Archive for What Matters
Maura is somewhat of a sandbagger when it comes to the awesomeness of what she does in our community. When you chat with her one on one you see that she’s intelligent and witty with at least one hard edge, while having a calculated sense of adventure. But to really get to what matters to Maura she requires you to dig much deeper. When exposed to what Maura is up to in our community, you become convinced she’s wearing a Batman costume under her clothes, waiting to leap off to help out in a moments notice.
A new england transplant and self professed “catholic school survivor”, Maura is an avid cyclist and volunteer for Team in Training and our State Parks. She worked for 18 years in high tech, which she left in 2009 for nonprofit work and is currently working on Amgen Tour of CA—Santa Cruz style. Because what really matters to Maura is:
Terri: Maura, in order to keep the finish line of a stage of the Amgen Tour of California in Santa Cruz County you recently took a giant step into the unknown and personally underwrote the expense of this endeavor. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this risky choice? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be
Maura: It was/is my perception that the community wanted this event more than whether or not the city could fund it. Numerous people I’ve met at farmer’s markets and chamber meetings have told me I was/am right. What matters most in one word? Service.
Terri: You mentioned what you perceived mattered to our community surrounding the Amgen event. What matters to you personally that would cause you to devote an enormous amount of time and an unprecedented amount of money to this cause?
Maura: My personal motivation for bringing the Tour of CA back to Santa Cruz county is based on my perception that kids these days need more examples of active ‘play’ – something where you put down your techno toy of choice and actually interact with your environment and your peers. I am concerned with the spread of technology as distraction for kids – even though I enjoy the benefits of my blackberry. But I didn’t grow up sitting around for hours surfing the web or texting my friends. We played games outside after school. We rode our bikes to friends’ houses. We climbed trees, went sledding or skating, etc. I was not an ‘athletic’ kid growing up at all but we were at least pushed out side and told to get some fresh air on a regular basis.
While working on the tour of CA and the tour of CO, I see kids running down the street or pedaling on bikes, eager to get a glimpse of the riders. This is a team sport where people work together, so one of their team can win. Many of these kids may never have heard of the Tour de France – an international competition built off something almost everyone has (or has access to) – a bike. But even if cycling is not their thing, I would like to provide more models to kids of free or low cost activities that they can do outside (hence my health and wellness festival area near the finish line of Amgen).
Terri: What does it feel like to be in a life of Service? What do you recommend for people who are interested in being more of service in our own community but aren’t sure how to reach out?
Maura: As cliche as it sounds, when you help others you really do get this amazing feeling…… It’s mutually beneficial. And when people work together in groups to accomplish larger tasks than they alone could do, it just blows the mind.
In this day and age of technology, I tell people to Google “volunteer” and the place they want to volunteer in. Or volunteer and the subject they want to learn about. In Santa Cruz, since I’ve lived here 25 years, I also love hooking people up to get things done. I always say “I don’t need to be the one who knows everything but I love knowing who does and connecting them to people with mutual interests/projects.”
Jane Hancock is an educator, photographer and woman who has sought and embraced a path of compassion and courage. I approached Jane briefly at Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel a couple of years before Expedition Bhutan even existed and when I heard she frequented Bhutan. But we finally sat and bonded over a latte while in Thimphu, Bhutan at the tail end of our expedition. It was then, amidst our mutual love for the country, that she finally shared the story of her work in this unique place. I totally got why she had changed and shaped her life to help such a remote cause. Bhutan kinda causes that to happen to people.
Jane taught in the Scotts Valley School District for 22 years, is the cofounder and director of the Aloha World Music Camp for Children in Santa Cruz, CA and is the photographer on two acclaimed early American Music research/recording projects. She has co-produced many recordings for Music of Bhutan Research Center (MBRC), and when in Bhutan—which is as frequently as is able—she has a weekly radio show devoted to classical music and volunteers in Bhutanese schools to teach classical music history. Jane has stated here that What Matters to her is COURAGE. I’d say her life’s work is an embodiment of courage. Living courage.
Terri: Jane, from a general long time interest in Bhutan, you decided to help form an organization preserving the important and traditional music of that country. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?
Jane: I have always had an interest in Buddhism since my early twenties, mainly because of the emphasis on compassion. In 2006, I decided to seriously study Buddhism and began to have the yearning to travel to India to the sacred sites where Buddha lived.
A friend of mine mentioned that Bhutan was a country where Buddhism was practiced by most of it’s citizens unlike India. I thought perhaps an immersion in living Buddhism may be a better way to go.
I told my friend, Janet Herman, an ethnomusicologist, of my intention to go to Bhutan. She responded that she had always wanted to go to Bhutan because their traditional music was exquisite. Within that moment a vision was created to archive the music of Bhutan. However, we knew next to nothing about Bhutan.
It just so happened that in the summer of 2008, the Smithsonian was featuring the country of Bhutan in their summer folk life festival. Many Bhutanese musicians and artists would be there. Janet and I went to DC., met the premier traditional musician, Kheng Sonam Dorji, and were invited to help him archive a legendary singer. That October, we were on our first expedition in a rural village in central Bhutan.
Mr. Dorji then founded the Music of Bhutan Research Center and we were asked to be on his advisory board. In the few short years of the organization, we have published three CD’s and the first book on Bhutanese music, archived over 60 elder master musicians, established the Annual Druk Norbu National Award for excellence in traditional music, created the first Bhutanese folk music festival, and have video footage for 10 documentaries in the making. To be a part of preserving a culture’s music, music which embodies rich Buddhist themes of compassion and loving kindness, has been an honor. Stepping into this vision has been a life altering adventure.
One word that suns up what matters for me is courage—the courage to evolve, the courage to be compassionate no matter what occurs in one’s life, the courage to be patient (which has proved to be immensely valuable) and the courage to be open and nonattached. This is a great path, however, quite a challenging one as well.
Terri: The story of how you came to work in Bhutan is so inspiring! But what do you do on a regular, day to day, basis to keep you focused on ‘being in courage’? What would you recommend to people who might struggle with finding courage in their own lives?
Jane: Without a doubt my Buddhist meditation is the main avenue for me to daily bring a consciousness of courage into my life as well as patience, compassion, and loving kindness. That is the inner courage dealing with the mental and emotional reactions to the vicissitudes of life. Also talking with good friends about challenges seems to call forth courage as well.
Then there is the outer courage, say traveling to other countries and embracing cultures. I was born with a fearless sense of adventure. Whether traveling with friends or by myself, I feel at home anywhere in the world. As the Dalai Lama says, “Our shared humanity makes us all brothers and sisters.”
It terms of how others can bring more courage to their lives, I truly feel each person is on their own path and through life experience, only they can decide how to bring more courage into their lives.
Captain Jim “Homer” Holm knows the ocean so thoroughly that he has devoted his life’s work to saving it. For over 30 years he’s worked in maritime trades on various sail and motor craft from grand prix racing sailboats to marine research vessels and every configuration in between. Through the years he developed marine education programs while crossing the Atlantic, numerous times the Pacific from CA to Hawaii and cruising in many other seas worldwide—all the while noting the growing problem with maritime pollution. What makes Homer a true visionary is taking his love of the ocean combined with his observations over the years and creating a project that stands to change the face of our planet-wide marine waste problem.
As Co-founder and Director of Operations for The Clean Oceans Project, Captain Holm is honing in on identifying and developing specific technologies that will play a key role in removing destructive plastic marine debris from the worlds oceans—and recycle it. Based in Santa Cruz, Homer is eager and passionate in chatting about the latest efforts at The Clean Oceans Project, but what you really get clear on in this interaction is that cleaning up our oceans WILL happen. Even with funding still needing to be in place to execute their mission, Homer is already there. After experiencing his warmth and easily likable yet articulate manner, you walk away at best knowing that he will eliminate the Garbage Patches of the planet, and at worst, taking careful inventory of you and your families personal plastic use.
While studying and sailing the oceans of the world, What has Mattered the most to Captain Holm?
LOVE AND GRATITUDE
Terri: Homer, from roaming the world’s seas as the captain of various vessels, you decided to start an organization here in Santa Cruz, CA with the significant undertaking of cleaning up the marine garbage patch. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?
Homer: If I can use two words, they would be Love and Gratitude. I have had great fortune in my life. Not money but incredible adventure and experience, good friends and loving family. I have food and shelter. And I am in a bit of a unique position.
I have been at sea working with very smart people and have a few years experience myself. What I’ve come to is that the problem of floating plastic trash is enormous, but if we identify the individual challenges and address them one at a time they become manageable and then we can slowly achieve our goals. That is how we went to the moon and built pyramids [and that is how we’ll clean up the ocean].
The ocean has been my playground and workplace for all of my life. The Ocean needs help with many problems right now and it is a problem I thought I could do something about. The Clean OceansProject is what we have decided to do. It is an amazing opportunity to get involved [with restoring the majority of our planet].
Terri: You are in a challenging position of “building pyramids” with the Clean Oceans Project—starting from nothing and changing up the way the ocean exists on our planet. How do you stay in Gratitude each day? What would you say to someone who may struggle with being in Gratitude?
Homer: Remaining grateful for the opportunities that come my way is easy. Traveling for work introduced me to numerous cultures and variations in life's stations.
My little girl taught me much at 14 when she observed that the Fijian children she had met in the villages had nothing compared to her, and they were happy. That is an important revelation for a teen.
Things do not produce happiness, there are many wealthy people searching desperately for happiness. Triumph over adversity, compassion for others, achieving a lofty goal and maintaining integrity can all result in happiness, but it is the act of earning it that produces it.
There is love in my life and family and friends, I am truly blessed, and for that I am grateful. My background and situation are unique and it feels imperative that I investigate the limits of my capabilities to the benefit of what and who I love, my family, friends and the ocean.
The challenge has been very tangible for my partner and me and the ability to keep gaining ground for four straight years has been an incredible reward in itself. We have evolved from passionate to informed and managed to attract some remarkable talent and wisdom along the way by embracing integrity and responsibility. Working with these personalities has also been a reward, so you see, there is much to be grateful for.
If someone should find themselves struggling with maintaining gratitude for the wonderful things in life, become a volunteer. Give of yourself with no expectation of return or thanks. There are causes that are important, and people who really need help. When you give of yourself you can more easily recognize your good fortune and opportunities. If you do this honestly it can not fail to teach you gratitude.
This is the third in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to people who are really taking on their lives. My aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion. If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you. Today we’re looking at…
What Matters to BRIAN POWELL
In 2009, Bryon abandoned a promising career practicing law in Washington DC and moved cross country to live in the Sierra near Yosemite. His aim was iconic—to devote himself full time to iRunFar.com, a trail running and ultra running website.
Ultra running is a niche community that, with some exception, has happily remained obscure to the general public. Yet ultra running’s intelligent, eclectic and ofttimes eccentric devotees embrace trail running as a serious lifestyle. Their connection to the sublime value and camaraderie gained by spending hours running in the woods, is palpable
With ‘The Suit’ left far behind and as a trail runner for two decades, Bryon now offers trail fans of all distances extensive event coverage worldwide, gear reviews, and cutting edge viewpoint from a variety of experienced contributors. Through Bryon’s bold efforts, the diverse ultra running community now has an information force to be reckoned with.
A true pioneer in the ultra running world, Bryon also frequently writes about trail running for other media outlets including Trail Runner magazine, and is the author of Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons.
But WHAT really MATTERS to this accomplished ultra runner, trail lover and visionary entrepreneur?
Terri: Bryon, you left a career as an attorney and moved across the country to live in the mountains and start a business covering and promoting one of the least understood endurance sports in America—ultra running. What matters the most to you in your life right now that caused this chain of events that altered the direction of your life? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that word be?
Bryon: Peace. That’s what I was in search of when I set forth from DC. I’d just spent four years working full-time while attending law school at night and then two and a half more years as an associate at a boutique law firm. For six and a half years, I had few moments when I wasn’t doing something that needed doing. On top of that, my job was remarkably stressful and anxiety inducing. As a result, even in my few down moments, I couldn’t find peace.
I thought that quitting the law gig, moving west, and working for myself would give me more time and more peace. I was only half right. I probably work more now than when I was an attorney. However, I do that work with a great deal more peace. Sure, there are plenty of frantic moments and, occasionally, stress and anxiety, but those are now the exception rather than the rule.
What matters to me most at the moment? Community. Periods of injury during my time as iRunFar‘s editor have shown me that the trail running and ultrarunning communities mean as much to me as the running itself. While community gives me an inward satisfaction, I also see it as my primary job. Everyday, I’m driven to help build the trail and ultra communities by curating content that inspires and educates people about these pursuits. In trying to assist the community, I see myself more as a community hub than anything else. I provide a place for both iRunFar’s contributors and readers to come together to share their thoughts. That is where the magic happens.
Terri: What does that sense of peace offer you mentally, and what do you do daily to generate it? What would you recommend to someone who struggles with grasping peace in their lives?
Peace allows me to relax and regenerate, two things I’m awful at doing. In fact, I’m dreadful at creating peace in my world on a daily basis. That’s why it’s been so important to create a superstructure for my life that eliminated factors that detracted from my peace. I may not be able to step out of a moment (or, perhaps, be in the moment) enough to create peace on the fly, but I can shape my world to be more peaceful in general.
I think people often lack the desired level of peace in their lives, but feel helpless to change things. They’re not. You’re not. Whether on a grand or minuscule scale, it IS possible to create a more peaceful life. Look to see what elements of your life are unrewarding, stressful, anxiety-inducing, or simply a waste of time. Immediately make the small, no-brainer changes. You will quickly be rewarded with more peace. If there are huge issues (jobs, relationships, finances), know that you can always change your situation… even if it takes time.
My job and life in the Washington, DC area were killing me. To many, it appears that I went the desert (to run the Marathon des Sables), decided to U-turn my life while out there, and did so when I returned. That’s true, but it’s not the full story. For a number of years, I’d known that the attorney life, as I lived it, wasn’t necessarily for me. At least a year before I quit my job, I recognized that my then blog, iRunFar, was a means to building relationships with the outdoor industry and, therefore, a possible means of starting a new life in a new community. I was far from certain that I would take that option, but I worked even harder than before on the website so I’d have the option. When, a year later amongst Morocco’s Merzouga Dunes, I decided I needed that more peaceful life, the preceding year of countless late nights gave me the means to improve my life. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
This is the second in a series of brief conversations looking at What Matters to people who are really taking on their lives. My aim is to uncover what matters to them deeply. To expose their foundational passion.
If this conversation interests you too, let me know and share it with others who matter to you…
Some of my words about Tom:
As the past (and beloved) owner of Fleet Feet, Aptos, an accomplished
businessperson, deep thinker, artist and ultra runner, I asked Tom to give me a bio he’s used in the past to highlight his accomplishments. He sent me this…:
“You asked for my bio and my inclination is to look at all the bios I’ve written over the past few years for various folks and then consolidate all the cool nuggets into one impressive conglomeration. That would be my ego’s response for an opportunity to sell myself and maybe even impress people. But I’m not going to do that today. I’m trying not to do that anymore at all.”
Since largely accomplished Tom Griffen wouldn’t give me his stats, I can only share with you who he is through our friendship. Because despite our extended sharing time together I don’t know much about Tom’s background. Which itself is a statement as to what matters to both of us.
I met Tom over coffee when he first came to Santa Cruz in 2008. As the new owner of Fleet Feet, Aptos, he contacted me to connect and discuss ways that we could support each other through our businesses. Coffee turned into a 2+ hour conversation that mostly had nothing to do with business. I knew then, he was a keeper. This type of insta-connection will surface with Tom intermittently, and when it does it will sync like puzzle pieces. Since he left Fleet Feet, Aptos to work for their corporate office in North Carolina, Tom will roll into town now and then on business and we’ll get together for dinner. We always close the place down.
Tom is thoughtful and observant, hard driving (sometimes to his demise) and nurturing. A sometimes sleeper of a hugely talented being, amidst a palpable sensitivity. A perfectly articulate, visionary. Tom has a knowing that doesn’t require me to explain my regular deep esoteric thoughts. He gets it. He gets a lot because he’s paying attention. To our mutual amazement our life processes seem to consistently be in sync.
Tom makes decisions about his life that are mind bending for some because he gets that life is now. What matters to Tom needs to happen now—not when the planets happen to align, or when he ‘retires’
If you have an opportunity to have coffee with him, take him up on it. You’ll notice that he authentically rides on your every word. And if you matter to him, he may even share with you that what matters to him most is…
Terri: Tom, people in Santa Cruz County may know you as an accomplished and beloved past Fleet Feet owner and ultra runner who moved back east to work for Fleet Feet Corporate. Currently you are looking at taking a few months leave of absence from your job to tend to some things that really matter to you. What would you say matters the most to you in your life right now? If you could sum up what matters to you in one word, what would that be?
Tom: I’ve lived a life full of amazing experiences ranging from fascinating to dysfunctional. I’d change nothing if given a chance. I may come across as a guy with his shit together but I have the amazing people of my past to thank for this mirage. I channel them constantly as I make decisions that move me through life. They are full of good advice, laughter and answers to hard questions.
You ask what matters most? That’s an easy one. At this point in my life I truly and whole-heartedly believe that the only thing that matters is happiness. Not simply mine or yours, but everything’s happiness. As I’ve started focusing on this I am realizing that everyone gets the idea of happiness, but not everyone makes effort to “do happiness”.
Happiness. It’s not necessarily easy but it’s what it’s all about.
For many years I battled the real me without even realizing it. I became what I thought others would want me to be and I was wildly successful. But there was always something missing and I grew increasingly angry with life. When this anger became self-destructive I started noticing the importance of change. But it took years to do anything except beat myself up about this new-found insight.
Luckily, things eventually started to converge. The people I met, experiences I had, and intuition I began listening to merged my confusion into solid thoughts and beliefs. I was introduced to the real me and continue to learn from this fortunate culmination of life “happening”. So sure I could go on and on about the myriad things that led me to this point, things like travel, academics, athletic competition, women, friends, food, sex, money, drugs, professions and other random and common life experiences. But I won’t. These things got me here now but they no longer matter.
I still have tendencies to fall into what my body and brain recall from my past. But I’m using my awareness of the moment to honor this “muscle memory” and move beyond it.
Terri: What things do you do regularly or are you changing in your life currently to generate that sense of happiness? What do you recommend for those for whom happiness seems to elude?
Tom: After truly coming to terms with what matters most I knew that I needed to make some changes. I envisioned these changes to mainly revolve around how I was spending the majority of my time. Certain things in my life had become hobbies that probably deserved more attention than an hour here and there. After spending a year literally writing thoughts and comments on a 6”x7” canvas hanging in my bedroom it was obvious what preoccupies me – and it wasn’t my job. Not at all. Lumping the ideas from the canvas together left me with a few main categories of interest. These are the things that make me truly happy. The five I came up with are art, animals, friends, philosophy and activism. Had you asked me a year ago to come up with a list of things that created happiness I assure you I’d not have included all of these five things. My notes over time painted an honest picture of what my belly desired – so rather than regret things when I am old I decided to take action. I requested and was granted a 5-month leave of absence from my job. That was step one.
Step two was examining the list to determine how I could stoke these hot fires in my belly. I meditated on each one and what it meant to me. What did I want from art? What was this interest in animals about? Why did I have friends on my list? What the heck did I mean by philosophy? And finally, why was activism so appealing? I once was told by a fellow educator that one needs to determine what drives them and then hit the gas pedal. At this juncture I’d barely gotten in the car. But finally, after nearly 40 years, I was in it. That is exciting.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I enjoy helping folks develop successful businesses. But for the next five months I plan to tap into that which I am passionate about – something that would have been otherwise unavailable to me because of my job and busy lifestyle. Life’s too short to not follow that voice inside. Right now it’s loud and clear.
I believe we all enjoy the idea of happiness but we don’t all do much about it. Or we somehow have come to confuse happiness with social or familial expectations commonly associated with so-called happiness. It’s high time we collectively ask ourselves what truly makes us happy and then give it the credit it’s due. Fact is, if I am happy, odds are I will exude it. Someone will, in turn, catch it and maybe pass it on. In a crazy world that seems so stuck in its ways and unchangeable, we still have complete control over how we accept what’s in front of us. If you are unhappy or angry or frustrated, there comes a point when nobody’s to blame but you. Define what makes you happy and put your energy there. That’s being a responsible human being.
To contact Tom or follow along on his 5-month leave from work go to: