Week 1 – A more detailed map

A September sunrise

A September sunrise

Week one again!  It’s thrilling – I’ve missed the webinars, the wisdom, the automatic companionship with other MKMMA members.  It’s intimidating – working full time plus, in addition to a daily photographic project and related blog, will I remain faithful to the exercises?  Haven’t always been so, in the past when my schedule was easier, though I’ve muddled through, muddled through.

And it’s promising.  Because it’s a human truth that if you don’t know where you’re going, then

  1. any road will get you there, and
  2. you won’t actually know when you’ve arrived.

After two years of asking myself, over and over, what do I want?, two years of retraining myself to believe that I can have what I truly and deeply want, the answer is crystallizing.  I know myself better now, understand more of what my gift to the world actually is… and how to most effectively give it away.

The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights under the Big Dipper

And to think the realization had its roots in a chance comment of mine, that once I wouId have paid no attention to, a comment I wouldn’t have been in a position to even make, if not for the past two years of studying Haanel and Og and Emerson.

Since January the 1st, I’ve been taking pictures of the sunrise from the eastern overlook of Barn Bluff in Red Wing, MN.  Barn Bluff is a local landmark overlooking the mighty Mississippi; from the easternmost point of the bluff, you can see for ten-twelve miles – which is a feat in southeast Minnesota, let me tell you!  By the end of the year I’ll have photos of 366 consecutive sunrises, all from the same spot!

And word’s been getting around; I was recently interviewed by a writer from the Rochester Post-Bulletin about the project.  One of the questions he asked was why.  Why the project, why Barn Bluff, why every single sunrise for a year.

“I want to show people how pretty the world is,” was what I said.

It was a flippant, off-the-cuff answer meant to sound good for the interview… and yet it resonated with every layer of my being, from conscious to subconscious.  _MG_0682The voice of my deepest self seized an unguarded moment and spoke clearly.  We miss so much of beauty, particularly in our own back yards, because we never look up from our technology and stress and hectic schedules long enough to notice what’s right there – the liquid ice sculpture of a dew-covered spiderweb in the morning sunlight;  the first flowers of spring, poking up through a late snow; the constantly-shifting, fathomless patterns in the clouds on a stormy day; a baby’s laugh; the warm and steady rumble of a cat’s purr.

Beauty everywhere.

Time to get all these new realizations down in my DMP!

Week #18 – Fitting together nicely

Sunday’s webinar was marvelous, made better by the company I was in; I was masterminding with Don before the webinar, and taking pictures of a droolsome Valentine Day meal that Leanne made as a supplement to her Gluten-free cookbook (coming soon!) after the webinar.

Being around the right people can do worlds of good for your mood and attitude.

And it came in perfect timing, too.  Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trekking to the eastern overlook of the nearby Barn Bluff – a hill here in bluff country that stands 1001 feet above sea level, and you have to hike about 343 feet upward to get to the top of the ridge.  I’ve pushed myself to get up early enough to make the half-hour drive in to town and the forty-minute walk to the overlook; dealt with snow and ice on the trail, winds and fog and twenty-below-zero (Fahrenheit, now, not Centigrade) temperatures.  I’ve taken pictures of a sunrise that was only theoretical, the clouds were so thick and grey; seen vivid reds, deep purples, fiery oranges and molten golds fair fit to adorn an artist’s palette.  Each day I’ve posted those photos of sunrise on my photo blog, along with a story of a thought that occurred to me on the trail – sometimes photography advice, sometimes a tale related to self-development or a particular challenge, sometimes words that have nothing to do with anything.

Nothing has stopped me yet.  Not snow, not ice, nor cold, or wet numb feet; not the increasingly-early hour or a brief bout with a wretched cold, nor nights of short sleep; even the nasty huge specks on my camera sensor didn’t do more than slow me down a bit – sent my camera in for cleaning while a kind friend loaned me his.

The “I” in me had decided, the die was cast, and there was no longer any doubt; I am getting my 366 Barn Bluff sunrises this year.

So when my photography buddy Ivan and my husband Jerry started saying to me earlier this week that “unforseen life events happen, and you have to prepare yourself for not getting all your sunrises,” and “it’s not as if you have to get them all in one year, as long as you get photos of each day of the year,” it was something of a blind-side strike.

I told them both, “No life events are going to happen that will prevent my capturing the 366 sunrises, and you need to mind your thoughts because I don’t need those intentions sent into the Universe.”

Dream-stealers, however well-intentioned, aren’t going to stop me, either.

Well, got an e-mail this week from a gentleman that I met on January 1st; David is a member of the group Friends of the Bluff.  They’re local folks who help maintain the paths, work with the park services when controlled burns are necessary, promote the Bluff as a spot of interest.  David says they’re starting a newsletter among their members and other people who have expressed interest in the Bluff, and he’d like to feature me and my project in their first issue!  He wants to get me traffic to my photoblog and share some of the photos and stories of the Bluff.

Pretty cool, huh?

And on the publishing front, the print-on-demand service that I had my eye on for my journals is running a special for the month of February; they are waiving the one-time $50 setup fee for all new titles!  I’d been wondering where I would come up with the funds to get all six volumes of the meditation journals done!

Question asked, and the Universe answered.

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One more event of note this week – southern Minnesota was supposed to get slammed with a rip-snorter of a winter storm on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I asked, ever so politely, that the snow not start until after I was home on Tuesday, and that by the time I was on the road Wednesday morning the roads would be clear and easy to drive.  And barring a bit of drifting and some patches of ice on the county roads (easy to spot and perfectly safe to drive over so long as you slow down), what happened was exactly what I asked for.

Week #17 – As above, so below; as within, so without

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Wow – is it Thursday again already?  Yep, must be – it’s written on my schedule to write and post a blog today.

You know, honestly, I follow along with the MKMMA, I do my best to meet all the requirements, and yet I find I am learning more about myself, what I’m meant to do, how to arrange my life so that I am happy, through my sunrise project on Barn Bluff than I am through the MKMMA exercises and webinars – making the walk, taking the pictures, writing my photography blog.  I suppose it’s partly because there’s lots of time for introspection and contemplation of the world within while walking the trail.  But it’s also that I’m out here doing something that I enjoy.  If you’ve gotten all this way into the MKMMA course, you should already be doing things that support your deepest desires – the DMP, the index card with the Plan of Action and all, should take care of that.

But if you’re not – if you’re still wrestling with who am I really, and what am I meant to do? – then do yourself a favor.  First of all, STOP OBSESSING.  Mental effort defeats itself, remember?  Just… get out of your own head.  Commit to a daily series, whether it be writing a poem a day, or taking a set of pictures, or sketching, or painting, whatever you like to do.  Find the time, find the attention to spare for it.  You’ll discover that the very act of commitment, followed by the activity every day, will accelerate the process of change.

_MG_5284And along the way, you’ll inevitably find yourself answering the questions of who you are, what you want, where your life’s purpose lies.  Because meeting the demands of that daily series is very like another type of meditation; you’re focused; you’re present; you’ve opened the door to that secret, creative part of your mind and heart and you’re listening to what it says.  It’s… like studying the reflections in the water in order to understand what they’re an image of.

And I’ve discovered that in making the walk up to the top of Barn Bluff, in taking pictures of the sunrise and being aware of what’s around me, the Master Keys and Og and the exercises all make so much more sense.  I can apply the principles to my actions, my thoughts, my plans.  It’s a connection that I just don’t feel in the Alliances or during the webinars.  I read, I listen, I understand… but I don’t feel.  And I see blog posts and shares in the Alliances, people who are manifesting exactly what they’ve always wanted, which feeds belief and enthusiasm, which accelerates the change, which in turn fuels greater belief and enthusiasm, and those folk are radiating gratitude and appreciation of Mark, Davene, and the guides… and sometimes I wonder what’s wrong with me, that I continue to view the people and the process with the eyes of an outsider, an observer, a non-participant.

On the other hand, maybe some of that is how it’s supposed to work.  We start out dependent, feeling our way into the power of the world within through the help of Mark, Davene and the guides, taking uncertain steps into the darkness until we find our light – following the gurus, however little they want to be thought of as such!  But then, because we’ve been openly and yet subtly retaught how to think for ourselves, we graduate to forging our own meanings, our own interpretations:  Haanel, Og, Campbell, Wooden, Allen, Hill, as their wise words apply to us, specifically, instead of a more sweeping, generalized, one-size-fits-all outlook.

The principles remain; solid, unchanging.  But the details of the application become more personalized, tailored to our own uniqueness.

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Week #15 – Getting Organized

2016-01-04 Sunrise

2016-01-04 Sunrise – Pretty, isn’t it?

Since I work from home, I’m not in the world much (I might have mentioned that before).  So during the weeks of the Franklin Makeover, most of my results will be from Jerry, myself, and the people whose webinars I regularly attend (Tony Laidig.  Kristen Joy.  Dom of Elite eCoach.  And of course the MKMMA).

Once upon a time, the files here at home were meticulously kept, bank statements reviewed and logged regularly, and any piece of financial information could be located in less than a minute.  The last year and a half, that’s no longer the case.  And the longer the papers were in that condition, the easier it got to put off organizing it again, because facing the mess they’d become was too, too depressing.

Well, it’s tax time again.  And having that information organized and readily to hand is now vital.

Can you guess what virtue fills the first blank in my Franklin Makeover?

So I got myself a day planner – because using a notebook to plan my days wasn’t cutting it, and nor was the scheduling of reminders in the iPad.  The first three days were experimental; I filled them in with what I wanted to get done and guesstimated how long each task would take.  (Just as a side note, I did awesome at keeping up with the schedule those days.)  The evening of Sunday the 3rd, I sat down with a pocket notebook and the day planner and asked “What do I want to get done this week?”  Wrote a list.  Sketched in how much time each would take, then added a bit.  Checked with Jerry – was there anything special he wanted to do this week?  Looked at his medical stuff – yep, one appointment at Mayo on Wednesday that would take a goodly chunk of day.

Day plannerDrew up the schedule.  There have been some hiccups; some modifications, a couple of regular weekly items I missed writing down, but all in all the week has been enormously productive (if a bit lacking in sleep).  I’ve posted every day of my sunrise blog, complete with pictures.  I have my very first low-content book, a meditation journal, on schedule to be ready for publication by Saturday evening.  And I’ve gathered every paper unfiled and out of place and have them sorted into stacks on the kitchen table.  Next step is to sort the piles into chronological order, then scan them to a searchable file with my printer/scanner (that is so cool – did you know some printers can do that?  If your scanner has the right software, you can tell it to create a searchable document, where it recognizes the text and you can sort and run searches by keywords!); third step (third week of January) is to file everything away in boxes; fourth step, the last week of January, is collating all the business-related financials and filling out the taxes.  After that, of course, is to maintain the proper organization and collation of information as the year passes, rather than waiting for the end of the year to do it all.

And you know what?  Apparently this part of the MKMMA is contagious; Jerry’s been organizing the basement.  He built a closet in a patch of odd space, and in that is to be stored towels and washcloths for the downstairs bathroom, plus games and puzzles and my sewing bins of fabric and tools.  Bookshelves have been shifted, reorganized, and repopulated.  The basement is starting to look magnificent, and I’ve told him so several times.  (Of course, that was between scolds to stop lifting things that weigh more than twenty pounds!  He has an inguinal hernia; the surgery is scheduled for the 21st, and I don’t want it strangulating before then!)

I should have taken the picture during the day, but you can still see his winter leaves!

I should have taken the picture during the day, but you can still see his winter leaves!

Oh, and hey, check this out – my hibiscus is still flourishing, and you can tell the difference between the summer and the winter leaves!  The winter leaves are the lighter-colored larger ones that have rotated themselves toward the window, so the greatest surface area is facing the winter sun.  Law of Growth!

Gotta go.  Time to get more paper sorting done.

Week #8 – Holy Cow, was that an epiphany?

Exercises, daily.  Practice, practice, practice.  Work on linking-linking-linking, colors to shapes to words to ideals and visualizations.  When does it start getting automatic?  When do I start seeing colors and shapes instead of belatedly realizing my eyes just skipped over them again?  Why is this so hard?

Stay away from the TV.  Delete Netflix from the iPad – it doesn’t serve me.  Minimize Facebook perusal – not a lot of time spent there, but too much negativity.  Deconstruct battleships in my mind’s eye, over and over – what’s the purpose?

And always the search – what do I want?  Am I on the right track?  Am I being authentic?  Am I loving what I’m doing even when it’s tedious and frustrating?  When will it start paying off?  Dear gods, are we going to have enough funds to pay the bills this month?  What if we don’t?  Oops, was that a stray negative thought?  Stop it!  Start the mental diet over again.

Then I came across this meme:

Stages of enlightenment

I’d heard of the five stages of grief, of course – who hasn’t, these modern days?  But this… it was a sudden, sharp shock to the brain.  A splash of cold water to the awareness.  And subby reached out to grab my conscious mind; HEY, YOU! THIS IS IMPORTANT!!

I scrolled back up; was this an MKMMAer?  Nope… they were referring to how hard it is to get up on Monday mornings…  Why is it important?

Then I realized:  It’s a metaphor.

Part of you hears the call to greatness, the summons to the hero’s journey.  The rest of you says,

Denial – What, me?  There’s nothing special about me.  I don’t have anything to offer the world.  Greatness is about people with special talents, like <favorite historical figure> or <favorite sports player> or <personal hero>.  It’s not for people like me.

But maybe you accept the call anyway – there’s something missing from your life, something that would fulfill you, might make you great/wonderful/rich/successful/popular.  You sign up for the MKMMA in great spirits, thrilled and excited and eager, vowing that this time you’ll finish what you start, you’ll see it through, you’ll stick it out, you’ll follow every single requirement ’cause anything’s better than what you have now.

Then you discover that creating a dream requires work, that old, easy pathways through your brain have to be rewritten from the ground floor up, and suddenly:

Anger – How can they expect all this work out of me?  I have a life!  I have a job/kids/comittments/activities/things I enjoy and don’t want to give up!  WHY ISN’T THIS EASY?!?

But you slog through.  You want that promised payoff.  But the exercises are eating away at your time, and every week there’s something more you have to add – recitations, meditations, recordings, posters, OH MY GODS, WHERE AM I GOING TO FIND THE TIME?  And you start saying:

Bargaining – Well… maybe it won’t hurt to skip the sit just this once.  I need that twenty minutes to fix supper, and I’m supposed to put my family first, right?  And darn it, I missed my midday reads today – well, I’ll do ’em twice tomorrow.  That’s the same number of times, so my results’ll be the same, right?  You know, and when am I going to start seeing the proof that this is going to work for me?  Before I put any more effort into this, I want to see it work.

You might stay faithful to the letter of the exercises; you might not.  You might get focused on how hard/tedious/boring/overwhelming all this is and lose sight of the reason you started in the first place.  You might even quit.  If you don’t, it’s because the glowing possibility of what could be, the ethereal wisp of a dream, the insistent feeling that you were meant for something better, something more, remains and that keeps you hanging on, even if it’s by no more than a fingernail.

But your whole heart isn’t in the work anymore.  In spite of the promises made by the guides in the MKMMA, you can’t see how what you’re doing will ever lead to what you want.  And that leads inevitably to:

Depression – what am I doing?  Why am I sticking this out?  It’s obvious it’s never going to work for me… where did I go wrong?  WHY IS THIS SO HARD?  Doesn’t anyone else have this problem too?  What am I supposed to do?

You feel alone and lost and helpless, sunk deep in the mire of your own negative thoughts, the spiral of dark energy and habits that led you to place your hope, your trust, your fledgling faith, in this MasterKey process in the first place.

Maybe someone reminds you of that.

Maybe, once you’ve hit the bottom of that black pit, you remember one key phrase from the early weeks that meant something to you, something that calls you back to your dream.

Maybe you have what you think is your first small success, and that causes you to recall another, and another, and another… and you start to realize, dimly, that the process has been working for you the entire time, exactly to the extent to which you allowed it to and you wonder how much further along you’d be if only you’d not focused on what was wrong but rather on what was right…  You start to understand what ‘personal responsibility’ actually means

And then it blossoms in your mind:  What you want; the steps you need to take to get there; the kind of effort it’s going to require.  You find your hope, your determination, your faith, renewed and you go back to the exercises, catch up on the ones you missed and decide that’s not going to happen again.

Acceptance.

Five stages of grief.  Five stages of waking up.

Five stages of enlightenment…?

Week #6 – Finding the right handle to grab

It’s been an exciting and illuminating week.  And yet, it’s closer to remembering than anything.

NaNo stats

First off, it’s NaNoWriMo!  National Novel Writing Month, where writers of all stripes vow to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

MK 4-12 “If you do not intend to do a thing, do not start; if you do start, see it through even if the heavens fall; if you make up your mind to do something, do it; let nothing, no one, interfere; the “I” in you has determined, the thing is settled; the die is cast, there is no longer any argument.”

On the surface of it, NaNo’s not a hard thing, really – I’ve met the challenge the last three years in a row; you need only write 1,667 words per day.  (I aim for 1,700.)  It’s wonderful fun, seeing a new story take shape under your hands.  And it’s challenging; you have to muster the self-discipline to write those words, always advancing the story, developing the characters, regardless of what else might be happening in your life – work, family, good things, bad things, time-eating things.  And it’s fiendishly difficult, especially as you get to the 40,000-word mark and inspiration runs dry and there is only the word count, the incessant word count that must be met; a huge, gaping maw that must be daily fed, else the mouth becomes ever larger, demanding more and more from you just so you can stay even…

My first NaNo year (2012) I wrote a story that had been percolating in my mind ever since the idea had bubbled to the surface in a dream.  I had the outline, the major characters, the significant events, all inside my head, and the novel flowed.  It was beautiful.  Magic, even.  It confirmed that I had  been born to be a writer.

Then I lost touch with the source of the words, and writing became… painful.  And I don’t know how or why.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  The odd part is, I’ve never given up thinking of myself as a writer, however little I wrote.  The decision was made, the die was cast.  And that’s a connection I didn’t make until this past week.

imageSo this year’s NaNo novel is one I’d written about half of, years ago.  I’d set it aside when I lost my words, and since then I’ve lost touch with the people who are my characters.  But it never occurred to me not to enter a NaNo novel, and this felt like the story I should write.  But November the 1st came and I had no outline, I couldn’t quite remember all the major events I’d planned – or their order – so it was a really rocky start.  Took me four days to catch up and be in the green on the NaNo site; because of course you can add onto an existing novel, but you can’t count any of those words in your total.  The 50,000 have to be all new words.

But even in the back of my head, there’s no thought that I will not finish – even though I have awful habits throughout the rest of the MKMMA, even though I met none of the dates I posted in last year’s DMP and movie poster.

Now I just need my subconcsious to work on reconnecting me with the words that used to flow effortlessly!

Because I’m a writer.  The die is cast, there is no longer any question or doubt.

(Of course, the next step is to actually do something with all my stories!  Can’t have Recognition for Creative Expression if I don’t publish, huh?)

Now, running side-by-side with my writing has been my photography.  Just a hobby, really.  Something I do because I enjoy it – I’ve had shutterbug fever for half of forever.

I’m not a real photographer – or so I’ve been telling myself.  Real photographers work in studios and have their own darkroom.  Real photographers have been to school.  Real photographers spend hours setting up a shot and then get it right on the first try.  Real photographers have bags and bags of fine equipment, with expensive lenses for all occasions and business cards and special lighting devices and stacks and stacks of filters and the most recent version of the top-of-the-line camera body…

Astonishing, isn’t it, the kind of lies we tell ourselves when we’re resisting – for whatever reason – the knowledge of what we’re here to do.

So, fine.  I’m not your standard-variety version of photogapher, because the one thing I don’t do is people.  And I’m okay with that.  Because I’ll stand outside all night capturing the stars in the faint hope I might get the Northern Lights or a meteor.

Or both.

Big Dipper, Aurora Borealis, and a shooting star

Cool, huh?

Funny thing about the photography, too; that also crystallized this week.  I’ve had a blog that I haven’t done much with – I couldn’t find the right ‘voice.’  I had no idea who I wanted to talk to or what I really wanted to say, and for two years I’ve been giving too much credence to someone who reviewed my site and said basically that it was too ‘me’ focused, that readers don’t care about me, they want to know what’s in my article for them.  And that might be true.  And that’s okay.  But that one remark has colored every attempt I’ve made at a blog post ever since.  So this past week I wrote two photography posts, one about night photography and one about the photographing the Northern Lights.  And I’m talking to my reader.  And I’m sharing what I’ve learned – not to professionals, but to other people like me, who aren’t quite beginners and aren’t really pros but love their cameras and what they can do with them.

I’m not a writer.

I’m not even a photographer.

I’m a storyteller.  I’m a channel of words and images, from the undifferentiated aether of Source into hearts and minds and spirits.  That’s how I’m of service.  That’s how I show my love of the world and what’s in it.  And it was there in front of me the entire time, quietly waiting to be acknowledged.

And maybe… maybe that’s how I lost the words.  I never shared them.  I would write, and rewrite, and re-rewrite, and re-re-rewrite because they were never ‘just right;’ resistance, again.

Well, no more.  Time to share words and images and not care if my words are ‘too me-centered.’

Week #1 – Answering the Important Question

Pathway into the fog

And so, here we are – full circle to where I started.

Well, sort of.  Growth actually occurs more in a spiral rather than a circle, so long as we’re learning.  We come back around, but not to the exact same point, because with the addition of experiences, we are no longer the exact same person.

But I am facing the exact same question.

What do I want?

Last year, on my first trip through the MKMMA, I never answered this question; not fully, not truthfully.  The DMP and getting it in on time was an assignment, something I had to do in order to maintain my scholarship, whether it was right or not, true or not, complete or not.  I wrote down what I thought I should want, based on the person I had been about fifteen or twenty years ago and what that person had wanted for her life.  I thought, if I could just force myself to become that person again, my life would be back on track and I would be happy and successful.

