Tag Archives: wild card

November: wildcard


After being a guest on the Baltimore radio show “The Signal” in September of this year, our protagonist invited radio producer and host Aaron Henkin to be a wild card for November.  He submitted his wild card task through a recording this month.  Listen below to hear his mid-month challenge.

November Wild Card

October: Wild Card


It’s a sunny October day in New York city – delightful, peaceful, remarkably warm … but Beth Barbush is in my brain!  She’s filling the space with a swirl of ideas, an inspiring sense of possibility and idealism, frenetic, infectious creativity and a kooky sense of humor.  But why is she in my head, what is her purpose, and by extension, what is mine? Man, October seemed so far away when I signed up for this!

Okay, purpose and meaning … big ideas, big questions … all Barbush. Seeking safety in words, I pull out the dictionary (an actual paper one):


1) an object to be attained; a thing intended 
2) the intention to act 
3) the reason for which something is done or made.

Ah, ‘the reason for which something is done or made’!  I was struck by the elegance and simplicity of the chapter Emily Wheat wrote for Beth this month, including as it did contemplation (a walk in the woods), joy (treasure a day) and a core focus on creativity and giving (create something every day). But two weeks in, I think some deeper exploration of the ‘the reason for which something is done or made’ is in order. Not to justify or question the making or the giving, but to open a door to understanding the purpose behind making, giving and inspiring. And perhaps a touch of asking and receiving is in order too.

At the risk of annoying with a detour, let me share just a bit about what I’ve learned, first as an actor and later as a writer about the power that comes from distilling purpose to a sentence. (And yes, for those wishing I’d just get to the list of assignments already, this is one of them). In acting there is the objective (what I want now, moment to moment) and the super-objective (what I want in life / my purpose). In writing, these same ideas are applied to character creation and the purpose and meaning of the story as a whole, often as premise and theme. In story, the more active, idealistic and potentially unachievable the super-objective of a character, the more intensely the character will come alive and the more magnetic witnessing their seeking becomes – we love dreamers and strivers after all.  And, Beth, since you are a dreamer and striver and have cast yourself – literally as The Protaganist – and ‘hired’ (well, you know) writers to write your life script, I want you to engage with the tools and techniques of character and drama to define your purpose.  And I’m including an exercise to build asking and receiving to your repertoire in addition to giving.   Without further adieu, here’s the wildcard:

1)  Define your purpose (in the moment objective) in giving the gifts you make this month to the people you give them to. A sentence or better, a word or two. Include it with each gift. These can be fun, individual, whimsical.

2)  Define your life purpose (life goal / super-objective). Start with a paragraph, get it down to a sentence and ultimately to a few words that ring true … once you’ve arrived consider sharing it to reinforce it, give it power, perhaps as a signature on gifts you give this month, perhaps in other ways …

3)  Ask and receive – It’s easy for artists and creatives to avoid asking for or receiving the help and support they need, whether financial or otherwise. So, as you focus your life purpose, understand that to live up to that possibility you need and deserve support and to get it you must ask for it.  So, this month step out of your comfort zone and ask at least one person or entity for assistance / a gift to forward your purpose. It can be in any life direction – career, personal, whatever, but think big – this should not be small and it should be scary.

So, there you have it Beth. I think I’m within the bounds of wild card to include all this, but if not, well, call the referee, fire me, cancel my check etc. Oh and when you do #3, I will buy you a beer so you can tell me how and where you’re reaching out and up …



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day of silence


On my first day of silence last Wednesday, I opened up the hatches on the boat letting the crisp fall air and sun come in. It was a perfect way to start a “Day of silence” 5 minutes after settling into my morning meditation, I was startled and distracted by unknown voices outside on the dock. I glanced over and noticed 2 men standing a mere 15 feet from my meditation cushions. “Did they see me sitting here cross-legged with my plastic mustache meditation glasses on?” I realized that even if they did, there would be no way that I could explain myself at this point to them – it was a “Day of Silence” and I could not speak. I closed my eyes and sunk into the silence.

