15 Minutes of Sharing

There is much to write about, not even sure were to start. I’ll start with a Thank You for all the e-mails this week, it's been a powerful couple of days of reading and responding to the messages.

This past Sunday I ran a race. Monday I shared it with you. Every day since you all have been sharing with me. Sharing is good. Sharing is something we often forget about. Not purposely, it's just that we are not connected enough to share.

One of my favorite things that was shared with me was motivational advice from a daughter to a mother with Devics. The daughter's words were “You can do anything you want for 15 minutes”...I loved it, I loved that a daughter said that to her mother. When your kid gives you advice like that you know you did a good job parenting. I ran into the woods today with those words chorusing in my head. I ran through muddy trails, slipping and slogging along, wanting to stop. I ran. I am thankful to the mother and daughter for sharing with me.

I wrote down the words in Monday’s post: Body, Mind and Soul has an order to it. That phrase resonated with a lot of you and I'm glad for that. When the body goes, we can share in the pain that it causes in the mind and soul, and it does cause pain.

Good health is weird. Do you know anybody in good health? We know lots of people in better states of health, but good heath? Poor health seems to be the natural condition to an evolved society, in a poor society the mosquitoes kill you, in an evolved society it's hidden toxins in our air, water, and food that kills us. It's strange how mysterious illness is.

Health is not mysterious; it is something we need to do in order to stay alive. Period.

You, we (I) can have an illness and be healthy (this is what many of you have shared with me). Placing effort into being healthy is not a hobby or a past-time. It is something we simply do to stay alive. Nothing special.

In times past we would hunt, fish, farm, gather, and build things to stay alive. Today we do not need to do any of those things to stay alive. We do them for pleasure. Staying alive is simply not that hard. We have stores for everything and pills for the rest of our problems...until that day of illness.

No matter what state your physical body is in, placing effort into being healthy is “nothing special”. It is just what we do to stay alive.

My 15 minutes of sharing.....

Bonus Question:
What does abundance mean to you?


Photo(s) of the Week

It's not to often that I share my wedding photography on this blog. To see the complete work you can go to my wife's blog (here) and our main site (here).



Current Reading: We Are All Weird by Seth Godin
Current Music: Becoming a Jackal by Villagers
Mood: Sparse effort
Sounds: Cars, wind, kitchen noise
Smells: Coffee & pancakes
Temperature: 72 degrees
Thoughts: Whatever we see is the way, practice seeing compassion.


Race Day Report

Let's start with the stats...
42 years old, 10K (6.2 Miles), 56 minutes

This was the completion (and the starting point) to a summer of work.

Throughout the race I would say to myself “fueled by Grace”. This mantra came from a conversation I had with an NMO patient (Devics patient) whose name is Grace. I never shared this story with you here. I never seemed to be able to write down the experience, needless to say it was good.

I ran for those who could no longer run, walk or even move much. I ran for those who live with this disease in different stages of progression to show that it could be done. That you could do this...or walk, or jog around the block. In disease as in life it's hard to heal the mind if you do not heal the body first.

Heal the body in whatever manor you can. I know some of you reading this have permanent damage, healing the body has a different meaning for you, different levels for all of us. It may be to stand on your own or walk down the hallway in your house or to walk to the mailbox. Whatever your goal is, go for it...I believe you can achieve it. When you do, share it with others.

The phrase "body, mind and soul" has an order to it. Improvements on the outside will help fix issues on the inside (ponder that grasshopper :)) Ok, so I sound like an infomercial, trust me it will help a lot.

The phrase "body, mind and soul" has an order to it.

Let's talk about the highlights of the race for me.

The last 1/2 mile was euphoric for me. I turned a corner and ran into a wall of people cheering. It felt great. I was high-fiveing little kids, waving to the pretty girls cheering, reading motivational signs and thanking spectators for the encouraging words. I loved it. Every step of it.

Around mile four I saw a young man seated in a wheelchair on the sidewalk clapping for the runners as they go by. This was so incredibly powerful for me to see. This young man had no idea why I was running. In truth I’m running to get as far away from the image of being in a wheelchair myself. Living with Devics or MS, the possibility of ending up in a wheelchair is always an ever-present thought. I sit in my neurologist's waiting room and read about my condition on the internet. The long term prognosis of using my own two feet diminish quickly. At that moment of seeing this young man, I think: as long as I can move my body, I will. In turn my body can heal my mind (sometimes thoughts need to be squashed).

The other highlights of the race for me was the other runners; all different types of people were out running. All ages, all sizes, all with a different purpose. I loved it. I loved being part of the pack.

Future goals: 15K, 1/2 marathon (hopefully I can find trail races. I love running in the forest).

The main goal is to run with a group of Devics and MS patients alongside of me. I would like to travel to different parts of the county and run with Devics/MS people.

Thank you for all the e-mails and facebook messages, they meant a lot to me!

Heart of a servant
Strength of a fighter

In the end what I did was nothing special. 14,000 people showed up and ran and that is the lesson learned. Sometimes doing nothing special feels really good.


The Accomplishment is Achieve...

The accomplishment is achieve in the act of doing...go sweep the floor. Those were the words said to me.

This past weekend I attended my first meditation retreat (sesshin), lots and lots of meditation. I missed out out on Saturday due to having to shoot a wedding. In truth, taking a day off in between days of sitting was a good thing for me. Waiting around doing nothing while waiting for radical nothingness to happen gets a-wee-bit-boring.

The highlight for me was a private interview (daisan) between teacher and student (me) for examining my practice. This was the first time I met the teacher, even the phrase “The Teacher” became a daunting movie-filled imagery of what to expect. I met the teacher, she looked like Mother Teresa without the veil, kind eyes, small features who smiles when she meditates.

The words that she spoke to me were subtle, direct, simple and light (if that can be a descriptive possibility). “You have a gift. So what. You had nothing to do with it.” “Compassion is adjusting the pillow unconsciously while you sleep. Be present.” OK so it was like having a conversation with Yoda and Mother Teresa combined.

Doing the work that I am supposed to being doing. That is what brought me to Zen practice, I tell her, she smiles. “How do you feel?” she asked. “Uncomfortable” I answer. “Good, do the work.” she responded.

Last week I wrote about “No Goal, No Thinking”. I received lots of feedback. It's never the post that you think will get good a response, it's always the sleepers. That's what I call my early morning work: sleepers.

To me the above sentence: The accomplishment is achieve in the act of doing, is the meaning to “No Goal, No Thinking”. This is the work that I feel I am supposed to be doing...to be sharing with you.

I have received many inspirational e-mails from you over this past month. Thank You! They fuel me. I am going to run my first race (10K) Sunday, and I will be filled with the stories that you have shared with me. I dedicate this run to you.

Heart of a servant
Strength of a fighter



Current Reading: The Heart of the Universe by Mu Soenq
Current Music: Sting Live in Berlin
Mood: Ready to run
Sounds: TV, wife on a phone call
Smells: Coffee
Temperature: 66 degrees
Thoughts: We are all simply flickering verbs in this dance we call life...


No Goals, No Thinking....

That’s what I am calling my next motivational speech. Want to come? OK, so I do not not have a motivational speech to invite you to, but who would want to attend something titled that pointless?

This summer has been filled with the greatest successes in my entire life. That's a lot to say. This summer I have surpassed many goals from my past. There was that summer when I started using the potty all by myself, that was good. The summer when I took the training wheels off my bike, hello scraped knees. The summer I learned to drive, the summer I went to college, the summer...OK you get the point; these past months have been good ones. Why you ask?

No goals, no thinking...only purpose.

If you happen to be a daily reader of this blog then you know how the events of this summers have transpired for me. If you are new to the blog, Hi! You can catch up on my life (HERE).

I started off this summer simply being, there was no point of failure for me at any time. If I woke up and placed effort into my day I was a winner. What would I win? The chance to get up and do it again. It was like that movie “Groundhog Day”, madness at times. I turned into a witness of my own life, observing the object self. Very trippy indeed.

A snowball's chance in Hell, that was my summer and the snowball survived. How did the snowball survive? By placing purpose and effort into the moments of now. Never planning beyond...(p.s. I am the snowball, trippy, I told you)

Things arise all around us all the time: the sun, the wind, our thoughts, creative passion and our health. The only thing is, we need to notice them.

That's where things get hard: slowing down, simplifying life to notice. This is where no goal, no thinking, is transformed into a powerful tool.

Let me give you two examples from my own life. The first is taken from a friend on photography advice. In photography my goal is to create something that the human eye cannot see. The advice was to slow down and let the story of now unfold to let the photo arise in the moment of now. Not me creating the moment but by me noticing what is arising and unfolding around us all the time. Good photography advice, great life advice, in turn my ability to see, to take better photos has grown exponentially over this summer. Plus I am a happier photographer to boot because of it.

