Mar2018: Making Sense of Your World

by Brad on February 27, 2018

“Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails.”           — Henry David Thoreau

My life is made rich and full with the many remarkable conversations I have each day. Whether friends, family, clients or others along the way, it seems all share a desire to truly experience life’s inherent beauty and possibility. Yet I also notice how easy it is to be trapped instead by all that’s “wrong” in the world, often to the point that the quest for beauty seems hopeless. Perhaps that’s why I appreciated this “possibility conversation” with a client recently. Well along the path to reclaiming her own life potential, she said, “Help me. I know my path is my own, but tell me how you came to see and think with the perspective you have. I think if understood the framework of your journey, it would help me get the most out of mine.” I loved how she phrased the question, and the conversation that followed was filled with insight – for both of us. I remember being a bit surprised by my own response, so I took note of how it unfolded.

I love nature. Best I can recall, I’ve loved our natural world my entire life. It offered me quiet refuge through a rigid, controlled childhood experience. It was my favorite study topic in school. It helped me find unity in often-disparate places and cultures I experienced in my travels. It became a major for a middle-life degree program, then subsequently a 20-year-long avocation – leading nature tours to some of the world’s more remote and magnificent places. It formed the object of my love and work as a nature photographer. It now creates the backdrop for my work as a life coach, for it offers an integrated archetypal model of “how life can work.” Nature has been both a companion and teacher throughout my life; she has quietly listened to my greatest challenges and has consistently offered the answers I needed most.

For me, loving the world has taught me to truly see the world – its beauty, goodness, unity, creative potential, connectedness, and yes, the hope that lives inside us all. And by making a conscious choice to “fall in love with the world all over again,” every day, I live with reverence and gratitude … for my own life, for others, for our collective hopes and dreams. Because of this, I know why I am here; I trust myself; and I am open to new learning. I’m no longer a victim of life’s everyday circumstances, largely because I know I’m part of an even bigger ‘circumstance.’ (I’m still a work in progress here, every day.) From a recent ad by Guinness: “there’s less that separates us than brings us together.”

Yet in none of this – as a student, as a teacher, as a manager or as a coach – have I tried to “get others” to love nature as I do. Nature simply offered me a path … to find me, to help me make sense of my world, and to find my home in a world that often seems bent on denying me that. You don’t have to hug trees to gain perspective on your life. (I do, but you don’t!) Or, following Thoreau’s model, you don’t have to “move to the woods” to find yourself (although I quietly think it would benefit many of us if we did). The path to your perspective is inside you. You can find it. All it takes is to stop for long enough … to be with yourself for long enough … to hear that quiet voice inside you … … then listen for long enough … that you begin to trust the clarity and authenticity of its guidance. In the words of Phil Cousineau in The Art of Pilgrimage, “Uncover what you long for and you will discover who you are.”

And when you do stop, you’ll likely hear two distinct voices inside your head (OK, maybe many voices). One screams loudly and continuously, as if to defend itself, telling you life is about competition, scarcity and fear. The other, softer, yet calm and perhaps even more persistent, tells you that your life is uniquely your own, filled with possibility at every turn in the road, waiting for you to honor it with choices you make. Which voice do you honor? Clue: you won’t find what’s possible if you look only at what’s wrong. Contemplating these opposites reminds me of the Native American story of a young brave, listening to his grandfather speak about the conflicting voices that live inside all of us, likening them to two wolves fighting. The grandson asks him which wolf will win … to which he replies, “whichever one you feed.” The ‘food’ that allows you to favor your own truth is conscious awareness. Developing that power of awareness takes practice. The exercise below is aimed at guiding you toward that awareness.

Exercise: Discovering your personal truth. When you look around, you don’t really see “the world.” What you see is a story about the world, a story that lives in your mind, a result of how you’ve come to see and think about the world. Learning to see these as two separate things opens up new possibility. As a way to gain this clarity and perspective, it helps to stop (as noted above), and listen … for the calm, persistent voice of your inner truth. This exercise can guide you through that process. Create 20-30 minutes of quiet time, a few times a week. Plan to continue this exercise until you feel “at home.” Each session will build on previous learning. First, name distinct aspects of your life. Possibilities include childhood, school, jobs, relationships, friendships, family, transitions. Notice – aspects aren’t sequential. (You may have had many jobs during your life, but for this exercise, “jobs” forms one aspect. Similarly, you may have had many transitions – from job to job, relationship to relationship, home to home, etc.) After naming aspects that fit your life, look inside each aspect, independent of the others, one at a time, and ask yourself: Who was I always being here? What was I always drawn to? What did I imagine or wonder? What energized me (vs. what drained me)? Did I accept this aspect of my life or did I try to fight it off? What did I do or be whether I gained approval of others or not? Look at places in your ‘always’ or ‘never’ stories that ran counter to conventional wisdom. (For me, I never accepted quick “answers” very well; I wanted to dig deeper, to truly learn how something worked, underneath the “answers.” Turns out not many teachers (or bosses) appreciated all this questioning.) After doing this for all aspects of your life, return to your lists and see what you find in common across them. These are clues to “the real you,” the you you may have lost in life’s pressure to conform. When you discover who you can’t not be/do, you find your own unique, authentic truth. (Again, for me, I found that ‘asking deeper questions’ appeared on every single one of my lists. If you know me, even from these writings, you may understand how much a part of my life and work that is today.)


Life lessons from nature: An under-the-sea volcano spews molten lava from a deep ocean vent. After hundreds of thousands of years, lava emerges from the sea; an island is formed. Growing thousands of feet more, a mountain offers commanding views of the surroundings. Even before lava stops flowing, rain starts to wear down the rock, breaking it into pieces, eventually creating soil. Sandy beaches encircle the island. Seeds arrive on the island, rafted thousands of miles by waves or dropped by birds; the first plants colonize a new land. Rivers flowing down the mountain’s flanks bring moisture, nutrients and life; flowering plants and palm trees flourish in the moist, tropical environment. Brought by floating logs or arriving under their own power, creatures of the land find a new niche in the rich, verdant forest. Over the next few million years, nature’s weathering carves the land into hills and fluted valleys, with giant sea cliffs dropping to the pounding surf. Decaying plants create more soil, habitat for a variety of fauna and flora – a place of splendor. The island’s first humans arrive one day by canoe, having paddled two thousand miles across open, uncharted ocean. With only a vision of a future and little fear of the unknown, they use the creative essence that is their own – a deep sense of wonder, awareness, and skill with the ocean and the sky – to open a new future for themselves and their people.

In a nutshell, this is the story of Hawaii. Just as easily, it could be any other story, too. The essence of the story, however, is the beauty it evokes, beauty that derives, in large measure, from holding little attachment to the past. If any single element in this story – the lava, the ocean, the rain, the trees, the birds or even the humans – lived from a belief that only what was possible yesterday could determine what is possible tomorrow, there would be no Hawaii.

Nature doesn’t live in the past. Nature doesn’t live in the future. What happens in nature happens now, in this moment, a result of each thing, whether animate or inanimate: (1) being its innate creative essence, (2) being aware of its current environment, and (3) stepping into uncertainty with trust in its essence and in its awareness. With neither judgment of the past nor fear for the future, nature continually steps into its own uncertainty; the creative process itself is the marvel of nature’s mystery, her “results” only a fleeting reminder of the beauty and mystery of it all.


Book of the month: Don’t Die with Your Music Still in You, by Serena Dyer & Wayne Dyer. A daughter-and-father collaboration, in which Serena contemplates “life lessons” from growing up as she did, speaking to how they impacted her in amazing ways. It’s rich with insights and commentary on the many conflicting messages poured into us over the course of our lives that have now taken up residence in our unconscious minds – things we believe as truth, yet rarely question or examine. A beautiful guide to finding your deepest longing, then living from the light and energy it offers. And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons; 508-539-6985.

Note: the image accompanying this month’s article is of a painting … a symbolic representation of my life story … done by great friend and amazing artist Nicki LeMarbre (


Download March 2018 pdf

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine February 27, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Hi Brad,

Your post reminds me of a program I became aware of recently. Thought I’d share this with you. Most likely you know of it as well. Namaste, ELAINE.


Pam February 27, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Great newsletter, as usual, Brad!


Deb February 28, 2018 at 8:17 am

Thanks, Brad. Love the many ways we all make sense of the world. And I’m feeling inspired to hugs some trees!


Joy February 28, 2018 at 8:34 am

Great read! Reminds me very much of your book! 🙂


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