Check this out for one of the all-time great guitar solos:
A brilliant, all too brief life...
Check this out for one of the all-time great guitar solos:
My father (director Tay Garnett, best known for The Postman Always Rings Twice) was fascinated by clowns. He talked about them, painted them, wrote stories about them. In even his most tragic movies, there was always a "clown" - a fumbling, bumbling, amiable and almost certainly drunk leitmotif of humor, designed to keep a story from getting too heavy.
But what about the actors who played those roles? My Dad said that every clown he knew personally lived a tragic life. That's the part that fascinated him - how someone who devoted his life to making people laugh, could find so little to laugh about when he got home at night.
We could get philosophical about this, talking about the world of opposites, the balance of nature, the yin and yang. We could explore the connection between creativity and substance abuse, intelligence and depression, heightened sensitivity and chemical imbalance.
I think it's certainly a truth that with great gifts come great challenges and sometimes great suffering. Could we even say that the greater the talent, the greater the personal struggle? Probably.
And yet what would that change?
Like most people I know, I'm still reeling from the shock of Robin Williams' suicide on Monday of this week. Was there a funnier, brighter, more talented man out there? If so, I missed him.
To make matters worse, it turns out that this phenomenally talented individual also had an enormous heart. Robin Williams was extremely generous and an extraordinarily compassionate individual. I learned only yesterday that when his close friend Christopher Reeve had his life-altering accident, Williams redesigned his own home to make it wheelchair accessible, to accommodate his friend!
How is it possible that such a talented, funny and compassionate man could have known such intense suffering as to see self-destruction as his only option?
With all respect, could it be that he was capable of demonstrating compassion toward everyone but himself?
Or was he simply exhausted?
I'll never know and, honestly, it isn't any of my business.
Robin Williams gave me hour upon hour of lightness, laughter and joy over several decades. Now, with his death, he's teaching me an important lesson on the power of compassion...
Let me never again envy someone their life, because where is the compassion in that? What can I ever truly know about someone else's inner world?
Let me never again judge anyone or assume I know what they're going through or what their life is about. Let me treat everyone as the silent warrior they may well be, and in this way, let me walk with ever greater gentleness and respect on this earth.
And, as I demonstrate a new level of compassion to my traveling companions on this human journey, let me not forget to turn that same level of compassion toward myself, especially in those moments when I'm finding it hard to like myself even a little.
Speaking selfishly, I have received so much from Robin Williams that I would have preferred his life to go on forever. I see now how difficult it must have been for him to have given what he did and how tired he must have been at the end.
Rest in peace, Robin.
My daughter said to me this morning, "I've discovered something about mosquito bites. If you scratch them, they keep itching and take forever to go away. If you do that 'X' thing, where you make an X on them with your fingernail, it stops the itching, but the mark stays for a long time. But if you just ignore the mosquito bite and don't scratch, it's gone in like a couple of hours."
The same principle applies to fear! Fear is guaranteed to come up in our lives over and over and over again. If we focus on it in any way, we create problems for ourselves. If we focus on it enough, we can drown.
Here's how it works:
Fear comes up - we're human beings, so that's a guarantee. But if we allow ourselves to be drawn in by the fear, focus on the fear, listen to what it's telling us, think about it, mull it over, resist it, or - God forbid - act on it, the fear will get bigger and bigger. It will continue to nag at us and it won't go away. It will create problems for us in our lives.
But if we recognize the fear for what it is - a momentary flux of energy - and allow ourselves to feel the feeling without resistance, and then immediately turn our attention away from it by focusing on a more positive feeling, such as peace or joy, the fear will evaporate. And if we do this every time fear comes up, we will soon discover that we have created a life condition of joy.
The great thing about nature is that it is constantly offering us assistance in the form of valuable lessons. We just need to be open to receive them.
Maya Angelou died today.
I will miss her strong presence on the planet, this woman who was larger than life...
Who walked her talk
Who made us laugh and weep
Who inspired us constantly...
Dr. Maya Angelou was a role model and symbolic mother to countless motherless women, including myself.
Thank you, Maya, for the many gifts you gave us, not the least of which was the reminder to honor our potential.
"What is a fear of living? It's being preeminently afraid of dying. It's not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself - for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don't know what you're here to do, then just do some good."