Second example: health. When I started to up my exercise this summer, instead of hiring a trainer or writing out a must do work out list, I simply went out in my back yard and did pull-ups and push-ups. That was it. No set number, no set reps, no goal, no thinking...simply doing. That went well so next I started walking, then running, then I set a goal and all went to Hell.

The goal was to run a 10K (which I still plan on doing) but my running went from a place of joy, a place that I ran for the experience of running to a place of goal setting, a place of falling short of the goal and a place of thinking and thinking of why and what am I doing wrong.

After three days of rest I had a conversation that would get me back on the path. I sat on the back porch with my Uncle telling him about my summer. Telling him how I set out every day with no goals, only purpose. He looked at me and said "Quit thinking too. Thinking just slows you down. You ask too many unanswerable questions when you think."

So I took his advice.

I entered the woods this past week and ran further and faster then ever before.

I ran to notice what was arising...it felt great, I was back.

Lesson learned: Mindfulness is being aware of what is arising. No goal, no thinking needed, purpose and effort is all that is required.

Do the work.


Feel More, Hurt Less

Ten years...has it been that long?

A radical reversal will never happen so I sit in radical nothingness counting my breaths. Meditation (zazen) seems like the right thing to do, to offer to the world.

Sunday morning I awake to blue skies for the first time in days. The rain has left the skies.

Shower, coffee, stretching and out the door. The streets are empty, few cars, no people, all is still except for the birds. The birds litter the streets and sidewalks, they mull around in groups. Today even the birds don’t want to be in the sky.

I stop to buy coffee and the place is empty, one girl behind the counter woken out of her daydream by me asking for a dark roast.

I drive.

Music sounds better today. The melodies are healing. Art serves, I will never stop saying this.

Baptism by fire; if you didn't believe that day you never will.

The Sunday following that day, I stood in front of a congregation with a guitar in my arms and I played. In times of war send the musicians in first. The look on the congregation's faces were blank, numb without hope. The music affected all of us. It gave us back our breath.

Music never sounded the same as it did that morning. We choked back the tears as we played. We gave each other hugs between songs, we bowed down.

A radical reversal will never happen, we must live with this.



Current Reading: Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell
Current Music: So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter by Ani DiFranco
Mood: Concerned
Sounds: Washing machine
Smells: Coffee & Toast
Temperature: 75 degrees
Thoughts: Nothing Special - Get good at it.


Zen Is Not Spiritual

This summer I made the commitment to study and experience Zen. I wanted to put down the books and do the work that I have been reading about for so long. So far this is what I learned.

Zen is not spiritual.

Christianity is spiritual. The surrender, the worship, the not knowing, the afterlife, Heaven, Hell, the giving it all over to Jesus, the confession of sins, communion.

Zen is not spiritual at all, at least not yet, for me. Ten years I have read the works of Gary Snyder, Ken Wilber, John Daido Loori and Thich Nhat Hanh. These guys made Zen come alive for me. The pages read of Satori, the awakening mind, the collectiveness of Nirvana and inner peace found by following your own breath. Mindfulness!

Zen is not spiritual...it is nothing special, nevertheless there is something there.

Getting good at “Nothing Special” has evolved into a mantra of my own this summer. Do the work for the sake of doing the work. There is nothing special in that, yet there is something worth exploring, something worthy to add to life, to thoughts, to action.

Why? Nothing Special is the secret to touching spirituality, the fingerprint of God. Sounds like a phrase to spray on a t-shirt “nothing special" on the front and on the back "Zen is not spiritual".

Can being good at nothing special be the key to ultimate awareness? The new tagline for this blog is health, creativity, life, simplicity. All of these are nothing special. If you think about it, it's what we are suppose to do: be healthy to live, create something to partake in, life-whatever that is-is the journey we all share, and simplicity-who we are outwardly as who we are inwardly, taking off the mask and putting down the persona.

Last night as I walked out of the Zendo and to my car with cool wet air blowing in my face, a stranger walked by me and said “Good evening mate”. I think about my cousin and the news that she will receive today, I hope it's good. I get in my car and turn the music up loud and drive slowly through the college town roads trying my best not to hit the late night runners. I get home and place my hand on my sleeping daughter to feel her breath rising in her belly slowly and letting out of the belly slowly. I pour myself a glass a wine, I sit at the computer to write.

