Walking the Walk

At my current job, whether at the assisted living facility or the nursing home, my walk distinguishes me. Specifically, the speed at which I walk. If I were to walk at my normal pace, I would have to weave my way between residents like a driver on the New Jersey Turnpike. And admittedly, there are staff that do–especially the nursing staff, for whom the goal

Sea Lion Striding across the Sand (Copyright David Kominsky, 2015)
Sea Lion Striding across the Sand (Copyright David Kominsky, 2015)

is to get to the next patient quickly.

I, however, have learned to consciously slow my walk. To walk at a similar pace to that of the residents. It communicates that I’m available to talk, willing to literally as well as figuratively accompany them on their journeys. And often it does lead to the start of a real conversation as people strike up conversations as I walk besides them.

I contrast this to the instructions I was given when I started my first job as a market researcher. The corporate environment there was one of business-like efficiency. We, as new hires, were instructed to always walk through the offices with purpose and direction–which meant, quickly.

I am struck by the difference: in the beginning I was to walk quickly in order to show clients that there was no time wasted. Now, I walk slowly to communicate to my clients that they aren’t wasting my time if they want to talk with me.

Occasionally, I still catch myself striding along, in a hurry to get to a meeting, or to the next item on my agenda. And I catch myself, and slow down. I remember that my walk communicates something, and that walking quickly means, “I don’t have time for you.”

A Year Since CubeSpace

It’s been a year since CubeSpace closed. Today is the first day of summer. Each year, there will be a first day of summer. CubeSpace closed its doors for good on only one occasion. Some events recur, others drift further into the past.

Looking back over the last year, it has, without doubt, been a tough year. The search for work continues. The economy is weak (I know, shocking news to you), and looking for work is no fun at all (also a revelation, I’m sure). Yet time moves on, and with time comes some perspective.

I look back on CubeSpace and remember the wonderful events we helped host: barcamp, WordCamp, CyborgCamp, and so many others. I remember the conversations as people fell into the vortex of the front desk and would sit chatting for hours. The never-ending stream of coffee.

Most of all, I remember the people. So many folks who were so much a part of my (and Eva’s) daily life, whom I see only sporadically now. People who helped out whenever they could. People who stopped by because they happened to be in the neighborhood. People who just had a quick question. Oh, and folks who wanted to get a little work done, as well.

The mix of the various elements of the day, and questions seemed endless. One minute I would find myself wrestling with a computer networking issue, the next answering a question about Judaism, or doing unofficial pastoral counseling, and then brainstorming a marketing strategy for someone.

I also remember arriving at 6:45 in the morning, sometimes staying until 9:30 in the evening. Eva and I needed to plan life to swap off taking care of CubeSpace, and saw far less of each other than we do now. Getting out of town was a major hassle, arranging adequate staff coverage for our absence.It was exhausting, and sometimes we felt like we were dragging ourselves through the wilderness.

A year later, I still miss CubeSpace, and probably always will. I remember the wonderful parts and the hard parts. But it is a time past, which will not come back.

The summer begins, the longest day of the year. There are new beginnings yet to be had in life, but some things drift into the past. As the length of day is changed by the season, we are changed by the events in our lives. I am forever changed by CubeSpace in ways that I hope are positive. I hope many of you have also been changed for the better by CubeSpace.

A year later, I thank you all who participated with Eva and myself in the bold experiment we called CubeSpace.

Wow, Turns Out I am Competent

As anyone who has been unemployed can tell you, the toughest part of unemployment is the hit your confidence takes. After hearing “I don’t think we have a use for someone with your skill-set” enough times, you begin to feel like you just aren’t useful. At least, I do.

This isn’t an intellectual belief, but rather an emotional reaction. Intellectually, I know I am outrageously competent. I have both extensive life experience, academic credentials and work experience that are hard to match. I know this, but when I hear enough people telling me their organization can’t use me, it begins to erode that intellectual confidence.

But, it turns out, I am competent. I spent about an hour on the phone doing what I do best: problem solving. Someone wanted some advice on contracts for visiting rabbis. I happen to have signed several such contracts myself, as well as cleaned up messes in congregations when such contracts didn’t work out the way they wanted. I’ve also signed lots of contracts in the business world, and dealt with lots of contractors of various kinds. All of which means, I have a lot to offer someone who is less familiar with contracting for rabbinic services.

Admittedly, I didn’t get paid for this advice. On the other hand, I got my name out there. And more importantly, I reminded myself that I am competent and my work is valuable. Now I just need to convince someone with money to hire me of this.

Bankruptcy and New Beginnings

A few weeks ago, Eva and I filed for bankruptcy as a result of the end of CubeSpace. The process has been a learning experience.

Bankruptcy is really designed to give one a new start, and seems to function that way. Having gotten into financial waters over one’s head, with no way out,  bankruptcy is an opportunity to declare a financial “do-over.” Almost all debts are wiped out, and one can begin again from a new baseline.

For myself and Eva, this really does give us a second chance. We have the opportunity to move forward from CubeSpace without deep debts incurred in the process of running CubeSpace, and the ability to continue our careers without being permanently hamstrung by debt. This process is designed to allow people to take business chances, and move forward if they don’t pan out.

This time of year, the Days of Awe, in the Jewish calendar, is a time of introspection, a time of new starts, and examining our lives, and where we are going. They conclude with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on which we are forgiven our sins from the previous year, and given a metaphorical “new beginning.”

The new beginning of bankruptcy and Yom Kippur coming at the same time is an interesting confluence of events. They reinforce each other’s messages, and create a strong sense of transition. It is a message I’m ready to embrace this year. I’m ready for a new beginning.

Year in Review: 5769

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, I try to review my year. The Jewish Year coming up is 5770, and the year just ending, is 5769. Last year I started a tradition of doing that, in part, by doing a review of the year in the blog. I’m continuing that tradition this year. It looks to me like there have been 62 posts since last Rosh Hashanah. So let’s review the year.

It seems like the year was dominated by deaths and endings. These started right at Rosh Hashanah with the death of my dear friend Pam Webb. Then there was Cat Saga, starting when we adopted Shadow. It seemed an auspicious start, but by the time I took her to the vet a few weeks later, there’s already a tone of frustration (though also some pictures). After this, about 3 weeks later we decided to bring her back to the humane society, but they couldn’t take her for about 2 weeks.  Then Artemis, my most beloved cat, died. I tried to write an appropriate remembrance of her, but failed. Eva wrote her memorial to Artemis for me. I still intend to write about her one of these days, but I’m not quite ready yet. The loss of Artemis was a big blow to me this year.  Shortly thereafter, Shadow, still not coming out to visit us, was again captured and returned to the humane society.

The downside of this year really was capped off by CubeSpace folding. My first post as we were figuring out what was going on, linking to the CubeSpace blog, and other places to catch people up. The next post on the subject, was our farewell, which I posted on the CubeSpace blog and linked to. Then there was the post about my plans after-CubeSpace. My post on last day of CubeSpace was definitely sad, as was the day. And then my post, most of a month later, about moving forward. And then about my first disastrous interview for a job.

There was also some joy and celebration. Politics was definitely a significant part of this year. Election night, a super quick post. The next day, I spent some time looking at Obama and Hope and optimism. A list of things I’m thankful for in honor of Thanksgiving. Then came innauguration, which I live-blogged.

There were definitely reflections on ways I was stretching: new types of projects I was working on. And how many types of projects I was working on towards the end of this post. And how many things seems to hit all at once. And just how busy life is, and how to do lists seem to be growing, not shrinking.  How frustrating computers can be when I’m trying to stretch. Again with the whirlwind of life. And being tired after barcamp. And then trying to figure out how to organize time after CubeSpace, and mindfulness as a tool to do so. A few days later I was writing about how we use words to organize our understanding of the world.

As always, rabbinic work spurred some writing. A post about my first weekend with a congregation in Bend. Or my recurring Rabbinic nightmare of being unprepared. I talk a little about the spriritual experience of performing a wedding. A rant on the subject of the lack of marriage equality, in response to false news that Prop 8 had been overturned. A post about how I, as a rabbi, have something to say. A post about how I write, and how I write sermons. More reflections on God and spirituality were spurred by burying a teenager.

There were reflections on Judaism and Jewish Spirituality, starting with some thoughts about Yom Kippur. Also some thoughts about Shabbat, as noticed by my not observing it. Some reflections on Humility, followed immediately by a humorous view of humility. Then came Passover, and a post about Passover and the Tough Economy. Immediately following Passover, begins the counting of the Omer, and I talk about my Omer practice for the year, reading spriritual text. I then share some thoughts on theology, coming out of Tomer Devorah. I finished up the year with some thoughts on Rosh Hashanah prayer.

