Thursday, February 23, 2012

A key to success by Alexander DCD

We are all aware of keys in life.  We are always unlocking something in ourselves or others.  One of the themes in most people's lives is success.  It starts with learning to do the basics.  We, hopefully, succeed in learning ways to convey ourselves through life - rolling, crawling, walking running.  We must succeed in learning how to nourish ourselves.  Eventually we learn how to cook, shop, grow food but first we must succeed in getting food into our bodies.

Next would probably be communication.  A baby succeeds at getting the attention it needs by squacking or crying if it is in some kind of discomfort.  Eventually it learns words or signs if they are mute.  If they are deaf they must succeed at learning to read lips and sign language.  A blind child must learn braille.

After we succeed at the basics then we deal with more complex concepts of success. Transportation/conveyance - riding a skateboard, skiing, rollerblades or driving a car.  Communication - using a telephone, a computer, ART!  And of course success in a career.

Alexander hits the nail on the head with this piece.  Success takes dedication, conscious or unconscious. The baby is dedicated to succeeding in getting the attention it needs.  It does not stop making noise and/or moving until an older, more developed human notices and comes to the baby's aid.  The five-year old wanting to ride a bicycle will suffer bruises, cuts and sore muscles until they have achieved that perfect combination of motion and balance.  The college student who gives up a party to study so they see that Suma Cum Laude next to their name in the graduation program.  The eighty-year old who sits with their laptop until they succeed at sending that photo of their grandchildren to a friend via email.    Each of these people at each step in their lives have committed, dedicated themselves to the task at hand.  If they lose focus, drive or ambition they are no longer dedicated and even if they do not fail, they will not succeed in completing the task to its fullest end.

You can learn more about Alexander DCD and watch more videos on his YouTube channel, on his blog and on his official website .

Monday, February 20, 2012

Shannon Shiang - the "key master" and so much more

It's late Sunday morning in a sunny Manhattan apartment in Tribeca, a few blocks from Chinatown.  Joined by "the committee" of two Siamese and a black long-hair cat, I sat down to chat with Shannon Shiang, owner of Shiang New York and Skins & Stones jewelry studios where she creates stunning work.  She is also an active member of various art tribes throughout the country, is concerned about the environment and the plight the oppressed.  Immediately I could feel that Ms. Shiang was a genuine and kind spirit.

The conversation started with taking her art to the level of collaborating.  As artists we tend to be very protective of our own work.  It is a delicate balance if and when we choose to share our craft.  Within the communities Shannon is a member of, they mentor, encourage and nurture others, especially those new to tapping into their creativity.  The trust within these groups is strong and has resulted in amazing works, helping her to make this step. She shared with me the first jewelry collaboration she did with Hans Haveron, the scarab pendant.  The work is beautiful and opened the door for all the other work she has done with him.  She also showed me a sketch for an upcoming project she is doing with John Park.  Park has teamed with Haveron on several murals so this choice made sense.

The discussion faded in and out of the tribes subject.  Arts community gatherings play important roles in Shiang's life.  She is an avid "burner" and also attends Lightning In Bottle.  The events prove to be inspirational, spiritually refreshing and an opportunity to stretch her own talent while helping others do the same.  This year, Shannon chose to use her art to create a talisman for the camp she is a member of at Burning Man.  It is a key that depicts the Burning Man logo as the pupil of the Eye of Inner Vision.  The key unlocks that sight.  Shiang also gifted keys to other attendees who were positive and shared goodwill.

Burning Man was also where "Sepia's Key" first appeared. Shannon, inspired by Haveron's painting and Adam Lambert's tattoo created the first prototype which she shared with both men on The Playa. A copy was gifted to Sauli Koskinen, Lambert's partner. She and Hans then began the process of working out what will become the final product that will be available for purchase very soon.  Sadly, since the announcement of the project, a knock-off of the pendant has turned up on eBay.  Both artists hope that people will note that this is not their work and will wait to purchase the real one.  This situation has affected the release date of their keys that they were hoping to coincide with the release of Lambert's sophomore album, "Trespassing".  The Skins & Stones timeline has been moved up and the first batch of keys should be available very soon.  Note that the approved pendants will bear both the Skins & Stones and Haveron Studios logos.

The "Skins and Stones" line is the more organic line and the one where all her collaborative work can be found while Shiang New York designs is more stylized and inspired by sacred symbolism.  One piece in particular draws from Tibetan Buddhism. A dog tag that depicts the sacred mandala that the monks use for meditation and spiritual healing was designed and is being sold to raise funds for Free Tibet, a non-profit that is very dear to Ms. Shiang.  One of my personal favorite pieces from this line is the Phoenix necklace which Shannon was wearing.  In a follow-up email Sunday night, she shared to whole legend with me. Like most people I knew the part about the old phoenix self-immolating only to have the new bird rise from the ashes.  However, I did not know that the old phoenix builds a nest of cinnamon twigs that also burns.  Also that those ashes are encased in an egg of myrrh, that the young phoenix deposits it in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis.

To learn more about Shannon Shiang visit Shiang New York, Skins & Stones, follow her on Twitter or friend her on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The key to your heart

Forgive me. Somehow I missed my own timing on this one.  It was intended to be posted yesterday.

Valentine's Day.  Although a "Hallmark holiday" is a day when we are focused on letting those we love know in the form of gifts, cards, meals that they are important to us, special.  Of course we should be doing that every day and honestly, I'm one for spotaneous romanticism.  I much prefer flowers, delivered to the office, for no reason at all.  But that's not the point of this post.

One of the many analogies of romantic love is "giving the keys to your heart".  I never really thought about that phrase much until I started writing this key series.  The first thing that came to mind was a conversation with a former lover about happiness.  I had said something to the effect that this person made me happy and that I would be incredibly sad without them.  The response floored me.  Instead of thanking me for the compliment, he said that he never wanted that much responsibility in anyone's life.  He went on to explain that we should all be capable of creating our own invidual happiness with a love interest merely putting an extra shine on the happiness we had already found and maintained on our own.

Being single for ten years now, I completely understand what my lover meant.  I have not only achieved my own happiness, I have found joy and peace.  As much as I would love to be in a romantic relationship, I have established an entirely new circle of friends that stretches from New York City, to Chicago and now to Los Angeles without traveling any farther than a three hour drive.  These people, with their arts, talents and spirituality have filled my life with so much vibrance, inspiration and blessing.  When I am interacting with them, either face-to-face, over the phone or on-line the colors of our friendships are brighter and just more but when I am alone, that joy and love is still there.  The flame is a softer one and warm instead of strikingly hot but I am genuinely happy.

So what about the keys to my heart.  I've always been able to unlock my own emotions and set them free.  I've never been one to actively look for "the one" who can open me up but some people have come along that have shown me new "rooms" within myself.  Sometimes it does take someone new to release emotions, spiritual ideals or creativity.  But are they the only ones who can do that?  Maybe it's possible that they were one of many who had those particular keys on their ring.  There maybe others that have them too.  The thing is, and here is the wisdom being unlocked, you already had those keys on your ring from day one so when or if that person leaves your life, you can unlock those doors yourself.  We all know deep down that no matter how badly the relationship ended and how much it hurts to revisit parts of ourselves, eventually the hurt subsides and we remember the lessons learned and realize that there are places we want or need to go back to, good things that we desire even without that person there to share them.  We never forget where those rooms are and most of us probably poked around at them while we were healing from the break-up it just hurt too much at the moment to actually open them.

A personal story about the rooms in my heart and in my spirit that I slammed shut and then boarded over years later in a different relationship.  I ended up with someone that was so different from me that I moved into the basement of my heart and soul, leaving creativity and spirituality in the bright sunny rooms on the main floor and in the attic.  I spent 20 years bending and shaping myself into someone so far from my real self trying to make this person happy.  When I think about it now...I never had the keys to his heart and nothing on his ring fit the doors of mine.  Instead of opening me up, he shut me down. When I finally walked away from that relationship, I came upstairs from the basement.  I threw open every single door and fountains of color and beauty poured from every one.  Yes, some of the objects in those rooms had collected dust so I cleaned them off and opened all the curtains.  Then I kept going up to the attic; the home of all my quirks and excentricities.  Old dress forms, cheval mirrors, giant bird cages and my grandmother's evening gowns all waiting for my return.  Yes, I did reconnect with an old lover during this process and he opened a door or two but mostly he stood by and watched me open them with my own keys.  And when my new found energy proved too much for him, he left.  I was sad but I didn't shut those doors.  In fact some of them wouldn't close if I tried.

