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Friday, March 1, 2013

World Championship Blacksmiths' Competition Eagle Eye Class

This is fun to watch if you have never seen a real blacksmith at work. For you ladies there is even a woman at about 5:45.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We are what we think

I smoke 2 packs a day!

OK, I don't smoke 2 packs a day in reality, but I do in my mind; it might even be more! The power of the mind in incredible and such a consistent force for good an ill in each of our lives.

In the summer of 1995 I had a 5 month old son and two little girls at home, was out of work, and getting more broke by the day. I was apprenticing to be a farrier/blacksmith. Needless to say it was an emotional time in my life, and because of those heightened emotions, many experiences I had during that time made quite an impression on me. 

My days went like this. I would get up early and buy just enough gas to get to Anvil Mountain, the workshop of my master, Brian Koch. He had his shop in an old GMC step van that we affectionately called "Bertha." After spending 30 minutes cleaning up Bertha from who knows what he was doing the night before, and feeding the horses and mucking the stalls, Brian would then join me in Bertha for our lesson for the day. Let me take one step back. He agreed to take me on as an apprentice and teach me to shoe horses, but he made it clear that I could not touch one of his clients horses if I couldn't make a horseshoe from scratch. Well my cocky 31 year old self thought (without any experience mind you) that would be no big trick. To make a long story short, after a month and a half, I didn't feel like I was any closer to making an acceptable horseshoe than I was when I started. So what I said about getting more broke all the time, together with my apparent inability to make a horseshoe, made for quite a lot of stress and emotional turmoil. Back to Bertha. I forgot to mention that before Brian would grace me with his presence, I would also have to have a very hot fire burning in the forge as well. (this was a challenge since it was an old coal forge with a blower motor with a short in it, geeze! :))

                                                    Here's the way Bertha looks today!

Once I had everything ready, Brian would hold the cold steel bar stock with the tongs and place it strategically in the fire. Then, he would pull his pack of Pall Malls (yes that's right the real kind in the red pack, NO filter!) out of his shirt pocket and fish one out between his thumb and forefinger. He would then grasp the cigarette with the tongs, light it in the forge, and take three long luxurious drags. Then, he would ask me if I thought the steel was ready, and I would say "yes." He would then gently place the half burned cigarette on the side of the forge and proceed with the day's lesson. This happened every day for two months and once I started going with him to shoe real horses, it became clear that he had a system just as routine for smoking while he was shoeing.

Yesterday morning it was cold. I unpacked my truck, cleaned it up a bit, visited with the horses and the grooms, lit my forge and placed a cold keg shoe in the fire, and then just like I have done every day  for the last 17 years, I fished out a cigarette, lit it in the fire, and took three long luxurious drags, in my mind. And I should point out that unless I am really paying attention, I don't even notice that it's happening.

Fortunately for me I was raised in a culture and family in which smoking was not an option for me. So I really haven't had to worry about dealing with a smoking habit developing from the alternate life being lived inside of my head. It does however, make me think about the other things that are rumbling around in my mind just under the surface which ARE manifesting themselves in real actions, while I go on unaware of what is happening and why it is happening. Could it be that my need for a diet Pepsi has it's roots inside of my mind and is an artifact of an emotionally charged experience or two? How about my defensive nature that puts me at odds with anyone willing to help me with constructive criticism rather than me being willing to really hear their words and understanding their feelings? I don't think that there is any possibility that this could NOT be the case. So, the question then becomes, "how can we get control of those thoughts and feelings that are playing such a big role in how our lives are lived? Here are three suggestions that we might want to consider:

1) Practice noticing our thoughts without judgement and criticism - we might call it meditation or pondering. Whatever we do call it, we can stop and pay attention to the flow of our thoughts. This practice will make us more aware of the constant parade of thoughts marching through our minds all the time.
2) Learn to be slow to respond to feelings. This is something that we can practice and become very good at. We just need to decide to pause and think about the outcomes of the actions that follow our responses to the feelings that occur from outside or inside stimulus.
3) Begin a regular practice to place thoughts in our minds that counteract the negative things we have noticed as a result of increased mindfulness. Remember that this pro-active thought replacement can be turbo charged if we create an atmosphere of heightened emotions (obviously positive emotions like love and joy will have an effect to support good thoughts) in our minds.

I love this thought made popular by Steven R. Covey.

"Between stimulus and response there is a space; what happens in that space will largely determine the outcome of our lives."

Noticing our thoughts, owning them and their reason for being, and being pro-active rather than reactive in our response to them is clearly a path that leads to happiness and peace.

Remember that not only am I the blacksmith, but you are the blacksmith as well. The force for creation and change in your own life.


Monday, February 25, 2013

5 Tips for Change short video

A change is as good as a rest. That is just something that my dad used to say a lot. I have found that when life seems to get hard, and you need a reason to get out of bed in the morning, there is nothing like changing a habit or a routine to add the spark you need. I hope this short presentation will provide something valuable in your efforts to change something difficult.

You are the blacksmith, the force for creation and change in your life.