The Creative Soul Dialogues: Life surfing and affirmations

Travis Thomas of 30 Days of Yes and I are engaged in The Creative Soul Dialogues. I will be excerpting segments from time to time. Here is the first:

We’re talking the great divide I see in contemporary spiritual thought as it relates to desire. Do we flow with what is? Or do we consciously create what we want?

This morning I had breakfast with the irrepressible John Marshall. He’s the exuberant soul living in his camper on our property. We were there to talk Joe Dispenza of  ‘Create Your Day’ fame from the movie What The Bleep Do We Know?! The ever-joyful John Marshall had just read Dispenza’s book Evolve Your Brain for the second time . . . and I wanted to get his take on it.

Long after we’d dispensed with Dispenza (wordplay pathetically intended) we were talking about the power of writing. 

I related a story from my life where I discovered many years later that a goal I’d written down on a sheet of paper 20 times a day for some weeks . . . had come to pass. I’d forgotten about the original process by the time I’d achieved the goal. It was only finding the sheets of paper that reminded me.

I also told the magnificent John Marshall about Scott Adams and affirmations. In his recent book Adams, the creator of Dilbert, goes on at length about the extraordinary effects of affirmations, both written and spoken. 

Adams is emphatically a materialist. He is not a woo-woo thinker, and in fact takes great pains throughout his book to explain his points logically, scientifically. When it comes to his use of affirmations, however, he is forced to leave us open to the mystery of why affirmations work. 
In his case, he has used written and spoken affirmations at critical junctures in his life — including becoming a renowned cartoonist. 

I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist.

Though he can only partially explain the efficacy of affirmations as a focusing agent, he admits that circumstances far beyond his control also came together in fortuitous ways to make his affirmations come true.

That’s when the effervescent John Marshall broke in and exclaimed: “Yes! It’s all about focus and repetition! It’s true. It’s true.”

This was quickly followed by, “But what the hell am I focusing on?”

That’s when it struck me, the ever-infectious John Marshall is a life surfer

He surfs the waves of energy all around him. He groks the energy and is enthralled by it. His primary focus has been to live an independent flow-surfer lifestyle and he’s achieved it magnificently! He’s ever engaged by the surf and the churn and the backflows that he’s riding . . . .

In that same instant I was also struck by this insight: While John prefers surfing the great energy flow, others like me prefer sailing the flow. 

What I mean is flow sailors have destinations in mind

Flow surfers and flow sailors simply engage the great energy flow differently. Both — when attuned — experience the Flow in profound ways. 

Flow sailors tack back and forth, against headwinds even, to arrive at a far destination. Then they set a new target and sail forth in that direction. They love the sailing as much as the destination. The destination may even change en route, but flow sailors are immensely fulfilled when there is a destination calling them forward.

Flow surfers are ecstatically fulfilled riding the waves at their particular beach. The tides may bring them to other beaches — they may even hop rides to other shores but in general they are happiest when surfing the flow.

Great advancements are often brought about by flow sailors. Technology, conquering diseases, diplomacy, eco-sustainable living, conscious business, human rights advancement, inventions that benefit humankind — these are all engaged in by flow sailors. They have set their sails for destinations beyond.

Great insights are often had by flow surfers. Philosophically, spiritually, playfully.

In truth we are all a mix of flow surfers and flow sailors. Yet if I were forced to live a primarily flow surfing lifestyle — living only for the now — I’d be missing out on what I love so much in life — experiencing the Great Flow through destination traveling. 

For someone like the ever-happy John Marshall, to force him to always be sailing out far beyond the horizon would be a crime against nature, his nature. Every single person who encounters the John Marshall experience is enlivened because of his flow surfing ways.

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Are you a Thothist too?

Thoth is the Egyptian god of writing.

The moment I read this I thought, I’m a Thothist! 

(Though saying it aloud sounds as though I’m speaking with my mouth full of sausage. Thothage. )

I believe in the power of writing . . . . 

to cure 

to transform 

to work miracles 

to resolve issues 

to enlighten 

to uncover one’s deeper self /Self if you are looking

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
Several posts on Thothism — not Thoth literally, silly — on the power of writing:

Writing it out: Materializing a person

Write it down, make it happen (unconsciously even)

Have you written it down yet, your dream?

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What is vastly underrated by artists for its creativity?

The business world. 

The creativity required to thrive in the realm of commerce is underestimated by creative types. Yet business, when fully engaged in, requires more than the known capacity of an individual. Just as the successful creation of art does.

You have to reach beyond what you know.

The sculptor David Langley switched gears last year and joined a startup bringing eco-solutions to the world. As he says, “I feel more alive than I ever have.”

An artist’s work is often a go-it-alone endeavor . . . 

“Your world is pretty small as an artist,” David says. “You’re only working by yourself.” 

“I didn’t realize how much I was starved for working with intellectuals. In business I have a much broader palette of minds to work with.” 

“I’m excited to find practical applications for new and out-of-the-box technologies. We’re involved with cutting-edge science that can affect the planet.” 

“I see the business as one of my creations.”

Having been involved in business as much as in creative fields over the course of my life, I can testify to the whole body-whole soul energy you put into both. 

Business and trade are as immersive creatively as any of the arts. If you seek to engage at that level.

Just as there are people rotely doing their jobs, their are artists rotely pumping out art that no longer inspires them.

There is electricity sparking just as much in forging relationships and finding practical solutions that benefit clients as there is in crafting a poem. 

The paths are different; seen through a brain scan, the fertile minds molding possibilities probably look the same.

This is all preamble to say this: there is nowhere you can’t engage your creative self in today’s world. Family, sexuality, contribution, friendship, play, spirituality, exercise, shopping (I hear trophy wives heaving a sigh here). 

Wherever you are, whatever interests you, you can be as creatively alive as you want to be.

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When I discovered my Whisper Self

I was driving to Houston to deliver artwork to a client. The delivery had to be there no later than 7 pm that evening. After that no one would be available to receive the art.

It was an enjoyable day, with a great rhythm of rest stops and breaks to make it relaxing . . . .

Until I discovered I’d been driving the wrong direction for an hour . . . putting me two hours out of whack.

I plotted it out. I could maybe possibly just make my destination by the cutoff time that evening . . . if only everything went perfectly well. To the minute.

About 45 minutes later I became aware that while I’d been driving I’d had this demi-conscious thought pattern whispering at me in the background the whole time:

There are going to be traffic problems through the cities.

There’s bad weather along the gulf coast. Everything’s going to slow wayyyyy down. Maybe stop.

There will be accidents.

If you don’t make this delivery tonight, you’re schedule will be thrown way behind. There’s no way you’re going to make it.

This is really going to cost you.

It was a running litany of all the things that could go wrong. Whispering at me from my own mind!

I shouted at this part of my mind — at myself essentially — to shut up. With choicer language.

It quieted down for awhile. Then when my attention drifted the little fucker started right back up.

You’re not going to maaake it. You’re not going to maaaake it!

My inner self is a four-year old.

I knew I had to substitute the programming . . . and commenced speaking about all the things that could go right. I whispered aloud every possible event I could think of that could go my way.

And they did. Through cities and towns and traffic and patches of bad weather. The drive unspooled with wonderful fluidity. I made it with five minutes to spare.


This was a wake up . . . about how much power my Whisper Self was leeching away from me. After that I caught my Whisper Self repeatedly soft speaking away about this could-be awful thing or that might-turn-out-badly possibility . . .

Now I train this Whisper Self to speak rightly . . . about everything that can and will go right. It’s had an amazing effect on how things turn out — some that border on the miraculous.

Things go better when you’re aligned.

. . . . .
Inspired by Carrie Murray. 

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On mindfulness and reverie: Mindlessness as a tool

We are everywhere exhorted to be mindful. It’s pervasive now, in the news, in every third blog post on every other site. In books on personal growth. You can’t speak spiritualese without an homage to awareness.

I too find value being attentive. The riches found in mindfulness are too great to enumerate here. Like anything else, though, it is a tool. Mindfulness is not the only tool. Mindlessness is also a tool, one of the greatest known to humankind.

Don’t be so mindful you exclude reverie from your life!

Reverie is where connections are made, fantasies are played out both darkful and lightful. Genius is incubated in reverie. Solutions are stitched together when you’ve abandoned your mind to play. Unseen pathways emerge . . . .

Creative incubation seems to almost exclusively occur when we are not being mindful. In my world synaptic sparks fly most when I am not focused, when I am not attentive.

It is when I am mindless that ideas mate and give birth to strange offspring. Some are useful, others are mere piffles. Some . . . some are electrifying.

Freeman Dyson helped unify quantum mechanics and electrodynamics while in his early twenties. After months of labor it was only during a vacation that the crucial insight hinging the two theories coalesced.

Here is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — originator of the Flow concept — highlighting Dyson’s mental sabbatical as being a necessary factor for the great synthesis to occur. From Creativity:

It would be difficult to imagine a clearer example of the classical version of the creative process. It starts with Dyson, immersed in the field of physics . . . . 

Having found his problem  to reconcile the two leading theories in the domain  he goes through a six-month period of consciously directed, hard preparation. Then he spends two weeks relaxing, a period during which the ideas marshaled up during the past half year have a chance to incubate, to sort out and shake together. This is followed by the sudden insight that occurs unbidden during a night bus ride.  

Innovations and truly useful ideas seem to thrive best when our minds are tuned way low, tuned out even. Be mindful, yes, but for god’s sake don’t forget to be mindless too.

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An experiment for next time you’re with someone in a foul mood

I was at a meeting recently. One of the participants was out of sorts. It was noticeable because she’s normally the life of any get together. Not this meeting. There was a heavy fog of suckiness in the air.

I was wearing a cap because of the rain that day. On impulse I lowered my head to where my eyes were covered by the brim of the cap. For maybe 15, 20 seconds I flooded heart love in her direction.

When I looked up she was beaming at me, smiling the biggest smile. Until that moment, maybe 20 minutes into the meeting, she hadn’t cracked a smile at all. Something had been troubling her. Whatever it was, it had receded. At least for the remainder of our time together that day . . . .

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David Langley: On creativity and purpose

We will long remember Heidegger’s contribution to existentialist philosophy . . . yet we won’t forget his Nazi flirtations. The work you do is secondary to the person you are.  

A couple months ago I wrote about a surprise insight into my purpose:

In meditation this thought was imparted to me so powerfully and succinctly my eyes flipped open: 

You may think your primary purpose is creative in nature, it’s not. Your primary purpose is to draw the best out of people.

As you might expect, someone deeply in touch with his creative anima would instantly understand that my purpose — and your purpose, whatever it may be — is  entwined with how it is expressed.

Here is the artist-entrepreneur David Langley:

I agree with what you think our ultimate purpose is in being the end goal, but the process of how we “draw it out” of others is purely creative, unique and individual.

How you embody your purpose is intimately you. You are your grandest creation.  

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Dr. Ken Grey’s Soulful Sundays for the family

Dr. Ken Grey, acupuncturist and spiritual bon vivant about town, has a wonderful Soulful Sunday ritual he does with his young family. I have to share it with you here:

1. Yoga: 

“I’ve started to give the children a chance to pick from a yoga book and/or create three yoga moves, each that we all hold for 5 breaths.

This way they learn the importance of teaching as well as learning and that in most cases they are the same. 🙂

2. Devotional/Bible Study: which means reading from the Bible or other spiritual texts from around the world.

“Examples of biblical devotional is God Calling, one of our mainstays. We also read from Florence Scovel Shinn’s books and The Book of Awakening by Mark Nepo.”

3. Talk about what it means:

“I stop at key words and let them contribute their meaning or their thoughts on the words, also examples in their lives where the lessons apply or can apply.”

4. Talk to God/pray

5. Pillow fight!

Makes you want to go over to his house on Sundays, doesn’t it—

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posts inspired by Dr. Ken Grey:

Dr. Ken Grey: On two modes of prayer, in stillness, in motion

The human refining process: Dr. Ken Grey

Yummy yummy yummy I got love in my tummy: Carol Maglio and Dr. Ken Grey

For more about Dr. Ken Grey:
Dr Ken Grey AP, DOM
Holistic Physician 

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A reminder to Future Me

Hey Future Me — 

When you look back on this time, this time before all our dreams were realized and you slunk off to a beach bungalow in glory, when you look back on this time don’t make this mistake: 

— Don’t think that this was a time of struggle and pain.  

— Don’t imagine because of the effort that joy wasn’t being had daily. Hourly. Minutely even. 

I’m telling you this because while I’ve been writing this book that’s coming out this year — you know, this book that started out a bookito — this book vying for the longest damn title of the decade . . . .

Bohemia in Suburbia: Oh the creativity and originality outside of urban centers (one guy found traversing America) (in an old van) (that had problems of its own)

. . . while I was writing this thing I was scouring through a couple of old journals from that life of mine 18 years ago, the time period that inspired the book. 

What I discovered was illuminating. Times I thought were bad, well, they were bad. Though not so bad. Times I thought were exhilarating, were. But here’s the thing. Even in what were anguishing times there was unspeakable joy. 

This was also true when The Crash crashed our business back in 2008 (and 2009, 2010, 2011). God it was a tiresome, godawful period to go through. And yet it was so sublime. It was beyond epic making. A movie should be made of that time because you and I were so heroic. 

We were that mouse in the poster from the 70s, that mouse standing there with his middle finger defiantly shooting at the eagle swooping down from above, talons almost upon him. There’s no way that mouse survived, the eagle was already upon him. But he flipped the bird at that . . . bird. 

We did too and we’re here to talk about it. Celebrate it even.

Here truly is the thing: It’s surprising how much elation and joy and burst-out-of-yourself thrill sparks were flying in the worst of times.

Just remember that, Future Me. You could adapt to anything and did. You could find a spirit connection in a craphill of woes. You were cooler than you remember. You enjoyed yourself so much more than you can recall.

You know what else? Probably everybody else did too.

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It is solved by walking

In an earlier post — The curious relationship between walking and thinking — a Roman saying is quoted: Solvitur ambulando.

It is solved by walking.

That phrase can also be loosely translated as, “It is solved by walking around.”

If they had cars or motorcycles or planes would the Romans have said, “It is solved by driving and flying around” . . . ?

Doubtful. They had horses, they had mules, they had camels. They had tigers! They had chariots and carts and boatery. It wasn’t common usage to utter, “It is solved by carting around.”

Yes, you can get lost in reverie driving or horsing or carting around. But not too lost. 

Here’s the magic to walking: It’s in the just-right-effort/low-attention zone.

There is a rhythmic exertion to walking that juices your biological engine just high enough to get lymph and biochemicals and bioelectricality and blood and oxygen flowing — plus toxins evacuating, oh that’s something you want — yet it’s not so taxing that your brain uses up its resources. 

In other words, when walking your brain is optimally primed for contemplation. Bodily, everything is flowing. Mentally, little is required. 

It is solved by walking.

What is it? 

What is solved by walking? Whatever vexes you. Life issues. Finding your next step. Puzzling out how to handle a relationship dilemma. And — fantastically built into walking as a side benefit — health issues. 

It’s a twofer. Two for one. Health and mental issues are resolved by walking. Anxiety lessens or departs entirely with a daily walking program. 

You can probably guess this already . . . what works as well or better than any combination of anti-depressant drugs? A walking routine!

If you do nothing else but walking daily you will vastly improve the quality of your life. In mood and energy. In thought and result.

How do you start? 

By linking it with something you already do. When you wake up. After your first cup of coffee. After breakfast. When you take a lunch break. When you come home from work. Just before dinner. Just after dinner. There are so many natural linkages in a day. I don’t recommend while you are sleeping.

What is the reward? Feeling good. Mentally and physically and soulfully. Walking is a favorite meditation for many a mystic. I’ve had mystic connections of almost weepy bliss while walking . . . you only have to open yourself up to the possibility.

From Jung to Beethoven to Darwin to Kafka to too many others to note, walking has been a favorite activity of some of history’s greatest creators.

So, to start:

Link your walking routine to something you already do.

Anticipate the reward of feeling good.

Notice how you feel afterward — fulfilled. (n happy, n zesty, n ready)


Part of the What creators do series.
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