Fear seeks safety. Love seeks Truth. Please read and enjoy. Productive, truthful feedback welcome.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sharpening your Knife

Part 3 of a the 5 parts series on serenity.


Fill your bowl to the brim
And it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
And it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
And your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
And you will be their prisoner.


Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity.

~ From Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell

This week let’s explore the second line:
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Over sharpening is when we have done something too long or too much or so meticulously that by the time we get to the point, the point has lost its edge, or the reason has lost its purpose.
Over sharpening makes things less by becoming more and happens throughout life by . . .
Adding one more pinch of seasoning,
Wearing one too many accessories,
Over packing for too many just-in-case scenarios,
Using too many words when fewer is better,
And even citing too many examples of counterproductive excess.
You get the idea.
When we spend so much time doing the work of doing our work, we don’t leave room to step back.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

~~
Thank you for reading.
_____________

CHECK OUT The Bottom Turtle ~For musings from Dave on how to Love More and Judge Less link to his new book.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Fill Your Bucket

Part 2 of a the 5 part series on serenity.


You will recall the quote below from last week’s post.
For the next four weeks we will explore each thought, one at a time.

Fill your bowl to the brim
And it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
And it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
And your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
And you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity.

~ From Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell

This week we explore the first line,
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.

Let’s begin with a mental picture of a bowl—full to the brim.
Let’s fill it with soup, its contents quivering at the edge, daring you to even look at it.

The bowl is in the kitchen.
You must get it to the dining room.

It WILL spill.

In deference to Forrest Gump, life may be like a box of chocolates, but for our purposes today, it is also very much like a bowl of soup: chock full of your favorite ingredients. My imaginary soup is beef barley; with onions, carrots, mixed vegetables, and a variety of spices. Yours may differ.

My life soup is comprised of family, an airedale, teaching—high school and yoga, sleeping, reading, writing, walks in nature, date nights, as well as the various typical and unexpected events that come with all of the above. You will find in your own soup just as many ingredients, and just as much expectation.

It’s easy to imagine why we might have a bowl on the brink of spilling. It is easy to picture any one of our ingredients placing just one more demand on our finite time.

24/7/365. It’s a thing.

It should not be.

Seek those things that fill your bucket, not spill your soup.

Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity.


~~
Thank you for reading.
_____________

CHECK OUT The Bottom Turtle ~For musings from Dave on how to Love More and Judge Less link to his new book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Do Your Work, Then Step Back

Part 1 of a 5 part series on the path to serenity.

Fill your bowl to the brim
And it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
And it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
And your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
And you will be their prisoner.


Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity.
~ From Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell

We will each find ourselves in one or more of the lines above.
Some will be past experiences. Some will be current.
Rejoice on those past. Reflect on those current.

Now, take a deep breath in.
On your slow exhale, step back, let go, and invite the current to become the new past.


Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.


~~
Thank you for reading.
_____________

CHECK OUT The Bottom Turtle ~For musings from Dave on how to Love More and Judge Less link to his new book.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Cost of a Good Old-fashioned Butt Kickin!

What does a good old-fashioned butt* kickin’ cost?

By cost, I mean to ask, is the lesson more expensive than the learn?

And what I mean by butt kicking is when we are schooled by someone who was better than us at whatever we were engaged in with said better. Something we may or may not have known going in. Possibly something where we were in over our head.

What I don’t mean by old-fashioned butt kicking is anything related to a traumatic experience. Traumatic events have an entirely different cost; a cost which I cannot presume to measure nor do I intend to minimize. For tonight’s post, this is not that.

What this regards is what we might encounter in sporting events, card games, cook-offs, a friendly (or not so friendly) debate, and the like. Whatever the case, we were not the expert in the room. Not by a long shot.

So, think of a time when you were schooled, a time when you were the active participant rather than a vicarious spectator.

For me the list is long. I’ll give you the shortened version: chess, golf, cribbage, water skiing, anything which involved linear thinking, and attending a 3-day college basketball reffing clinic (whew, was that ever humbling). These and more can be found circled in red on the lower end of many of my learning curves.

Let me share one from above where I was schooled; the aforementioned basketball clinic.

First, an aside: I believe I am pretty capable at learning new things. It’s kind of a double edged sword, though; it can work for me and it can work against me. I am successful at enough of the things I try so occasionally I find myself trying things that are probably better left alone. Take skydiving, for example. I figured, what could go wrong, right?  Nothing did, of course, or no blog tonight, but what if? But I seldom ask either of those questions; what could go wrong?, and what if?. Instead, I ask what could go right?

That’s the mindset I had when I signed up for the college basketball reffing clinic. I had reffed high school basketball for several years and figured I was pretty good at it. So I asked myself, what could go right if I attended this clinic. My vision of things going right focused on my being noticed right away and subsequently being asked (begged) to work my way up to big time college reffing. I invited my daughter along for company because she too was a basketball official. She worked high school games while enrolled in her freshman year of college.

Fast forward to the third and final day of the clinic. I was finishing up my last game in front of the substantial crowd made up of parents of the players and interlaced (I hoped) with scouts looking for college-ready refs. During the game I made several calls. One player, number 34, was the recipient of more than her share of my whistle than the others players. It happens.

On one occasion, I called her for blocking and immediately a strong voiced gentleman boomed from his balcony seat, “Get into position, 34!”, clearly referencing her number. Later she fouled a shooter. “34, You’re horrible!”, yelled the voice again. I felt sorry for her. It seemed extreme for this fan to be harassing her for normal basketball play, but you get all types.

This continued throughout the game—the same strong voice unabashedly critiquing number 34. Finally, mercifully, the game ended. The players left the court and the fans had exited the arena. All was quiet as I headed over to my gear bag to change out my stripes for a comfy sweatshirt. To my surprise I heard the disgruntled fan one last time as he left the balcony, “Hey, number 34, you are terrible!”  

I thought, Seriously? Let it go. She’s in the locker room.

It was then, when I took of my striped shirt, that I figured it out. Pinned to the back of my shirt was my reffing number—so the many scouts could identify me. None did, by the way. However, my number was not missed by the man in the balcony. You guessed it! I was wearing number 34.

What could go right? Not much in this case. To return to the vernacular, I received an old fashioned butt kicking. I was schooled by better officials and by a fan who actually happened to be right. Who knew? He used the word terrible. I prefer to use in over my head. But, to be honest, this is a distinction without a difference.

So, back to the original question: Is the lesson more expensive than the learn?

There was a cost to my lesson, both a monetary and a personal cost: It cost me money to travel and to attend. It also dipped in to my pride and exposed the reality of my reffing talent. That was the cost of my lesson.

What did it buy me? Said another way, what was my learn? I learned I was not college material. I learned how to better officiate at my appropriate level of competence, high school. I learned that sometimes fans are right. And I learned that while I was suited for high school ball, my daughter was ready for the college ranks as she went on to officiate college basketball, including the college play-off level.

And the cool thing about the learn is that, while the cost of the lesson was uncomfortable, it was also temporary. On the other hand, what it bought me, the learn, is lifelong.

So back to you. I invite you to consider when one of your lessons turned into a learn. What was the event? What was the cost? What lifelong learn did it buy you?

Thank you for reading. Feel free to submit a comment online or to respond via teachfearlessly@gmail.com.

*Toned down to PG for this blog and inspired by my deep thinking nephew, Michael, who told me at the end of a conversation, “ I gotta sign off. I am heading out to get my *ss kicked by my Jui Jitsu coach.” He knew he was going to get schooled, but he also knew he would come away having learned something new.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

That which we do not understand can be explored with curiosity and compassion or hidden behind a wall of fear and judgment.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Which Pebbles Do I Keep?

Which Pebbles Do I Keep?

Okay, let’s play an imagination game. If this was an audible post, I’d say, “Now, close your eyes.” But, of course, that wouldn’t work, so, please, join me by closing your figurative eyes and let’s collect some pebbles.

Imagine you are standing shin deep in a beautifully clear stream. It’s cool yet inviting. You look down; your feet look a touch bigger than normal. They’d look weird if you weren’t so used to wading in this brook, but by now you’ve grown accustomed to seeing your enlarged feet dancing in the water’s distortion. In your brook, you also see pebbles upon pebbles upon pebbles, differing in shapes, sizes, and colors, and mostly smooth due to the gentle caress of nature and time.

With your gaze turned downward, find that special pebble that catches your eye. Reach in, pick it up. Hold it in your hand. Now run your fingertips gently over it as it floats in your hand. Calming, isn’t it? If you brought a bag, drop the pebble in the bag. If not, a pocket will do.

Repeat.
Repeat again.
And again.
Pick new streams, beaches, trails, and repeat again and again.

Your pace and style of pebble gathering will be uniquely yours. Occasionally, someone will join in and offer you one or two of theirs. At some point, your pockets will be full and you’ll return to eagerly spread out your pebbles, much like it’s Halloween night.

Imagine yourself now assessing your lifetime bounty. You might ask yourself the following questions:
Which one do I like best?
Which ones have grown on me?
Which ones don’t look so pretty now that they are out of the water?
Which ones make me want to share it with someone special?
Which ones make me ask, ‘What did I ever see in that one in the first place?’

And as we continue to roll these stones around in our hands and these questions in our heads, we pause . . . cock our head . . . and ponder:
These pebbles in our bag, could they be a metaphor of my life?
Have I been picking up pebbles all along?
Which of my pebbles has someone given to me?
What ones are still beautiful?
Which ones look entirely different now that the luster of life’s water has dried and faded from upon it?
Which ones cause me to step back from in wise reflection and wonder what I ever saw in that pebble in the first place?
Am I still sharing some of my best pebbles with others?

And finally, we are no longer imagining. Our eyes are open and we ask ourselves, which pebbles do I keep?


CHECK OUT The Bottom Turtle ~For musings from Dave on how to Love More and Judge Less link to his new book.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

I Look Good in Blue




I Look Good in Blue
(Words Have Power)

I look good in blue.

How do I know?
That’s what people have told me.
That’s how.

If they told me I looked good in red, then most of my shirts would likely be red.

If they told me I looked good in a plaid jumper and a bowler hat . . . let’s not even go there.

The point is, as much as I like to think I am more independent, I am influenced by what others say, by their words.

Words have power over me, including their influence over what color I wear.

If the power of words ended there, this post would end here and we’d each walk around confident in our own stripe of the rainbow.

But it doesn’t, does it? We all know words carry power beyond our wardrobe. We all know words have power to harm and power to heal. Power to motivate and power to cripple.

Let me give an actual example.
I have taught 8th graders in a public school for years. Early in my career, I had the worst class ever. I used my words and I told them so.

You guys are the worst class I have ever had.

Guess what.
They believed me.
They spent the rest of the year proving me right. It was a long year.

A couple of years later, I had another worst class ever. This time I used different words. This time I told the class, I think you guys can become one of the best classes I have ever had. I love how you are free to discuss things. I love your curiosity. I love that you question status quo.

Guess what.
They believed me.
They spent the rest of the year proving me right.
They became one of my best classes. The year went much more smoothly.

Words matter.
Words have power.

Let’s find the good words.


Thank you for reading.

______________



CHECK OUT The Bottom Turtle ~For musings from Dave on how to Love More and Judge Less link to his new book.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Time to Dance

Have you ever watched eagles dancing in the sky? Soaring and dipping, or effortlessly gliding atop the thermals. Or followed as leaves prance on the invisible fingers of a breeze, spirited upwards by autumn winds.

Both are beautiful spectacles, beautiful dances, ordained by nature.

Today I watched a different dance. I was the accidental spectator of a woman whose dance was every bit as beautiful. So much so, I found myself unable to turn my eyes away. My heart was drawn as much towards the woman as to her dance. I was struck by her commitment to it, her devotion to moving through it precisely, determined to move through each part as gracefully and effectively as she could.

This dance unfolded across the street and right in front of me. I had time. Our large storefront windows were the open curtains to her stage which only moments before served as a parking lot.

She didn’t soar, or dip, as the eagles had. And unlike the leaves, she didn’t prance or float. Rather she moved with a learned agreement between certainty and caution.

Her driver’s door opened but she didn’t get out. Not right away. Not like you and I would have. We would have hopped out, shut the door, aimed the “lock” button and been headed inside before the chirp faded from the lot. Our dance would have been over before it began. None would have noticed. None would have cared.

But today, without understanding why, I cared. I cared about her dance.

She sat. For a second. Then with her hands, she pivoted and ushered her legs out the door, letting her feet land, puppet like, on the pavement. The next move was magnificent. She reached and twisted around to her left to place her hands on the door post, then on the passenger window. Still moving purposefully, she hand-walked her way up the side window to grant her feet room to shuffle back under her for support. The dance continued with the dancer retrieving a prop from the backseat. The two of them began moving in concert; a lift here, a pull there, a familiar reliance on each other until, snap, the prop was in place.

Pausing for only the blink of a breath, the dance moved onto its next act. Dancer and prop shuffled in practiced syncopation to close the back door, retrieve some items from the front, relocate her feet, then dance their way towards the door of the office.

Remember our leaf. Picture it now as it lifts into the air from a quick gust of wind, dances a bit, then hangs there for just a moment. Simultaneously it gives us pause and takes our breath away; lingering no longer than necessary before spinning back into its windswept dance and then away, out of sight.

Such was her final scene. Rolling her prop forward, she’d pause long enough for her feet to catch up. Another roll, another pause, another shuffle-step closer. Repeat. Roll. Shuffle. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat again. And again. Steadily, with practiced steps of habit, and a grace borne of determination, she danced her way toward the door.

Finding no ramp, she negotiated a curb, then a step. The dancer, pushing her walker, reached the door.

This was her beauty. The dance. The movement she performs dozens of times everyday, countless times over a lifetime.  At home. Getting ready. At work. With family. Out with friends. She has time because she makes time. She makes time because she needs time.

And that’s when I saw it! That’s when I understood why her dance mesmerized me so. It was about TIME. She did NOT need time. She was unconcerned with time. She was not bound by time. In her movements, there was no rush. There was no hurry. There was no urgency of time.

Like the eagles and the leaves, she simply moved with her body as nature prescribed; patiently, attentively, presently. This was her beauty. Her absence of hurry. Her model of contentment, literally taking one step at a time, honoring the step, ignoring the time; just like the eagles, soaring, because that's what nature asks of them; just like the leaf, prancing, because that’s what the wind asks of it.

Unaware of my gaze, she achieved the pinnacle of her dance before me; the top step and an open door. Someone had come to assist her, to hold the door. Warmly placing a hand on her back, she guided the dancer and her walker into the building. The door closed just before the curtain of my tears brought this act to a close.

The only time she needed was the Time to Dance.

______________


CHECK OUT The Bottom Turtle ~For musings from Dave on how to Love More and Judge Less link to his new book.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

. . . but words can never hurt me.


At the 2013 Boston Marathon, which represents lives of discipline and commitment to a worthy goal, a bomb punctuated the finish line with shrapnel and a message of hate. A blast devoid of love, proclaiming utter contempt for life.

For a bomb most assuredly results in death. It spreads like a cancer sucking life from anything it touches. An eye here, a limb there, a loved one no more. There is no possible positive outcome of a bomb. Only destruction.

To command such immediate and visible destruction, a bomb demands a big stage. It is an impressive tool of death, but it does not stand alone. Sadly, there are other tools just as insidious, just as crippling. Other tools, on a much smaller stage, which convey the message of hate just as effectively.  

One such tool is gossip. Gossip is a bomb of poison, with its shrapnel of words spreading like a cancer, sucking life from those it touches. There is no possible positive outcome of gossip. Only destruction.

But we have a choice.

Our choice is either one of love or one of hate.  There is no middle ground. If we choose love, we choose life. If we choose hate, we choose death. Our influence of love may not have stopped the Boston bombing, but our touch of love can certainly stop the spread of gossip.

The bomber and the gossip are the same; they both sow seeds of destruction. Only the stage is different.

Do we choose love or do we choose hate?
Do we choose life or do we choose death?

Our words will tell.