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.
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?
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.
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.”
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?
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?
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!