Monday, August 08, 2016

How I Think About Prosperity

A few centuries ago, almost everyone had the same job: surviving. This meant growing, gathering, or hunting food and providing oneself with shelter and building bonds with your community and raising children and taking a little time for stories or music or other arts. Each human family created very little beyond what its members needed.

Suddenly, in geologic time, humans started becoming very efficient at providing themselves with food -- which was previously the largest portion of daily needs. That freed up time for us to make more interesting clothes and start writing down our discoveries. It began letting some people divert their time from food tasks to trade and medicine and painting and many more new specialties. With more hours to spend on fascinating new pursuits, those who delved deeply into them became very good at them. Think of how much more someone who works full-time healing others learns about how to do it and how much better he or she becomes than one who does it in the spare hours from farming. Imagine this extra efficiency spreading to every pursuit, until someone gets the idea to print pages from moveable type rather than writing them by hand or the idea to automate and power the weaving previously done with simple tools in off hours.

So, prosperity comes when people have time beyond what they need to spend on survival tasks, and that use that time to create trade goods.

Also, the more people have this surplus time, the more prosperity they create. It would do no good to be the only human in a continent who knew how to make everything that our current civilization builds. If everyone else was busy farming to survive, that knowledge could not recreate the lifestyle we take for granted. At best, the knowledge holder could teach some of that knowledge to some of the neighbors and help a small community live a little better. Hoarding the knowledge would do very little good at all.

So, in my model, the more others are prosperous, the more prosperous I will be myself. A fair market is an efficient way to let people with one advanced skill trade with people with another advanced skill.

There's no room in my idea of prosperity for making trades that make either partner worse.

And this model implies that the most valuable way to spend one's time is in the activities that create the greatest value for the greatest number.

Happy green candle day! Wishing prosperity to myself, to you, and to all the world.

Anna

Friday, May 06, 2016

Color blend necklace

A couple years ago, I bought Beaded Colorways by Beverly Ash Gilbert. What beautiful projects she makes! And what a challenge to my sense of order her freeform stitching methods are! Her method has three parts. First, she blends colors and sizes and shapes of beads into glorious mixes. Second, she uses freeform peyote stitch or freeform netting to create jewelry that flows in organic fashion. Third, in some projects she flows from one color mix into another through as many as pleases her. I would gulp when I poured my beads together and mixed them. Then, I'd quiver all through the process of putting the beads together in chaotic forms. 

It's good to push my edges sometimes. Her projects definitely did. I completed a bracelet and have another that remains a UFO -- UnFinished Project. 

A few weeks ago, it hit me that instead of stitching together the bead mixes, I could string multiple strands. Then I could have the beauty of the color flows without pushing against my sense of order to complete them! I had a collection of black beads that I wanted to use. Some of them had iridescent finishes with a blue edge. I had a white mix I'd made for the UFO -- and it had gleams of blue as well. So, after a couple other thought experiments, I decided to flow the colors from black to dark blue to light blue to white and back again on a necklace. I made the black and the two blue mixes. Then I made intercalary mixes to go between black and dark blue, between dark blue and light blue, and between light blue and white. She has many useful instructions on making these mixes in the book. 

And I strung them. And gathered eleven strands into cones and finished with a toggle clasp. Here is the result: 


It is collar-length. I thought at first it would look good longer, and so I have extensions available. Sitting at the collar bone really seems to suit it, creating a lush circle at the base of the throat. 

I have more of the color blends remaining. I plan to try a couple earring patterns and perhaps a bracelet. 

And here's something worth noticing -- this necklace would not have happened if I hadn't started a jewelry sketchbook. The sketchbook gave me a place to write down the first idea, and then to play with it until I had a version that excited me enough to make. Now that I have a jewelry sketchbook, I am a jewelry designer!


Wednesday, May 04, 2016

What I Want in a Mastermind Group

Yesterday, I wrote that I had a great mastermind group in Las Cruces. The next question is, if I wanted to make another great mastermind group, what would I want in it? Of course, my answers are highly influenced by how good the last one was!

The first point is that showing up is important. Of course we couldn't always make it. But if we knew we'd be away in advance, we let each other know, and if something came up, we tried to call. Overall, while we might have two or three people meeting instead of four, we missed only one or two weeks a year. So I would want mastermind members who would regularly come to meetings.

The weekly schedule felt just right. It was often enough to keep us on track, and not such a large part of my calendar that it became too much. I would like weekly meetings.

Four members also felt good. Occasionally, one of us would bring a friend, and five felt fine, too. I've found groups of six good for some dinners and gaming. So four to six members sounds right. I like the closeness of a small group, and I also like having enough members so that weeks when there was no one to meet with were rare.

Supportiveness is essential! We appreciated each other, and thought well of each other. The mood of the group was never harsh or judgmental. While we did offer each other suggestions, that was secondary to simply witnessing for each other. And the attitude was always "I see something that might help you" rather than "you are wrong and I will fix you." Any suggestions came in the epitome of kind and constructive criticism.

The structure of bringing a list of intentions for the following week, and reporting on how we did on the previous week worked well. It was both flexible and accountable enough.

A weekday afternoon meeting time was great. We typically met just after work at a coffee house. I don't yet know what would be a good location in Midland! Monday was a good day to meet. It set up the week nicely. These are both flexible. When scheduling was particularly tight, we sometimes met for breakfast, and we moved the day as needed, staying on the same schedule for at least a quarter. Meetings typically lasted one hour and fifteen minutes. Since I work freelance and have a flexible schedule, I generally adapted to the needs of the other members. However, a start time later than 6 pm wouldn't work well for me. I like to be home in the evenings.

A certain compatibility is important. We were all women, all mature, all interested in art and learning and healing, all pursuing our work in the world, all of good intention. I do not know if gender or age will be important for another great mastermind. I am certain that if the fit isn't good, it won't be as supportive and appealing, which will make it less likely to thrive. We added members one by one and very carefully to the last group. I want the same trust and harmony in my next group. It might also work to try members quickly, and then keep the ones who fit.

So what I want is a long-term group of allies, whom I enjoy spending time with, to meet on a weekly basis. Now I'm intrigued to see if I can gather such a group in Midland!



Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Mastermind

When I lived in Las Cruces, I met weekly with three other women. We followed loose mastermind guidelines to help each other meet our goals. Each week, we reported our progress for the previous week and set our intentions for the coming week. That sounds simple -- what made it great is that all of us were seekers, looking to live better and contribute more to the world. And they met me each week with kindness and creativity. Amy, Genevieve, and Chris, you greatly improved my life!

Now we have moved. I live in Midland, Texas, Chris is often on the road, Amy splits her time between Las Cruces and another home in Colorado, and Genevieve went to Albuquerque. We have a Facebook group. It is not the same as seeing each other in person every week. No meals together! No hugs or smiles, and all the bandwidth of being with someone in person -- the expressions, the sound of breathing, the body language, and the aura, for lack of a better word -- is gone.

So, I have been making an effort to post my weekly progress and priorities to our Facebook group. Now that the practice is so much sparer, I found myself thinking today about what I really get from writing out goals and seeing if I meet them.

The support and accountability and connection were wonderful! What remains is a much lighter connection. And this, which turns out to matter a lot to me: I make visible to myself what I intended and how it compares to what I did.

I don't harsh on myself about it. That would make the whole process unfun. I notice, I wonder, I accept, I try again. And that is incredibly valuable.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Freedom from, freedom to

Hello, world!

Today I listened to a webinar from Amy Pearson. Her signature topic is escaping the trap of seeking approval. I felt spacious after hearing her.

One section of her talk that really resonated with me was about daring to let people disapprove of you. I have been unlikely to sing where people can hear me, just because so many people have disliked my singing in the past. That is likely to be a symptom of many other places where I restrain myself from acting for fear of bothering others.

I like the idea that freedom comes in two forms: freedom from and freedom to. I've wanted freedom from judgment before singing -- yet the other facet, freedom to sing, might be a better way to think about this. Short of actual physical coercion, all I need for freedom to sing is to be willing to bear other people possibly disliking my singing.

That little switch in my thinking feels a lot freer already.

Monday, July 06, 2015

In-jokes

I have this cartoon in my head. I muse on it occasionally. It goes like this:

Panel one: Harry Potter, in a black wizard's gown with blue Ravenclaw trim, is browsing the internet and a light bulb goes off over his head. Thought balloon: "So, Dawn removes mysterious darkness! Hmmm..."

Panel two: Harry Potter is pouring a gallon of Dawn dishwashing liquid into a bucket perched on a door top. Thought balloon "I'll only get one chance to make this work."

Panel three: Harry calls through door. Word balloon: "Professor Quirrell, could you come in here, please?"

Panel four: Quirrell is drenched in blue liquid as he comes through the door. He scowls.

Panel five. Quirrell beams. Word balloon: "Harry, I finally understand! We can all just be friends!"

This little sequence has given me a lot of pleasure. Of course, it is a seriously deep in-joke. It tickles me because I have read two items, both of which are known to small groups, and I suspect those groups barely overlap. The first necessary piece of background is Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, a fan fiction in which Harry has loving parents who introduced him to the science of decision making before he ever received the letter to Hogwarts. In this excellent story, Harry joins Ravenclaw rather than Gryffindor, and becomes friends with Professor Quirrell, who suffers from mysterious darkness. The second necessary piece of information came from the discussion of using a tumbler to brighten chain maille on the Urban Maille website, where Aislyn Bryan asserts that the cure for mysterious darkness is more Dawn.

If you've ever wondered where science fiction authors get their ideas, there's one example in thorough detail for you.

Part of the pleasure of in-jokes is the recognition of shared background when someone else laughs at them. "Eureka means this water is too hot" is lovely for that. To laugh together means Yes, I see you; Yes, I hear you; Yes, we both know this well enough to recognize and enjoy referring to it. It can be a wonderful moment of connection.

Doug understood the comic from its description without explanation. Sharing a lot of inside information is one of the benefits of long-term relationships.

And I would be glad to invite you into the circle. Both the websites above are excellent on their topics. I strongly recommend them for outstanding storytelling and quality chain maille information, respectively.

Come play?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A Yoga Blast from the Past

Today I did Day 1 from Richard Hittleman's 28 Day Yoga Program. That is where I started, three decades ago.

I remember looking at the pages, moving through the unfamiliar poses. I remember being a little worried that there was something UnChristian about yoga, yet also intrigued. I remember feeling light and adventurous. How joyful to reconnect to that youth! I'm sure I started stiff, and then, was a little looser.

I know that routine by heart, because I stopped the 28 Day Program many times and restarted it. It's very simple -- 3 poses, once each, then the three poses three times each, then once each again, this time trying to flow gracefully between them. Easy to remember -- I remember Day 2, also.

My body still feels like mine. I've gained weight since then -- I don't feel it. I feel more tension in my shoulders, where then, it was in my back. Now, the lovely thing is how much more aware I am of my entire body. I feel little muscles all over my feet. I feel my ribs expanding. I settle right into a forward bend, and feel for every muscle that works to hold the position, and every one that I can let relax. The stiffness leaves me more quickly, and the relaxation reaches deeper.

I still stop and start my yoga. Only now, "stopping" is likely to mean that I slip three stretches in when I can, and "starting" means I sit cross-legged and breathe a little while before I begin a more extended session. I seldom let an entire day go without something; I also don't take up ambitious plans of arriving at advanced postures within 30 days -- both the extremes have gone.

And why is that? Because, after these years of stops and starts, now I feel my body. And it feels better, when I do some than when I do none, and I listen and accept it when it feels it has had enough.

I've learned to listen, and I've learned moderation. And those are radical gifts from thirty years of spotty practice. I have practiced yoga poorly, and it was seriously worth it.