Tag Archives: Vulnerability

Seeking An Undivided Life

About a year ago, I finished Parker Palmer’s Book:  “A Hidden Wholeness:  The Journey Toward An Undivided Life”.  It came at a particularly critical time for me as I had been, and frankly still am, searching for how to live my inner self, outwardly.  Once again, much like John O’Brien and his Integrity Gap nailing some guilt I’d been struggling with, with an actual name, Parker Palmer’s wisdom opens clarity about the journey I find myself in.  I’ve linked in a 6-minute clip of Parker Palmer talking about what he means by ‘divided life’, where it comes from and how it can be detrimental to our living a life with true purpose.

I’m interested in being the best version of myself…but think, perhaps, I’ve been going about it the wrong way.  Looking introspectively into my life, grasping a true sense of what I believe, what I stand for,  then drives how I interface with the world and humans around me.  If I can be my true self, then the authenticity that Palmer speaks of,  permeates all interactions, connections and relationships.  Subsequently, my life becomes whole, vibrant, salient and purpose-driven…and a purpose-driven life, hopefully, provides a compass for which my children perhaps will use to guide them as they evolve into contributing citizens, in their chosen places, where ever they land, and with whomever they are with.

Big love to you all…

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The Magician

I’d like to introduce you to a dear friend, Sheldon Schwitek. I met Sheldon in 2010, while attending the Toronto Summer Institute. Since then, a friendship has evolved into a caring, compassionate and supportive relationship. When Linda and I decided to shift our focus a bit to meeting with folks we find to be extraordinarily welcoming people, folks who seems to naturally understand elements of human connection, Sheldon’s name popped into my head clearly. I managed to spend some time with Sheldon this year at that same Institute, meandering through stories and shared experiences around this idea of belonging.

Sheldon...

Sheldon…

I wondered with Sheldon about a time when he felt like he had a sense of belonging, perhaps for the first time in his life, and what that meant to him. Sheldon rattled off two instances, “The first time I remember was when I met my friend Jake, who was really into the punk scene in Winnipeg and I went to a show she played at…I was 19 years old. I felt like a part of the group. The people in this scene were a sort of band of misfits, people who experienced not belonging in their lives. Everyone was different, which really meant that everyone was the same. The second time for me…when I attended the Toronto Summer Institute for the first time in 1992; I walked into welcome. I wanted to help immediately, the space elicited an immediate comfortableness, an immediate sense of ‘this is good’.”

After spending some time around this feeling, we looked into sharing about a particular person who Sheldon considers the most welcoming he has known…”Marsha Forrest. She was incredibly open to whomever came into her life. Gracious, kind, funny. As I got to know her, her welcome became deeper as I grew to understand her vulnerability and her ability to be curious about things. She had a way to get deeper into yourself and the answering of the question brought about a better understanding about yourself.”

When asked about a time where something ignited a sense of agency, a time where he could truly make a difference, Sheldon lit up and said “I was attending a Kalamazoo Bee Club meeting, along with my friend Rich. On our way in, Rich locked his keys in his car. AAA didn’t come for about 45 minutes, so I had to facilitate the meeting alone. I ended up leading a Q & A with this group, and it went really well. This was a moment when I decided to really immerse myself in this group and be involved in a bigger way. I negotiated my way onto the board and took on a strong leadership role. I became the Secretary quickly and found myself doing a good amount of facilitation to get the board, which had been stuck for quite some time, moving forward in a positive way. I tried to bring people’s gifts forward as a way of moving the board forward.”
When meeting new people, Sheldon (to my surprise) shared, “Many people don’t know this about me, but I’m incredibly nervous and shy when I meet new people. I’m really interested about people and connecting with people, but the initial meeting is frightening. Is this person judging me? Is it positive? Will I make a fool of myself? I think this comes from being mindful that I don’t like knowing that people may not like me. These are all present for me…I’m getting good at hiding it. I didn’t acknowledge it for the longest time, and it got in the way of being able to start relationships. I’ve evolved into either moving forward in spite of the anxiety, or right along with it. You have no understanding about who a person is at first, so there is a natural tension…for me noticing the tension is paramount in being able to get beyond the fear and truly connect…and I do seek deep connection.”

I was curious about when Sheldon truly comes alive…times when he truly feels like he is making a contribution…”My own family history was contentious at times. Judgment circled my relationship between my step father all growing up. With my wife, Joan, my children and grandchild, I am trying to be the type of human being that I wished I had been raised as by my parents. I see my daughter raising my grandson and see all these wonderful strategies of parenting she uses. Joan is wonderful at teaching me how to be a supportive parent. I feel I best contribute in a one on one relationship with people. I’m intentional with the type of support I provide within a relationship. My friend Matt taught me what it means to provide the types of support needed in a relationship. I feel like I’m good at being supportive. What do I need to do to support someone? This question has become my driving question…the foundation of my ethos. The other place I feel contribution is when I’m teaching about the Culture of Gentleness. If I can help change one person’s view, then I feel a sense of accomplishment…a sense of contribution. Because that person will then go out an be gentle with and interface with the world around them in the manner with which I believe to be the right way.”

So why is the title of this post “The Magician”? It’s simple…I had the opportunity to sit in Sheldon’s circle of support for a visioning he walked through in 2013. The resounding culmination of gifts Sheldon possesses ended up producing one word…magician. Sheldon creates welcome in the spur of the moment, crafting a sense of warmth and openness for all people in the room, no matter how long he has to prepare. With the wave of his invisible wand, his quick ‘Sheldon wink’, a brilliant smile and his all too recognizable guffaw…Sheldon magically welcomes you into his heart.

Thanks for that my friend…

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Every Day Is A Gift

Here in the states, Thanksgiving Day came and went.  As I evolve, my belief is that this particular holiday offers an opportunity for people to embrace gratitude.  If you’ve been a follower of this blog, you’ll know I believe sending out your gratitude every day is something to aim for…but is not always reached (certainly for me).  In this short film by Louie Schwartzberg, through his brilliant photography and cinematography, he captures the gifts surrounding us each and every day.  He invites us to treat every day as if it were our ‘first day of life and last day of life’…and if we approach each day like this, ‘then it will really be a good day.’  Take 6 minutes to watch this film and try not to have an ear-to-ear smile emerge within the first 30 seconds and stay throughout the film.

I repeat these words internally daily, externally almost daily and practice them as best I can (which is certainly not daily).  Relentless positivity is the foundation of Come In From The Cold, a value Linda and I agreed on at the genesis of this adventure.  This short film encompasses just that…and as he says in the film, ‘every day is a gift.’

Be well my friends…

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Snooze Wars Lead to Reflection

Deep REM sleep is rudely interrupted by the faint electronic melody emanating from my iPhone every morning at 5am.  Why so early?  Well, with three kids 6 years of age and under, and a work schedule which seemingly never turns off, 5am-6am is the sacred hour…the only hour of quiet in the house, in my life, where I can read, meditate, pray, write or lately… SNOOZE.  We all know this function of the alarm clock well, providing us with 8-minute chunks of sleep, beyond the time we designated for wake up. Continue reading

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We Can Take Care Of Each Other

Several people over the past year have recommended a documentary titled “Craigslist Joe” and said “you’ll love it.”  Well…all of those people were correct.  I’ve linked in the trailer to this film here and would like to share my thoughts and recommendations on it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIfItdPKTLQ Continue reading

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Creative connections…

A while back, a friend of mine living in New York City, posted a link to this project on his FaceBook page.  I remember being blown away with the idea, but having no time to really digest it.  I immediately bookmarked it and have recently taken a look back at what caught my attention so significantly at first glance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFXp0TG8pco Continue reading

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Checking in…

Well, I observed, observed, observed, as promised. So, here are some early reflections on my two weeks of pondering setting up a community feast in Ratho

1.  People are kind. I actually already knew this (clever me, eh?!) but it really is starker when you are nervous about something and everyone is supportive and lovely about it. Messages of support came via Facebook, from friends in the village, and in the response of the local Community Development Worker. Continue reading

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