George Breed is an 82-year-old who spends his time spreading love and wisdom as he walks about Flagstaff. He captures little moments on camera, which develop into big statements about the essence of the town. His warm smile is a joy to come upon, and he seems to be friends with everyone from business executives to river runners, from doctors to artists. But don’t be fooled by this kind, grandfatherly exterior. George Breed knows how to take people apart.
Breed has spent a lifetime understanding what people are saying, not through words, necessarily, but through non-verbal communication and behavior. He holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is particularly skilled at pulling back the layers that troubled people carry around, like multiple personalities. He also holds a fifth-degree black belt in Isshin-Ryu karate. And, having served as a U.S. Marine, he knows how to be a force to be reckoned with, physically, mentally and emotionally.
As a professor at the University of South Dakota, Breed conducted research in nonverbal behavior and also treated patients. “Nonverbal behavior helps you navigate life by sensing the energy field of another. I was a psycho-therapist,” he said, intentionally splitting the word. “For decades I saw hundreds of people and listened to them and used their imagery to assist them to make their decisions and move through whatever trouble came in the door – thoughts of suicide, depression, obsession.”
But these days, he chooses to move in harmony and apply his Martial Arts training to everyday life. In fact, he has written a book about it.
In “The Inner Work of the Warrior” he offers a section called, “Why-ning and How-ling.” Here’s an excerpt:
Why-ning is a part of ordinary mind. Why-ning refers to the tendency to ask, “Why? Why me? Why must I do this? Why am I like I am? Why is the world this way? Why, why, why, why, why? This is why-ning. Focusing on ‘why?’ leaves little space to create personal change. I can stay on my therapeutic couch of analysis forever. A little understanding of why is okay, but a more important question is ‘how?’ By doing this and not doing that. By being this and not being that. By attending to this and not attending to that. Stop why-ning. Start how-ling.
Breed has worked as a counselor at the Guidance Center and Northern Arizona University. “When the client started laughing, I knew our sessions were complete. If they had deeper problems, I would send them to the right place for more therapy or medication.”
In between clients, he would wash his hands, burn sage and walk around the block to let it all go. “Otherwise, you become impregnated with the other person’s sorrow. That’s no good for anybody,” he said. “Our biggest ally is our breath. If we want to get rid of whatever’s bothering us, blow it away.”
Breed has been many things in life, including a truck driver, but today, he is open to the day. He doesn’t wear a watch and he doesn’t keep a list. He follows what opens to him. “I usually awaken around 3 a.m., when the veil is thin between this world and the world that births this world. And I listen.”
His photo blog, “Walking Flagstaff,” evolved into a popular Facebook page. Now, he is partnering with Flagstaff-based Soulstice Publishing on a “Walking Flagstaff” book that will showcase his wide-ranging interests, from street details to people’s faces to nature.
“Having followed George Breed on Facebook for many years and been constantly delighted by the insightful photographs he takes while walking the roads, alleys and trails of Flagstaff, Soulstice Publishing is thrilled to be working with this wise and talented artist on a book that will celebrate his unique vision in his own words and pictures,” said Soulstice co-founder Julie Hammonds.
To create the “Walking Flagstaff” book, Breed is working with photographer Jake Bacon to edit some 34,000 images down to a final selection of a few hundred. His writings on walking and photography will accompany the images.
“George doesn’t just see our city as he moves through it on his daily walks – he captures and creates images that display the unique nature of the place we call home,” said Bacon. “From the Church of the Nativity floating in a post-monsoon rain puddle to a street artist standing next to his latest installation, George’s photos are iridescent threads that weave together to reflect the fabric of the very special place that is Flagstaff.”
Breed’s photographs have garnered the attention of numerous fans who appreciate his quirky visual insights into Flagstaff. He has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his latest book, which runs through June 11. For more information, visit kickstarter.com/projects/walkingflagstaff/walking-flagstaff-with-photographer-george-breed.
What advice do you have for others?
“Love who you are and all that is.”
What’s your favorite food?
“Spaghetti and meatballs.”
What do you hope to impart to the people you meet?
“The energetic radiance of their own being.”
What’s your guilty pleasure?
“To be at one with the cosmos. It’s a way of living. I feel guilty because I don’t know how to impart it to people in a way that they will understand.”
Where would you like to travel?
I really just want to wander around Flagstaff. This is fine enough with me.” FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN