Sunday, November 22, 2009

Tools for the Journey #6 - REACH

My friend, Erik Weihenmayer is the most famous adaptive athlete in the world. He is the only blind mountaineer who has summited all Seven Summits. Recently, while visiting us in New Hampshire, Erik gave me one of the most important "tools for the journey" I have received in a long time.

These simple words from him will serve me well on the journey ahead:

"When you are reaching for your goals sometimes this means you will be reaching out into darkness - reach anyway. Trust yourself. Trust the people closest to you to support you. Trust the ground underneath you, and reach out with courage because the "darkness" is a temporary state." (

While Erik was in New Hampshire I took him climbing. Watching him climb the chosen vertical rock face I saw him act out this advice. He made sure he had all the necessary equipment (tools) to accomplish the task before him, he had someone go ahead of him to clip in the anchors he'd need to prevent him from falling too far if he fell, and then he started climbing. He trusted the people with him on this adventure to support him, he trusted the rock beneath him, and he reached out with courage for where he wanted to go.

Standing there among the splendid wash of autumn colors watching Erik climb that rock face changed me. Watching someone with far more to fear, reach bravely out into the darkness was powerful and encouraging. Erik lives his own advice every day. Even though the "darkness" for him is a permanent state - he showed me it is just a choice, a state of mind rather than a state of being...and he chooses light as his state of mind, the place he comes from, even as he continually reaches out into the darkness.

Time Magazine put it best: "There is no way to put what Erik has done into perspective because no one has ever done anything like it. It is a unique achievement, one that in the truest sense pushes the limits of what man is capable."

So, my friends REACH; and remember the darkness is only a temporary state.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tools for the Journey #5 - Exhaling Gratitude

Back when I was in my early twenties - while living in Colorado - I had the privilege of working with John Denver. During that time John gave me a powerful tool for my journey which I would like to share with you.

Over the course of the years we worked together there was one thing about John which was always present. It was present in his actions, it was present in his speaking, it was present in the work he did, and it was present in the way he walked through his daily life. His modeling this for me at that point on my journey was incredibly powerful. He breathed it in, he exhaled it, and it is who he was. Never in my life had I seen anyone else do this so absolutely…and I have not seen it exhibited in anyone else to the same extent in the nearly 20+ years since then.

John was grateful. His level of gratitude was staggering in its depth and breadth. He was grateful every day, all the time, without exception, on good days and bad, from sun up to sun down. He felt it, he lived it, he modeled it, and all that he did, all that he gave, all that he sang - was an expression of his gratitude. Without exception and without question he was grateful.

John’s most sincere wish was to make a difference in the world. One of the most important lessons I learned from him was how wanting to make a difference was not a place he was “going”, it was the place he was coming from; it was foundational for him. He knew the journey could be long, he knew some would criticize him, doubt his motives and question his sincerity...but gratitude was his fuel, it was the powerful ground he stood upon, it was how he looked out of his eyes, and thus nothing could stop nor deter him. He employed what I like to call the "Kennedy" approach:

In 1962 John F. Kennedy decided to put a man on the moon within 10 years. To reach his goal he surrounded himself with every expert he could find. Interestingly, he also made sure to surround himself with plenty of people who told him “it can’t be done”. Why? Because these were the people who would point out the flaws in his plan. Brilliant! He didn’t shun the nay-sayers; he included them, and was grateful for them, because they helped him reach his goal! Mr. Kennedy decided failure wasn’t an option so he found a way to have everything and everyone contribute to the successful outcome of the project.

John was the same - he included everyone and was grateful for what they brought to the table. He smiled a lot and really did say, "Far out" all the time! He truly was one of the best people I have ever known. He lived and breathed gratitude day in and day out and he gave me a precious gift by showing me what this way of being-gratitude can do in the world.

As you travel the road ahead you will receive many different “gifts” - be thankful for all of them ("good" or "bad"). These gifts are the treasures of your journey, the tools which will help you through the challenges ahead...if you stay open and remember to stay grateful.

I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other.
Everything comes from an understanding that you are a gift in my life – whoever you are, whatever our differences. -John Denver

Blessings on the Journey!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tools for the Journey #4 - The Weight of a Snowflake

Last night I went to “inhale” (=receive) a Jason Mraz concert in Boston. On my drive home I considered the “gifts” I had received and how I could exhale them to the people in my life. My experience from yesterday is a perfect case-in-point for how each and every person on our journey (even strangers we may never know personally) has a gift for us if we are open to receiving.

Someone exhales their gift; how we receive it is up to us. Once the gift is given the giver is finished and the “how” of receiving is completely up to the receiver. It took time for me to understand the old saying: “The gift is in the giving”, but as a writer I live this every day. I write to exhale my gifts, and the act of giving has to be enough; if I attach too much to how it will be received then my giving is not as pure.

So, as I steered my Toyota towards the Bank of America Pavilion for the show I asked the Universe for three miracles to happen for me at the event. This is something I do sometimes, and I find the more pure and honest the environment I walk into, the more likely the "miracles" will happen. I am happy to tell you all three Universal requests were answered and then some.

The gifts I received may not be the gifts the person sitting next to me received. This is the wonder-full thing about gifts of this nature. Jason (et al) exhaled the same gift to all 5000 of us, yet everyone came away with a one-of-a-kind present to take home. The reason for this is Jason Mraz (the person) is the messenger rather than the message. His exhale is the message; is the gift. Through exhaling a message of hope, love and gratitude – good ripples were created which I choose to visualize as creating other good ripples in farther and farther reaching circles today.

Jason Mraz, and his merry band of brothers and sisters exhaled a gratitude-filled, love inspired mantra to the audience. This exhale is absolutely the place each of them is coming from, and the message is an important shoulder-tap in our far too busy lives. Be Love! As I listened it occurred to me in a spectacular AH HA moment...these songs, these exhales from Mraz and Company are vibrational mantras. As we sing along we breath in and re-exhale out this positive mantra to the Universe. Brilliant.

In an effort to re-exhale the positive chant from last nightI want to share a story with you which I wish I’d had the opportunity to share with Jason Mraz and his family last night.

"Tell me the weight of a snowflake," a coal-mouse (a small bird) asked a wild dove.

"Nothing more than nothing," was the answer.

"In that case, I must tell you a marvelous story," the coal-mouse said.

"I sat on the branch of a fir, close to its trunk, when it began to snow - not heavily, not in a raging blizzard- no, just like in a dream, without a wind, without any violence. Since I did not have anything better to do, I counted the snowflakes settling on the twigs and needles of my branch. Their number was exactly 3,741,952. When the 3,741,953rd dropped onto my branch, nothing more than nothing as you say, the branch broke off."

Having said that, the coal mouse flew away.

The dove, since Noah's time an authority on the matter, thought about the story for a while, and finally said to herself, "Perhaps there is only one person's voice lacking for peace to come to the world."

(From: A Tale for all Seasons by Kurt Kauter)

Moral of this blog post - Be a receiver and a giver (an inhaler & an exhaler).
Add your voice. Yours may be the one voice missing which could change everything.
Be the messenger.
Be a snowflake.
Be Love.

Blessings on the journey!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tools for the Journey #3 - Backing up

Tonight, as I was reading through my first two blog posts, I realized I had not begun this blog with a context for my concept of gathering "tools for the journey". Some clarification at this point may provide readers with perspective about what constitutes a "tool" and how those tools can come to us.

Every person we meet on our path has a gift to share with us. Those gifts once seen clearly, become tools we can use on our journey going forward. They extend their hands and hearts, they exhale out to us, and as long as we are open we can discover what their gift is for us.

It is easy enough to think only the nice people we meet or the "good" things which happen are to be considered "gifts"...but if we don't get too caught up in labeling things as "good" or "bad", then we may be better able to see the "gifts" which can be hidden in plain sight even if they are disguised as something "bad". All of these things are gifts, and collectively they become our tools for the journey.

This blog is my way of sharing some of the gifts I have received along the way. The gifts of heart and wisdom we receive from our fellow travelers are the true and golden treasures of our journey; yet the heartbreaking things born out of our darkest moments - these too are "gifts" and are equally valuable as tools for the journey.

Once we learn to recognize the gifts, the tools, then the most important thing we can do is share. The best gifts get better when we share them and even if we do nothing more than share our gifts we will make a difference in the world.

My path has been dazzlingly rich with treasures and sharing is a way for me to "pay it forward". Perhaps among my "tools" you will find something of use. And just maybe as you read about my gifts, my tools, you will begin to have clearer eyes to recognize the gifts along your journey. If we each do this - passing our gifts and tools along hand to hand and heart to heart, we have the opportunity to create a sea of good ripples which will translate into a technicolor tidal wave of goodness.

A good friend of mine is always reminding me to take deep breaths. The thing I'd add to that is: Don't forget to exhale! Your inhale is the receiving, but your exhale is how you share your gifts, it is what you give back to the world.

Remember all you have to do to find the treasures on your journey is to keep your eyes, heart and mind wide open; and when you find them don't forget to share! Don't forget to exhale!

Here's to the journey!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tools for the Journey #2 - Navigation

When I was a young woman I had the amazing good fortune to spend time working along side R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (inventor, futurist and humanitarian – he is the man who coined the term, “Spaceship Earth”). During our times together Bucky gave me many “tools for the journey” which I still use today. One of the lessons I learned from him is about trim tab vs. rudder.

A trim tab is a small device on a ship’s main rudder which must be turned before it is possible to turn the larger rudder to change course. Fuller saw trim tabs as a symbol of the small but strategic acts which change the course of world events, and he devoted his life to trying to determine what a single individual like him (or us) could do to better the human condition that large organizations, governments, or private enterprises could not.

One of the things Bucky said to me when I was just 16 years old was: “If you learn well how to be a trim tab then you can grow up to be a rudder”. This message has stuck with me. It has provided perspective on countless occasions over the past 29 years since he said the words to me.

I’ve been thinking about Bucky’s lesson a lot lately in regards to my work and my life-journey. There are others who have gone ahead of me - they are the rudders – they are leading the way, cutting a path through the high seas. My job as a “trim tab” is to pay attention, stay open, and learn so I can extend a hand back to bring up another trim tab when I become a rudder. The rudder may seem to get all the glory, yet the trim tab is a vital part of the whole, the mechanism by which the rudder is able to turn, and thus chart a course to the far shore. Each plays a vital role in the process of forward motion.

In some arenas I am a trim tab, in others I am a rudder. I became a rudder by being diligent and bold even when I was terrified; by standing at the edge and staying open and receptive. In order to grow into being rudders we must be open to learning from those who have made the journey before us. Let your E-GO. (= ditch your ego), and let your Chi (energy) flow! And never forget as a “trim tab” you are a vital part of the whole. Consider where in your life you are already a rudder - be sure to acknowledge, encourage and support the the trim tabs around you. On your journey - if you are deeply committed to lifelong learning - you will alternate again and again between trim tab and rudder. Honor the circular motion. Celebrate duality. Light and dark, joy and sorrow, trim tab and rudder. It is the "death" of our trim tab self which must occur for our rudder self to be born.

Today celebrate your “trim-tabness”, and remember that one person (no matter how small) can make a difference!

Here’s to the journey!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tools for the Journey #1 - We begin

Everyone knows when you are preparing to climb a mountain you need to be sure to bring along good tools for the journey. My friend, Erik Weihenmayer has climbed all Seven Summits - these are each of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. There are fewer than 100 mountaineers in the world who have ever accomplished this goal. Erik is a master at packing tools for the journey. Oh, and by the way, Erik is blind.

Erik is a role model for me about not letting things stand in the way of my goals and my dreams. Erik lost his eyesight when he was thirteen years old but he never lost his vision of what he wants for his life...and he believes in the power of turning adversity to his advantage.

Erik asked: "How can you use your everyday adversities to make the undo-able do-able, to pioneer new possibilities so you can continue to grow and flourish? The first step is to select an adversity-rich, worthy challenge. It should stretch you in new ways and represent new possibilities, if achieved. It should be something which involves some kind of risk or resistance, and just the idea of completing it should make you tingle with excitement. The second step is to create a plan and then engineer the systems which will be the key to helping you reach your goal. The third step is to "Practice to Perfect" so you can make those systems work when they count the most." (From Erik's book: The Adversity Advantage

I began this blog as an exhale from me to the Universe (=you). Along the path I will share - with whomever is interested - some of the Tools for the Journey I am finding most useful. No one climbs a tall mountain alone; it takes a team. Together we can reach the summit (whatever that summit might be for you), and it is my privilege to be making this climb with any fellow traveler who cares to land here awhile, anyone who wants to break their journey for a short spell and hang here with me and ponder some of the "tools" we are collectively gathering as we travel.

When I am ahead of you I will reach back and give you a hand up. When you are in the lead please do the same, and together failure is not possible. And remember that if the mountains were smooth we could not climb them at all!

"When I look with my eyes I see what is there. When I look with my heart I see what is possible." - Cheryl C.

Here's to the journey!