Every Day is a Poem: The Three Highlights Game

How are you experiencing your days this year?

The most innovative, creative people I know and interview regard each day a certain way. An opportunity. A window. A portal. They also have learned to watch how their minds sabotage or fashion their reality. I don’t think any of them are prone to voicing a default complaint like, “Today was a lousy day.”

A day can be more than a box (or inbox) to fill and empty or a list of tasks to create and check off. I’m convinced each day is a collective poem begging to be shaped and written by each of us.

I have naive theories. That the more we pay attention now, the deeper our memory is later. That the more we tend to small things, the more fertile our imaginations. That the best and biggest ideas come from observing things the size of dragonfly wings. That what we pay attention to forms our reality.

That wonder scurries everywhere, and we have the tools to glimpse it. That we can affect how one another experiences each day.

When I was a tow-headed boy in summer camp, I’d send myself to sleep by recreating the full day from reveille to lights out. In my twenties, I made up a simple game for myself. At each day’s end, I’d ask myself this question: What were your day’s three highlights? I’d try to recall the simplest sensory moments. Later, I started playing it with my wife.

Now I want to play it with the world and glimpse people’s highlights from all four corners. I call the game “Three Highlights.”

I started playing the game on my personal and fan Facebook pages, and people  enjoyed it.

The rules are simple:
1. PAUSE: At the end of each day, pause, reflect, and ask: What were the day’s three highlights?
2. RECOLLECT: Try to remember specific, tangible moments – sensual details, nuanced thoughts, precise words spoken.
3. SHARE: Record them. Share them. Ask someone else the same question.

Play the game regularly, and you’ll notice a creative side-effect: You start paying attention more in anticipation of the question. Gratitude begets paying attention begets gratitude.

“To affect the quality of the day,” that present-moment monger Thoreau writes, “is the highest of the arts.” Maybe together we can create daily masterpieces. Or, heck, at least just finger paint together before we go to sleep each night.

See you in the woods,

Jeffrey

Drop in the Hut
What practices help you experience your days optimally? How do you reframe the tendency to say, “Today was a lousy day”? Share your insights below.

Intentions Pave the Year with Creative Purpose

I’m a cheerleader for creative action. Getting things done. Making ideas happen. But I want meaningful things done. And I want to make ideas happen with right intention. Some people might argue that intentions don’t matter and are a waste of time. Just act. Ship ideas out. Granted, intentions without actions are of no use. But right intention with right action can make for a doubly powerful creative life in 2011.

Read more

Creating 2011, Part 2: The Forgotten Tool for Creative Professionals’ Planning

Note: In Part 1 of this series, “Goals for No-Goals Creatives,” I noted how I rarely consciously set goals despite my three businesses’ growth. In that article, I offered, though, authentic ways to approach goal-setting. This follow-up article lays out a more intuitive skillful means that has guided my adult life – imagination. I risk going into personal material, but I hope it’s of interest and use. Let me know.

Creativity is a revived currency in business. The New York Times Magazine (December 16, 2010) ran a full feature on the burgeoning field of us creativity consultants and idea leaders. Advances in technology have automated numerous jobs and made follow-instructions-and-gather-information managers almost obsolete. Yet what do we entrepreneurs, micro-business owners, and hybrid artistic practitioners-freelancers do when we make professional plans and goals? Some of us complain that we’re not analytical or MBA-savvy enough and forfeit our innate creative tools. Yes, rigorous analysis of data and competition and the market are necessary, but analysis alone will not get you to the heart of your professional life and future. And for most of us motivated by meaning more than money, we must get to the core to keep our business’s heart beat thumping through good times and bad.

One oft-forgotten tool, inherent to your creativity, can help you get to your professional heart and envision your professional year accordingly.

Read more

Three Highlights for 12.28.10?

Good evening. What were your day’s three highlights? Mine: 1. Pulling Dahlia across the frozen pond in her sled. (See personal FB page for photos.) 2. Talking with an interviewer for a Kripalu Center podcast about Tracking Wonder. 3. Mapping out a new chapter on tracking the mind’s wonders.

Three Highlights is a simple game I play each evening. It keeps wonder at the forefront. Post yours below, and let’s compare notes from around the globe.

Holy Sh*t, Sacred Irreverence, and Artistic Innovators/Tantrikas

Maxine Kumin wrote an ode to excrement. She was not being cute. This farmer-poet is among many artists who challenge conventional notions of what is beautiful, superior, and sacred.

