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Mastering the Playing Field by Mastering the Mundane

Posted on February 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (1)

Mastering the Playing Field by Mastering the Mundane

“It's not that good habits don't exist, or that we don't have them. We do.
It's just that we typically take them for granted."
—Jeff Olson in The Slight Edge

Would you like to be happier? Healthier? Wealthier? Wiser? You probably already know how – eat better, exercise more, practice gratitude and keep a positive attitude, live beneath your means, and keep learning! But knowing is one thing, putting all that knowledge into practice is another.

Today, we’re going to look at the Playing Field, and specifically focus on how to cross the border with EASE, by taking small sweet steps, getting support and celebrating each step. As Jeff Olsen observes in The Slight Edge, we need to learn to “master the mundane” in order to reach our goals, and live the life of our dreams. Combining small sweet steps, mastering the mundane, and harnessing the power of the 6 forms of energy (including the energy of money), we become unstoppable!!

So let’s do a quick review of the playing field:

The Playing Field is a powerful metaphor created by Dr. Maria Nemeth which describes the “field” we play on in our lives. It consists of two realities: Visionary Reality and Physical Reality.

Visionary Reality is the realm of brainstorming and dreaming… where ideas spark within us and are exciting and fun. There is no attachment to or promises about these ideas. The the energy is very high and light. We intuitively respond to this energy when we become excited about possibilities for others and ourselves. Visionary reality is timeless, and limitless… there is a sense of infinite potential.

Physical Reality is the place where you can see, taste, feel, or smell objects and things. In this realm, things are impermanent: things grow, die, and are replaced. To move or change objects here, you have to focus energy on them. In this realm, we are no longer thinking about creating and accomplishing a goal, we are actually take the steps to make that goal, that dream, come true. So what happens when we bring the ideas that live in our hearts and dreams and begin to put them into physical reality? That is when we hit trouble at the border.

Imagine that there is a line that divides Visionary and Physical Reality. This is the border where the high, free flowing energy of Visionary Reality hits up against the density of Physical Reality.We sometimes feel as if we are literally hitting a wall! There is a realization that moving to Physical Reality will take much more energy than we thought it would take. This is where many of us turn around and go back.

So what’s the difference between those times that we crossed the border and those times that we didn’t? We know from The Energy of Money that the easiest way to cross the border is to take small sweet steps, get support and celebrate each step.

So what does that look like in physical reality? And how can we combine this practice with mastering the six forms of energy? (To review, the six forms of energy are what we focus to bring our ideas from visionary reality across the border to physical reality. They are money, time, physical vitality, creativity, enjoyment and relationship.)

We know that how we do one thing is how we do everything. That’s a basic tenant of The Energy of Money. So how we focus one form of energy is how we’re going to focus all of them. Do we try to leap across the border with a single bound, activating monkey mind and pretty much guaranteeing that this will be hard? Or do we take small sweet steps, keeping monkey quiet, and helping us to cross the border with ease?

For another way of looking at this...I’m currently reading The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It’s probably one of the best descriptions of how to master the playing field, and how to cross the border, that I’ve ever read. What we call small sweet steps, he calls mastering the mundane. Different words, same idea. Jeff observes that the small steps we take every day, those mundane activities that seem insignificant, are easy to do. Unfortunately, they’re so easy to do that they’re just as easy NOT to do.

Charles Reade observed, “Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” To translate, an “act” is a small sweet step, or a mundane action, that we do over and over again, until it becomes a habit, until it becomes automatic. Jeff writes, “There are two kinds of habits: those that serve you, and those that don’t. Brushing your teeth is a habit that serves you; biting your nails is one that doesn’t. Thinking things through for yourself serves you; blindly accepting everything you read online or hear through the gossip grapevine doesn’t. Looking for the best in people serves you; anticipating their worst doesn’t. The first type of habit wields the force of the slight edge on your behalf and moves you along the success curve; the second turns the slight edge subtly but remorselessly against you and pulls you down the failure curve.”

He continues, “Here is how J. Paul Getty, one of the world’s first billionaires and during his lifetime considered the richest man in the world, described the power of habit: ‘The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might of the force of habit – and must understand that practices are what create habits. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him – and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that can help him achieve the success he desires.'”

This reminds me of how Maria Nemeth defines success: “Success is doing what you said you would do, consistently, with clarity, focus, ease and grace". Success is mastering habits that move us across the border, mastering the mundane actions that move us along the success curve. Here's to a wonderfully successful week - a happier, healthier, wealthier and wiser week - doing what we say we'll do with clarity, focus, ease and grace - mastering the playing field by mastering the mundane!

(For more on this powerful subject, I highly recommend both The Energy of Money by Dr. Maria Nemeth and The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Both are available on


The Art of Curiosity

Posted on February 15, 2016 at 7:00 AM Comments comments (0)

The Art of Curiosity

“Millions saw the apple fall, but only Newton asked why?"

—Bernard Baruch

I love this quote, because it speaks to the incredible power of curiosity. I had the pleasure of speaking at Unity of Harrisburg yesterday, and performing the baby blessing for our youngest granddaughter, 7-month-old Cassie Lee. I spoke to the power of being curious and seeing the world through the eyes of a child, of cultivating and practicing beginner's mind. The notes from the talk are included here. I hope you enjoy it!:


This month, we’re exploring the power of Understanding, one of the 12 powers discerned by Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity movement. Charles and Myrtle believed that by cultivating and demonstrating these powers, we more fully live as the presence of the Christ consciousness in our lives and in the world.


Understanding is the power that encourages us to be curious, to question, to become willing to unlearn what we have learned. (If you check out my Facebook page, you’ll see that’s a Yoda quote and it’s my cover photo. :-)


This morning we’re looking at one dimension of understanding: Comprehension. The definition of “comprehension” is the action or capability of understanding something; the ability to understand the meaning of something. Comprehension requires us to be open to new ways of understanding, new ways of seeing the world and what we’ve made it mean.


In other words, are we willing to be curious, especially about what we think we know?


It has been said that the beginning of wisdom, of understanding, is “I don’t know.” Are we willing to ask questions, to not assume that we understand? Are we willing to not know? For those of us who make our living knowing things, that can be a scarey thing! Yes? But nevertheless, are we willing to not know?


This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 18:3: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Another version says, unless you have a change of heart and become like children...


What’s really interesting about this scripture is the context in which it’s found. If we go back to the first verse of this chapter, we find the disciples questioning Jesus. At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”


Jesus called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”


This teaching becomes even more powerful when we insert the definition of the kingdom of heaven from The Revealing Word: “The kingdom of heaven is the realm of divine ideas, producing their expression, perfect harmony. It is within man.”


Isn’t this interesting? The disciples are saying, “So Jesus, as far as pecking order goes, who’s the greatest?” Jesus, being a man of infinite patience, explains that the greatest is the most innocent, the most humble, that in order to enter the realm of divine ideas, we need to be a lot less concerned with who’s the greatest and much more interested in regaining our innocence, our sense of wonder, our willingness to see the world, and one another, through fresh have a change of heart, letting go of our opinions and preconceptions.


The Buddhists call this child like curiosity, this return to innocence, “beginner’s mind.”

According to Abbess Zenkei Blanche Hartman:

“Beginner’s mind is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner's mind is just present to explore and observe and see ‘things as-it-is.’ I think of beginner's mind as the mind that faces life like a small child, full of curiosity and wonder and amazement.

Can we look at our lives in such a way? Can we look at all of the aspects of our lives with this mind, just open to see what there is to see? I don't know about you, but I have a hard time doing that. I have a lot of habits of mind—I think most of us do. Children begin to lose that innocent quality after a while, and soon they want to be "the one who knows." We all want to be the one who knows. But if we decide we "know" something, we are not open to other possibilities anymore.

We lose something very vital in our life when it's more important to us to be "one who knows" than it is to be awake to what's happening. We get disappointed because we expect one thing, and it doesn't happen quite like that. Or we think something ought to be like this, and it turns out different. Instead of saying, "Oh, isn't that interesting," we say, 'Yuck, not what I thought it would be.'

The very nature of beginner's mind is not knowing in a certain way, not being an expert. As Suzuki Roshi said in the prologue to Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's there are few."


One of my favorite stories illustrating beginner’s mind concerns a Buddhist scholar and a Zen Master. The scholar had an extensive background in Buddhist Studies and was an expert on the Nirvana Sutra. He came to study with the master and after making the customary bows, asked him to teach him Zen. Then, he began to talk about his extensive doctrinal background and rambled on and on about the many sutras he had studied.

The master listened patiently and then began to make tea. When it was ready, he poured the tea into the scholar's cup until it began to overflow and run all over the floor. The scholar saw what was happening and shouted, "Stop, stop! The cup is full; you can't get anymore in."

The master stopped pouring and said: "You are like this cup; you are full of ideas about Buddha's Way. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can't put anything in. Before I can teach you, you'll have to empty your cup."


Are we willing to empty our cups? Are we willing to be open, to be curious? To unlearn what we have learned?


In her little book Awakening Loving-Kindness, Pema Chodron invites us to “develop our curiosity, not caring whether the object of our inquisitiveness is bitter or sweet.” She goes on to explain: “Inquisitiveness or curiosity involves being gentle, precise, and open – actually being able to let go and open. Gentleness is a sense of goodheartedness toward ourselves. Precision is being able to see very clearly, not being afraid to see what’s really there, just as a scientist is not afraid to look into the microscope. Openness is being able to let go and to open.”


Since this is Valentine’s Day... What would it look like to be curious about our relationships? A couple I once married requested this reading from A Course in Miracles:


"Let us be still an instant, and forget, all things we ever learned, all thoughts we had, and every preconception that we hold of what things mean and what their purpose is. Let every image of everyone be loosened from our minds and swept away.


Be innocent of judgment... Now you do not know your partner. Bur you are free to learn of each other, and learn of each other anew. Now he is born again to you, and you are born again to him... And she is free to live, as you are free, because an ancient learning has passed away, and left a place for truth to be reborn."


“An ancient learning has passed away and left a place for truth to be reborn.”


This is seeing through the innocent eyes of a child. To see the world with wonder. Does this mean that all of a sudden we don’t know how our partner takes their coffee? I hope not. :-)


No, but it does mean that we let go of some of our assumptions and preconceptions, and become willing to see them with innocence. And to be curious.


What would happen to our friendships and marriages if we became willing to let go and be open about who we are and who they are? How many times do we catch ourselves saying, “He/she’s always this way or that” or “They never do this or that”, effectively closing the door on any future growth or change or goodheartedness? What if instead of limiting our relationships to how they’ve always been, we become curious about what they can become?


Curiosity is what led Edison and Tesla to harness the power of electricity. Curiosity is what drove Einstein to discover gravitational waves decades before we observed them. Curiosity about a plate full of mold led to the cultivation of penicillin. Curiosity has driven every invention and every discovery since we started walking upright on the planet.


What if a result of our curiosity is to be present to this moment? To forget all we thought we knew? To see the Divine in everyone and every situation? To see the best in everyone and every situation?


We too have the opportunity every day to become like children - to cultivate the innocence, enthusiasm and curiosity of beginner’s mind - to reveal that the kingdom of heaven is right here, right now, among us and demonstrated by us. And when we are just too tired, or too jaded, and we forget who we are... let’s look into the eyes of a child and remember.