From the Archives: September

August 31, 2008

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.  ~William Wordsworth

September begins tomorrow. Now that this blog is a year old (and then some), I have decided to honor the first day of each month (or in this case, the day before the first day of the month) by bringing back a few posts from the previous year. Here are some from last September.

Expanding Time
Time expands when we are present in the moment.

Economic Equality
With our presidential election looming, consider the concept of raising all boats.

Letting Go
I’m convinced this is one of the keys to happiness.

Discourse
How can we heal our fractured society by coming together?

Happy Labor Day Holiday, everyone!


Change

February 22, 2008

Because things are the way they are, things will not stay the way they are.  ~Bertolt Brecht

Daffodils are blooming, and my boss is leaving for another state. My mother-in-law is anticipating having to move out of the house in which she grew up because she is no longer able to live alone. It won’t be long before we have a new president.

Change is just change. The attachment we feel to this or that is what causes suffering in the change. We can never know ahead of time what the outcome of change will be. So it seems to me that the right response to change (and certainly the least stressful) is acceptance and curiosity. If we are living in each moment, I believe that will occur naturally.

May I roll with these changes, loving what is. May I respond from a grounded awareness of the present moment, accepting that the next present moment will bring something different.


Driving

February 18, 2008

Car Crash

Yours will happen some dark night
On the long road from a family visit–
Perhaps when the planets next align
As they did last night: Mercury, Venus,
Mars, moon, Saturn, Jupiter–
Or when the sun is bright,
And you admire someone’s azaleas
Or catch a colorful line of wash
Blowing in the breeze.
Suddenly, you’re in a ditch,
Images swirling at the backs of your eyes.

I will be coming home from work
Scribbling fast to trap some phrase
About to slip through the sieve of memory:
Writing “fiddleheads of fern,”
Or today, “The Car Crash,”
When I looked up to face
Head-on, lights and sirens blaring,
A prophetic ambulance.
They will find me grinning by the side of the road,
A pencil clutched in my hand.

It is an understatement to say I do a lot more driving than I did before I changed jobs 18 months ago. Theoretically, I telework two days a week, but no week is the same. Today, for example, I drove 240 miles to present a 2.5-hour workshop.

In July 2006, I bought a new car for the new job, and five weeks later, hit a deer with it. More accurately, the deer slammed into me. I now have over 41,000 miles on this car, and I estimate that I have spent $4500 on gasoline in the last year and a half just to get to and from my office three days a week (not to mention traveling around the state).

The poem is not new, but I think of it sometimes on my travels. Mostly, I can ignore how vulnerable I am on the freeway around Atlanta and the highways of rural Georgia. (As Wally says, “Isn’t it terrible what we can get used to?”) Occasionally, the full impact of my lifestyle flashes clearly in my mind, and I have a strong desire to stop the madness–not to mention the violence I am doing to the planet.

For now, I will continue to do what I have to do in order to do work I love. And now is all we have, after all.


Gratitude

November 17, 2007

…food reveals our connection with the earth. Each bite contains the life of the sun and the earth….We can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread! Contemplating our food for a few seconds before eating, and eating in mindfulness, can bring us much happiness.  Having the opportunity to sit with our family and friends and enjoy wonderful food is something precious, something not everyone has. Many people in the world are hungry. When I hold a bowl of rice or a piece of bread, I know that I am fortunate, and I feel compassion for all those who have no food to eat and are without friends or family….Mindful eating can cultivate seeds of compassion and understanding that will strengthen us to do something to help hungry and lonely people be nourished.  ~Thich Nhat Hanh, in Peace is Every Step

In this season of Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the kindnesses I have encountered along my life’s journey, the countless advantages I have taken for granted, and the sweetness of life as I experience it. Gratitude is (in part) being more aware of what you have than what you don’t have. Gratitude as a practice can remind us daily of the impermanence of life and the perfection of the present moment. Gratitude “cultivates seeds of compassion” for those who are suffering.


Letting Go

September 16, 2007

Finished artworks that we may see and love deeply are in a sense the relics or traces of a journey that has come and gone.   ~Stephen Nachmanovitch, from Free Play (p.6)

I remember being amazed by Natalie Goldberg’s account of her writing booth at the Minnesota Zen Center Summer Festival and Bazaar, where she sold spontaneously-written poems for 50 cents or a dollar and never looked back.  She says, “In Japan there are stories of great Zen poets writing a superb haiku and then putting it in a bottle in a river or nearby stream and letting it go….This is a profound example of nonattachment.” (from her book Writing Down the Bones)

Nachmanovitch helped me understand this concept of letting go by making it clear that there really is nothing to hold onto.  What produced the poem or other work has passed, has floated downstream.  This would seem to make the case for being ever-present to see what arises in this moment, and then this moment, and this.