The publishers at YogaModern.com asked me to respond to their December theme of “the sacred.” I appreciate our sensibility for the sacred, but our constructions of the sacred are rife with problems that I think are of interest to writers, artists, and even entrepreneurs who seek to create something new and dynamic.

For if you tag or perceive something as “sacred” and its apparent opposite as profane, you risk forming an unchecked, dualistic prejudice. In the history of Yoga, Tantrikas have flipped notions of what’s sacred on their proverbial heads. I have written elsewhere [http://yogamodern.com/categories/writing/hatha-yogis-in-the-counter-current-by-jeff-davis-2/] of how classical Yoga maintains that the body is an “ill-smelling… conglomerate of bone, skin, sinew, muscle, marrow, flesh, semen, blood.” So-called “left-handed” Tantrikas have developed practices that involve physical intercourse and eating meat, challenges to purist notions that demarcate the sacred from the profane. Historically, several Tantrikas and Hatha Yogis also allowed women and people of varied classes to become practitioners, a challenge to Brahmin notions of who is and who is not a candidate for sacredness.

Some Western poets and painters, especially but not only during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are artistic Tantrikas.

At YogaModern.com, I take up this topic in more detail. Drop in, and leave some comments. Click here to join in.

And do me a favor if the post provokes, informs, or delights you: Share it on Facebook or Twitter.

See you in the woods,

Jeffrey

Where’s Jeffrey?
Tracking Wonder Blog at PsychologyToday
Get Out of the Way Blog at Tiferet Journal
The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing (Monkfish, 2008, revised & updated)

Maxine Kumin wrote an ode to excrement. She was not being cute. This farmer-poet is among many artists who challenge conventional notions of what is beautiful, superior, and sacred.

Tag or perceive something as “sacred” and its apparent opposite as profane, and you risk forming an unchecked, dualistic prejudice. In the history of Yoga, Tantrikas have flipped notions of what’s sacred on their proverbial heads. I have written elsewhere [http://yogamodern.com/categories/writing/hatha-yogis-in-the-counter-current-by-jeff-davis-2/] of how classical Yoga maintains that the body is an “ill-smelling… conglomerate of bone, skin, sinew, muscle, marrow, flesh, semen, blood.” So-called “left-handed” Tantrikas have developed practices that involve physical intercourse and eating meat, challenges to purist notions that demarcate the sacred from the profane. Historically, several Tantrikas and Hatha Yogis also allowed women and people of varied classes to become practitioners, a challenge to Brahmin notions of who is and who is not a candidate for sacredness.
Some Western poets and painters, especially but not only during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are artistic Tantrikas.

In response to YogaModern.com’s December call to write about “the sacred,” I take up this topic in more detail. Drop in, and leave some comments. Click here to join in.

And do me a favor if the post provokes, informs, or delights you: Share it on Facebook or Twitter.

See you in the woods,

Jeffrey

Where’s Jeffrey?
Fiction Editor, Tiferet Journal: A Journal of Spiritual Literature

Tracking Wonder Blog at PsychologyToday
A Hut of Questions at trackingwonder.com
Get Out of the Way Blog at Tiferet Journal
The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing

A Roundtable on Gratitude with Four Creative Entrepreneurs

Last month, I posted several pieces related to gratitude and praise. At the bottom of the post I’ve included a Best of list that includes some others’ ideas on gratitude, too.

As we head toward the end of the year, I thought it would be insightful to have a round table on gratitude. Today I want to imagine we’ve gathered four varied and insightful sources on the subject of gratitude, authenticity, and entrepreneurship – a Woodstock-based writer and speaker on innovation & technology, a world-traveling entrepreneur, a London-based consultant on creative entrepreneurship, and a Brooklyn-based designer. Read more

The Wild Pack & The Tracking Wonder Handbooks

Wonder is pervasive yet evasive. This point became remarkably clear again when some 3,000 bloggers responded to the prompt I offered for Gwen Bell and her team’s sensational Reverb10 Project: Wonder. How have you cultivated a sense of wonder in your life this year? According to the posts, wonder filled many bloggers’ year. Others bemoaned its scarcity. But numerous bloggers weren’t really sure what this emotion we all talk about is.

