20 October 2010

Grand Opening

I have cleared what I viewed as the First Hurdle in the Landmark Effectiveness Seminar: I have created an intention.

My intention is to be visible in the World as a committed, working artist.

It's true -- I'm feeling "tah-dah" and invigorated and clear in mind like I'm standing on top of a mountain. It took a couple of weeks of drafting to come up with this stated intention. It started with something like "I will find or create a stream of gainful employment for myself" and evolved to the statement above. The process was provocative and the result is a statement that feels graceful and powerful to me.

And also

I am scared shit-less when I read it. Who am I kidding? How am I supposed to transform from a wannabe poser to a bonafied artist?

I am terrified, actually because it feels like my last stand. Like if I don't get my act together now, I might as well find a grenade to sit on.

I know this is not my last stand. Intellectually. I only feel like this is my last stand. I consider whether my fear is evidence that my intention is just more inauthenticity: me blowing smoke up my ass.

What is most significant to me, what I've decided to "go with," is the heightened power, freedom, strength, clarity, enthusiasm, willingness and confidence I feel when I say, aloud,

My intention is to be visible in the World as a committed, working artist.

Also significant, everyone who's heard my intention says they are, in the words of Landmark, "touched, moved and inspired" by it.

Yeah, I think I'll go with this.

17 October 2010


What is "inauthenticity"? The assignment is to find it. In myself. And to name it.

For two weeks I have walked with this unanswered question, let it tumble around inside me.

Group leaders in the Effectiveness Seminar teleconference once a week. Here's what I know about "inauthenticity" now, after this week's meeting. The Seminar Leader's discussion -- prompted by excellent questions from the Group Leaders -- was clear and dynamic and the light went on for me. I "got it".

Inauthenticity is self-generated. It is born and lives through me. It is estrangement: from God. From myself. From the heart of the world.

Ultimately, I can only come to know God through living out out out in in in
and out out in again
my consciousness breathing
God without and God within
God without and God within

Whenever Inauthenticity occurs, I experience diminished vitality, diminished joy, loss of connection to...everything. I float alone in a mute universe, with only inner voices chattering, yammering, wailing...inside me. It is a cold place. Dying.

I found a feeling memory of my inauthenticity during the teleconference. How many times in how many years have I approached a new moment full of prejudging, peering at the world through the tight screen mesh of my fear?

Inauthenticity is not sin.

It is powered by human will. It is not as basic as breathing but is similarly automatic and happens in the blink of an eye: that woman walks into the room and I don't like her. It's immediate. And I immediately begin to build the case against her.

We almost can't help ourselves.

And, yet

we can.

It begins with the willingness to see. Then a commitment to seeing. Even when we're afraid. Especially when we're afraid; when we're afraid, we know that a self-preserving psychic instinct is very likely to kick in and we will respond from a primitive rather than an evolved awareness.

We find a still, clear space in the stifling wind of our fear and ... well, what do we do?

I can only speak for myself. I take a few very deep breaths to calm the psychic trembling. Something swirls white and cool/hot in my solar plexus and the crown of my head; it is my Will, reaching toward knowing. Saying "yes" to life. Saying "yes, I am here. I am not hiding. I want to play."

The flip side of every inauthenticity is possibility. That's why the assignment to identify and name every inauthenticity is so important. Inauthenticity is me choosing a cage instead of Possibility.

I'm still uncertain how to name particular occurrences of inauthenticity or whether the task is valuable. Finally apprehending the concept on both sensual and intellectual levels is a breakthrough for me. In the moment I understood the term, I was also aware of the impact of inauthenticity.

To recognize it is to immediately appreciate as well what Possibility means. The flip side of fear, bondage, smothering

is freedom, breath


14 October 2010

Throw It Away

I worked hard today. It feels good.

I read (and am re-reading) "The War of Art" (Steven Pressfield/Grand Central Publishing) and the book's teaching has grabbed me
shook me
slapped my face and kicked my ass.

And then embraced me, in that way that only deep, organic truth can.

In the language of the other compelling transformative agent currently driving me (and enlivening me), Landmark Education, I AM "touched, moved and inspired" by Steven Pressfield's writing AND by the message he brings.


today I showed up for myself. Got busy. Paid attention to my work, i.e., read all email and responded to most of it (including acceptance of a performance invitation for this Sunday); posted two Events on FaceBook; and did an hour of Internet research following up on suggestions received about the Petaluma Situation.

The Petaluma Situation bears capitalization on the basis of how thoroughly my day was devoted to it.

I did a playshop presentation at the Petaluma Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at the end of August. It was a lot of fun for everybody--but no one had more fun than I did. Not many weeks afterward, I was asked if I was available to facilitate a longer version playshop and my fee.

Of course I'm available. But what is my fee? I spent a few days in consultation with friends, drafted a proposal and sent it off. Over the next few days a few other friends weighed in on the topic recommending fees that far outstripped what I'd finally decided on. I felt a twinge of "damn! I undercut myself again!" but I got over it. They agreed to my conditions without modification.

A month has passed and yesterday I received an email from a church member. She was in attendance the Sunday I presented the 20-minute playshop. At the opening and offertory of that service I sang from my Rumi Songbook (working title for a developing catalog, about five songs currently, of Rumi and Hafiz poetry set to music). The woman wrote asking for song sheets of "my" songs for the choir; they are hoping to sing the songs during an upcoming service on poetry.

I don't have song sheets. Or, at least, I didn't have song sheets yesterday. I spent four hours today transcribing a song. I wouldn't have believed I could do it. But I did.

Still, the money part of the thing dangled. Do I charge for this? How much?

My friends' opinions ran the gamut. I was glad I asked them; having a variety of input enriched the decision-making process.

Someone mentioned I would need permission from the author/translator. I'm using Coleman Barks' The Essential Rumi (Castle Books). I looked for him on Facebook, hoping to drop him a line of inquiry. I couldn't find a portal. So I Googled him and landed at a website for Maypop where Barks says:

Please feel welcome to share with me your
comments, questions, and requests.

But be warned. I will probably NOT reply to your email, letter, or phone message, or acknowledge receiving it. This is not from a lack of interest or warmth, but out of necessity. I find that I cannot do my writing work if I try to respond to every message. It is the too-many-things-going-on-at-once situation of a Middle School Band Concert Day. By my next birthday (April 23, 2007) I will have used up the Biblical allotment (70 years). Rumi's complete Masnavi (six books, sixty-four thousand lines of poetry) looms over me as the work I need to be doing, rather than chatting the day away on email.
But I left him a note anyway.

Within the hour, I received an email from him granting his permission to use the translation without charge. We exchanged four or five more short amiable messages. As if email correspondence with Coleman Barks' was not excitement and gift enough for one day, the last email of the exchange resonated at the same timbre as The War of Art and set me to the current blog post. He wrote:
So you have to give them away too. It's insidious.

His words reminded me of Abbey Lincoln's song. I found it online...and cried as I listened.

12 October 2010

Why California Gets On My Nerves

Call 'em inconsistencies or complexities...

or hypocrisy of the most insidious variety. Liberals who think of themselves as progressive and, due to either unwillingness or lack of capacity for self-reflection, are completely blind to their narcissistic rut. Saving the earth by buying the "green" variety of more stuff they don't need.... Complaining about the arrogance of American foreign policy and patronizing "the homeless," e.g., never giving "them" money because they'll buy something Liberals don't approve of...

I find more of these people in CA on any given day than I ever encountered in New Orleans.

Yes, I'm missing New Orleans today.

Hurts So Good

The last thing I fed my head before falling asleep last night was the first half of Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. Who knows what it did to my dreaming -- not even a fragment of a dream remains this morning -- but I have no doubt it was the prod that shoved me awake around 5:30 a.m.

For half an hour, I alternated between sitting and staring and lying down and staring. It's four hours later now and I've forgotten most of whatever thoughts I entertained. I remember reflecting disinterestedly on the events of yesterday...holding up little snippets of episode and considering them through the filter of NVC (NonViolent Communication)...observing the bubbly rumbling in my gut.

"I want more of that book!" was both a thought and an instantaneous hunger. I hopped up and got the coffee started, unpacking the dishwasher while the espresso machine labored. Outside the window, in the new day's first light, a man older than me strode by with a determined look on his face, his arms pumping.

On the porch, with coffee and cigarettes, I read

It's one thing to lie to ourselves. It's another thing to believe it.


Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.


Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work....Resistance has no conscience. It will pledge anything to get a deal, then double-cross you as soon as your back is turned. ...Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.

and, finally

Are you a born writer? Were you put on earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.

Do it or don't do it.

It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.

You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along its path back to God.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.

All I can say is "Let's do this" and "Thanks, V____" (who gave me the book) and "Thanks, Steven" (who wrote the book).

07 October 2010

Teasing Out Leadership

Every time I tell the mystery story about my becoming leader of a small subgroup of the Landmark Seminar I'm attending and I say "So, somehow, I became the Group leader,"

the response is the same: a chuckle and something along the lines of "Oh, Alex. 'Somehow'? I'm not surprised at all that you would be leader in any group you're part of."

The comment only deepens the mystery surrounding this development in my life.

Yes, I often present as articulate and strong and smart and willing. And, yes, I'm a good listener. And, yes, I have pretty good "big picture" visual acuity plus good "heart of the matter" visual acuity. All of these traits would be good to find in a leader. I've seen these traits in the leaders I respect and admire.

But I generally resist stepping into a leadership position when I find myself in situations where leadership is sorely needed. It happens a lot.

For one thing, groups generally have some work they're about. The thought of shepherding diverse personalities through a creative process is daunting. I think about everything I've learned about "dealing" with people over the years, all the rules and guidelines gleaned from my upbringing and therapy and human development classes/workshops I've attended and granola/new age/cosmic literature I've read.

"I" statements. Asking rather than telling. Listening without judgment. Time management. "Handling" difficult people. Holding the space. Making sure all voices have a chance to be heard. Supporting and encouraging each individual member for the good of the whole. Maintaining an attitude of service. Patience.

A lot to remember. A lot of lines to memorize.

Willingly pledging to lead while keeping all of these guidelines in mind has always looked to me like becoming someone else, becoming someone other than who I believe myself to be. A role taken on, a full suit of clothing donned. I have believed the grumbling, critical, resigned, hopeless outsider "racket" that typically started up in me whenever I found myself in a leader-less group, was the "real" me. All that patience and holding space and "I" statements crap was some stuff I knew about but not a description of the "real" me.

As the current essential transformation continues to play out in my life, almost everything looks different.

My becoming Group Leader isn't such a spooky and mysterious development.

I played the scene over again in my head this morning (as I have frequently over the last two weeks): Five people sat down in a small circle of chairs with the assignment to "choose a leader." No one said anything but the five of us looked at each other. Finally L______ said something like "Is anyone interested in being Leader?" and I said "Well, I'm interested," meaning Leadership as a phenom has interested me for most of my life.

"Good," she replied. "You can be leader." And so it was done.

Like I said, usually I resist and avoid leadership. I mean that both ways: I question authority and, although I will voice an opinion and claim authority in an isolated instance, I resist that position as a formalized, ongoing arrangement.

The difference this time is the context. This instance occurs in the framework of an educational system in which I've enrolled. The act of leading and my thoughts about it are highly relevant, experiential components of this system.

And I'm not doing it alone. I am neither leading nor exploring leadership alone. It is not a question of me being too "intense" or "deep" or "serious" about something. Intense depth (and expansiveness) is expected here; everybody in Landmark is ostensibly about intense, pervasive transformation.

Five people gathered and one person was interested in leading. A simple process of elimination, in a way. A logical and fitting development.

And, already, the flotsam and jetsam of our personalities have begun to litter the water and bump the sides of our little boat. This time, though, rather than analyzing the psychology and neuroses of group members, my focus is on what we have come together to do. The things I say, how and when I say them, and the how-when-what of the group members' statements and actions are important relative to how they serve or obstruct the work at hand.

We're meeting as a complete group for the first time this coming Monday. I invited the group to come to my house, a house that doesn't actually belong to me...a place that mostly feels like a situation where I'm avoiding and resisting taking leadership.

Which is not relevant to the work of the group.

I'll serve tea.

03 October 2010

Storm Tracking

I woke up feeling lost and anxious. "What?!" Making coffee, checking email, washing my face. Inside my head the voice barks "What?!"

The current Landmark Seminar is on "Effectiveness" and the Intention of the seminar is "For you to develop the capacity to create intentions from possibility and be effective at translating those intentions into results over time." Yes, "over time."

As the leader elaborated on the mission of the Seminar, what yanked my chain hard enough to propel me out of my chair and up to the microphone to share was a concept he calls "turbulence"--those periods when whatever we're doing isn't going the way we want it to. Without making light of the critical roles of creating the intention and seeing possibility, for me, hanging tough through turbulence is the pivotal moment in the process of translating an intention into results.

The mess in my gut and head this morning is the first real turbulence I've experienced since graduating the Landmark Forum. The particulars of my current lifestyle are far from extraordinary (and I DO want an extraordinary life!) but I've taken it all in stride for months. Fueled by what I learned in the Forum, as well as NVC reading and training, nothing has felt like true turbulence. Turbulence is the abject fear of dying that arises when the plane is lurching and things are falling and there's nothing I can do and I know I'm gonna die.

I'm in the house alone this morning and the mantra I muttered to the lonely walls while making coffee was this: "I've got to get out of here!"

I carried my coffee and cigarettes and cell phone to the front porch, muttering "I've got to get out of here!" And a lost, anxious "What?! How?!" whined breathlessly in response from a distant back room in my head.

Browsing the Contacts on the cell phone, I started deleting names. I pressed talked when M______'s name came up and listened to his outgoing message: "I'm usually far too busy to come to the phone when it rings so tell me why you called and I'll call ...." OK. "I'm calling to say hello...."

I left the message and hung up and I realized I was scanning my Contacts looking for somewhere to send an S.O.S.

And "turbulence" came to mind. Yeah. I'm experiencing turbulence.

Nothing has changed since yesterday. It's the same world and the same set of circumstances and today it feels like turbulence. The changed element is how the world looks and feels to me. That would mean...it's me; the turbulence resides in my thinking. It's the "meaning-making machine" that Landmark identifies at work. It's me, busy figuring things out: categorizing, evaluating, assessing. And doing it based on old, familiar stories I've told myself forever and unmet needs.

And the process and results of this meaning making manifest in my life this morning as a feeling of turbulence.

The strength of the resolve driving the process of creating effective results is determined by the integrity I bring to the process. Integrity = Being true to my word and committed to maintaining an empowered internal context. "What does that mean?" is the central question this morning.

It means awareness that there are things I know
and things I don't know
but mostly there is a vast universe of unknowns that I'm not even aware of

There's more space out there
more possibility
more freedom

It means saying "yes." There's nothing to "fix." Things are the way they are. Yes. Things are the way they are. This is my life. Say "yes."

I feel the shift. Nothing shifts when I try to understand myself or try to change my thinking. The trying becomes an all-consuming endeavor. I stop trying and say "yes" and I feel a shift.

"Yes" to what? To nothing. To everything. It's the power of "yes." Everything opens. The struggle ends. The search ceases. I arrive. Life begins.

[Note: M___ just called me back. It was a sweet intimate telephonic experience. I love when that happens.]

I did a Google Image Search on "affirmation" to find something to insert at this point in the blog. Here's the one that hooked me:

Thought I was a teapot but
I'm a sugar bowl.

Say "yes."