Why My Friends Call me Whiskers

“I’m curious, like a cat. That’s why my friends call me whiskers.”

– Will Ferrell (as Harry Carey)

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My son Madox is the youngest of four boys. And because he’s (almost) 9 and our oldest is 15, sometimes family conversations go over his head. Sometimes we use words he doesn’t understand. And one of the things I admire about my youngest son is that when he doesn’t understand, he asks questions. “What does ‘concussion’ mean?”

I think most children are like this. They aren’t afraid to ask about what they don’t know or understand. They don’t pretend to “get it,” in order to keep up appearances. If they’re not tracking with something they just ask. Sometimes it’s awkward, “Grandma, why do you have so many wrinkles?” “Mom, why does that old man have hair growing out of his nose?”

But somewhere along the way, I think we’re taught that asking questions, giving space to our curiosity is a sign of weakness. We come to believe that we should have certain knowledge and therefore we feel embarrassed. So we stifle our curiosity.

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I was thinking the other day about how much I admire adults who are curious. I enjoy conversations with people who wonder about the world, about why things are the way they are, about themselves, about relationships and about obscure branches of knowledge. I love the exploration of ideas together. I love it when a good friend says to me, “I’m curious about you and you…” Curiosity gets my energy up.

Nothing is quite so boring as having a conversation with someone who thinks they know it all and thinks they’re gifting you with their knowledge.

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So how does one cultivate curiosity?

The first step towards cultivating curiosity is to let yourself off the hook about what you don’t know. You know the things you’re embarrassed that you don’t know? Well, there are plenty of others who don’t know them either. I promise. So be gentle with yourself.

When I read some writers, I’m embarrassed about my lack of knowledge of Shakespeare. I wish I had been taught more Shakespeare in my formal education, but for reasons that aren’t relevant to this post, my Christian school education (high school AND college) didn’t make space for the Bard. So whenever people reference Hamlet, or random characters from famous Shakespearean plays, I have no idea what they’re talking about. And I have a choice. I can feel shame or just admit, I don’t know.

Which leads us to step two towards cultivating curiosity: follow your curiosity. Any curiosity will do. In fact, if you want to be a great conversationalist (one of my personal ambitions), your random, voracious curiosity will make you a great dinner guest. You’ll find more things to connect with people about, and you’ll just be a well-rounded person in whatever the conversation. Think about your last dinner party. The interesting people are the ones who have knowledge of the things you didn’t expect.

Liz Gilbert in Big Magic tells the story of how her novel The Signature of All Things began when she started following her curiosity about flowers in her garden. You never know where your curiosity will lead. It may lead to a new hobby, new friends, a new career or a new place in your relationships.

Curiosity “is like a box of chocolates, you never know what yer gonna git.” (I watched Forest Gump for the first time in probably 20 years over Spring Break. What a great movie!)

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I originally set out to say in this post that for me, curiosity is the supreme virtue. It’s not. That would be overstating. But, for me, it’s really, really important. It’s something I like about myself, and I like being around people who exhibit a great curiosity about the world.

So, what are you curious about? What do you want to explore? Who do you need to talk to? What do you need to read?

Whatever it is, follow your curiosity.

(Right now.)

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Oh, and by the way. I don’t think my friends actually call me “whiskers.” At least I hope not. But I do know, that I’ve had friends tell me that one of the things they like most about me is my voracious curiosity, and that I read widely. The result is that I know a little bit of stuff about a lot things. But, more importantly, I’m having a lot of fun!

And it doesn’t just extend to hobbies or historical interests, but it’s also about my approach to theology. I think we should be endlessly curious in our faith. (But, maybe that’s a post for another time!)

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Let it Breathe

Every morning I receive a handful of emails from sites I’ve subscribed to. I get my morning news from the Skimm, I get a thought about the Enneagram and I get a “truthbomb” from Danielle LaPointe. Yeah, I know, some of you are thinking “cheesy, self help, mumbo jumbo.” And you’re right. Most of the time.

But occasionally, one slips through my cynicism filter, and I find myself thinking about it hours, sometimes days, after. Like this one from a couple weeks ago:

Truthbomb_996

I’ve only drunk really good bottles of wine a couple times in my life.  I mostly drink the $10 stuff, and I’m not enough of a connoisseur to really know the difference. But if you drink a really good wine, they tell you that you’re supposed to decant the wine. Let it come into contact with the air. Let it breathe. (Especially if it’s an older bordeaux or cote du rhone with heavy tannins. Whatever that means!)

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Is this a season of heavy lifting? Have you been thinking hard about complicated issues? Have you been reading, studying, leaning into difficult conversations? Is there hard relational stuff you’ve been facing?

This isn’t normal life. Growth and change nearly always come in fits and spurts. We grow intensely for awhile, in response to crisis or because we got inspired by an idea, or someone we love pushes us to think or live differently. And, if you’re anything like me, it tends to consume you for awhile. This thing is all you think about, it’s all you talk about, you feel consumed with it.

But then, after we’ve done the work, we sometimes need to stop and “let it breathe.” We need to go on hiatus, refuse to talk about the thing. We need to go back to enjoying life as it is, to be with people we’ve been in intense discussion with and not talk about the thing that we’ve been talking about for the last several months.

Sometimes we need to take our new idea, new way of being in the world and let it breathe to see if it even works. And in this time, we don’t make big decisions, we don’t react to what’s going on around us, we just let our thing sit and be what it is for a little while. What we need is a period of normal life, doing normal things with the people we love.

(Yes, I’m looking at you, Imago Dei Church. Some of us need to “let it breathe” for a bit. Amen?)

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In May, Jennifer and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage. And by “celebrate,” I mean our two youngest have baseball games that night and I have a meeting at church. It should be hot.

20 years have been very good to Jennifer and me, and I hope to write about how much we’re still in love and growing into each other after 20 years in May. But sometimes, in the course of a 20-year marriage, you find yourselves at loggerheads. There are times when you feel like you just aren’t connecting, and no matter what you do to try to repair things, everything is misunderstood and hurtful.

In Addie Zierman’s new book, Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark, she describes her own 11-year marriage like this: “It had turned out to be about becoming comfortable with each other’s silences — about the paradoxical way that pulling back and giving each other pockets of space draws us closer.”

By my nature, I want to keep pushing through these times. I want to make it better. I hate it when my closest relationships are “off.” But I’ve learned in 20 years, that sometimes you have to let it breathe, you have to give things a “pocket of space” so you can draw closer. Sometimes, even in the midst of tough relationship stuff, you need to do fun things and promise not to bring up whatever is you’re struggling with. You need a cease fire.

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No, you shouldn’t run away from your problems. I’m not talking about quitting. With the people we love and in the hard situations we find ourselves in, we will only be better by pushing through, learning what we need to learn, becoming what we need to become.

But sometimes in the middle of the struggle, we need to stop and let it breathe.

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Taming the Drunken Monkeys

Give your mind a job to do, or else it will find a job to do, and you might not like the job it invents…It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

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In September, I was hiking with my friend Justin in the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. Both Justin and I are outgoing, friendly, talkative types, but when you started hiking before sunrise, carrying a 60-pound pack, and it’s now late afternoon and you’ve still got a long way to go – so long that you’ll eventually end up hiking in the dark the last 2 hours to get to your campsite for the night – you just run out of things to talk about.

I don’t know about you, but when I stop talking and my phone is turned off and packed away, when I don’t have music playing in the background and there’s nothing else to do besides keep putting one foot in front of another, I tend to get a little crazy. My mind erupts into a cacophony of noise and chatter, some of which is good, but most of which, left unchecked, is destructive.

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The Buddha called this the “monkey mind.” He envisioned the mind as filled with drunken monkeys screeching, howling, chattering and generally misbehaving. One of the tasks of enlightenment, the Buddha taught, was to learn to tame the monkey mind.

It’s funny to me that whenever I talk to someone about silence/solitude/meditation/prayer, one of the first things that that person almost always says is “my mind gets so active when I try to be silent.” And I reply, “Yep, that’s what everyone says.” One of the very first tasks of the spiritual journey (and I think ALL of the spiritual traditions agree on this) is to learn tools for taming the monkey mind, knowing the monkeys are always ready to throw off their fetters and scream if given the slightest opportunity.

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So, on the forest trail, as silence settled in and the monkey mind erupted, I re-found the breath prayer that I had written a couple years back while circling the beautiful lake at Mundelein Seminary in the Chicago suburbs. A breath prayer is a simple prayer, easily remembered, fitting within the flow of one’s breath. It occupies the mind, staving off the drunken monkeys.

Probably the most famous breath prayer comes from the Orthodox tradition. It’s called the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ (exhaling), Son of God (inhaling), have mercy on me (exhaling), a sinner (inhaling).” But there are lots of others, or you can even write your own (ask me about it and I’ll point you in the right direction). In fact, the words aren’t so important as the goal of the breath prayer: to move to a state of “praying without ceasing,” which focuses the mind on God.

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Something I learned about myself on Sabbatical is that my mind is healthiest when I’m creating things. Again, Liz Gilbert:

By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, [creating something] can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are. Best of all, at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir – something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration. (Big Magic)

When I’m writing, speaking, cooking, planning an event, my mind is fully engaged and so the monkey mind gets quiet. Now, I need to make a distinction here. Learning to tame the monkey mind isn’t the same as running away from it. This idea of creating as a diversion from “the dreadful burden of being who we are” can turn into running away if I’m not careful.  I also need to engage in strategies like a breath prayer as a way to quiet the monkeys. And, frankly, when I tame the monkeys, I find myself more freed up to create. It seems to be a virtuous cycle in me.

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Finally, a nod to Brene Brown here. Some of the drunken monkeys need to be rumbled with and removed from the tree. Sometimes, doing the hard work of going on an inner journey, naming what happened inside you, and rumbling with your story brings healing and wholeness in a way that will eliminate some of the chatter in your head. At least this is true for me. As I’ve rumbled with certain parts of my story over the last couple of months, some of the drunken monkeys have died because I’ve taken away food. I don’t believe this to be true of all my monkeys – there are some who will be with me the rest of my life – but in my experience, it is true of some.

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So, what’s in your monkey mind? Can you start today by at least naming the monkeys? (Hint: “fear,” “shame,” and “unworthiness,” are common species.)

[photo credit: Yep, that’s me. Justin took this one.]

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The Necessity of Self Editing

While driving home from Minneapolis a couple weeks ago, I listened to Pete Holmes’ interview of Liz Gilbert on his podcast You Made it Weird. I’m a huge fan of both Pete and Liz, so I was super interested to hear them interact for two hours. And while I loved it, it was mostly a rehash of things I’d heard each of them say in other settings. Except this one thing.

Liz was talking about the time it takes to hone one’s craft, the determination, the focus, and she told of how one time a mentor asked her, “What’s your favorite television show?” I can’t remember what Liz answered, let’s pretend it was Game of Thrones, but the interesting part was when her mentor replied, “Not anymore.”

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Late last week, I ruthlessly deleted a bunch of games from my iPad. I just didn’t need the distraction anymore. Right now, in this season of my life, I’m a little obsessed, intense even, about becoming. I’m deeply curious about myself, about the world, and I want to give as much time as I can to that pursuit. At 41, I’m not ready to settle into my easy chair and turn on the cruise control. I don’t believe I’ve yet discovered the best version of myself, nor have I yet found all that I’m really good at. Playing games on my iPad isn’t going to get me where I want to go, just like watching Game of Thrones wasn’t going to develop Liz into the writer she wanted to be.

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Listen, there are big things you are being called to do. There is so much life to be lived. If we want a particular kind of marriage, for example, it may be time to put away the bottle of wine every night after dinner so we can give ourselves to making our marriages better, rather than slipping into a quiet lethargy every evening. We may have fitness goals, spiritual hopes, career dreams, and the only way we will get there is by choosing to edit ourselves, so we have the time and energy to go after what we really want.

Let’s take me as an example: I know when I get serious about fitness, there are some foods we simply can’t keep in the house, and there are some situations I just can’t put myself in. I just know that the better version of myself, the one I’m really striving for, won’t emerge until I free myself of all the things that divert me from my goals.

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But it’s not just potential vices that we need to edit. Over the last couple of months, I’ve had to make choices about the voices I let in my head. I’ve ‘unfollowed’ a lot of people on Facebook. I’ve had to re-examine my internal narratives and discount voices that I’ve allowed to have a space in my head. I’m choosing to read some types of things, ignoring others.

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I don’t know what your thing is. I don’t know what you want that you currently don’t have. Maybe it’s something in your marriage, or in your level of fitness, your spirituality, a career goal, or even just a sense of inner peace. But what I do know is this: you won’t get the things you desire until you sacrifice for them. The things in life that are most worth having nearly always come at a cost.

So how about it? What do you really want? What do you need to edit?

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Five Things I’m Learning About the Creative Process

The last two weeks have been some of the best of my sabbatical by far. I think I’ve finally “settled in,” and I’m finding a rhythm that suits me. I spend the morning reading and writing, until sometime after lunch, then I go for a run and spend the evening with my family, doing homework and cooking dinner together. Earlier this week that time erupted into a twilight game of football in the middle of the street, until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. I can’t tell you how much joy and peace I feel playing all-time-QB with my boys in the street at dusk, facing west and a beautiful sunset. Jennifer and I were in bed by 9, we watched an episode of Gotham, and I was asleep before 10:30, so I could get up early and see the boys off to school and repeat. I’m recognizing all the ways I “hustle” for love and attention and right now, I feel free from those pressures. I’m really in “the sabbatical bubble” now, and I love it.

I’m nearly always reading multiple books at one time, but right now the book I’m most excited about is Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic. She might be near the top of my list of people-I’d-love-to-have-over-for-dinner. If you want a taste of Big Magic, you can watch her TED talk or listen to her “Magic Lessons” Podcast. Anyway, a whole bunch of thoughts are running through my mind this morning about creativity and the creative process.

Here’s what I’m learning about creating things:

  1. You have something to offer the world. I love the way Liz thinks about our “muse,” and how “genius” works (“you have a genius, you aren’t a genius”). In her way of thinking, all kinds of ideas surround us – creative, musical, literary, technical, relational – waiting to find a human host to bring them forth into the world. We all, simply by nature of being a human being can be conduits of birthing beauty into the world.
  2. You will have to make choices. The modern world is full of distractions. The news is on 24 hours a day, cable television always has a new series kicking off, Netflix is creating great content, Facebook and Twitter always have something to say. And for some of us, the allure of hanging out with friends, eating in cool restaurants, drinking in cool bars is always a temptation. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but they can all get in the way of the idea tapping on your shoulder wanting to find its way into the world.
  3. When you agree to work with an idea, work turns into play. In my experience, when I get tapped on the shoulder by a great idea, the “work” of writing a blog post or sermon or anything else, suddenly turns into play. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do than follow my muse, time flies by and it’s 10 minutes before the kids get home from school and I’m still in my pajamas.
  4. This will help you deal with disappointment. Here’s my truth. According to Google Analytics, very few people will actually read this post. But still, I feel compelled to write it simply because I felt inspired to and I’m trying to learn to say “yes” more often to ideas as they come, in hopes that it will open the floodgates to more ideas. I recently read The Alchemist and as much as I love the idea that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” that idea kinda feels like a lot of bullshit to me these days. Mostly, I feel like the universe conspires against me, but I keep creating, because I’m most happy and fulfilled when I do so.
  5. This isn’t selfish, it’s for the people. If you’re having fun, and you’re doing the work, you might feel a little selfish (or some a-hole will tell you so), and in that moment you’ll be tempted to self-loathing. But according to Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey isn’t just about the hero being transformed by an adventure, it’s also about the hero bringing back gifts for the people. Yes, when you submit yourself to the play of creation, you will be changed, but that change brings good things to the people you love. Over the last year or so, there have been people – who because they follow their muse – have been a gift to me. Micah Murray’s raw exploration of his escape from fundamentalsm, Addie Zierman’s vulnerability in her faith journey, Rob Bell and his continued faith journey – these people and their willingness to create even in their darkest moments have been gifts that Jennifer and I have savored, lying in bed reading to one another or discussing and voicing our agreements.

So, what idea is tapping you on the shoulder? What do you need to say “no” to today, in order to play with your idea?

We are all eagerly waiting for you.

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When You’ve Gotten Off-Track

He still had some doubts about the decision he had made. But he was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (p. 70).

I ran into a friend the other day at Starbucks and I asked about this season of his life, where he’s finishing school and also travelling a lot for his job while he juggles the demands of being a husband and father. And he told me how hard it is, how much he misses his family, but how it’s only for a season. And we talked about how sometimes when you decide to start out on a journey, you weigh the costs, but then along the way you second guess yourself and you have to decide again.

“That’ll preach,” he laughed.

“Already writing the blog post in my head,” I returned.

We laughed. But seriously.

This fall I’m doing a half marathon, and I’m aiming for a rather aggressive time (at least aggressive for me), which requires me to run 5 days a week, about 45+ miles most weeks. And even though I know I want to run the race, and even though I enjoy running (most days), this kind of training is tough, especially when it’s blistering hot. And so, I have to decide again to train.

Sometimes we trick ourselves into thinking that if we just make an initial commitment, everything will change. If we just throw out all the oreos and start the diet, if we just forgive the person who has hurt us so much, if we just say the right vows at the altar, if we just say a particular prayer, then good consequences will follow.

But nothing in life actually works that way. Only in the movies do people ride off into a “happily ever after.” In real life, a new diet will force you to decide almost hourly to keep going. In real life, forgiveness is something that you will have to choose a thousand times (and the deeper the hurt, the more you will have to choose it). In real life, marriage vows are simple compared to the thousands of decisions you will make to either strengthen or weaken your marriage. In real life, the Apostle Paul told the Philippians to “keep on doing what you’ve done from the beginning.” In some translations it says, “keep working out your salvation.”

Years ago, our oldest son “prayed a prayer to accept Jesus into his heart.” And that’s good. In my book, any experience of the divine that cause us to respond to the invitation to draw closer is good. But I remember Jennifer and I having a conversation about how this was only the first of many decisions he will make about whether or not he wants to draw close to God. He will have to make that decision over and over and over again.

I’m still making the decision to draw closer to God over and over again.

So, don’t get discouraged if you set out on a journey and you find yourself struggling to keep going forward. This is how all epic journeys go. They always involve Deadly Swamps of Sadness, where you lose your horse. (anyone?) There will always be the Mines of Moria, the Dagobah Cave, and Nazis trying to get to the grail first. But the hero’s journey is one where the hero keeps deciding, keeps recommitting, doesn’t give up, keeps walking.

So, today, what is it that you’re struggling with? Where do you feel discouraged? What did you decide to do that now you’re second-guessing? Yes, maybe you need to adjust your goals, but maybe you also need to consider what (re)commitments you need to make.

Maybe you need to throw the Oreos out again.

Maybe you need to say to your spouse, “I’ve gotten away from some of our promises, let me start over and promise again.”

Maybe you need to say to yourself, “Remember, I’ve forgiven him for what he did to me.”

This deciding again takes courage, and sometimes there are setbacks and tears, but the journey is worth all the effort. And when you make a decision, usually the next decision like it is easier. That’s the strong current that Paulo Coelho is talking about. It’s like we build a sort of muscle memory for hard decisions. 

So today, I hope you find the strength and courage to flex your decision making muscles. And when you do, I hope you feel strong and feel the strong current taking you to your desires.

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“I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough…”

For the last 6 weeks, I’ve engaged in a new practice. Every day – usually several times a day – I say to myself, “I love you Charles.” At first it was weird. (It still is a little.) And at first I didn’t believe myself at all. (I’m starting to believe myself a little.) But I think this simple practice is transforming my life. (Little by little.)

It started when I was in Laguna Beach at Rob Bell’s Keep Going conference. I was sitting next to my friend Steve on the second night and we were watching Rob Bell and Pete Holmes do their show, Together at Last. It was hysterical (and poignant at the same time).

Pete was telling a story, and as an aside he mentioned how he reminded himself in the midst of a tense moment, “I love you Pete.” 

And I gasped, and nudged Steve. 

Do you know how, from time to time, someone says something in a conversation or you read a line in a book or hear a quote on a television show, and it cuts to your core?

In that moment, I knew that line was for me. 

To be honest, I’m not very good at loving myself. I’m actually pretty hard on myself. I know people look at me and see accomplishments (houses built, marathons run, good grades, church plant, that kind of thing), but I don’t see myself that way. I see two marathons where I didn’t hit the times I was looking for. I see houses I built full of little mistakes. I see every point in every sermon where I could have been better. I see broken relationships that I’ve screwed up over the years.

Most of my self-talk is pretty ugly. It’s easy for me to get in dark places where I am 100% convinced that people in my life don’t really like me that much, but rather pity me, that people compliment me because I try hard or something like that.

Enter my new mantra: “I love you Charles.”

I was listening to Pete Holmes again the other day while I was out on a 9-mile run. He was interviewing Weird Al Yankovic, and Weird Al said something like, “Every day I wake up excited and I think, wow! I get to hang out today with Weird Al!” And as I was running, I thought to myself, THAT is what I’m after. That’s what inner peace, soul stillness, centeredness (whatever you want to call it) looks like. It starts with loving myself.

I have these two friends – one who is local and whom I talk to nearly every day and the other who lives in Minnesota.  Both of them are guys who regularly affirm their friendship with me. And I’m trying my best to learn to believe them when they tell me they love me and that I’m important to them and that they value my friendship and that they look forward to being with me. 

So, that’s what saying to myself over and over again, “I love you Charles,” is about. It’s about getting to a place like Weird Al, where I can like me. (Did I just aspire to become more like Weird Al?) It’s about getting to a place where I can live in community, believing my friends and not thinking all the time that people are simply putting up with me or pitying me. (And if they are, so what? The goal is to get to a place where I like myself enough that I’m having a good time being with me.)

I think some of us have grown up in traditions where we’ve somehow caught the idea that we’re dirty, rotten sinners who having nothing good in us. We think that talk of “loving oneself” is hippy, dippy bullshit – although we’d NEVER say bullshit, of course. But I really don’t think we can know love until we learn to love ourselves. 

And I think, telling myself all the time, it’s slowly beginning to change something in me. At the risk of TMI, I finished a long, sweaty run the other day, and I was bleeding through my shirt due to chafing. Jennifer was dutifully kind and felt bad for me, but I said to her, “It makes me feel kind of tough.” And then I thought to myself, “I like a guy who runs through the blood and finishes an 8-miler in the heat. I want to be around that person.” Hmmmm. Maybe I’m starting to believe myself a little bit.

Maybe this isn’t your struggle. Maybe you are full-to-the-brim with self confidence and you look yourself in the mirror every day and think, “I piss excellence.” But, my guess is there are a lot of you out there like me, who struggle to be okay with yourself, to like who you are, to enjoy your own company. May I suggest that you try telling yourself that you love you? Yes, it’s going to feel a little strange. You might feel a little like Stuart Smalley (“I”m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”).  But somehow, saying it to yourself over and over, you might start to believe it.

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Intersections

Several years ago, I was led into a regular practice of silence, solitude and meditation. I’m not very good at it – the monkey mind wins most days – but I continue to try. And as I’ve attempted to lead myself and even help others along the same pathway, one of the analogies that I find helpful is that of sitting in a theater.

Imagine your life as a stage:  Daily you’re on the stage, going about your life.  You go to work, you navigate relationships, you exercise, you watch a little television, you play with your kids, you have a beer with a friend. Silence/solitude/meditation is the practice of stepping off the stage for just awhile and sitting up in the balcony observing your life. It’s taking the time to be an observer of your life and not just a participant. And when you get the perspective from the balcony, you will often see things that you might have missed when you were busy on the stage, busy playing your various roles.

For me, when I sit in the balcony for awhile, one of the things that happens is that I start to make connections. I notice how a conversation with one person overlapped a conversation with someone else. I notice how an experience impacted another experience. I notice how one relationship changed the dynamic of another. I notice how my posture or reaction in one set of circumstances set me up for success/failure in another. I don’t judge myself in these moments; I just notice. And when I notice, patterns and intersections start to appear.

Let me make this more concrete.

Monday, I had early morning coffee with a friend and we talked about a bunch of ideas. Then, a couple hours later, she sent me an email with a link to a webpage that she was confident that I would like. And when I went to the webpage, I fell in love with a website (which, ironically has happened twice this week … weird). And watching a video on the website recalled a conversation that I had with a friend, running the streets of Laguna Beach together a couple weeks ago and another conversation with a friend in LA a couple days later. And then I had a conversation with another friend – who has started to make it a habit to stop by my office early in the mornings when he knows I’m the only one in the building – and I was telling him about these things and he affirmed this idea that I have, which led to an email yesterday to someone about this idea and another affirmation in his response to my email, and, well…who knows where this idea of mine will go, but the point is, there’s an intersection, and I think that’s an invitation to lean into that place.

Sitting in the balcony gave me the space to notice the intersection of these ideas, conversations, thoughts and inspirations. I’m trying these days to pay particular attention to places in my life where there is intersection. I want to really notice the ideas that keep coming up, the relationships that keep colliding, the conversations that keep coming back around to the same themes, the opportunities that present themselves, and the recurring feelings I feel in different situations.

I’m convinced the universe, or God, or the Spirit, or whatever you feel most comfortable calling it, is inviting us into new ways of living, new ways of being. There are new ideas to be put into the world, there are new ways of saying old things that need to be said again. As C.S. Lewis says in the Chronicles of Narnia, “further up, further in.” That to me describes the journey – always further up, always further in.

But I’ll only notice them when I take the time to sit quietly in the balcony, observe my life for a bit and pay attention to the intersections.

So, may you find time today to sit in the balcony and observe your life. And may you see the intersections, the places where things seem to be lining up, where the universe seems to be inviting you into something. And may you have the courage, the wisdom and the strength to dive into the intersections.

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