Ask the Right Questions to Discover Imaginative Solutions

Petey discovers a new way to get a drink of fresh water 

Petey discovers a new way to get a drink of fresh water 

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
— Albert Einstein

Everything you see began as an idea. Someone imagined the chair you sit in. Someone designed the light that reflects on the pages of the book you are reading. Once the tallest man-made structure in a town was the spire of a church. Now skyscrapers dominate the city skyline. Someone visualized a new kind of building that would create a new kind of city. You, too, can visualize a new kind of city, society, way of living. You begin in the imagination with an idea and then create the reality. What kind of reality do you wish to create?

“Imagination can fashion the world into a homeland as well as into a prison or place of battle,” says poet and Nobel Prize winner Czcslaw Milosz. “It is the invisibles that determine how you will view the world, whether as a homeland or as a prison or a place of battle. Nobody lives in the ‘objective’ world, only in a world filtered through the imagination.”

One of the most empowering things you can say is “I don’t know.” It is a paradox. How can the seeming helplessness of “I don’t know” be empowering? It is because the openness, flexibility, and willingness to imagine something that does not fit in your existing paradigm frees you to create something you have never imagined before.

 “Creative thinking may mean simply the realization that there’s no particular virtue in doing things the way they’ve always been done,” says Rudolf Flesch. Ray Charles says, “Don’t go backwards. You’ve already been there.” Wake up! It’s time to get out of your rut and try something new. Imagine what could be instead of imagining all the reasons things will never get better.

A Chinese definition of going crazy is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you are dissatisfied with your life as it is right now, it’s time to begin imagining a different life—and then to take small steps to make your life different.

Imagination takes us where we’ve never been before. Not knowing means that there must be something “out there,” somewhere, to know. When we know that we do not know, we are then free to become learners and experimenters. We can use our imagination for a change instead of locking ourselves into a sterile status quo that no longer works for us.

Change is inevitable. Sometimes it seems that the only sure thing is that nothing will stay the same. Yet there are many things worth keeping. How do you find your way in the midst of chaos and change?

This is where cultivating the imagination comes in. Drifting with life, accepting the status quo, and avoiding all “risky” questions can leave you helpless, floating down the river of life without control or direction. You can run aground if you ignore the changing realities of the river currents.  But your imagination can help you chart your course and choose which way you wish to go. When the captain steers his boat down a river, he does not fix his eyes on the bow, where the boat is. That could land him on a sandbar. Instead, he looks forward far down the river, toward where he wants to go. You can use the inner eye of your imagination to steer your life in the direction of better dreams and more fulfilling destinations. If you have felt stuck with a life that seems to have run off course, your imagination is a gift from God that can help you get unstuck. 

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it won’t kill you. Scientists are always asking, “What if…?” and “I wonder…?” For instance, I went into my local florist and saw a display for African violets. But these were not your common ordinary garden variety African violets. These were NASA violets. Someone at NASA decided to take some African violet seeds up into space and expose them to interstellar radiation—just to see what would happen. When they germinated those seeds back on earth, they found that the space seed African violets never stopped blooming. So now you can buy an everblooming African violet at your local florist. I bought a violet with lovely ruffled purple pink blossoms and deep green leaves and for over a year my NASA African violet had blooms year round. Someone, somewhere, was asking a “What if…?” question to think of sending African violet seeds into space to see what would happen and how the plants would respond.

Just start stepping out into the unknown, and learn to trust your deepest intuition. The mind wants guaranteed results, but the heart knows that we co-create with God, and like the little boy who gave his loaves and fishes to Jesus, God multiplies our small efforts in ways we cannot imagine. Lighten up. Explore. Do what you can do now, trusting that there is that within you that knows what to do and how to do it. Follow your intuition and see where it leads. Imagine larger horizons,  beyond the safety of known territory. 

Life is an adventure, taken one step at a time. We are here for a reason, and our task is to do the next thing faithfully, trusting that it is enough, and that Providence will guide us, bringing more than we could ever ask or hope for. 

And here is an iris, like a lamp lit by the setting sun, that I came upon unexpectedly when I was at Scarritt Bennett Center a month ago. That’s what I love about photos. Making myself available and open, following my nose, and often not knowing that I will stumble upon sudden magic. I’m reminding myself as well as you that this is the true nature of our unfolding destiny, not the fear-based thinking of our calculating minds which always want to predict and control. Who would have thought that I would be early to a poetry reading and have time to capture the setting sun in the petals of iris at their perfect peak? Only Divine Timing could have orchestrated this. But I also had to be available to wonder and wander, allowing life to unfold naturally. 

“If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?” Einstein said. We are entirely comfortable with the concept of scientists asking questions. But we crave guaranteed results and precise step-by-step solutions in our own lives. We want to play it safe.

Life itself is a form of research, and often it is in learning to ask the right questions that reveals the best answers. Sometimes just living with the questions, and then letting the inner radar of our intuition lead the way, will take us to a life that is greater than any we could imagine, in spite of the limitations of our usual thinking. 

Socrates said, “Wisdom begins in wonder.” If you wish to grow and learn, be open and willing to be a beginner again. If you would seek wisdom, then begin asking some “I wonder…?” questions. To ask “I wonder…?” removes you from the either/or situation of “right” or “wrong” into the “maybe” of many more possibilities.

• I wonder why I believe this? Am I telling myself a limiting story? What might be possible if I dare to follow my heart and listen to the "still small voice" of my inner guidance?

• I wonder why we always do it this way? Is there a better way? Is there a more playful way to explore possibilities? 

• I wonder why I am so anxious to judge what is happening?  Why do I want to predict outcomes so badly? What would happen if I just let go and followed the love instead?

• I wonder if this is the only way to interpret this particular event, person, story, way of life, or understanding of how things work?

• I wonder what would happen if I ignored my fears and the disapproval of others to do some spiritual and creative exploration?

• I wonder what I would find in other traditions and cultures that would shed light on my own tradition and culture? What does someone who is different than my social circle have to teach me? 

• I wonder what I could learn if I was willing to try something new or look at life from different perspective?

You are free to question everything you were taught to believe and to acquire new perspectives. As your mind opens to change, you’ll feel a new lightness and more joy.
— Charlotte Davis Kasl
Humble questioning is the recognition that one does not know it all; sincere questioning is genuine hospitality to another’s viewpoint; brave questioning means a willingness to be disturbed mentally, morally, and spiritually.
— Albert Edward Day
A person can grow only as much as his horizon allows.
— John Powell

On another walk, another day, another place. The unexpected looking out from the forest. Here is the reflection of my inner intuition, asking me questions that only the soul can answer. 

Abundance Begins in the Heart

Abundance is an inside job. It begins with love. When you are creating a career, a craft, a partnership, a work of art, a home, choose to put your whole heart into what you do. When you give attention and love to your work and your relationships, they begin to glow with Divine life. The energies of love and a high quality of attention create wholeness in your life and in this world.

If you are feeling fragmented and broken, a simple way to bring the pieces back together is to do one humble task with attention and care. Be fully present in the smallest, most insignificant task and you will tap into the innate wholeness of the entire Universe. A new sense of well-being becomes available to you when you wash dishes mindfully or sweep the floor as if it is the most important work in the world. The same goes for focusing on the person you are with. Your loving attention will create a place for relationship to become a sacred trust. This work, this person, become important in this moment because the here and now is all you really have access to anyway. Make it count.

Create small spaces of beauty and order in your life. Commit fully to what you are doing and who you are with. Be fully present and create beauty that satisfies your soul. If you love it and work with your heart, you will be rewarded. Ask yourself these questions:

• Does this thing I have made or done make me feel more whole and alive?

• Do I feel nourished and happy because of it?

• Does it feel “right” somehow, even if others might not approve or consider it important?

• Do I feel that I did this to the glory of God or for the highest good?

• Am I serving a greater purpose by choosing to do this?

Investing such energies of love and attention, no matter how small or humble the task, helps you build a sense of Divine order and harmony in your world, and in your soul. When you choose to live life as a path of service, each task accomplished and each person honored creates a sacred sense of abundance that heals the person and makes a life whole. 

Abundance begins in the heart. There is that within you that knows what to do and how to do it. Trust that inner instinct and follow its leading. Feed your soul with books and resources that encourage you on this path of spiritual discovery. Use affirmative prayers to remind yourself of the reality of the unseen world of love and abundance when you are feeling overwhelmed by the old illusions of fear and scarcity. Know the spiritual truth: God is your source. True abundance flows from the fountain of the loving Presence that is always with you and within you. God is in your heart, in the still small Voice within that comforts, guides, and sustains. Every time you choose to trust this calm and steady sense of Presence, the Universe will move in support as helping hands, loving hearts, and kindred spirits arrive in your life. Some call it the law of attraction. Some call it growing into our spiritual potential. This is the grace of inner abundance, helping you discover a peaceful, life-giving strength that can transform your life. Heaven is within, and you can create a taste of heaven on earth when you live from that inner reality.

The human soul is God’s treasury, out of which he coins unspeakable riches. Thoughts and feelings, desires and yearnings, faith and hope—these are the most precious things which God finds in us.
— Henry Ward Beecher
We must make choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.
— Thomas Merton

Affirm these truths:

• As an artist works with the nature of things, so do I work with the nature of God expressing in, through, and for me.

• I now tap into inner sources of love, joy, and peace.

• As an artist loves beauty and meaning, giving it material form, so I love the nature of God, which is Life, Love, and Beauty, and give it form in the choices I make, the things I create, the people I love. 

Truth exists for the wise, beauty for the feeling heart.
— Johann von Schiller

At certain happy hours, each man is conscious of a secret heaven within him, a realm of undiscovered sciences; or slumbering powers; a heaven, of which these feats of talent, are no measure; it arches over the sky, over all it has done, or that has been done, and suggests unfathomable power.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Dog Days of Waiting

Summer Wings

Summer Wings

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

The air is heavy with waiting. This is the hot breathless time of soaring summer temperatures, Bermuda highs, and killer humidity. It is a still time, when no breezes blow, no rain falls, and the sun beats down with its highest intensity. You can almost hear the plants growing, and you see daily development in the garden. But it is too uncomfortable to stay out very long. The minute you walk into the outdoors, your clothing sticks to you, clinging to a body that is instantly covered with sweat. In this weather, only the bugs seem happy and comfortable.

This is the time of waiting. You may be a gardener waiting for the plants to produce. Or you may be cultivating your own life, waiting for projects to come to fruition and dreams to come true. There comes a season in every life where the heat is on and all you can do is wait.

Serenity in Seasons of Waiting 

Kitty Emma on a Dog Day Afternoon 

Kitty Emma on a Dog Day Afternoon 

Sometimes it just takes waiting for the right timing. And during the season of high heat, timing is often not in your favor. You have to sweat it out. Do you have a project you’ve been working on that suddenly seems blocked or stopped? Are you waiting on someone else’s necessary decision, only to find out they’re on summer vacation and won’t be back until next week? Do processes feel like they’re being dragged out and results few and far between? Does your spiritual life feel meaningless, your prayer closet like a sauna, and a breath of fresh air seem as far away as a dream? Welcome to the dog days of the summer heat wave.

Daisy  Inspiration 

Daisy  Inspiration 

St. John of the Cross talked about the dark night of the soul. Other spiritual masters talk about the silence of the senses. The humidity of a soul sweating out the work of time and the timing of the Creator is like a heat wave, deadening the senses into numb misery. It seems like an endless spiritual desert. Yet it is in the desert that saints and monks have purified their souls and found spiritual insight and clarity. If you are in a season of difficult waiting, perhaps God is developing the fruit of the Spirit in you. Just as a sweat breaks a fever and releases toxins, so this travail of the soul and body could be releasing impurities that keep you from spiritual health and well being.

Trust the Process

A time of waiting is part of life’s process and there is no way to avoid it, no shortcut around it. We have three possible responses: we can fight it, we can whine about it, or we can accept it as a necessary time for spiritual development.

Sometimes in the early stages of a heat wave, we fight it. Angry that our vacation plans don’t include avoiding this discomfort and that circumstances demand our presence in this unpleasant weather, we are anxious, frustrated, and trying to figure a way out—any way out, at any price, as soon as possible. When we realize there is no way out and that we have to just slog through the heat, we grumble and complain. But whining can make the atmosphere even more unpleasant than the muggy humidity of waiting. We make the hard times harder with a negative attitude.

Then there is the way of acceptance. Sooner or later we come to the time when we must make this choice: will we accept the circumstance, adapt to the situation, and wait out God’s timing? If we choose the way of acceptance, there is no guarantee that the heat will lessen or that the weather will change any sooner. What we do discover, however, is that we can cope with this waiting in the heat, perhaps even learn from it.

Accepting What Is 

Ducking the Heat

Ducking the Heat

Here in the South, you learn to hibernate in the heat and choose your times of emergence into the outdoors wisely. You turn up the air conditioner during the day, wait till evening or early morning to do your hard work, drink plenty of water, take it easy during the hottest part of the day, and wear comfortable clothes you can sweat into. You don’t just have to hibernate in the refrigerated indoors, however. You can also embrace the heat and immerse yourself in things as they are, rather than putting your energy into wishing for what isn’t. Spending time outdoors, embracing the heat, actually helps you cope, as your body adjusts to the temperatures and builds strength to endure.

In the southern summer I have learned take long early morning or twilight walks in clothes that I plan to sweat in, carrying bottled water to keep myself hydrated. I move slower and take time to look and listen to what nature is doing. There on the banks of Lake Radnor, I listen to the call of the bullfrog, watch the deer and geese feed in the green pond goo, see the waterbugs dance on the surface of the lake, making patterns like raindrops across its surface. I feel the silky warmth of the humid evening on my bare arms, become aware of the sensuousness of the misty night. I plan on cool showers when I get home and a long tall iced tea or lemonade. I eat more lightly, adapting to my body’s diminished appetite in the heat. When I am battened down in my air conditioned office, I disperse essential oils into the atmosphere to remind me of the mountains and cool breezes I long for: tree scents of cedar, spruce, juniper, pine, and fir; and herb scents of spearmint, peppermint, lavender, thyme, and marjoram. I listen to my body and take naps when possible. I allow myself to be more sluggish and respect the power of the heat and humidity. People die in these conditions when they don’t adapt or take care of themselves. And I wait, doing what work I can, but also knowing that the change in the weather is in God’s timing, not my own. I practice the difficult art of patience. 

Allow Time for the Fruit to Ripen 

When you are in a waiting time, it is time to let go and let God. It sounds simplistic, but there are seasons when we as creatures need to work with the rhythms of creation and wait on the timing of the Creator, whether we want to or not. Fighting it only makes the inevitable more difficult. Surrendering the ego, letting go of your own agenda, opening to a wider, wiser unfolding of events—all of this can bear fruit in the long wait of the summer heat.

The hot humid weather will eventually pass. The time of waiting will be over. You will discover that during the time of waiting, through the long hot days and humid nights, the garden was still growing and the plants were developing toward the days of harvest. The wise gardener is patient, whether he is waiting on the weather or the development of his own soul.

Just Being with What Is....

Just Being with What Is....

Words of Encouragement 

The secret of waiting is the faith that the seed has been planted, that something has begun. Active waiting means to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it.

Henri Nouwen

 

Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain.

James 5:6 (RSV)

 

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.

Henry David Thoreau

 

Still Evening 

Still Evening 

The seed of mystery lies in muddy water.

How can I perceive this mystery?

Water becomes clear through stillness.

How can I become still?

By flowing with the stream.

Lao Tzu


Every time something difficult and challenging has happened to me it has marked the beginning of a new era in my life.

Kimberly Kirberger


A streak of toughness combined with optimism is a good passport through life. The winners are the ones who get on with it.

Maeve Binchy


Any man can work when every stroke of his hands brings down the fruit rattling from the tree… but to labor in season and out of season, under every discouragement… that requires a heroism which is transcendent.

Henry Ward Beecher


One day at a time—this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet become. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.

Ida Scott Taylor

Summer Pink 

Summer Pink 


Whenever a mind is simple, it is able to receive divine wisdom; old things pass away; it lives now and absorbs past and future into the present hour.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh


With all our philosophy, with all our grand and enhancing ideas, we cannot escape life as we live it. Star-gazers are still walking on the solid earth.

D.T. Suzuki


In walking, just walk. In sitting, just sit. Above all, don’t wobble.

Yun Men


O God, grant us the serenity to accept what cannot be changed; the courage to change what should be changed; and the wisdom to distinguish one from the other.

Reinhold Niebuhr


One act of thanksgiving made when things go wrong is worth a thousand when they go well.

St. John of the Cross


Centennial Park Summer Sunset

Centennial Park Summer Sunset

Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible. Not to run away.

Dag Hammarskjold


There is a kind of release that comes directly to those who have undergone an ordeal and who know, having survived it, that they are equal to all of life’s occasions.

Lewis Mumford


O Lord, thou knowest that which is best for us. Let this or that be done, as thou shalt please. Give what thou wilt, how much thou wilt, and when thou wilt.

Thomas a Kempis


Meaning, moods, the whole scale of our inner experience, finds in nature “the correspondences” through which we may know our boundless selves.

Kathleen Raine

Mother Knows Best 

Mother Knows Best 

21 Free Audio Affirmations

I am excited to announce that my audio production is now happening, and I am making my first Audio Affirmations available to those who join my emailing list. There are more audio products in the making. I even created the background music with GarageBand loops. What fun! Two minutes of instant inspiration will arrive in your email inbox every day for 21 days, starting the moment you sign up.

Here is a link so you can listen to sample Audio Affirmation: 

Seattle Summer Rose 

Seattle Summer Rose