To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Expected

I’ve never understood when artists are greedy, and yet I meet so many who are. It’s ironic since essentially artists are in the business of sharing- their talents, struggles, joys, and journeys. But if the main motivation behind sharing your talent is because you expect money in return, then your passion is money, not music. And you’re in the wrong business. I strongly believe that as artists, we’re given gifts and it’s our duty to share them, even if that means holding three jobs down to be able to do so. In the end, you have to know and believe that your gift alone is a treasure worth far more than any amount of money. And to whom much is given, much is expected…

Inspiration is Like a Butterfly

Have you ever noticed how inspiration often comes at the most inopportune times?

When a million other things are vying for our attention. Or when we’re right in the middle of something else. Like a shower. Or a run. Or when we’re simply not in the mood to write. Because we’re tired. Or hungry.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea come to you out of nowhere? A sudden flash of insight that you promise to write down later.

But when later comes, no matter how hard you try, you can’t recall what is you were supposed to write down. Maybe you remember the general idea, but the words are no longer fully formed, waiting to flow effortlessly from mind to paper. The inspiration is no longer a sudden flash, but rather a struggle to be grasped. And it’s brilliance is lost.

I think inspiration is purposefully inconvenient.

Because, you see, inspiration is ultimately a gift that wants to be shared. It’s constantly searching for the right receiver.

Inspiration demands attention. And it determines who’s rightfully worthy of it by arriving at the wrong time.

If we’re not willing to put time on hold, stop what we’re doing and fully receive the inspiration in the exact moment it arrives, then like a butterfly, inspiration simply flutters off to find another mind somewhere else. It wants to be with a person who recognizes its worth.

Soon You Will Be Confident in Who You Are and What Your Purpose Is

My new dog is what trainers refer to as “reactive”. Probably due to the fact that she had zero socialization during the first few months of her life. She sat alone, abandoned, and afraid during her most crucial development period. And then she came home with me.

dog

She’s a farm girl living in the city and she’s terrified of everything unknown. (Which given her background, is pretty much everything.) I’ve had her with me now for about four months. She’s been slowly gaining confidence and I thought it would be a great idea to send her to doggy daycare once a week. Not only to give myself a much needed break, but also to help her socialize. She loves dogs and I figured by watching the more confident dogs at daycare, she would learn to overcome her fear of people, as well as many other ordinary, everyday things.

Yesterday, we had our much awaited initial evaluation with a Doggy Daycare Center. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. She failed her temperament test. Apparently, once I left, she sat in the corner trembling and wouldn’t let any of the dogs or people come near her. She was terrified. Not the place for her, they told me and sent us on our way.

I was crushed. I’d been spending every day working with this dog for four months and I’ve watched her make incredible progress. To hear that she hadn’t progressed enough to attend a dog daycare, when other dogs are the one thing she loves most, was devastating. I felt exhaustion begin to overwhelm my thoughts as I contemplated just how long this road to recovery would be.

You see, I feel a sadness for my new dog. It makes me sad to think she doesn’t get to experience the fullness of joy that this life has to offer because of her own unfounded fears. I’m sad when I see her insecurities preventing her from enjoying the world around her. And mostly, I’m sad because her defense mechanisms prevent other people from seeing the real her. The dog that I know and love.

The sweet soul who can talk a big talk, but doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. The playful puppy who loves nothing more than a good game of fetch and close cuddling on the couch. She’s brave and courageous and incredibly bright. She’s fast and strong. Gentle and loving.

I could hardly sleep last night. I couldn’t stop brainstorming of how I was going to help this dog. I needed to go back to the drawing board. She was making progress but not enough. I spent the night formulating our recovery plan.

When I awoke this morning, I had a new sense of determination and hope. I found myself talking out loud to her. “You are going to be the bravest pup in all the land,” I said. “Soon you will be confident in who you are and what your purpose is.”

And that’s when it hits me. Isn’t our plight as humans more or less the same?

I wonder if God thinks the same thing about us? Feels the same sadness when He sees our own unfounded fears preventing us from experiencing all that life has to offer. When He watches us push away other people with our defense mechanisms. When our own insecurities cause us to hide who we really are.

“I know you,” He whispers to us. “You’re brave and courageous and incredibly bright. You’re fast and strong, gentle and loving. If only you could see the real you, the person that I know, then you would know your purpose. You could approach the world with confidence, letting other people know you in all of your glorious imperfections. And finally, you could experience the fullness of joy that this life has to offer.”

Deep Doesn’t Mean Dark

What’s up with this notion of if it’s not dark it’s not deep?
Likewise, people seem to think the bright and happy stuff is automatically surface level.

I’ve noticed this in not only writers, performing artists, and theologians, but also my own friends and family. We don’t “go there” because it’s too dark. Or how can a cheerful dialogue be meaningful?

