“I’m happy because I sing”

I don’t sing because I’m happy,
I’m happy because I sing.
———————-William James

Charles Darwin thought that human beings sang before they developed language. Of course, Darwin was thinking about evolution. Which came first, the music or the words. Darwin’s answer was the music.

Steven Pinker, in his seminal book The Language Instinct, writes that language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution. He argues against linguistic determinism because, if people do not have a word for something, they will invent one.

I used to believe in Linguistic Determinism, which was a very popular idea when I was a student. The idea, in a nutshell, is that the structure of language directs the thought process. Therefore, some thoughts would be unthinkable in certain languages. Some of the strongest proponents of this idea were Benjamin Lee Whorfand and Edward Sapir whose names are used in the term “The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis” which is the theory that language forms thought. I’ve changed my mind to thought forms language. If we needed a word for something, we would simply create one, as evidenced by all the new computer related terms we now use fluently as if they always existed.

There are two intriguing ideas here.

One is that thought has as much to do with the way music works as it does with the way language itself works. The structure of music is, at its basic root, the tension-resolution system. A tension sets up a dynamic that strives to move toward a resolution. Poet Robert Frost had a notion he called sound sense – that the sound of the language communicated as much or more than the words. To prove his point to a friend, once walking in a field in England, he called over some gobbledygook to a distant farmer that sounded like “Good morning. How are you?” The farmer shouted back, “Fine, and how are you?” Frost was showing how the sound itself carried some of the meaning that communicates content.

There is the antecedent-consequential phrase, which is a form of the tension-resolution system. This is the question-answer, or statement-comment on statement phrase. How are you? Fine, thank you. I love cabbage. Really? I hate cabbage. The tension is formed by the question or statement, followed by the resolution, the answer or comment.

This same structure is at the foundation of the creative process. Tension is followed by resolution. In the form of structural tension, a vision of the desired state combined with an understanding of the current state (if there is a difference) generates a tension, which motivates action to resolve the tension by creating the desired state, ending the difference. You have created your vision.

Now the second intriguing idea is I’m happy because I sing. Let me expand the word “sing” to the word “create.” Most of our society has the impression that we will be happy once we get what we want. In the arts, there is a built in understanding that the creative process itself, brings a type of involvement in which you feel alive, even happy, often even happy when things are going in the wrong direction. Happiness is not the goal. Creating a desired outcome is. Happiness is a by-product. I’m happy BECAUSE I sing is not singing for the sake of being happy, but singing for the sake of the song, itself.

New Year’s Resolutions

I was on my monthly video conference with a group of our Japanese students the other day, and one of them asked, “Robert, what New Year’s resolutions have you made?” “None,” was my answer. Then there was one of those golden moments where you could hear the gasps and laughs as a new thought began to settle in. I went on to explain. Most New Year’s resolutions have the subtext of “I promise to be a better person this coming year than last year.” So the resolutions are based, not on true aspirations or values, but corrections to what is seen as bad behavior.

I went on to say to the group, “I promise not to be a better person this coming year as last year!” Now that’s a resolution I can keep.

Most New Year’s resolutions that people make are forgotten by February. It’s not because they lack sincerity when they make them. It is that they have the same structural dynamics that all problem solving has. The motivation is to overcome or rid yourself of a problem.

The intensity of the problem leads to action. The function of the action is to reduce the emotional conflict that the problem generates. More conflict, more action, leads to less conflict, leads to less future action.

You go to the gym a few times and the emotional conflict about being a couch potato is reduced. You begin to feel better about it all. The conflict is reduced. The motivation to continue is weakened, which leads to missing a few visits to the gym. That is followed by some guilt about not following through with what you said you would do. That creates its own sense of emotional conflict, especially if you have your identity tied up with it all.

The old pattern of breaking your promises to yourself translates to “You are a weak loser who can’t even make it to the gym to support your own health and well-being.” Well… Happy New Year!

People in this structure begin strong. They lose weight, achieve their goal, but then celebrate by gorging junk food at McDonalds. Professionals who offer lifestyle changes involving exercise or diet know that there is an explosion of interest in January, which fades by March 1.

What to do? Think in terms of what you want to create rather than what you want to change. You can solve all of your problems and still not create what you want. Creating is different from problem solving.

It’s not to say that problem solving has its place. But if it becomes a way of life, you are in an orientation that can’t lead you to what you want to create in life.

