Possibility

April 12, 2014

…if we describe revenge, greed, pride, fear, and righteousness as the villains–and people as the hope–we will come together to create possibility.  ~from The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

Just yesterday, I found myself telling a story with another person as villain. I SO know better than to do that! I know that it makes me feel mean and small, that it has potential for hurting others and creating ill will.

How easy it is to judge, to condemn the behavior of others, to set ourselves up as right and righteous. How destructive, how counter-productive this is, when we have the capacity to enter the realm of possibility instead. In The Art of Possibility, the Zanders eloquently state the case for moving toward a WE story, for focusing on what is best for all of us.

I am so grateful to Maureen Ryan Griffin for reminding me about this book. She first mentioned it when I was a student in her writing workshop at the John C. Campbell Folk School, where she told us about one of the practices from the book. Here is the practice: When we are trying something new and not completely succeeding, we are to throw our hands into the air and say “How fascinating!” Guaranteed to help us take ourselves less seriously.

“It’s all invented,” say the authors. This is the second book I have read in the past few weeks that makes this point.* I have come to believe it. Here is the practice offered in The Art of Possibility to help us create a new framework.

Ask yourself:

What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?

Then ask:

What might I  now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?

May I realize the power I have to create my life orientation, to choose to look toward possibility rather than dysfunction, and (importantly for me) to contribute by practicing my gifts. May I abolish the notion of failure, throw up my hands and shout “How fascinating!” rather than measuring myself against some standard of perfection.

Are you the creative director of your life? How does the story you have created prevent you from opening to other possibilities? What would expand your choices?

__________

*the other book is The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Be the Creative Force in Your Own Life, by Robert Fritz


Already Happy

February 26, 2014

True happiness has no cause. It is the natural state of our being, when unobstructed.  ~Ezra Bayda, from Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts)

“Let it be,” say the Beatles. How hard that is! We think that doing this or buying that or being with this person or achieving that will move us closer to happiness. But Bayda says happiness is the natural state of our being! It’s great good news that we already have it, if we can just clear the obstructions.

One of the obstructions for me is mindlessness, distraction, forgetting to stop and notice the world. Isn’t it easy to get caught in a web of striving? Today I am committing to write a haiku a day to help me remember to take a moment to just be in the world, to notice things outside my own head, and to “let it be.” Satya Robin would call this piece of mindful writing a “small stone.”

So, no matter how trite this may be, here’s the first:

Clouds blanket the sky
Trees are buffeted by wind
Yet daffodils bloom

What are your obstructions to happiness? What will you do to clear them?


Perfect

September 24, 2013

All that is necessary to break the spell of inertia and frustration is this: Act as if it were impossible to fail. ~Dorothea Brande

“Everything you do is perfect,” insisted Maureen Ryan Griffin, my writing teacher at John C. Campbell last week. And isn’t that true for all of us? We are perfect just as we are, and we must strive to be better. Holding these two thoughts simultaneously has always been difficult for me. But I’m getting there! And the writing workshop moved me closer. What a warm circle writers create when they work together under the right conditions. And Maureen created just the right atmosphere.

During the week, we learned to “sprint,” to “gather,” to “sprawl,” to write dialogue, to ask questions, to list, to “leapfrog” off another’s work, and much more. If you haven’t seen Maureen’s excellent book, Spinning Words Into Gold, check it out. It’s full of great writing advice and exercises. She writes a weekly Word-zine that you can receive by email, too.

Thanks to Amy, Brenda, Dave, Harvey, Judy, Maureen, and Victor for making last week so special for me. I am going now to plan my writing practice schedule for the weeks ahead. I’m sure it will be perfect.

 


Cheerfulness

August 29, 2013

While there is a chance of the world getting through its troubles, I hold that a reasonable man has to behave as though he were sure of it. If at the end your cheerfulness is not justified, at any rate you will have been cheerful.  ~H. G. Wells

Lately I find myself asking how one maintains good cheer in the face of not only the world’s ills, but our own aging, infirmity, and ultimately, death. I think it must be intentional. But in addition to learning and practicing good habits (morning affirmation, gratitude, etc.). I believe it involves surrender.

Pema Chodron, in her wise book, When Things Fall Apart, says “…we cannot be in the present and run our own storylines at the same time…anyone who stands on the edge of the unknown, fully in the present without reference point experiences groundlessness.” We must make friends with fear and groundlessness, surrender to the reality that we have no control, and live our lives anyway.

Randy says our task is to “live until we die.” In my most serious depressive depths, I have not even wanted to do that. But today I do, unequivocally. I aspire as Wendell Berry does in “The Wish to Be Generous“: to “…bow / to mystery, and take my stand on the earth / like a tree in a field, passing without haste / or regret toward what will be, my life / a patient willing descent into the grass.”

What are the ways that you maintain good cheer?


Retirement

August 25, 2013

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. ~Abraham Heschel

I have been retired from my day-job for three years, but I have officially retired from the consulting business now. I expect to take down my business website by the end of this year. It’s curious to me that once again, I return to this blog to mark a passage.

Thankfully, I am engaged in volunteer pursuits that keep me busy (enough). I am contest chair for the fall contests sponsored by the Georgia Poetry Society, I am treasurer-elect for the local Literacy Coalition, and I am volunteering in the Unitarian Universalist Church office (as well as singing in the choir). Soon I will go to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a week-long writing workshop, which I hope will inspire me to resume my writing practice.

“Retire” sounds like “retread” to me. And there is something to that image: a whole new out-look, more traction (less dis-traction), getting a better grip on things, even when it’s raining. (And it’s certainly done a lot of that here this summer!)

Age brings the blessings of greater understanding and wider perspective. Even as the body is deteriorating, the soul is expanding. I am grateful for soul-expansion!


Happiness is Here and Now

September 30, 2012

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

I am inspired by the life of Shirley Brown, whose memorial service I attended yesterday. Shirley was fond of saying, “I have everything I need to be happy here and now.” I have probably thought of those words weekly since I heard her say them many years ago. As one who is often at a loss about being happy, I am grateful for Shirley’s words that return me to the present. That is, after all, where happiness resides!


Both-And

August 18, 2012

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few weeks ago, I created a post called “Leaving Librarianship,” and said I wanted to make space for something new in my life. Since then, I’ve gotten a job with a Georgia library system to facilitate their strategic planning process, and I’ve volunteered to help start a local Friends of the Library group! Apparently, I’m not really leaving librarianship, at least not yet. And I realize (again) that making space for something new needn’t be done at the exclusion of everything else. Instead of either-or, it can be both-and. The poem I wrote about this a while back is here.

Life is a spiral for sure. I circle back to the same themes again and again, each time at a slightly new level of understanding. What themes repeat themselves in your spiral of learning?


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