It’s true. A lot of times, when you dig deep, you’ll find some uncomfortable truths. And sometimes these truths are dark. But dark doesn’t mean deep or vice versa. In fact, if the truth you’ve arrived upon is dark, chances are you simply need to keep digging. Dig past the darkness until you once again arrive at light.

Just look at Dr. Suess as an example. He was one of the greatest artists of all time and he was deep. An average onlooker might mistake his work for being “fluffy” or “frivolous”, but if you look a bit closer, his messages are powerful and timeless. In order to arrive at them, I’m certain he had to wade through some dark waters. But unlike many great artists, he didn’t let the dark waters consume his work. He simply swam deeper.

I believe that all truths at their core are light. This is because at our core, we are light.

we-are-light

So next time you hear someone say that a piece of self expression isn’t meaningful because it’s not dark and/or deep enough… or if you have a friend or family member who never seems to want to “go there” because “why should we get dark”…. gently remind them that deep doesn’t always mean dark.

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! What are you thankful for?

thankful

I’m thankful for waking up today. For the ability to breath and walk and laugh. I’m thankful for fresh air. That when I walk outside I feel safe. I’m thankful for other people. Old friends with whom I share a history and strangers whom I have yet to meet. I’m thankful that I can trust people, because I trust myself. I’m thankful for clean drinking water and that I never have to worry about when my next meal will be. I’m thankful that I have a warm place to sleep at night and a roof over my head.

It’s mind boggling, really, when I think of everything I have. It’s a wonder every day isn’t Thanksgiving. Indeed, it should be.

Halloween Irony

There is great irony in our celebration of Halloween.

mask-halloween-irony

Think about it…

Halloween is a day when many people enjoy dressing up, wearing masks, and pretending to be dead. Ironically, most people spend the other 364 days of the year dressing up, wearing masks, and pretending to live.

I Found the Key to Happiness!!

I’ve found the key to happiness!

It hit me like a bolt of lightening after observing other cultures while traveling through South East Asia.

Here it is:

I don’t want anything more than what I have right now. I don’t wish to be anywhere else than where I currently am.

Really internalize these thoughts. When you do, you cannot NOT be happy. When you truly believe that everything in life happens exactly as it’s supposed to (and it does), you release yourself from a desire to control and thus become free to experience joy in it’s purest form (presence and gratitude).

All that you have right now is all that you need. And you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.

An Ode to Travelers (Travel Inspiration)

Traveling introduces us to ourselves. As we discover more of our world, we discover more of who we are.

travel

We visit places that leave us speechless, and then turn us into storytellers.

travel

We learn how other people live. There are so many ways to exist.

travel

And we get to choose!

…but we only get one life.

travel

We push past limits. Break through boundaries. And live outside of our comfort zones.

travel

We meet people. Love people. Trust people.

Even when we don’t share a language…

It’s okay because we’ve learned how to trust ourselves. And our intuition.

travel

We make unforgettable memories, that become like secret treasures…shared only by those who were there.

travel

Our loved ones want to hear about our travels. They like our stories of adventure. So we do our best to tell them. But we can only share so much.

travel

Because the truth is, the great things in life can’t be captured or described, only experienced.

And the best moments of all, no doubt the traveler’s favorite, are the ones that can’t even be understood…only appreciated.

travel

Is America Really Successful?

I recently got home from an incredible adventure abroad and want to share some observations with you, which I think are important. I spent three weeks traveling through Thailand and Vietnam. While the trip was unforgettable, I’m glad to be home (and for all new reasons).

Things I’ll miss about Vietnam and Thailand: the friendly people, smiling faces, and simplicity.

Things I’ll appreciate more in America: clean drinking water, fresh air, and being able to sit outside in the sun for more than 2 minutes without being soaked in sweat.

Probably the biggest and most obvious culture shock upon returning to America, even just making my way through the airports, is how unhappy we, as a people, are in comparison to these other cultures. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this. What’s causing it? Can we change?

First off, I think we have too many options. As Americans, we have all grown up in so much favor that it’s often hard to remember to be grateful. We have so many things to be grateful for but instead, we focus on what we don’t have yet. Things we want. Places we’d rather be. It’s tragic really, because in the midst of all of our wanting and wishing, we miss the joy that’s right in front of us.

Secondly, I think our definition of success is wrong. From birth we’re conditioned to work hard so we can live the life we want. We work hard, get to where we want to be, and our definition of success changes. Now we want even more. So we work hard to get there and still aren’t satisfied. And on and on it goes.

America is known as one of the most productive, successful societies in history. And we have a lot to show for our efforts. Productive? Absolutely. Successful? That’s debatable.

How can you be successful when your people are unhappy?

After observing the Thai and Vietnamese people, I personally think they’re a lot further along in the realm of successful living than we are. This is because, unlike the vast majority of Americans, they’re not stuck in a perpetual state of longing, they’re too busy living.

Unlike Americans, they’re not in a rush. They takes things as they come rather than bulldozing full speed ahead in an attempt to grasp things not yet meant to be. Comparatively speaking, their lives are simple. Men are seen squatting on every corner. Women are fanning themselves in the street. This simplicity lends itself to generosity. They notice the little things that we so often take for granted. They aren’t happy because everything is going their way. They’re happy because they trust that the way things are going is the best way, even when it’s not their own.

I don’t know the recipe for happiness nor do I have the formula for success pinned down. But if I had to guess… simplicity, faith, and a grateful heart are the best starting points.

Patara Elephant Farm – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Yesterday, I visited the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand (www.pataraelephantfarm.com). They’re a great organization that rescues and breeds elephants. The program I participated in is called Elephant Owner for a Day. No words can describe how incredible this day was for me but I’ve chosen to attempt anyhow.

Me taking a selfie with an elephant who smiled for the camera :)

Me taking a selfie with an elephant who smiled for the camera 🙂

Upon arrival at the property, we were greeted by a baby elephant and his mother. For the first hour, the staff simply observed us in order to determine which elephant would be our best fit. Just like humans, elephants have very distinct personalities and therefore, it’s important for the staff to carefully match the elephant and his/her “owner” for the day.

Patara Elephant Farm
Patara Elephant Farm

The baby elephant was very playful and kept trying to wrestle with us. Though he be but small, he is STRONG.

The baby elephant was very playful and kept trying to wrestle with us. Though he be but small, he is STRONG. Mama is always close by.

After this initial period of observation and a quick debriefing on the elephants, it was time for the staff to reveal our matches. We sat in a circular hut as they went around one by one and told us who our elephant for the day would be. When they got to me, I was informed that I had been chosen as the best match for Booyin, the alpha male and leader of our herd. He was noticeably larger than the other elephants and one of the only ones in our group with tusks.

Booyin

Booyin

I must admit, upon first sight, I was intimidated by Booyin. “He is the dominant male of our herd and doesn’t like to be told what to do,” the staff warned. “…But don’t worry, you will be great with him. Just don’t be afraid because he will sense your fear and lose respect.” ……….”Okay, I can do this,” I tried to reassure myself.

Booyin and I meet for the first time.

Booyin and I meet for the first time.

Despite my initial hesitation, Booyin and I hit it off from the start. The other guests would come over to us and want their picture taken with him. I found myself feeling territorial as I stroked his side and reluctantly agreed. (Perhaps I had more in common with Booyin than I thought?;) I fed him bananas from a basket (he stole a bunch too), while patting his head and saying, “Deedee, Booyin.” Which means “Good boy, Booyin.” We took our time getting comfortable with one another. I suspect Booyin sensed my initial fear, but as soon as I began to warm up, so did he.

image

Before long, it was time for us to begin our 45 minute hike through the jungle. In order to get onto his back, I commanded Booyin to bend down. He bowed with his front right leg bent. I stood on his calf as he raised me effortlessly and I used his ear to pull myself the rest of the way up. I sat on his neck, my legs firmly clutching just behind his ears. I had nothing to hold onto and was suddenly much higher off the ground than I expected. We began our trek.

Patara Elephant Farm

We hiked through the jungle, up steep hills and back down. Through winding bends, and near the edge of deep cliffs. At one point, when we were descending a particularly steep and rocky hill, Booyin began to jog. I bounced around his neck, fearful that at any moment I would fall. I squeezed my legs as tight as I could and commanded Booyin to slow down. But he was used to being the boss and gave little attention to my measly commands. Instead, he graciously pressed his large ears back, covering my legs, as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” I instantly felt much more secure. Not only was I holding onto Booyin, but now he was also holding onto me.

Patara elephant farm

Never mind his independent nature and somewhat naughty streak, I trusted Booyin and he could sense this. In return for my trust, he gave me his trust and made sure to treat me with gentleness and care. Our connection was amazing. I wish I could describe this experience better, but like all of life’s best moments, it simply can’t be captured.

Patara Elephant Farm

After 45 minutes of trekking through the jungle, I was relieved when we reached a water hole and Booyin jumped in. I slid off his back and began to splash him with water. I used a brush to comb the dirt off his legs and trunk, only to discover I would need to climb back on him in order to brush the dirt off his back. After his bath, we splashed around in the water together before heading to a nearby waterfall so that I could wash myself, too. And boy was I dirty. In fact, the dirt still remains under my finger and toenails. I had no idea spending a day with an elephant could be so dirty. When I got home last night, I scrubbed my hands and feet for over an hour and still wasn’t able to remove all the dirt. I did, however, gain a nice, large blister on my right thumb from trying. Regardless, the stubbornness of dirt and mud pales in comparison to the joy of bonding with an elephant like I did with Booyin.

Lovely Lunch by the waterfall

Lovely Lunch after swimming in the waterfall

Booyin stealing kisses (and food) from me during lunch.

Booyin stealing kisses (and food) from me during lunch.

If you are ever in Chaing Mai and have a chance to visit Patara Elephant farm, do yourself a favor and go. I can’t recommend it highly enough.