Tapping Into The Universe

Every had a feeling that made the hair on your arms rise up–in a good way? A dream that seemed important, and then chunks of it started happening in waking life? A coincidence that you knew was a special moment? Yeah, me, too.

A sundial seen on my morning walk. It’s fastened onto a tree stump, and fastened in such a way that it can’t tell the time correctly. What does that tell you about how you see time?

You and I are kairomancers–people who recognize special moments and make the most of them. Kairos, in Greek, is an opening that allows for something special to happen. If you remember Homer’s Odyssey, the hero fires his flaming arrow through a dozen ax handle holes to prove his skill.

Today’s kairomancer sees small openings and opportunities and makes the most of them.  What kind of opportunity?  Here’s an example: I was teaching in Washington, D.C., and had just gotten off the metro.

At the top of the escalator stood a man who was clearly lost. I used to live in the area, so I asked if I could help. Worst case scenario, I could sympathize.

The man was looking for an office in the building I was teaching in that day. Lucky guess, I thought. We walked to the building and I walked him through a maze of hallways and showed him the office. I then taught my scheduled class. At the end of the day, as I was packing up and ready to head for the airport, when Mr. Lost walked back into the class. He was friends with someone who had enjoyed the class. He wanted to know if I could create a custom class for his team. I could. I did. And I would never have had the opportunity if I had not stopped to ask if he was lost. That’s kairomancy in action.

I didn’t ask him if he was lost because I was hoping for a job. I asked because it was likely I could help. The rest unspooled on its own. Worth the risk of being helpful.

Sure, you can call it synchronicity, but I don’t think it’s random. I think we get tiny threads of opportunity and if we pull the thread, we may discover meanings that work out to our advantage. You can call it responding to the universe, living life awake, or even praying for success. I call it kairomancy because the man I learned it from calls it that.

This is the cover of the Robert Moss book that started my work in kairomancy.

Robert Moss is the author of several books (and workshops) on dream work, coincidences, and, well, kairomancy. One of my favorites is Sidewalk Oracles, Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life. The book is a series of stories, games, and experiments that you can do every day to enhance your intuition and help make yourself more aware of signs and symbols in your life. “Instead of walking through life tuned in to an unproductive inner soundtrack, the kairomancer feels the sidewalk she treads, hears the messages awaiting receipt, and sees the extraordinary in the ordinary,” Moss says.

Moss tells us to “marry our field,”–to look for ways to work deeply in the area that interests us. For me, that is working with words and symbols, helping other people to speak and write clearly enough to be heard. We all long to be heard and understood, but we often can’t do it because we don’t have the tools or we don’t understand the rules.

Here’s how I learned to “marry my field.” Every morning, I walk three to five miles. I do it for medical reasons, but somewhere along the line, I realize that distance walking every morning made me feel more alive, more calm, more ready to deal with the problems that life brings people who teach what they do. Ready to face the to-do list of the day.

While walking, I saw symbols. I listened to my intuition. And slowly, because I paid attention,  I created ways to become a pass-through for my coaching clients. They became more attuned to their own power, their own strength.

In the next few blog posts, I’m going to talk about what happens on my morning walk. Come along, if you’d like to. It’s never boring. And if you keep a journal, you might find some new ways to write about your life, too. Let’s go!

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She helps people discover the deep longing inside and connect it to a life’s work.

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Book Review: Live Your Life; Two Giveaways

OK, I’ll admit it—I like self-help books. Here’s why: I don’t expect them to change my life. Or even the next month. I do expect a good self-help book to have at least one solid idea that can help me see a situation, a habit, or a person in a different way.

A book that gives me a fresh perspective is a book that may move my decision-making machinery in a new direction, one that helps me make better decisions.

Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You, takes an interesting approach to self-help. In addition to taking a holistic approach, there is a lot of support, including a downloadable workbook (url is listed in the introduction, another reason to read those.)

In each of the 14 days of the book, you get stories from LeFevre’s own life (which makes the book seem human and the tasks seem achievable.  Each chapter has “Thinking Points,” and “Action Items” which allow you to take the lesson and make it yours, just for your goal.

Each chapter is a day, but it can be a week for you, or a month. The book (paperback) is a slim 130 pages, and you can set the pace that works for you. You might find some of it challenging, but that’s the point, right? If your life is not working now, reading a challenging book will seem like the perfect excuse to blow it off. Dig in instead.

Here’s a sampling of the chapters:

  • Silence the Voices (Yep, she believes in the inner critic, too!)
  • Stay the Course (Making a commitment isn’t hard, keeping it is.)
  • Start Somewhere, Anywhere (Dealing with the overwhelmed feeling.)
  • Just Breathe (Dealing with stress.)
  • Show Yourself Compassion (With  the imposter feeling, shame, or guilt)
  • Let it Go (Making space in your home and your life.)
  • Find Balance (in everything, from bad habits to good)
  • Look for Opportunities (you save yourself, no one comes to do it for you.)
  • Do it Anyway

Was there any part of this book I didn’t like? Sure. I ran across a few grammar errors and they always trip me up (because I teach grammar and am sensitized to it).  There are also a few thoughts that contradict each other, but not in the same chapter.
For example, in one chapter, a cruel professor berates LeFevre (as grad student) for “not being born brilliant . . . you are just a hard worker. . .” In that crushing blow, the professor defines brilliant as the ability to have abstract connections among ideas or emotions.  In another chapter, LeFevre advises ridding your space of items that are not necessary, vital, or have a specific purpose. Those are pretty concrete definitions, and don’t leave much room for emotional attachment and just plain liking, but not loving, an item. Those abstract ideas become important in this chapter.

None of those bring down the ability of the book to help. But if I’m reviewing a book, it’s a good balance to point to things I don’t like as well as those that do. These few small imbalances don’t tilt the scale. It’s firmly in the “helpful” category.

The Giveaway, Part 1: On Friday, February 23, 2018, I’ll give the book away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog. You don’t have to give a reason, just let me know you want the book. I’ll do a random drawing. Winners will come from the continental U.S. for this drawing.

The Giveaway, Part 2: I’m a coach, both a life coach and a creativity coach. I’m giving away three, one-hour coaching sessions, one session to each of three people. There is no obligation, no pressure, no sales pitch and it’s free. Leave a comment. This is in addition to the book giveaway.
Let me know in the comments that you want to try a coaching session. I will do a separate drawing for the book and the coaching sessions, so if you want to try for both, you can do it all in one comment.

Common-sense stuff:

  • If you are a current or past coaching client of mine, please let someone new try out for the coaching.
  • Winner must be able to call me in Phoenix at an agreed-upon time.
  • Winners must have phone numbers from the continental U.S.
  • Winners must be able to speak to a reason they want coaching–not in the comment. If you are one of the winners, I’ll be asking you.

The book was given to me to review. I am not paid for the review or compensated for the free coaching sessions.

Winners of the giveaway: Kelly Harms has won Ann LeFevre’s book, Live Your Life, 14 Days to the Best You. Winners of the coaching sessions are: Cynthia Pepper, Linda Marsh and Lynn Thompson. Congratulations to the winners! You’ll be hearing from me for details.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing; she is a life- and creativity coach.

Go With the Flow–Literally

Flow is a magazine I never heard of, and now that I’ve read one, I can’t stop loving it. Halfway through, I realized it was created in the Netherlands, but it is in English and is filled with ideas, stories, articles, photography, sketches, and poems. It is also printed on different kinds of paper, which brings joy to those who love the feel and touch of paper.

The magazine is divided into two content sections: “Feel Connected,” and “Live Mindfully.” The Connected section includes an article in which a designer, celebrity chef, and illustrator are interviewed about current projects and how they fell in love with their work.

There is a full-length article on Julia Cameron and what she is doing today. It’s not a puff-piece (which it could be, considering she’s the author of The Artist’s Way), but a harder look at how Cameron got her start as a writer (Washington Post and Rolling Stone, plus a lot of drinking and drug-taking) and how she grew into the creativity unblocker she is today, 40 books later.

“Meanwhile in New Zealand” is an article about an unconventional couple who live in a wilderness home and are content. (Not a minor thing in today’s world.)

On the Mindfulness side, there is an article about emotional confidence. Not an easy read, but an important one.

The complimentary journal tipped into the magazine is a big plus. And the tip paper used to hold it in place can be recycled in collage.

My favorite article was on my favorite topic–drawing in your journal when you don’t know how to draw.

I caught a fair amount of criticism in both my books on that topic because I am not an illustrator and dared to write about creative expression.

This article is real encouragement about the benefits of private art to capture memories. One of the ideas is that photography lessens our memory retention and blurs details. Drawing, even if we are not illustrators, helps memory recall of details that happened around the time of the drawing.

In this issue, there is a tip in–of a journal. Yep, a five-inch by eight-inch journal with  sturdy, white, unlined paper. And the paper used as the carrier (with removable glue) can be used in collage or card-making. The entire magazine can be recycled, cut up, used over again or kept and well-loved.

The issue shown is one of six published a year.  The Flow website has a subscription rate on it, or you can get it through Amazon. I received a copy of the magazine as a gift from a family member; I received no payment or incentive to write this article.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She is also a creativity instigator.

Book Giveaway: Creative Strength Training

I’m giving away (and reviewing) Jane Dunnewold’s book on  my other site.  There are a lot of readers on this site who will want to read the book, too.

Here’s the beginning of the review. At the end, there is a link to the other blog site, so you can leave a comment there for the giveaway. Please do not leave a comment here–the winner will be chosen from the other site.

“There are a lot of books on creativity that combine art-making exercises with encouragement.  All the more reason to love a new book that is wonderful, tempting, helpful and encouraging. When it turns out to do what it promises–help you become creatively stronger, more sure or your creativity, and more curious about the world around you–it’s a keeper. One you will want to read quickly, just to enjoy, then read more slowly to work through and use regularly.

Creative Strength Training: Prompts, Exercises and Personal Stories for Encouraging Artistic Genius by Jane Dunnewold is just that book. You will find yourself nodding your head in recognition. ”  Continue reading the review here.

Word of 2015: Ready? (and a Giveaway)

We are still weeks from the New Year. You are probably overwhelmed with cards and holiday planning. It’s about a week from the beginning of Hanukkah and two and a half weeks to Christmas. So why start thinking of the Word of the Year?

Words make the portrait. "Zappa" by konstantinek: http://bit.ly/1vDDdLq

Words make the portrait. “Zappa” by konstantinek.

Because you can’t come up with it overnight. It takes a bit of planning, thinking, and trying on a few to see how they fit before you choose the right one.

Here are some ways to start choosing words:

1. Write down words you like. You can like the sound or the meaning, or just feel attracted to the word. Write them down without numbering them, scattered across the page, not in any order: Torque, branch, flood, heart, live, thrive, shine. Any words that appeal to you. Do that for at least a day.

2. Around each word, write some words you associate with the word you wrote. Let’s use “torque” as an example. You might write “revolution,” “turn,” “twist.”

Decide if any of those words are interesting for you. Let’s say you like the idea of “turn.” So write a few phrases with the word you like. “Turn around,” or “turn your head,” or even “do a good turn,” and “a turn for the better.” Keep working on word groups and phrases for a day or so.

3. Try out a few words and see if they fit. Do any phrases strike you as important, even if you don’t know why? Do they feel like words you’d love to use a lot? Words that call to you require a fitting session. Write the word on a piece of paper and carry it around for a day. Every time you touch the paper, think if the word fits you.

4. Narrow your words down. Choose a few–no more than three.  Work from there. Talk to your friends about what they think when they hear the word. You might get new ideas. Type it into Google and see what happens.

5. Sleep on it. Put the piece of paper with the word written on it under your pillow. Any interesting dreams? Any ideas or association within an hour of waking up?

The final word has to be rich and deep–something you can chew on for weeks51wed0j1hTL and months.

The Giveaway. Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments, along with the word, when you choose it. You have some time–but not enough to put it off.  On December 15th, I’ll choose one of the comments to win Wild Mind–Living The Writer’s Life a book by writer and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg.

The book is a great addition to your head and heart–how to balance daily responsibility with a commitment to write, coming to terms with success and failure, and how to find time to write.

—Quinn McDonald is choosing her word for next year.

Meaning-Making Books, and Giveaway

Meaning making is an important concept in my life–it is my life’s purpose. Fame, celebrity, happiness, or even a ton of money don’t do it for me, although I enjoy paying bills on time and meeting the mortgage. Past that,  the purpose of my life is making enough meaning to act each day in a meaningful way–and exactly what that is varies over time.

New World Library sent me two books to read and mention:

Life Purpose Boot Camp: The 8-Week Breatkthrough Plan for Creating a Meaningful Life, by Eric Maisel Ph.D.

Hop, Skip, Jump,: 75 Ways to Playfully Manifest a Meaningful Life, by Marney K. Makridakis.

Both of these books tackle meaning making in different (very different) ways. But both of them know that meaning-making exercises are important for your career, your personal growth and your peace of mind. If you want to skip to the giveaway, it’s at the end of the post.

51wHcDzsiUL._SL500_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-big,TopRight,35,-73_OU01_AA300_Life Purpose Boot Camp, by Eric Maisel, Ph.D. New World Library, 172 pages. Maisel uses the boot camp metaphor as a way to rally yourself to your own defense. Maisel was a drill sergeant at one point, and he uses this no-holds-barred, get-yourself-into-action voice throughout the book. After all, it is a boot camp, and it’s time to get up and get busy.

Maisel bases a lot of his logic thread on his “natural philosophy,” his term for the style of atheism he promotes. Some of this is reasonable–Maisel posits there is no “Universe” that blesses or curses you, your fate is in your own hands. So you must focus on what constitutes meaning making.

Maisel writes, “Many things that upset us, sadden us, or make us anxious may not be things that genuinely affect our ability to live our life purposes. If they aren’t, let them go!” The how-to guidance Maisel gives is “. . .to ask yourself, ‘Are these among the circumstances that I can improve?’ If you don’t regularly ask that question, you won’t give yourself the chance to positively affect those circumstances that would allow you to help yourself.” In my opinion, many people are mired in their own disbelief and would not know an honest answer to the questions. If they could answer the question, they may not know what circumstances they should create. But those problems are in the first 80 pages of the book, and the book does give advice.

Maisel also writes,”If one of your life purposes is to write novels, it matters whether anybody is publishing novels and whether anybody is reading novels.  . . . To imagine that we can live our life purposes independent of reality, is well, fantasy.” To keep your meaning together, Maisel suggests a “Meaning Repair Kit” containing a reminder bell, an evaluator thermometer, a personality tap, an aligner level, an investment planner and a reality tester. Again, I find the applications for these devices’ use devoid of soul. Which is exactly the benefit of the existential life Maisel promotes. Oh, and on page 94 he tells you what he wants your life purpose to be. Spoiler alert.

Maisel has a huge fan base and has received only positive reviews (five of them) on Amazon for his book.

Boot Camp Chapter Titles:

  • Creating Your Menu of Meaning Opportunities
  • Creating Your Mix of Meaning Opportunities
  • Upgrading Your Personality
  • Dealing with Your Circumstances
  • Naming Your Life Purpose
  • Creating Your Life Purpose Statement
  • Creating Your Life Purpose Icon and Mantra
  • Living Your Life Purpose

*    *    *    *    *    *
Hop, Skip, Jump, by Marney K. Makridakis. New World Library, 282 pages.51vi7Op-i3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

On the other end of the spectrum is Marney Makridakis, a peripatetic creative who specializes in play, games, puns, jokes, and staying in action through activities that seem like fun. Makridakis, in the introduction, says that manifesting something “you see as being part of your meaningful life” is the likely reason people would read her book. The beginning of the book includes a quiz to help the reader determine if they are hoppers, skippers, or jumpers–different “natural inclinations to manifest.”

In her 282-page book, Makridakis talks about the importance of play, particularly to adults. She includes trivia, haikoodles (haikus that invite doodles) and AcroWhims (acronyms in which existing word functions as a magical abbreviations for a message), and Manifestingrams (an anagram with manifesting powers.

Example of  AcroWhim: PLAY = Purposeful Love, Activating Yes.
Example of Manifestagram: MANIFEST = “Amen” fits!

As with all her books, she brings her whole life into the book–her family, her experiences, her ideas and her thoughts. When you buy one of her books, you get the whole package. You are not required to read the book front to back, you can skip around and find parts that appeal to you. As a sequential reader, I found that reading it from front to back has a purpose–to explore different approaches to fun, find the way that works for you, and manifest meaning through fun.

The book is divided into three parts: Hop, Skip, and Jump. Each have a particular meaning, which she describes in detail.

There will be giveaway and assorted deals on Marney’s website tomorrow, Tuesday, November 11, 2014. To date she has three five-star reviews on Amazon.

Some chapter titles (there are 75 chapters in all):

  • Playfully Pressing Your Reset Button
  • Hopping with Hope
  • Twenty-Eight Magic Minutes
  • Play with Creative Blocks
  • Improvisational Skipping
  • Manifesting Mood Rings
  • The Animation of Everyday Objects
  • Leaving Some of Your Toys Behind

*   *   *   *

The Giveaway: I’m giving away Eric Maisel’s Boot Camp book. It’s not a preference for his book,  it’s practical: I never limit my contest winners to the Americas, and it is easier for me to send the smaller volume overseas, if that’s where the winner lives.

Leave a comment to qualify for the book. The winner will be announced on November 16, Sunday. Check back then to see if you’ve won.

Disclosures: New World Library furnished both books for me to review. Eric Maisel was both an instructor and a coach of mine, both over 10 years ago.

—Quinn McDonald loves to read about meaning-making, including books that are strict, fun, or thoughtful.

Life in Small Details

Maira Kalman’s vision of the world is by turns, quirky, wonderful, intriguing and 24671359absurd. Her 2007 book, The Principles of Uncertainty is her diary of one year in her life. It covers the absurdity of life– p. 122 reads, “Which leads me to my candy collection. The JEWEL of the collection is the CRATCH bar, purchased in Cuba. It sounds like a disease more than a candy trat, and I like to imagine the naming session.”

There are several pages of her collections–egg slicers, suitcases, sponges. She draws them all. The book is really an art journal-each page a full color illustration of some aspect of the day. Some of the pages relate to each other, others do not. Kalman is interested in whether or not people know who they are, an always interesting question.

© Maira Kalman

© Maira Kalman

The simplicity of this post and the depth of what it did and didn’t say, is fascinating.

Go to Google Images and type in her name, you will find dozens of Kalman’s illustrations. The book is both an inspiration and a journal prompt all its own. It’s an autobiography and a diary. Kalman may be the best emotional multi-tasker I know. And a mental magpie, collecting ideas and emotions at random.

kalman-coffee1

© Maria Kalman

What I love most about the book is that she was not afraid to write and illustrate an odd, fascinating, philosophical, funny book that doesn’t fit into a common genre, and, I imagine, defended it to an editor or agent. Still, quirky and odd, the book is 63,500 on the amazon.com list. (The hour I checked.) Compared say, to Kitty Kelly’s book on Oprah, which is 96,100 and two years younger. Or Stephen King’s Carrie, which is ranked at 61,380, and a perennial best-seller.

Why, that gives hope to all of us journalers of details.

Quinn McDonald loves to take a peek at other people’s lives.