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


Writers Group

April 4, 2009

Writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like in anything else. ~Katherine Anne Porter

Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see. ~William Newton Clark

This week I stepped out in faith to read my work and be critiqued in a writers group. I am thrilled to be part of a creative community, and I hope it will result in greater inspiration and courage to confront the blank page, as well as a honing of my craft.

This encounter suggested to me that my confidence often lags behind my skill, and I have to wonder if I sometimes come across as having false humility. It is not approval that I want so much as to embrace a realistic view of my writing, to see more clearly what I want to say and how well I am communicating it. (For more reflections on approval, see Judgment.) I believe participating in this group will lead to greater clarity.

Today, I am grateful for the Stonepile Writers, for the creative process, for this blog, for all artists everywhere!


Success

January 3, 2009

Don’t aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue…as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself. ~Viktor Frankl

I was recently nominated for a national professional award. (Thanks, Kathleen & Wally!) I can’t imagine myself among the list of those who have received this award, so I have had a hard time getting my head around the idea. I’ve always been fairly suspicious of award winners, but maybe they’re as surprised as I by their nominations. Several people wrote eloquent letters of support for the nomination, which I admit will be inspiring to look back at on the “rainy” days of my life!

Whether or not I receive this award, I am heartened by the nominators’ efforts, and it makes me want to pay it forward by nominating someone else for something. Meanwhile, I’m trying to remember Einstein’s words, “The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.” (See also an earlier post, Judgment.)

May you all have those in your life who believe you’re worthy of an award! Who would you like to nominate or otherwise honor?

P. S. Now at the risk of looking like I am aiming at success (although I hope you’ll agree that aiming at this kind of success makes sense), I’m posting my CED & Power of Less updates for this week: blogged, named my stuffed puppy (Bodhi or Buddy depending on how wise he seems at the moment!), checked out a book on starting a writer’s group, made an “artist’s date” with a friend, committed publicly to 15-30 min. of yoga one day a week at work, did one 10-min. yoga session plus a yoga class! 🙂


Kindness

October 19, 2008

Is there a greater miracle than to see through another’s eyes, even for an instant? ~Thoreau

Read the wonderful poem, “Kindness,” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Compassion and kindness, I believe, spring from a greater understanding of others. I am struggling this week to feel compassionate and kind toward those whose values, so different from my own, are leading them into actions that seem to me to be producing bad karma. I want to suspend that judgment and open to understanding. I want to create spaciousness in my heart, to breathe in their suffering and breathe out peace and light.

I am blessed beyond measure. I cannot help but smile and give thanks. May I remember that all beings want to be happy and free from suffering. May I learn and practice the “tender gravity of kindness.”


Judgment

January 1, 2008

Positive judgment hurts less acutely than criticism, but it is judgment all the same and we are harmed by it in far more subtle ways. To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary.  ~Rachel Naomi Remen, from Kitchen Table Wisdom 

The only way to escape the personal corruption of praise is to go on working.  ~Einstein

Remen begins her essay on this topic by asserting that “the life in us is diminished by judgment far more frequently than disease. Our own self-judgment or the judgment of other people can stifle our life force, its spontaneity and natural expression.” Amen! But she goes on to remind us that approval can make us just as uncertain of our true worth as criticism. How have I “performed” for approval, either from others or from myself? From the time I was barely reading and was prompted to recite selections from Cautionary Verses* for company, to my career accomplishments, I have to admit there have been many such times.

As Remen also points out, one of the joys of aging is the recognition that we are whole people, with the full range of human characteristics: “fear and courage, generosity and selfishness, vulnerability and strength.” What we consider our shortcomings sometimes turn out to be strengths, and vice versa. And I love these concluding lines of her chapter: “Things that I have hidden from others for years turn out to be the anchor and enrichment of my middle age. What a blessing it is to outlive your self-judgments and harvest  your failures.”

It seems to me there is little else to be said about the absolutely perfect antidote Einstein supplies. How has judgment affected your life? What have you learned from your pursuit of approval?

*Cautionary Verses, by Hilaire Belloc, is a collection of droll, satirical moralisms with titles such as “Matilda, who told lies and was burned to death” and “Jim, who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion.” These are two I can still recite, along with “Henry King, who chewed bits of string and was early cut off in dreadful agonies.” One of my favorite stories about Belloc is his chosen epitaph: “When I am dead, I hope it may be said: His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”