Unseen Anchors

Hebrews 6:19. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul….

Hope is an anchor for the soul. We’ve heard this over and over the last month. It seems to be one of the most reassuring ideas we can entertain. Yet why, at times, why does it seem like hope’s anchor is bludgeoning us over the head?

Don’t we all do it? Don’t we hope for a bigger paycheck, a smaller tumor, an easier path through life, more sunshine and less rain, fewer red lights and less traffic? It seems no matter how big or small, hope let’s us down from time to time. The bigger the hope, the bigger the letdown. It’s almost as if life would be easier if we simply abandoned hope.

And yet, to abandon hope would be to misunderstand the analogy. Hope is useful anchor. It’s not always a useful expectation. Hope isn’t an outcome. It’s a force.

Consider an anchor on a boat. It can be useful to inspect an anchor from time to time and admire it’s beauty or functionality. But when we are inspecting the anchor, it is not in use. And this is where the analogy gains its true power. An anchor at use is unseen. It does its work, keeping us grounded where we want to be, from beneath the rolling surface of stormy waters.

Hope as an anchor keeps us firmly planted where we want to be while allowing us to go about our daily work dealing with the turmoil in front of us. It’s wise to occasionally inspect an anchor, but we need not keep our eye on the anchor to feel its force and effects. Indeed, in order to deal with more pressing matters raging against us, at times we need to toss the anchor overboard into the depths and trust that it will do its job even when we lose sight of it.

When dealing with life, hope may be the last thing on your mind. Yet as long as you have occasionally inspected the anchor of hope, making adjustments and repairs as needed, you can trust it to do its job. From somewhere beyond your vision, you will be able to feel the pull of a strong and steady anchor as it works its purpose, firmly rooting your vessel, keeping you from drifting too far away from your intended center.

Hope is an anchor, and the true strength of an anchor isn’t in what you see. It’s in what you feel.

Our best to you and yours. May be be anchored with hope, even when your sight line is adrift.

Beautiful, Strong, & Important

Our great friend Ben sent us the posted photo of the cross and anchors. Upon receiving it, Celeste and Ben exchanged these texts:

Celeste: They are beautiful. They look strong and important.

Ben: Just like you.

This is the first official week of treatment for Celeste’s pancreatic cancer, although I like to think we started fighting at least a month ago. With the diagnosis and onset of treatment we have experienced an incredible outpouring of support from family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. I want to share two of those stories from late Tuesday (8/8/17) and tie them into some general thoughts on life.

The first is written above. Our great friend Ben sent us the photo above, and Celeste and Ben exchanged those texts.

The second was a comment from our great friend Carrie, who accompanied us to Celeste’s first chemotherapy treatment.

As we were driving home, Carrie said, “Thank you for including me tonight. I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but I enjoyed it. I consider it a great honor.”

It’s not weird it all. I feel exactly the same way, and I’m glad I do.

Think about the sentiment explained in those two anecdotes. Think about the possible power it holds for those who understand.

“You are beautiful, strong, and important. It’s an honor to serve you. Thank you for letting me do so.”

How awesome would it be to tell that to our teammates, those special family and friends that mean so much to us?

“You are beautiful, strong, and important. It’s an honor to serve you. Thank you for letting me do so.”

Can you imagine expanding your definition of teammate to strangers in your community, or possibly even a stranger who has very little in common with you other than the fact that we all inhabit this earth as humans today? Could you say it? What might it mean to you? What might they do with the understanding of how you feel?

“You are beautiful, strong, and important. It’s an honor to serve you. Thank you for letting me do so.”

Please consider this my word to you, and you can book it as my bond. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past or what mistakes you are going to make.

“You are beautiful, strong, and important. It’s an honor to serve you. Thank you for letting me do so.”

So, my friends, if I can serve you, let me know how. Tweet it (@woodjared and @1sideline). Facebook message me. Text. Call. Write in the comments below.

If you don’t need anything, how about you do something for someone else? Do something for a friend, family member, coworker, teammate. Do something for a friend of a friend. Do something for a stranger. Make a play. Do what you can.

Let’s do this people. Let’s move mountains. Let’s build a team. Get your butt in action. If you want to be humble and quiet, that’s fine. But if you’ve got something to say or do, I’d love to see you light up social media today with #woodswarriors. After all, you are beautiful, strong, and important. Let your light shine.

The Order of Things

I’ve spent a lot of time in contemplation in my life. I tend to be logical, analytical, and quantitative. That’s just the way I am. This often puts me at odds with the spiritual, and yet, counterintuitively to my logical side, more and more it leads me to spiritual considerations.

