Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cold and Flu Season

I've been smacked in the head with a wicked cold. So no "will-ups" these last few days. I've been noticing how often I start something and then get distracted by many other thoughts, just like with the "will ups". So things are shifting by degrees.

Thanks Sly for photo!
Luckily, I got to skate on Gap Lake Saturday before my bed and I became conjoined.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pushpins = Ideas

Yesterday it struck me that push-pins are like ideas. They are only useful when deployed. If they aren't doing the heavy-lifting, they just take up space.

Willpower Exercise Day Six

Break through today! Each day I've scheduled 3 things to start my day:
  1. walk
  2. journal
  3. tacks
 But I've missed at least one from the list EVERY DAY. Today, I got all three done by 9a.m. and threw in a call to Toronto to talk with my book collaborator, Laura.

I sat at my desk to start my "tacky will-ups". My little squirrel brain tried to do so many things before I did my "will-ups" and I kept corralling my thoughts promising them, "I'll do that AFTER."Once I got started moving the tacks, I worried less about "perfect" and focused more on "doing."

Instead of worrying about the protocol around my tack task, I turned up the tunes, and counted each tack while saying "I will to will." The task was SOOOOOoooooooo much more enjoyable. I even chair danced! I also found that I've got 51 tacks in my box--wondering about the number had been something I'd brushed out of my consciousness as not as important as the DOING.
In my journal this morning I had written, "Just show up." It was one of the main life lessons I'd learned during my martial arts journey. I "just showed up" every night to class and after 5 years received a black belt in Aiki Ju Jitsu. Yes, it was hard work. Yes, I faced challenges, and got hurt, and sweated until my skin bubbled. But so long as I "just showed up" for class regardless of how healthy or inclined I felt, I'd overcome the hardest part of the journey and moved incrementally toward my goal.

Today, I was committed to the process regardless of what was happening in or around me. Today, I worried less about being perfect in my task, and focused more on feeling good while doing it--emphasis on doing it. But DOING IT was my commitment.

"Are you committed to your task, your goal, your desire? Are you in or are you out?" Simple and yet so hard. That's the key learning of my tack task today. Committing and acting in concert with your commitment are the key things. An attitude of contentment focuses you on the right mindset but can be hard to create. How you show up and what you get out of it changes every time you show up, and seems beyond the realm of influence at this point. For me at least. So, just showing up and doing gets you a loooong way. There's something else that's happening too, but I don't quite have my finger on it yet.

It's something around lifting the veil over who I really am vs. who I thought I was. But that's for another entry.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Willpower Exercise Day Five

I rushed a little. It took less than 5 minutes this time. I noticed that doing the declaration out loud helped me to notice my mind wandering. I had at LEAST one new thought between each tack. That's 50 different thoughts. Refocusing on the declaration and my contentment helped. But today, I felt no progress.

Will Power Exercise Day Four

I am trying to decide if I should declare that I took the weekend off from my will-ups, or pay penance and do 2 more tack-drops today...I'm feeling kinda busy, so let's say I took the weekend off and my penance is that I will carry the experiment forward an extra 2 days at the end.

It's still difficult manifesting contentment, focusing on dropping the tacks and nothing else, while declaring "I will to will." That said, it's slightly less difficult and slightly more enjoyable than it was at the start. At 1/3 into the task, I thought "This is taking FOREVER!" then I reminded myself "Maintain contentment!"

But at 2/3 into the box I thought, "Wow! I'm almost finished. That wasn't so bad." and my contentment increased all on its own. And when I had only 4 tacks left, I super slowed down, as I was enjoying the focus. Maybe there's hope for me at last!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Because I Can

 Earlier this summer, my sister, who is a marathon and avid runner, hurt herself while running. She had to take months off to recuperate, do physio etc. It was so hard for her to not run.

I do not have the same problem. I can not run regularly, and for long periods. But it occurred to me the other day that if I want to keep up with my active friends and not hold them up skiing or biking or whatever, I owe it to myself and my friendships to up my fitness. Plus my little sister had told me that I should be active "because you can" and at the time, she couldn't.

 There are lots of folks who have had injuries or are differently abled who would like to run if they could. Yesterday, while running for the first time in many many months, I had the thought, "I run because I can."

Thanks Sister. That 's good advice. And look at where I got to run. I listened to the songs of the wax wings who are in town, and the burble of the Bow river. Doggy, Yamnuska, and I stopped for a little break and to lap up water + beauty.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Willpower Exercise Day Three

I did not start my day with this, but fitted it in just after my afternoon run. I say "afternoon run" like I do this all the time, or maybe even have a morning or evening run. Fact is, that I have wanted to start a consistent running programme for many many moons. Don't know if my "will-ups" are strengthening my will and improving other habits or not. Too early to tell.

Today, still more mind chatter around doing the exercise WHILE doing the exercise. But contentment was easier. Likely, the endorphins from running had a part to play in that.

In mediation classes, I've been told to just watch my thoughts drift in and out like clouds. That never works for me. My thoughts are more like wild horses charging across an endless plain. The horses can be corralled though, and I can watch them, figure out which one I want to ride when, and then take action. I wouldn't try to ride 2 horses at once, but that's exactly what I have done with my thoughts. Ride one for a little, then get distracted when the next comes snorting and stomping its hooves.

What if that's what the "will-ups" exercise is partially about? Hold one thought, or one tack, or one horse, and ride it into action, or the box or the corral.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Will Power Exercise Described

Here's a summary of what I'm doing:
1. Exercise will. The article I read suggests "cultivating the feeling of contentment" while exercising will, and it gives full directions. In short, take a pile of 50 small somethings: pennies, thumb tacks, beads, whatever is small. "Drop them slowly and deliberately into a box one by one, with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction, declaring with each movement, 'I will to will.'" We're urged to watch our thoughts as we do this task as a form of working meditation I suppose. When complete, write our observations so that we can mark our progress doing this over 7 consecutive days. The writing is what I'm doing on the blog.

Willpower Exercise Day Two

I was really looking forward to moving 50 tacks from my desk into a box. I'm taking this very seriously. I re-read the instructions to clarify some things I had become unsure of, lit a candle, took a photo and started.

At first it was easy to maintain an attitude of contentment because I was so looking forward to this exercise. Then I thought, "Maybe I'm supposed to say 'I will to will' outloud?" So I tried that. It was like an incantation for a spell. Much more powerful said outloud. I found that the more I focused on the task, the quieter my vocalizations became. I had to remember to say them out LOUD.

I also resisted the urge to speed up and do the job quickly. It's supposed to take 10 minutes and in all, it took 4.5. Again, thoughts swarmed my head like mosquitoes to bare flesh. The more I tried to empty my thoughts the more they seeped in. My mind abhors a near vacuum it seems. I developed a character for some imaginary novel I might write one day WHILE putting the tacks into the box, and noticing their sharpness, their simple construction, their smooth surface and shine.

Again, focus on contentment and "I will to will". I still am not sure what that phrase means, other than the only reason that I'm doing this exercise/experiment, is to see if I can strengthen my will.
I'm starting to appreciate that the will holds focus on a specific task or direction, and that a strong will will hold its focus until the task is finished. It's almost like a shield or a force field which resists letting other thoughts take hold and redirect. Thoughts bounce through, but don't stick.

I can see that doing this exercise daily, I could get bored if I weren't really paying attention to all the inner chatter and workings of my mind. That if I get better at not just shielding my thoughts, but slowing them, or eliminating those not task-focused, I will feel quite delighted. That skill, that state of being, would be a lovely one to cultivate. Perhaps that's part of the power of will, that singular state of one-ness with the task. But I get ahead of myself. Tomorrow's another day.

p.s. After writing this entry, I looked at the other two entries about the Will and it struck me, "I wonder if the will is like a backbone that keeps all the actions in alignment?" Those of you who have a strong will, what do you know?

Wanna try? Directions here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Willpower Exercise Day One

Ok, that was WILD! A simple task: take 50 push pins and put them into a box while holding a state of contentment and satisfaction, and repeating the phrase "I will to will". Then record what you noticed.

