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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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?


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?


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!


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!


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.”