Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sometimes you just have to THROW AWAY the box!

Many people understand what it means to "go for a walk on the beach." Not so many people grok the idea of spending six or maybe eight hours, walking on a beach.

This, however, is what I do. And fairly often.

Whereas I am generally loath to make any "claims" as regards the state of my mental health, I can with considerable confidence say that it has improved, since I started taking these long walks on the beach.

The beach IS my place of peace. Part of my mental health regime. And since I walk on the order of 50 miles (80km) some weeks, it's also part of my physical health routine.

Some might say "Yeah, well, nice work if you can get it, but who can afford to do that?"

It's certainly a valid question, and one I had to answer for myself. Which brings us to the power of intention, and creating our own reality. Whereas I have beach combed since I was a tiny child, my walks used to be considerably shorter-- well, because I had work, and things.

One of the greatest paradigm shifts I have experienced in my life came during my college years. In the course of a junior-year marketing class, we had a number of guest lecturers. One of them was the late Stanley Marcus, one-time principal of the Neiman-Marcus chain of luxury department stores, as well as the man generally credited with originally building that company's stellar reputation for quality and service.

Mr. Marcus spoke to 300-odd students about life and retailing and marketing, followed by the inevitable Q&A session. Many "relevant" questions were asked-- about balance sheets, merchandising, product mix. Finally, someone asked "Yeah, but how do you figure out WHAT it is you're supposed to be doing?"

The reply to which was: "Do what you're really good at, and what moves you."

I suppose there's a smart-aleck in every crowd. In this particular class, there was.

"Yeah, but what if the only thing you're good at is SLEEPING?"

There was the expected ripple of laughter, but Mr. Marcus never missed a beat.

"You become a mattress tester for Serta. You work in sleep and dream research."


"Thinking outside the box" is perhaps the most overused buzz phrase of our time, closely followed by "You create your own reality."

To my way of thinking, there's really nothing wrong with these two concepts, beside the fact that few people truly grok what they mean. And-- upon reflection-- thinking outside the box isn't really that useful because you're still basically trapped in "box-like" thinking. Sometimes you just have to throw away the box... and in a Matrix-like way declare "There IS no box."

"Creating your reality" is not exactly a new idea-- it has just been given some fancy new packaging by ideas such as "The Secret," "Abraham-Hicks," "What the Bleep" and others. Now, before any of you get a bug up your butt, don't get me wrong, I'm all for self-awareness and self-development. I say that often, because I mean it. But here's the thing... these "programs" and concepts are-- ultimately-- just another kind of "box." I believe their greatest value lies not in some nifty "connect A to B" methodology, but in the fact that they teach people to wake up, and be aware, and to become "active agents" in their own lives, as opposed to sleepwalking through existence blindly accepting whatever comes their way as if it were some kind of inevitability.

Personally, I am a bit annoyed by Oprah's (and a number of other "talking heads") overemphasis on money/wealth as the focal point of Creating Reality, but I also recognize that marketing spiritual esoterica to the masses may require a focus on a point of common interest-- in this case, money. 'Nuff said.

But how does this all relate to taking long walks on the beach?

For me, it started with figuring out what was important to me. And the deeper inquiry became one of examining "who am I," absent the cacophony of voices that surround us-- society, media, family, friends, lovers, even teachers and gurus I may have valued. The thing is, if you don't really know who you are, it's hard to figure out what you want.

As part of that inquiry, I ended up in childhood. What really moved me, before the world encroached on my reality and started telling me what I "could" and "could not" do? It's a good exercise. So many people I have met who are truly "in their bliss" can also track a close correlation between a childhood interest/obsession, and what they do now, and love.

Perhaps you endlessly built things, of sticks, mud, sand whatever you could get your hands on... leading to a life building beautiful custom homes. Perhaps you were a consummate observer of your family and its parties; understanding and drawing connections behaviors and outcomes... leading to a life as a brilliant therapist or coach. For me, I was never happier than when I walked on the beach, "finding things."

Fast forward 40+ years. It finally occurred to me that it would be the shit if I could get paid for walking on the beach... enough to justify being "out there," many hours. And so, that happened. I walk on the beach and "find things," and sell them to artists, jewelers and sculptors all over the world.

Now, this is not a story "about me." It's a story about throwing away that proverbial box, and embracing the infinite possibilities out there. Just like the guy in college who was only good at sleeping, what I do in no way "looks like a JOB." In fact, one of the most common comments I get goes something like "You can't DO that!"

Yes you can.

But you have to be willing to throw away the box, and embrace whatever "reality" your imagination creates.

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