There is an order to the universe that is humanly impossibly to understand. I think the best we can do is to feel it in our heart or gut, yet that probably doesn’t quite do it justice. Pick up a bible or a scientific text on cosmology and this much will become clear.

Even what appears random has order, causes, reasons. It may not be apparent to us, but it’s there, a creative force powering what exists. Some believe this order, this intelligence if you will, is God, or evidence or God, and others believe it exists independent of God. I’m not sure it’s important to make that distinction, or at least it’s not important for me to suggest one way or another to you. I think you are fully capable of arriving at your own conclusion, but I do want to point out something that must be true both logically and spiritually.

Despite what we were taught, our minds do not operate on a stimulus——>response basis. That’s the way it appears to our conscious mind, but that isn’t the way it works. Neuroscience is very clear on this. Our minds and their supporting structure – the brain – create hundreds and thousands of possibilities each second, trying to predict how to operate our bodies in the world around us. The subconscious workings of our minds match sensory input, such as sights, sounds, and touch, to these predictions, and we become aware of the best fits. It all happens before we become aware of it.

Sometimes we are right-ish about what bubbles up in awareness, like when we realize we must jam on the brakes to avoid hitting a suddenly stopped vehicle in front of us. Other times we are wrong-ish about our awareness, like when we startle over a stick in the brush that we mistakenly perceived as a snake or when we mistakenly interpret someone’s quiet contemplation as anger pointed at us. In any case, our brain has already moved forward before we are aware of it, actively predicting how to respond to hundreds and thousands of possible new sensory inputs.

Our conscious awareness was already created for us in the subconscious working of our mind. Even the choices we believe we make consciously, such as choosing between chocolate or vanilla ice cream, appear in our subconscious mind before we become aware of them. And it’s not just the choices that appear in our subconscious before we make a decision. The resulting decision is present in the subconscious mind before we are aware of it. Our conscious steering of awareness and choice is an illusion.

I really don’t want to confuse the hell out of you. It’s really hard to understand this stuff and get around in the world as a conscious being. After all, if you follow this logically, it calls into question whether or not we have free will. In a sense we do, in a sense we don’t. We are creative, influential beings, yet our creativity is limited to what occurs to us out of the workings of our subconscious. To be logical and scientific about it, believing we have free will over our minds is like a prisoner believing he has free will because the warden offers him a choice of chicken or fish for dinner. We are puppets to what our minds do on a subconscious level whether we realize it or not. That’s not easy to comprehend. So let me see if I can make some sense of it and help you get around in the world.

This lack of free will may feel a bit familiar to the spiritually oriented. God’s intelligence intervenes or guides in ways we will never truly understand. Perhaps it shapes events, thoughts, feelings, or actions. When we accept that, we gain peace.

To the scientifically oriented, we may have a little more trouble with it because it bucks what seems to make sense, but if we are truly being scientific, we follow the evidence. In this case, the evidence points to our lack of control. We simply do not have a definitive conscious handle on our thoughts, feelings, and actions even if it seems as if we do.

This lack of control can be uncomfortable for a moment. After all, I want control over my thoughts, feelings, and actions. I want control over healing my wife’s cancer. I want control over my daughter’s health and safety. Understanding I don’t have control can feel terrifying, yet when I let that understanding settle, a gratitude sets in. You see, despite my lack of control, there is an order of things that allows me to become aware of certain things in my life that I can only describe as blessings or miracles. These things include the love of family and friends, our general health and strength, the beauty I sense from nature, even the feeling of excitement I receive from football season around the corner. I can come up with thousands of these blessings. The miraculous is found in the common, and that seems pretty cool to me.

Yet even the term me is thrown into question. I am always tempted to perceive this awareness as an individual mind (substitute soul for mind if you prefer). When I do so, I eventually encounter a sign from within or without that points out that I am not truly a lone individual. In other words, I am not truly alone. Everyone and everything is connected. My path in life is not a solo trek. It is a trip influenced by everyone and everything around me. I’m like a wave in an ocean. A spoke on a wheel. Interconnected and inseparable.

This understanding creates meaning for me that unites the spiritual with the logical. When we learn to dance in rhythm with this order rather than trying to pin it down and elicit an answer to our constant questioning, “Why me?!” life gets a little easier. When we understand our connection with others and the world, we begin to roll with life rather than crashing against it.

There is a cause and order of things that I cannot truly be aware of, certainly not as it occurs in real time. My individual perspective is an illusion in that I am intimately connected with this order (I cannot be separated from it and it cannot be separated from me). Despite my lack of control and occasional disagreement, I find love and beauty in this order. I do what I can.

The best analogy I can come up with is that I am an artist. I do not have say over the medium I work in or even much of my skill. These were set up for me by the order and intelligence of the universe that I don’t understand. Yet I am capable of creating something with what I am given, and what I create mingles with all the other creations of the world. If that’s control to you, so be it. To me, I have no need to pat myself on the back for having control. Having the experience is enough, and the experience isn’t really my choosing even if it seems as if it is. It’s my blessing.

That’s as simple and as complex as it needs to be. Everything does happen for a reason. There is an underlying cause and connection for everything. If one sees God in this, that’s cool. If one simply sees physical cause and effect connection in this, that’s cool too. The understanding of connection is the important thing. If this post does one thing for you, I hope it is to plant the idea of connection in your mind so that your subconscious possibilities begin to process connection as part of their predictions for your place in the world around you.

I hope this makes sense and finds you and yours connected in beautiful ways. Have a great day. Do what you can.

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to her kitchen chair

She broke your throne and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

Baby I’ve been here before

I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor (you know)

I used to live alone before I knew you

And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch

And love is not a victory march

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

 Hallelujah. Praise God.

As cancer wages war on my wife’s body, it seems a funny thing to be occurring in my mind right now. Yet as we prayed together tonight, the song appeared in my thoughts, and I can’t shake it.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

I was reminded of Leonard Cohen’s prophetic words and Jeff Buckley’s beautiful singing earlier this year at a concert, and I downloaded the song the next day. I listened to it over and over on my way to and from work for a week, just turning the lyrics and haunting melody over in my mind, letting it mingle with what already lived there, creating new connections and rhythms.

I’m not going to pretend that I have some great insight into what the song means, but it occurs to me that it has to do with spirituality, human flesh, and the one certain thing that seems to unite the two: Love.

So often we tend to think of hallelujah as an exultation, a shout of joy, yet as Cohen’s words explained long before it occurred to me, love and praise don’t always come beautifully wrapped in achievement, celebration, or joy. They often show up through pain, tears, and confusion.

Our humans bodies and brains distort reality so that we see from a personal perspective. This illusion is easy to give into, and it seems especially easy when the human body is attacking itself. Yet at times, we are able to transcend that illusion, and find our light in the darkness. In those times, we are able to sing hallelujah from down on our knees, head in our hands, supplicated to a greater order of the universe. And when we begin to dance rhythmically with the order of the universe rather than trying to control it, we begin to gain more power than we ever believed possible.

Do we think we should only sing praise when we are on top? No, the true test of the strength of our spirit comes when we are on the bottom.  It seems paradoxical, but we gain our greatest power when we give up control and give in to a greater order of the universe, an order we can never truly understand. We are capable of realizing our true power and love even when we feel weakest, for we do not gain this power through achievement. We gain it through a cold and broken hallelujah.

Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah.




Influential Power

Regular readers of my blog, and anyone who talks to me, will note that I am big on eliminating the idea of control. Anything that seems within my control, even simple actions like typing this post, depend on so many factors outside of my control that it is utterly ridiculously to pat myself on the back for controlling it. To me, I would only truly have control of thoughts, feelings, or actions if I perfectly controlled the process of those thoughts, feelings, and actions AND everything that goes into allowing me to create those thoughts, feelings, and actions. For example, my mom and grandmother have essential tremors. Their hands shake, which has a very large effect on how their hands and fingers work. They do not control that they have it. I do not control that I don’t have it. If I get this condition someday, perhaps today (perhaps the condition is lurking in my DNA and is going to strike before I finish this post), I’ll lose the excellent command of my typing that I currently enjoy, shattering any sense of control I had. Seems like I’m in control, but I know I’m not. 

So what’s the big deal? Why do I harp on the issue of control? It’s simple. I’m a psychologist. So much of the reason patients seek me out is that they don’t understand their lack of control. They think they can control what they can and leave the rest to the control of other entities. 

What’s wrong with that? Life and the world do not work that way. Everything depends on influences, thousands of them, perhaps millions or more if we really got technical. Our very awareness of existence, and everything we do, think, and feel, depends on influences, none of which we control completely, because each one depends on all the others.

