The bent tree

Faced with a hard situation outside of its control, this tree chose to adapt to get its share of sunlight.

Bent, but not broken.

Sometimes, it’s best to stop trying to change our circumstances and instead focus our energy on changing ourselves instead.

No guarantees

One of the most fascinating things about planning a trip to see a natural wonder is that there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to see what we want to see.

The day may be too cloudy to see the sun rise.

The conditions may be too cold or too warm for safe passage.

There may have been an unseasonal even that has blocked access.

The trails we hoped to go on may be closed for the season.

Wildlife may not be anywhere in sight.

No amount of planning can help. There’s always an element of chance.

Such experiences are a great reminder of how illusory our feelings of control are. And they also help us appreciate in events when things do go as per plan.

The universe is unfolding as it should. It is on us to make the most of our time in it.

Forming habits – from beginners to experts

Beginners – rely on willpower to get things going everyday.

Pros – create a system that makes the action default behavior.

Experts – change their sense of self/identity so the action becomes part of their new identity.

If we want to exercise more, best to just become the kind of person who exercises everyday. Changing our identity change “how we do things” and thus changes our internal culture.

And cultural change is change that sticks.

The Invitation

I was reminded of a poem called “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer recently.

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

I thought of this poem as there’s so much noise around what we say and what we like to project.

But the essence of who we are doesn’t emerge from our words. It emerges from our trysts with adversity, from the various trials of day-to-day living, and from our ability to take it all in, make our mistakes, and find a way to move forward.

It is that essence that is at the foundation of relationships that matter. Best to get to that foundation rather than muck around talking about trivialities.

Step back to step forward

Sometimes, we have to take a step back on things that matter to create the conditions to move things forward.

Sometimes, that’s just because we care too much. And that care is hindering more than it is helping.

On other occasions, it is because we just need a break.

And on some others, it is because our attempts to hold something that is structurally broken is getting in the way of the systemic change that is required.

Either way, being attuned to when our attempts are counter-productive goes a long way in enabling us to be productive in the long run.

Schedule it or shelve it

I’ve been sitting on a weekend “to do” list for the past 6 months. All of them felt important when I put them in. Since then, however, life got in the way and I’ve made minimal progress on said list.

I finally started at the list this weekend and asked myself a question – would I schedule each of these into the next 3 weekends?

If the answer is no, it is time to shelve/delete.

A good reminder – don’t say yes to something you wouldn’t want to do tomorrow.

Either schedule it or shelve it.

The 3 bedder

Someone I know was in the hospital because of a bad back problem. This friend was in a room with 3 beds (a.k.a. a 3 bedder)

As he lay flat on his bed, he found himself envious of the 2 others who could just get up and do simple things – like go to the bathroom or simply stretch after long hours on the bed.

We spoke of this as we wondered if there’s anything else we take for granted as much as good health.

Every one of us in the conversation spoke about how we all go through this when we fall sick. Our body is top of mind when it isn’t working but just retreats all the way to the back when it is fine.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate everything about our health that’s working today. Take a deep breath, stretch, squat, jump, sleep, and appreciate how our body processes the food we eat.

Everything goes south when our health goes south. And while it is on us to do what we can to keep it from going south, let’s appreciate all that’s working. There’s always more to appreciate than we think.

And, if we’re struggling to do so, let’s remember this friend in the 3 bedder.

Perspective isn’t given

A former colleague and I exchanged texts after a long while. After some catching up and pleasantries, we shared sharing updates from the past couple of years.

He shared that he’d become a manager. That switch led to a lot of self-reflection as he realized just how hard the job is and found himself looking at past managers and past jobs with renewed appreciation.

“Sometimes you have to eat sh*t elsewhere to get a broader perspective” – he wisely remarked.

It reminded me of two things at once.

Joy wouldn’t be good if it wasn’t for pain. Every challenge/difficult situation is an opportunity to gain some perspective and appreciate everything that is good in our lives.

And no amount of talking can help someone (or us) gain perspective. Conversation can bring about awareness maybe. But perspective is a whole different matter.

It isn’t given. It is earned.