just, and sensitive. If your partner feels even slightly unwanted, undervalued, disliked, unseen, or unimportant, he or she will—quite frankly—act weird and underperform in the relationship.

Insecurity and insecure attachment negatively affect brain performance. Development can be slowed down because the brain is using most of its resources to manage being in survival mode instead of being free to move toward evolution, growth, and complexity.  In general, couples can get tripped up in creating a secure and healthy relationship and end up not liking their partners, situations, or experiences because they don’t know what to do or how to manage them. This can leave them feeling badly about themselves as well as their partner.  “….we each have to know our sensitivities and how we move through the world, and also to understand who are partner is, and how they operate. To be clear, that is not how  we wish our partner operated, but how our partner actually operates, navigates, and maneuvers through the world. This knowledge, which requires a healthy dose of curiosity and attention, creates a strong foundation of understanding. It pushes forth the secure-functioning principles that “your partner is your responsibility and in your care,” and “you are responsible for knowing how to manage your partner.” Your partner then holds a sacred and honored position no one else in the world gets to occupy. That said, we often joke that actual wedding vows should probably include, “I take you to be my perfect pain in the butt.”  “…The idea of being responsible for knowing and caring for your partner in this way and putting the relationship first –tends to be the hard sell for some couples. When you truly understand the benefits of adopting this idea, the stance of “but it’s always about them, it never gets to be about me” loses its power as an argument.

My answer is, “You do this because it serves you and it comes back to you. You get your needs met by shoring up the vulnerabilitied in your partner so he or she can in return do the same for you. You both get the benefits of that investment.” 

  Love and genuine connection create libidinal energy—life force energy that can be renewed in an instant through a simple act of friendliness, a glance, a look, a moment, and a knowing that “my person likes me.” Part of creating a secure relationship is making sure you are helping your partner stay connected at an optimal level. To do that, messages that communicate “I’m good at you,” “I’m good at being with you,” and “You are in my care” must be reflected every day.

If you want to put this into practice, one way I encourage that is to pay attention to everything your partner hears you say about him or her. What messages are you conveying? Another thing you can do is to introduce your partner to other people, when you are together in public, in a way that is elevating…”  Go ahead, have a discussion with your partner tonight about securing the couple bubble through these reassuring behaviors. If questions or complaints come up, leave a comment. 😉

Why are Relationships so Hard?!

Stan Tatkin’s neurobiological approach to couples work is utterly useful, fascinating, and personally gratifying to use in the office –and at home 😊. Here’s an article by Jeff Pincus that describes why attaching to someone is complex.

“Emotional development doesn’t happen in isolation. The entire field of psychotherapy rests upon the premise that one human being can help another to move beyond vestigial strategies developed in the context of the distant past and to live life in a way that is less encumbered by personal history. We consider this to be emotional or psychological growth. Part of the blessing of being human is that this process can be ongoing as we learn, grow, and continue to develop across our entire lifespan. ” In other words, our ability to attach to another is complex. And why we can or can’t has reasons.

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As a PACT therapist, PACT trainer, and husband who continues to put PACT principles to the test in my own marriage, I have been awed by the acceleration of development and maturation that occurs within a committed partnership when both parties co-create a foundation of secure functioning. This is the bedrock that PACT helps couples stand upon, and that supports a resurgence of development where there has been regression, idleness, and apathy….

…When our safety and security are perceived to be at risk, our attention and behaviors are dominated by the tasks of mobilizing away from threat (fleeing), subduing danger (fighting), or shutting down (collapse). When processes organized around the drive for survival consume a relationship, couples stay in an immature state where there is no room for practicing….

….Secure functioning both requires and facilitates each partner to develop emotionally, take pro-relationship risks with each other, and be collaborative…

 

  …During a session, (Pact therapists) may direct them to reach out even when their instinctual impulse is to withdraw, to maintain eye contact when the habitual tendency is to gaze avert, or to say something loving when the reflex is to attack or defend.

Through such practicing, each member of the dyad risks shedding old, primitive defenses to become a more resilient and robust adult. Each takes greater responsibility for the current state of the relationship, and for moving it forward toward deeper satisfaction. This is truedifferentiation. PACT therapy helps couples become their best adult selves in a relationship where growth and personal development are a natural outcome of love and commitment.” ~Jeff Pincus, PACT Therapist