November 8, 2009
You always have to be working on something because you have to trust your unconscious life, to be ready to deal with a play [poem] when it says, ‘Here I am.’ ~John Guare
This afternoon I will read, along with other Stonepile Writers Group members, at the Dahlonega Literary Festival. It would be lovely to have a new poem to read, but my last one was written several months ago. Today’s quote is a reminder to myself to get busy working on something. Nothing has said “Here I am” in some time, and I believe that is because I have not sat still enough.
Today I renew my intention to build in time for reception and gestation of images, the attunement to the senses, the mindfulness that often eludes me, crowded out by busyness. I think I will have to schedule this time, as paradoxical as that sounds, to put it on my calendar as sacred time. I am on vacation this week, so it seems like the ideal time to practice this intention.
How do you get yourself to a place where you can manifest your talents, where you are in “flow,” ready to receive that which calls to you, “Here I am?”
May 5, 2009
Career counselor John Crystal offers the best way I have found to remember our gifts: “Think about those things you have always found it easy to do and don’t remember learning how.” We tend to value the knowledge and skills we have worked hard to acquire; if we earned it from the sweat of our brow it must be important, or so we tell ourselves. But when aspects of work or life come easy, we think they must not be all that important. Crystal asks us to consider the reverse, that the “things we have always found it easy to do” might point us toward our gifts. ~Russ S. Moxley, “It Also Takes Courage to Lead,” in Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer
Hey, maybe it’s OK not to know too much about how to write poetry, huh? I remember being dumbfounded at a poetry workshop years ago when poet Kate Daniels said to me, “You have a gift. You should develop it.”
I like this reversal of the idea that only that which we slave over is important. I know that the best dancers/artists/writers/athletes/you-name-its are the ones who make it look effortless. And while I’m sure hard work is an important element for making it look so easy, I don’t think they could ever achieve that without natural talent, without flowing with their gifts.
What can you do easily that you don’t remember learning? Do you devalue it because there was no struggle involved? Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge and develop it as your gift.
April 6, 2009
There is guidance for each of us and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today I said to Terry that I want to be flowing water. Maybe becoming flowing water is the way to be on one’s true path. (I almost said “the first step on the path”–oh, my ingrained habit of linear thought!)
I see this process of becoming flowing water as acceptance, letting go of resistance, and dwelling–as Thoreau advises–”as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.”
What does this mean in practical, day-to-day terms? I think it means deep listening, stillness (ironically), and shedding the illusion of control. We have control over very little in this life, and yet we behave as though the world cannot turn without our efforts.
This week, I want to hold an image of flowing water, to be as close as possible to the channel in which my life flows, and to notice how that feels.
October 26, 2008
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige
Today I turned 55. Officially senior by many definitions. I’ve always welcomed getting older, because it has brought equanimity and a better understanding of myself and others. But somehow this birthday makes me feel as though time is running out. For one thing, I still don’t have a consistent exercise and meditation practice after decades of trying. If not now, when?
When I contemplate Satchel Paige’s profound question, I’m concerned that I would feel older than I am in years! Yikes!!! Maybe it’s just been a hard year, or maybe my bad habits are just catching up with me. I want to think of 55 as my health watershed, to get younger by taking better care of myself.
So I am promising myself during the upcoming year to do these ten things:
1. slow down and pay attention
2. remember to take deep breaths
3. remain curious
4. practice gratitude
5. observe my experiences rather than trying to control or judge them
6. minimize sugar, alcohol and bad fats in my diet
7. do yoga as much as I can
8. get outside more
9. notice what feeds me, find flow
10. be gentle with myself
Learning has always been important to me also, and I believe it’s an age-busting practice. I didn’t list it, because it is already so much a part of me that I would have to try NOT to learn!
What are the things that make you younger?
July 19, 2008
The real challenge, however, is to reduce entropy in one’s surroundings without increasing it in one’s consciousness. The Buddhists have a good piece of advice as to how this can be done: “Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.” ~from Finding Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I finished reading Finding Flow* last night. It was very different from what I expected, but interesting! The subtitle is “The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,” and the book reads more like a science-meets-religion treatise than a self-help book. In the end, I found myself thinking optimistically of the “new earth” that Eckhart Tolle talks about.
In Finding Flow, the author encourages us to engage mindfully, to take ownership of our actions, rather than spending our leisure in passive entertainment. This, he says, will create flow as well as increase happiness. I have certainly found this to be true in my experience. It’s easier to work a crossword puzzle than to stare down a blank page and write a poem, less effort to watch TV than to call a friend, but I know which of these feeds me and leads to greater happiness.
And again the idea of loving what is pops up–what Nietzsche called amor fati–”the love of fate.” Csikszentmihalyi warns us that people can also learn to love what is destructive, so we must choose our goals wisely. Science has helped us to understand what promotes and sustains growth, life, and order, and to understand the uniqueness of each of us. He says “each one of us is responsible for our particular point in space and time in which our body and mind forms a link within the total network of existence.” Being virtuous (that is, acting to preserve order, taking into account the common good, the emotional well-being of others) is not the easy path, but the satisfying one, and connects one to the flow of all that was, is, and ever shall be.
*Finding Flow was previously mentioned here.
April 11, 2008
You write from what you know, but you write in what you don’t know. ~Grace Paley
When the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself. ~William Baziotes
Writing (or any creative work) is discovery. That is why it is so frightening, so exhilirating, so compelling. This blog is my exercise in writing in what I don’t know. When the blog entry is finished, the subject reveals itself. I merely try to follow my mind and heart where they lead–first in choosing a quotation, then in my response to it.
This is good practice, I believe, for surrendering to life, for letting myself “be carried” by the universe, for loving what is. Perhaps writing will save my soul. I keep returning to Ray Bradbury’s advice from Zen in the Art of Writing: “WORK. RELAX. DON’T THINK.” There is so much wisdom in that simple exhortation. I am not sure how it could be more perfect.
William Stafford said, “Intention endangers creation.” May I approach my work with relaxation and a spirit of inquiry. May I surrender to the world with faith that I will be carried. May I set aside intention, will, and the illusion of control in order to be in the flow–no!–to be the flow–of all creation.
March 8, 2008
Life is a series of natural spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them–that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~Lao Tzu
Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate. ~Chuang Tzu
Boy, do I need these quotations this morning! I am feeling battered by my situation, and it is so tempting to sink into bitterness or depression. I have just reread The Not So Big Life, and although I intellectually understand the concept of not “pushing the rope,” I find myself doing it over and over.
My whole orientation as a manager is to work toward positive results, so how do I let go of the results, “let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like”? I think one reason I long for retirement is to escape this conflict in me, but I do understand that is not the right reason to retire.
May I center myself by just sitting with things today, letting my mind be free. May I learn to let go of resistance, making way for acceptance of whatever I am doing.