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

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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?


Risk

August 4, 2012

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~Erica Jong

I have put myself “out there” by applying for a residency at the Hambidge Center in northeast Georgia. I imagine the competition is stiff, but I am proud of myself for applying. And, who knows? I can dream that I will be accepted to spend two weeks in the woods with my poetry!

I’ve never understood daredevils or adventurers. (Why does anyone want to climb Mt. Everest? I can’t fathom it.) But there is something about this kind of risk that is exhilarating to me. What kinds of risks affect you in that way?


Facing the Blank Page

July 30, 2012

Writing is easy.  All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

I have discovered two more favorite books on writing to add to my previous list: Writing From the Inside Out, by Dennis Palumbo and Writing Your Heart Out, by Rebecca McClanahan. The former encourages us to work with our own resistance rather than fighting against it. The latter helps us explore what matters to us. I used to think I read books about writing only when I was stuck and couldn’t write. But I’ve enjoyed these two titles in the midst of an ongoing practice.

At this point in my life, I am staring at a blank page, both literally in my daily writing practice, and figuratively, as I move from my library career toward an unknown future. And, as Fowler says, it can make you sweat blood! My facing the blank page each day, though, may ease me through this uncertain period. Just as writing begets writing, I believe courage begets courage.

What is your story about facing uncertainty?


Leaving Librarianship

July 24, 2012

For nearly 30 years, I have been working as a public librarian. Even when I “retired” in 2010, it was to do consulting and teaching in the field. I have now come to a place in my life where I want to make a space for something new. I don’t know what that something is right now. There is a certain amount of angst associated with jumping off the path and into the void. Where will I land?

Below are some words I am drawn to at the moment. As one who is typically mad for closure, it is difficult to rest in uncertainty, to not pick a new path right away. The challenge is to remain receptive in order to hear my soul speak. I am grateful for the luxury of choices.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell

The end of one turn of the spiral becomes the beginning of another…we are designed for possibility. ~Gabrielle Rico

There is only one success—to spend your life in your own way. ~Christopher Morley

Where there is a path it is someone else’s way. ~Joseph Campbell

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

Trust yourself, then you will know how to live. ~Goethe


Practice

May 5, 2012

Whatever your path is at this moment, every single step is equal in substance. Every step actualizes the self. Every moment of practice is always the koan of having to agree to your condition, to bring unlimited friendliness to what you are, just as you are, right now. Even your obnoxiousness, your failures, your rank inadequacy is it. Your best revenge is to include it as you. ~Susan Murphy

Hello, again, Quotesqueen/Only Moment readers. I am proud and happy to say I have at long last established two practices: meditation and writing. To these two practices I am trying to bring “unlimited friendliness” to what I am, just as I am.

The writing practice is resulting in poem after poem. Not all of them are good or will ever be good, but it sure beats not writing! I hope that I will be able to maintain it when I begin writing a nonfiction book on sustainable public libraries. My plan is to write poetry in the mornings, then work in the afternoons.

One important key to practice is, I believe, self-compassion. I found a wonderful little book called Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline, by Cheri Huber. In it is a 30-day program for change in small steps.

What would you like to change for the better? and for good?


A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward An Undivided Life

February 18, 2012

Rereading this wonderful book made me remember this post from March 2009. Don’t miss Palmer’s newest title, either: Healing the Heart of Democracy, which I wrote about here.

Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view! ~Parker J. Palmer

I have just finished reading Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. How can every sentence from Palmer be exactly the sentence I would write if I could think and write as clearly and beautifully as he?

This book covers virtually all the themes I have explored in this blog–integrity, the open heart, connection, woundedness, respect, attention, letting go, and many others–in the investigation of an undivided life. Bringing inner and outer worlds together is a process Palmer refers to as the joining of soul and role. Rejoining, really, because in his view we were all undivided at birth. But he cautions that this process is much more than “embracing the inner child,” since “we carry burdens and challenges children do not have.”

Solitude Palmer defines as not necessarily living apart from others, but apart from ourselves. And community he says is not necessarily living with others, but rather “never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other…being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.”

We cocreate each other in encounter, Palmer says, and he gives a specific method for establishing “circles of trust,” safe “communities of solitudes” where people can listen to their own hearts, discern their own truth, without being invaded or evaded by others. He likens the soul to a wild animal, shy and self-protective, and says we must not go crashing through the woods (arguing, preaching, proclaiming, advising, trying to be helpful). We must sit in silent attentiveness and hopeful expectancy if we want the soul to appear.

I already knew a little of Palmer, a Quaker, from the many times my minister/friend Marti spoke about him from the UU pulpit. But (as with most books), I have no idea by what route I got to this one. I am just grateful to have discovered it.


Focus on the Joy

October 16, 2011

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Years ago, I wrote a post called More Love, Less Fear. Today I say more joy, less fear. I think joy and love are intertwined and reciprocally generating. It occurred to me today that the way I overcame my feeling of being adrift after retirement had to do with focusing on joy rather than fear.

What is the security that Lindbergh talks about? I believe a basic physical safety, enough to eat, clean water, and community are the essentials for security. We can construct much more elaborate security needs when we come from a place of fear.

While I’m no Pollyanna, I do believe that most people hunger for true connection more than wealth and power. Many of them don’t understand the yearning and do bad things in the pursuit of security. What if they focused on what gave them joy?

What gives you joy? Can you pay more attention to that and less attention to the nagging fears that tell you to pursue greater security?


Uncloseted

October 11, 2011

There is so much stuff in my closet that needs to go. Yes, I’m talking about clothes, shoes, scarves, belts, stockings, and so on. I’m also talking about the things I’ve hidden away over the years.

For instance, in my 30s I realized I had a major depressive illness. Drugs and therapy keep it under control (mostly!), and I am so grateful daily for good health insurance, my wonderful therapists, the SSRIs that kept me alive, and the newer medications that are such a relief for me.

While everyone has been depressed at one time or another, I have found that only those with similar illnesses really understand the struggle that is depression. It’s so easy to say, “Buck up!” and in fact, part of the struggle is learning not to abuse oneself with those words. There really is no “bucking up,” no way to “get over yourself” when depression is a constant companion.

It helps to know I share this condition with many successful and wonderful people–William Styron, for example. His autobiographical Darkness Visible is a chilling account. My hero of the moment, Parker J. Palmer, has struggled with this black cloud. As did Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf, and so many others.

Only now am I able to bring this condition into the light, and I have to say it feels very risky. I do so not because of any confessional impulse, but in the hope of helping anyone else who might feel closeted and alone.

Alchemy

Imagine you have struggled too long.
One day, on the interstate,
it comes to you: Car exhaust—
that you could accomplish.

You go home and call your sister,
make pasta salad, anything
to save your life. At your next appointment
you get new pills, a threat of hospital.

Imagine that a switch is flipped;
you can see a normal sky.
You laugh; you play, for God’s sake.
Months and years pass uneventfully.

Dream you’ve nearly forgotten
how to struggle. Then, waking,
you are certain: The pills have failed;
you must save yourself all over again.

Fast forward many years and drugs,
many, many appointments.
One day you know that you
are learning the ancient art.

Awareness burning, deep down
you are swirling molten lead.
It bubbles up through your throat,
emerging gold and bright.

 


New Work, New Play

October 1, 2011

When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is. ~Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance

Life takes funny turns. Beginning November 1, I will be serving as interim director of Troup-Harris Regional Library while the board searches for a new permanent director. I am saying yes because that is my practice nowadays!

My friend Mary has offered to teach me to knit, so I have bought some needles and yarn for a starter project–a scarf. Another friend told me about Ravelry, which is an online community of knitters and crocheters.

The little card sent to me by Maya Stein is working its magic. It says, “Say yes already” in those little magnetic words that are sold as poetry kits. They are glued to a field of green grass. This creation occupies a prominent place on my bulletin board.

My playroom is also magical, being as it is a source of joy and fun. My rhythm (when I am not traveling as I am today) is to work at home in the quiet of the morning, then go downtown and be among people while in my solitary retreat. It is a delight. When others join me, it is even better.

The space is so close to perfect, with a great flow of chi and good feng shui. I have recently discovered that the window in this old building will open, and my landlord has added a screen. ¡Qué bueno!

What’s new with you?


Singing Again

September 20, 2011

I am again part of the Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church choir. It feels good to be singing again, even though it means I have to show up at 9:30 on Sunday morning to practice! Reconnecting with this congregation has seemed effortless. There are people there I have really missed and new people to get to know.

In addition to the rhythm of song, I have found a rhythm of work and play that suits me. It might just be that I am adjusting to my new life at last, no longer feeling adrift. I am trying to “hold the tension,” to live with the questions, not needing to know exactly what will happen tomorrow or next month. In gratitude to Parker J. Palmer who gave me the title phrase and who said some incredibly kind words about this poem:

Holding the Tension

Both-and, she tells me
For the umpteenth time.
I have taken a place in town,
A playroom
For poems, water, fire.
I want to make it mean something.
(Must everything mean something?)
It makes me happy.

Mad for closure, for an answer,
I am a rubber band stretched
Between either and or.
Coming down on one side today
On another day, the other.
Yet I know in the not too distant future
I will lean into the stretch like a cat
Luxuriating in the sun.


Blogging as a Spiritual Practice

August 29, 2011

When I began this blog four years ago, I had no idea what it would come to mean to me. Indeed, I had no idea what a blog should be, how to do one, what I would say. Looking back on this experience, I can see now that it has been a spiritual practice for me. Sometimes, I was faithful and regular, other times erratic. I have “quit” more than once, only to find that I missed this practice.

One of the books I return to again and again is Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, edited by Scott W. Alexander. There is something compelling to me about the idea of consistent practice (of anything, really), since I have always felt that my attempts at practice (whether spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise) were jerky and on-again, off-again. Just look at my previous posts about exercise and health: such good intentions, so little follow-through!

But this blog keeps on going like the Energizer bunny, if in fits and starts. And it has helped me understand at a deeper level that imperfection is our nature, that we fall down and get up again and again in this life, and that’s OK. Every day is a new opportunity to realize our vision of what living a full life can be. And every day we will get only partway there–that is,  if we have any forward movement at all. Let us practice living as though this day is our last on this earth, and as if we will live forever.


Unmarked Trails

August 21, 2011

This week I received delivery of my new wicker furniture in my downtown space. It feels extravagant. For years I have been claiming that possessions are burdensome, and that I want fewer, not more. So why this burst of material consumption?

I think of these furnishings as a means to an end, though I’m not sure yet what the end might be. I believe it has something to do with connection and hospitality. (It’s a conversation grouping, after all.) It has something to do with creating beauty. And it has something to do with having a room of my own.

Roethke said, “I learn, by going, where I have to go.” I suppose this is an experiment in moving toward the unknown, following unmarked trails, doing something entirely different. My hope is that it will jump start my creativity.

What have you done lately that is uncharacteristic, that shifts your perspective, that challenges your habitual preferences a bit?


Soul Adventure

July 31, 2011

Today, I discovered the delightful Fridaville. I was prompted by a search that showed up in my blog stats for Nikki Hardin, which led me to a comment she made on one of my posts here back in 2008, which led me to her blog. So funny that her tagline is “where my imagination rents a room.”

I visited my new un-virtual room yesterday. Tomorrow I will go and clean in preparation for…what? It is strange and wonderful to not know what I will do with this room. I have some vague notions: listening to myself, inviting poets and friends in, wicker, beauty, play, tranquility, possibility. But mostly, it feels like a grand soul adventure.

What is your latest adventure–or your next adventure to be?


Community Building

July 24, 2011

In this new world of electronic social networking, I believe we are hungry for face-to-face community, with its promise and paradox. (See more on that tension in this earlier post).

I am co-teaching a class for library school students developed by Kathleen de la Peña McCook on community building. Students are required to visit a library board meeting as well as meetings or programs of community organizations (cultural, civic, social services). I believe librarians from the public library (one of the few truly neutral spaces in a community) can play an important role in building community.

This morning, I am facing another day of grading papers, and thinking that grading is the worst part of teaching. I wish there were time to hand back an assignment for corrections, to coach, to help a student better understand the lesson. Still, I think these students are really getting it, so I’m glad to be part of this effort.

Over the years I’ve found community in a number of places–at work, in professional associations, Unitarian Universalist congregations, groups of friends, writing groups and yoga classes. I now (sporadically) participate in a Facebook community, which I find to be helpful for shallow connections. I am hoping that using my new space on the downtown square will result in some personal community-building.

Who and where are your communities? How do we stay connected in meaningful ways that call forth our best selves, that challenge us to deepen our lives, better understand one another, and grow together?


Sitting With Possibility

July 3, 2011

Since I retired, I have been concerned about the amount of time I have spent sitting. The medical establishment says this takes years off one’s lifetime. I have found it compelling to sit, as I am unsure what I want to get up and do! Meanwhile, life goes on: yoga, writing groups, lunch with friends, therapy, teaching, work, travel, sleep. So it’s not exactly true that I’ve been sitting for a year, although sometimes it does feel that way–like I will think back on 2010-11 as “my year of sitting.”

As my post  in early June attests, my summer is actually a busy one for a “retired” person. But I feel as if I’m sitting still between spurts of activity, like I am incubating somehow. What is to be born?

I have rented a “room of my own,” a creative space, which I will assume August 1. It is in downtown Dahlonega, above Brad Walker Pottery and behind the Front Porch Restaurant. I have no idea what will happen there, except that I know it will be only what makes my heart sing. It is fun to think about possibilities. But I think the first thing I will do is just sit in the emptiness, contemplating that. I am so very grateful for time and space. All the while trying to remember that the present moment is all there is.

What calls to you? Can you sit with the possibility until you hear it?


Small Stones

July 2, 2011

Recently, I discovered a wonderful book by Sage Cohen, Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry. And, as is so often the case, this book led me to another amazing author: Fiona Robyn. You can see her blog, Writing Our Way Home,  here.

After just a couple of hours of perusing her materials, I’m already a huge fan. I have read her free downloadable book, How to Write Your Way Home. (Get it here). I have ordered two of her books from Amazon (Thaw, which you can also read for free, here, and A Year of Questions: How to Slow Down and Fall in Love with Life). I have signed up for her quarterly newsletter and weekly writing prompt, as well as a week-long free writing course, “The Art of Paying Attention.”

Robyn advocates careful attention to “small stones,” which she collected every day for a year. “Small stones” serves as a metaphor for noticing the world, opening our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hands to experience life just as it is. Here is my small stone for today:

Squawking titmice
flurry at the feeder, scatter.
Only swinging remains.

My “Artist’s Way” creative cluster class is on track for Monday evenings, 6-8 p.m., beginning September 26 and running through October 31. I know that we will be using some of the material from Fiona Robyn and Sage Cohen. The class will focus on the creative process in all its manifestations (not just writing). Watch the NGCSU Continuing Education site for registration information. Meanwhile, write a small stone of your own!


Journey

June 21, 2011

So…how many times have I heard that life is a journey, not a destination? I have believed it (at least in my head), said it to others, written it here.  There is knowing this, and there is knowing this on a deep heart level.

For the last year, I now realize, I have been looking for answers, for purpose, for destination. When I retired from my full-time job, I suddenly had an abundance of options. And because nothing jumped up and commanded my attention, I have felt adrift. We are so conditioned in our culture to having a routine, a to-do list, a feeling of accomplishment at the end of every day. To doing what shouts at us, rather than listening to the small voice within.

Now, I am claiming my journey: to un-still that voice, to explore, to (re)learn to play, to develop my imagination, to notice what feeds (and depletes) me, to open myself to the questions rather than longing for answers.

I have been doing some waters-testing, too. Among other things, I am consulting and teaching (old life, extended), seeing friends, practicing yoga, volunteering for a local nonprofit, meeting with other writers. And I am exploring the idea of renting a creative space downtown. When I was a child, I always wanted a playhouse. Now I want a playspace/studio.

What feeds you? What depletes you? How can you move on your journey toward what makes you sing?


Open Mind

June 19, 2011

My new book of daily readings/meditations is proving to be a blessing. It is Open Mind: Women’s Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful, by Diane Mariechild. As with all books, it seems, I don’t remember where I came across this title, and I debated about ordering it for a while. I think I finally gave in because of the subtitle; it made me think the book might be just what I needed.

I don’t follow the rules, reading one entry a day on the date assigned to it! And I no longer believe (as I once did, perhaps)  that answers lie outside of myself, in others’ words or on others’ authority.  But I find the readings helpful in stimulating the discovery of my own wisdom, learning to trust my own truth.

As Jane Hirschfield says on the back cover, “Both the quotations and the editor’s commentary offer the chance to step into each day replenished and widened–more fully awake, more fully assenting to our own particular life.”

Are you assenting to your own, particular life? Say yes already!


Busy Summer

June 2, 2011

Summer is here. Over 90-degree temperatures expected for several days! For me, it promises to be a busy time. Here are some of the things I have going on this summer. I hope to maintain equanimity in the midst of all this activity.

Teaching: I am co-teaching a class (with Kathleen de la Peña McCook) for Valdosta State University’s Master of Library and Information Science program. It is called “Community Building” and it’s all about how to build community through public libraries. I believe this is the future for public libraries if they are to stay relevant and essential. In this blog post, “What Is a Library(an)?” architect Philip O’Brien says that librarians at the 2011 ALIA Information Online Conference in Sydney, Australia, had this to say about the future of the library: “a physical space, complimented by online space, a place of connections; between people and information, and between people and community, a community gathering space, and a social, cultural and learning hub, where people can find information, or create their own information.”

Consulting: (1) I am working with Stephen Spohn of LYRASIS to help Wayne County (PA) Libraries with an exciting project called “Redesigning the Public Library: A New Model for a New World.” (2) I am continuing to help a local nonprofit, the Community Helping Place with their strategic planning effort. (3) And I am doing some library board training.

More teaching: In fall (in addition to another section of Community Building), I will be teaching a continuing education class for North Georgia College and State University, using Julia Cameron’s (The Artist’s Way) suggestions for creative clusters. So I am also tuning in to anything that I can use in that class. Any ideas for me?

Other: This is in addition to yoga three times a week, monthly poetry group meetings, and a fair amount of time spent playing Rummikub online!

How’s your summer shaping up? And what will you do for yourself that keeps you grounded?


Politics of the Brokenhearted

May 14, 2011

I am looking forward to Parker J. Palmer’s forthcoming book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. I have just read the essay from which this book springs, “The Politics of the Brokenhearted: On Holding the Tensions of Democracy.” You can read it here.

Palmer speaks of breaking the heart open, not “into a thousand shards,” but into “largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy.” He speaks of the essential violence in majority-rule decision making, and urges us to consider the Taoist concept of wu-wei–“literally purposeless wandering, or creative nonaction, making space within and around ourselves so that conflict and confusion can settle and a deeper wisdom emerge.”

We are an impatient culture, desiring quick action to settle differences. Palmer offers that “only in contemplative states are we able to touch the truth.” He makes the case in this essay for holding the tension between reality and possibility in ways that open our hearts, that honor the soul rather than succumbing to cynicism or dreamy idealism.

Palmer asserts, “When the heart dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power, it can become a source of countervailing power, keeping our best hopes alive in the hardest of places and times.”


Becoming Nobody

March 12, 2011

When I retired from my day job, I decided I wouldn’t do much marketing for my consulting business–partly because I no longer want to work full-time. So I have been content to let work flow in as it will, to observe what that looks like. Well…apparently the nature of consulting is feast or famine. After months with just a little (maybe enough) work, this week brought three new jobs, which means I’ll probably be much busier in the coming months. This unpredictability will take some getting used to, and I may have to say “no” at some point.

But I like having the ability to let life be whatever it is. Thoreau said of his time at Walden Pond: There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of head or hands. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.

Ram Dass says, You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody. For when you become nobody, there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed—and the natural state of the mind is pure love.

I think of my shifting focus on being, not doing, as a great gift. Note the present participle “shifting”–I have certainly not reached that state of unobstructed mind Ram Dass talks about! But I feel fortunate to have had so many teachers and opportunities that have helped me reach this moment of awareness. May you all have the gifts of time, teachers, and opportunity to become nobody.


Anchoring

March 11, 2011

Since I retired in June, I have felt a bit adrift. There is something to be said for having a reason to shower and dress and show up somewhere. And whether or not you are close to your coworkers, there is also something to be said for being part of work group, having to say “Good morning” to others!

I am beginning to anchor myself now around Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning yoga classes. I am so grateful for my teacher, Paula, who gives generously of her time, expertise, and energy to offer several wonderful and inexpensive classes a week in this community. I am grateful, too, for the discipline of yoga and the many who have passed along the knowledge and techniques over the centuries.

And now, I’ll head out: yoga class, a much-needed haircut, lunch with a friend, then a bit of work in the afternoon. Retirement is sweet! Namaste.


More Music, Please

February 16, 2011

We are in the process of rearranging some furniture at our house, and have brought my piano back upstairs. I want more music in my life. Today I played for about 30 minutes, and I was surprised at how much I remember. It’s not exactly like riding a bike, but a few minutes a day of practice should make a big difference.

I suppose I really should learn how to operate the machines in our house that make music. I use my iPod to shuffle songs when I walk on the treadmill, but I haven’t mastered the equipment that will play our CDs. Nor can I turn on our television. Not that I’m a technophobe (I have a blog, don’t I?), but it seems that electronics have gotten increasingly less intuitive and more complicated. Please tell me it’s not just that my brain is old! More and more, it seems that the multitude of bells and whistles (that we don’t even want) interfere with the basic operation of these gizmos. I don’t consider learning to juggle three remotes just to turn on the TV a way I want to spend my time.

Still, having more music in my life might require that I learn. Not just to play the piano, but to accept and deal with the electronics as they are (light a candle) rather than rail against the overly complicated technology and wish it were different (curse the damn darkness)!


Same Site, New Name

February 12, 2011

Breathing in, I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is the only moment.

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Hello, quotesqueen readers. You’ll notice my new blog name, “Only Moment.” The URL has not changed. It’s great to be back!

This present moment I am sitting in the sunshine that is pouring into my kitchen. I have just come in from the back deck, where I heard lovely birdsong I don’t usually hear–a lot of melody, a varied repertoire, not at all like the squawky, fussy noises of the titmice, chickadees, and goldfinches that throng our feeder.

I am about to finish Julia Cameron’s book, Finding Water, and I have proposed a 12-week class through North Ga. College & State University Continuing Education to explore creativity using The Artist’s Way. Cameron offers guidelines for “Creative Clusters” here. I am hopeful that the class (if accepted for the fall) will result in a continuing group. But even if it doesn’t, we should have fun going through the 12-step program Cameron outlines for “creative recovery.”

How do you nurture your own creativity? I’d love to hear your ideas.


Bad News-Good News

January 31, 2011

The bad (or at least disappointing for me) news is that I have abandoned the book project because of copyright issues, and will be changing some of the quoted material in previous entries in this blog, as I have no intention of violating any copyright laws! I invite anyone who feels I am infringing to let me know.

The good news (at least for me) is that I am going to continue to write here as I have time and inspiration. I miss the writing practice and having a place to further explore and comment on what I’m reading or thinking. I plan to rename the site with my next entry, although the URL will not change.

My poetry site also continues at http://zenpoems.wordpress.com.

Thanks for reading!


Stay Tuned…

October 22, 2010

Quotesqueen’s Weblog is being turned into a book, via Lulu. Once it’s ready, I’ll post ordering information here.


So Long, World

September 24, 2010

I reserve the right to evolve. What I think and feel today is subject to revision tomorrow. — Gwen Thomas (a commenter says this quote is misattributed and is actually from American poet Laurence Overmire)

What a great time I’ve had evolving here, sharing wisdom of others, hearing from readers, better understanding this spiral we call life. And now I’m ready to move on…to poetry, to my consulting business, to friends and family, to my new freedom to design my own schedule!

Thanks for reading Quotesqueen’s Weblog. If you want to see what I’m up to, check out my new blogspace, ZenPoems, my Facebook page here, or my business blog here.


The Energizing Spirit

August 28, 2010

Nothing is secure but life, transition, and the energizing spirit. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately, I am keenly aware that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. I am not my body. I am not my emotions. I am not my personality. When I remember this, the energizing spirit fills me with joy. There is no separation between the spiritual and the material, between mind and body, between the earth and the sky, between you and me.

Roy Eugene Davis (founder and director of Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, Georgia) says: “Come to terms with the fact that you are in relationship with life for a purpose. Find out what that purpose is and fulfill it. You will then fulfill your spiritual destiny. Merely to be inclined to drift with the tides of circumstances, or to focus on satisfying petty personal desires and whims, is to waste the precious opportunity living in this world provides. There is no better place than where we are to learn our lessons and to awaken and express our spiritual capacities.” And I would add, no better time than now.

What is your experience with the energizing spirit?


Heehee

August 22, 2010

Laughter is inner jogging. ~Norman Cousins

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don’t have film.

A day without sunshine is like-uh-night.

Diplomacy is saying “nice doggy” until you find a rock.

I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.

Honk if you love peace and quiet.

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be misquoted, then used against you.

Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.

Despite the cost of living, have you noticed how it remains so popular?

Oxymorons: act naturally, found missing, good grief, small crowd, legally drunk, taped live, definite maybe, Microsoft Works.


Make It a Good Day

August 19, 2010

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action.  ~Eckhart Tolle

Everyday, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings.  ~His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

While we have almost no control over external events and conditions, our happiness is largely within our control. “Hah!” you say. And I have said the same. But I do believe that dropping our ego identification as much as possible, waking gratefully, and paying attention to the present moment can radically alter our days.  

On good days, I work, I play creatively, and I interact mindfully with others. Mostly, on those days, I can act to make it a good day. I’ve learned that if I pay attention to the nourishing things, instead of despairing over the time-wasters and bad habits, the good things increase.  While I don’t buy any of that Secret stuff about the laws of attraction, it’s just common sense that where we put our attention profoundly affects our lives. 

Tolle makes it sound simple, but the connection between intention and action can sometimes be tenuous for me. I try to remember what Annie Dillard said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

May we begin each day in gratitude and aspire to act out of present-moment awareness, feeling the flow of life, making it a good day.


Sestina

August 14, 2010

What you love is a sign from your higher self of what you are to do. ~Sanaya Roman

I am thrilled to be part of the Stonepile Poets, a spinoff group of Stonepile Writers. Yesterday was the first monthly meeting, and we took as our challenge writing a sestina (from Robert Lee Brewer, who spoke at the Georgia Poetry Society meeting last month). A sestina is a strict form using repetitive end words. Here’s my first attempt.

My heart is tugged by moon
Like a tide, tumbling a stone
Under water in the dark
Still, the planets shine,
Reflected by clouds,
And the night would be clear.

Can our words be as clear
as the night around the moon?
Must we speak through clouds
dropping like stones
through the ocean’s shine
phosphorescent in the dark?

We can meet in the dark
standing clear
of the dazzling shine,
the roundness of moon,
the water tumbling a stone ,
the waves rippling the clouds.

We can speak to the clouds
Using night as cloak, the dark,
Letting words sink like stones,
Going on until we are clear
In the ever-present hover of moon
Over the water, bottomless shine.

Once we knew how to shine
Before the drifting in of clouds
That covered our radiant moon,
That left us stuttering in the dark
Both wishing it were clear,
Both tumbling like stones.

Now you are my touchstone:
My heart feels your shine
Under the ocean waves, now clear,
Now drifting through clouds
A shape both dark
And lit by floating moon.

You are moon stone,
charming dark shine,
flowing clouds clear.

Thanks, Robert Lee Brewer and thanks, Stonepile Writers/Poets for continuing inspiration!


Live and Learn

August 8, 2010

Somehow, we always have the secret hope that we can get ourselves together, work out all our issues, discover all our talents, accept our life’s work, and then relax and get on with it. What a shock it is when we realize that “character-building” and growth are lifelong processes…. ~Anne Wilson Schaef*

Life is not for later, when we are more ready for it. It is happening now. I believe we get hung up on wanting to be, rather than resting in our becoming. There is no ideal future, when we will have all our ducks in a row! And this understanding is liberating.

Today, I want to live (just as I am today!) and learn. What about you?

* from Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much, following Eleanor Roosevelt’s words: “Character building begins in our infancy and continues until death.”

Ease Up!

August 6, 2010

We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless…Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down. So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap. My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating  ease. ~Elizabeth Gilbert*

Having recently retired from my “regular” job, I have been interested in my fluctuating attitudes toward work, discipline, and creating new routines for myself. Life just feels different nowadays–different than it did when I was working, different than I thought it would feel, and different on different days. Sometimes it’s blissful (These Days), sometimes it feels like I’m spiraling downward and only have the energy to nap, and some days I am pleasantly productive without a lot of striving.

Today, this hit me in a new way: I get to choose. I can decide moment to moment how or even if I want to be engaged. I can notice what feeds me, what depletes me. I can determine whether I have done enough work, played enough, paid enough attention to relationships, meditated enough, exercised enough, and been kind enough to myself! Meanwhile, I am trying to avoid attachment to the good days and aversion to the not-so-good, to just experience each day as it comes.

What do you think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice?

*The passage is reprinted from Seth Godin’s free e-book, What Matters Now. Get it here.


Things That Make Me Want to Write

August 5, 2010

I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to earth. ~Pearl Buck

Lately I have found myself not in the mood to write here, forgetting that this blog was supposed to be a writing practice. It is time to get my mind down to earth. I could list many excuses, but where would that get me? Instead, I think I’ll make a list of things that make me want to write.

The new fancy, retro pen I bought today (photo above) * the fact that I finally got a refill for the other fancy pen I was given many years ago * getting comments on my blogs * my 3-page-a-day “morning pages” practice * the joys of air conditioning * reading other blogs about writing or with examples of writing * rereading my own blog posts * getting comments on my blogs * actually writing * talking to writers * remembering dreams * reading about writing * having something else I should be doing (I know, this is a negative-positive, but what can I say?) * going for a walk * hearing writers read from their works * getting comments on my blogs * emotional intensity * not playing computer Scrabble (another np) * watching butterflies * reading classic literature * attending my writing group meetings * getting comments on my blogs * waking gently * learning new words * people-watching * oh, and did I mention getting comments on my blogs?

What makes you come alive? What inspires you to do whatever creative thing(s)  you are meant to do in this world?


Let Others Be Who They Are

July 30, 2010

This “Daily OM” speaks for itself. In our enthusiasm of discovery for ourselves, may we always remember that we cannot know what others need!


Casual Promises

July 15, 2010

I seek…the richness of a gathered and deliberate life, which comes from letting one’s belongings and commitments be few in number and high in quality. ~Scott Russell Sanders

Commitments that are few in number, high in quality…there’s the challenge! Lately, I’ve been reading posts from Jennifer Louden’s “Self-Trust Inspiration E-Course.” Jen posts at Comfort Queen (hey, another queen!). Not only does she warn us about making “casual promises” to ourselves, but she talks in her blog about “freedom from self-improvement.” Just love that!

What prompted this post was realizing that I had made a casual promise here a few days ago to leave my computer off until noon. That lasted about one day. Louden contends that when we do that kind of thing often, it erodes our self-trust. Just think about it–if you made a promise to someone else (e.g., “I’ll meet you at 4:00”) and then didn’t do it, you wouldn’t feel very trustworthy, would you? But rather than chastise ourselves for not keeping promises, it is more productive to be intentional about the promises we make to ourselves, and avoid those of the casual sort. Thanks to Jen for this idea, and to Scott Russell Sanders for his lovely prose. The entire quote is this:

Returning from a back country trip, I vow to purchase nothing that I don’t really need, give away everything that is excess, refuse all chores that don’t arise from central concerns. The simplicity I seek is not the forced austerity of the poor. I seek instead the richness of a gathered and deliberate life, which comes from letting one’s belongings and commitments be few in number and high in quality.

What promises have you made to yourself lately?


Morning, Retired

July 13, 2010

At night make me one with the darkness. In the morning make me one with the light. ~Wendell Berry

People keep asking how retirement is. Today, this came as at least a partial answer.

These Days

These days, I wake smiling
as the sun seeps into the room.
Dreams recede or speak.
I lie still in the birdsong–
no buzzing alarm,
only the sweetness of morning
and you beside me,
softly breathing.


My Five Ls: Life, Light, Love, Laughter, Learning

July 10, 2010

We clear space in our lives in order to center and clear space in our hearts. The soul’s voice, the voice of guidance, then ventures into the clearing we have created for it. ~Julia Cameron

My mornings are my clearings. Since I have resumed the practice of morning pages, I have added a new practice of daily readings from two books: Cameron’s The Artist’s Way Every Day and Everyday Osho. The quote is from today’s selection, and below I am sharing the guidance that came into my clearing this morning.

As a plant moves toward the sun, I can move in the direction of life, light, love, laughter and learning. Keeping my heart open, I notice what feeds me, what depletes me. I notice that there is nothing in these five Ls about regret, guilt, shame, self-criticism. There is no failure; failure is just learning.

I want to focus on what my heart is drawn to, not what I want to escape, forget, or atone for. These five Ls are about what pulls me, not what pushes my buttons! In my experience, when we focus on what we don’t want, we end up getting more of it. Likewise, when we focus on what we do want, we end up getting more of it.

Today, I want to look up and out, not back and in. I want to be fully present for life and love and possibilities. How about you?


Praise, Blame, and Failure

June 28, 2010

This has been going on through the ages.
They criticize the silent ones.
They criticize the talkative ones.
They criticize the moderate ones.
There is no one in the world who escapes criticism.

There never was and never will be,
nor is there now,
the wholly criticized
or the wholly approved.

~Buddha

Fall down 53 times. Get up 54.
~Zen slogan

This morning, walking down the hill to my mailbox, I stepped onto uneven pavement or slipped on loose gravel, twisted my ankle, and fell with all my weight onto my left palm, which now has a nasty cut that won’t stop bleeding. Then about 10:15 I had a call from my doctor saying I was supposed to be at her office at 10:00, a missed appointment that I will have to pay for. In my earlier morning pages,* I reflected on haunting missteps from my past, resolving to move forward with what I have learned, rather than dwelling on what I should have done differently.

So it felt like a personal message from the universe to open my email and find these quotes and other wise words from Margaret Wheatley, an excerpt from her new book, Perseverance. You can read her brief excerpt here. (Be sure to click the arrow on the first page, “Praise and Blame,” to get to the next, “Failure.”)

Wheatley says praise and blame are two sides of the same coin. I couldn’t agree more. For my take on that subject, see a previous entry, “Judgment.”

And now I’m going to get my hand stitched up. May we all walk more mindfully, with acceptance that we are human, and with compassion for ourselves and others.

Namaste.

*If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need the explanation that writing three pages in the morning (“morning pages”) is a technique for enhancing creativity described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way


Publication

June 27, 2010

If you are never satisfied with what you write, that is a good sign. It means your vision can see so far that it is hard to come up to it. Again I say, the only unfortunate people are the glib ones, immediately satisfied with their work. To them the ocean is only knee-deep.
~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

My goodness…another Brenda Ueland quote! Today I received happy news that one of my poems, “Only Moment,” will be published in the Georgia Poetry Society’s anthology, The Reach of Song, 2010. And my article entitled “Mindful Leadership” was published in the most recent issue of the Georgia Library Quarterly. The choice of quote today is because on rereading both of these works, I know I could have done better. Both were submitted in the flurry of job endings and beginnings, family illness, and retirement.

Still, there is something about publication that is encouraging and makes one want to go on writing. Perhaps these two pieces are as good as it gets. Or perhaps submitting them “before their time” was my way of staying committed to writing, in spite of the intrusion of life. At any rate, here I am today, at my blog, sharing with you.

Where does your vision exceed your ability to express it?


Acquiring and Letting Go

June 18, 2010

Edna Smith Hopper, November 3, 1922 to June 14, 2010

In pursuit of knowledge, every day something is acquired. In pursuit of wisdom, every day something is dropped. ~Lao Tzu

Today I have reread sections of Ueland’s If You Want to Write, and acquired a few bits of knowledge. And I have cleaned out my sock drawer and “dropped” a lot of socks! I’m not sure the latter brings me any closer to wisdom, but it was definitely a task I have needed to do for some time. Where do all those socks come from?

My friend Debra has a rule. She doesn’t turn on her computer until after noon. I tried it today. What a difference! Not getting sucked into to email, Web surfing, or computer games in the early part of the day changed my whole outlook and influenced the use of my afternoon time, too. So I have also adopted this rule and am dropping the morning computer habit.

My mother-in-law is no longer struggling, and for that I am grateful. Since her stroke on May 22, she had been declining steadily, and Tuesday morning she died at the age of 87. Her funeral service was, I believe, just as she would have wanted it, a testament to her many, many gifts to individuals, her family, her church, and her community. Rest in peace, Edna.


Engagement

June 10, 2010

Living in a vacuum sucks. ~Adrienne E. Gusoff

Today this quote on my Google home page made me laugh. But it also made me think about the seduction of withdrawal. It is a great luxury this month to have no particular place I have to go, no particular people I have to see, and no particular work I have to do. I can wander around the yard, take time to sit in the sun and pet the cat, read novels, take naps, write, draw, and generally do what I please. Dangerous stuff for an introvert who lives in the country!

So I want to fully enjoy this retreat from society, but also plan for my reentry, because I believe that engagement is a responsibility we have to the world. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us about the interdependence of all things, which he calls interbeing. “I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am,” he says.

So during this time of rest and reflection, I will consider how to best be of use. What is it that I have to offer the world? And where and how can it be shared wholeheartedly?


Monday Morning Motivator

June 7, 2010

YOU’RE REALLY, REALLY GOOD, YA KNOW IT?
Actually, you don’t know it. Not really. The fact is we’re so much better, so much stronger, so much more talented – and necessary to the world – than we know. We’re so obsessed with our shortcomings, the times we missed the mark, the time someone slapped a “C” on what we thought was our best work – that we doubt ourselves and play small. So what’s the cure? Actually, it’s pretty simple: Keep a running list of the good stuff – the times you knocked it out of the park, the times you made the sale, got the vote, or just got back up after you fell down. Forget the other stuff. Hey, remember what the MGM casting director wrote about Fred Astaire? “Can’t sing; dances a little.” Thank God he didn’t stop doing either. So don’t you. Not this week; not any week.

~Gail Blanke

I first encountered Gail Blanke when I read her wonderful book, In My Wildest Dreams, which she followed up with Between Trapezes. (Come to think of it, I probably need to reread that one, since I am in an in-between space in my life at the moment!) Her most recent is Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. It has an accompanying Web site, where you, too, can subscribe to her “Monday Morning Motivator.”

I really like getting this short, inspirational message every Monday. It reminds me to be grateful, to love myself so that I can love others, and to live life mindfully. Today’s MMM validated a practice I’ve had for a while now, and that I frivolously call my “smiley book.” Each day (as I remember to do it), I make a list of the good things I have done for myself or others: yoga, mindful eating, connections with others, meditation, appreciating nature, and so on. A focus on these positive things really seems to reinforce the behavior.

How do you motivate yourself to be the best you can be?


Book Arts

May 31, 2010

Why should we all use our creative power and write or paint or play music, or whatever it tells us to do?  Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.  Because the best way to know the Truth or Beauty is to try to express it.  And what is the purpose of existence Here or Yonder but to discover truth and beauty and express it, i.e., share it with others?  ~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

I have just returned from a wonderful creative weekend at the John C. Campbell Folk School. My teacher, Joyce Sievers, embodied what I feel all good teachers possess: some ineffable combination of inspiration, acceptance, and equanimity.

I notice I am again choosing a Brenda Ueland quote. Seems to be my theme for May, so perhaps it is time to reread her classic, If You Want to Write.

Meanwhile, am reading a fascinating novel by Olga Grushin, The Line. I loved her first book, The Dream Life of Sukhanov, and had hoped her second wouldn’t disappoint me. Instead, my attention is riveted, and I am loving her beautiful prose and her ability to weave a story that is compelling and surprising.

What are you reading? What are you creating?


Dreamy Idleness

May 26, 2010

Good ideas must come welling up into you. Wait for them. They come from the dreamy idleness of children. ~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

This, from the woman who gave us the term “moodling.” See references here and here. Ah, dreamy idleness! I am winding down May’s work and trying to prepare myself for a June of moodling before I go back to work in July. I suspect ideas (maybe good ones, maybe poems) will come as Ueland suggests. But I am resolved to rest in the no-expectations mind state, to be merely receptive.

I feel privileged and grateful to have this space and time; it seems luxurious beyond measure. To breathe and pay attention to the breath. To walk and notice walking. To bask in sunshine and feel breezes and be mindful of my body in yoga. To slow down, for goodness’ sake!

What happens to you in dreamy idleness?


Aging and Community

May 23, 2010

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. ~George Washington Carver

Today, my mother-in-law Edna is in the hospital having tests to confirm a suspected stroke. End-of-life issues are so difficult. How do we determine when to intervene medically and when to let the aged die peacefully? Just because we can prolong life, should we always, despite the suffering it may bring?

What about more community-oriented solutions? As do so many in her generation, Edna tried to stay in her own home and had to move to an institution when she could no longer do so. Moran and Rollins predict that the baby boomers will “transform traditional models of independent living” in this article. And the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging and Community has this as a philosophy: “The University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community is guided by the belief that it must move beyond the medical model in its approach to aging issues, viewing older adults holistically and acknowledging that they are community assets.” Amen.


Godin On…Well, Everything

May 21, 2010

My definition of art contains three elements:

  1. Art is made by a human being.
  2. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
  3. Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording… but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we we’re doing when we do our best work. ~Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of the gurus of our time. He’s associated with marketing, but has much to say on other subjects as well. If the name isn’t familiar to you, be sure to check out his blog.

You can also get a free download of his compilation of wise words from many sources called What Matters Now. I likewhat Derek Sivers has to say about finding your true passion: “…just notice what excites you and what scares you on a small, moment-to-moment basis…You grow (and thrive!) by doing what excites you and scares you everyday, not by trying to find your passion.”

May you do your best work (your art) today, growing and thriving on what excites you and what scares you.


Dear Blog

May 18, 2010

I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows. ~Emily Carr

Yes, I’ve been busy. Yes, I’ve been tired. Yes, I’ve been adjusting to major life transitions and doing some heartwork. But, dear blog, I’ve also been doing fun things…Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival. The Hike Inn.  Writers’ group meetings. Yoga. And soon I’ll be going to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a weekend. A retirement gift to myself.

So, my poor neglected blog, please forgive my absence. It is not for lack of love for you and my readers. It is just that life has gotten in the way recently. So I hope you have been entertaining yourself while I’ve been away. Perhaps you visited other blogs or checked your statistics or reread some old posts. Because, dear blog, your old posts are almost never time-sensitive!

Here’s to you, dear blog. May you live a long, interesting, regret-free life!


Hello Again!

May 3, 2010

Do you know that disease and death must needs overtake us, no matter what we are doing? What do you wish to be doing when it overtakes you? If you have anything better to be doing when you are so overtaken, get to work on that. ~Epictetus

I have missed writing. In the flurry of changing jobs, preparing for retirement, completing a demanding class, and taking a couple of short trips, I forgot what I want to be doing when I am overtaken. Luckily, Teresa has reminded me: It is writing! Or perhaps writing is the means to the end: living mindfully, being present for life.

So, today, I am grateful for readers. (I have missed you!) I am grateful for writers, especially the Paperwhite Writers and the Stonepile Writers. I am happy to be back at the keyboard.

Epictetus calls us to our important work on earth. What is it that you want to be doing?


Sitting Apart

April 15, 2010

What I want is to leap out of this personality
And then to sit apart from that leaping—
I’ve lived too long where I can be reached.

~Rumi

These lines seem appropriate for this time in my life. While I haven’t yet sat where I can’t be reached, I know what it is like to leap (however briefly) out of this personality. Today I stood before the hollies at the side of the house that are loud with the extraordinary hum of bees. More bumblebees and fewer honeybees this year, I notice.

Life is full of endings and beginnings at the moment. There is no place very solid to stand. So I will ground myself in yoga, notice what I can as it passes by, and stay as unattached as possible.

Gabrielle Rico said, “The end of one turn of the spiral becomes the beginning of another…we are designed for possibility.” Namaste.


The Paradox and Promise of Community

April 11, 2010

There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace—and ultimately, no life—without community. ~M. Scott Peck

Participation in meaningful community is the greatest unacknowledged hunger of our time. ~Family Therapy Networker

We are individual designs in the fabric of life: We have our own integrity, but simultaneously we are part of the fabric, connected to and defined by the whole. Community is the human dimension of that fabric. ~Tom Atlee

The title of this post is the title of the first chapter in The Community of the Future from The Drucker Foundation. In this chapter, Margaret J. Wheatley (one of my favorites!) and Myron Kellner-Rogers explore the difficulties and the benefits of community. They lament that, “Particularly in the West…we move toward isolation in order to defend our individual freedom.” By doing so, we end up lonely and impoverished. They contend that we must live in the paradox of community: the conformity required to live together and the need for our own independence.

The authors describe communities that do not require members to forfeit their freedom. People in groups must know why they are in community, and their conditions of belonging can be kept to the minimum. One junior high school has only three rules: “Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place.”

“Our great creativity and diversity, our desire for contribution and relationships, blossom when the heart of the community is clear and beckoning, and when we refrain from cluttering our paths with proscriptions and demands.”

Have you experienced the joy of community in which people know why they’re together, have a “cohering center of shared significance,” yet keep the demands for conformity and sacrifice of one’s individuality as minimal as possible?


Hurry

April 9, 2010

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu

How many of us, when asked how we are doing, use the word “busy” in our response? I’ve certainly been guilty. It is as if we are of little substance if we cannot claim to be rushing through our lives. For years and years, I have hurried. Now I think hurrying is often a substitute for being present. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “He who hurries cannot walk with dignity.”

What will we see differently if we slow down? Leo Babauta at Zen Habits advocates having only three items on your to-do list in any given day. I think that is a wonderful suggestion! If you do those three things, you will be successful; if you happen to do more than that, you will feel incredibly productive.

I challenge us all today to cease hurrying. Stop. Listen to yourself. Be in the world around you, fully present for the people you encounter. Then see which three things rise to the top of your priority list. Let me know how it goes.


Semi-Retired and Loving It

April 7, 2010

Devote six years to your work but in the seventh go into solitude or among strangers so that your friends, by remembering what you were, do not prevent you from being what you have become. ~Leo Szilard

Everyone should have a sabbatical every so often. I have been working practically non-stop since I graduated from college in 1975. It has been next to impossible to separate my self from my work. Yet in recent years, I have longed to be reacquainted with who I am outside of my vocation. Not that there are radical differences, just that work (as I engaged it) has taken vital energy, energy that I now crave for learning how to be (as opposed to do) in the world. Perhaps others are able to do both at once, but I have always found it difficult, as I chose a vocation about which I was truly passionate. My colleagues were my friends; my friends were my colleagues, for the most part.

And now I am working only half-time in preparation for retirement. There is time for rest, for reflection, for getting reacquainted with my soul.

I think the concept of sabbatical is brilliant. According to Wikipedia (could be true!), 20% of British companies have a career break policy. In the U. S., it seems that only academic and spiritual work environments offer sabbaticals. And those sabbaticals can feel like just more work. I believe enlightened workplaces could offer sabbaticals that give the employee great latitude for self-exploration, with few “products” expected. Life is process. Can businesses honor the process, the individual quest for self-understanding, spiritual enlightenment if you will, and still be profitable? I believe so. And certainly the social services should give inherently underpaid and overstressed employees a periodic break from their labors.

What do you think?


Angry and Afraid

April 4, 2010

I don’t want to live angry. I don’t want to live scared. ~John Mellencamp

My husband says the Democrats should be using “angry and afraid” to characterize right-wing Republicans (actually, that phrase seems redundant these days) every chance they get. Why don’t the Democrats wise up and learn to use the media and sound bites the way conservatives do? Anyway, I invited him to do a guest post on my blog, since he has a million wonderful and creative ideas and no good outlet for them, but he declined. So I’m sharing his idea anyway, hoping some of you will pick it up and run with it.

I’ve always loved these lines from that great song “Another Sunny Day” by John Mellencamp. They seem to me like good words to live by, and I agree with Robert Frost, who said, “There’s nothing I’m afraid of like scared people.”

Here’s a nice cover of the Mellencamp song.

What do you think?


Only Four?

March 31, 2010

Ev Bogue, who blogs at Far Beyond the Stars, has an intriguing post encouraging us to focus on what’s important. Ev’s four priorities are Writing, Yoga, Cooking, and Reading. If I had to list the top four things that I care most about, what would they be? And what would I eliminate? (Ah, there’s the rub–saying no!) Undoubtedly, writing and yoga would also appear in my list.

What would your four priorities be?


For, Not Against

March 12, 2010

Every value we hold dear is an expression of either support or opposition, and it is our perspective that determines whether we are for something or against it…being for something is a vastly more potent means of inspiring change because it carries with it the power of constructive intent. ~from the Daily Om, 3/3/10

As regular readers know, I have some degree of ambivalence toward social activism. (See Riding the Currents.) I believe so many good intentions to make the world a better place go astray and further polarize people. This may be largely because of the negative nature of much activism–protest marches as opposed to nonviolent demonstrations in favor of an ideal.

I want to be for the things I believe in more than I am against the views of others. Constructionist rather than deconstructionist. Here’s my list. Join me! What would your “for” list include?

Peace–in the world, in our communities, in our homes, and in ourselves
Social justice–ensuring all the opportunity for health and happiness
Economic justice–raising all boats through equitable policy and legislation
Intellectual freedom–to read, think, and believe as we wish
Human rights–the Universal Declaration says it best
Tax-supported government services–such as libraries and health care
Community–locally, nationally and globally
Respect for the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are a part
Simpler living–right relationship with possessions and the earth’s resources


Self-Compassion

March 6, 2010

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

~Naomi Shihab Nye

Today, I am exploring a wonderful book The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, by Christopher K. Germer. It has led me to an interesting website, Self-Compassion, by Kristin Neff, a psychologist at the University of Texas in Austin. According to Neff, self-compassion is not self-pity, self-indulgence, or self-esteem. She draws distinctions at the site. There’s also a revealing test there to help you determine how self-compassionate you are.

Germer recommends taking the test, practicing some of the techniques from his book, and then taking the test again.He offers five pathways to self-compassion: (1) softening into your body, (2) allowing your thoughts, (3) befriending your feelings, (4) relating to others, and (5) nourishing your spirit. As someone who has dealt with a lot of emotional “stuff” over the past several years and who has learned at least a modicum of self-compassion as a result, these practices seem spot-on to me.

If you have even a slight tendency to berate yourself for shortcomings, to feel isolated by your emotional lows, or judge yourself a little too harshly when you fail, go now and take the test. Get the book. I’m looking forward to developing even greater compassion for myself, taking better care of myself emotionally, and feeling more connected to and compassionate toward others as a result of finding this clearly-written, useful work. I just love the way books (and teachers) come to me when I need them!


Doing Nothing

February 28, 2010

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards. ~Spanish proverb

In one month, I will go from full-time to half-time work, and then to retirement status to do consulting only. Yet I have found myself approaching this with some degree of anxiety, already feeling behind! I haven’t completely mastered my new QuickBooks program, haven’t printed business cards, haven’t learned enough about social network marketing. For years, I have felt a need for a sustained period of rest. And here’s my opportunity, but I’m not sure I know how to do it!

I once attended a week-long retreat called “The Lost Art of Doing Nothing.” License to loaf. Perhaps I can think of my upcoming retirement in the same way. If consulting jobs come along in the first year, that’ll just give me something to keep the boredom at bay. A mental shift is required, I think. As always, more mindfulness and less projection about the future will be helpful.

After all, Merton says committing oneself to too much is a form of violence. What do you think?


More and Less

February 20, 2010

Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours. ~Swedish proverb

Who could argue with that bit of wisdom? It got me thinking: What do I want less of? More of? Here’s my list. Hope you’ll share yours.

Eat less; move more.
Keep less; toss more.
Waste less time; write more.
Fret less; smile more.
Fear less; love more.
Sit less; walk more.
Acquire less; give more.
Look inward less; look outward more.
Work less; play more.
Ignore less; help more.
Complain less; express gratitude more.

What do YOU need less of? More of?


No Violence

February 14, 2010

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. ~Thomas Merton

Retirement is on the near horizon for me. Yet last week I found myself anxious and with too many demands. True, I am taking a post-graduate class and starting a consulting business, but I lost sight of the fact that I can build the business at my own pace. I don’t have to write a proposal for the first interesting RFP that comes across my path! I said recently, “If only I had as much time and energy as I do enthusiasm.” I want to help everyone in everything, and it is a form of violence, as Merton asserts.

He also wrote, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…[and that is] activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.” It is mindfulness I need…yoga, meditation, or simply sitting still and noticing the gently swaying branches of the maple tree, the silently melting snow, the clouds drifting across the mountaintops, the quiet of the house in morning.

Today, I will cease doing violence to my psyche. I will set aside rush and pressure. I will love myself as well as my lover on this Valentine’s Day!

How do you manage many demands without succumbing to violence?


Writing for My Life

February 13, 2010

First, it is impossible that you have no creative gift. Second, the only way to make it live and increase is to use it. Third, you cannot be sure that it is not a great gift. ~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

Sparrow at the suet feeder,
Fluffed to twice his size for warmth.
Snow on the mountains gleams
in the morning sun, mounds on the ivy
outside my window. I am between
tasks, home from travels, homework
to be done. My life depends
on this small pause, this moment
of quiet snow and sparrows.


Seeing, Doing

January 30, 2010

What you will be is what you do. ~Buddha

Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing? ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today I will do yoga, engage with my husband and my life, enjoy the icy wonderland outside my window, rest, read, and write. I have resolved (again) to be more mindfully present for the unfolding of my days, to practice healthy eating and exercise, to remember that creative efforts sustain and feed me.

When I stop long enough to see clearly, I know what is right for me to do. Avoidance behaviors, comforting time-killers (for me, playing computer games, eating sweets, and other non-nutritive activities) are the way we keep from seeing clearly. After all, if we can hide what is needed from our conscious mind, we feel free from responsibility. I think this is true in both personal and social action. How can I change the world if my own house is not in order?


Kindness Multiplied

January 27, 2010

No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees. The greatest work that kindness does to others is that it makes them kind themselves. ~Amelia Earhart

When my father died in 1967, his company newsletter said that he would be remembered for his kindness and his sense of humor. I would be very proud to be remembered for such important qualities. I love this quote from Amelia Earhart, because it reminds us how interdependent we really are, how a simple kindness reverberates, ripples outward, and often comes back to us.

What was the last kindness you received? Did you pay it forward?


no one expects you to save the world

January 26, 2010

The headlines are begging for your help. Thousands needing homes, food.
But here, your own children, like inexpert stilt-walkers, flirt too often
with obstacles in the street. It’s no wonder you keep eyes glued
to them. The demands of love, or a job, the hard winter reining you in –
it takes all your muscle to keep your own life upright. And though you know
what you have is fortune compared to the great rift that earthquake left,
and the aftershocks continuing to destroy so much, somehow
that same fortune paralyzes, obstructs you with a heavy, gloomy guilt.
But no one expects you to save the world, no matter what you plan.
Sometimes the best thing we can do is to love everything we can.
~maya stein

I couldn’t possibly add anything, except thank you, thank you, maya, for your 10-line Tuesdays.


Let Your Life Be a Poem

January 24, 2010

When I say be creative, I don’t mean you should all go and become great painters and great poets. I simply mean let your life be a painting, let your life be a poem. –Osho

Rainy morning
writing at my desk–
a ticking clock
marks Sunday time
suggesting rhythms,
line lengths,
heartbeats.
Where is the poetry
we have lost in data?
Can the mist of our lives
open to clear sky?


Why and Where is War?

January 19, 2010

Every war is against the world, and every war against the world is lost. ~Alice Walker

Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the root of all war is fear. ~Thomas Merton

In a battle, the winners and the losers both lose. ~The Buddha

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. ~Albert Einstein

There is no way to peace; peace is the way.~A. J. Muste

If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Don’t throw anyone out of your heart. ~Neem Karoli Baba

We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that it is inside ourselves. ~Albert Camus

I have ordered a subscription to The Friend, the magazine of the Quakers. I am not a Quaker, but I deeply admire many of their beliefs and practices, not the least of which is their pacifism. I know that human conflict is complex, and that many have fought and even died for good causes. But I also know that it is important to speak out against war, to teach children how to be in community in spite of differences, to raise our voices against militarism. So today I offer the wisdom of those who have spoken much more eloquently than I ever could on this subject. Peace be with you.


The Wisdom Trail

January 18, 2010

My grandmother called a person’s spiritual path in this life “traveling on the wisdom trail.” She said it was a spiral, bringing us closer to the truth at our core each pass round. What this means is that we keep coming to the same places, intersections, and struggles over and over again, only each time we’ve expanded out, collecting more wisdom. Wherever you go on a spiral, there is no escaping from yourself…There’s no way to complete a journey on the wisdom trail, since it is a spiral of learning, healing, serving, learning. ~Dawna Markova

No Enemies Within, by Dawna Markova, is a wealth of wisdom. With quotes on every page, many of which I will be using here in future, and treatment of the sacred spiral, you might guess that I would relate to this book! Markova provides a friendly, readable yet profound prescription for healing through creativity, for becoming whole by “discovering what’s right about what’s wrong.”

The author describes the landmarks in our spiritual journeys: the enemies within, living disconnected, the turning points in which we reconnect with our lost selves, opening our hearts with acceptance, and using our imaginations and intuition to recreate our lives and make use of our own resources, so that we may ultimately serve and help others in community. Sam Keen said, “The word hero needs to be reserved for the man or woman who is willing to take the solitary journey to the depths of the self, to re-own the shadow, to exorcise the ancient warrior psyche, to discover the power and authority of wholeness.”

My enemy within at the moment is the pull of numbing activities (computer games, for example) that prevent me from participating in those things that nourish me: writing, friends, and yoga among them. May I set one foot in front of another to travel the wisdom trail, the spiral of learning and growth where there is no escaping from myself, where I come ever closer to the truth at my core. May you find your truths on the wisdom trail as well.


Prickly Pear

January 9, 2010

If you brave the heat and gritty sands to reach us
Chollas
prickly pears of independent bearing
We can fuel your midnight fires
fodder your lean and loyal burros.

~Marti Keller

My heart is overflowing with the poems of my dear friend Marti. I am a lucky recipient of her chapbook, Prickly Pear, a stunning and beautiful collection of her early poetry.

This work feeds me like the Chollas, but is smooth as moonstones. A few exquisite words paint the richest stories of love, lust, longing, tenderness, melting snow and fierce independence; words that say as much by what is not there as by what is. I will read and reread these perfect and complete poems, in gratitude.


Movement

January 5, 2010

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is…more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life and in change there is power. ~Alan Cohen

I have given notice at work, and will be leaving full-time employment at the end of March. I will work a couple of part-time months at a library system, then retire. This will give me more time to build and market my new consulting business, as well as attend to soul time.

If you’re interested in the growth and development of libraries and nonprofits, you can check out my Web site here and my business blog here. Go ahead–critique and comment!

During this period I will be vigilant about keeping my new business activity separate from salaried work time. Mindfulness will be especially important for me in the upcoming months, so that I am fully present in whichever sphere I am working. But I am starting to feel the energy and power of movement!

Will 2010 mean change in your life? What adventures await you?


A Year of Potential

January 1, 2010

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential. ~Ellen Goodman

I admit to stealing today’s quote from Patti Digh’s blog entry, entitled “you are not broken. you don’t need to be fixed.” The post also includes an image of a beautiful Edward Hopper painting (alas, no relation!)

But really, what a terrific way to start the new year, by considering our potential rather than making resolutions to overcome our perceived flaws. Acknowledging and celebrating our gifts gives others inspiration to do the same.

What do you want to bring forward in 2010? What do you have within you that wants expression? How will you celebrate your talents in the coming year? Share your list!


The Year in Review

December 31, 2009

If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches on the same tree. ~William Butler Yeats

At the end of the year, it seems fitting to review 2009 in at least three ways: (1) rereading this blog, testament to my passages this year; (2) going through my gratitude journal for the last year, and noting the “gratitude intentions,” that is, things I have wanted to be grateful for in future; and (3) considering the list of questions in the Year End Ritual described in The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka.

The Year End Ritual questions reveal my intention to move toward greater acceptance, connection, and egolessness. My summary aspiration statement is this: I will radiate love, acceptance, and gratitude from my authentic center into the world. (This shouldn’t take long, hahaha!)

Here are the themes from my gratitude aspirations during 2009: equanimity for both my husband and me as we move through family illnesses and deaths * robust health and vitality * practice (yoga, meditation, healthy eating, mindfulness) * a sheltering sense of community, warm friendships * letting go, acceptance, non-attachment * writing and other creative pursuits * love, compassion, and an open heart * right livelihood, meaningful work, being in tune with my calling * honoring my commitments to myself * opportunity to contribute to a better world * confidence, poise, and groundedness * more play, fun, lightness of being

And finally, here are selected blog posts from 2009, the “Cliff Notes” version of the year!

Generativity, February 9
Finding one’s true path is important for the world, as well as for the self.

Painting Myself, February 28
On the changing nature of autobiography over time

An Undivided Life, March 14
Discovering Parker J. Palmer and healing separation from self

Flowing Water, April 6
Surrender to the channel in which one’s life flows

Spiraling, May 1
Life is a spiral; each day we learn its lessons in a new way.

In Praise of Slowness, May 4
Basking in our lives instead of running in and from them–see also Moodling Day, August 2 and The Myth of Multitasking, October 25

Gifts, May 5
What’s easy for us might just be what we need to be doing.

Happiness and Belonging, August 10, an expansion of Thread, January 20
We are everything and nothing.

This is My Real Life, August 15
Transforming and softening our will into willingness

Groupthink, August 29
The antidote–laughter!

Goals Are Not Intentions, November 21
Read this before you make any New Years resolutions.

Wishing you all a joyous, mindful, creative, accepting, poetic, authentic year full of learning, laughter, love, and gratitude!


Free Stuff

December 27, 2009

All that is really useful to us can be bought for little money; it is only the superfluous that is put up for sale at a high price. All that is really beautiful…is offered us as a gift by the immortal gods. We are allowed to watch the sun rise and set, the clouds sailing along in the sky, the forests and the fields, the glorious sea, all without spending a penny. The birds sing to us for nothing, the wild flowers we may pick as we are walking along by the roadside. There is no entrance fee to the starlit hall of the Night. ~Axel Munthe

We have just come through a season of gift-giving, of consumption, of overextension for some that will cause unease in future. I wonder if we might have more meaningful holidays if we paid more attention to the simple joys of living, and less to the shopping, wrapping, and fretting about who gets what.

Sam and I stood on the deck last night and watched the sunset, brilliant fiery orange behind bare tree limbs in the West, and pastel pink streaked across a gorgeous grey-blue sky in the East. This was definitely a highlight of the holiday for me, in addition to the relaxing time off for quiet and reflection. I am grateful for these gifts.


Creative Every Day 2010

December 24, 2009

Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about…Say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe. ~Rumi

I have again signed up for the Creative Every Day challenge–click on the badge at the right for details. Last year, I signed up, too, and posted a long list of possibilities for things I could do to follow through on that intention. In reviewing the list from my previous post, reprinted below, I see there are some things I actually did do in 2009! (I’ve made them bold.) Not bad, but lots of possibilities remaining for 2010. What will you do creatively this year?

draw from nature * write a poem * start a (joined a) local writer’s group * make greeting cards * visit a gallery * crochet a scarf * post photos to Flickr * finish my afghan-in-progress * take a new route home from work and see new sights * dye Easter eggs * build a bonfire * play with dots * write a short story * make a book * wear a new and different style of clothing * design a journal * see a museum exhibit * volunteer for the local arts council * write a nonfiction book * write a letter to someone in longhand * create a new smoothie flavor * make something from fabric scraps * take a creative day off work * make a dream book * learn to dance * knit a pair of socks * create a collage * make paper * visit a craft shop and see what attracts me * take a pottery class * weave a basket * make a gift for someone * try calligraphy * plan a vacation * find interesting objects in nature * play with words in a new way * fingerpaint * make beaded jewelry * do origami * take a walk someplace new * change my hairstyle * sleep outdoors * make a Hallowe’en costume * doodle * play the piano * design a workshop * browse an antique store * learn to quilt * go to a concert * write a chant * plant a garden * attend a theatrical production * read poetry out loud * organize photos in an album * try a new fruit * give away what no longer suits me * take someone flowers * sing * make a Zen garden * use the Milliande Creativity Club “artist date” prompt for the month * play a wooden flute * design a cross-stitch picture * decorate a box * make a list of funny words * read about a new craft * arrange some flowers * jump rope and make up rhymes * create a brochure * go to an arts festival * challenge a self-perception * burn candles * take nature photos * plan a party * illustrate a journal * create an arty wardrobe * dance to rock favorites from the 70s * make a snowman * play with crayons, colored pencils, or paint pens * plan a surprise for myself * make my own gift bags * recycle old earrings into new jewelry or sculpture * splurge on soft sheets * draw a picture of who I am becoming * write a fan letter * build a sand sculpture * think up arguments to quiet my inner critic * tell someone off in my head * play with stripes * buy myself a toy * create a mantra for each day * observe in moonlight * make love in a new way * make a drum * go caroling * light some incense * daydream in a hammock * create an altar * tell someone how much I care about them * meditate * shirk responsibility * rent a bicycle * build a studio * draw a cartoon * play on a playground * draw a picture of my creativity * have a pillow fight * press some leaves or flowers * rearrange the furniture * join a book discussion group * do some bad art * learn Spanish * climb a tree * pamper myself * write a Dear John letter to the part of myself I want to shed * try out for a play * write a letter to the creative child in me * take voice lessons * participate in an open mike poetry reading * enter a contest * make an artist totem * write a good review of my work * cuddle up with a blanket and my stuffed puppy * write verses for children * notice ceilings * make a spiritual corner in my house * make a junk sculpture * draw a mandala * take tap dancing lessons…


Writing as Discovery

December 21, 2009

We also want to find out what our own inner self wants to reveal to us in the midst of the clatter of the world. This takes letting go of our manic lifestyle long enough to pause and be silent so that we can hear the chords of our own being above the cacophony of our distracting and seductive world.

Poetry is too intimate to be nailed down in strictly linear terms. Reading a poem is more like comprehending a multifaceted totality all at once than like following logical steps to a single conclusion. It is more like entering spirals of possibilities than like walking a straight line to a single destination.
~David Richo, Being True to Life: Poetic Paths to Personal Growth

Writing is discovery, and psychotherapist David Richo affirms this with his wonderful new book. I believe poetry is the written form that brings us closest to the unconscious in us, and it can be as revealing as our dreams. I have taken Richo’s suggestion and begun writing my journal in poetry-length lines.

As I read this book, I encountered over and over things that resonated with me–“spirals of possibilities” not the least of them. (My new business blog is called “Spiraling,” and I use a nautilus as a sort of logo–see “My Other Blog” box at right). Imagine my surprise when I visited Richo’s website and found a free downloadable book with a nautilus as the cover illustration! Positively synchronistic.

This book is a gem for anyone who writes poetry, who wants to write poetry, or who just wants to better understand the self. Richo provides solid guidance and writing and meditation (visualization) exercises that will help the reader uncover the poem that wants to write itself in the service of healing.

See other entries on this theme: “Why I Write” and “Being Flow.”


Becoming the Moon

December 20, 2009

I am becoming the moon–
Rising over blue mountains,
Rippling over oceans,
Sailing through clouds
Of discarded illusion.

I am becoming the moon–
Showing my true face,
Coolly reflecting
The radiance of the sun–
A million miles from here
And still shining.


Action Generates Inspiration

December 20, 2009

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action. ~Frank Tibolt

Today I want to act as though I am inspired–to be kind, exercise, write poetry. Writers say almost without exception that regularly showing up for writing is essential, and I know from experience that waiting for inspiration to write is just a waste of time!

Fran Leibowitz says, “It’s very psychically wearing not to write—I mean if you’re supposed to be writing.” And Rollo May: “Creativity occurs in an act of encounter….”

What is it that you want to be inspired to do? Can you act as though you are already inspired?


Home Ground

December 13, 2009

In dwelling, live close to the ground. ~Tao Te Ching

In the end, the final refuge is sustained practice. ~Dogen Zenji

Perhaps I am learning how to practice at long last. I spent all of last week traveling to, sitting in, and traveling home from meetings. But unlike on most of my business trips, this time I ate well and I exercised. 🙂 Instead of being exhausted and depleted when I got home, I was energetic and relaxed.

What made the difference? I believe it was a combination of greater self-awareness and mindfulness, the ability to stay present in my experience moment to moment. More and more, I feel at home with myself, regardless of where I am, who I am with, what I am doing. More and more, I live close to the ground of my being.

How about you?


More Love, Less Fear

December 6, 2009


On the deepest level, problems such as war and starvation are not solved by economics and politics alone. Their source is the prejudice and fear in the human heart—and their solution also lies in the human heart. What the world needs most is people who are less bound by prejudice. It needs more love, more generosity, more mercy, more openness. The root of human problems is not a lack of resources but comes from the misunderstanding, fear, and separateness that can be found in the hearts of people. ~Jack Kornfield, from Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation

My friend Carol gets the credit for the title of today’s post. She once shared her aspiration for this succinctly-expressed way of relating to the world. While it may sound naive to some, I believe that this practice of loving will create a better world, as Kornfield suggests. I am only one, but still I am one! (This idea from Edward Everett Hale: “because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”)

I want to relentlessly love more and fear less in everything I do, trusting that it will make a difference in my own heart and soul and ultimately in the world, but knowing also that some will misunderstand, suspect, discount, or reject that love. Won’t you join me in this intention?


Gourd Afternoon

December 5, 2009


Blessed is he who has found his work. Let him seek no other blessedness. ~Thomas Carlyle

When we have the courage to speak our minds and use our voice to send the desires of our hearts from our inner world to the world outside, we take a bold step in making them happen. ~from yesterday’s Daily OM, “Freeing Our Inner Desires: Using Our Outside Voice.”

I have spent a lovely hour or two at The Gourd Place this afternoon, the always-interesting shop of my friends Priscilla and Janice. They have indeed “found their work” and have persisted in sharing their artistic vision for many years. You can read their story in Priscilla’s wonderful book, Gourd Girls, source of the Carlyle quote above.

There is something inspiring and uplifting about visiting them and the shop, about contemplating their efforts to live authentically, to speak with their “outside voices.” Today, as usual, the shop was full of well-wishers and positive energy. Janice and Priscilla have drawn around them a community of people who admire and appreciate their integrity and their found work. May we all strive to live in such a way.


Being with Dying

November 29, 2009


In being with dying, we arrive at a natural crucible of what it means to love and be loved. And we can ask ourselves this: Knowing that death is inevitable, what is most precious today? ~Roshi Joan Halifax

It seems to me that loss came early in my life: my father when I was just 14, then my mother and two of my closest friends before I turned 50. I remembered Richard in a previous post (and have now added a photo).

Today I’m thinking of someone I knew for a relatively short time, but who meant a lot to me. This is for Mary Beth.

Samhain

On a night of drinking and dancing
in a smoky Albuquerque bar,
you laughed and said
I made you feel secure.

But there was no protection
from disease that defeated you,
that made you lie down
in the bed of your pick-up truck–

a closed garage, a vacuum cleaner hose,
a note to your friends.
How like you to absolve us:
“I do not feel lonely.”

When the news came, I understood suddenly
that your last phone call–
cheerfulness strained through tears–
had been your good-bye.

I want to believe that your soul
passed easily through the thinned veil
on that Samhain night, to know
that you are dancing once again.


Gratefulness

November 28, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

I shared some favorite quotations on gratitude here. To those I add the following:

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William Arthur Ward

I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. ~Martha Washington

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed. ~Maya Angelou

I believe gratitude breeds generosity and is an important element of happiness. Do you have a favorite quote that reminds you to be grateful?


Goals Are Not Intentions

November 21, 2009

In choosing to live with right intention…you are connecting to your own sense of kindness and innate dignity. Standing on this ground of intention, you are then able to participate as you choose in life’s contests, until you outgrow them. ~Phillip Moffitt

Today, this Yoga Journal article, “The Heart’s Intention”, was exactly what I needed. Moffitt draws the distinction between goals, which are oriented toward a future outcome, and intention, which is “a path or practice that is focused on how you are ‘being’ in the present moment.”

Moffitt says “You set your intentions based on understanding what matters most to you and make a commitment to align your worldly actions with your inner values.” Intention, unlike goals, results in integrity, unity, self-respect and peace of mind.

We clearly need goals to help us be effective and move forward in our endeavors. But Moffitt reminds us that goals are inadequate for measuring our success in life. Staying attuned to our heart’s intention (not that of the rational mind) is what Moffitt calls coming home to ourselves.

Of course, we can never do this perfectly. But Moffitt assures us that “each time you start over by reconnecting to your intention, you are taking one more step toward finding your own authenticity and freedom.”

And so the theme is practice, not perfection, again.


Mindful Health

November 15, 2009

Our life is what our thoughts make it. ~Marcus Aurelius

The attainment of wholeness requires one to stake one’s whole being. Nothing less will do…. ~C. G. Jung

Synchronicity again. I first ran across psychologist Ellen Langer when I was preparing for the talk on mindful management last month. Langer did early experiments in mindfulness and its effect on aging, so I hunted down her 1989 book, Mindfulness, and read it recently. Today I see that she has a new book, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, and that a movie with Jennifer Aniston, based on the book, will soon be coming out. No doubt, mindfulness is becoming more mainstream.

Langer says we have learned to influence health “by exchanging unhealthy mindsets for healthy ones and increasing a generally mindful state. The latter is more lasting and results in more personal control.” Jon Kabat-Zinn lists seven attitudinal factors that underlie mindfulness: (1) non-judging; (2) patience; (3) beginner’s mind; (4) trust; (5) non-striving; (6) acceptance; and (7) letting go. Cultivating these attitudes, Kabat-Zinn stresses, requires energy, motivation and commitment. May I establish daily practice in mindfulness for health.


Here I Am

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?”


The Myth of Multitasking

October 25, 2009

To do two things at once is to do neither. ~Publilius Syrus

As I read Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb, try syncing my ipod once again (still can’t figure out what’s wrong with it), and check my Email, I run across today’s quote (p. 186 in Digh’s book) and am reminded that I often say that multitasking is a myth. Splitting our attention among tasks likely means that we are not fully present for any of them. But even if we are, it means that our energy and time leaks away during the shifts in our attention.

Edward Hallowell, in his book, Crazy Busy, says, “It is fine to believe that multitasking is a skill necessary in the modern world, but to believe it is an equivalent substitute for single-minded focus on one task is incorrect. It may be convenient or necessary to multitask…however, you will not be doing any of these tasks as effectively as you would if you were doing them one at a time.” Hah–now I have Crazy Busy perched on top of Life is A Verb, and I am blogging in addition to the rest…how easy it is to practice this way of living!

I am putting down Crazy Busy. I am unplugging my ipod to troubleshoot another day. I am closing out my blog entry. Now, I will sit back in my reading chair and finish Life is a Verb like the good unitasker I aspire to be.


Soul Time

October 24, 2009

maple leaves
This is one of the best daily meditations. Sit and allow action directives to come from the Greater Intelligence and bring them into your own lives. To maintain your own inner health, you need to become stewards of your own time.

While you have to work and earn a living and need to interact with the engine that drives commodity time, don’t take up your residence in that pressure tank.

Your home and soul time is organic, regulated by heartbeat, breath, sun, moon, the seasons, and the tides.~Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, “Take This to Heart”(Graduation Address at the Naropa University, May 8, 2004), in Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer (Sam M. Intrator, ed.)

How many of us are even aware of our heartbeats, our breath, the sun, moon, seasons and tides? This morning I am feasting my eyes on the brilliant gold-orange maple outside my window, struck by sun rays, aflame. Sometimes these things just rise up and demand our attention. But I want to notice even the subtle shifts. To learn to be a steward of soul time. How about you?


Calder, Results, and the Great Northwest

October 18, 2009

Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions. ~Earl Gray Stevens

Greetings! I have just returned from the Public Library Association’s “Results Boot Camp” in Seattle. Intensive Library Management Training. Planning, implementing, managing, staffing, allocating resources, and measuring for results. What a great week!

The content and instructors (June Garcia and Sandra Nelson) were intellectually stimulating, the food was fabulous (lots of nuts, fruit, veggies), and I was able to stay relatively present and energetic throughout. This is not always easy for an introvert in an intense social situation!

Friday afternoon I walked from the hotel to the Seattle Art Museum to see an Andrew Wyeth exhibit of Helga paintings. To my delight, there was also a Calder exhibit. I could’ve hung out for hours under and around the mobiles and stabiles.

Seattle was lovely. The people are more laid back than east-coast folks; there is coffee everywhere; they were flinging fish at the market. (And, yes, some of those guys in the video still work there!) Even walking through the soft rain to the museum seemed just right.

Although I am glad to be back home, I am also glad to have had the experience. And happy to be back writing here after some time away.


Mindful Management

September 25, 2009

tightrope

In October, I will be giving a one-hour presentation at the state library association conference on “Mindful Management.” I selected this topic because I wanted to learn what had been written about mindfulness as it pertains to management and leadership in organizations. I selected it because I want to practice more mindful management. And we all know that the best way to learn something is to have to teach it!

Here are some of the quotes and ideas I plan to share in this workshop:

Mindfulness is the process of deliberately paying attention to the present moment in a non-jundgmental way. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Michael Carroll, in his book, Awake at Work, encourages us to see things as they are, not as we would like them to be, to welcome whatever our work presents to us.

According to psychologist Ellen Langer, mindfulness is a habitual state of mind in which old schemes are continually reexamined and redefined…Mindfulness includes openness to multiple points of view, and a focus on process rather than outcome. ~Charles R. Schwenk
Dropping our identification with self, we can become open to others’ ways of seeing things.

Before you speak, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these questions: (1) is it true? (2) is it kind? (3) is it necessary? Will it improve the silence?

Power stress means subordinating everything to your own wants and needs. Compassion involves understanding others and acting to address their needs…For the leader feeling the effects of power stress, the place to start is by courageously asking a few basic questions: What am I doing here? What am I out to accomplish? Is this what I want in life? Am I being true to myself? Am I happy? ~Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

STOP:
S top what you are doing.
T ake a conscious breath.
O bserve your bodily sensations.
P roceed with whatever you were doing.

Through purposeful, conscious direction of our attention, we are able to see things that might normally pass right by us, giving us access to deeper insight, wisdom and choices. ~Boyatzis and McKee

By working on ourselves, by coming to know ourselves better, and then by sharing our growing strength with others, we create a base of support that helps to make our lives, and the world, a better place to be. ~Tarthang Tulku

Have you ever had a manager you would consider to be mindful? What are your thoughts on mindful management?


Remembering Richard

September 20, 2009

Berkeley Lake House

Cardinals flick sunflower seeds
From the blue pottery;
A pine warbler, olive as ocean,
Balances on a leaf stalk.
From the kitchen we watch
For purple finches,
And the great blue heron
Is still as ice in the cove.

The new house tour
Includes a horsehead sketch,
A toothpick railroad trestle,
Long-eared rabbits.
We laugh at random pastel tile
In the tiny shower stall
And exclaim at the growth of angelfish
Raised from eggs.

Draped in black,
Your delicate daughter
Stands on a chair
To break the eggs for dinner.
Later, when she is asleep,
We will trail our fingers in the dark lake,
And sing the songs that made us feel immortal
As younger old friends.


Competition

September 19, 2009

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. ~William A. Ward

Why then, are we so inclined to compete with one another? I believe competition with ourselves can spur us on to be our best, but competition with others I find fairly baffling. I’m sure I’m in the minority in this country, but I have actually struggled against feeling too competitive throughout my life. I see so much better results when people are cooperative and collaborative that I can’t imagine anyone choosing to be otherwise.

I think competition is related to a scarcity mentality, to fear. We seem to think that if someone else gets a share of the pie, it means less for us. We somehow believe that if we’re not on top, in front, most loved, we lose. I believe this attitude itself makes us lose–our human connections, our empathy, our ability to love ourselves and others unconditionally. Competition is at the root of envy.

In what situations do you feel most competitive with others? In traffic? With siblings? In your work life? How do you express it? Often, it’s not what we say and do but what we don’t say or do that indicates we are envious. What would happen if you focused on our shared abundance, on love rather than fear, on looking for and acknowledging the best in others?


Reading, Not Writing

August 30, 2009

It’s easy, after all, not to be a writer. Most people aren’t writers, and very little harm comes to them. ~Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot

I have just finished Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, from which this quote comes. I’m on a reading jag; I’ve read 3 books and 2 magazines this weekend!

The other quote I flagged in the book was from sculptor Anne Truitt: “The most demanding part of living a lifetime as an artist is the strict discipline of forcing oneself to work steadfastly along the nerve of one’s own most intimate sensitivity.” I can relate.

This week I will attend my writer’s group (for only the second time, since they took a summer break). There’s something about being in a group of creative people that makes the air vibrate with energy. I am hopeful that it will be an inspiration for me to write–that, and my new book of poetry by Jane Cooper. Here’s a short one of hers:

Praise

But I love this poor earth,
because I have not seen another….
~Osip Mandelstam

Between five and fifty
most people construct a little lifetime:
they fall in love, make kids, they suffer
and pitch the usual tents of understanding.
But I have built a few unexpected bridges.
Out of inert stone, with its longing to embrace inert stone,
I have sent a few vaults into stainless air.
Is this enough–when I love our poor sister earth?
Sister earth, I kneel and ask pardon.
A clod of turf is no less than inert stone.
Nothing is enough!
In this field set free for our play
who could have foretold
I would live to write at fifty?


Groupthink

August 29, 2009

hands
You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. ~Doug Floyd

I have just read Doris Lessing’s Prisons We Choose to Live Inside, and it has caused me to reflect on my relationship to family, community, and groups over the course of my life. “Very few people indeed” Lessing says, “are happy as solitaries, and they tend to be seen by their neighbours as peculiar or selfish or worse.” She concedes that we are group animals, and the problem is not in belonging to groups, but “not understanding the social laws that govern groups and govern us.”

For groups exert pressure to conform. In groups, we believe we are acting as individuals, and can point to our differences of opinion as evidence. But there are underlying assumptions and sacred cows that are never discussed–that are usually not even noticed–by those within the group. Lessing holds that there are very few nonconformists, “original minds,” and that “on them depends the health, the vitality of all our institutions.”

I am in a period of very little interaction with groups but have felt hungry for community. Can I move back into community with an open heart that will also accommodate a cool, self-aware head? One encouraging passage in Lessing reports that “researchers of brain-washing and indoctrination discovered that people who knew how to laugh resisted best.” People who don’t laugh at themselves, she says, include fanatics, bigots, tyrants, and oppressors. “True believers don’t laugh. Their idea of laughter is a satirical cartoon pillorying an opposition person or idea.”

May I embrace my “group animal” nature without succumbing to groupthink. May I laugh open-heartedly and open-mindedly at myself!


Favorites on Gratitude

August 28, 2009

For some time now, I have been writing in a gratitude journal (thanks, Claudia). I also subscribe to daily quotes on gratitude from gratefulness.org. Here are some of my favorites.

As I express my gratitude, I become more deeply aware of it. And the greater my awareness, the greater my need to express it. What happens here is a spiraling ascent, a process of growth in ever expanding circles around a steady center. ~David Steindl-Rast

Recipients of our appreciation are apt to express their own gratitude to others, lengthening the unending, golden chain of connections-in-goodness that stretches across the world. ~Mary Ford Grabowsky

No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. ~Elie Wiesel

Gratitude is so close to the bone of life, pure and true, that it instantly stops the rational mind, and all its planning and plotting. ~Regina Sara Ryan

The more alert we become to the blessing that flows into us through everything we touch, the more our own touch will bring blessing. ~David Steindl-Rast

The day I acquired the habit of consciously pronouncing the words “thank you”, I felt I had gained possession of a magic wand capable of transforming everything. ~Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

There’s a self-expansive aspect of gratitude. Very possibly it’s a little-known law of nature: the more gratitude you have, the more you have to be grateful for. ~Elaine St. James

Today, I am grateful for the gentle rain, the ability to work from home, the grant our agency was just awarded that will provide 45 scholarships for students to get a Master’s Degree in Library Science, the healthy lunch my husband made for me, my yoga practice, a weekend (without pressing obligations) stretching before me, and the beautiful place in which I live.

What are you grateful for today?


Routine

August 24, 2009

That is the crux of what makes habits difficult to change: They are not so much a function of your attitudes, preferences, and beliefs, but instead they tend to be cued pretty directly by the environment you are in. ~Wendy Wood, cognitive psychologist at Duke University, in Rabiya S. Tuma’s “How to Take Control of Your Habits,” Yoga+ Joyful Living, Jan-Feb. 2008.

Taking control of habits is a recurring theme for me (Challenge to Myself), so I am always alert to new ways to think about establishing better habits, particularly around eating and exercise.

This weekend I was traveling, and so found myself eating out, choosing junk food, not exercising, and sleeping too much when I got home. This occurs more often than I would like, and I have said for a while now that I need to establish more of a routine so that I don’t find myself having to make decisions on the fly when I am tired, hungry, stressed, or otherwise vulnerable.

Habits are useful ways of preserving energy. Tuma writes, “Investigators have found that constant vigilance or attention to our goals, and the need to repeatedly inhibit ingrained responses to the cues around us, can be exhausting.”

Tactics that work to build new habits, according to Tuma, include changing the context (I’ve stopped driving by the DQ on my way home!), keeping goals realistic, and paying attention. Creating a new situation (for example, exercising regularly with a friend) and linking two activities together can also help. “After you brush your teeth, head straight for the meditation cushion. After a few weeks of this, the very act of brushing your teeth will prime you for sitting.”

Now I understand better why I have been craving more routine in my life. It is exhausting having to make conscious choices too much of the time. I have started attending yoga twice a week on my way home from work, so that is definitely a start. I think I will make a list of a few more healthy habits I can build in, using some of the tactics recommended in this article.

How do you stay on track with healthy habits?