365 Days in Aspen


“Giving Up”

giving up2When you hear the phrase, "Give up" or Giving up" what comes to your mind? 

Is it a good thing? Or a not-so-good thing?

To some, it connotes an image of quitting. 

To others, of letting go. 

And to a select few, it means "releasing to a higher power."

I've been enjoying some audio books by Caroline Myss as I hike. I hadn't really "read" much of her work until recently, so even though the teachings have been out there (and "out there") for a while, it's still "new" to me.

Most of the concepts are familar to my own belief system, adding reinforcement to my views. Some of her theories I disagree with (to a certain degree), which is also another form of enlightenment. And a lot of it is adding new vernacular in dimensions that are expanding my brain. 

Her work on Archetypes has been very helpful, not only for my own self-analysis but also for my writing. I also recently finished her book on Soul Contracts, which I'm sure I'll write more about in a future blog. 

Today's post is about "giving up," which I define as "releasing to a higher power." When you've done all you can do, what other choice is there?

As I was hiking the other day, Caroline Myss was talking about the importance – and often impossibility – of "surrender," which, to her, is akin to "releasing to a higher power." She suggests that releasing our will to that of the Divine is the highest goal. It's also the most difficult, she says. 

giving upIn my own personal journey, it's a part of my daily life. Trying to align my will to the Higher Power. "Let me walk in thy will and delight in thy ways" was ingrained in me in my upbringing as an Episocopalian. Another way to say it is "Let Thy Will and mine be one." Or, as I wrote in my Five Reasons Why book, "Let Divine Will Fill My Heart and Guide My Actions." 

I agree with Caroline that most people spend so much time trying to figure out what they want that they rarely ask "is this in my best interest?" And even if the answer is, "yes," they might get frustrated and confused when "Divine Will" isn't so much fun. 

Yes, I certainly know that feeling all too well. 

But I do know that "life isn't easy, and not always fun." (From my children's book). I also know that "easy is boring, like games always won." 

It's so seductive to follow teachers like Abraham or go to psychics who lure us with "The Secret." "If only I do/say/think ____, I'll have a life of ________ (peace, wealth, health, perfection.)" You create your own reality.

Do they realize that "you create your own reality" is in direct conflict with a belief in destiny? And if you don't believe in destiny, then if follows that you don't believe in "purpose." (Think on that for a bit).

I personally believe in the confluence of Fate and Free Will. That what happens to us is a reflection of both our pre-ordained destiny and the decisions/choices we make once we're here. 

And I agree with Caroline: the ultimate in achieving our destiny is to "give up" (or surrender) our will. To God. To Destiny. To Purpose. 


What is Courage?

courage fearMany (most?) of us spend a part (all?) of our lives doing things that we hope will impress other people. Whether it's a way to stand out and be noticed (or different) or to attract something we want (usually love in one form or another), we yearn for uniqueness. It builds our self-esteem. Keeps us motivated. And, let's be honest, keeps life (and us) from getting boring (and bored).  

What's interesting, however, is that sometimes we can be admired for things that come easily to us, but might be daunting for others to even imagine. Which makes me wonder about the quote to the left. Is it only "courageous" when we're scared? Or is courage in the eye of the perceiver? 

My example is (at least to me) an interesting one. There are a number of things I'd like to be admired for. My writing. My ideas. My tenacity and diligence. My creativity. My ability to reinvent myself. My trying new things and ability to see things through (which does feel courageous, especially compared to so many others who rarely get past the first step).

What I didn't expect is the response so many people have to my moving here. Without a job. Without knowing a soul. My donating all my possessions to charity (except for a few boxes I shipped and what could fit in my car). Not only my commitment to stay a year, but my apparent "burning the ships in the harbor" so there was no turning back. (Okay, the option of turning back was feasible technically, but not in any way emotionally). 

question5To me, it was part fluidity, part adventure and part necessity. I needed a change. And I NEEDED a change. So I was, in part, running away from something, and in part running toward a big question mark. 

So, what's the moral of this story? I'm not sure, exactly, except that you never know when you might be inspiring someone else. And that (a) you need to take risks and (b) tell others about it. 


Innovation in Action

innovationInnovation is one of my passions. It's not only exciting to explore new ventures; it's important. Crucial to the future of this country and this planet. 

Some kinds of innovation might seem superfluous. A new flavor of potato chips. But that new flavor of potato chips could actually create new jobs. And a new treat to enjoy life just a little bit more. Even if you don't like potato chips; even if you think they should be eliminated from the diet of every human on earth, which I can understand, they still represent innovation in its purest sense. 

Last week I was in a meeting discussing the need for innovation to keep Aspen thriving in the face of changing weather conditions and off-season challenges. Some were suggesting that the off-seasons were a way of life for the town. Sure, I agreed, it's not as lush and green as the summer in the fall, and the leaves only change for short while, leaving a gap in time between the getting enough snow for ski season. In a previous article on this blog, I called it "Aspen Without Makeup." It's still beautiful, though. It's still a town with a lot to offer and a lot to do. 

Then I saw this article and cheered up. (I'd always wondered why there weren't more things like this. I especially questioned why people can't learn to "luge" here. Why there aren't bobsled rides and the like. This is an even more interesting option. Sure, I can appreciate the downsides. But this is an example of my being more of a capitalist than a liberal. 


Innovation is about solving problems. Finding creative solutions. Uncovering new opportunities and ideas. Yes, there's risk involved. And potential "resisters."  Goes with the territory. 

They don't call innovators pioneers for nothing. 


I’m Melting!

meltingAs I've been getting more familiar with the town, I'm starting to recognize its cycles. The seasons and weather have a significant influence on just about everything, from the comings and goings of the people here – some here for summer, some for winter and some all year – to the economic shifts and the changing optiHons for outdoor activities. 

Today is Thursday, March 23 and the ski season looks to be nearing its end. This article in the Aspen Times today expresses the concern, not only for the loss of business from skiing but also the impact that the early snow melt has on, well just about everything. At least everything that matters. 

In Atlanta, the weather impacted life outside as well. The summers got too hot and humid to want to do anything outdoors except perhaps lounge on a raft in a pool and the overwhleming pollen made even the lovely springs intolerable outside. Pretty much every year there was a debilitating ice storm or two that shut down everything. But basically it is like so many other cities – focused on "indoor" life. 

Aspen is different. And it's one of the reasons I love it. Sure, there are days when it's not much fun to go out. Rainy afternoons or blinding snowstorms come to mind. But into each life and all that. And frankly, the rain is welcomed in order to keep everything green and healthy and the snow is celebrated – if maybe only by people like me, the next day when it creates soft banks of powder your skis cut through like butter. 


As the article says, we could easily get another storm to "bank things up" so to speak. And we probably will. But we CANNOT deny there's a bigger story going on. And that unless things change – in politics and corporate corruption in particular – and change FAST – this problem will continue to destroy our planet. 




Act Locally


One thing that's nice – really nice – about living in a small town is the opportunity and accessibility to get involved locally. Unlike Atlanta, where just the logistics to get to a meeting are overwhelming, here I can walk a few blocks and make a few calls. 

As a self-acknowledged Hermit Archetype (among others, which I'll write more about), I balance my time between staying at home and working and writing and getting out to know my new "home town." The last several months I've been fast and furious to get my newest book out and on the market, so I haven't been out as much – except to ski. But the last couple of weeks I've ventured into all kinds of new activities. 

Some of these include getting involved in the Aspen Entrepreneurs group – a topic that's not only near and dear to my heart, it's also one I believe to be critical to the future of our country as well as our town. On Friday I helped facilitate a meeting with many of the local government officials, and I'll be leading an interactive discussion (using DrawSuccess) next month. 

I've also been enjoying our new Aspen Screenwriters and Playwrights group, which is fun and stimulating. And several other outings, including physics lectures, talks about the Environment and more. 

Welcome to Aspen!

Life After Positive Pessimism

question2So what happens after one decides to pursue a life of Positive Pessimism? What are the options? 

Like any new concept, it takes a while to take hold. To immerse in your life. It's like a new outfit or pair of shoes – at first it feels like the perfect purchase, but once you start wearing it, your body has to adjust. 

One of my favorite concepts in JK Rowling's books was the spell that made things multiply when you touched them. It's a great metaphor for so many things. As soon as you touch on a new concept, thinking you have the answer, more questions pop up. 

Here are some of the questions that have been floating through my noggin for the past couple of days. 

How much does a soul weigh when it becomes devoid of hope? 

If failure is not an option – it's the only path forward – then what do you "do?"

Is the only solution to "give up?" What does "giving up" mean to you? To me, it means "releasing to a higher power." To give your problems – or path – to God (or whatever deity calls to you). 

I just finished listening to two of Carolyn Myss' books – one on Archetypes (which I think I'll write more about later, since it's a lot deeper than my previous posts on the topic) and one on Soul Contracts. While I don't agree 100% with everything Myss says (mainly when she uses the words "always" or "never ever," her philosophies align with mine – and they also add some depth and dimension I hadn't considered. And that's always good. It's even good to disagree from time to time. Helps reinforce and clarify my own vision. 

So, what would Caroline say about "Positive Pessimism?" 

She'd ask if this related to a Soul Contract – something I signed up for in advance. I'd say, "absolutely." I've been trying to learn detachment and Positive Pessimism is the ultimate in detachment. I'm 100% certain that this is a lesson I'm trying to learn. To immerse myself in. To wear this outfit even when it feels uncomfortable and I'd rather put on something more familiar. 

She'd also suggest "Surrendering" which is bascially the same as "giving up." She says that the ultimate challenge is to release your will to God. To get in alignment with the Divine. 

Ultimate challenge. 



Positive Pessimism

pessimismFIRST – When you think of the word "pessimism," what is the first thing that pops into your mind?  

How about the combination of words, "Positive Pessimism?" Is that an oxymoron? 

Before I continue, I need to issue a warning. This concept is highly advanced. Most people won't understand. Others might even be disturbed. 

To quote a favorite movie, "So be it."

The last two days I posted about the "Law of Detraction" – a play on words to describe my POV on the so-called "Law of Attraction." Today's topic is "Positive Pessimism." 

For the past few weeks I've been immersed in the concept of "Positive Pessimism." Before you go out and try to find that term defined anywhere else, let me say that I doubt you will. Certainly it would be surprising, especially if it has any reference whatsoever to my definition/perception. (If so, then maybe there's a kindred spirit for me out there. Or perhaps it's another monkey starting to to add to 100. Hmmm… that would be interesting). 

If you're into self-development at all, I suspect you're barraged with messages about the "power of positive thinking." The need to "look on the bright side" because "you are what you think" and/or "you create your own reality." Some even think optimism is "the secret" to success and happiness. 

So what about pessimism? Does it deserve the bad rap it gets? Are all pessimists "Debbie Downers?" 

When you see this quote – what thoughts go through your mind? 

pessimism eastwood

Is it suggesting that your thoughts created the rain? Is it your impression that this is a BAD THING? 

Let me turn that on its head. 

First of all, as I said above, what I'm going to share with you is an advanced concept. Waaaay beyond "The Secret." Even beyond the concepts in my "Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen" book which provides ample evidence for the impact of thoughts (conscious and subconscious) on what happens in our lives. After all, Subconscious Sabotage is one of the "Reasons Why." 

But I never ever ever said that it's the "only" Reason Why" bad – or good – things happen. There are SO many other factors, most of which have a lot more to do with destiny and life purpose than simply the thoughts floating through your head while you're hear. Said another way – I do NOT believe "you create your own reality." I DO believe you "co-create your reality." 

If you're here to bask in happiness and joy and positive thoughts and instant manifestation of all your heart desires, good for you. Though I will say that with a bit of a sneer. Not because I don't also aspire to happiness and joy and positivity and instant manifestation, but because I don't think that's why you – or I – are here. We're hear to learn and grow and contribute, and that rarely if ever happens in a lifetime of pure positivity and joy. As my children's book says, "For life isn't easy, and not always fun; but easy is boring, like games always won."

I have a friend to whom things come easily. If he wants something, he gets it, almost like snapping his fingers. Things are handed to him. Imagine that. What could happen to someone who had that kind of power? To quote another movie, "With great power comes great responsibility." I guess he could've turned out like a spoiled brat, taking advantage of people to achieve selfish desires. Instead, though, he was almost paralyzed. He had a really difficult time making a decision because he had absolute certainty that if he wanted it, it would happen, and he wasn't 100% sure he wanted what he thought he wanted. What paradoxical wisdom! 

Now look at my life. The opposite, really. For most of my life – at least the last half of it – if I wanted something, I was practically guaranteed NOT to get it. No matter what I did – no matter how hard I tried. No matter the hours, the actions and most certainly no matter how much optimism or "happy thoughts." No matter how many books I read, no matter how many exercises (or exorcizes) I did. No change. 

For me, "wanting" became an obsession. Unlike my friend who was afraid to want – because he'd inevitably get it – I figured I'd try and "want" and go for a bunch of things. Why not? My chances of getting any of them was slim to nil anyway. 

Then the clouds cleared. I saw the "light" (or dark, if you will). I had to accept my "lot in life." Pessimism invaded. Certainty of failure pervaded. No matter what I would try, it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't happen. Stop the optimism! Stop the hopeful expectations! Stop the wanting! 

For a few days I struggled, asking myself, "Does that mean I stop trying?" I mean, why try if failure was guaranteed? Do I just throw in the towel completely? 

Then I had to accept myself for who I am. The core of my being. What I am inside. The outside might be a "failure." (At least failure to accomplish any of the goals I'd set out. Failure to have any kind of "reward" that came close to measuring up to the effort I'd exuded.) But who I am is someone who still "tries." I used to say my epitaph would read, "She tried." So if those quotes that say the only failure is in not trying, then I guess I'm a success at one thing: Trying.

To steal another movie quote (from a favorite film, Before Sunrise by Richard Linklater): "I believe if there's any kind of God it wouldn't be in any of us, not you or me but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt."

The answer must be in the attempt. In the trying. Hmmm…

So now "positive pessimism" is my way of life. The 100% absolute certainty that no matter what I try, I will fail. But I will still try. 

And you know what? Something surprising has been happening. No more self-pressure to succeed has led to a kind of freedom. When we go for something, there's a hint of the fear my friend had asking, "What if it happens? What if the investors for my business come through? What if someone wants to produce my film? What if I win that award? Get that opportunity?" Here's an example. I submitted my script to a screenwriting competition. I also submitted it last year, and thought "This could be it! My opportunity to really make my mark! The opening I need!" And of course I didn't win. I didn't even get into the finals. I was crushed. At least for a few days.

I didn't "not win" because I didn't have enough positive thoughts. So don't even try to suggest that. As I said, what I'm telling you here is that this lesson goes waaay beyond that elementary (and very limited) philosophy. 

This year I entered the contest just for the heck of it. Not just with zero expectation, but with the absolute certainty that I won't win. And you know what? I don't care. 

And that's freedom. The epitome of "detachment." And if attachments are our source of unhappiness, what happens when we embrace detachment? 

Before you say something like "hey, now things will start happening for you, now that you've 'given up!'" let me stop you right there. That is not the point. In fact, that's the anti-point. (Like if there's matter and anti-matter). If Positive Pessimism was the key to success, it wouldn't be Positive Pessimism, would it? And then it would sabotage itself. 

So now ask yourself: if everything you did, everything you tried was destined to fail, if everything you wanted was guaranteed to never manifest, how might that change your life and what you do every day? 


Law of De-traction Part 2

pushYesterday I talked about the so-called Law of Attraction – and how it isn't so much a "law" as so many people would like you to think. In fact, it often doesn't work at all. And that there are other "laws" that have a lot more influence in our lives. 

This was all written as a set-up to a blog I've written about "Positive Pessimism" – but the more I think about that message, the more I realize it needs another precursor blog. 

The "law of attraction" suggests that "ask and it shall be given." As I said yesterday, good luck with that. I hope it works for you. And like anything with basic odds, it definitely should work sometimes. 

But sometimes not. 

To quote Dr. Seuss:

You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
Who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't
Because, sometimes, you won't.

I'm sorry to say so
but, sadly, it's true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups 
can happen to you.”

So – unless you have some magical super-human wish-fulfilling power (or have chosen an easy-breezy life with no lessons or travails) – you've had some bang-ups and hang-ups. Some of us have had more than our share, while others have it easier. It's like some people have come to Earth School and decided to take the easier courses and party more while others went for a more strenuous and perilous advanced degree. 

But where does the Law of Attraction/De-traction fit here? Do we also attract "bad things" like failure and disease and problems? 

Without giving away the plot of my book Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen – there are, yes, Five Reasons to explain "bad things." 

And while the Law of De-traction isn't exactly one of them, in a way it fits into all of them. You see, we can also push away things that we want by wanting them too much. Yes. I'll say that again. We can push away the things we want by wanting them too much. I'll call this the Law of Anti-Attachment. The more we want something, the more elusive it can become. It's not really a "law" – because if something is a "law" it would happen all the time, every time. Unless there's a higher law. 

I've been working on a companion book to my Five Reasons Why Bad Things Happen book which will be entitled Reasons Why Good Things (Do or Do Not) Happen. It's becoming a quite interesting topic to research. For now, let me just say that this "law of anti-attachment" concept will be discussed. 

This "pushing away" concept happens in a variety of ways for several different reasons. Sometimes we envision something to be the panacea to solve all our problems when, in fact, it could create more problems for us. Maybe we're being saved from a future disappointment (or worse). Like if my script wins the contest but then never gets produced. Or worse, it gets made and butchered with the deeper message being lost – and ripping up my opportunity to write anything else.

Maybe if we get that "thing" we'll be taking on some aspects that we won't enjoy. For example, we might get that fancy car and then find out the maintenance is maddening. Or we're more likely to get a speeding ticket or into an accident. 

And maybe we just need to learn detachment. As a devotee to Anthony de Mello, I agree that our attachments are our source of unhappiness. We get that fill-in-the-blank and then are devastated when we lose it. Or when it doesn't live up to our expectations. 

So subconsciously we push it away. Caroline Myss is quoted as saying, "You are as afraid of becoming empowered as you are of becoming disempowered." Why? Because we're afraid of the change that happens as a result.

So we push it away. 

Just a thought. 

Law of De-traction

law of attractionSo much is said these days about the so-called "Law of Attraction" that I have to clarify my point of view. In fact, I wrote a post for today about "Positive Pessimism" that I'm delaying until tomorrow so I can address this subject first. 

I get the appeal of this so-called "law." It's simple, it's straightforward and it's seductive. All you have to do is get your thoughts focused and "Presto!" you get what you want. 


With messages like: "Seek and ye shall find," "Ask and it is given," and "You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true," it's easy to get sucked into the rhetoric. To buy into the "dream."

Sorry to burst that bubble, but life just doesn't work that way. 

Here's the part of it that DOES work: What you focus on, you "attract." Well, in a way. If you look for good things, you'll see more good things. If you look for the best in people, that's what you will find. The converse is, of course, true. If you look for the worst, if you complain about your problems you'll have (or at least see) more problems. And if you look for synchronicities and serendipities and connections, you'll likely find them. That part is spot-on. 

But when "they" (whoever "they" is) say that if you want something bad enough, if you keep focused and positive, you'll get "it," well, that's not how things work. And when they say it's a "law," well, that part really bristles the hair on the back of my neck. 

Even if it is a kind of "law," there are other laws. And laws with more impact. Like the Law of Karma for example. And whether it's been defined as a "law" or not, Destiny is a much more influential law than the "law of attraction." 

For example, if something is not in your destiny, and/or if it's not for your highest good, then you can wish-wish-wish (or even work-work-work) all you want, but it's very unlikely you'll get it. And if for some reason you do, you'll find out that it wasn't all you thought it would be. (Which is probably the lesson – to be careful what you ask for). 

The key, really, is to get your wishes in alignment with your destiny – and with the Divine, not to make sure your destiny is in alignment with your wishes. Said another way, to try to make sure what you're asking for is what's best for you. And sometimes what's "best" isn't fun. Or easy. Or particularly pleasant. 

We decide on our lessons
The paths we will take
Awards we might go for
And mistakes we might make

For life isn't easy
And not always fun
But easy is boring
Like games always won

(from my children's book, "Sometimes I Wonder."  

We're here to learn and grow and, hopefully, contribute. To look for the joy and fun and happiness and peace; sure. Of course. But to expect it 24-7-365? To think all we have to do is wish for it and we'll get that Ferrari or miracle cure or multi-millon dollar book deal? 

Look – if it happens for you – GREAT! I'll be cheering you on. I'm just saying that for most of us, life isn't that easy. 

And that can be a good thing.