On Shadow and Perseverance

Yesterday morning I’m sitting in my back yard on a small cement patio at wire meshed bistro table. It’s 9:00. It’s sunny. Skies are blue. It’s 70 degrees, and on its way to the mid 90s. I’m being quite slow in pace, welcoming a quiet Sunday morning. I have coffee. I’m listening to and watching sparrows and robins fly in and out two larger trees, and hopping on the ground. I’ve just had a spontaneous, fun, and nourishing FaceTime call with a friend, who also was in a slow Sunday. Ah, there’s something great about this pace. It’s not that way every Sunday.

While talking with my friend, I’m noticing this clump of weed / grass growing through a crack in the sidewalk. I’ve been away for much of the month, so I’m just kind of refamiliarizing myself with my yard. Again, glad for this slowed pace.

First, this weed clump impresses me — what grows through cracks is rather impressive. I’ve put in a fair amount of effort to remove such weeds. So, I’m a bit disgruntled to see the weeds back. But, pause…, I’ve always been impressed by what grows in the cracks of sidewalks, roads, and rocky mountain slopes. This bit of weed is really in full splendor. I’m loving, for the moment, it’s perseverance.

Second, I’m drawn to the shadow. The sun has now more fully risen above neighboring buildings. It’s shining through the mesh bistro table and chairs. It’s shining through this weed and grass clump. It has a beauty to it. I’m not surprised. But I am wowed in the moment. I’m quite drawn in to the detail of projected shadow onto this little bit of cement patio.

Ah, now for the freedom to wander in the way that I so enjoy. On a Sunday. Well, on most days. Outer gives access to inner. Inner shapes what we see in outer. The moment of now gives access to the longer arc. The longer arc feeds what we see in the now.

I’m drawn to what I perceive in this clump of weed for its persistence. And for its beauty. In short, I seek such persistence and beauty in myself. I seek to meet others in their version of persistence and beauty, whatever that version is, and whatever the complex mixing is of different versions. We humans, we all seek to be seen in some way, and to see others with an eye of beauty. This is the work of humans together — I would suggest it is more of the “how” that so many of us seek in being together.

I’m drawn to the image of shadow for its intricate detail. It too is rather beautiful. Oh, for any of us to look upon shadow with a certain kind of awe for its beauty. That shadow in us. The shadow in others. The shadow in us as a group. I’ve done a fair amount of shadow avoiding in my time. And I continue to learn to normalize the encounter so as to engage it with more kindness and learning. Shadow in self and in others can be tended, can be received with a certain kind of beauty, and, it’s arising is as sure as the sun coming over neighboring buildings onto this cement patio.

I’m glad for some slow pace to see things quickly. On a Sunday. With coffee. Following FaceTime with a friend.



Road Trip

That’s Shadow. He’s 13 and a half. He is a Lab / Retriever mix. He’s the kind of dog that follows you around from room to room. Dutifully. Lovingly. Great to project, isn’t it.

These days, that following isn’t so quickly. He isn’t so spry as, say, five years ago. Shadow lumbers up and down the stairs. He remains the kind of dog that sits next to someone if they are sad — I’ve seen it many times. Dog’s seem to know, don’t they.

Shadow hasn’t had many road trips in his days. In fact, yesterday was his first that exceeded 20 miles. Yesterday I drove from Lindon, Utah to Cedar City, Utah (225 miles). My 11 year-old and his friend were in the back seat. Shadow in the front on the floor, but here, enjoying a stop for gas.

Yes, he did enjoy a bit of head out the window with ears flapping in the wind. I wonder what he was thinking.

No big story to tell here today. Just the happiness I felt in the uniqueness of this road trip moment. And gratitude for this canine companion who has been with me through a lot of big stories over the last 13 years.

Presentation of Learning

My friend Quanita Roberson has an annual commitment. She asks people to share their “presentation of learning.” It’s anywhere from 10-30 minutes of reflecting on what has been important over the last year. No right answers. No wrong. Just what was important. Quanita does some in person — people gathered in her home to share over an evening together. She does some of it virtually — recording a shared screen through Zoom.

