Mind full to mindful: One Thing Better, Kate VanNoorden

One Thing Better is a weekly series featuring very cool creators I’m impressed with, in a one-question interview format.

It’s a simple premise. Each week someone will answer The Question. 

My friend Brian Reekers kept mentioning his friend Kate — as an anchor in his life. Someone he connected to spiritually. Someone who supported him on his own exotic growth path when others shied away.

(He’s an angel whisperer.)

It turns out I knew this Kate person. The art world had connected us years ago. 

Here’s what I love about Kate VanNoorden. She’s full of wisdom and questioning. One could forgive her at her age if all she wanted to do was sit back and give advice on her wisdom gleaned from a long and full life. 

But no, she’s keen on ever learning. Check out what she learned at 67 . . . . 

The Question:

What one thing have you been doing recently that’s making your life better?

Kate VanNoorden:

What a beautiful nose you have, I thought.  Devon was resting his poufy poodle head on me as I rested. We were nose to nose.  I could see the amazing construction of the nostrils, the texture of the nose skin, the white tendrils that lay on the top of his nose.
His eyes were closed in contentment at being so close. I could see his long eyelashes resting on closely clipped cheeks.  What a wonder is this creature!!

Being in the moment.  Being mindful. Making and taking the time to be present NOW.

When walking the dogs on what I call my “gratitude walks” I do not use my cell phone. This is their walk.  I am there for them.  I watch what they stop to sniff, allow them to leave their calling cards on bushes and the yard trimmings put out for trash pickup.

My “elder statesman” is turning 12 this December – an excellent longevity for a Greyhound – his racing days have left him with ankles that hurt and tender feet.  He moves more slowly, sniffs more deliberately. 

Are you reading the stock page I ask in a teasing voice? The others always stop when he stops and wait patiently for him to start walking again.  There is a deference and respect among the pack.  

While they amble I notice that the “Florida frost” is in bloom.  A weed with a miniscule pink blossom that grows in abundance on lawns and highway medians looking just like frost has come to Jupiter.  
It is side by side with a tiny blue blossom – they are both termed weeds but when I pick them, I see great perfection in their forms that are so small that it takes several to cover a fingernail.  I might not notice them if we were walking swiftly.

I was raised with the New England Work Ethic that one must be productive during each daylight hour.  It wasn’t until I was 67 that my Mom told me it was OK to take time out to read.  NOW you tell me, I said.  
By then the fast paced tempo of my life was so ingrained that moving slowly was not of choice but of nature.  I moved so rapidly I was often tripping, stumbling, falling and over the years I broke both ankles twice.  
What am I supposed to be learning from this, I would ask myself?  
It was at the time of the last limited action event that it hit me that the world had not stopped because I did not complete my daily list.
I, who was always doing for others, was forced into being on the receiving end.  I began to realize that to be a good giver one must also be a gracious receiver.  
I began to rethink my daily “to do” lists.  What is really important? What actually has to be done?
Along those same lines I have stopped cramming so much into a certain time frames.  If my list contains 8 errands to be attended to, I find I now listen to my body – maybe the last two errands could be done another time.  
I no longer try to accomplish one last chore before heading out the door to an appointment.  I have started giving myself a bit more space in each day to avoid rushing and stress. 
Just this change of being mindful and staying in the moment keeps me from reacting with impatience.  It allows me the opportunity to try to achieve my daily goal – To someone, somewhere, somehow – BE A BLESSING.

I’ve seen the future and it is leafy

The quickest way to envision the near future is to travel into wealthy neighborhoods.

Big screen TVs

Mobile phones


Washers and dryers



Bathrooms (indoors)

Home delivery

These are just a few of the things that came to luxury homes first. Now they’re commonplace.

The art world delivers me to many an affluent community. In fact today I turned into an equestrian estate in Kentucky — to deposit a bronze sculpture and a painting purchased at our gallery. I found myself admiring the majestic home there as I turned up a hill, only to discover it was the horse stables. 

The point is, I’ve seen the future and it is leafy. It is verdant. 

That bodes well for the world. Want to lower a home site of value? Then denude the surrounding land of foliage.

Enter any affluent area and you’ll see trees and shrubs abounding. Even in zero lot line suburbia.

Affluent people know intuitively that nature inspires the best in them. Plant life lures out your creative zen. Fresher air makes your brain percolate.

Not long ago I saw a field of wild grasses on the rooftop of a garage. That’s a juxtaposed kind of wonder — architecturally and natural. Simultaneously.

In the future more will be planted. I’ve said it before: In the future more green life will be planted than destroyed when a new construction project begins. 

Plant life will swish in terrarium balconies girding skyscrapers like hula skirts. Shrubs and vines will stair step up outer structures from ground to roofline, no matter how tall the building. There will be be inner sanctuaries of natural growth open to the sun above. 

It’s coming. 

It’s the one thing we don’t see in future movies — the overspilling of the natural world in and around human spaces. The future is seen as cold and sterile — or dystopian and trashy. 

Neither is true. That is not where we’re going. Chicago has more greenspace now than it did two decades ago. Cities that want to thrive are figuring out how to naturalize. 

Want to get to your own personal future faster? And the calm and creativity and abundance there?

Surround yourself with leafiness. In every way that you can. The hum of nature will beckon the best from you. Emotionally, creatively, spiritually.


Quotes from Stuart Wilde’s Little Money Bible

It’s best if you read these thoughts with a working-class British accent — with some bluster thrown in. That’s the way I heard them in the audiobook version. 
There, Stuart Wilde’s punch comes through in every line.
I think you’ll enjoy these thoughts he laid down decades ago.  
“Invoke. Invoke. You’ll never be broke.”

“Invoke your dream as fact.”

“Keep your dream safe. Guard its holy and sacrosanct nature by not trashing it with negative woes.” [Even, especially, your own.]

“There’s no way of making money on this planet except by serving other people’s needs.”
Isn’t that a beautiful spiritual thought?

“If things aren’t flowing watch the signs very carefully.”
“Effort is natural — it’s unnatural to struggle.”
“What little adjustments can you make to get things moving?”
“Ask yourself loads of little questions. Pull back when things aren’t working.”
“Flow seems a bit like magic but it actually stems from order and planning.”
“Flow is energy in motion, so you have to become the embodiment of energy in motion, i.e., flexible, fluid and fast on your feet.”
“The metaphysics of flow is easy to comprehend — it’s in your feelings. Your feelings guide you away from trouble. Notice. Pay attention.”

“The more people you know the easier it is to make money.”
“Agree to serve!”


One Thing Better: How Corina Pelloni . . . paused

One Thing Better is a weekly series featuring very cool creators I’m impressed with, in a one-question interview format.

It’s a simple premise. Each week someone will answer The Question. 

Read this paean to Phillip K. Dick by Corina Pelloni — and learn a lot about her simultaneously. She’s a lower-case gal. Here it feels fresh . . . and humble. Not artsy chic.

Corina is multi-passionate. Click the link above and wander around. Art, articles, poetry, design, yoga teacher, soap company — food! Damn, when does she sleep?

The Question:

What one thing have you been doing recently that’s making your life better?

Corina Pelloni:

i surely will accept your assignment.

this is how I actually (finally) committed to a daily meditation practice. 

1. accountability partner: i have a friend who asks me about my morning meditation, and i ask her about hers as well. 

2. set the bar low: i committed only to 5 minutes a morning. i can always find 5 minutes, but now i sit for longer. 

3. use it to manage the day ahead: too busy to meditate? my morning meditation is an invitation to the Universe to guide me in my affairs. 

4. an honest attempt = success: choosing to return to the moment as many times as possible is success. getting distracted happens. early morning can be a difficult time to meditate. once the timer beeps, i’m done regardless of how i feel i measured up. 

5. do it before coffee: once the caffeine says ‘go’ it’s go-time and no slowing down. i can reward myself with a cup once i’m out of half lotus. 

i am well informed on the subject of meditation and the benefits of a solid practice. but i needed to resort to some trickery to break with routine and ingrained habit. i am now experiencing the benefits of a daily meditation practice. the first two steps are the key starting points.

See some of Corina’s artwork here

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for (occasional) notes at the intersection of creativity and spirit. Once a month, maybe.


For people who don’t like goals (but prefer missions)

Long ago I found that if I convert a goal into a daily practice it goes better for me.

A daily practice — a routine that you time block into your day — puts you in a different frame of mind. You’re going to work on your practice without regard to how far away the goal may seem. 

Just as a musician drums daily. Or a meditator meditates daily. 

If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.

~ Jascha Heifetz

Taking up a practice gets you in the mindset of daily immersion and daily advancement. 

Think of a runner. Yes, she strives to best herself from time to time. Yet if she does not, there remains the endorphin elation of the running itself. 

A daily practice is its own reward. And it moves you ever closer to your goal each day.

Without the anxiety of an ever-vigilant eye on where you are in relation to that goal.

I wrote a book this way in the midst of some serious crazy. 

You know, running an art gallery, recovering from the crash, making it a soul adventure for our family. While writing this blog. While helping out my Dad with health issues. While opening up a side business to help with the off-season.

A practice has two measurable elements:

Daily . . . for  a set amount of time.

You may measure by some other metric than a set amount of time — words written, basketballs sunk, prospects contacted. 

However you quantify the result it is measurable.

There’s a third element that cannot be witnessed:

The spirit with which it is undertaken

You know when you are approaching it with reverence. And when you aren’t. It’s palpable, that feeling of near-awe you get when you connect to the reason for the practice in the first place. 

If you’ve got a goal there’s no purer way to enjoy the hell out of the journey than to make it a practice. 

Saddle up and ride.


For you 

Evan Griffith

What creators do

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About you: The ideal reader

The mysterious elusive ideal reader. . . ?

It is commonly put forth in writing circles that you must define your ideal reader — and do it with such clarity you can see the twinkle in her eye and the beauty mark quivering above her lip.

You’re supposed to imagine this ideal reader’s wants and dislikes. What he hopes for his future, the hassles he’s facing right now, his inclinations, lifestyle, pets, peeves, pursuits . . . his inner fears, his outer persona, what’s in his wallet, what’s in his heart.

You do this exercise to be precise in how you target your subject matter.

When you sit down to write for this person you clear away all that this person doesn’t care about. 

Well, this ideal reader is you.

Let me tell you about you.

Pull up a chair, get intimate with your device, we’re gonna get personal.  

Oooohhh, it’s spooky, isn’t it — how I know so much about you that I can divine you’re reading from some manner of digital device . . . Yeah, baby, I’ve done my research!

Here’s what I know about you:

You’re bi-curious. You’re curious about your creative source, you’re curious about your spirit source.

You want to expressify. You want to reach inside with both hands and pull out the riches you know are there. 

And if you’re like me — or any three-year old for that matter — you want to play in it no matter how messy things get. You can always clean up later.

You want a robustly lived life.

You want to connect uber-meaningfully with others.  

You want to feel the pulse of the universe in your temples as you grapple with challenges.

You want your spiritual understanding to reflect the great and raw breadth of experience you’ve had in your years. You don’t need rules, you require exploration. 

You want work to be play. You want to be compelled to such a degree by your work that you become lost in it.

You want to create — and you want to subside. You want the pleasures as well as the growth.

You want your days to matter. 

Me too.

Let’s tease out the infinite in the ephemeral together. 

Let’s imbibe from the hookah du spiritus. Let’s combine irreverent spiritual references to drug paraphernalia while jauntily striding across three languages. One of them a dead language. Because we have no problem standing athwart the centuries, one toe here, one toe there, all the other toes wriggling about, landing in God knows what territories and times.

Let’s be playful about it.

The ones we admire are the ones who do it with a wink and a smile. 

If it’s nothing but slogging through task after joyless task to accomplish a goal, then we’ll pass — we’ll follow someone else’s blueprint. 

We’re here to learn from the impish ones — the soulful ones — the happy ones — the sated-on-life ones.

Oh — there’s one more thing about you I forgot to mention. You’re muy sexy too. You can’t help it. It’s who you are. That’s your cross to bear.

So on now, on with us, let’s explore this wildly beating heart of a creatively-engaged existence together. 

For you 

Evan Griffith
Add a little creative soul to your life. Click here to join the fast-growing subscriber list for — you know — the occasional thing in your inbox.


7 links: Why Penelope loves The Farmer, Branson on leadership, quantum consciousness, these people aren’t homeless . . .


1. Gaping Void: How to be creative

(Cartoon from Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void. Click on the link in the line above and you can get 5 of these wickedly droll cartoons each week, one each workday.)

2. Don’t do too much of this after 60 (or before, for that matter)

3. Richard Branson’s 3 most important leadership principles
(Forbes Magazine)

4. Treat yourself to a little Christina Aguilera:
Lorrrrrd, have mercy on my soul . . . 

5. These people aren’t homeless — but you’ll love why they’re asking for money

6. Penelope Trunk: Why you should specialize

“You know why I fell for the Farmer? He specializes.”

7. Scientists claim that quantum theory proves consciousness moves to another universe at death

“Biocentrism teaches that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe. It is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the other way around.

“Lanza points to the structure of the universe itself, and that the laws, forces, and constants of the universe appear to be fine-tuned for life, implying intelligence existed prior to matter. He also claims that space and time are not objects or things, but rather tools of our animal understanding. Lanza says that we carry space and time around with us “like turtles with shells.” meaning that when the shell comes off (space and time), we still exist.

“The theory implies that death of consciousness simply does not exist. It only exists as a thought because people identify themselves with their body. They believe that the body is going to perish, sooner or later, thinking their consciousness will disappear too. If the body generates consciousness, then consciousness dies when the body dies. 

“But if the body receives consciousness in the same way that a cable box receives satellite signals, then of course consciousness does not end at the death of the physical vehicle. In fact, consciousness exists outside of constraints of time and space. It is able to be anywhere: in the human body and outside of it. In other words, it is non-local in the same sense that quantum objects are non-local.”

. . . . . . . . . . . 

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee! Once a month, maybe.


One Thing Better: Nick Fisher + sleep

One Thing Better is a weekly series featuring very cool creators I’m impressed with, in a one-question interview format.

It’s a simple premise. Each week someone will answer The Question. 

I heard about Nick Fisher through realtor extraordinaire Paul Kaufman. When Paul mentioned SickFisherArt — and how Nick painted on any surface imaginable — I was hooked. 

Check out his website: women’s restrooms, vans, building facades, fire hydrants, doors . . . you, if you stay still too long in his presence.

Nothing in this world is safe from Nick when he’s got paint and brush in hand.

The Question:

What one thing have you been doing recently that’s making your life better?

Nick Fisher:

The one thing I have been doing recently that is making my life better is getting enough of sleep. And not just the correct amount of hours (6-8 in my case), but the right times of the day. 

Currently, I go to bed around 9:30-10 pm and wake up around 6:30-7 am everyday… even on my ‘days off’. 

Previous stages of my life have had me staying up to the wee hours of the morning and snoozing well into the afternoon. Even though I may have gotten the proper hours of sleep, the rhythm was off. Now, thanks in part to my newish job at the diner on my block, my sleeping patterns are much more standardized. 

Here’s the thing. I don’t believe I did it incorrectly by having an inconsistent sleep-schedule as it was the best option for the circumstances. I feel that the vast majority of folks in my line of work are forced to live the same way. 

Since my work schedule fluctuated, so did the rest of my life. It was something I took as a given for many years. Open the café at 6 am one day, close it at 11 pm the next. With my job as my main source of income, everything else fit around that, filling in the cracks.

Having since quit that job to work more on my art, these hourly obstacles no longer stand in the way and have streamlined my whole life, especially my sleeping habits.

Fast forward to a month after quitting that job: Out of pure luck, I picked up a part-time job at the small, popular diner on my block. It’s been in business for many years in a neighborhood much more suited to me. It also pays a living wage and has set schedules. 

It is unreal just how effective a set schedule has been on my career as an artist. Gigs like commissions, murals, and even band practice fit into my life like never before, making me a happier person. As a side-effect, my sleeping patterns flattened out into the standardized shifts that I mentioned above.

Now, I can count on everyday being as productive as the last (if I so chose) instead of being forced to work only when it was possible. I have also realized that my most productive times are from right when I wake up to around early afternoon. Kinda like high school hours.

SO, although there are many things going on my life that are making me happy, I would attribute the majority of those things to my new found sleep schedule. It’s like getting a really awesome laptop or mp3 player; it’s nothing without a full charge.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Add a little creative soul to your life. Click here to join the fast-growing subscriber list for — you know — the occasional thing in your inbox. 


13 thought bubbles: Spiritual genius, reality molding, bad day/good data, more . . .

1: You are the type you are until you change it.

. . . . . . .

2: A quote I took away from the audiobook Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success:

“Turn a bad day into data.”

The authors ask that you “be the scientist and the experiment.”
To me that means try things. Then learn from the feedback. 

A scientist is keen to learn what is meaningful and what is random. What is effective and what isn’t. 

Don that white robe. Try things and analyze the results. Find what works for you. A bad outcome is merely a data point nudging you away from what is ineffectual.

. . . . . . . 

3: We are called to create. We are called to service. We are called to express.

. . . . . . . 

4: I’m stumbling into my spiritual genius. My creative voice too. If I can lurch and fall and find my way, you can too.

. . . . . . . 

5: Digiphrenia: digitally induced mental chaos

The most important skill in the 21st century is the ability to control your attention.

~ Darren Hardy

. . . . . . . 

6: I wish for you a benestrophic week

Benestrophe: Many good things happening at once

Thank you Joe Vitale, for introducing me to the term

. . . . . . . 

7: Some think to put your attention on this world is solidify the illusion. I disagree. This is playground and proving ground. It’s where we learn reality molding.

. . . . . . . 

8: There are few things worse than others’ expectations for you — when you accept them instead of your own.

. . . . . . . 

9: In the future the entire sweep from the 16th century to and including our day will be heaped into one overarching term. I propose The Age of Inquiry.

. . . . . . . 

10: I’m loving the balance of thoughtfulness and peopletude in my life.

. . . . . . .

11: You know what’s fun?

When I remember/am reminded that I am living in the mind of God.

. . . . . . .

12: Mindfulness . . . merged with the modern western checklist mindset goes a long way . . . 

. . . . . . . 

13: The world is freaky beautiful! 

Kissing your wife of many years with whom you’re still crazy in love beautiful! 

Blowing bubbles in the air beautiful. Playing with puppies beautiful.

. . . . . . . 

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee! Once a month, maybe.


Mind pioneers: Mitch Horowitz on the beginnings of our national creed

Confiscated from
One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life
by Mitch Horowitz

Countless people hope, as my adolescent self did, that our thoughts possess some kind of power, both on ourselves and on events around us. They tell themselves that life is not just a merciless roulette wheel or the result of impossibly large forces or happenstance; but, rather, that the content of our thoughts influences the nature of our experience, in concrete terms. 

For generations, people have wanted to believe that a good attitude not only makes us better people but makes better things happen to us. In the cold light of day, this seems an impossible dream.

But is it?

Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, a determinedly modern group of American men and women decided to find out. Immersed in new ideas in religion and psychology, a loosely knit band of psychical researchers and religious philosophers, mental-healers and hypnotists, Mesmerists and Spiritualists, Unitarians and Transcendentalists, suffragists and free-love advocates, black liberationists and Christian socialists, animal-rights activists and Biblical communists, occultists and Freemasons, artists and freethinkers, embarked upon a grand and sprawling project to investigate the parameters of the human mind. 

These experimenters, sometimes working together and other times in private, resolved to determine whether some mental force — divine, psychological, or otherwise — exerts an invisible pull on a person’s daily life. 

Was there, they wondered, a ‘mind-power’ that could be harnessed to manifest outcomes?

For them, like many Americans, the latter half of the nineteenth century was a time when hidden forces seemed to abound in daily life. From telegraph signals and electrical currents, to stories of spirit raps and mesmerism, the power of the unseen seemed to beckon everywhere. 

For a time, mainstream science and avant-garde spirituality could appear united in a search to unveil the mysteries of life. Indeed, people with mystical beliefs oftem considered themselves in league with social reform and the march of progress. They felt that their theories and ideas, such as the mind’s influence over health, produced observable results and could help lift spirituality to a new perch of rationalism.

At the start of the twentieth century, philosopher William James believed that the thought system that emerged from these experiments, which he called ‘the religion of healthy-mindedness,’ held such promise, and hovered so mightily over modern religious life, that it amounted to the equivalent of a Reformation on the American spiritual scene. 

As James saw it, the positive-thinking movements, “variously known to him as New Thought, Christian Science, or Metaphysical Healing, held the potential to morph into a liberal, universal faith, one that simultaneously confirmed the deepest yearnings of mysticism and the rationalist rigor of pragmatism. 

. . . 

No high church of positive thought extends across the American scene today. But the influence of positive thinking is greater than that of any one established religion.

. . . 

Positive thinking entered the groundwater of American life. It became the unifying element of all aspects of the American search for meaning.

The shapers of positive thinking fundamentally altered how we see ourselves today — psychologically, religiously, commercially, and politically. Their story is the backstory of modern America.

Peer into any corner of current American life, and you’ll find the positive-thinking outlook. From the mass-media ministries of evangelists such as Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and T.D. Jakes to the millions-strong audiences of Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Mehmet Oz, from the motivational bestsellers and seminars of the self-help movement to myriad twelve-step programs and support groups, from the rise of positive psychology, mind-body therapies, and stress-reduction programs to the self-affirmative posters and pamphlets found on walls and racks in churches, human-resources offices, medical suites, and corporate corridors, this one idea — to think positively — is metaphysics morphed into mass belief. 

It is the ever-present, every-man-and-woman wisdom of our time. It forms the foundation of business motivation, self-help, and therapeutic spirituality, including within the world of evangelism. Its influence has remade American religion from being a salvational force to also being a healing one. 

Positive thinking is an indelible part of our political climate, as well.

 . . . In this sense, positive thinking is our national creed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . 
Once every couple of weeks I like to excerpt a compelling passage from a book for your consideration. 

My hope is that you’ll find them as intriguing as I do — and that you’ll follow some of these authors home to their books. To buy and read them.

If you’re struck by a compelling passage in your own reading that you’d like to pass along, please email me at TheWorldIsFreakyBeautiful (at) gmail (dot) com.

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for occasional notes to your inbox on creativity, spirituality and whee! Once or twice a month.