One more thing. You don’t have to be a better person than you are. You are just fine, exactly as you are. You may want to create wonderful things in your life. But that’s not a matter of how you define yourself. It is a matter of creating your aspirations, which is the highest expression of the human spirit.

Trying to Justify Your Life

Many people are in the bad habit of judging themselves against how much they have done during the day, or the week, or up to that point in their lives. They have tied their identity to accomplishment. There are a few variations on this theme. One has to do with the notion of justifying your existence.

The idea is pretty simple. You have no value in-and-of yourself. So, to make up for that fact by trying to compensate by achieving worthwhile deeds. If you have done enough for the day, you can go to bed with the comfortable notion that the day was not wasted, you did enough to make it okay that you’re running around the planet.

But, if you haven’t done enough, well, that’s another story. You will stay up fretting about your lack of accomplishment, your waste of time, your failure to pay for that day’s existence. You promise yourself that tomorrow will be different, and mentally you list all the great things you’re going to do, some of which are to make up for today’s failure, some of which are to justify tomorrow’s existence.

You have created or adopted a myth, one all of us are feed from the time we are toddlers. That we have a job in life, and that is to achieve something of value. We are praised if we succeed and criticized if we fail. We learn to take it personally.

Success or failure takes on a specific meaning. We are good or bad depending on our level of accomplishment. This myth can be so ingrained in us that it goes without saying. The myth becomes an invisible assumption, one we may hold, but one that we do not know we are holding.

Perfectly wonderful people can feel deep-seated guilt while they have done nothing wrong. They simply think they haven’t done enough. Of course, soon there is a backlog of things they haven’t done and times they haven’t done enough, and this feeling that there is something wrong with them infiltrates their lives.

Do you try to define yourself by your accomplishments?

Do you think you are a better person if you succeed, and not as good a person if you fail?

Do you think that you have a mission in life, but that you don’t know what it is and, therefore, you are not living up to it?

Do you feel you do have a mission in life, but you aren’t doing enough to fulfill it?

Do you feel you need to do more than you do?

If any of these questions have a “yes” answer, you are putting a burden on yourself that comes from misconceptions you have picked up somewhere along the way in your life.

It doesn’t matter where you may have taken on these concepts. What matters is that you have adopted them and think they are true, which they are not. Concepts are not reality. The creative process happens in reality.

The essence of structural tension is rather simple: What do you want to create? Where are you now in relationship to that outcome? What actions do you need to take to accomplish that outcome? Notice that the answers to these questions have no place for your self-concept or any other type of concept.

Cheers, Robert

The Spirit of Creating

When I was in the music business, often there would come a time, especially playing with great musicians, that something magical would happen, something, that if you named it, could vanish in an instant. You would watch it, feel it, know it was there, but, somehow, you knew not to acknowledge it, because the moment you did, you would spook it and it would be gone.

Many creators have this experience. And for a long time I thought it was evoked by the creative moment, that it was the luck of the muse, that it was from the act of making music together, the interaction, the way a great musician can blow the minds of the other musicians, who then reciprocate by exploding into new and greater heights.

Now, after all these years, I’ve come to a different conclusion than the one I had as a musician. The spirit of the creative process can come at any time, all the time, in fact. It does not have to be evoked, nor does it have to feel like magic. Rather, it is sensed as doing something real, something authentic, something fantastic yet ordinary at once.

Because there is such a dramatic power in the act of spontaneous improvisation, it was easy for me to think that playing music induced the spirit, since you need to be focused at every moment to play. That alone generates electricity. And then, when the musicians are playing something you’ve never heard before, could never even imagine before they played it, well, it can have that energy that is not unlike being around the birth of a child. Something new has entered the world.

But spirit can take many forms and have a wide range of expressions. It can be there in the quiet moments when you are working out just the right words for a blog. It can be there when you are working your tail off to develop a business idea or reach a market. It can be there when you’re not looking but while your mind is creatively inventing a new process to accomplish an outcome you are working to create. And, as I’ve come to learn, it does not spook easily.

And you might think, how do I know if the spirit is there if it can be expressed in so many ways? By contrast. When it is not there, you feel like you’re going through the motions, but without involvement, without connection, without care. Perhaps another way to say this is without love.

In the creative process, love is generative in that we can love the creation before it exists. As I’ve said in the past, the filmmaker loves the film before it exists, the architect loves the building before it is built, the chef loves the dish before it is made.

This does not mean you always love the process. Much of the time, discipline involves doing things we might not like doing. Some people think that discipline is forcing yourself into doing these things. Willpower, manipulation, and intimidating yourself into ‘good behavior’ never work for very long. They are not sustainable. You can’t build an orientation of true discipline that way. Yet, the advice many give us is to do just that.

Generative love evokes the spirit of the creative process, the human spirit at its best, and maybe even more than that. Sometimes it’s hard to describe. One thing that’ll kill it is when you forget or lose touch with your desire to see the creation exist.

You can’t invest your life spirit in a compromise. And it is not a compromise to make the secondary choices you may have to make to support your creative process, even when you hate taking the necessary action steps. It is not a compromise to do the hard work, learn what you need to learn, develop the skills you may need but don’t have yet. It may not always be fun, but the spirit will still be there throughout the process. Easy or difficult, fun or a pain, throughout the good, the bad, and the ugly, that experience of connection, involvement, of being true to yourself and true to your creation will permeate everything you are doing.

What is going on? It is you, being a creator, which, by that fact alone, evokes the type of spirit I’m talking about no matter what the circumstances you are in.

In the 19th century, artists commonly talked about “tricking the muse,” which was their way of trying to explain why sometimes they would be better than other times. In the 20th century, with people like Constantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, the creative process changed from something you had to trick to something that was consistent and reliable, something that would never fail you. When you are creating, the spirit will be there in abundance.

Nationalism Vs Globalism

The way President Trump defined it, globalists are those who care more about the globe than the country. Nationalists care about the country. If you define it that way, it would make sense to be a nationalist. Trouble is, his definitions are not accurate.

Before I get into that, there are subtexts to the terms nationalists and globalists. Too often, the term “globalist” has been code for “Jewish globalists,” a myth that Jews have a plot to run the world through financial manipulations. This fraudulent myth was invented in Russia in 1903 designed to inflame anti-Semitic prejudice. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” was a hoax document that was reported to be the minutes of a late 19th century meeting where Jewish leaders conspired to subvert the morals of Gentiles by controlling the press and world economics.

The Nazis used the “Protocols” as propaganda against Jews. And neo-Nazis have adopted it as one of the reasons they are anti-Semitic. The tragedy in Pittsburg last week was the manifestation of this myth in which a white supremacist gunned down 11 innocent people, most of them elderly, to stop, he said, Jewish support of immigrants, who, in his sick mind, where coming to slaughter “his people.” It is hard for me to write about this because it so hurts my heart.

Of course the term nationalism is a loaded word. If we connect other words to the term, like “white” or “social” we get some of the most egregious evil in human history.

There is nothing wrong with appreciating the unique qualities of a nation. There is nothing wrong with trying to support the health and well-being of a nation. But that is not nationalism. According to the dictionary, nationalism is “an extreme form marked by feelings of superiority over other countries.”

Beyond the historic context of the terms, let’s look at the logic. What so called “globalists” actually think is that, in modern times, the world is inextricably connected together in such a way that it is to the benefit of every country to understand the system dynamics of that fact.

If China pollutes the atmosphere, Japan, Korea, Singapore, and other neighbors breathe the air. If, collectively, all the countries of the world pollute the atmosphere, every country will be subject to the negative consequences. We live in a world together on a single planet. We ignore that fact to our own national peril.

But there is another reason to think globally, and that is what I think of as a collective creative process. Before World War Two, nationalism and isolationism made the war more possible. After the war, various countries, through the leadership of Harry Truman and George Marshall, began to work together on their collective interest, which were aligned with their national interests.

This was not something that was designed to rid countries of their unique qualities or national identity, but for enlightened self-interest. Pure self-interest will drive people to do what is in their local and narrow best interest, but often detrimental to their overall best interest.

Enlightened self-interest leads us to think about what is in our overall best interest. We pay taxes so our snow gets removed from our streets, the rubbish gets collected, and the country is protected from enemies and health threats. We’d rather not pay taxes. But if we had to pay for removing our own snow, taking care of our own trash, and protecting our safety from potential enemies, we’d have a lot of trouble pulling it all off.

But beyond protection, enlightened self-interest generates the possibility of joining together with others to create a better world for everyone. In the best expression of democracy, people become a community of creators.

The fact is we live in a world in which there are many countries. We might try to ignore that fact, or understand the great possibilities it represents in how we can work together for our collective benefit. Business is enhanced, culture expands, and civilization advances.

Goals That May Be in Contradiction

Today the subject is how to construct long-range goals and be clear about your direction, and how to make sure that you don’t inadvertently have other long or short-term goals that contradict these long-range goals.