The points are these.  First, don't ever think that someone else is the sole bearer of the keys to any part of you.  Yes, revel in the joy when that person does unlock something in you but remember that if that door gets closed at some point down the road, YOU have a key to it too.  Second, don't ever give away your keys.  Don't lay the responsibilty of your joy, your peace and your love on any one person.  It's not a compliment.  And in reverse, don't feel that you are special if that person claims you are the owner of their keys.  That is a dependent relationship and if you both are doing it, it's co-dependency and that is a sick, dysfunctional relationship that will poison the people in it and anyone close to it.

The next time you put on a piece of jewelry or clothing that depicts a key, think about it this way...that is YOUR key.  You own it for life.  Don't give it away.  Sure, you can let others use their keys but always remind yourself that when those people are far away and you want to feel, create, pray, whatever and the door got closed for one reason or another YOU!! can unlock it.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The key of simplicity

About ten years ago a friend of mine dropped a very interesting phrase into my spirit; "Life isn't easy but it should be simple. If it's not simple, then simplify it."  A few years after that I had a revelation about a bible verse that always gave me hope.  St. Paul said that God will never give you more than you can handle.  The revelation was, that if you can't handle it then God didn't give it to you.  Which means that either someone handed it off to you because they didn't want to deal with it or you took it from them out of sympathy or frustration.

No, life is not easy.  Children are born.  People die.  Jobs and money come and go.  House burn down.  Cars crash.  Friends move away.  There are floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes and every other form of natural disaster.  These are normal things that humanity has to deal with.  Definitely not easy.  However, dealing with these things can be simplified.

The age of technology has brought good and bad with it.  The good, for example, in the case of an impending weather related disaster, is to inform the people how to prepare, give evacuation information and provide updates from rescue and repair organizations.  Unfortunately the TV, radio and internet also throw in things to increase fear levels, broadcast incorrect information and generally make things worse.  When facing a disaster, keep it simple.  Prepare your home, make sure there is sufficient food, batteries, candles, communication devices.  If told to leave, pack necessities quickly and orderly.  Follow the prescribed exit routes.  DON'T PANIC!.  When it is over and the "all clear" is sounded, return in as orderly a fashion as you left.  Take stock in the condition of your own property.  If it requires assistance, follow the procedures to secure the resources needed.  If you, your family and their residences are sound then move on to offer your help to your neighbors or organizations who are supply aid.  Follow directions.  Put in a full day's work without complaint.  Don't take on other people's issues if they are capable of handling them themselves.

Probably one of the most impressive examples of simplicity under pressure is the Japanese after the earthquakes last  year.  One of the most telling photos was of school children within a week after the devastating trembler, walking to school...through rubble that included a large freighter (ship) that had washed miles inland.  The people knew that life had to continue after this disaster.  They immediately set to work clearing roads, finding shelter and getting people fed.  The lines at gas stations were long but people waited in them patiently, knowing that pushing, shoving, swearing and fighting was not going to make the situation any better or go any faster.

Simplicity isn't needed just in the case of a huge event.  It can be brought into your day-to-day living.  Accept your current lot in life.  That's not to say that you have to accept staying in your job, living in your house, or driving your car.  You can work towards something better or different but don't pile all manner of unnecessary stress, complications and negativity on it.  Go to work with a positive attitude.  Simply do your job.  Come home and seek out a new occupation, taking any set-backs in stride and moving forward.  Keep your home simple.  Do you need a wall full of chachkies collecting dust?  Does your bedroom require three dressers, a chest-on-chest and an armoire?  Does your fridge have to have French doors, an ice maker, AND a water tap on the door?  Worse, does your fridge need a built in smart screen?  Is there a reason for the 80" plasma, HD, flatscreen with Surroundsound in your living room?  Again, don't take on other people's issues.  Life is not a competition.  He who dies with the most toys wins...NOTHING!

Simplicity's place in wisdom is a large one.  Simplifying allows you a clearer view of the whole picture.  It gives you the ability to organize and prioritize.  It opens your mind and spirit of clutter that bogs you down and slows or even prevents progress.  It is one of the critical character traits of the inner child.  So look at your life and start simplifying.