We love you, Maya, now and forever...
A man I know has this to say: "Life is empty and meaningless and we are meaning-making machines. Let me say it again... Life is empty and meaningless and we are meaning-making machines."
His concept took me a while to grasp, but once I did I found it tremendously liberating. What it means is that nothing in life is inherently good or bad, valuable or worthless - it's all neutral. There is, in fact, no objective reality. Every object, every relationship and every occurrence is entirely void of meaning until we label it, judge it, assign meaning to it. We humans are Meaning Makers, life is all a game, and we are the ones who write the rules.
And there's more...
"We humans are NOTHING," the man said. "That's right, you heard me... We are nothing."
"BUT!! We are nothing PLUS whatever action we choose to take!"
The spirit of his words really inspired me. What it means is that I no longer need to put myself in a box labeled "mother" or "writer" or "minister" or "bartender." I no longer need to define myself by my activities. I am unrestricted, undefinable, limitless energy, creating my reality moment by moment. How freeing is that??
Here's an example of how it works: Recently, someone mentioned a television show to me and I heard myself say, "I don't watch television." Having spoken the words, I heard the ego-ridden falseness of my statement. Why ego-ridden and false? Because the truth of the matter is that I have watched television at various times during my life and furthermore, every single moment I am free to choose whether or not I will watch television because every moment is new. Who is to say that I will not make a different choice later today? The statement "I don't watch television" is nothing more than a gimmick, a racket, an act.
The only reason to make a self-characterizing statement such as, "I don't watch television" is to bolster my ego, to characterize myself as a high-minded and superior personage who has no time to waste on inferior activities such as watching television. Behind the statement is a negative judgment about the medium of television (which is in fact a neutral medium) and a belief in my own superiority because I don't watch it!
Which of course means that I must refuse any potentially beautiful or edifying creation that comes through the medium of television because I. Am. Not. A. Watcher. Of. Television. Period.
What a way to live!
And yet we all do it.
All of us have a concept of who we are as people, and those beliefs about ourselves make up what we call "personality." This notion of who we are provides us with a relatively consistent feeling of superiority, inferiority or neutrality (whatever is most comfortable, given the individual) thereby providing a false sense of security. We feel safe within the confines of a walled identity.
The problem with this way of being is that as long as we draw hard lines to define who we are, we greatly limit our lives.
All day every day we speak words and take actions based on who we believe ourselves to be, and in EVERY case, these beliefs are self-limiting. Even if, let's say, I believe myself to be a "successful" person then I have a notion of what success looks like and in order to conform to my personal notion of success, I cannot deviate from the blueprint. For example, if I believe that I am successful because I make lots of money and have a certain social standing because I work as a banker, then how could I ever allow myself to quit working in a bank to sing opera, blow glass, or give white water rafting tours down the Colorado River?
If instead, I accept that I am nothing PLUS whatever action I choose to take, then there is nothing whatsoever that can limit my life. I am free in every moment to express pure creative energy in present-moment reality, floating joyously in boundless self-expression!
I thought this winter was never going to end!
And I'm not just talking about the weather. My inner world has been every bit as icy and inert as the frozen stream behind my house. My creative imagination has been sluggish, my focus scattered, my joy obscured. I've worked hard, with little to show for my labors.
Worst of all, I felt alone in my isolation.
Today, I write in gratitude and appreciation for the arrival of spring - both outside and within!
As I connect with people through this website and through my life, I recognize so many common themes:
The "human experience" is just that - an experience shared by all the members of our race. Why is it that the tendency, when we are hurting, is to isolate? One of the many lessons I've learned during this past, harsh season is the importance of community, of tribe. Why did I not host a weekly pot-luck at my house this winter? Why did I not create a winter support group? Why did I allow myself to feel that I was the only one enduring hardship?
And why do I continue to feel that stepping outside my house in a mood of sadness or fear is the mental equivalent of stepping outside in my underwear?
I've always found solace in solitude, so I give myself excuses to withdraw: I'm an only child, I'm a Scorpio, I don't play well with others when I'm grumpy, etc. In retrospect, I see how well I might have been able to shift the energy in my own life and also support other people in theirs if I've had the willingness to step outside my comfort zone. Because it wasn't comfortable, I didn't recognize it for what it was. But what is "comfort" if not the familiar - even if what is familiar is pain? How insidious our mental habits are!
Spring is about renewal and change, and intentions are powerful things, so on this second day of spring, I announce an intention:
My intention for the coming year is to create a greater sense of community in my life, and to share more of myself with others, even if that sharing is not always pretty. I recognize now that the willingness to be sad or afraid in front of others can be the most healing gift of all.
Our parents and teachers and society as a whole have successfully trained us to stay safely inside THE BOX where we our behavior is manageable and our lives make sense. Most of us learned early and well to behave ourselves and not upset the status quo.
It's okay to be creative, the authorities tell us, but don't be too creative. Above all, our lives need to make rational sense. Analyze. Think. Conform to an already existing model. Beware innovation. Don't trust your intuition. Look outside yourself for the answers to your problems.
If you must take risks, take only calculated ones, we are told. Which is to say, don't actually risk. Whatever you do, stay safe! Protect yourself. Protect your loved ones. Think of everything that can go wrong! If you're not sure something's going to work, for Pete's sake don't even try!
This way of living is so restrictive that just writing those words gave me a headache!
The problem with the conventional way of thinking is that it keeps us anchored in stagnation and fear. After all, if we're looking for safety and protection, we must be protecting ourselves from something, no? If we're not in fear, then there's nothing to protect or defend and the notion of safety has no validity.
The more we focus on what can go wrong, the "heavier" we become and the denser become our energies. Then it becomes more and more difficult to experience joy, to create, eventually even to move. Our protections become our prisons.
What if tonight were our last night on earth?
How would it feel to know that we may not have created much or had a lot of experiences, but at least we've lived a "safe" life?
Honestly, is that even living?
Personally, I'd rather fly!
And if I'm going to fly, I need to be light.
So, I need to lighten my load.
I'm going to start by throwing stuff overboard.
And safety will be the first thing that goes!
Now the door is open for spontaneity, creativity and expansion.
So what if I skin my knees? At least my experience will be exhilarating!
So, let's take a chance!
Let's take some risks!
Let's step out of the box, step off the cliff.
What is there to lose?
What's the worse that can happen?
Maybe I'll crash and burn!
Yes, that's true
But so what?
Then I'll create a beautiful blaze...
And what's wrong with that?
We humans get so caught up in the web of our daily lives - the responsibilities, the obligations and the routine, the dullness of our repetitive activities as well as our frustrations, pains and fears, that we can easily lose sight of the countless gifts that steadily flood our experience.
And yet, we are surrounded at all times by miracles and by love.
Take the intricacies and genius of the human body, for example... With little effort from us, the body maintains itself 24/7, even while we sleep. Oxygen is assimilated, food is digested, cuts heal, minor, physical imbalances and illnesses correct themselves.
And observe the natural world - the perfection of it, the beauty and raw power, the way it sustains life on our planet and the way it is always available to inspire us when we allow it. The weather... the seasons... the constantly changing variety of color, light and fragrance...
And look at the dear beings in our lives and what they bring to us: Children and old people, our families and partners, our close friends and pets. The daily gifts of conversation and laughter. What's better than that?
Let's determine for ourselves, beginning today, that we shall live in a state of appreciation, wonder and deep gratitude.
If the pain of your life is too great to relate to this suggestion, begin by keeping a gratitude journal. Every night before sleep, start by writing down 10 things you have to be grateful for including blessings - big or small - that occurred throughout your day.
This may be a challenging exercise at first, but gradually 10 things won't begin to be enough...
Whatever your situation or circumstances, commit today to living your life in a state of gratitude and wonder. As you do this, witness the magic that begins to take place in your life...
The activities of our day are not as important as the energy that drives those activities.
Each one of us has been gifted with an internal teacher, a master guide who has the wisdom to direct our lives, solve our problems, expand our consciousness and lead us in the direction of our dreams. In this website, it is my intention to share tools and insights from my own experience to help others access the wisdom of their own Personal Guru.
Tiela Garnett is a life-coach and writer. Born into a motion picture family in Hollywood, her life has been a broad experience of study, travel and self-exploration.