Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thank You, Cloud Cult

Cloud Cult

Last month, while in Australia, I received a message from my great friend Kevin Lowe.

It simply said...
Johnny, I think you will love Cloud Cult. I've been listening for only 24 hours and I'm hooked. I think you will agree with this view. He has his own take on the first law of thermodynamics.
"Basically, what it says is that energy cannot be destroyed; it can only be transformed....So any kind of energy that you put out there never goes away."
Then he tagged me in a post that included a link to this astonishing NPR interview with Cloud Cult's frontman, Craig Minowa. Please take the 4 minutes to listen to the interview, but here is something that took my breath away...
The songs Minowa writes for his band can have the feel and hushed tones of a lullaby, and the emotion comes from a tragedy that's all too real. One night back in 2002, Minowa and his wife put their 2-year-old son, Kaidin, to bed. Their beloved boy did not wake up. Doctors could not explain why Kaidin died in his sleep, leaving Minowa to channel all that sadness and uncertainty into his work.
Gulp. Trust me, click >here<, listen to the interview and read the article. You will be moved and inspired.

Further down there was a link to preview the new album, LOVE, in its entirety, along with this description...
"This album really looks at all the different aspects of the self that need to be healed up in order to facilitate the process of stepping aside and allowing love to speak for our life rather than our wounds," lead singer Craig Minowa says.
Well, I downloaded LOVE. And I, too, am completely hooked. I listen to a TON of music, across all genres, and never before has a band "spoken to me" like Cloud Cult. Song after song after song REALLY MATTERS. LOVE is full of powerful lyrics, challenging you the listener, very personally to step up and truly live. Titles like "You're The Only Thing In Your Way' and "The Show Starts Now" are undisguised calls to action, but "It's Your Decision", "1x1x1" and "The Calling" pack just as powerful a motivational punch. And there are still reminders of Minowa's own challenges, like "Catharsis".

After listening to LOVE, all the way through, every day for a few weeks, I decided I had better download the rest of their catalog. It is less consistent, but there are myriad gems and I am still discovering ones I had missed earlier. On my 15 hr drive this week from Orillia, Ontario to Avon, NC, I just hit "Shuffle All" and was treated to a marathon of simultaneous entertainment and enlightenment, including; "You'll Be Bright", "Blessings" and "A Good God". But, truthfully, I could pretty much just list every single song on every album.

So, instead, after a HUGE THANK YOU TO KEVIN LOWE (I really love you, brother. You are an awesome force for good in this world and make a difference in lives a'plenty!), I am going to include a handful of YouTube videos for the rest of you to enjoy (with a link for lyrics beside each title).


And LOVE :)

And, click HERE to buy their music <3

(and if you really want to geek out like me, here is a link to the trailer for the upcoming Cloud Cult documentary, "No One Said It Would Be Easy"! Soooo great!!)

You're The Only Thing In Your Way (LYRICS)

Good Friend (LYRICS)

My Little Sunshine - Warning: Major Tearjerker!!

The Show Starts Now (LYRICS)

It's Your Decision (LYRICS)

There's So Much Energy In Us - Live (LYRICS)

When Water Comes To Life (LYRICS) - Keep the Kleenex out for this one!

1x1x1 (LYRICS)

It Takes A Lot (LYRICS)

You'll Be Bright (LYRICS)

The Calling (LYRICS)

And, if you are still here, I am sure you will be surfing your way to all the rest :)

The Usual Measurements

“If we are going to do anything significant with life, we sometimes have to move away from it - beyond the usual measurements. We must occasionally follow visions and dreams.”

     ~Bede Jarrett (1881-1937)

This morning, I posted that quotation to my Facebook page. I had received it in an email from Foundation For A Better Life, one of several sources I have set up to automatically "fill my bucket" every day. (You can subscribe >here< for their "Today's Quote" email - some will resonate more than others but I find they are usually spot on for me)

When sharing ideas like that, I always enjoy seeing the "likes" from people, letting me know that they appreciate, and will perhaps apply, the energy for which I have been a conduit.

About an hour after I posted the quotation, I received this message from a friend...
"Hey johnny..just read your second latest quotes on" usual measurements".. what exactly defines usual measurements? Is that the conformity of what society expects you do? The reason why I ask is cuz through my 20s, and into my early 30s I tried to what the quote is suggested by following a vision and dream. But know I find myself losing that vision for sense of following the idea of usual measurements. So is the quote suggesting not to follow some type of social conformity or is a sense of usual measurements whatever you want it to be? Or can "usual measurements" overlap with dreams and vision? Sorry I know I'm looking to deep into it, it is only cuz I'm trying to relate it to myself..."
And I know that he is actually voicing the challenge faced by many people ... "I tried to follow my dreams, but that didn't work out! Now what??"

I replied...
"You are understanding it exactly. Sometimes you have to step out of the usual societal norms and listen to your intuition. The trick is that you will still get whatever you get. I feel that you are always comparing how things are to how you wish they were. That is a trap. Find the best in how things are. Always. Then strive for whatever you want, but don't attach your happiness to a specific outcome. Be happy anyways. Always."
People often argue with that last part - Be happy anyways. Always. - saying, "Sounds great, but that is so hard to do!" And they are 100% correct, as long as they choose to continue believing that. Or, they could just "dive in" and honestly try being happy. Anyways. Always.

When I was living in my pickup truck through much of 2009 and bits of 2010, a friend said...
"Johnny, you cannot honestly tell me you are happy right now. You lost all of your money, your house, your marriage. You are living in your truck, bartending for a tiny fraction of the income you are used to. I appreciate the brave face, but you must be terribly unhappy about everything!" 
Without thinking, I answered... 
"See, that is just it! I am already broke, homeless and alone. Why the fuck would I want to add "unhappy" to that list???"
And I meant it! I WAS happy. I had a roof over my head - albeit a fiberglass one covering an air mattress in the bed of my truck. I had a job - working with good, fun, kind people who were also getting by just fine on a fraction of what I was used to making. And I still had a great relationship with my erstwhile-wife, Karen, thanks to extraordinary efforts by both of us, and a refusal to buy into the societally-prescribed marital-combatants role.

I often reflected (and still do) on this wonderful thought, from Anthony De Mello, that I read many years ago, and have always kept top of mind...
"There's only one reason why you're not experiencing bliss at this present moment, and it's because you're thinking or focusing on what you don't have. Otherwise you would be experiencing bliss. You're focusing on what you don't have. But, right now you have everything you need to be in bliss."
Every single day you wake up with much more right with you than wrong. You can breathe. You can probably see, and even if you can't that is only one thing you have lost, not everything. Any time I forget this, I read the spectacular essay "Glory In The Highest" by Rob Brezsny (in fact, I read it regularly anyway, so I tend to not forget!). I highly recommend you click >Glory In The Highest< and read the whole thing, but here is his conclusion ...
Let’s say it’s 9:30 a.m. You’ve been awake for two hours, and a hundred things have already gone right for you. If three of those hundred things had not gone right—your toaster was broken, the hot water wasn’t hot enough, there was a stain on the pants you wanted to wear—you might feel that today the universe is against you, that your luck is bad, that nothing’s going right. And yet the fact is that the vast majority of everything is working with breathtaking efficiency and consistency. You would clearly be deluded to imagine that life is primarily an ordeal. 
The funny thing is that, as straightforward an idea as that is, so many people have trouble accepting and embracing it. We are taught from birth to focus on what we don't have. To make our happiness conditional on having or doing something. To constantly pine and strive and wish. As poisonous as anything are our lottery ads. Canada' national 6-49 lottery tells us to "imagine the freedom".

If only I won the lottery, then I could be that happy and experience freedom. Bullshit! Your happiness and freedom would last for about a day, until a whole new set of problems set in. 

Do you want freedom? Then take responsibility for your life. Literally, practice your ABILITY to choose your RESPONSE. In Victor Frankl's incredible book "Man's Search For Meaning" (read this book!!), he explains where true freedom lies. And  he wasn't dealing with burnt toast or lottery jackpots missed by a few numbers. He was a holocaust survivor. An accomplished psychiatrist who went from a comfortable life to a concentration camp where he witnessed death and horrors every day. While in Auschwitz, his wife, mother and brother were all murdered. Still, he concluded...
"Between the stimulus and response, there is a space, and in that space is your power and your freedom."
You can choose your response to absolutely anything that happens in your life. And here is the crucial bit - once it has happened, it has happened. Period. You cannot change it. So, why CHOOSE to be miserable? Why choose to waste your energy wishing it were different? All of your power and all of your freedom comes from choosing to respond powerfully and positively to every thing that happens.

Why does this seem impossible to most people? Because we have been taught to believe wholeheartedly in things that simply are not true.

Literally while typing this post, I received and read an email from the beautiful blog "Mark and Angel Hack Life". In today's offering they described "Ten Lies You Were Tricked into Believing". These include; Happiness comes when you have everything you want. Life is supposed to be a certain way. You are supposed to be a certain way. Dreaming is a waste of time. I could chalk it up as a coincidence that this was what they had for me today, but it fits way to perfectly with my message. Thank you Marc and Angel and THANK YOU UNIVERSE.

So, back to the top ... 
“If we are going to do anything significant with life, we sometimes have to move away from it- beyond the usual measurements. We must occasionally follow visions and dreams.”
What is significant? WHAT YOU DECIDE IS SIGNIFICANT!! And, if it falls within the "usual measurements", well, then carry on. And if it does not (and I am guessing that, if you've read this far, this means you), or the path to get there is not obvious in the traditional channels, grab on to those dreams and visions, YOUR dreams and visions, stop believing the lies you've been told and START LIVING on YOUR terms. 

Which is easy to do, once you embrace that you already have everything that you need. Soak in that realization. Be blissful. Then, and only then, anything becomes possible.

Friday, April 5, 2013


What is wrong with you?

Why would you click on that?

And yet we do. We constantly get sucked into voluntarily consuming bad news, horrible images.

I told you it was GUARANTEED to RUIN YOUR DAY and you CLICKED on it!!!

Stop doing that. Seriously.

As long as you are here, though, here is the exact opposite of what you were looking for...

You are welcome.

And I love you :)

Alan What???


Watch this ...

Then, once a day, listen to a different one of his lectures (or excerpts thereof). YouTube is a bottomless barrel of Alan Watts wisdom. You can find 1 minute or 3 hours. And they are ALL worthwhile.

I believe he actually has it all figured out - and is able to explain it in a way that makes sense to the rest of us.

I am very grateful for that.

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Unnerving Stranger

I often find, in my coaching and in my conversations, that a common thread will establish itself for a day or two (or week or two). Recently, it has been a discussion of our unhealthy dependence on external validation. In that vein, this passage from Sogyal Rinpoche's "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" has struck a chord with me tonight.

“Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity — but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our "biography," our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards… It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are?

Without our familiar props, we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with whom we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet. Isn't that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?” 

He has also been quoted as saying,

“...when we finally know we are dying, and all other sentient beings are dying with us, we start to have a burning, almost heartbreaking sense of the fragility and preciousness of each moment and each being, and from this can grow a deep, clear, limitless compassion for all beings.” 

I actually really get that, and like to think that I am moving closer to that state every day.