Simply Illuminating

26 Nov
“It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.” 
― 
Jonathan Safran Foer

Last week I went to visit my father. It was the usual one and a half hour trip; a bus to the train and then another bus to his home. Since my move back to Vancouver over four years ago, I have done this trip many times through all four seasons…and I still become entranced with the pure ordinariness of it all. I might read for a bit or have a brief conversation with a stranger, but more often than not, I just sit in front of the windshield window of the first car and watch as the stations suddenly appear as beacons of light in the long dark tunnel, marking where I’ve been and where I am going. I can watch the tracks and anticipate the burst of the bright sun as the train emerges from underground into the day. I often marvel at how quickly the journey goes now when I used to think it seemed to take forever. Then I got it. 

Working out scheduled connections has definitely helped to make the trip more enjoyable but, as I’ve discovered, it goes way beyond what time it is. I have found that when I just let myself go to the experience, I give myself up to each moment, one after another, allowing my mind to clear itself out, letting my mind wander where it will. A sort of transit meditation. The results have been insightful and even remarkable at times. My extraneous mind chatter shuts up, I can observe the world around me without bias or interruption. Ideas pop up, situations become clarified, and my attention goes where it will.  I couldn’t do that while driving a car. 

And unexpected moments they have been. I have received messages from the most seemingly every day and often mundane of places such as while waiting for a bus to my father’s and then while walking back home from my stop afterward, two different women began to sing right beside me. I have heard or noticed seemingly disconnected things that have sparked my memory or my imagination. Possibility. It’s like tuning in to my own private message center, lightbulb moments that make everything suddenly brighter. 

The road to my father’s home is paved with a personal history. The landscape may be decidedly or even drastically different, but in my mind’s eye, it all looks the same as it did years ago. Looking out in any direction, passing by suburban neighborhoods packed with houses, wondering what the people who live there think of and what they do. The small yet meaningful things that make up a life. It can suddenly all become so clear, so simple, so utterly illuminating.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

 

 

It’s For The Birds

28 Oct

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“In order to see birds, it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”
― Robert Lynd

Something strange and wonderful happened this past year. I discovered birds. What’s so great about that you might ask? It’s not that I’ve never noticed them before, on the contrary, but I seem to have developed a whole new understanding of them and the reason for this is what I am writing about.

If last year was a ‘thank god that’s over’ experience, this year has been one of transformation, a cycle marking new beginnings and significant endings. There have been flash moments of joy, of recognition, and bittersweet reflection in the most unexpected of places. Grief can change us forever in unanticipated ways. Suddenly one day a light appears at the end of our dark tunnel and we move forward. Life can become so much simpler and quieter. We can feel and notice things more and even become healthier. We might hear or see wonderful things that we never really noticed before. We can become more absorbed by moments instead of hours, our life unfolding like one of those pellets that blossom into a flower when dropped into a glass of water.

bird
/bərd/
noun
plural noun: birds
  1. 1.
    a warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate distinguished by the possession of feathers, wings, and a beak and (typically) by being able to fly.

I’ve discovered that living on the 21st floor of a hi-rise facing an ocean and a huge wooded park provides a perfect perch for observing a variety of avians as they go about their daily business. Recently, late in an afternoon, I went out on my balcony to check on something and suddenly all these birds came shooting by. Gulls, Crows, groups of swooping Starlings with the sun glinting off their feathers, a Hummingbird hovering, Pigeons, and an Eagle, like an arrow with beak outstretched racing intently toward the trees. Later, my partner alerted me to a large flock of Canada Geese honking loudly along the coast flying off to wherever it is they go. It was an impromptu air show of the most exquisite form of flight. And how I envied them.

Here, where the sun rises at 5 a.m. and sets at 10 p.m. during the summer months, the birds wake very early to lend a unique cacophony of chirps and caws and trills heralding in the new day, a dawn chorus. Assorted feathered creatures can be observed lounging and feeding at the beach in a congenial, multi-cultural mix. In the Spring, I often come across the birds remembered from my earlier years; Magpies, Robin Red Breasts, Sparrows, Wrens, Warblers, Doves, Herons, and Chickadees. The trees take to loudly chirping with tiny invisible songbirds that can only be seen if one peers up into the branches in the center of the tree. I have also often come across two crows sitting side-by-side overhead, appearing to be having some sort of an argument and whenever I see them I wonder if it’s the same pair.

Last May I had the great fortune to witness seagull couples starting their families, jointly and tirelessly caring for the two or three offspring they hatched. There were many anxious moments while the babies grew and always a great relief when I noted that all was well. I took to calling them Baby Hueys. They grew quickly and in mid-August began scurrying about, flapping and trying their wings. By the end of the month, the Baby Hueys had all become fledglings, finally flying away. Initially, they haunted the nest sites, the parents still checking in and sometimes feeding them in an attempt to quiet the loud and incessant chirping that could be heard all over the neighborhood. They would fly by my window and I swear that I could see the pure bliss of soaring in the flap of their wings, a smile curving their beaks. I would sometime see them walking about the streets, looking lost and bewildered with tufts of feathers on the tops of their heads like some trendy haircut. I miss them all.

You could likely be correct in citing that I had engaged myself in a form of bird therapy. According to an article in Psychology Today, .’..bird sounds engage the human brain as well, conveying information about our surroundings. They foster a connection with nature, which research shows may provoke effortless attention, restore alertness, reduce stress, decrease hostility, and promote a sense of well-being’. I am grateful for all the feathered dinosaur ancestors that fly past my windows and often perch on the railing, for their daily songs that I can hear even if I can’t see them, and for their reminders that there is magic in our days, that anything can happen if you simply be quiet and listen.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

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Baby Hueys at the beach. It takes 3 years for gulls to mature. They start off a brownish gray then gradually take on a grey and white speckled coat before becoming gray and white adults. 

On The Way to Somewhere Else

30 Aug

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This week marks the end of another Summer and where I live the air has suddenly cooled down to a comfortably melancholy kind of temperature that can induce one into thought dozing. Not a difficult task with the warm sun washing over everything. Just sitting on a bench by the ocean, in a wooded park, or even seated at a desk by a window can become a challenge to remain fully conscious. It’s a typical symptom of late summer. Our minds can take to wandering away at any given moment but if we simply give ourselves over, we could possibly conjure up new ideas that we’ve never thought of before or a different way of looking at things. Wandering can open up our minds and imaginations to discovery; it can take us to places in ourselves that we’ve never been before.

For many, September usually signals a season of change and transition along with the shortening hours of daylight. It’s also a time for letting go of what has become a burden, what doesn’t work anymore and acknowledging impermanence. Fall also has a mystical side that has been written about for centuries. Nature projects it’s astounding beauty in the changing light and brilliant foliage. The air has a new freshness mixed with a smoky scent. The sky takes on a particularly brilliant shade of blue and the birds fly off in their secret formations to destinations mostly unknown to us.

There can be a kind of magic in all of this, something that transcends the everyday. Things can happen that may seem, well…mysterious or of a psychic nature like getting an email from someone that you had given up on ever hearing from again right after you thought of them or running into someone you haven’t seen for a long time right after they entered your thoughts. Perhaps it was a song playing in your head that suddenly came on the radio. Light bulb moments.

According to a Cambridge Dictionary definition of magical thinking, it’s the belief that thinking about something or wanting it to happen can make it happen. Children exhibit a form of magical thinking by about 18 months when they begin to create imaginary worlds while playing. Apparently though, according to some specialists, it can be psychologically controversial in adults. Barring an actual mental disorder, there is still a strong case for using it. As I had written in a previous post, not everything can be explained away by science and it seems unfortunate to banish an unusual experience from our lives simply because we can’t explain it. Think about it. Many fantastic stories would never have been written without magical thinking. Harry Potter anyone? Perhaps we need to tap into the child within us more often.

According to a quote by Arthur C. Clarke, “Magic’s just science that we don’t understand yet.” Whatever it is, it’s happening all around us every day…whether we want to accept it or not. Those exquisite moments that will pull at the strings in our memory, that can fill us with wonderment and delight, that can change our lives in inexplicable ways. We might be wandering along as usual when suddenly, just like that, ‘it’ happens and we find ourselves on the way to somewhere else. Timing is everything.

On a side note, this is my 60th essay published to date. But even more importantly, it’s my Dad’s 92nd birthday today. Remarkable to say the least.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

Entering Enchantment

30 Jul

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Here we are on the threshold of August about to enter into a whole new realm. August has a distinctly different feel to it here than June and July. It’s been described in literature as melancholy, strange, and even spooky. There’s a crispness that enters the air at times and near the end of the month, the light begins to change from a bright blazing white to a more gentle golden haze. It seems that nature has reached an endpoint to its frantic flourishing, holding onto its foliage for one last hurrah before the winds of Fall carry them away. August is essentially believed to be a transitional month meant to unplug, assess, and do…absolutely nothing.

August can also be a vague, lazy kind of month. Many people leave for vacations or simply remove themselves from daily routines and business tends to slow right down. It can be a time for reflection and pondering over memories. August can bring back thoughts of moments of complete enchantment, sparking the very feeling once more. In such a disenchanted world, we need enchantment more than ever. It transforms, it elevates, it connects our hearts and imaginations. It’s soul food. Yet it can be hard to find in our daily lives. Our society has a way of diligently disproving the mystery and the magic in favor of scientific explanations and hard cold facts. But enchantment does exist and often in the most simple and ordinary of events. Life can present enchantment and magic to us in many ways and at any time. We need to believe in it but if we’re not paying attention to what is happening around us we’ll never recognize it.

There are moments in my years throughout the world that I consider more enchanting than others but my experiences in a certain place have put it at the top of my list. Memories of my earlier years living in NYC would put Central Park at a close second. (For instance…horseback riding solo on a cool summer morning was an extremely enchanting experience when it wasn’t an alarming one.)  It is amazing how a place can follow us around wherever we may go, a place where we have had experiences that only we will ever know about. And for me, this is one such place…

I was once told that as a baby I was found in a basket left on my parent’s doorstep. I rather liked the idea and believed that it might explain my habit of behaving like a creature of the forest, a veritable wood nymph if you please. At a young age, I preferred the company of trees to people and would blissfully lounge for hours on a log, surrounded by all the magical flora and fauna I could ever hope for. The day I was introduced to Stanley Park I could have pitched a tent right there and moved in.

The park would become such an integral part of my life, a theme of sorts for many years imparting a personal, often solitary history rich in imagination. So many memories… finding a hidden draft dodger living among the trees with a Bouvier puppy named Huck, ice skating on Beaver Lake, rowing on Lost Lagoon, and pushing my bicycle through overgrown paths, getting lost in the process. Having a raccoon ramble across my path or stumbling into a crane standing svelte and tall in its glorious plumage as if posing for a fashion photographer was simply an everyday sight.

Even though I was to leave Canada for many years, morphing into a consummate urbanite along the way, I never forgot my private, magical oasis. As life would have it, I went full circle and moved back to my beloved West End a few years ago, two blocks from Stanley Park. The first things I noticed after the amazing view from my balcony were the signature aromas of green and the dizzying effect of so much oxygen. Moving into the depths of the woods, I find the cool stillness, the rich smell of earth, and wise old trees towering above me suddenly so familiar. I still like to watch the trees, the way the light transforms them during a day, a season. Best of all is just being right here. Back to the woods. Back to the womb. Back home.

en·chant·ment
noun
1.
a feeling of great pleasure; delight.
2.
the state of being under a spell; magic.
“a world of mystery and enchantment”
This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

It’s One Thing After Another

29 Jun

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I recently met with a good friend for coffee to touch base over the flurry…more like a snowstorm…of activity and the subsequent changes that have arrived in our lives. We began as we usually do with matters at hand but then started wandering down other paths that came along, pinpointing and dissecting whatever tripped us up. It was fascinating. I felt quite enlightened afterward. I thought…this is what a good therapy session must feel like. Productive conversations can ease our brains out of a knot and uncross our eyes. They can be self-affirming and revealing. But this isn’t all about thinking and seeing straight. This is about what gets us from here to there, what sustains us while we move forward.

Having been semi-retired for years now, I recently decided to launch myself out into the world to find a new purpose in the form of work. Do I ever feel lost? Frustrated? Exhausted? You bet. But it’s also kind of exciting. I’m getting to find out who I am and what I’ve accomplished all over again without taking anything for granted. Although I’m still in the initial stages, it’s decidedly a whole new era and a very unfamiliar landscape than I was used to in NYC, I’m starting from scratch here but with a lot more experience this time. The plus of all this is that I feel as though I’ve hit my stride. It’s a reinvention of sorts.

So far I have found an empowering and invaluable source of education and support close to home. I’ve been attending workshops. I’ve re-written my resume several times, changed my LinkedIn profile, my business profile, and edited my business website. I’ve been researching ways to market my business, to network, who the recruiters are, and other possible opportunities. I’ve also discovered ATS, the applicant tracking system that most companies use, the system that deletes an estimated 75% of candidates due to formatting flaws along with its own errors. Oh lovely. Definitely going to work around that one.

The question to ask here is just how do we get through our major challenges successfully? Any important change can be daunting no matter how positive the outcome may eventually be; it’s the not knowing how or when that can be overwhelming. The key word to consider is ‘important’. We need to determine what is important enough to focus our energies on, determine what our choices are, what we might need to drop or add, and once that is done, clearly define whatever might be blocking our way or trapping us. We can then create a detailed plan of action for change. What do we need to accomplish this? Solid facts, knowledgeable support, and a large dose of tenacity are key.

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Tenacity is the byword that seems to be popping up everywhere these days. We are hit with so much negative news and information every day that it can be exhausting trying to not react emotionally to any of it. There will always be the subliminal stuff that can slip through and being cognizant of this can help keep our well being in check as we navigate ourselves to where we want to be. There are days when we might feel the old one step forward and 2…or 10…steps back. Say the outcome we were hoping for doesn’t happen or something we had worked so hard on has been rejected. And what if it’s just the way life is happening around us, the things that we have absolutely no control over that are chipping away at our resolve, our peace of mind?

Life may be one thing after another but we actually do have choices. If we don’t like where are we can always move. We’re not trees. And we really do have control over how we react to whatever comes our way. First, we need to recognize where our reactive emotions are coming from, what head trash we need to throw out. Past or present? Did that just happen or did we make it up? Practicing self-awareness can create understanding and save us time and energy. Tenacity can lend us strength and the power of belief to achieve anything whenever we need to, particularly where a life-changing decision is involved. It’s the courage to be ourselves.

This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

ZERO ON THE DIAL: A Quest for Quiet

30 May

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The older I get the more I find myself avoiding crowds and noisy people whenever possible. This being stated by someone who, in my younger years, attended many eardrum shattering concerts, danced all night in many loud clubs, and probably made plenty of annoying noise of my own. Partying aside, it’s no mystery that excessive noise is causing physical and psychological changes to our health. Elevated noise can cause hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, and sleep disturbance. Did I say annoying? Having experienced several of the world’s largest cities, including having lived in different neighborhoods of Manhattan for many years, I can attest to how a level of noise tolerance can be highly selective and also fluctuate; I am more sensitive to my neighborhood’s unique acoustics while at home than anywhere else. Still, I think a person can develop a sort of deaf ear to familiar sounds and disturbances, we can still hear them but may be disconnected from conscious emotional reaction. And then some people seem to be immune to noise of any kind. To them I say…I wish!

I grew up in quiet areas but then even cities were less noisy than they are now. People were more considerate of others. As the population has risen, the world has gotten much noisier over the decades and those who have been born into it in more recent decades may very well be more tolerant but it doesn’t mean that it’s not effecting them in some way subliminally if not consciously. There is noise in some form or other at greatly varying decibels everywhere. (Excepting perhaps the most remotest of places but I suppose that can be an arguable point to some.) It can come from a group of people yelling loudly on the street, a car alarm, the constant hum of electrical wires, the grinding and banging of garbage trucks. There’s also the noise from electronic gadgets that can disturb our peace in a public space such as on a plane, hanging out in a park or coffee shop, even waiting in line or simply walking down a street. Background music, loud videos, and louder cellphone conversations, sometimes on speaker so you get to hear the whole dialogue firsthand. Most of this noise really stems from a lack of common courtesy and self-awareness of how these actions might be bothering others and how they are encroaching on someone’s personal space. However, it’s ironic and somewhat amusing to note that most of these noisy individuals don’t like to be treated the way that they treat other people.

Sounds are outer noise. But there is also inner noise.

Our society is a very active one in that most people feel that they always need to be doing something; constantly rushing around from here to there, plugged in, afraid of missing something. Social media has a way of perpetuating this. And yet we are missing out by not being aware of our surroundings and what’s happening, by not experiencing possibility in the smallest details of a day. Amidst all the head noise, we tend to question everything, including ourselves, and leave little room in our minds to simply reflect. Silence and solitude is to be avoided at all costs. But at what cost to our minds? Silence is not about the absence of sound, it invites the presence of everything else in. Silence is powerful and revealing. It can soothe and transcend us. We may not be able to actually silence our minds completely but we can empty them of noise and become inwardly quiet for a time. Many people believe silence…and solitude…is isolation but it’s really the constant busyness that detaches us from reality.

We’ve turned noise into entertainment and it provides a temporary distraction from being in the moment, from having to think about our own reality. Since I moved to Vancouver from NYC a few years ago I’ve been going through an automatic transformation of sorts with some surprising results by simply being here. I’ve pared down and simplified my activities and noise levels to a less is more capacity, not an easy transition at all after the frenetic flow of energy I had been living on for such a long time. I no longer feel like I should be doing something. It’s a great pleasure to do nothing at all, to simply observe and experience moments in a day wherever I happen to be. When I’m working I’m all there and when I’m not working I am somewhere else. I still don’t appreciate inconsiderate, annoying noise but I can understand where my reactions are coming from and it’s becoming easier to deal with and filter out. That and using my standby earplugs.

in·tro·spec·tion
/ˌintrəˈspekSH(ə)n/
noun
 The examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

The function of self-reflection is to make meaning of our lives and ourselves.

Peace and quiet is becoming a rare commodity in our world yet unplugging from distraction can give us the ability to reflect inwardly. Silence also allows us to get to know our deepest truths in an undeniable way. It is in complete silence that the thoughts we shelter from others come to the surface. Silence also offers it’s own rewards for us in the forms of strength, joy, awareness, and fulfillment; it can elevate us from the cacophony of everyday life, separate us from the junk and connect us to what really matters in our lives. In closing, I particularly appreciate an anonymous quote that I recently came across…’Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.’ Enjoy the silence.

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This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com

 

Truth or Dare

30 Apr

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One dictionary definition of truth reads…’That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality’. That being said…

The subject of truth, or the lack of it, is on many lips these days. Psychology Today has deemed 2018 the year of truth and I have come across many articles on the theme such as one in The Washington Post titled ‘In Today’s World the Truth is Losing’. Fake news, the latest big deal in media, has no basis in fact, but is presented as being factually accurate. Nothing new here. This has actually been going on forever, way before social media kicked in. Defamation of character lawsuits were probably more common back then but now the defamed can simply launch a tirade on Twitter and save substantially on time and legal fees. But are they saving face?…that’s another issue altogether.

When it comes to truth, we humans can be master story tellers, little white liars, or choose to be oblivious. Humans essentially fear the truth and many would rather choose a dare than reveal a truth about themselves. According to stats that I’ve come across regarding the game, no matter how outrageous the dare, the protocol is that it’s completely acceptable and will stay in the room but a truth will often stray out for all to see. Truth, in whatever form it takes, is entertainment, it makes money, and it keeps the media, particularly social media, humming loudly. It can also cause great shame and damage to the recipient’s reputation if misused. The so-called truth could be an out-and-out lie but as long as it’s believed, it’s real. It’s quite a provocative concept. How does one defend oneself against that?

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Telling the truth and living the truth can be two separate worlds. Someone can state unequivocally what their truth is and then turn around and do the complete opposite. Actions may still speak louder than words, but Edgar Allan Poe once put it best… “Believe nothing that you hear and only one half that you see”. On the whole, much of our society probably believes, or simply needs to believe, much like blind faith, without really doubting the source. At least initially. Even after their heroes are revealed as deceptive they will continue to believe in them. Everyone else must be wrong. The truth is a lie. And what does that say about us? That if we want something to be true we will believe it no matter what?  It’s rather astonishing what someone will do to garner followers, fame, and success but it can be even more astonishing to watch so many people actually buying into it. It’s essentially about how something makes us feel, how it defines and resonates with our beliefs and emotions no matter how irrelevant it might actually be to our lives. What empty space does it fill?

Perhaps we need to be more like a quote I recently came across, ‘The secret to success is mind your own business’. Other people’s truths are not ours. The important thing is how we translate and utilize our own truths, what we believe to be real and important for our own lives without getting involved in all the minutiae that filters through our days. We must continue to question and examine. What is our motive for reacting how we do to a certain truth? We are emotionally powerful creatures with very active inner lives that colour the world around us; it is how we perceive what we receive. Is our own truth true to the present or did we just make it up from our past?

Truth these days is often ambiguous or controversial at best, even a philosophical conundrum. We want to believe what we’re told and that any information we are given is the real deal. No one likes to be lied to, to be taken in particularly if there is trust involved. Worse is when we lie to ourselves even though we know that the real truth is always looming overhead, no matter how much energy we spend trying to avoid it. The truth can indeed be devastating, it can be leave us feeling disillusioned, isolated, and vulnerable. It can also heal, it can transform, it can set us free…all at the same time. Mr. Poe may have had it right after all. We have the power to decipher truth, to not simply accept whatever is offered as nothing but. We can decide for ourselves. It could be important to note that truth is trans-cultural. If something is true, it is true for all people, everywhere, at all times. Truth is also unchanging, even if our beliefs about it change. But just because everybody’s saying something doesn’t mean it’s right. To thine own self be true.

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This post was written by Jude L. Gorgopa, Founder of Clout Et Cetera & The Fundamentals of Clout. For resources, services, and eBooks, go to cloutetcetera.com