As a part of the Wild Card suggestion this month, I was given the challenge of taking one “day of silence” each week. When I heard this suggestion, I made an audible sigh of relief – what a pleasure and opportunity that would be.

The concept of what silence is and what it can bring to individuals has always interested me. I actually spent over 2 years creating audio pieces and photographic portraits exploring the role that silence has played in our lives. The project was called “Speaking of Silence”. Through that exploration, I interviewed nearly 100 people, listened and learned about what silence meant to and for those individuals. During those 2 plus years of examining the concept, I do not think I ever spent one full day being completely silent myself. I thank Amy this month for asking me to explore what the concept means for myself in meditation practice and I thank Agnes for pushing it a bit further.

Each mediation session this month itself has been training in a way for these extended periods of silence. Practicing meditation has allowed me to create a silent space for my thoughts and feelings. I’ve used this space to focus on the present moment, becoming aware of the time itself between my thoughts, actions, and speech patterns. This process has been great to do alone – it has helped me become more still and slower – not in work or my daily activities but in my reactions to others and my environment. Giving me the time to really observe and respond accordingly. I am finding that taking the time to be silent even outside of meditation practice is helping with this as well. So throughout the month even on “non days of silence” I am making time each day to be silent. (organizing, walking, writing, observing others)

But what would happen if I brought my silence out into the world? What would a normal day be like with the added silence? How would others react? How would it make me feel to not be able to communicate easily? This week Amy asked me to delve into how I felt in my body, alone and in social situations. I am taking my days of silence to experiment with what it feels like to hold the space in a busy coffee shop, in a grocery store, down town and in conversations with friends.

Below are some of the highlights of my first speechless days. I will say I was not completely successful in not speaking or uttering a sound entirely, I did said “SORRY” involuntarily when I bumped into someone by mistake and I made some exclamations to myself during the day – once when I accidentally hit the curb parallel parking “Yikes!” also at one point I found myself whistling. And even though I gave up my phone I did not give up technology or communicating all together. I was lucky enough to schedule 2 meeting free and telephone free days but I did still need to send emails for work.

Enhanced experiences:

Organizing/cleaning – I am more focused and more efficient

Emailing/working: I am more efficient when I am not taking phone calls

Writing: I am taking more time to write what I feel rather than worrying about what the words sound like together.

Walking: I have been walking alone and without excess sounds, music or calls. I have enjoyed the physical environment more.

New experiences:

Communicating: I mostly communicate through written notes in a small book and on post it notes. I sometimes “mouth” words as well or “mime” an action. I did this while doing errands and grocery shopping. When people noticed that I was not speaking they treated me differently – they started speaking really quietly and also slowly? Hmmm… because I was silent I guess that meant I was also unable to understand or hear them? Some people wanted to write return notes to me rather than say anything out loud. One lady decided that I was deaf and started signing to me in sign language – I shrugged my shoulders not being able to tell her I didn’t understand sign language and just pointed at my shirt that stated “Day of Silence”. She continued signing to me.

Body motions: I noticed myself using my hands to talk (even more so than usual) I gave the “thumbs up” and “ok” sign so many times that I started to feel like a cartoon character. I also felt strangely like a mime when I realized that not only was I silent but my “Day of Silence” T-shirt was black and white.

I noticed myself smiling A LOT. I really did not want to appear rude or as if I was offended by anything the other person said by not speaking to them.

Strange occurrences and/or observations:

  • I got into a note conversation with the old man in a coffee shop – he spoke to me in riddles and I tried to answer him in written pictures – I am not sure who was more confused or amused in that interaction.
  • I started a race with a 2-year-old in the park who seemed to understand my silence more than his parents.
  • I had a telekinetic interaction with a squirrel.
  • I did not miss phone conversations one bit.
  • I realized how silent we are already in our communication with eachother
  • While observing my own communications – I realized I am more connected online through my writing, emails, and texts almost more so than my face-to-face meetings? I am more honest and open in my writing than my face-to-face conversations.
  • I appreciate the time in between the responses of written notes, text messages or emails.
  • I tried to help a guy with a mustang charge the dead battery in his car. I could not convince him that he had connected the cables incorrectly. I am not sure if he didn’t want to “listen” to me because I was writing him notes or because I was a girl?
  • I got into the best conversation I have ever had about “truth, loyalty, and acceptance” with a barista. The entire conversation took place on post-it notes.
  • I am good at playing charades – I can now order breakfast in charades.

I am thinking of instituting this “Day of Silence” at least once a month for the rest of the year, if can not schedule weekly sessions as I move forward.  I can not tell you how many benefits are coming from this experiment. I can not tell you today anyway, I am still learning. But I will try talk to you about it tomorrow!  Please share your silent experiences with me.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.




30 seconds of silliness

Take 30 seconds to be silly today. That is one lesson I learned from this month’s unpredictable wild card!

Leave it to a 9-year-old to tell me exactly what I need to do to make Zen meditation work for me. Wear a mustache attached to a pair of ridiculously over sized glow-in-the dark glasses! Of course… it’s the perfect remedy to all questions and conflicts with my meditation practice. Interjecting a bit of silliness into my goals and intentions has never hurt me before, why should I stop now?

As Agnes stated, leave it to the free minds of children that are always searching and seizing the moment for a good opportunity to have fun. I truly do feel like we could learn a lot from those younger minds if we paid attention more. I must remind myself as well that in the times in my past when I have found myself becoming stuck, stressed or too serious, I have always gravitated toward youth to help ease the overwhelming feelings or situations. Not only do young people continuously keep me on my toes and in the moment with their unpredictability but their sense of themselves and the world keeps me laughing and questioning. The two things that I believe are necessary for nurturing a balanced mind and spirit.


These photographs were taken before leaving St. Croix. I had received the wild card gift when I arrived on the island but had not read the actual wild card challenge at this point. Upon receiving the gift, I immediately thought that this would be the perfect thing to do with the glasses. (Grace and I must be on a similar wave length) During the second week of meditating, (before receiving these glasses) I was actually having difficulties with wandering thoughts and some negative thinking. I was getting a bit hung up on thinking I was “doing the meditation wrong” or not doing zazen in the “right” way. Since then my thoughts in mediation have moved away from these self-critical places. Wandering thoughts still bubble up and rise to the surface but they are much less negative or critical and I don’t struggle with them as much, I let them evaporate when they reach the surface. It’s starting to feel a bit lighter in a sense.

So thank you Grace for not letting me fall only into the “oh so serious side” of meditation. Thanks for reminding me that mediation practice does not have to be perfect or meet a certain standard that has been prescribed. It is simply a tool that will help us find what we need for ourselves. Grace’s wild card tells me that we don’t have to be always searching for some kind of bliss in the subconscious or somewhere out there in the universe and we should not expect mediation to do that for us – we do that for ourselves. The glasses as they itch on my nose while I am meditating remind me that I make my own bliss and happiness right here in the moment laughing and appreciating the rare and sometimes odd gifts that the wild cards in life bring to me.

Note: I also want to thank Cosmic Jim Naeseth, Living Chapter’s tried and true Referee and my good friend. He may not be a kid, but his mind is young and free and always inserting a bit of HUMOR in every situation that he finds himself in. This past trip to the island was for the purpose of sorting out the million details and decisions that he needed to make while building his dream house in the tropics. Thank you to Jim for letting me be a part of his sometimes serious and serendipitous adventure.  I feel lucky to be along on his journey at this point in my existential chapter.


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

August: Wild Card


For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Roles and the Rules for this project, the Wild Card adds one new element to the finished written chapter by playing their one and only card for the month. This “card” is really a suggestion or a new task that will shift or re-energize the chapter.  It may add an element of risk or an element of reflection and reverence. The wild card action must be played at the mid way mark of the month and will be taken on by the protagonist.  This new element may elevate an activity already written or diversify the challenge by changing the frequency or specifying a detail.  The Wild Card cannot eliminate pieces of the written chapter or negate any part of the written chapter. The Wild Card also should also take into consideration the chapter theme and the writers’ already composed directives when making their suggestion.


Man, the first thing I’m thinking as I read through all of the chapters is, what a cerebral ensemble  Beth has inserted me into…grand ideas!  Awesome start!! Then I thought well … It’s Beth!  …If  I’m digging the content…Does that make me cerebral too…oh snap!! Anyway, I don’t think it does… But gee wiz…it was difficult to think of a challenge that would be on par with the “Superfriends”.  I like Andy’s chapter… Especially Part II…”The Cap and Trade game” I’d like to add a category please  …..MONEY!

Now we all know that Beth is incredibly frugal.. So I’m not sure
how much this category will yield.  But since Living Chapters has evoked a new level of transparency in Beth.. I’m challenging her.. to be more thoughtful and apply a bit more investigation into the who,what and where surrounding her expenditures… If possible!!

+5 points every time you make a purchase that adversely impacts the environment

-3 points if you make an expenditure that has a positive impact on the environment

… And yes, you can be deliberate.  Heal the world man, heal the world!

That’s it in a nut shell!  Start spending your millions wisely Barbush!



By the end of the first week playing the Cap and Trade game, Writer Andy Cook came in over the CAP and our protagonist came in under.  Beth traded some of her points with Andy in exchange for Andy planting a tree and reading up on some environmental issues. Here is the evidence of Andy’s “Trade Tasks” being accomplished:

AC instrumentsAC - watering AC planting AC - book


Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.

the completion of beginnings

Is there really a symbol that could represent yourself or the work that you do? The Wild Card asked me this along with a slew of other intensive inner reflective questions this month. She also asked me to present visual ideas for this question and allow the Living Chapters audience to vote or select one that they thought might be a good representation my work.  Thanks to all of you who weighed in with your votes.

Here is how people voted:

The most amount of votes were cast for this symbol.


Ironically this is a symbol that I gravitated to in my early years. It would pop up in many of my high school art projects, in letters that I wrote to friends, or doodles on classroom homework and folders. The eye image definitely has played a long-lasting role in my life representing the importance of being awake and being aware. Growing up, I felt that it stood for the ability to see what is right in front of you and emphasized the value of witnessing the world around you.

The second most voted for symbol was this one


The Labyrinth

The labyrinth seems very suited to my winding path. Labyrinths are often mistaken for mazes or something that one could get lost within or frustrated with. Unlike mazes though, there are no real dead-ends in a labyrinth only paths that guide you forward. Meandering, yet structured routes, that lead to new destinations. I see labyrinths as tools that can be utilized to practice finding one’s way out of confusing situations. I’ve found myself doing that more than a few times in my work.

So what do I think?

The overall process of picking a personal symbol has been intriguing. As I noted before, I feel that it is near impossible for any one symbol or image to represent a body of work or in my case what feels like an ongoing evolving path as I build my career. So for this reason, I gravitated to less literally visual symbols. I preferred the linear images that were left open to interpretation but yet held a rich meaning.

The Labyrinth, which came in second in all the votes, also came in second when I made my personal votes. I decided that the labyrinth represented how I have moved on my path more than what the work I have done.

My first choice to represent my work is the Rune symbol of Inguz. It seemed to stand out from the rest of the them visually to me.


In the Book of Runes by Ralph H. Blum, in which I first encountered this symbol, Inguz was described in this way:

“This Rune is akin to the moon, the intuitive part of our nature, with its urge toward harmonizing and adjusting in the sphere of personal relationships. The completion of beginnings is what Inguz requires. Drawing this rune may mark a time of joyful deliverance of new life, a new path. It means you will have the strength to achieve completion resolution from which comes new beginning. – All things change and we can not live permanently amid obstructions.”

The meaning appealed to me and seemed to describe the way in which I sought out work and new projects.

When searching further into this rune I found this meaning taken from the book “Zen Runes” by Maria Letizia Renzulli.

“As the moon is mirrored in the sea, as the upper parts of the this rune can be mirrored in the lower, so to can you mirror yourself in others, discovering your true power… “

This felt like the closest description to what I do. I work with people, find a personal connection and then mirror back that connection by framing their story within a photograph, audio story or interactive program that allows those that I work with to hear themselves and share in their own way. I don’t create new things. I simply witness the existence of them and highlight the importance and value to sharing them.

Only one person voted for this symbol but his reasoning just added to my original attraction to this symbol. My friend Steve Oxley impressions were as follows:

“It gives off the impression of potential – The design is simple yet complex, it gives me the impression of balance, as if life occurs in the apex of your past and your future. This is why it is good for a portfolio that’s trying to encompass your past in hopes of bringing the light to future adventures”

I can’t help but agree with Steve. I am still unsure of how and where it will visually show up on the website, but I have a few more days to figure that out.


Just finding this blog today? Read the prologue for more details on what Living Chapters is all about.

Images of the labyrinth and eye symbols were taken from the following books found in Powell’s bookstore in Portland OR:  ”The Book of Symbols” – Taschen “Man and His Symbols” – Carl Jung

June: Wild Card

IMG_3076-1IMG_Aaron H
Theme: Body/Kinesthetics
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Roles and the Rules for this project, the Wild Card adds one new element to the finished written chapter by playing their one and only card for the month. This “card” is really a suggestion or a new task that will shift or re-energize the chapter.  It may add an element of risk or an element of reflection and reverence. The wild card action must be played at the mid way mark of the month and will be taken on by the protagonist.  This new element may elevate an activity already written or diversify the challenge by changing the frequency or specifying a detail.  The Wild Card cannot eliminate pieces of the written chapter or negate any part of the written chapter. The Wild Card also should also take into consideration the chapter theme and the writers’ already composed directives when making their suggestion.
I’ve felt a big responsibility being the inaugural Wild Card for Living Chapters. What we players dream up for Beth in this first month will in many ways set the tone and even perhaps a standard for the months to come. Talk about pressure! And then to discover how wonderfully wide-ranging and comprehensive Joe’s Chapter was in provoking Beth to become more aware of her body, what she puts into it, how she employs it, and what it means to live inside it…the bar is set quite high. And I couldn’t be more pleased with how Beth has manifested the challenges presented to her by Joe. I cannot see anything that I can, in a sense, improve upon. So how to add a new action/variable that will up the ante?
I started to think a lot about a particular phrase Joe used that I think Beth could more fully explore: “take heed when the little voices that sing within us creep to the surface.” 

So how might Beth hear and heed the little voices singing within her body in a way that builds upon the great work she’s doing with exercise, diet, and muscle memory while still playing into this month’s theme of Body/Kinesthetics?
Here’s the challenge I propose for you Beth, for the rest of the month of June: in order to be more fully attuned to what your body is telling you from within, do not look at yourself in a mirror. Not once. 
While you won’t be able to avoid them in public spaces, your challenge will be to resist the temptation to glance at yourself, to see if you “look right.” Not that you are a particularly vain person, but this will force you to only listen to your body to know if you’re looking, and more importantly feeling, right. 
Now, I do know you’re recording this project with lots of photos and videos, and I think it’s fine to view them after the fact for posting/blogging purposes. The key is to resist the temptation to look at your image for affirmation in the moment. One exception: if you’re doing exercises and must use a mirror to ensure you’re doing them properly and to avoid possible injury, fine. But in those instances I’d ask that you avoid looking at your face, just observe your body.
Good luck, and keep up the good work!
Beth Reads June Wild Card: