The Origin of a Thing

I was wondering the other day where rocks come from. It was in relation to where they end up and how they get from place to place. You’ll see what I mean in a minute, I promise.

There are several interesting facts I discovered and it’s curious how one fact ended up connecting to my original question.

One version of how rocks are formed is that they are made of stardust, as a byproduct of an exploding star, that sends pieces outward into the universe at incredible speeds. Their size varies considerably. Some are just dust or pebbles, while others may be as large as a house. We see some of the house size ones as they burn up in our atmosphere and call them meteorites. Once they’ve landed and had a few million years to hang around they change form and evolve into one of three specific types.

Like almost every other thing I can think of, they go through a life cycle. A star, stardust, universal travel, landing somewhere, creating rock formations, erosion of many sorts and then sometimes they are used by man. We crush them and build roads with them and hundreds of other things.

My granddaughter and I, think they make wonderful subjects to be painted. We find that they are very well behaved and sit still while we change their appearance. We both love the process and the outcomes and enjoy placing them outdoors for others to see. She will sometimes place a sign next to one of hers that says, “Adopt a Rock”, so a passerby knows they can take it home with them.

I think this is very generous of her.

Recently we painted a bunch of rocks, which you can see from the banner picture at the top of this post.

And, here’s the connection I promised you.

I painted one completely black, then added the words, “the sky is not the limit” and surrounded the words with lots of white stars. I had no idea at the time that rocks came to us from the stars. I think that’s pretty cool.

I put the rock out in our front yard and hope that folks passing by read it and take it to heart. I believe it is the truth. Whatever limits we feel we have, are the result of our belief system, including in this case, the sky. I don’t think it is the limit. Not literally and not figuratively. I take inspiration from shifting my point of view, away from restrictions and constraints and toward expansion and creation.

It seems amazing to me that the star exploded and expanded and in doing so, set into motion a cascade of creation (albeit, a very, very slow one) that eventually resulted in my finding one small rock and painting it with the night sky, filled with stars. A part of me wondered whether it felt at ‘home’.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

Since I placed my rock next to one of our trees, I also began to wonder about its life cycle. What is the origin of a tree and how many different things does it become? I felt fairly confident, but did a little research to confirm my thoughts. Yes, trees come from seeds, which grow up, create new seeds and find incredibly varied ways of sending them forth to become new trees.

Sorry, I can’t help it. Which comes first the seed or the tree?

I know, I’ll ask a chicken.

Anyway, as I started to consider all of the uses for trees, one image leapt into my mind. It’s where lots of people are gathered together and they’re constructing a house for someone in need. They are part of a Habitat for Humanity project, which turns out to impact so much more than one person or one family. It’s a gift for everyone. The person who plants the tree, the worker who harvests and mills it, the people who sell it as lumber and those who buy and ship it. And then there is the whole process of turning the wood into a house. All those who organize the projects, those who volunteer and build the dwellings and those who eventually live in them.

It’s a beautiful life cycle, especially when I allow myself to become a part of everything I see.

I remind myself of this when I see the rock and the tree. What an amazing journey we’re all on.

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Failure IS an option

Some people say, “failure is not an option”.

Most times I think what they mean is that they can’t or don’t want to accept the result of what they perceive as a failure. They have in mind certain acceptable outcomes and no deviation can be tolerated.

I’ve been there. It’s not a great place to spend any time. Having your back against the wall with nowhere to go is hard.

But having an unrealistic expectation that you are never going to fail is even harder.

We’ve each been taught about the meaning of failure, whether directly or indirectly. I wonder, were you taught that failure was an enemy or a teacher? It makes a really big difference in how we see the world and our place in it.

And, what about success? Is success the opposite of failure? Do we listen to our inside voice or are we swayed by the opinions of others?

How do we define each of these words? And based on our definitions, how is our world altered?

And then there is this. Have I gained more from success or failure?

These all strike me as worthwhile questions to ask. For me, it’s been a valuable struggle to come to some conclusions. I’d like to share a few thoughts, in case you are struggling too.

When I was in high school I was an okay student and I thought my Math skills were decent and yet I failed one year. I had to go to summer school, which I certainly didn’t prefer. But I connected with the teacher, really learned the subject and was prepared for the next year. A real failure?

Fast forward a few years. I am staring downhill from the top of a black diamond ski trail. In case you’re not familiar with skiing, this is a trail for experts, which I was not. I thought to myself, I can do this, so down I went. Quite literally in fact. This one short trail produced all of my most epic wipe-outs. I mean spectacular, snow flying everywhere, unqualified disasters. Definitely a failure?

One more. My son, Tommy and I spent a weekend in the Adirondacks with the intention to hike one of the peaks called Three Brothers. We started pretty early in the morning and made our way up through blankets of rain and shrouds of mist. It was richly enjoyable spending time together. The hike though seemed like it took forever. Finally, we thought we’d made the summit, only to find a couple coming at us from what we learned was a higher elevation. We conferred with them. They took us a bit further up a trail and pointed to the distance. There was still much more to go to reach the peak. While I’m positive Tommy could have made it, I couldn’t. I’d have to content myself with having hiked up Two and a Half Brothers. For sure a failure, right?

Here’s what’s come to me.

Failure is inevitable, if what you mean by failure is not achieving a specific defined goal. If you open up failure and see it as a sacred teacher, you’ll see something valuable show up in your life. If you ask yourself what have I gained from this experience, you’ll encourage some extraordinary truths to surface.

I found a teacher who cared about me.

I created a sense of admiration for myself for trying something I suspected was beyond my limits.

And, I learned it’s not just about the destination or the summit. A truth was revealed to me that life is a beautiful journey, lived one step at a time.

I hope failure reveals truths to you too.

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Kindness

Here’s an opportunity to try something new. To open a door in your world and see where it leads. What beautiful shift might occur in your outlook if you allowed yourself some freedom. Freedom to explore some new spiritual practices. Ones that appeal to you and offer hope and excitement and a sense of connection, perhaps to an inner part of you or perhaps to what you think of when you hear the word, ‘divine’.

Ready? I’m going to assume that you said ‘yes’, and I’ll keep going.

Although there are literally hundreds of directions we could go, let’s take just one step and see what happens.

Spiritual practices offer us every possible direction, so we can go inside or stay outside. For this exercise, let’s do both at the same time.

It will be fun. I promise.

So here it is…spend a little time and create an “intentional act of kindness plan” for the next seven days. I say, “intentional”, rather than the more common term of “random”, because I believe the creation of a plan IS “intentional”. You’re doing it “on purpose”, not with a specific idea of how it will turn out, but because you want to be present and somewhat purposeful.

I’m going to suggest that you start out with creating ideas. What acts of kindness come to your mind. Just let them pop into your head and write down a bunch of ideas that appeal to you. Once you have them captured, say each one out loud and see which ones your heart is drawn to.  Make a list of 3-5 ideas (or more) that you want to put into practice during this week.

Once you have your list, imagine what you need in order to perform these acts of “intentional kindness”. Remember that they can cost you nothing or something. That part is entirely up to you.

How are you going to create some magic for someone else? Who will it be? When will you do these things? Plan it out a bit, but not too much. This isn’t intended to be a chore for you. It’s not another “to do” item, but rather an overflowing from the joy that lives inside of you, now and what is to come.

Okay, so now you have your plan.

One more thing. I’m going to suggest that you perform some acts of kindness anonymously and some where the person you’re doing this for knows that it is you. I’m very curious to know if that changes anything about the experience for you, so I’m going to ask you, if you are willing, to record your feelings about each one of the “intentional acts” you perform. That’s really a big part of this exercise.

That ought to be enough to get you started.

I would like to share with you that for my sixty-third birthday I performed 63 intentional acts of kindness. It was an amazing adventure. I learned so much about myself throughout the process, which actually took me all month to complete.

I was constantly surprised, amused and overjoyed by my experience. I found deep connections are always within reach, as long as I was willing to take one simple step.

I wish you well on this journey and would love to hear whatever you care to share.

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