This weekend Quanita and I met for a reflecting back on 2016. She was asking me for mine. She’ll be posting that soon on her site. However, in the mean time, I had a peek at the “presentation” I shared with her two years ago. It’s a 25 minute video that includes these themes:

  • Popping to a new resonance together / the composite being that is a group, whether two, twenty, or more.
  • Saying no to good things / relationship to time and the courage it takes to discern and say, no.
  • In anything is the everything / connection of energy and opportunity. I learn this particularly with my friend Roq Gareau.
  • Nothing less that who you really are / radical honesty. Quanita is one who calls this out.
  • Things you can’t not do / lessons learned from my dog Shadow.
  • Hunger for essence and simplicity / be honest, be clear, be real.

I don’t like the camera angle that has me looking down and away at my notes, but it was my own doing. I’ve always been one who learns and integrates best with a visual reference and a few notes, from which I then just try to speak extemporaneously. The content stirred me up again today — realizing some of where I am two years later.

I’m grateful for friends like Quanita who insist on learning.

The Gift of Projection


It’s Psych 101 material to learn about projection. The act of overlaying personal inner thought (attribution, motive, sense-making, fear, accusation, etc.) to another person’s behavior or thought. That person must be butting in line because he wants to get ahead of the others. Surely, right? Oops, it turns out that he was meeting his aging mother in the line and he was returning from parking the car so that she wouldn’t have to walk far. Oh, umm, right.

Projection is a concept you can learn in five minutes, but then you deepen that learning and awareness for a lifetime. A bit like juggling. My friend Chris (that’s him above from eight years ago) has demonstrated a few times teaching someone to juggle in such a short time. But you know there is no ceiling on how much more refined and complicated your juggling can become. So it is with projection also. It’s not whether you project that is the question for most of us. It’s how much and how aware can we become of the nuancing of our projections. That’s not 101. It’s likely not 505 either. That’s wizard school.

In a recent aha of learning my own projections (which, in a way, I wanted to deny), I stumbled into them through personal journalling. I was writing in the most honest way that I could, my assessment of someone that I’m close to but have been really feeling frustrated about. I wrote down a bunch of stuff. My story. My perceptions. “She doesn’t appreciate me.” “She is not committed.” “She is abandoning our work together.” “She is distracted by other things.”

It could be that what I wrote was true. In some way, I’m sure it all was. But my writing wasn’t for the purpose of completely clarifying that truth. It wasn’t about reduction. Some things, regardless of our great efforts, are meant to remain at least, some part, mystery.

My writing didn’t stop there. With each of the statements, the inner thoughts that I was overlaying on this person, I challenged myself to turn the projection onto me. It doesn’t mean that the first assessments weren’t right. It just means that there is more territory that is helpful to explore. Caitlin Frost is one of my key teachers in this area — her work with Byron Katie is brilliant and very thoughtful. Is there a part of ME that doesn’t appreciate her (the one I was writing about)? Is there a part of ME that is not committed? Is there a part of ME that is abandoning or wants to abandon our work together? Is there a part of ME that is distracted by too many other things?

The answers to these questions for me were clear. Of course, there was a part of me that was all of that. Not “maybe.” Not, “well, I’d have to stretch really hard to find it.” It was obvious. Duh! Yes.

Now, I’m not sure everybody goes to that layer of truth telling in public or in private journalling. It takes a unique ability to be in the multiplicity of views, seeing and owning partial truth in all of the complexity. It definitely takes more than a yes / no orientation. Binary doesn’t work in projection work (though, in truth, I recognize there is a part of me that would be comforted by such binary simplicity).

So, aha. There was some important clarity for me. And not reformed from malice. Oops, it turns out there is a part of me that can relate to wanting to cut to the front of the line. There is also a part of me that relates to wanting to take care of the aging people in my life. And there is a part of me that relates to feeling a bit embarrassed, but still going for it, hoping others will understand when I go right to the front of the line.

Can you see the kicker in this? For me, any of the projections that I so conveniently blanket on to others, are already in me. All of them. Not just the flattering things. But just some of the ugly, bitchy things. This doesn’t mean I’m always any of those things. I’m not always an ass. But if I’m honest, I can relate to being an ass, or even wanting to be sometimes.

The gift of projection is that it creates gateway to seeing more of our interiors — this applies to groups seeing more of their interior also — and more of the internal, often impulse sense-making brains that we have. It’s impressive, right. In seeing those interiors, and in recognizing the “all of that is in me too” parts, ugly, shadowy projections can transform into massive gift of clarity and compassion.

From 101 to wizard school — projections.