Zen is not spiritual.


Photography Side Projects

I have not been doing much of my photography side projects as of late.

My “Ambient Art” series has come to a close, 5yrs in creating that body of work. Time to step away, bring it to a close and move towards a new subject. The Ambient series has been an important creative outlet. Side projects make me a better photographer on game day.

It seems lately every time I have a conversation or read about photography the subject moves towards taking lots and lots of photos of a single subject and or theme. Simply press down on the shutter and rattling off 8 shots per second and then edit to select the best.

I’ve struggled with the idea that photography is a volume sport. Intentionally creating a photo is where it's at for me, not spraying through volumes of photos to pick the best.

I do understand that this is a personal process for the photographer on how they choose to create. I need to be quiet and selective before pressing the shutter. Creative moments live in the breath for me, not in the aftermath.

This brings me to a new side project and I am considering putting some time into: Abstract Wind is the project that I’ll be working on. I have this vision of capturing patterns in the wind, provided by dust, leaves, debris, cloud patterns and birds. This project has me bowing down to Mother Nature and shooting quick to capture as many frames as possible to find that perfect line and form that I wish to capture. So, I argue with myself on that maybe photography can be a volume sport.

It comes down to how you wish to "Do The Work". In the end the creative process is only about doing the work, those who wait for inspiration.....wait.


Heart & Strength Interview Series w/ Johnna Swilley-Lewis

Today I started a new series in which I highlight people living with Devics and/or MS who live life strong. Please let me introduce you to Johnna Swilley-Lewis, a small business owner living in Fort Smith, Arkansas who is living with Devics.

What prompted me to ask Johnna to do this interview with me is that she is a runner. I am looking for people to inspire me to push myself in my life with Devics/MS. Johnna did that for me. Thank you Johnna.

My goal is to show people that you can live well with a disease by placing “purpose and effort” into your life (not simply waiting for medicine to work, but by “you” the individual being proactive). I have personally opted out of taking medicine for my journey with Devics/MS. In no way in this interview do I wish to sway people on their medicine, that is personal decision. I do hope to shed light on the idea that we can have control over our health.

You call yourself the “crazy blind running fool”. What level of blindness are you at? How do you compensate when running being visually impaired?

My optic neuritis has not taken all of my sight, just the ability to focus.

I have a BIG mastiff "Hoss"(dog) who runs with me. At 225 lbs he is quite a deterrent and being the gentle giant that he is I feel safe. I also run with a local group.

My Opthamologist is awesome. He has seen me through a lot, especially the day that came last March when we realized I couldn't see the "BIG E " on the eye chart, which brings me to my favorite quote. "We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot."

You have a goal of running a 1/2 marathon next March. What challenges will Devics/MS place on you during your training?

Currently I am recovering from an achilles tendon tear, after rehab I will start training for a 1/2 marathon in March and with luck a marathon in April. Don't get me wrong , I realize I have to "reason" with "my Devics" from time to time and take a break.

(***Editor Note***) (After reading Johnna's e-mails prior to posting this interview, she inspired me to sign up for my 1st 10k to be held on the 9/25).

How has the practice of alternative medicine influenced your life? (I love the word practice, people need to think about their health as a practice)

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thoughts to derive benefit from his illnesses - Hippocrates. I truly believe this, therefore I practice it. I do understand that Alternative Medicine is just that: alternative.

My journey began in 1986 and just like most has been the same. It started at a Rheumatologist, Neurologist, Pulmonologist and a lot of other "ologists". For me Western Meds made my personal situation worse, I was labeled "uncompliant" and even "crazy". I went as far as to get a Psych eval. Either way I HAVE DEVICS, IT DOES NOT HAVE ME! I have a vitamin regamen I follow that was prescribed and adjusted as needed by my Chiropractor, who is a Dr. of Naturopathy. Also, he has my MRIs and is well aware of my situation. I see him weekly. I also use a Massage therapist who specializes in reflexology.

What is your philosophy on living with Devics/MS?

I apologize to no one for the way I choose to face Devics, I OWN my life and until the time comes and I have to give it over to God I will plant my feet or whatever I have available to me and be a force to be reckoned with. I am the "crazy blind runner".

I am the "crazy blind runner". Thank you so much John for letting me share my story with you. God Bless