The Silent Observer

One of the hardest things to learn to do sometimes, but also the best thing that we can do for ourselves, is to learn to be the silent observer.

What do I mean by that?

First let’s clarify: observing is not about judging. Judging means we put ourselves above the person or situation as if we’re better than. Observing is simply stepping back and watching what is going on. Observing is being aware of what is going on both for the other person/thing and within ourselves.  

We are often so wrapped up in trying to judge what we are seeing, trying to process it and make it fit into our box, that we miss what is really happening. Being a silent observer allows us to view situations and see the bigger picture. Much like flying in an airplane and being able to see a wide area versus being in a car and only being able to see your immediate surroundings.

For a lot of people, one of the most stressful times of the year is coming up: the holidays. This is true for many different reasons, but one of them is because we tend to take things that people say and do as a personal attack. Even if they are attacking us, it is important to know that it is almost always about them and their own insecurities, rather than about you.

This is much easier said than done for most people, myself included. It has taken me a very long time to learn this lesson, and I still slip up sometimes.

If you go to your family’s house for a holiday meal and a relative is on your case about something, put your observers hat on. If they are on your case about something then you can almost guarantee that it’s something that they are either insecure about, something they don’t like about themselves, or it’s something that they have no clue about and they are just spouting off. Sometimes it can be a misguided attempt at showing they care.

When this happens, step back and pretend that you’re watching a movie. Look at the cast of characters. Remember that each person there has a role to play, including you.

It sounds cliché, but you choose how you let things affect you. Someone can say anything they want to you, but you choose what you let in. You choose to see that cashier as hateful rather than hurting, and you respond accordingly. You choose to see that weird aunt as critical and unbearable rather than someone who regrets most of her decisions throughout her life. It starts with reminding ourselves on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis, that everyone is dealing with their own set of issues and how they treat us is about them, not about us.

Looking at people through the lens of an observer doesn’t change how people act. It will change how those actions affect us and our overall state of being.

We also have to remind ourselves that just because someone says something, doesn’t mean that we have to have a reaction to it. Often the reaction is what they are wanting. If we don’t give them that reaction, if we do the opposite and don’t react, they generally lose their steam. No matter what is thrown at us we simply refuse to swing at it.

In addition to helping us deal with outward things coming in, being observant helps us to see if we are imposing our own insecurities onto a situation. Maybe you think everyone is judging you for not having a better job because you feel bad about yourself for not having what you deem a “better job”. Maybe you think everyone is making fun of you because you are feeling insecure about how you look. To take it one step deeper, maybe you think people are judging how you look, what you wear, where you work, etc. because you judge other people for those things.

A few years back I kept finding myself feeling like everyone around was judging me for my life choices. I felt like what I did was never good enough for anyone. What I finally realized was that I wasn’t happy with my life choices and I was projecting those feelings onto everyone around me. Once I realized this, I started to see most of the comments people made as an effort to help rather than judge.

So not only am I asking you to observe your situations and what is going on around you, I’m asking you to observe what is going on within yourself.

If you place yourself in the role of the observer then you will find yourself being happier more often. You will also find that your mind is freed up to think about the things you would like to do and become, rather than being bogged down by negativity. You can allow yourself to see the good in the people and the things around you, rather than only seeing the bad. You will begin to see the possibilities that exist, rather than all of the obstacles.

The key to all of this is doing it on a daily basis. Start being observant with the small things. That way, when you get into a more heated situation (at a family meal, at the store, or at work) you have practiced being the silent observer and it makes it easier. It’s like training for a marathon. You can’t just jump off of your couch and go run a full marathon, you have to train for it. Train yourself daily to be an observer and when the marathon comes, you’ll be able to handle it.  

A few things you can do to help you to deal with the negative energies that may be swirling around you this time of year:

This is from zennedout.com. Click here to read the article.

  1. Try the Kashyapa Mudra: Mudras are a way of holding your hands that allows you to encourage or prohibit certain energy movement around you or within your body. I used to use this one a lot when I worked retail. Before going out to deal with an angry customer I would hold my hands in this position. It would remind me to be an observer rather than reacting based on my assumptions.
  2. Do Qigong to release the negative emotions that you are feeling towards others or yourself. Click here to see Chris Shelton’s White Pearl Meditation Video on YouTube. In it he takes you through a few Qi (Chi) cleansing exercises to help you release those emotions.
  3. Give yourself time to just get away and be alone. Even if it’s 5 minutes in the day, take the time to have some alone time. Leave your cell phone in the other room, or put it on silent, and just take some deep cleansing breaths. Doing this will work wonders for your mental and physical state.
  4. Sleep! Most of us go through life running on empty. Try to arrange things so that you can actually get some rest this holiday season. When you’re rested you are less likely to be grumpy, stressed, and have a short fuse with people.

Your Favorite Socks, The Little Things, and a Giveaway

If I asked you right now what your favorite pair of socks are, what would you tell me? Would you look at me like I am a complete looney? (Are you looking at your screen like that now? =)) Or would you immediately know the answer?

Why am I asking about your favorite pair of socks?

These are currently my favorites at johnscrazysocks.com

First, I love wearing fun, colorful socks. It’s a way for me to show my personality when I have to wear a certain thing to work, or out and about. My favorite socks look like a pair of Converse shoes. I love to wear them when I fly. When I take my shoes off to go through security, it looks like I still have shoes on. It’s the little things, but it makes me and others smile at a time that can often be stressful.

I heard a lady say one time that she loved to wear fun socks because they are a good conversation starter. She works with people in their homes, so it’s often a little awkward at first. People see her fun socks, it makes them smile, and it breaks the ice. Anything that we can do to make someone else smile is worth our time.

Secondly, I’m asking because I want to make you more aware of the little things in life. Socks are not something that the majority of people think about on a daily basis. They are one of those things that we put on and then we go on about our business.

According to an article written by Give Back Homes, “socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters”. (Read the full article here.) So, something that we barely notice in our day to day life, many people are beyond grateful to have. Pay closer attention this week to the “little things” in your life. Things that we often take for granted.

When you are choosing what to wear each day, choose your socks with purpose. Each time you put a pair of socks on, say a little thank you that you have them. Use this activity as a moving reminder to be grateful each and every day.

In doing this we can begin to cultivate more gratitude in our lives overall. (This is something that we will talk more about in the next few weeks.)

Get a little more creative with it and wear fun socks this week. If you have the ability, go buy a pair of fun socks. If not, just go look through them. Part of the fun of fun socks is picking out the ones you like; seeing all of the different kinds, patterns, and sayings.

Go to John’s Crazy Socks and look through all of their different socks.

I love this site because they have a wide variety of great socks that you don’t find anywhere else. The story behind this company is also amazing. A big part of the reason that they do what they do is so that they can give back to those around them. They “want to show what those with differing abilities can do” and “what happens when you give people a chance” (From their website). Read their story here.

In the spirit of the season, get together with friends or family and have a “Sock Swap”. Everyone who comes buys a pair of cute socks. Either draw names before or do a fun gift exchange game. Get together, eat good food, and have fun.

Or, if you’re buying gifts for people this season then get each person a pair of fun socks. Pick out a different pair for each person, a pair that fits their personality.

To celebrate our week of fun socks, we are doing our first ever giveaway, and it’s two-fold.

1. Put a picture of yourself wearing fun socks or a picture of fun socks that you would like to have, and/or comment on our giveaway posts on Facebook or Instagram. For every picture and original comment we will give a pair of socks to our local homeless shelter. We will do this through the end of November 2019. 
2. At the end of November we’ll draw one name from our email list. That person will win a $25 Gift Card from John’s Crazy Socks. 

If you’re not getting our weekly “Happy Mail” yet, sign up here.

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(All of the pictured socks are from johnscrazysocks.com. The picture rights belong to them as well.)

The Novel Turtle Presents: Q&A with Mark Borella, a.k.a. The Seeds of Happiness Guy

I found this adorable little smiling face on a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. When I read the accompanying card, I was hooked. They are such a simple thing, but the heart behind the project is amazing. This week we talk to Mark Borella, who is known as “The Seeds of Happiness Guy”. If you haven’t heard of these little Seeds, take the time to look at their website, read all about the company, and see their adorable products. If you watch any of Mark’s Instagram or YouTube videos, you see instantly where the smiles get their origin. His smile, his happiness, his excitement, is infectious. He loves to make people smile. He loves to make people happy. He loves what he does and it shines through.

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 “My artwork is not serious, but I take my art very seriously.” Mark Borella, The Seeds of Happiness Guy

1) For those who have never heard of the Seeds of Happiness, tell us how you got started making them.

My wife and I have been together since we were 15 or 16. I taught her how to drive. We’ve known the lady that put us together since we were kids. That lady’s son was diagnosed with neuro blastoma when he was young. As he was going through treatments, I wanted to make a piece of art to represent him, to do something for the family. But I got blocked. I was so close to the family and the situation. Previously, as I was doing other sculptures and projects, I had the little leftover lumps of clay. So I started making a handful of smiles, and I put them in a bowl in the studio. Our friend’s son went through his treatments, but didn’t do well. I got the call one day that he wasn’t going to last much longer. The family told me that I needed to come and say my goodbyes. As I walked out of the studio, to go to their house, I looked over and saw those smiles laying in the bowl. I grabbed them, blew off the dust, and went to the family’s house. When I got there, I told the mother of the little boy, our friend, “There is nothing I can say or do, but here is a handful of smiles. Maybe you can hold onto them until you get your smile back.” A few months later, she called me. She told me that she had kept a smile in her hand every day since I had given them to her. She said that those smiles in her hand were the only thing that she had to hold onto during that time. She said, “You need to do this for other people not just me”. I continued to keep the leftover clumps in my studio. I made them and gave them out to people when they needed a smile. I would give them to people and say, “Here’s a seed of happiness I hope it grows”. As time went on, I started getting more and more calls from people who were wanting the Seeds. So we put together a little website and started selling them.  

2) What is your hope with the Seeds of Happiness?

What we are selling is the story behind the smiles; not just my story, but everyone’s story. These are making a huge difference in people’s lives. If I hear that someone gave someone a Seed, and I ask where it is now, they always know. If I ask them who gave it to them, they always know. We get stories all the time about how these smiles change people’s lives in all kinds of ways. People who have lost loved ones, people going through cancer treatments, people who are contemplating suicide. Someone gave them a smile and it made all the difference in the world. That one little gesture shows that they are cared for, that they matter. The people giving the smiles away are the heroes of the story; and that’s the way it should be. Someone told me one time that I had reinvented the greeting card.

3) What was your biggest obstacle when starting the business?

The business end of it all. One of things I figured out early on, even as a kid, is, if you’re not arrogant and you don’t think you can do everything, if you find someone who is better than you at something and you acknowledge that then you will go farther. I found someone that doesn’t suck at business. I also found someone who is better at detail painting. Learn to recognize your weaknesses, find someone who is better than you at it, and you’ll go much further. 

4) Did you have people that thought you were crazy when you decided to make this a business? How did you deal with them?

I was already making a living on art in college; selling sculptures. I’ve never worked for anyone. The people that understood what I was doing knew it was a mission and they supported it.  There were those that didn’t of course. That’s one thing about going to art school. You learn to deal with criticism. You learn your basics, how to do the actual art, and you also learn social skills. The biggest thing you learn is that you suck as an artist, someone is always better than you. This is not meant to be discouraging, it just is. No matter how good you are at something, there is always someone better than you at it.

5) I see on your “Meet the Team” page that you include a lot of people that most companies wouldn’t include. (I especially love that Munch, your doggie mascot and model is included) I think it is amazing that you are willing to share the spotlight and recognize everyone’s contribution to your products. Do you think this philosophy and practice has helped to fuel your success?  

This is a team effort. Without the team, it wouldn’t be a success. Each year I give everyone that works for me an original piece of art that I create. One year I gave each person a puzzle piece. I told them to put them all together. Everyone laid their piece down, fit them together, and they made a Seed of Happiness. Next, I told one of them to take a piece away. I said, “Take one piece away and the whole picture is not the same.”

With Canterbury Enterprises, we employ 2-20 people a day. When they come to help us, it gets them out of their house, gives them and their caregivers a break, and gives them a sense of independence.  

6) How important do you think it is for people to find what they love to do?

If what you do is something you have a passion for then you’ll do a better job. Believe in the magic of what you’re doing and you’ll do well.

7) How did you come to work with the teacher that “helped shape your love of sculpting” (a quote from the website)?

Growing up I was the dumb kid. I struggled in school. When I got to high school there was an art teacher, it was his first year teaching. This was before ADD and ADHD and all that was recognized as a thing. He said, “You’re not dumb, they just don’t teach the way your brain works”. He offered to help me with my homework. Later, he was going back to college for his master’s degree. He got my mom’s ok and I went to college with him, took classes with him. Along the way he saw the potential in my art and began entering it into contests. Because of him I was able to go to art school. Over the years, he followed what I was doing in art, he kept in touch. When he retired from teaching, I asked him what he was going to do with his time. He didn’t know so I asked him to come work with me at the studio. He’s been here ever since.

8) Because The Novel Turtle is all about creativity, we ask everyone: What is your definition of creativity?

Having your eyes open to other things, other than what is mainstream or normal, in every situation. Even seeing things like rivers: the way they flow, the color.

9) Each of your smiles is handmade in The Smile Factory, in Kirkwood, MO. Do you do factory tours of any kind?

Our studio is always open to the public, Monday-Friday 9-5. Sometimes people walk in and they are enthralled. Sometimes they walk in and are like, “this is it”. It’s a working art studio. The name, The Smile Factory, pays homage to Andy Warhol’s art factory.  

10) Some interesting facts about the Seeds of Happiness: They go through 3200 pounds of clay each month. One seed takes about 3 weeks to make. They make 40,000ish each month. The card that comes with each seed is part of the art work.

“When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them, I change the world one smile at a time.” Mark Borella

To learn more about The Seeds of Happiness, to see what Mark and the team are up to, and/or to purchase any of their products, go to SeedsofHappiness.com.

Be sure to follow Mark and the Seeds of Happiness on Instagram and YouTube to get your daily dose of smiles.

Thank you Mark for joining us this week, and for what you and your team are doing to make the world a better place each and every day!

Creativity Killers: Episode 3: Letting Fear Control What You Do

What is one thing that scares you? One thing that keeps you from following a dream you may have. This week I’m asking for a big one. Dig deep and figure out what scares you about moving forward towards your dreams. You probably already know what that thing is. If you don’t, it was probably the first thing that popped into your mind when you read that first sentence. So, I’ll ask it again. I’ll give that thought a chance to pop back up. In regards to your dreams, in regards to you living your happiest life, what scares you the most?

Take a moment to let that question marinate.

Are you afraid you aren’t good enough? This is a big one. Maybe you want to become a writer, but you are afraid people won’t like your ideas. Maybe you want to be on stage and teach people, but you’re afraid of public speaking. Maybe you want to put your art out there for sale, but you’re afraid that people will judge you. Maybe you want to open a business, but you’re worried you will fail.

Often, we can kill our own creativity before it even starts by holding onto our fears and refusing to step forward. We refuse to hear those stories that are coming through because we think they all have to be best sellers. This is one of my big ones. I enjoy writing. I enjoy telling stories through writing. But when I start writing something, those little ideas about not being good enough creep in. I used to read about how other people had written books, how other people said I should or shouldn’t start a book, and it would block all creativity. My ideas would no longer pour out.

(This is another creativity killer by the way……allowing other people’s ideas to overshadow your own. Click here to read all about this.)

To get beyond this I have tried to just do what I love to do. Sometimes it isn’t easy. Sometimes I still find myself doubting, worrying. When those moments come, I do my best to stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself to just have fun.

This week I want you to do one thing that takes you one step closer to creating your dream. If you want to put your art out in the world, put a picture of it on Instagram. Or even just show it to your close friends. There are plenty of people out there who draw or paint and no one ever knows it. If you’re happy with doing it just for the fun of it, then do that. However, if you feel like your art can inspire people, or if you want to try to sell your art, start putting it out there one baby step at a time. Or, just paint, just draw, just create. If you want to write, start writing. Write in a notebook. Get a flash drive and start writing and saving it. If you want to start a podcast, start writing out ideas for shows. Or maybe record one and let someone listen to it.

Maybe you have pushed your dream so far down that you won’t even allow yourself to acknowledge it anymore. Give that dream a chance to shine through again.

I don’t want you to do any of this for anyone else’s approval. I don’t want you to show others your art, writing or other creative endeavors so that they can say “Yes I love it”, and then you can move forward. The idea is to put your art out there, put yourself out there, because it is something that you enjoy, something you want to do. No approval needed.   

Share with us below what your fear is. Or what you’re going to do this week to take a baby step in the direction of your dream. Then we here at The Novel Turtle can send you all of the good vibes we have. We can all support each other in living our happiest life.

Creativity Killers Series: Episode 2: Listening To Everyone But Yourself

This picture started out as me trying to do something exactly the way someone else told me to. When it didn’t work out, I did my own thing and had way more fun with it.

If you want to do something, the quickest way to kill your excitement about it is to read how other people are doing it, and then try to do it exactly the same way.

I did this when I first started writing again. I was having fun, doing my thing, and I started reading all of the “dos and don’ts” of writing. When I was finished reading, I was so bogged down with what I should and shouldn’t be doing, I lost all interest in writing. Everything I wrote felt completely wrong in some way. It was only after I decided to write for the fun of it that my enjoyment in the process of writing returned.

I have a friend who opened a business. At first she tried to do everything the way that other people were telling her to do it. Everyone had an opinion about things. She found herself feeling like a complete failure and questioning why she had even started the business in the first place. Once she realized what was happening, and she began to listen to her own inner guidance about things, her business picked up. Her joy for what she was doing returned and she was able to begin helping people in the way that she was created to do.

Do I suggest that you ask for advice from those who have done what you want to do? Absolutely. Those who have gone before us have surely made mistakes along the way. If we learn from their mistakes then we are less likely to make them ourselves.

However, if we set out to do something on our own, and we try to follow someone else’s exact plan, more often than not it doesn’t work out. Why? Because you are unique. The plan worked for the other person because they did it in the way that was best for them. I’m not saying be stubborn, don’t listen to helpful suggestions, but…take them as just that, suggestions.

When you are setting out to do something, to create something, to build a new idea, figure out YOUR strengths, YOUR weaknesses. Don’t look at other people’s strengths and try to play to those. Use a similar idea, but tweak it to fit your needs.

When you have an idea that you are excited about, you tell others about it. Many times, they like to give you a long list of reasons that it won’t work. This is especially true if they have tried it before and it didn’t work for them. Or if they are the type of person who can’t bear to see someone else succeed. Or sometimes even if they care about you and they don’t want to see you have to fight an uphill battle. There will be those people who think they know everything about whatever you are trying to accomplish. They will try to tell you how to do it their way.

All of that to say, some people will attempt to discourage you from chasing your dreams. This discouragement has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. So don’t take it to heart. Simply take what resonates and leave what doesn’t.

I’m not saying don’t have people that you admire. I’m not saying don’t learn from those who went before you. I’m saying, if you’re going to do it, then make sure you do you.

Don’t allow other people’s ideas to overshadow your own.

Have you ever been excited about a project, only to be discouraged by other people’s opinions, “how-tos”, or by trying to do it just like someone else?

Creativity Killers Series: Episode 1: Multitasking

Painted Pumpkin with black hair.

This is your brain on multitasking.

In honor of Halloween this month we are going to talk about creativity killers and doing things that scare us. Dun dun DUN. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Also, we’re going to give you ideas about how to deal with these killers and how to move past them.

Our first creativity killer is Multitasking. Multitasking seems to be a way of life these days. A lot of people are very proud of how many different things they can juggle and do at one time. If you’re looking to open those creative channels, have less stress, and enjoy life more, the multitasking has to go. Or at the very least it can’t be a way of life for you.

When you think you’re multitasking what’s really happening is that your brain is having to stop and start tasks over and over again very quickly. When you look at one thing, your brain concentrates on that thing, but as soon as you look away your brain has to stop thinking about the first thing and move over to the second. If you’re doing three or four things at once your brain gets exhausted, and so do you. While you’re doing all of this bouncing around, you’re unable to really concentrate on any one thing fully. That means each thing that you’re doing is suffering at least a little. 

Multitasking is also a form of procrastination.

Why do so many people multitask their way through life?

Some people are addicted to multitasking. They can’t sit still. If they stop, even for a minute, they feel lazy, useless, or stressed. These feelings come up because when we finally slow down and give our mind a break, it gives our inner thoughts time to shine through; inner thoughts that sometimes we’d rather not acknowledge. We would much rather just keep shoving those emotions down and covering them up with busyness. The problem is, those emotions have to arise somewhere at some time. They often show up as a heart attack, exhaustion, or depression and anxiety. It’s much better to slow down, take the time you need to process those emotions, and then move on happier and healthier. Again, I know this is much easier said than done, but still so important.

Some people multitask because they feel like they have to, or because they have overcommitted to doing things. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they are not enough if they aren’t doing everything. Sometimes they are trying to prove themselves. The list goes on and on. These are all pretty deep issues that really warrant more discussion, but for now I just want to mention these things to give you ideas about what could be making you feel like you have to multitask.

If I can plant the seed, then hopefully we can all do a little more self-reflection and figure out our own reasons behind why we push ourselves so hard. Then we can take small steps each day to change our ways.

So how do you break the multitasking spiral?

Stop it. Just stop multitasking.

Ok. Problem solved. See ya next week.

Totally kidding. Although it would be nice if it were that easy.

It’s going to take time, and some effort, but it is possible.

The first thing to do is to narrow down what is actually important to you. If you make a list of everything you do each day, then mark the things on that list that are the most important for you to get done, what would those things be? If something on the list is just on there because you feel obligated to do it, scratch it off the list. Anything that doesn’t bring you joy, that doesn’t help you get to where you want to be in life, scratch it off the list.

Once you find out what is important to you, start saying no to commitments that aren’t in line with what you want for your life.

Next, be realistic about how much time it takes you to do things each day. All too often I see people who schedule themselves into a corner because they have unrealistic expectations about how long it will take them to accomplish tasks. Also, give yourself time in between to get where you’re going, or to switch gears in between tasks. You can’t schedule a class from 4-5 and then a class from 5-6 if you have to rearrange the room in between the two classes. You’ve started off the second class late from the very beginning, which means the rest of the class will be rushed and the need for multitasking will be more necessary to get everything done.  Scheduling our lives is the same. If you don’t allow yourself time in your schedule to get from point A to point B then you’re perpetually late and often forced to do multiple things at once to get everything finished.

Desk with laptop, book, and phone.

When you start going about your day, work hard to do one thing at a time. If you check e-mails first thing when you get to work, only check your email. Then move on to the next thing. I know that sometimes you get pulled away from things by other people. If that happens, help them how you have to, then turn your attention back to your e-mail until your finished. This is not an easy thing to do at first, especially for those that are pros at multitasking, but doing this gives your brain time to concentrate on each task.

It also allows you to slow down and see the world around you a little more. It will take your stress levels down drastically. You will find that you can check more things off of your to-do list because you’re actually focusing and doing each task a little more quickly.

Are you a professional multitasker? Do you tend to take on more than you can feasibly handle? This week sit down and figure out what’s important, make a plan to do only those things, and work hard at focusing on one thing at a time.

The Novel Turtle Presents: Q&A with Chris Shelton

Joining us this week is Chris Shelton of Morning Crane Healing Arts Center and Shelton Qigong in California. We asked Chris questions, not only about the practice of Qigong, but also about running a business. As anyone who has ever owned and operated a business knows, you sometimes have to use a lot of creativity to get things done. We’re always interested to hear what inspired others, what has helped them along the way, and how they deal with the day to day. It’s also encouraging to see that others have dealt with the fear and doubt within themselves and have very successfully come out the other side. It is a lesson to us all: not to let those things stop us from doing what we love and are called to do to serve others and to have fun doing it.

1) For those that don’t know you, tell us a little about your story and how you got started doing Qigong.

My belief in the healing powers of Qigong is rooted in first-hand experience. As a teenager, I grew up in an abusive and neglectful household. I suffered from a heart attack at age 17 from a meth overdose and then a devastating back injury that left me in constant pain and partially paralyzed. I attribute my full recovery of not only the back injury but severe sinus and digestive issues to Qigong and the philosophies of Chinese medicine.

2) What made you want to start the Morning Crane Healing Arts Center?

I started the Morning Crane Healing Arts Center in a small office in Los Gatos, California, in 2001. Originally, my business name was the Morning Crane School of Qigong, but that name was too limiting for all I had to offer. At the time, I was a full-time butcher, single father of two children, and a competitive martial artist. I had finished the four-year Medical Qigong program in 1998 and did nothing with it until one evening after helping my teacher with his class; I got offered an opportunity to join the clinic in Los Gatos. I still didn’t know at the time whether or not I was meant to do this, and my ego had thought of all the reasons why not to do it. Two days later, I had made up my mind that I couldn’t do this and when I went to pick up the phone to call Janet (the massage therapist who offered me the position) to tell her no, I heard a voice say that this is your last chance this lifetime. So, I took a chance, and I am so glad that I did! My wife and forever true love, Parisa Shelton, joined Morning Crane in 2010.

Our business objectives are that: when people leave The Morning Crane Healing Arts Center, we want them to feel better than when they first walked in. To increase their awareness of how diet, lifestyle habits, and emotional status affects their health. And to give them tools to have an amazing life that everyone deserves to have.

3) As far as the business side of things, what were some of the hardest things that you encountered in the startup process?

The hardest thing was getting over financial fears and questioning if this is the “right” path I’m supposed to take.

4) What was one of the most surprising things that you learned when you started the business?

Sometimes your closest mentor and friends turn out to be your biggest adversaries and would like nothing more than to see you fail.

5) I heard you say one time that “Running a business is like trying to herd cats”. What do you mean by this? Is it in reference to feeling like everyone and everything is going in different directions sometimes?  

I meant that with a staff of people, no matter their education or skill level, there is still a level of organization and guidance needed to get everyone moving in the same direction towards a common goal.

6) At what point did you know it was the right time to start your second center in Los Angeles?

The business in LA built gradually. I gained significant confidence when Eric the Trainer, Hollywood Physique Expert, said “I know the who’s who in Hollywood and no one is doing what you’re doing in LA.”  When we received the opportunity to purchase a condo there and all the stars aligned to make this happen, I knew we were destined expand our business to LA.

Chris Shelton and Eric the Trainer

7) How do you keep the business side of things from taking over the teaching/healing side of things?

Proper compartmentalizing of tasks and things helps to prevent the business side of things from interfering with the teaching/healing side of things.  It’s like an analogy of life – avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.  Also, maintaining a personal health regime and meditation practice is very helpful to stay grounded and helps to maintain clarity of purpose.

8) Why do you choose to do classes for free in local parks?

We offer free classes to give back to our community. Once you think you’re big and lose sight of where you came from, this can cause a decline. We offer free services to expand awareness and let people know about the work we are doing. This is a common mistake I’ve seen throughout the years with practitioners who thought that they were established; they refused to do anything for free because they felt that they didn’t need to do so. I believe it’s important to dedicate a certain amount of time to offer your services, especially to those who could not afford to take part otherwise.

9) I’ve heard you say that one of your goals is to bring Qigong to as many people in the world as you possibly can, what other ways are you going about doing this?

With our Online Teacher Training Program*, YouTube videos, social media, books, and a TV show (for which we are pitching).

Man standing in front of trees.

Chris doing a video

10) You have a different approach to teaching Qigong and TaiChi. It’s not always so serious and you don’t wear traditional clothing. Why do you choose to teach this way?

I choose to teach this way because I feel that I can reach more people by being light-hearted and by dressing in my normal clothes.  Making it into a “Chinese” thing separates people and wearing silk-pajamas puts the teacher on a pedestal, and if you feed into this, then it feeds the students ego of seeking a guru-type mentor.

11) You and Parisa complement each other so well, how do you inspire each other each day?

Because at the end of the day we both have the same common goal and mission. We inspire each other with encouraging words, helpful gestures, and regularly acknowledging our wins. Even though it’s my name and face on the brand, I don’t mind sharing the stage with P.

Chris and his wife Parisa

12) You are also a published author with another book on the way, what made you want to write your own books?

I have my way of describing these ancient practices and techniques that I feel that I can reach an audience who otherwise might not be able to be reached.  Plus, I love Chinese philosophy, and I have all this knowledge and experience that I must not keep for myself and need to share with other people.

13) Do you do other creative things?  

Poetry, all mediums of art/drawing/painting, I like to dance – salsa, cha-cha, Rumba, and social dancing. Just last week we made arrangements for singing lessons!

14) Because The Novel Turtle is all about creativity, we ask everyone this question: What is your definition of creativity?

Creativity is the act of creating something from nothing.  It is letting God/Source flow through you and manifest things that stimulate, develop and enhance the world around us.  It allows people to be present and goes deeper into self-awareness.

15) What advice would you give The Novel Turtle readers to help them open up their own creative pathways?

Be around other creative and inspiring people, go out in nature, co-create with God what it is you want to manifest in that creative realm.  “I choose to co-create with God that creativity flows in and through me.” Also, never give up perseverance is the key to anybody being successful?

16) If someone wants to get in touch with you, what is the best way to do so?

Website: https://sheltonqigong.com

OR for information about the Qigong Teacher Training Program https://qigongteachertraining.com

E-mail: parisa@morningcrane.com OR chris@morningcrane.com

Phone: (408) 391-2846

If you want to try Qigong for yourself click here to see all of Shelton Qigong’s YouTube videos and HERE to follow them on Instagram.

A huge thank you to Chris Shelton for taking the time to answer our questions!!!

*If you are interested in taking the Qigong Teacher Training Course, I highly recommend it. It is truly a beginner course. Chris teaches you everything from the ground up. He and Parisa are tremendously supportive of their students and they are so much fun to work with.

Drive Around Aimlessly & Explore

Road through a covered bridge.

Do a little aimless driving this week. Maybe a little each day, or maybe one adventure, one day for a few hours. Drive around with no particular destination in mind.

Doing this helps you to see different things and clear your mind.

Go wherever you think looks interesting. Even if it is a street that you have been on before, you may see something you never have because you’re normally hurrying to your next destination. You may find a better, quicker route between places that you go every day.

My husband and I do this a lot, especially when we’re on vacation. We start driving down a road and then one of us will say, “That looks interesting, let’s go that way,” and we do. Doing this we have found all kinds of things that we otherwise never would have seen. We found a light house that we didn’t know was there in Cape Cod. We found a beach in California that had some interesting cairns. We found a train museum in PA. (Unfortunately it was closed, but we still got to take pictures of the outside.) Even here at home we sometimes do it. We may go on roads that we have been on before, but we always see something new.  

The other night we were driving home from dinner and got stopped by a train. I’m the only person I know that gets excited about being stopped by a train. I enjoy the time just to sit and take a “forced” break in the day. (Also, I love trains and the graffiti that ends up on them.) As we sat there, several other people came and parked behind us. They were taking photos over at the train station. When the train stopped, they realized it was the perfect opportunity to get an even better angle for their pictures. They could stand in the middle of the road and not have to worry about traffic. We all talked and took pictures. It was an impromptu little party. None of this would have ever happened if we hadn’t taken the time to drive around, stop for the train, and take in the scenery that we generally just pass by.

Train sitting in front of a building.

Ever since I got my driver’s license, getting in my car and driving around randomly has been the best way for me to clear my mind and process things. If I don’t have a lot of extra money for gas, or time to go far, I drive to a nearby park or parking lot and just sit (without the radio on and without playing with my phone). I’ll go the long way home just to go through a nearby park area. It always gives me time to relax and enjoy the views, instead of being stressed out by traffic all the way home.

Trees in front of a river with a bridge across it.

If you live in the city and don’t really have a good place to drive around, or don’t even have a car to drive, trade driving for walking. Walk around aimlessly, with no real destination in mind. Just let you mind wander and see where your feet take you. It’s the same concept.

If you need a little more direction and a little less random, try flipping a coin:

Pick a starting point, the end of your street, the restaurant parking lot, or where ever you happen to be. Flip a coin. Heads you go left, tails you go right. Let this be your guide and see where it takes you. If you end up at a dead end or going in circles, pick another starting point and flip the coin again. This is good for exploring somewhere that you have been before. It will help mix things up and allow you to free your mind of the decisions about where to turn or go, so that you can see more of the world around you.

Doing this is also like a mini vacation for your brain. When you free your mind from having to make so many decisions about where to go, where to turn, what to do next, it frees up space for creative solutions, problem solving, and finding things that you really enjoy doing.  

If you take the road less traveled you never know what you will find, who you might meet, or what you might discover about yourself.

You may find a cemetery in the middle of the road. You may see geese walking on water. (They were really walking on ice. =)) Or you may find the end of a road you didn’t even know you were on. Haha!

So tell us, do you ever drive around aimlessly? Or take different roads just because they look interesting? What other things do you do to clear your mind?

Move Along

Find a way to add movement to your life this week. Our bodies were designed to move. It doesn’t always feel that way after we’ve done a work out and our muscles are screaming at us. More importantly than just adding movement this week, I want you to add movements that you enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy doing it, you’re either not going to keep doing it long term, thus losing the benefit, or you’re going to force yourself to do it, thus taking all of the fun out of it and staying at odds with yourself and your body. It benefits us in so many ways to learn to listen to what our bodies are telling us. If you spend the entire time you’re running thinking “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this” that is going to create a blockage in your body. You will be more tense while you’re running, risking injury and more muscle pain in general after your workout. You’ll be more likely to find excuses not to go for a run because deep down you really don’t want to anyway. This could apply to anything; running, weight lifting, yoga, kayaking, anything.

For several years I tried to do yoga. I searched for a good teacher that taught actual beginner classes. A lot of people say beginner, but they go straight from step one to step five with no stops in between. I finally found Yoga With Adriene and I loved her videos. I really got to where I enjoyed doing yoga and I did it as often as I could. Recently though, I’m just not feeling it. Nothing against yoga as a practice. I still think it is a great form of meditation, exercise, and all of the other benefits that go along with it. I still highly recommend it for those who are drawn to it. But for some reason my body no longer enjoys doing yoga. It’s not just the exercise it’s the movements. In the process of all of this I hurt my elbow and couldn’t do any of the poses that involved putting pressure on my arms (which is most of them). I’ve been doing TaiChi and Qigong more and more over the last couple of years and really enjoyed it. As I explored what was going on within my body, I started to realize that Yoga just isn’t for me anymore. That’s not to say that I will never do it again, or that I think it’s bad for you. Right now, my body just doesn’t enjoy that type of movement. So, I’m making every effort to respect what my body tells me and to move in ways that I actually enjoy.  

This may not look fun to some, but he loves it.

Sometimes the key thing that we miss is doing the movements that we love. Doing the movements that make our bodies feel good and not strained. All too often we think of movement as something we have to do to punish ourselves for eating poorly. Or we’ve been told by our doctor that we have to exercise and lose weight. Maybe our intentions started out as good ones, to get in better shape and to live a healthier lifestyle, but somewhere along the way we started beating ourselves up for not following a stringent diet or for not doing the amount of exercise that we feel is appropriate. We see what others are doing and we do that, even though we secretly hate every minute of it.

Everyone is different. We all enjoy different things. I’m asking you to search yourself this week and find those movements that your body actually enjoys doing. Find those movements and do them.

Try doing some form of movement for at least 5-10 minutes a day. Once you find what you enjoy you can add more time to that and get the recommended daily value of exercise. You can try something different every day, or, if you already know what you love, make time to do it.  

Find a taichi or qigong class, a dance class, pilates, yoga, or whatever is interesting to you. If you’re not into group classes try finding a video on YouTube. Go for a jog or a run. Take your kayak or stand up paddle board (or rent one) and paddle around the water for a little while. Go swimming. Find a playground and play like you used to when you were a kid.

If you live near a light house, go climb the stairs and see the beautiful views. Anything that gets you up and moving.

All of these things will not only benefit you physically, they will also benefit you mentally. Exercise is a proven stress reliever. Stepping away from the grind of the day and spending some time doing what you enjoy will serve to give your thinking mind a break. When you’re moving your body, you can focus on what you’re doing and take your mind on what needs to be done or what has been done. You live in the present moment or you fall over (in yoga), fall in (kayaking or on a SUP), or completely lose your place (in Taichi or dancing). In finding what you love to do, what feels good to you and your body, you will open up those creative channels.  

Some of my favorites:

Yoga with Adriene, she has videos from beginner to advanced. Her motto? Find What Feels Good =)  

Click here to see her videos.

For Qigong, try Chris Shelton with Shelton Qigong. Again, he explains things in a way that anyone can understand. You don’t have to have some advanced knowledge to do the practices. The movements are easy enough for anyone to do and incredibly beneficial and relaxing. To see all of the Shelton Qigong videos click here.

However you choose to do it, find movement. Even if it’s just dancing around your kitchen for 5 minutes while your dinner cooks in the microwave.

Tell us how you choose to move this week. Let us know if you tried new things or if you already know what you love and you were able to make time to do it.

The Novel Turtle Presents: Q&A with Haley Hensley

This is Haley and her sweet Great Dane, Emme.

Welcome to our Q&A session! This week our guest is Haley Hensley. Haley is a photographer, animal lover, and all around fun person. Her website is www.haleyhensley.photo.

Q: What made you want to start taking photographs?

I am a shy person, even more so when I was younger. I didn’t really have a place to fit in at school. I didn’t play sports or an instrument. When I heard about yearbook staff in middle school though it really sparked an interest in me. When I was old enough to join yearbook staff, I did. I loved taking photos of the different activities going on at school. In a way, I was fitting in by hiding behind a camera. 

Q: At what age did you do this?

At age 9, my father bought me my first camera. He bid on a box full of items at an auction. A 35mm Minolta XG 1 film camera was in the box. I was fascinated by it. We took it to Ritz Camera to be looked over and repaired. I remember standing outside of the store, pointing the camera at something. A gentleman walked past and asked if I was a photographer. From that moment, I may not have been a photographer but I knew that I wanted to be one in the future. So, I started photographing everything: family, pets, nature. 

Q: What are some of your favorite things to photograph?

I’ve always loved photographing nature, from mountains to beaches. I love capturing the beautiful areas that surround me. I also love photographing dogs. Dogs are one of my biggest passions, along with photography. So being able to connect with them through my camera is one of the most rewarding experiences. I am currently trying to learn more about photographing couples and newborns!

Q: Where is the craziest place you’ve ever stood to take a photo?

This one is easy for me. Although I will do just about anything to capture a shot that I have a vision for, this one experience always comes to mind. It was November on the Nolichucky River. The Noli is already extremely cold, but in November it is REALLY cold. I had a 4×5 film project I was working on for school, and I saw the perfect shot about knee high out a little ways in the river. I was thinking, “I have on rain boots, I’ll be fine!” The rain boots didn’t help, I was not fine, and it was COLD. I remember my legs going numb in a matter of seconds! I got the shot, found my way out and called it a day! 

Q: Do you have a favorite photo, or collection of photos?

A project that was one of the most challenging and most rewarding is my Virginia Intermont College series. I photographed my school several times, between a few weeks up to a year after its closing. Those are some of my favorite images and always will be because of the personal connection I have with them, and the challenge it posed for me as a person and photographer. 

Q: You have a book about Virginia Intermont, tell us about that. What gave you the idea to do it? How did you choose the areas that you photographed? 

We were told 2 weeks before school ended for summer break that we would not be able to come back. We had already registered for classes and had out next year planned out. In a matter of seconds that was taken away. I was desperate to hang on to anything I could from Virginia Intermont. I knew that I would never see it again. So, I told myself, I have to photograph everything. I walked in every room of every building. Even places that had been closed off to students previously, areas I didn’t even know existed. I photographed places that I connected with or felt emotional about. 

Q: What did you learn in school that you were surprised to learn about photography?

That even though you have a beautiful, creative idea it needs to be technically correct to actually be a good photograph. I had been photographing for years! When I started college I was amazed by just how much I didn’t know technically. Learning how to shoot a camera in manual so that you can control every aspect to achieve your vision is one of the most important things. If your photograph is overexposed then it’s ruined! You can edit a digital image and correct any mistakes but printing a film negative is a bit more challenging if it is not technically correct. 

Q: What are a few tips, that you could give those of us who are amateurs that love to take photos, to help us?

Learn. Learn. And keep learning. In today’s world with YouTube, Facebook Groups and other endless internet resources it provides a whole learning field for anything and everything. Learn about your camera, composition and ways to manipulate your image and be creative. Watch videos, ask other photographers. You can always study others’ work, but always give credit and be respectful! 

Q: Are there other types of creative projects that you do?

I have to be creative! If I am not creative, I am not happy! Outside of photography, I am also a woodworker. I work for a small business (extremely successful, but family owned) that builds furniture! I also love to make greeting cards. I have been making cards since I was a little girl. I love the personal touch it adds. 

Q: Because this website is all about expanding our ideas of what creativity is, I’m always interested to ask this question: How do you define creativity?

Expressing the ideas that are in your mind, or how you’re feeling, through activities that you love to do and that make you happy. 


Haley, thanks so much for joining us this week!!! It has been a lot of fun getting to know more about you and your business.

If you would like to see more of Haley’s work, purchase her book with the Virginia Intermont collection, or get in touch with her:

Website: www.haleyhensley.photo

Email: info@haleyhensley.photo

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/haleyhensleyphotography/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/haleyhensleyphotography