Writings: Don’t believe everything you think

Dont-Believe-Everything-You-ThinkDon’t believe everything you think.

First time I heard this, I thought, “Well, that’s dumb. You wouldn’t think it if it wasn’t real to you. Besides blah blah blah….” If you’ve ever been inside my noisy head, you know I just went on. And on.

Then I looked at what I had just thought (or said in my head) and asked myself if it really was dumb. Maybe not. Maybe there’s another way to look at it….

And I realized I didn’t actually believe that thing I had just thought.

That reminded me of a story.

I’m seven years old, in early third grade. It’s the weekend, and my mom is in the back, hanging clothes on the line. My slightly younger sister got a lighter from somewhere, lit a candle, and crawled under a bed to play. The candle caught the bed afire, and smoke started to collect in the house.

raviBecause I went to school, where they trained you in the ways of the world & suggested ways to think, I knew exactly what to do. And I did it, unprompted and unguided, all on my own.

I went quietly and quickly, without talking to anyone, outside to the front yard and stood in the front yard. I remember, even now, hoping my sister was ok, but knew I wasn’t supposed to go back inside until they told me to.

And that’s what I learned from fire drills at school.

(Luckily, my mom was handy with a fire extinguisher, my sister came out of it OK, and when my mom asked, “What are you doing out there?” to the kid standing in the front yard (me), I didn’t say anything, because you’re not supposed to say anything to anyone during a fire drill.)

Interestingly, I don’t recall ever reviewing this with my folks, which meant I had to reflect on it on my own. Naturally, I came to realize that my sister had been in danger, and everything I was instructed to do didn’t help at all. And being afraid of being caught doing the wrong thing really didn’t help the situation. This all started to crystallize in my seven-year-old brain that sometimes you have to do what you’re told, but keep your eyes open, and options open, and your mind open. Shoot, while you’re at it, keep your heart open, too.

Then maybe you can help put out fires, little as you are.

A day after, I remember asked my sister, who had a certain grounded wisdom then, as now, why did she have a lighted candle under the bed. She said, “It was dark under there.”

And I would say, now, it was no darker under there than in my beclouded brain that was full of the thoughts of others that I had made into mine, and rendered me pretty useless in a real emergency.

You ever been in this kind of situation? and head space, and heart space?

Kinda cool to shake free, wasn’t it?

It’s more fun this way – challenging not just what others think but what we think – and I like the look on your face when you do.

Sunny days to you and sunny smiles, because you get it, hey.

Loving you,
Brother Ian

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Thoughts: Being mindful of being mindful….

Sunrise over Dallas Road, Victoria, BC. Photo by Ian Byington
Sunrise over Dallas Road, Victoria, BC. Photo by Ian Byington

We sometimes think that being mindful means being critical of ourselves and very watchful. We think that meditation provides us with a big brother who is going to watch over us or whip us into shape if we do something wrong.

But mindfulness practice is not about punishing yourself when you lose track of your breath or your thoughts. Mindfulness does not criticize or set conditions for you. Nor is it about rewarding you.

Rather, it is helping you to discover the alertness that already exists in your mind, by dispelling the dullness that has covered it up.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Writings: How is your growth mindset coming along?

Derek-Sivers1Fans of The World According to Brother Ian know that we here at the editorial offices are huge fans of Derek Sivers, and the clear way he both puts things, and makes us think.

See if this little essay of his strikes a chord – I know it does for me.

Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset, with Derek Sivers

One of the most important concepts I’ve learned is the difference between the “fixed” mindset and the “growth” mindset.

People in a fixed mindset believe everyone is great or is flawed – that this is a fixed status, because it’s just who you are.

People in a growth mindset believe anyone can be great or can be flawed – that this is an ever-changing status, because it’s entirely due to your actions.

This sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly deep. The fixed mindset is the most common and the most harmful, so it’s worth understanding and considering how it’s affecting you.

For example:

In a fixed mindset, you believe “She’s a natural born singer” or “I’m just no good at dancing.”

In a growth mindset, you believe “Anyone can be good at anything. Skill comes only from practice.”

The fixed mindset believes trouble is devastating. If you believe, “You’re either naturally great or will never be great,” then when you have any trouble, your mind thinks, “See? You’ll never be great. Give up now.”

The growth mindset believes trouble is just important feedback in the learning process.

Can you see how this subtle difference in mindset can change everything?

More examples:

In a fixed mindset, you want to hide your flaws so you’re not judged or labeled a failure.

In a growth mindset, your flaws are just a TO-DO list of things to improve.

In a fixed mindset, you stick with what you know to keep up your confidence.

In a growth mindset, you keep up your confidence by always pushing into the unfamiliar, to make sure you’re always learning.

In a fixed mindset, you look inside yourself to find your true passion and purpose, as if this is a hidden inherent thing.

In a growth mindset, you commit to mastering valuable skills regardless of mood, knowing passion and purpose come from doing great work, which comes from expertise and experience.

In a fixed mindset, failures define you.

In a growth mindset, failures are temporary setbacks.

In a fixed mindset, you believe if you’re romantically compatible with someone, you should share all of eachother’s views, and everything should just come naturally.

In a growth mindset, you believe a lasting relationship comes from effort and working through inevitable differences.

In a fixed mindset, it’s all about the outcome. If you fail, you think all effort was wasted.

In a growth mindset, it’s all about the process, so the outcome hardly matters.

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Music: Remembering the laughter & the love & the tasks before us

Everyone has something they like about Jesus, the Christ, and I reckon I’m no exception. There’s a lot to like – the Sermon on the Mount, his lessons on love, his direction that we care for those with less – and one of my favourites is the story where he throws the money changers out of the temple.

We have a lot of folks, now, who have turned this beautiful place we live in & love into a robber’s den…and the time has come to call it what it is, and turn them out.

I like the way Jackson’s song addresses this, and like him, I wish you the best of Christmases.

Love you,
Brother Ian, on the side of the Rebel Jesus

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All the streets are filled with laughter and light
And the music of the season
And the merchants’ windows are all bright
With the faces of the children
And the families hurrying to their homes
As the sky darkens and freezes
They’ll be gathering around the hearths and tales
Giving thanks for all of God’s graces
And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by the prince of peace
And they call him by the savior
And they pray to him upon the seas
And in every bold endeavor
As they fill his churches with their pride and gold
And their faith in him increases
But they’ve turned the nature that I worship in
From a temple to a robber’s den
In the words of the rebel Jesus

We guard our world with locks and guns
And we guard our fine possessions
And once a year when Christmas comes
We give to our relations
And perhaps we give a little to the poor
If the generosity should seize us
But if any one of us should interfere
In the business of why they are poor
They get the same as the rebel Jesus

But please forgive me if I seem
To take the tone of judgement
For I’ve no wish to come between
This day and your enjoyment
In this life of hardship and of earthly toil
We have need for anything that frees us
So I bid you pleasure
And I bid you cheer
From a heathen and a pagan
On the side of the rebel Jesus.

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Writings: Works with improv, works with life…yes!

When you say yes, you keep the world alive! Photo by
When you say yes, you keep the world alive! Photo by Agoes Antara

In the old days, one of the cool jobs I was lucky enough to fall into was teaching drama at a junior high. We had a great time. One of the things we did was improvise scenes.

It was easy – we’d put two or three kids on the floor, give them a first line (something like “What do I do now?” or “Why, tell me why you had to do that!” or “You’re not the person I thought you were!” or something), and then say “Go!”

Then their job – everybody else’s – was to carry the scene forward with whatever came up. No rules (junior high kids LOVE that), no script, with a wide-open road as to where things might go. Usually it was fun – sometimes really funny (usually unintentionally), sometimes emotional, sometimes as mixed up as life. The part we were looking for: When you’re off-script, it’s a little scary, but often honest.

Every so often,  we’d get it going, maybe with saying, “What do I do now?” and…the kid would respond with, “I don’t know.” Then the first person would say, “OK,” and we’d be done. So then we’d use the same people and start it with, “Wow, you look funny!” and they might respond, “Oh, OK. Thanks for telling me.” And we were done.

We really didn’t want things to die there.

So then we had to make some rules for this no-rule lesson plan. Frankly, I don’t remember them, ’cause I used to, well, improvise. But I heard that Tina Fey (in this article) has these as her Improv Rules:

The Rules of Improvisation

Always Agree.
Say Yes, AND
After the “and” add new information.
Focus on the Here and Now.
Establish the location.
Be Specific, provide details.

Now that changes things. That makes you want to stay in the conversation, and see how it turns out. Part of improv comedy’s genius is the ability, even necessity, to say, “Yes! And…” even in the face of the strangest things. In real life, we just end the conversation & walk on.

Wait. Maybe we don’t have to create a “real life” like that. The more I think about it, I like the Rules of Improv. Good way to wrestle with the stuff that comes our way.

I have an early night, so I think maybe you & I will visit about this some more. Because that’s the way you are…I say something, and no matter what, you agree, so that you can say “Yes! And…” (not “Yes! But…”) and we take it from there. And that’s why it’s fun talking to you. I love it.

Love you & the way we make all this up, together.

Brother Ian

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See more of Agoes Antara’s awesome work.