How do we set the long-term direction? Well imagine it’s like having a GPS for the creative process. The first thing you set is your destination. Where do you want to be in five years, ten years, 20 years?

For many people there is what we could call a life-style/ career conflict. To pursue their career ambitions they need to live in an area they don’t particularly like, and if it weren’t for their careers, they wouldn’t live there. For others, life style is more important than career, so their career possibilities are limited by where they live.

There is no right answer except that your decision should reflect your longer-term goals and aspirations.

Remember that part of your job as a creator is to make the strategic secondary choices that support your primary choices. And only you can determine what you will make primary. But once you have made a primary choice, most other supportive choices are pretty self-evident.

Once you set your long-term goals, it is important to review your shorter-term goals and see where they stand. There will only be one of three possibilities: They will support them, the will be neutral, or they will contradict your long-term goals.

Of course the best of all possibilities is that they support your longer-term goals. And there may be some short-term goals that you haven’t thought of yet; goals that would help the longer term cause. Often there might be learning goals, skills goals, or experience goals that would be helpful in supporting longer-range aspirations.

And too often, we don’t think in those terms. But back to our creative GPS, once you set in your destination, you are given a few different paths, avoid toll roads, fastest way, most highways, and so on. What is the best way to achieve your long-term goals? Often the bigger and more important things in life involve some form of strategic planning, so you don’t happen to wonder into them, but you systematically take all the needed steps to first build the foundation, and then the later steps that give you the support you need.

We are talking about goals that often take years to accomplish. And you’re not just waiting around. You are building toward them over years of smaller goals that give you what you need, put you in the right and best position, and teach you what you need to know once you are there.
And how many of these long-term goals might you have? Well there is the inner goal, how you experience life, and that one can be achieved fairly quickly and then be in place during the entire trip. And the outer goals are a series of little success stories as you build a pattern of success. That doesn’t mean that everything you will try will work. But it does mean that you will work out how to learn and develop by every new creative process in which you engage.

And you will have aspects of longer-term goals that will be aligned: health, lifestyle, career, financial, creative, relationships, involvement with life and so on. But you’ve got to set the creative GPS with a clear destination. You won’t know the details, but you can get a sense of the overview and the overall destination. That’s all you need, as long as that is clear.

With that type of clarity, conflicts of longer-term goals hardly ever appear. And if they do, they can be sorted out by determining hierarchy. What is more important, and what is less important. Once you have made that choice everything else just falls into place.

Creating – A Different Way Of Life

After years, decades, centuries of people proposing answers to the question of how should we live our lives, it can become downright confusing as to who to listen to and what to do. Okay, so I have a point of view and favor being listened to as well. Then again, there is a difference between my point of view and most of the others, and it is not simply content, philosophy, or battling belief systems that are at odds with each other.

If anything, I begin by suggesting people rid themselves of philosophy or belief. Those abstract ideals don’t help much. After years of people trying their best to be true to this or that philosophy or belief, they still can’t seem to get it together. They can never live up to the ideal that demands strict adherence.

Most people who are ready to tell others how they should live their lives have a notion of just what that person should do in life. Most of these prescriptions come with approved values and morals. Do this, think that, act this way, believe these things, and on it goes. But, the creative process is different from any of these approaches because it is not a belief system, not philosophy, not psychology, not metaphysics, not the “right way to live,” not “how you should be,” or “how you should define yourself.”

Instead, it begins with a very simple yet profound question that only you can answer, which is, “what matters to me enough to create it?” What do you want to create? You can ask this question concerning just about anything? What do you want to create for dinner tonight? What living situations do you want to create? What career do you want to create for yourself? What kind of life do you want to create?

In the creative process, there are no right or wrong answers. Some people think, well, people can’t just create what they want. They’ll be chaos in the streets, and nothing will ever get done. That idea, that people are not to be trusted, comes from a reaction to all the ways we have been taught we are supposed to be, which, of course, no one has ever quite got right. But, as it turns out, when people are given the chance to truthfully answer that question, we find something profoundly interesting. People would rather be productive that lie around the beach for the rest of their lives. Yes, a few weeks of lying around the beach is a very attractive proposition. But, then, there is a human hunger to do something else, be productive, build something, get involved with other people, make a life, make a society, make a civilization.
What is the focus of your life? For some, it is all the problems they have, the built –in limitation, the things that they think stop them. So all they are left with is the question: how to react against all that?