I noticed how many other thoughts went through my head in the short time. First I wanted to take a picture of the pins to show you. That meant I had to not get distracted by my other photos on iPhoto or my iPhone, not get distracted by arranging them perfectly on the journal.
Thoughts that went through my head just BEFORE starting were things like, "I'm cold I need a blanket" I grabbed one. "I'm still cold I need slippers." I didn't grab them and now my feet aren't so cold. "I need to find a better box to count these pins into." I looked at 2 other options before saying to Self, "Finish this task." I dropped a tack on the carpet and noticed it blended in well with the sisal weave.

While putting the tacks into the box and while saying to myself in my head "I will to will", I had myriad thoughts fly through like, "they are so shiny", "they are so sharp", "I should focus on the task", "I am going to fast/slow", "What does this statement 'I will to will' really mean? My nephew's name is Will."

And other similar tangential thoughts. Crazy! So much busy-ness that was NOT ON TASK.
Holding the state of contentment and satisfaction while staying on task was not successful. I had it at the start, then wondered if it would be better if I smiled. Then I got caught up in all the aforementioned thoughts and forgot the contentment. I regained it at the end with the final tack, when I super slowed-down. But I sustained contentment for less than the time it took to pick up the tack and drop in the box. Other thoughts came in in the meantime. Who knew that my brain was so active?!

I can see that this focusing will take some practice. What was interesting in a horrifying and terribly "that makes sense" kind of way, was how many other things crossed my mind to do before tackling this. I have given in to so many of the distracting thoughts in the past. Starting to see that strengthening will is about focus and see the wisdom of "finish what you've started".

If you've tried this, let me know what you found.

Nudges and Willpower

Plaguing me lately is why I don't take action which I know is beneficial to me, maybe even desired strongly by me. Worse, why do I take action which I know is detrimental?

Last night a recurring thought kept nudging me. My best solutions come when I'm sleeping, so I arose at 4 a.m.and acted on the nudge. "Get up, go to Tim Horton's and Google 'strengthening the will'." I've been curious about The Will for decades. One of the senior black belts in my dojo, had said, "My will is important to me as a spiritual being." I never fully grasped what he meant. But this morning, I acted on my urge, ordered a small coffee and a honey cruller, and found some interesting perspective.

One site described what I've been experiencing as I enact my mission. Without will, "You would start in the right direction, and then, because there was not sustaining power in the thought, you might turn and go in another direction." My passion is there, but my will is not and my attention wavers. "It is the will which holds your mental faculties in position relative to the creative power which does the desired work."

Or put another way the function of the will is to keep the imagination and action centred in the desired direction. Success of failure is contingent on mental control. There are other factors, for sure, but without focus fueled by will, none of the other foundations matter.

So how do you strengthen will power? Behaviour modification psychologists would tell you that there is no such thing as will power. I remember arguing with my prof about this at uni. He said it's all about avoiding trigger events that provoke the undesired behaviour, and cultivating or rewarding the antecedents which result in desired behaviour. Makes sense if you have a master or a trainer who can impose or direct. But what if you are your own master?

There are three ideas that I want to test:
  1. Exercise my will with small, repetitive, actions focusing on maintaining a certain mindset (so that I can feel the difference when will/desire are aligned and coordinated)
  2. Leave no task unfinished (so I'll have to shorten tasks I choose to be finishable in shorter periods of time)
  3. Start each day without hurry
3. Last idea first. I've calendarized a walk and journaling every morning starting at 6am. Today I'm ahead of schedule with a coffee and donut already munched. Now, researching, thinking, writing without hurry.

2. No task unfinished. My friend, Bruce Sellery, was coaching me the other day to help me complete some stuff I was avoiding. He gave me "fierce deadlines" of 20 minutes to complete a task which was mission-critical. I phoned him when I'd completed my task, then was told to do the next thing and agreed to another short deadline. The first task, I completed and felt GREAT. I immediately received positive results from it ("reinforcement" or "reward" for the behaviorists). The second task, was actually 3 tasks in one, and I only did 1 in the time I had. The other 2 are still undone and feel yucky, a drain, a black hole sucking my energy with no productivity to show for the spend. Hmm.
"Leave no task unfinished" is going up on my dreamboard as a reminder.

1. Exercise will. The article I read suggests "cultivating the feeling of contentment" while exercising will, and it gives full directions. In short, take a pile of 50 small somethings: pennies, thumb tacks, beads, whatever is small. "Drop them slowly and deliberately into a box one by one, with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction, declaring with each movement, 'I will to will.'" We're urged to watch our thoughts as we do this task as a form of working meditation I suppose. When complete, write our observations so that we can mark our progress doing this over 7 consecutive days.

I'll share my observations here. If you try it, or develop another exercise, please share how it works for you. I'll likely do more reading and research on strengthening my will, but first, I have a box of thumbtacks to fill.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Piercings, Pain and Being Alive

I love Bjork and was watching some of her music videos the other day. Remember the beautiful love song, Pagan Poetry, that ends with a woman getting 6 piercings down her back so that she could have a "corset" laced up for her lover? Kind of a surprise ending.

It seems strange that someone would do that for someone they loved--or even for themselves. But there's something about pain, be it physical or emotional, that you miss when it's gone. There's something about the aliveness that you feel while in tension with pain, that makes it somehow bearable. There's something in that much aliveness that some friends with tats or piercings, say draws them back to get more. There's something in our crazy friends, or waaay-out there lovers, or even extreme adventures, that make us lean forward in fascination while poised to lurch backward in pain.

Hmmm. As I think about the barbs in my head, I wonder, "How alive can I feel without the pain?"
You? How does pain help you to feel more..

Monday, December 5, 2011

Great Quote

John Tong is a partner in 3rd Uncle. He said something today that really struck my heart and mind, "Joy has a different body posture and a different way of breathing."

It's so true. I want to breathe in the way of Joy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Awesome Sauce

"You have to get vulnerable...That's when we feel faith in humanity. Those warm moments of colour in the tepidness of status-quo life. Whether you're on stage or in the audience, you must channel that fear into something productive, or get rid of it...We watch people on a stage. The ones who really blow our minds are the ones who tap in to that carnal part of inspired humanity that allows us to just be alright with each other. The ones who really inspire us are the ones who put down their armour. They get naked with such brilliance that instead of cutting them to bits, everyone in the room wishes they had the balls to get naked, too.

The fact is that, those moments on stage when everything goes right inject enough awesome sauce into one's life to make up for an eternity of predictable financial stability. In fact, you begin to pity people who can't let go. It's like being in on this amazing secret. You start to live your life moment to moment. You realize that getting vulnerable is a catalyst to having boatloads of memorable moments in your life. You learn that most people will actually meet you there. And you stop caring if they don't. And you learn to disregard people who don't "get it". The good ones will.

Dan Mangan published by the Guardian. Words to live by.

My favourite artists crawl right into the thick of an experience, and show themselves and the heart of the matter uncovered. Yes, naked. They expose themselves as they hold up this moment of complex and torturosly beautiful, real humanity and you just can't look away.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vulnerability Dan Mangan-style

I'm a big fan of Dan Mangan's music. "Road Regrets" is the best driving or running tune ever! especially if your energy stores are low and need a picking up. His lyrics are profound and powerful.

I just read in his newsletter about his successful appearance at the Orpheum and his Euro-tour dates. Best of all, he talks about vulnerability. I'm going to post his words directly. I encourage you to read his Guardian article.

From Dan, the man, "I recently wrote an article published in The Guardian newspaper. It was quite an honour - I have a deep respect for the publication and its dedication to true journalism not only in the UK but around the world. Many thanks to Film & Music Editor Michael Hann for the opportunity. My article was about getting vulnerable, and what getting over the fear to do so can bring about. I would like to add that when I speak of vulnerability, I’m not talking about “sensitivity”. Those are two different things. I’m talking about being porous to the universe – being fully alive in the moment. The hardest, most intense punk-rock show I ever saw was vulnerable. I recently watched some old footage of Nirvana performing. Best believe they were vulnerable. It’s not about being soft, it’s about being honest. Sometimes, being honest might mean being soft, but the two are not one in the same.

Anyhow, feel free to read the article here."

I'd love the hear what you think about what he wrote. "Porous to the universe." That's going to be my mantra for Dec.

Check out more Dan at
p.s. you can get a free download of "Oh Fortune" by simply sharing an email address. Very good idea! It's got the same rolling drum beats of Road Regrets.