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Gabriel’s Database Sherpa and Journey

When I first started my journey, I knew next to nothing about databases. I grew up in the digital age, so I certainly know my way around a computer, but I’ve never been crazy about them. I prefer my social to be unmediated, whenever possible. Read more

Relaxing your grasp

Relaxing Our Grasp

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön book, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times”. This short little book has really opened my eyes to so much, and I am very grateful that someone decided to turn Pema’s lectures into this wonderful and amazing book.

It’s not an easy read, nor it is full of rainbows and happy clouds. Life isn’t always full of rainbows and happy clouds; sometimes it really sucks. But, how we handle that “sucky-ness” — how we react “when things fall apart” is what this book is all about.

So, how can one use pain and sadness to cultivate a better life? It’s something of a mystery, but Pema writes about ‘grasping for the ground beneath you’. I remember learning about ‘grasping’ at the Buddhist Geek conference and from my favorite speaker, Martine Batchelor, who spoke of grasping too, and while reading this book, that word appeared again and again. Grasping.

Sitting with grasping I often see the ego — the ego is what helps us to grasp. Whether we’re grasping at a material object, a vision of the future, our relationships, or whatever, we grasp because we want circumstances to be in our favor. We want our lives to be a perfect present with a bow on top. But, hello — reality! — life isn’t that easy.

I do want to share a story from it; a story about Pema’s teacher and a course he created. I am not going to get into all the details, but the story reminded me of the hardware and software “cloud” we’re now living in and the resulting world of impermanence. Things are changing so quickly we barely catch our breath before something new is on the horizon. (I think that grasping plays a huge role in our stress levels related to the impermanent world we live in today.)

But, back to the story. So, Pema’s teacher had students learn and memorize a chant. After the students had learned it, he’d change it. He’d do the same things with rituals, which were very specific. Some students would learn quickly and help those students who didn’t learn as fast. Then when all had it memorized, the teacher would change it once again. He did this for YEARS. Not a few weeks or a few months, but for YEARS. And, what Pema wrote struck me: “After years of this sort of training, one begins to relax one’s grip. The idea of one right way sort of dissolves into the mist.” Wow, that’s very profound and powerful. The ideas of one right way… goes away. As, there is no right way. There is just a way.

As a Sherpa, I try to instill in my clients this sense of change and impermanence. That while this database is what you need today, tomorrow it might need to change. Heck, even during our treks you might need to change. And, that’s okay… there is nothing wrong with that. It’s the way of the world and as a Sherpa, it’s my job and responsibility to take that journey with you. On a groundless road to an unknown place. One that will be defined and redefined over time. With a road that is constantly changing.

I’m not saying this impermanence is easy or always fun. We won’t be hugging each other every day, but we will greet each other with respect, compassion and kindness. We will work together on the path we lay out together. We may yell, get frustrated and throw things at the computer, but, in the end, we will be better for this journey we have taken.


compassion at the heart

Compassion is the heart of everything

I have a better understanding of what it means to have a child start school… as Zola just began pre-school this month. My life feels quite upside down while we both adjust to a new schedule. That being said, I’ll be taking a break for the rest of the month and will be back in October, full of great ideas and thoughts.

Before I leave, I thought I’d leave my faithful friends and followers a few thoughts that may fuel your compassion engine:

  • Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. – Dr. Seuss.
  • Along with love, compassion is the face of altruism. It is a feeling from deep in the heart that you cannot bear others’ suffering without acting to relieve it. As compassion grows stronger, so does your willingness to commit yourself to the welfare of all beings, even if you have to do it alone. You will be unbiased in your service to all beings, no matter how they respond to you. – Dalai Lama’s status update on Facebook
  • Another quote from Dr. Seuss: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
At the heart and seat of each of these quotes is compassion. Compassion to yourself and others in the world. This is the key to everything in the life of a Sherpa.
What I have learned is that even if this path is lonely.. even if the world feels against me at times… I will stay true to myself. I will instill a deep sense of compassion every day until it is threaded in every aspect of my being.
If any of you follow this path, know that I will be right there with you… creating that thread of compassion throughout the world.
So, until October, I bow deeply to the light that shines brightly in you.
Buddha on beach

Buddhist Geeks

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend Buddhist Geeks Conference in Boulder, CO. The site explains it like this:

“It’s an opportunity to explore the leading-edge frontiers of Buddhism, technology, and global culture. This year’s gathering brings together luminaries in the fields of Buddhism, science, philosophy, education, business, politics, and more. Participants will explore how the dharma is co-evolving with modern insights and trends to change our lives—personally and globally—in extraordinary and unexpected ways.”

Although I am not a practicing Buddhist, I was drawn to this conference because I’ve been trying to blend my Eastern philosophical education with my database expertise. This conference seemed like a place where I would meet others, like myself, as well as broaden my understanding of the changing face of Buddhism in the modern world and specifically, how it is unfolding in the Western world.

Some of the speakers were riveting and really gave me food for thought, as it relates to Database Sherpa and my personal life (which are aligning more and more every day). I revisited my notes (very sparse) and found these things written:

  1. Inner and outer work align
  2. Buddhism changes
  3. Grasping

(I also wrote a couple website and book titles, but those are for another blog posting.)

So, let me break down why I choose to write only these three points in my notebook, and how they are forming my work and me.

1. Inner and outer work align

I cannot tell you who said this or when, but I do remember writing it down and thinking YES! The speaker said the inner work of meditation and yoga practice has to align with outer work in the world. My take-away: I need to do more than meditate for change. I must also go out into the world to make it happen.

My change has been so dramatic over the last few years. The birth of Zola. Saying goodbye to a special pet. Losing my job. Creating Database Sherpa. It’s been a chaotic few years, still, I find myself at peace. My inner work has been to find peace while being surrounded by chaos — so my inner work has been successful.

Now, my outer work is to help others who are surrounded by chaos. (Those who want to be helped. Not everyone desires to be rid of chaos. Some thrive in that place, which is not a bad thing, it just is). I realized that I had used my outer work with my last client. (I didn’t know it at the time, until this conference brought it to light.) I used my own tools and techniques to guide and help her though the chaos.

So, as I continue my inner work, I will focus on aligning my outer work (not just with Database Sherpa, but also with my family and friends).

2. Buddhism changes

This was a big “ah-ha!” and more of a historical one. A speaker told of how Buddhism took 100 years to solidify in Japan. Why? Because it needed to morph and change based on the culture in which it resided.

How spectacular! Changing to address the needs and desires of the culture. The same speaker discussed how this very thing is now happening in the modern or Western world as well. Buddhism will become something new here (maybe over 100 years, too). One person asked if there would be a necessity for monasteries in the Western world. No one had an answer, but it was a good question. (That’s what I love about the Eastern world; there are never answers, only more questions.) It was fun listening to the dialogue.

This got me to thinking about Database Sherpa and how change is critical to the success of the business. Not change that takes 100 years (please, that’s too long), but the fact that change will take time. I cannot expect everyone to embrace this new way of business, but I can take my time, learn my lesson, and offer what I can. Database Sherpa will mold, bend, and flex to the changing culture of our times.

3. Grasping

Although the names of the two other speakers didn’t stick with me like their lessons did, I remember this speaker. She was fantastic and stuck in my head throughout my time at the conference, as well as into the time I arrived home. Her name is Martine Batchelor and she opened my eyes to something that, frankly, we are all doing: Grasping at something.

Her talk was titled “Creativity without Grasping”. If you’d like to see her presentation, a woman at the conference was capturing visual representations of each session. It does a great job, but what you miss are her words and the impact.

Yes, she did talk about holding something in your hand so tightly that it begins to hurt. What do you do? The story is lovely, but what it means is the really beautiful part of the story. Let me explain using “rules” as an example.

Sometimes, it’s much easier to hold onto rules: “Don’t talk unless it is you turn”, “Cross the street when the light is green”. We grasp at rules, and frankly, for good reason. They provide for a civil society. It makes sense. These are the collective rules.

So, what about the rules we make up? “Children are to be seen and not heard”, “eat dinner first and then dessert”, “waffles are for breakfast not lunch”? We may see them as collective rules, but they are not. I argue that sometimes, we may not even have a good reason for them. It’s “just because.”

Rules are just one thing we grasp. (Something that’s been coming up a lot at home, lately, with a 3-1/2-year-old running around). We grasp at ideas, people, and objects; if you can name it, we grasp at it. I have even watched in a yoga class people grasping for a pose or meditation (which is Martine’s point).

Imagine a rule is fixed in your mind. Maybe it’s, “children are to be seen and not heard.” You think it’s a fine rule. But what if you let it go? Let it float around your head. Turn it upside down and backwards. What does this rule look like? Dark and grey, or light and brown? Put the rule aside and think about life without that rule. What does it feel like? Look like?

This process of imagination is the creative approach that Martine was explaining. By being creative with your thinking, you are allowing yourself to look at things with another viewpoint. I love this way of thinking and being. It allows for contemplation and consideration.

Thank you for diving into my education at the Buddhist Geek conference. It was an enjoyable experience and one that provided me much to ponder!

Practicing Compassion

Being a database consultant has given me the opportunity to see organizational change up close. Change can be very difficult for the individual, which, in turn, can greatly impact the organization. I’ve been advocating for a fundamental change in consulting that will incorporate yoga principles with database development. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I intend to share my thoughts on how this weaving might work best.

Most recently, in my yoga class, my mind wandered (what else is new) and I realize that if someone took a snapshot of our room during a specific pose, it would look like a picture of my ballet recital when I was three years old. We’d all be expressing the pose in our own way. That’s the beauty of the practice of yoga. Expressing your uniqueness is not wrong, it’s beautiful. Why? Because each person is in their own place in their practice. But, we all come together. Work together. Support each other. How wonderful and spectacular.

My dream is we could see this about database development as well. Your organizational readiness for a database is not necessarily going to be the same as another organizations. Just because you hear that an organization is using a donor database or, doesn’t mean the database will work for you. Heck, a DATABASE might not work for you at all… (oops, did I say that?!) Okay, I’ll say it again:

no database

Isn’t there a saying:

“you are perfect just the way you are”

Maybe, just maybe, there is a case for keeping your systems the way they are, no change. In my experience, before you jump into the pool with everyone else, ask yourself these two simple questions:

  • Will this database be created because I need to measure or do something required by someone else? For example, if you find that your main reason for creating the database is because a funder has asked you to report on a specific data point regarding your clients, then it is the outside force that is driving the decision to create the database. It might be just as easy to modify an existing spreadsheet to collect those data points rather creating a database which is being driven because of this funder (an outside force). Outside forces drive the decision.
  • Will this database be used to track specific requirements to help with making decisions about my organization or help me with the operations of the organization? For example, your organization is trying to make a strategic decision about the individuals whom you serve. Your existing system of collecting data doesn’t provide the information needed to make these key decisions that will drive programming and volunteer needs. Decisions come from within.

Do you see the key here? It has to do with whether the decision is coming from inside or outside. It’s much better to allow systems to grow organically, through critical thinking and decision making. Growing from the inside and making decisions based on actual need will make for the best systems – those that are embraced by everyone in the organization. These systems will succeed and thrive.

If you see an organization with a database (donor, client management, etc.), don’t presume that you need one too (remember, those outside forces?!). Like, when I look my neighbor who can get into a headstand in the middle of the room. I look in admiration at the skill and ability of this yogi. I don’t attempt to do a headstand in the middle of the room (okay, maybe I do, once, but then never again…). Seriously, the outside force doesn’t get me to do the headstand, instead, it was my body telling me “I’m ready”. You’ve got to be willing to listen to your organization to hear “I’m ready” — because my decisions are coming from within.

Don’t look at your peers who have a highly functional database with jealousy. Realize that they worked hard to get there. Appreciate where they came from and where they are now. Look at them with admiration and love! Yes, with LOVE, this is the compassionate sector, right?!

Change your organization from the inside with love, appreciation and admiration for yourself and your peer organizations. That’s the only true way change can be embraced in your organization.


Facebook changes .. welcome to the cloud

I’ve been leaving my blog for the work that I’m doing related to databases, but I’ve seen something that has made me wonder… hmmmm… we’re going to have to get used to change with technology. It seems, every time Facebook makes a major upgrade or “improvement” to their system, a lot of my friends get really upset. I see things like, “why change a good thing” or “just when I was getting used to the system” or “it’s doing something new that it didn’t do before”. Then, a period of time passes. The new becomes old. And, it changes again! Oh my, how could they change it?!

Well, I guess with my yogic mentality, I think change keeps us awake and less likely to accept the norm. But, as I understand it, change is not easy (although, for some reason, I actually like change. Keeps me feeling alive, but I’m a strange bird, I realize that after a few years of therapy). Most will tell me, change for the sake of change isn’t worth it, but I say, why not. It’s good to change it up a bit. Look at this in a new light with a new lens. It’s how we can make sure we don’t accept the norms in society.

Anyway, this really isn’t a post about change, it’s a post about the new features in Facebook that I’ve been looking forward to. Finally, a way to keep my friends closer and my acquaintances… well, not farther, just less noise on my Facebook wall. This means I can have more friends and still be able to see my close friends’ posts.

Most of this stuff you’ll see here can be found under the arrow on the very right side (next to the Home link). Click on Privacy Settings to see these options.

One thing I like, that was actually something released earlier, is that I can control the tags in which I appear. I think this is a fantastic setting that allows me to make sure I’m really in a picture or that I want to be tagged in a post. This can be found in the section How Tags Work. I have turned off the Tag Suggestions and the Check In functions entirely.

The privacy and security of Facebook has really come a long way. I’m very happy with how certain posts can be hidden or shown to certain friends. I also like how I can control my posts so that only my friend can see the post and not friends of friends. This is a wonderful feature that helps me to keep things for just my friends. This Facebook FAQ does a pretty good job of explaining it (that would be my one complaint, the lack of good help in Facebook). Anyway, there is also a setting for under How You Connect where you can lock down things even further. For example, I have it set so that only my friend can look me up by name, can send me Facebook messages, can post on my wall and can see wall posts by others on my profile. Only friends of friends can send me friend requests. I like that feature a lot. Why let anyone send me requests?!

This page does a pretty good job of explaining the latest changes. I say pretty good as it’s not the best and quite short without any screenshots. Read carefully, it’s not well written.

I think the privacy controls settings and such are fantastic. I have been keeping Facebook as a friends only place for so long and removing “friends” from time to time. My idea was this: twitter for friends and colleagues; Facebook for family and friends; Linked In for colleagues. Now, the lines are blurring a bit. Some say that’s not good, and I personally don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it. I have *not* signed on for the subscribe feature… yet…. I’m not seeing the value to the greater social world. Who cares about my mundane life other than my friends and family? If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, then don’t worry about it. You don’t have to have subscribers and you most certainly don’t have to subscribe to anyone. Here are the details, if you’re interested. Keep in mind, it’s a Facebook help, not the best in the world. By default, you are “subscribed” to all your friends and they are to you, BUT no one else can subscribe to your posts UNLESS you Allow Subscribers. And, you can control what they can see… again, not sure why I would do this at this point in my life, but who knows. It’s a feature I might desire in the future.

Now, back to the subscribe with your friends. There is a feature to allow it so you can subscribe to a friends updates at different levels. Right now, most of your friends are set to Most Updates. There might be some friends you want to change to All Updates or Some Updates. So, it’s clear what All Update means, but what about Some and Most? What do those mean? This is not entirely clear, but it is clear you can select what type of updates you wish to have (life events — marriage, baby, etc as updated in your profile; status updates; photos; games — if you never want to see another farmville updates, uncheck this!!; comments and likes; other activities — not sure about this one). You can even unsubscribe entirely and you won’t see anything from this person, but you can remain friends with them (why you would do that is beyond me, but hey, it’s there for you to use). Now, rather than going to each friends page and making these changes, you can wait until they show up on your feed. Click on the down arrow to the right of the feed item and select your update frequency. If you want to dig deeper, click on their name and go to the profile page. It will take time if you have a lot of friends, but well worth it! I wish they had a quicker way (like a list of friends down one and a check box where you can turn things on and off, that’s more of a data entry thing).

So, that’s what I’ve learned in playing with it for a few hours… not bad and pretty easy to figure out!

I can tell you that more changes are on the way. Expect new features in Facebook in the coming months. To keep up with those changes, check out  the Facebook Blog and read up on what’s coming. They have a place where you can post your ideas and even a place to voice our concerns (others might provide you help you need to understand the modifications coming).

All in all, I think the changes are inevitable. Some say it’s because competitors have pushed it (isn’t that a good thing?!). This blog post does a great job of getting various thoughts on this new Facebook features. Frankly, I do believe in this world of cloud based systems like Google Apps, Facebook, Twitter, etc. we are all going to have to get used to change. So, I leave you with this quote on change:

“They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.” — Confucius

UPDATE September 25

I’ve got some recommendations for folks on getting your security settings going. I’d highly recommend you do this now before the new timeline feature takes hold, which is an entire new face on your Facebook page. More on that later, here is what I did to quickly get my friends in the right category and Facebook working for me.

First, you’ll want to categorize your friends as acquaintances or close friends. Basically, take those you want to keep in close touch with, know all about their changes in their life, put them in the close friends category. The rest, put them in acquaintances. You can always move friends in and out of these categories, but you need to start so you can see what will happen. The quickest way I found to categorize friends was to pull up the list and hover over the Friend button and then select Close Friend or Acquaintance (or other categories).

Second, you want to select what events you want to see and how often. Remember the All, Some and Most setting? Well, I just set all my friends to All Events and then toggled what I wanted to see. So, for some, it’s all things they post (I removed Games from everyone), but for others, it’s just life events (which will make more sense when the new Timeline is revealed). Now, as long as you did the first, you can change these lists at once. So, for example, click on the Close Friends list. Here you can turn notification on or off and also Manage the list (what do you want to see). Like I said, I’ve turned off Games for everyone (select Choose Update Types). I’ve kept the other ones one for Close Friends. For acquaintances, I’ve turned off quite a few items.

These steps will help you get prepared for the new timeline coming, which will rock your world. Basically, everything will change on how friends will see you on Facebook. Like, right now, when you click on the link with you name, you see the old profile, the new one will look like this: