The Calvin Show — Episode 001 — Burning Man

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Expansion, Then Contraction

Here’s something I frequently notice:

I’ll be going through something expanding. Recently, I’m discovering what it means to lead. Something I’ve never quite understood, and let’s just say, that as a leader (and husband and father and human being), that’s a pretty critical thing to get. It was such a revelation, and suddenly things that had puzzled me for years became clear. Things I’d struggled with where no longer a struggle. It felt so great and easy to step into that role. Massive expansion.

And then, immediately, the fear of losing it sets in. It felt so easy, what if it was a fluke? What if it wasn’t really something I did, something within my control? What if it was just a happy accident, and now I’m back to my old ways?

Immediately I start to contract, I want to control things, instead of that easy flowing expansive place I was in, I’m slowly but surely sinking into a contracted, fearful place, which is the complete opposite of the energy I so desperately wanted to hold on to.

And thus, my attempt at holding on to what was so great caused me to lose it.

This is a pattern that happens over and over again, If we’re not aware of it, and consciously choose to surrender to what is, and to allow the state that we wish to happen naturally without trying to control it, we’ll be guaranteed to lose it.

That to me is actually the beauty of it all. When life feels like you’re riding a wave. In order for that to happen, you have to be willing to be in-between waves from time to time without making a drama about it.

As always, the Buddha said it best: Not too tight, not too loose.

 

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Be There Now

I was working with a client the other day, someone who wants to be a successful actor. So I asked her to feel in her body right now what it’ll be like when she’s successful, when she’s reached her goal. What will it feel like?

Often times, we realize that we’ll have to be a different person on a feeling or sensing level. Somewhere in our body, we’ll have to feel different in order to step into that reality. Maybe there’s an area that’s currently a bit numb, a bit out of reach of our feeling and awareness, that we’ll have to embrace. Maybe there’s a posture, a thought pattern, or a habit of some sort we’ll have to let go of.

We tend to believe that when the outer is just so, then I’ll feel this way.

In my experience, it’s the other way around.

The other day, I did this with an actress. She realized she has been so attached to the “struggling, aspiring” actress, she forgot to actually step into being the successful actress.

I’ve been doing it a lot with music and songwriting lately. Who will I have to be in order to be the musician and songwriter that I’m dreaming of? Well, for one thing, I have to be someone who loves the sounds and words that I make. That hasn’t been how I’ve approached it most of the time.

My unconscious thought process would be that I’ll love my music and my words when they’re good enough. But that’s not how it works. If every time I make something, I immediately judge it and criticize it, that’s going to keep me stuck in this rut forever.

The other day, I took a whole day to try and see if I could write, record, and produce 20 songs from scratch, in a 12-hour period. Melody, lyrics, recording, arrangement, everything. I only got 8 done, but it was incredibly liberating. There was no time for judgment and endless tinkering. It was just love everything that reaches my ears, accept it as part of the music, and move on. It was so much fun.

Whatever new reality you’re trying to create, imagine in your body how it’ll feel, and let that feeling be your guide. Whenever you work on it, make sure to step into this feeling first, then take action.

 

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Why Always Trumps What

At one point, I was working with someone on my team on putting together an information product. And at some point during the process, I could feel that it just wasn’t right. I felt into it, thought about it, and concluded that creating and marketing an information product wasn’t the right next move for us. We should be focusing on building an audience first, then information product could come later.

Then over the next few days, I thought and felt into the audience-building aspect. Had some conversations with my COO about the direction of the business, and a bigger vision for the company and for my work in the world started to crystallize.

And suddenly, creating an information product seems like the exactly right next step.

I find this time and time again. The why is much more important than the what. The same action coming from two different “why”s, with two different intentions, will be dramatically different. So different it doesn’t really make sense to consider them the same action.

Everything in life has a subchannel, an additional channel with extra “metadata”. Kind of like a tweet has 140 characters, but then there’s all sorts of metadata about where it was sent from, when, by whom, the software used, and so on. The “metadata” in real life is much more interesting, but it’s a useful metaphor.

This video with Institute of Noetic Sciences founder Edgar Mitchell has a great example of this. He talks about this feeling that most of us get when we walk into an old church. We can just feel it in our bodies, how there’s something special in this space. The way Edgar Mitchell explains it is, the walls have absorbed the information of everything that’s taken place in that room, all of the feelings of all of the people throughout the hundreds of years. And that’s what we feel when we enter that space. That information is real. It’s not just something we imagine.

That’s how I like to think about this.

Once you start to pay attention to this channel of information, it’s hard to stop. It’s really fascinating and engaging.

Play with it.

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How to Love Everything, No Matter How Hard (Even Yourself)

When you think you can’t love something, when you’re having a really hard to allowing that love to flow, here’s a trick that works every time.

See if you can find somewhere in your being a willingness to love that thing.

Even though you don’t know how to love it. You can’t yet love it.

If you can find the willingness, then something magic happens: Love enters by itself.

Why is this?

It’s because love is the natural state of things. It’s light. It’s vibration. It’s energy.

Love is like the vibrations in everything around you that’s above zero degrees Kelvin, which is to say everything. That vibration is what determines the temperature of things.

Love is like the air that fills every vacuum.

Love is like water, entering every crack it can find.

Love is like a flower finding its way up through a crack in the rock.

When there’s no love, we don’t need to summon love.

There can only be no love because we’re clenching so tight, we’re in so much tension, that there’s no space for love to enter.

The willingness is all it takes to start to release that tension just a tiny bit.

And a tiny bit is all that’s required for love to start entering on its own.

And just like the water or the flower, once there’s a crack, love will find a way to widen that crack over time, so long as you don’t insist on clenching again.

Try it right now. Think of something you’re having a difficult time feeling love for. And then see if you can find the place inside of you that’s willing to love it.

See what happens.

And please share.

 

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No New-Age Guilt Here

To me, we are the creators of our own reality. We can create it any way we want, though we’ll always be imperfect and incomplete in our ability to do. That’s just the nature of life on Planet Earth.

A lot of people when you present this idea start to throw around objections. “Well, but how about war and poverty and rape and disease?” Well, yes, those too. “So you’re saying it’s my own fault that I’m sick?”.

This is the so-called “new-age guilt”.

The answer: No.

The problem is with the word “fault”.

See, if you realize that everything is exactly as it should be, then that includes the disease, it includes all of these things that we label wrong.

When you instead love everything exactly as it is right now, then there’s nothing to blame anyone over, it’s no-one’s fault, because nothing is wrong.

Allowing yourself to love everything exactly as it is just feels plain good. You can feel all the judgment, all the tension, all the suffering disappear from your being. Your heart opens and softens. All the resources you used to waste making reality wrong is freed up. You feel ten pounds lighter. Instead of feeling like you constantly need something, or need to achieve something, you feel like you have so much to give.

When you love everything, there can be no “new-age guilt”.

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Taking Time to Be

I can’t stress enough the importance of taking some time away from doing mode and just be.

Chill. Relax. Go explore your city. Play with your kid or your dog or some new toys. Cook. Sleep. Go for a run. Think. Read. Have deep conversation. Whatever you fancy, as long as it’s easy and unforced and follows your flow of the moment.

I’ve started to block off each Tuesday as meeting-free days. I will book nothing in my calendar on Tuesdays. Last week my wife and I took both Monday and Tuesday completely off, for an extra long weekend. We watched movies in bed in the middle of the day. We went for long walks. We cooked a lot—both meals and cakes—something I haven’t really done much of all summer.

And without our trying at all, several breakthroughs just happened. Both of the inner type, and the outer, particularly financial type.

We all have programming that runs us. And a lot of it is about doing.

I tend to not feel worthy unless I’m busy doing stuff—answering emails, coding, writing, checking things off a to-do list.

That sort of pattern will keep you running around in loops trying desperately to avoid that threatening feeling of unworthiness. If you don’t have any work-related tasks in front of you, you’ll make it about the laundry, the shopping, the cooking, the kids, the dog, the cleaning, the exercise.

What’s really needed is that you open yourself up to that feeling of unworthiness. Invite it in. Give it a hug. Realize that it’s just a wounded part of you that needs to be seen and be loved. It’s nothing dangerous. It’s not the truth that you are unworthy.

This is the way it is with all of our compulsions. They just need an inner hug, a bit of love and attention from us. Then they’ll leave us alone, then we’re free.

 

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Let’s heal the world

I saw a 6-hour documentary about Joseph Campbell a while back. It’s called the Power of Myth, and is a long interview by Bill Moyers on PBS. It was on Netflix a while back, but don’t seem to be now. In any event, it’s well wroth watching.

One point in particular that really stuck with me was the conversation about his famous phrase “follow your bliss”.

So many of us are busy focusing on how we can help others, heal others, heal the world, fix perceived wrongs in the world.

At the conference, a lot of questions and a lot of talk was devoted to, how can we spread mindfulness and meditation to other people in our organization, or outside of our organization.

And that’s all well and good.

But very often, this desire to help comes from a lack of will to heal ourselves.

It goes like this:

I need help. I need love. I need healing. But healing myself is hard work and painful and I’m not sure how to do it. Besides, I’m not even really admitting to myself that I need it. So let me shut that down and focus my energy on healing others. I see their pain. I project my own pain onto them. Let me focus outside myself, because it’s easier and safer and less scary than really looking at my own demons.

I’ve done this a lot.

These days, whenever I feel the urge to heal the world or heal other people, without them asking, I just love the part of me that feels the need to do this. If I then still feel like doing something, I’ll do it, but it’ll be coming from a place of love, rather than a place of need or lack, disguised as altruism.

And that was exactly what Campbell said: The best way to make the “heal the world” (not sure he used that term, but I forget what he did use), is to be in bliss. When you’re resonating pure love, those who are ready will respond and take in what they need, and those who aren’t won’t.

Follow your bliss. Be love. It’s not your job to heal the world. Just heal yourself, and the rest will take care of itself.

 

PS. What do you most need help with right now? Contact me and let me know. Then I’ll see what I can do about it. No promises, but I’m feelin’ the love.

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What If Everything Is Exactly as It’s Supposed to Be Right Now?

I was at Wisdom 2.0 Business here in New York recently and after listening to all the speakers and talking to people, this sentence kept ringing in my head:

What if everything is exactly at it’s supposed to be right now?

It felt to me like a lot of people who were into mindfulness and meditation to get away from something they didn’t like, or to perform better at their jobs.

I’m all for peak performance, of course.

But I’m even more for loving the present moment. Loving what is. Myself, and everything “outside” of me. All of it. No matter how much I may think I disagree with it, or think it “should” be different.

This sentence first started circling around in my head in 2009.

It felt like heresy at first.

“No, things are NOT as they should be. I should be more successful, I should be making more money, I should be happier. I need to push myself hard or things will never change, they will stay this way forever, and that would be unbearable.”

Suggesting the thought to the people around me, I got the same response. “How can you say they are how they should be when we’re in debt and we don’t know where the money is going to come from and this is wrong and that is wrong?”

It’s so ingrained in our culture to always focus on and point out what’s wrong, unacceptable, what needs to be fixed, that we never realize that it’s become a way of life. We’re afraid to stop this constant judgment. We’re afraid something awful would happen if we stopped with the judging for even a minute.

But that’s exactly what’s needed.

Only by loving ourselves, loving the present moment, loving everything, can we find that center of power within that lets us live a life of truth.

Everything really is as it should be, right now.

You. Your feelings. Your accomplishments. Your needs and desires. Your pain. Your body. The world. The pain and suffering in others. Politicians. The government. Taxes. Your boss. That client that keeps annoying you. The way your wife loads the dishwasher. Your bank account. Your banker. Your parents. Your neighbors.

What if all of it is exactly as it should be? How would that change things?

 

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What Are YOU Running From?

I want to share a personal story with you that I think you’ll probably resonate with, and I’d love to hear from you.

About ten years ago, I was sitting in my apartment on Kong Georgs Vej in Copenhagen in Denmark with my newborn daughter (I love you Flora) and my now-ex wife.

I was developing a new software product for my startup with a co-founder who lived in Silicon Valley, who had written my favorite user interface design book, and led the UI team at Yahoo. I was so counting on her and the startup being my ticket out of “here”.

Each night, as we were sitting in the living room watching TV or whatever we were doing, I’d be on the computer, coding. We had this cool black Eames eggshell rocking chair, which I’d always sit in and code code code. At night I’d dream of being acquired by Yahoo for $100M.

The reality was that the market our product was targeting wasn’t really big enough to make it sustainable. That our business relationship was working like shit, we were not a good match, and 9 hours of time difference certainly didn’t help. Even if the market had been big enough, our take on the problems and how to solve them were way off-base.

There were all these problems with the setup, and a lack of code wasn’t one of them. And yet, there I was, night after night, writing more code. It was the only tool I knew of in my toolbox. Any problem I faced, I was hoping I could fix it with more code. In reality, I was only digging my own grave deeper and deeper.

It’s like those roadrunner cartoons where Wile E. Coyote finds himself running mid-air, only belatedly realizing there’s no ground under his feet. Thats’ how it felt. I was trying to run ever faster, not realizing that my feet weren’t touching the ground, and all the spinning of legs in the world wouldn’t make an ounce of difference.

In my coaching, and in my life in general, this is something I see a lot. We’re running and running, not noticing that we’re mostly running in place. Even if there’s some movement, we’re still spending way more effort than Is needed.

It’s painful to realize when we’re doing this (and we all do it from time to time), but it’s much better to realize it now than later.

How do you know you’re running? You’re tense. You just gotta do this, get to this point, get over this, then things will be better and you can relax and stop to look around a bit. You always feel like you’re behind, or things aren’t quite good enough yet.

What are you running away from? I was trying to run away from a life I didn’t like. I loved my daughter from the moment I met her. But I was living in a country I did not want to live in. I was in a highly dysfunctional relationship, though I didn’t quite realize it at the time. Mostly, of course, I was running from myself. I was so committed to hating myself, to the idea that I was a worthless piece of scrap, and only through generous helpings of daily punishment and whipping was there any hope for me.

What are you running to? I was dreaming of a life where I had lots of money and I imagined that would make all my problems go away. I had this fantasy that the super rich lived in a world with no traffic jams, no logistical problems ever, no relationship issues. With enough money, I figured, you can just have everything exactly the way you want it all the time, and never have to experience any pain or upset or frustration. I also believed that with enough money, all my insecurities and self worth issues would go away. Yeah, right. But I believed it, without ever having examined the assumption.

How do you turn it around? It’s simple but not always easy: You stop. You sink into the present moment. You notice everything. You feel everything. And you love everything. Or at least open up to the possibility of loving it. That right there immediately gets your feet closer to the ground. Now you can start moving more slowly and deliberately, where each step actually counts.

It’s something you can do in an instant, and it’s something that takes a lifetime of practice.

I’d love to hear from you. If this resonated with you at all, tell me:

  • What are you running from?
  • What are you running to?
  • What is your version of “coding”—what do you do that you know isn’t really working?

I’m serious. I really want to know.

Thank you so much.

 

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