It flopped.  Big time.  And for obvious reasons; there’s too much time, too much experience, too many life- and mind-altering events between the person I was and the person I am now for me to ever be her again.

So what do I want?

I’m reminded of two scenes, one from the movie Field of Dreams, the other from the TV series Bablyon 5.

In Field of Dreams, Ray (Kevin Costner) and Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) are at the ball park and after kidnapping Terence Mann to take him to a ball game, Ray asks what he wants, and Terence says, “I want them to stop looking to me for answers, begging me to speak again, write again, be a leader. I want them to start thinking for themselves. I want my privacy.”  And Ray says, “No, I mean what do you want?” and motions to the concession stand.  An honest answer, to a question that wasn’t asked, but it becomes clear through the course of the movie that it isn’t true – writing and speaking are what Terence does, it’s who he is.

Then there’s Bablyon 5, where the question that was asked is answered, but in a moment of frustration, anger, and pain.  An undead agent of The Shadows, Mr. Morden, goes around to all the ambassadors and asks them the same question – “What do you want?”  The only ambassador to give him an answer was Londo Mollari of the Centauri:  “Do you really want to know what I want? Do you really want to know the truth? I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or look forward. I want us to be what we used to be! I want… I want it all back the way it was. Does that answer your question?”  Londo’s answer has unintended and far-reaching consequences, for him and for the people his decisions affect, and once he has what he said he wanted, he discovers he’d really wanted something a little different… too late to prevent or correct the damage he’d done by pursuing the wrong answer.

What do I want?

It’s a question that requires soul-deep honesty.

What do I want?

It’s a question that’s dangerous to answer if you get it wrong, and equally dangerous to a person’s soul-born purpose not to answer if you get it right.

What do I want?

It’s a question that shouldn’t be answered in the throes of emotion, and yet must tie in to strong desire, or it’ll never happen.

What.  Do.  I.  Want?

FoL-2

Week #what? – Guiding light

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So, remember my comb?

Well, we took another cruise September 5-10, this one out of New Orleans.  (I brought two combs – just in case.)  The second night we were far into the Gulf, and I was feeling lost.  The cruise ship was great, the entertainment was plentiful and varied, the food was delicious, I’d already gotten a ton of great pictures, and the next morning we’d be pulling into Cozumel for tourism and shopping, the morning after would be a tour of Chichen Itza where I could clap my hands and hear the call of the quetzal bird in the echo from the steps… but I was lost.  We were on the water, far from land – the surface below my feet was unstable.  The horizon was distant and monotonous.  Clouds and lightning were following us through the Gulf, it seemed, and of the few stars I could see through the light pollution of the ship… I didn’t recognize.  I had no idea where I was, even though I knew where the ship was going.

Late in the evening of that second day, I was hanging out in the hot tub, gazing horizonward at the lightning reflecting off the clouds above and the water below, hearing the thunder growl across the Gulf.  I caught a glimpse of stars overhead, where we were sailing out from under the storm, and when I got out of the hot tub I walked to the rail.  There was a spot – a fairly narrow, specific place – between the ship lights where a person could look out and let the eyes adjust to the darkness beyond.

I searched skyward.  I just needed one, some sparkling bit of light that I recognized, a familiar friend whose name I knew.  Some bright little piece of home that would tell me where I was, give me some sense of position and distance and permanence.

The clouds cleared, ever so briefly, and I found Cassiopeia.  A five-star constellation in the shape of a “W” who lives in the northeastern sky.  And as my eyes fastened on her, I breathed out and felt my whole being relax.  I knew where I was.

I knew where I was.

Cassie led me to the Big Dipper – which was so low on the horizon the two bottommost stars of the bowl were hidden – which led to the Little Dipper and Polaris, the North Star.

Lightning and the Little Dipper

Lightning and the Little Dipper

It reminded me of some things I’d learned in the MKMMA.  Every single one of us has a gift, a special, unique talent that sets us apart, a piece of our deepest selves that we are obliged to share with the world because nobody else can offer what any individual does.  I’ve been struggling for months to find mine.  I don’t know what makes me jump out of bed at eyes’ opening, eager to get started with the day.  I don’t know what I feel passion for.  I don’t have a guiding light.

But I do know why it’s important.  And I know how I can figure out what drives me.  But the answer, whatever it is, won’t be an easy, knee-jerk response.

Because the trouble is, the reason so many folks live that life of quiet desperation is that they either can’t answer the question, or they answer it using a source outside themselves.  When asked about their guiding light, many cite their religious beliefs; many others, their children.  But an internal compass has to point to a lodestone within, a deep-seated desire of one’s own devising; else as a solid reference point, a star to steer for, it will fail.

The MKMMA didn’t define for me where my passion lies.  That’s not what it’s for.  It did give me the tools I need to find it for myself.  And when I finally discover what that special gift is, that unique talent, that spark of originality the world needs for me to share…?  Like the moment I spotted Cassiopeia, I’ll know.  My entire being will breathe out in relaxation, because I will know where I am, and where I’m headed.

The MKMMA is not for everybody.  Counting how many paths there are to a single destination would be an impossible task.  But it is a way, one that’s been well-thought, practiced, refined, and simplified.

What’s your guiding star?  Would you like to find out?

Sign up for a scholarship here

 

Week #8 – (Re)commitment – and maybe I oughta be…

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.  Stay positive.  Apply “Squirrel!” mentality (otherwise known as Attention Deficit Oooh, Shiny!) to thoughts of ‘I’m lesser.’  And in the words of Logician Jahana Shaharan ar-Drindi of Orocno, “Stop emoting and analyze!”  Figure out what I’m addicted to, and why, then set up mental guards to shift the stimulus (thank you, Mark!  That was one of the pieces I was missing).

Monday I caught up on household chores – felt good not to have them hanging over my head any more.  When I did my reads I held in the back of my awareness the memory of flying from when I went parasailing in Catalina – I actually laughed with delight through the words I was speaking.  No TV, limited iPad and computer (no computer anyway – it won’t boot up properly again.  Which also means I’m cut off from my pictures); I used a notebook to scribble my writings in so I’d have the rough draft handy and could just type the words in quick when I turned on the device.

Attending the funeral of a long-time family friend (to which I was nearly late), I found myself wondering why I do this kind of thing to myself – I’d fallen back to sleep after my alarm went off and I’d done my first read of Greatest Salesman and woke up just barely in time to have my shower and drive to the church.  I got there before the service – by about three minutes.  (Beautiful ceremony, by the way, but I kept wondering why religions encourage people to look outward to a Source greater than they, rather than inward to a Source greater than yet part of themselves…)

But.  I’m addicted to the peptides I produce when I think about ‘sleeping in’ even when I don’t need to physically, and apparently I’m also addicted to rushing, rushing, rushing.  Reminds me of a poem from Black Beauty that the character Jerry Barker would sing –

“If in the morning you throw minutes away,
You can’t pick them up in the course of a day.
You may hurry and scurry and flurry and worry,
But you’ve lost them forever, forever and aye.”

What to replace those two stimuli with?  Haven’t decided yet.

I was twitchy about the no TV thing.  I didn’t think I would be.  After last week I’d already decided to do what we were going to get told to do on Sunday, so why the craving?

(Because it’s a form of mental dissipation that releases peptides I’m addicted to.  What can I substitute…?  Constructive imagination for new novels, that’s what.  Keep a pen and notepad handy, scribble outlines – still need an alternate main character and beginning for Guardian’s Genesis: The First Guardian.)

So I didn’t yield to it – point number 2 to celebrate – not even when Jerry got home and immediately turned on his video game and then later the Monday Night Football.  Instead I dug out an old workout DVD, loaded it into my laptop and put some time into exercise.  (That might be pushing at The Rules a little bit – but I wasn’t doing it for entertainment.)

I also did my requisite 2,300 words for NaNoWriMo.

For those who aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  A group of friends back in the nineties challenged each other to write 50,000 words in 30 days; it’s grown through the years from that core group to include thousands of people worldwide, all busily writing away during the month of November.  And it has to be either a completely new novel, or you have to add 50,000 words to an existing one.

You can write an entire book in 50,000 words, did you know that?  The Great Gatsby was 47,094; Old Yeller, 35,968; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was only 30, 644!  I’m behind this year – first the cruise, then the lazy fit – I didn’t actually start writing until the 12th.  But as of last night I have 20, 982 words and the story is moving along.

I was also doing a lot of thinking around the idea of ‘Everyone has exactly as much faith as everyone else.”  Where am I applying mine?  To believing in faith, or believing in doubt?

Tuesday I made more recordings to play when I’m at the gym walking the treadmill, alternating Master Key reads with my DMP/PPN/POA recording – that felt good, too.  Then I went to the gym and walked my three miles, and wonder of wonders, I didn’t feel that urge to cut my exercise short at the end of the first mile – that was when the music-based recording of my new reality cut in, and I found the pace of the treadmill (3.5 mph) was just too slow.  I got my requisite writings done and posted on my website and blog, and they were decent as far as quality goes.

Today – Easier to get up this morning.  I have two blog posts done.  I’ve rewritten my Movie Trailer card ’cause I found out when making the recordings that the sentences aren’t quite right, and because I was out of lines on the WPOA side.  I’ll have lunch, do my second reads, and go to the gym for my walk.  Then write a post for my other blog (1 hour on the timer!), and after that I’ll be free to saran-wrap the windows for the winter and write my 2,300 words for NaNo… might see if I can push it to 4,000, since Jerry’ll be home by then and he’ll want to play his video game.

(I’m glad we put the door back on the room that is my office; shutting out the cats was regrettable but necessary, as they never did understand why they shouldn’t park themselves on my keyboard and stare at me until I petted them.  The door also blocks out most of the sound from the living room.  I actually work better to silence; I can hear my own thoughts and imagination better that way.  I don’t play music when I’m writing, or in the car when I’m driving, either; I find it distracting and sometimes a bit irritating.)

But this week is a good week.

Mental detoxing,
Not easy to do –
So many words in there,
Yet not one ‘I love you.’
To get bad words out,
Good words must go in –
Words.  Are.  Power.
Their proper use, a ‘win.’

Week #7 – Firing thoughts

Timers.

Ellen's clock collection

Ellen’s clock collection

I love timers.  I have a clock collection.  They don’t run, and they all say different times; I like ’em because they’re pretty, and unique, and… well, because I just like clocks.  Tiny gears with tinier teeth, all meshing and clicking away to create a whole that was magical and useful.  You know, the kid’s question – ‘How does the clock know what time it is?’  I used to take a look at mine and wonder where in the world that time was, and what was happening there.

So this week, I upped the ante on my writing.  An article for my website, complete with research.  Two blog posts, complete with good pictures run through Lightroom if necessary.  Two thousand words a day for the NaNoWriMo challenge.  And Wednesday is the day I schedule for my MKMMA blog post.

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I was still up at three, four and two in the morning, respectively.  I was tired, my eyelids were heavy, heavy… and I damned well wasn’t going to bed until they were done, because it was written on my index card.  And the alarm still rang at the normal time the next day – ‘next day’ being relative.  It isn’t properly tomorrow until I get some sleep!

Mississippi sunriseStill not a fan of mornings.  They’re beautiful – I love sunrises, especially the ones with pink and orange and gilded, shiny gold clouds.  Over water is best.  Love the water.  All the reflections – you get two sunrises for the price of one!  So mornings are worthwhile for sure.  They just start too early.  And I’m still anticipating waking up with a vigor I have never before known.

So I woke up this morning with the thought of ‘timers’ in my head.  I set a timer.  An hour each for the blog posts, two hours for the research and writing of the website article, two hours for the NaNoWriMo challenge.  That’s six hours.  I can do that.  That leaves me plenty of time for sleeping, the MKMMA-related work, regular household chores and other projects…  And we all work better to deadlines, right?

So gonna try that today.  I have a timer running right now, as a matter of fact.  And woe  betide me if this post is not done by the time it rings, for there will be no fudging allowed and yet I must complete the task.

Because I said I would.

Oooh.  Just flashed on the parental phrase, ‘Because I said so.’

Hibiscus and tomato plantSo something else that was different this morning:  I woke up and I was seeing the shapes and colors I have posted around the house.  They’re on my index cards and all, but I’ve never really seen them, if you know what I mean.   I have to make a conscious effort.  My eye just kind of skips over them; it’s the words that are important.  Well, I’ve thrown myself into the spirit of the exercise, and every time I pass one of my signs, I pause, read it, and trace the outline as I close my eyes and imagine what that goal is going to feel like.  This morning I saw the colors.  Red is my first book getting published.  Blue is developing my network marketing team.  Yellow is my website – fifty articles of quality content by the end of the year.  And green is what the bank accounts are looking like in two years.

Hibiscus and tomato plantOh – these are my hibiscus plant, and behind him is my tomato plant.  Aren’t they lovely?  (And yes – that is snow outside the window.)

I think I’ll talk to Jerry – see what kind of plan we can come up with for being snowbirds next year, spend the winter somewhere warm and sunny.  With water and pink-gold-orange sunrises.

(And just like that, we go from ‘I wish I could,’ to ‘How do we want to do this?’)