Let’s back to my question: So what’s the big deal? Most people seek control for a sense of power and influence. Yet when they buy into the idea that they sometimes have control, or that they have control over certain things, they also tend to give away certain power and influence to other people and things. When their intentions aren’t matching the outcomes they want they say, “Well, I don’t control that. Such and such does.” We do this all the time when we blame. Blame is the main power drain from what I can tell. This is a phenomena I call passing the control baton. It appears that sometimes I have it, sometimes someone or something else has it. So essentially, in our search for power, we create this illusionary concept of control, yet we give away our power every time we cast blame. 

So most people do this dance of trying to create power by seeking control, then they shrink their power each time they cast blame. What ends of happening is that they end up confused and holding the reigns of very little power at all. In essence, in seeking control, they give up their influence over thoughts, feelings, and actions when they believe to be under the influence of someone or something else. When you add up all the control they give away, you can see how people throw away influence that they could otherwise tap into in order to gain a sense of empowerment.

The solution is to simply see things more clearly. Everything that happens, including me being able to type these words, is dependent upon more influences than I can count. I am in reliable command of some of them, or in other words, I have a high degree of influence over them, but to call that control would just be giving into an illusion that is temporary at best and would eventually lead to a catastrophic failure, a shattering of that illusion at the time I most desperately need clarity. 

Perhaps the most powerful influence we have is perspective. We are free from external control and we. We’d not blame ourselves our kick ourselves when we are and find that we have forgotten we are wonderful and beautiful because of our flaws. A change of perspective, a change of heart can change the world for us. That’s influence. And that’s real freedom and power. 

Leave control behind. I think you will find yourself feeling more empowered and grateful. It will flow automatically and effortlessly as you begin to open your eyes to the common miracles of the little things we do not control, yet somehow, countless influences come together to create something that seems to be going our way. This understanding will ebb and flow with various influences that come bear on it because we don’t control awareness either But going with the flow and understanding that even awareness doesn’t control us is part of the beauty of navigating this world. 

My peace and love to you and yours today. Do what can to make plays today. 


Making Plays and Kicking Cancer’s Ass

My wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this week. While this isn’t the diagnosis we were hoping for, at least we know and can get into fight mode. Much of what I write in upcoming months will likely deal with this topic in one way or another, so here is a reminder of what I’ve written before that has been helpful to us so far.

Our moods rise and fall, and our thoughts and feelings change even if circumstances don’t. As we’ve lived with the diagnosis, it hasn’t changed, but our sadness, anger, happiness, and optimism have. They have come and gone. They will likely come and go some more as we go rising and falling in cycles, and this will remain true after we kick cancer’s ass. Right now I’m up. It’s effortless and feels great, but I don’t fear going down because I know it won’t last.

Mental toughness does not have to be built. It is available in an instant, and one need not even realize one is capable of toughness to act with toughness. It just happens when we need it most. I think it helps to realize this, but it’s not necessary. I would say that we are exactly as tough as we think we are (it seems to go this way), but I see people acting on toughness daily without even realizing what they are doing. I think the only cardinal sin with mental toughness is to believe it has to be built and that one is not capable of building it. Yet I’ve even seen people with this mindset act tougher than they predict they are capable of acting.

In every moment, opportunities to make plays exist. We make some. We miss some. We move on.

Be aware of your influence. You have some abilities. Use them. Realize none of us is in 100% control of anything. When you truly understand this, you’re very likely to feel grateful when everything is going your way. You’ll learn to roll gracefully when the forces seem to align against you.

Be awake to possibility. Your influence is powerful. It is more powerful than the control you think you desire. Miraculous possibilities are everywhere if you simply open your eyes to them. Sometimes they even appear when forces seem to be aligned against you.

Be alive with action and awe. Make plays. Seize opportunities. See the world the way you can. Find the miraculous in the common.

We are all connected, yet as individual observers, each of us has her own path. Our minds create meaning for the path, but the path isn’t right or wrong, good or bad. It just is. Make the plays you can on your path. Influence others the best you can. Everything happens for a reason. I believe that. I don’t know if God’s will is that reason or if it’s just a matter of physics. Some propose it’s a combination. In any case, everything is connected. Be mindful of that. Perhaps you have more answers than I do.

Be well my friends. Make plays. Today in the Wood family we are making plays to live, love, and laugh while we kick cancer’s ass.

A Sunday Wish for You

I apologize for not writing much lately. I think that will change very shortly. Between not having much new to say and much going on personally, I just haven’t written. Here is a short post about my current awareness. Hope you enjoy.

My Sunday wish for you. Too often I’ve focused on achievement and the elusive and undefined “success.” I’ve sought outcomes and achievements, and believes I was failing when they didn’t come my way. Over the past few years I’ve been waking up to a different way of living, and that is paying off in ways I certainly never imagined. Ways I never wanted to be true. Instead of patting myself on the back for my achievements and control over the elements of the world, I’ve realized that we don’t control a thing.

Control is a compelling illusion we fall for often, but make no mistake. It’s an illusion. And yet control being an illusion does not render us powerless. We are powerful beyond our wildest imagination if we just severe our ties with outcomes and achievements in favor of connecting to the moment at hand. We rise above the matter and matters of this world when we realize they have no restraining power over our spirit. We think, feel, and do what we can in each moment, and whether we are aware of it or not, what we CAN DO is dictated by immeasurable forces we can’t even fully understand let alone control. This much is clear lately.

And in the midst of a storm of influences I cannot control, today I feel more empowered than I ever have. Mental toughness and confidence can arise in a moment completely independent of the circumstances that surround us. My Sunday wish is for you to understand the same and feel the gratitude, awe, and love that I feel today. I hope you and yours have a great day.

Peace and love. JW

Last Play


Memento mori.

-Latin phrase meaning, “Remember, you will die.”

Carpe diem.

-Latin phrase meaning, “Seize the day.”

To start my post, I’d like to thank everyone for surviving the last two weeks, so that I wasn’t tempted to write another eulogy-type piece this week. But I’ve been thinking about loss and finality. Per usual, my mind turned to athletics and the idea of the last play, the last repetition we take as athletes.

It’s incredible to watch players who play ever play as if it is their last. No matter how physically talented they are, they are overachievers. Unlike other players who throttle back at times, worry about their next breath, save their energy reserves, and occasional give up on winning the game, players who play every play as if it were their last almost always seem to find that extra gear.

They never seem to worry about their next breath, and yet it always comes. They never seem to spare an ounce of energy, and yet there’s always more when they need it. They never seem to surrender, and yet sometimes the other team gets the best of them. They always manage to play and practice with an intensity that suggests they believe this current play could be their last.

They play and practice with minimal regrets. They certainly may experience disappointment, but for the rest of their days, regret is minimal because they left nothing in the tank. They spent it all on the field or in the arena.

Looking back at films of my old teams, we played hard. We overachieved. We flew to the ball, yet we certainly weren’t perfect. Personally, I didn’t take many plays off, if any, but I definitely didn’t play every play as if it were my last. I should have. I would have been a better player if I did.

Then again, there was my senior season at Albion. Before then, I always assumed there would be other plays. I played pretty hard. I got after it. But looking back on it, I often had another gear to give, and I never realized it until I finally hit that higher gear in my senior season, the season I finally accepted the fact that any play could be my last. On any play, I could have suffered a season ending injury. Because I wasn’t moving on to another level of football, a play ending my season would also have ended my career.

So in my senior year at Albion, 7 years into varsity football, I finally began to understand that any play could be my last. It changed how I played. I unleashed a new intensity in drills. I enjoyed every moment of every rep. I did more than enjoy the pain, I embraced and savored it. Every rep was a love affair with football. Every sprint was a celebration of speed. I’d finally begun to play every play as if it were my last. It was the most enjoyable season of my playing days, and it was probably my best. I still miss it. I dream of it. My heart breaks that I can’t play another last play.

That’s the thing about sports and life. We never really know what we had until it ends (or nears an end). Part of the beauty in life is getting lost in those moments before the last play is over.

Sports are just part of a bigger life. Someday, the last play, last rep, last day, last breath will come for each of us. This is the essence of the Latin phrase memento mori. Remember, you will die. When the last play arrives, if you have done things right often enough and given a great effort, you will leave minimal regrets.

But to do so, you may need to seize each moment as it arrives. Makes plays in the moment you have. This is the essence of the Latin phrase carpe diem. Seize the opportunity. Seize the day. It is the antidote to regret.

May we all play every play as if it’s our last.

Best wishes.


Other favorite quotes on last play:

“Even in camp, every play’s a big play. With the Steelers you learn to play every play like it’s your last.”

-Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

“Now, you guys all understand what last play means? Last play. You play every play as if it was the last play you will ever play. And if we don’t play with emotion, if we don’t play the last play on every play, it will be. There won’t be a next week. Every play tonight, you play….you think about what that means. You think about what it means to be on your last play! This is my last play of football ever! My last play! How do I want it to be? How do I want to be remembered? My last play! Every play.”

-Coach Ed Burke, Torrey Pines High School, San Diego, CA