Reflections on Portland and nature, and seasons, and the like. Walking home from work, and how it’s different from walking to work in the morning. Also a post on walking to work in the rain. And also Portland and the Portland technical community, and the nature of electronic community. Then there was Sam Adams, and his indiscretions, and my plea for people to let the dust settle. Wonderings about how the community could pull together in the face of the economic disaster area. Followed immediately by the flowers of Portland. And then, more photos of flowers. Also a post about the CubeSpace Community as a Spiritual Community. And then a post about gratitude, and expressions of gratitude.

There was a little bit of knit-blogging, but not much. Working on mittens on a deadline. I also revisited those mittens in this post. I started a lace scarf, but really never got very far with it.

There was some deliberate humor. Thanksgiving, and how not to do it. An already mentioned post about humility. Some attempted humor about how busy I was. A Psalm for Purim amused me.

Some stuff defies classification: Preparing for my Ignite Portland presentation and the a wrap up of Ignite Portland; A survey on what you want me to blog about. A post about how Eva and I do anniversaries, not necessarily in the most normal ways. A post for the Portland Interview Project in which I interview Grant Kruger. A short film I embedded because I thought it made such a good point about religion. Some thoughts about memory. I wrote about reading introductions. A list of workshops I’d like to teach.

It was, all in all, a really tough year. I got through it with love and help from friends and family. I’m really hoping we don’t need as much help in the coming year.

Mindfulness and Time

When we think of mindfulness, we usually associate it with meditation. We think of it as a specific type of sitting quietly and paying attention to something specific (often our breathing). Yet this type of mindfulness meditation is intended as a first step. We want to bring this sort of attention to everything we do, whether we are “meditating” or going about our everyday life. One of the most powerful applications of this mindfulness is the impact it has on how one spends time.

If I am paying attention to everything I do, I am less likely to do things that I would consider a waste of time. If I am “mindfully” playing a computer game I use for procrastination, I am unlikely to feel good about doing so for more than a few minutes. If I am “mindfully” watching TV, and discover that the show isn’t holding my attention, I’m likely to decide to do something else, something that will make me feel better about myself.

I have the feeling I need to introduce more mindfulness into my life right now. I need to pay attention, not just to my breathing, but to how I spend my time. I need to pay attention to where I am, and why I’m there.

Routine, to a large degree, obviates the need for mindfulness. A routine (such as going to CubeSpace every day) works to keep one on track. Lack of structure requires far more attention to what one is doing, what one needs to be doing, and how to get there. And when I say “one”, in this case, I really mean “I”.

Mindfulness meditation is one step I can take towards focusing myself. Another is heading out of the house to get work done (I’m in a coffee shop as I write this). A third step is setting up rituals around work (such as writing a blog post as I begin work each day at a coffee shop).

Mindfulness is about spirituality, but it’s also about getting work done better and more efficiently.

Some Workshops I'd Love to Teach

I’ve put together a list of some workshops I’m available to teach, whether at your company, your conference, or some other group. I’d love feedback, as well as suggestions as to people who might want to talk to me about this.
Building a Community out of a Company
In this day and age, people, whether customers or employees, are looking for something to connect to, something to believe in. Make your company a community and both employees and customers will walk through fire for you. The question is, how do you do it? David Kominsky, will talk about his experience with CubeSpace, and introduce some tools and concepts which can help transform a company into a community.
The Use of Ritual to Build a Corporate Community
Religions have used ritual for thousands of years to create tight-knit communities. The military uses ritual to bind together individuals coming from radically different backgrounds into a unified culture in which dedication to the group is a prime value. How can we in the corporate world use ritual effectively, but without being heavy-handed? Rabbi David Kominsky will use examples of rituals already in place in corporations, as well as pointing out how the use of ritual can be expanded to make organizations stronger.
Nurture the Individual, Strengthen the Company
Ever since the industrial revolution, companies have regarded employees as interchangeable commodities. Unsurprisingly, this does not result in employees who give their best to the company. Now, we are beginning to value the diversity of our workforces. How can we invite people to bring more of themselves into their work life, and at the same time, be more effective employees? Looking at what happens when you employers really dedicate themselves to employee welfare, David Kominsky will explore the benefits, using examples from CubeSpace, as well as explain some pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Making Your Brand a Spiritual Identifier
We know that people are likely to act for many reasons which are below the rational brain. Spiritual connection is one of the classic examples of this (religions are based on this truth). This is not necessarily a bad thing. As human beings, we require spiritual identification with larger groups. Today, companies are taking on many of the roles that religions used to fulfill: they can define who we are, who we associate with and how we live our lives. Let’s explore how to use this power deliberately to build better companies: companies that are both successful and do good for those who identify with the companies, whether as employees or customers.

Preparing to Return to Life

No, I’m not talking about resurrection. But as some of you may have noticed, I’ve been gone for a bit.

For the last month, with the exception of about 4 nights, I’ve been out of town. Shortly, I’ll be coming back, checking back in to “real life.” I’ve got to say, I think I’m ready. I needed a break, but it will be good to get back in the swing of things.

This weekend is the last of the out of town stuff. I’m going up to Mt. Ranier area to perform a wedding for a couple. It should be fun, and beautiful. It will also be a nice transition between vacation and working: working in a vacation setting. Next week, it’s back to the real world.

Next week begins the job search in a more targeted way. Next week I begin to dig out from underneath the piles of emails I’ve allowed to accumulate. Next week it’s back to networking and meeting folks, and figuring out what comes next.

I’m definitely facing this transition with some ambivalence. I’m ready to move forward, tired of feeling like I’m sitting still. Yet, as with all transitions, there is some fear about what the future holds. Nonetheless, without some fear, there is little sense of accomplishment. If we stay within our comfort zones, we aren’t stretching to achieve as much as we can. It’s time to stretch again: career yoga, if you will.

And so, once more into the breach, and we’ll see what the future brings.

CubeSpace Spiritual Community

Eva and I have one rule we try to abide by: we don’t do CubeSpace work on Shabbat (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. We don’t always succeed, and there is one event a year we know we will be working: BarCamp Portland. We do this for 3 reasons:

  1. It’s a lot of fun.
  2. It’s great marketing for CubeSpace to have 350 people come through.
  3. We aren’t set up to have 350 people come through CubeSpace without us being present.

Nonetheless, it does mean working on Shabbat. Which made me think about the intersection of spiritual community and CubeSpace community.

In many ways, it feels like the CubeSpace community has become my spiritual community: it is the group that it feels “right” to spend Passover with. It is the community I share news with. It is the community I enjoy partying with (see above re: BarCamp). So spending Shabbat this way does not feel entirely inappropiate.

While there is definitely the resting and recharging element of Shabbat, there is also the celebration and joy element. This week, clearly, is going to be more about the celebration and joy. This week, will be about connecting to the community. Partying with some of the folks I see daily, and some I see only once a year, and no doubt meeting some new folks. It is the opportunity to learn something new…and maybe teach something.

Tonight and tomorrow will be a whirlwind of food, fun, friends, and general geekery. I will emerge at the end exhausted, but having had a good time. In Judaism, we most often pray in community. We most often practice spirituality in community. Today, the Portland Tech Community gathers together, and joins in a spiritual event, even if I’m the only one labeling it as such. It will involve our spirits, affect our spirits, which makes it spiritual (the fact that we’ll be drinking spirits is just a bonus).

Shabbat Shalom, all…or at the very least have a raccous Shabbat of celebration.

Missing Shabbat

I don’t normally post on Saturday, because that’s shabbat and I try to stay off of the computer on shabbat. Today, however, being on the computer, writing this post, may be the closest I get to shabbat: remembering and marking the day by noting the absence. 

Today, we are hosting a conference (unconference) at CubeSpace. Which means we have about 100 people here, in various states of organization, and I’m part of the host. And also trying to do a whole bunch of networking. 

None of which is particularly shabbastic (shabbat-like). [Returning now after major kitchen cleanup]. 

I completely lack the consecutive attention span to write this post. So I’ll try to do it really quickly before someone else comes up with a distraction.

Shabbat used to be something I didn’t compromise on: I didn’t work on shabbat. Unfortunately, like immigrant entrepreneurs a century  before us, we’ve discovered that the job really requires working on shabbat, at least once in a while (a while being most often described as a “month”). 

I miss the old way of doing things, when life really did slow down on shabbat. I felt better physically, and was able to appreciate shabbat more. Now, all too often, my observation of shabbat is noting my lack of observance, which just isn’t that satisfying. 

In any case, that’s my minor thought for today.