This is not what we might think of as a life well-lived. Instead, it feels like a constant struggle, fighting with the world just to survive. For others, life feels like a prison, and they are doing their time. This is the notion that life is about suffering, and the key is to reach perfection so you do not need to suffer your karma, and can be released from prison. For others, it is the ideals they think they must achieve, ideals that are impossible to ever reach on the planet Earth.

But, to a creator, none of these things matter, because there are always new sheets of paper to fill, new blank canvases to paint, new music to compose, new buildings to build, new frontiers to explore, new wonderful experiences to experience, new and old friends to enjoy, new moments to savor, something new to imagine, that has never been thought of before, that, no matter your age or situation, awakens the call to create, to bring into existence, that which, at first, was only a vision.

Bravo for Nike

Not too many billion-dollar companies have a moral compass. The usual corporate rule of thumb is to avoid controversy at all costs. But Nike is a company that stands for something. First and foremost, it stands for sports. I’ve worked with Nike, and, from an inside vantage point, they see sports as a civilizing force. Now they have created a new campaign that celebrates Colin Kaepernick’s stand against police violence on unarmed innocent young black men.

About Colin Kaepernick, his protest has been unfairly redefined as a protest against the flag, against the military, against mom and apple pie. It is easy to redefine something. You just lie about what someone says and what that person means. In fact, the real corruption of politics today is that lying has become standard operating practice. Objective reality is under attack. That means the decisions that many people make are not based on facts but impressions, mostly impressions designed to manipulate issues of identity. You can fool some of the people all of the time.

Of course, the big lie is nothing new. It takes a big lie to wipe out truth. Little lies don’t do the job. It has to be so outrageous and bizarre that the subconscious mind says, “It must be true. No one would believe this crazy thing that is so easily checked and disproved. So there’s got to be something too it.”

What is THE truth about Colin Kaepernick? First he sat on the bench while the national anthem was played. He did this for one reason, and one reason only. As has been said over and over, to call attention to the violent pattern of unarmed young black men being shot to death by police. He is using his public position to highlight this particular type of injustice. He found out that the act of sitting on the bench did have an implied subtext of disrespect for the flag. Once he found that out, he sought out Army Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer, who told him that kneeling on one knee, within the military, is seen as a sign of respect for a fallen comrade.

That’s it, no matter how the President tries to redefine it. Why would anyone try to redefine this very clear symbol of protest against injustice? To polarize people. To try to create a false controversy. To try to create an “us against them” mentality. Who is “us” and who is “them?” Comes down to race. Period.
Kaepernick is against the pattern of innocent black kids being killed by police, who then seem to get away with it. Who is in favor of innocent kids being killed? Doesn’t Kaepernick have the authority to say why he is doing what he is doing? Who gets to say that he doesn’t? Who gets to say that YOU are not the total and final authority of what you say and do and why you are saying and doing it? NO ONE but you has that authority. This principle holds true in this case as well.

Here is what Kaepernick has said:
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.”

Of course, Kaepernick has paid a price for his kneel. He could have shut up and made a fortune. But, that would be a Faustian bargain, something some of our current politicians are happy to make.

Here is how Encyclopedia Britannica defines the term:

“Faustian bargain, a pact whereby a person trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for some worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches. The term refers to the legend of Faust (or Faustus, or Doctor Faustus), a character in German folklore and literature, who agrees to surrender his soul to an evil spirit (in some treatments, Mephistopheles, or Mephisto, a representative of Satan) after a certain period of time in exchange for otherwise unattainable knowledge and magical powers that give him access to all the world’s pleasures. A Faustian bargain is made with a power that the bargainer recognizes as evil or amoral. Faustian bargains are by their nature tragic or self-defeating for the person who makes them, because what is surrendered is ultimately far more valuable than what is obtained, whether or not the bargainer appreciates that fact.”

I applaud Colin Kaepernick. To me, he shows strength of character for a noble cause. His actions are a profile in courage. I think those who criticize him can legitimately do so ONLY when they tell the truth about what and why he has taken a knee. If you distort what he is about, anything else you say is not to be taken seriously. Why should it?

And then there is Nike. I want to thank the company for the leadership role they have taken on. They knew there would be backlash. They knew some customers would leave the brand. But that didn’t matter. In a similar way that the Disney Corporation said no to the threats of some right wing Christian groups who tried to conduct a boycott against Disney World because they had an annual gay pride day, Nike has taken a stand for what is right rather than what is convenient. We seldom see such clarity of values from corporations.

Limitation

“IF YOU LIMIT YOURSELF TO WHAT SEEM POSSIBLE OR REASONABLE, ALL THAT IS LEFT IS A COMPROMISE.”

(Robert Fritz)

This is the most widely cited quote of mine. So let me say a few things about the thought.

Since the time we were young, we have been taught to limit our aspirations. The question, “What do you want?” is translated into, “Given your limitations, what do you want?”

When we ask people what they want, too often they are a lost. It isn’t that they don’t want things. It is that they have absolutely no idea how to think about the subject. On the one hand, they can only think in terms of what seems possible, reasonable, or available.

On the other hand, they are looking for something that will enrich their lives, enable them to become more involved, and fulfill the promise they intuitively understand and for which they long. Something they can’t seem to find by discovery or revelation or from goal setting courses or from the self-help world.

If you limit your choices, all that is left is a compromise, one that is incapable of inspiring the type of deeper involvement that most people crave. Another one of my quotes that seems to be everywhere in the world of the Internet these days can be considered the other part of the first one: You can’t invest your life spirit in a compromise.

Here are a few tips about how to become clear:

1. Separate what you want from what you think is possible

In fact, you don’t know what is possible, only what seem probable. If you begin to censor yourself before you even have a proper discussion with yourself, you are going to end up limiting yourself to only those things that seem doable. You are light-years away from thinking in terms of what you truly want. From this limited menu, there may not be much you actually want to order. No wonder it would be hard to know what you want when this were the case. Whatever you are left with is pretty unappetizing. Do NOT consider if what you want is possible when thinking about it. We divide and think: first a truthful understanding of what we truly want to create in our lives; then considerations about the strategy that might enable us to create it.

2. Rethink everything

We have all made certain promises to ourselves when we were young. We may have changed our minds. We are not stuck with some idea we had years ago. It is best to enter into a conversation with yourself with a clean slate, turning over a new leaf, a fresh start.

3. Start small

Most people are not in the habit of thinking about what they want. They react or respond to the circumstances they find themselves in, and so they can only think situationally. The best way to learn anything is to start small, build muscles and stamina, and create a body of experience. Make sure that these small things are really things you want. Get into the habit of checking with yourself about that.

4. Don’t think in terms of payoffs.

Too often, people are not able to think about what they really want because they expect the result to do things like make them happy, give them satisfaction, enlightenment, and a host of other payoffs. This burdens your ability to think in terms of what you want because you are speculating about the chances of the payoff being significant. Once you think in terms of the outcomes you want and not the payoff, you are free to get involved on the good days and the bad days. Remember, your emotional experiences are like the weather: sometimes it rains and sometimes it’s sunny. Don’t think in terms of consistent emotions. Think in terms of only one question: what do I really want?

So, if you limit yourself to what seems possible or reasonable, all that is left is compromise, and you can’t invest your life-spirit into a compromise. This is more than a good quote. It is a principle that, once taken on, can enable you to organize your life around your highest aspirations and deepest values.

Regeneration

The nature of regeneration in the creative process is a new cycle of growth after a period of stagnation. In the famous I Ching, it is represented by spring after winter. And there is something quite instructive about understanding the form of the seasons, and watch them play out in our lives.

Our own spring can happen at any time of the calendar year. But it is always following by a period of withdrawal. Winter leads into spring. What is going on during the moments in our life in which we retreat? We often think of those periods as something to be avoided, something bad, something to overcome.

But without these periods, nothing new can grow. Growth is more than renewal. It is a type of transcendence in which something is given a new chance to begin over, to re-think one’s life, to find new impetus, to find new interests, to, no matter what the past has been, to begin with a clean sheet of paper, a new canvas, a new chance.

But renewal is more than the chance to begin again. It is the drive to make the most of the possibility. From where does this drive come? From our human instinct to create. It is the essence of our dynamic urge, to make something new, to explore unseen territory, to engage life to the fullest.

Regeneration is almost always propelled from its opposite. It is a type of death followed by a type of resurrection. And the sequence does not have to be juxtaposed chronologically. Winter may have been spread out over years, life had seem to drift to limitation or burden or malaise or encumbrances of various sorts. And then, maybe out of nowhere, spring emerges suddenly and a new chapter opens to you.

But, for this type of regeneration to lead somewhere, it must have an object of its desire, so to speak. Just the same way the expression goes “In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” so in this type of spring, the object of thoughts is also love, but not the romantic kind, the creative kind. There is something new we want to create, something we haven’t created or done before, and because of this, the full cycle of regeneration takes its place in your life.