Hence, Tracking Wonder Handbooks to help you recognize its signs and feed it. Not one guide, but two. We’ve created two Tracking Wonder Handbooks designed for creatives, creative entrepreneurs, educators – anyone who’s hungry.

TRACKING WONDER HANDBOOK ONE offers you five surprising ways to bring more delight, curiosity, and deep connection into your professional and personal life. TRACKING WONDER HANDBOOK TWO presents 20-plus resources and links to innovators in numerous fields to tease your sense of serendipity and keep your creative mind and action fresh through the year.

Designer Monica Gurevich has drawn upon old Boy Scout and First Aid handbooks as inspiration. That seems apropos since we think tracking wonder is the ultimate survival skill for the 21st century.

In my lifetime, there’s never been a more obvious need to cultivate an ongoing relationship with wonder. We can welcome wonder into our work places & studios, living rooms & kitchens, playgrounds & classrooms. Wonder is at the heart of all creativity. It’s at the heart of wisdom. It’s at the heart of emotional decision-making (which is all human decision-making).

So whether you think wonder pops in for tea each morning or has avoided your route for a solid 15 years since you left adolescence, these handbooks might be right for you adult wonder-trackers.

How to get your two free Tracking Wonder Handbooks:
Simple. Send an e-message to jeffrey [at] trackingwonder [dot] com with WILD PACK in the subject box. We’ll send them both to you.

Oh, and all I ask in return is that you send 10 creatively hungry people back to this page or to trackingwonder.com.

Drop in the Hut
Let us know what other kinds of resources, information, and ideas you’d like that would help you open, innovative, and productive.

See you in the woods,
Jeffrey

Creating 2011, Part 1: New Year’s Goal Questions for No-Goals Creatives

I never make New Year’s resolutions. (I don’t feel so bad knowing that Luck Factor author and psychologist Richard Wiseman’s study points out this practice’s futility.) I don’t make goals. I’ve tried, but I forget about them within a day or two. Even as my businesses and my life as a writer have grown, goals just don’t factor into what gets me up in the morning.

Some 15 years ago, I led a department of 19 eclectic, rather brilliant English teachers for two crazy years as a stint as Department Chair. I was on fire, as usual, with trying to inspire the group to  revolutionize the way we taught writing. For a fleeting moment, the dean probably liked me. One day, an ambitious colleague cornered me in my office and asked what my career goals were. “My what?” I said. “My goals? My career? I didn’t know I had a career.” I resigned from that position and from full-time teaching forever later that year.

Thoreau, not Peter Drucker, was and is my hero and role model. Since I was 18 and first read Walden until now, I remain committed to this simple task: to affect the quality of this day. This one. Not the one six months from now. I gather moments more than goal sheets.

Part of me used to think myself odd, a sort of goofy entrepreneur-writer who would never amount to much because he just lacked the business mind to define “measurable goals” and make a six-month or twelve-month business plan to meet them. When would I grow up and get with the goal-getters? Then I read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. The gist of the book is simple (as are the gists of most good books): Creative people – in the arts and in business and in life – are motivated from within not from without. Autonomy, mastery of something, and purpose drive us more than authority or rewards. Read more

Three Highlights, 12.1.10

What were your day’s three highlights? Mine: 1. The gratified look on a client’s face when at a session’s end. 2. After a rainy day all day, the pre-sunset sunlight eeking through misty clouds and painting space gold. 3. A monstrous blue heron flying yards from my window.

Ways to Embrace Darkness For Creative Work

“Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar.”

– Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

It’s getting dark out early. Have you noticed? Have you adjusted your creative rhythm this final month of 2010? This is the only time 2010 comes around, you know?

Gray shrouds the December sky this morning like the inside of a tortoise shell, and, really, you have no recourse but to resist or embrace the gray, that space between white and black, light and dark.

Rather than plugging along like you have to meet some mortal deadline by December 31, spinning your way past family holiday baggage and the clamor of consumption, consider this: Maybe December is a month to feel darkness nudge up against you and to find your way with it, embrace it like a wild, moody lover. At least that’s what I’m thinking.

I’m wondering this: How can darkness this time of year be sacred and how can that sacred darkness be a way for creatives – the writers and artists and designers, the inventors and scientists and scholars, the entrepreneurs among us – to hone in on some oft-neglected aspects of creative inspiration, innovation, and motivation (Sorry, Orwell, for all the ‘tions.)?

Read more

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