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.


Happiness and Belonging

August 10, 2009

Yahoola Valley 2
Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything. ~Albert Einstein

Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. ~Gary Snyder

It is becoming clearer to me that happiness is a subtractive, rather than an additive, process. What I mean by that is that it is our natural state, but it is layered over with oh-so-much stuff that interferes. Letting go and discarding those things that don’t serve us is our task–not striving to find something we don’t already have. We are an integral part of the universe, of nature; we belong here (because we are here, after all), yet we persist in struggling to feel belonging. At least that’s my theology at the moment.

I am so fortunate to live in a gorgeous place. But when I am unhappy, focused on all that “stuff,” it goes unnoticed. May I recognize that I vibrate with all of nature, and feel that connection in my bones.

Sophia once said to me, “You should feel adored.” We should all feel adored as we bask in our natural homes. We are part of something much greater, but it would be different without us.

I am a thread in the fabric of existence.
No one would miss one tiny thread,
except that it holds the whole thing together.
Who knows the extent of unraveling
once it begins?


Surrender

May 3, 2009

The goal of life is living in agreement with nature. ~Zeno

Here is one take on the idea of “surrender.” As the opposite of giving up one’s true nature or conforming, we can surrender to the truth of who we are and find our right place in the universe. I believe that is what we all long for. It is a theme I return to again and again: Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of Finding Flow; what David Whyte talks about in The Heart Aroused (The Soul at Work); and what Parker Palmer refers to as the integration of soul and role (An Undivided Life).

Surrender in this sense is not giving in, but giving up the illusion of control, letting go of the defenses we have built against our heart’s desires. Those defenses may stem from parental or societal expectations, fear of failure, fear of success, or myriad other things.

If you surrendered to your heart’s desire, what would you be doing? What would your life look like if you were in agreement with your true nature?


Flowing Water

April 6, 2009

There is guidance for each of us and by lowly listening, we shall hear the right word. Certainly there is a right for you that needs no choice on your part. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which flows into your life. Then, without effort, you are impelled to truth and to perfect contentment. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Today I said to Terry that I want to be flowing water. Maybe becoming flowing water is the way to be on one’s true path. (I almost said “the first step on the path”–oh, my ingrained habit of linear thought!)

I see this process of becoming flowing water as acceptance, letting go of resistance, and dwelling–as Thoreau advises–“as near as possible to the channel in which your life flows.”

What does this mean in practical, day-to-day terms? I think it means deep listening, stillness (ironically), and shedding the illusion of control. We have control over very little in this life, and yet we behave as though the world cannot turn without our efforts.

This week, I want to hold an image of flowing water, to be as close as possible to the channel in which my life flows, and to notice how that feels.


What About The Future?

December 21, 2008

The fact is that the future is made of the present. If you take care of the present to the best of your ability, you are doing everything you can to ensure a happy future. When you waste your energy in fear, stress, despair, and worry, you are spoiling both the present and the future. ~Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Art of Power

The right path to our future is the one that evolves naturally and easily from our present. Pushing the rope is counterproductive. This makes perfect sense to me, but it seems to be a lesson I have to be reminded of often, since I have such ingrained habits of fear, stress, despair, and worry!

Taking care of the present is all we can do, though. This moment is the only one we have in which to act. Thay says, “You have the right to plan your future, but you have to let go first and put your anchor down in the present.” OMG, did he say let go?! “We don’t really have to think a whole lot,” he continues. “If we are healthy, light, happy, and fresh, our thinking is creative.”

How are my thoughts about past or future getting in the way of being present? When do I find myself pushing the rope? May I strengthen my mindfulness muscles (and weaken those negative habits) by practicing every day. May I set my anchor in the present moment and trust that if I am taking care of the present, the future will take care of itself.


Already Home

December 14, 2008

Unstiffen your supple body. Unchatter your quiet mind. Unfreeze your fiery heart. ~Celeste West

Sometimes it is hard to remember that we are already home. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do. There is just a letting go of being elsewhere.

[Here I had the lovely poem, “Enough,” by David Whyte.]

Today, I want to remember that I am already home. To open to the life I have refused again and again. To unstiffen my supple body, unchatter my quiet mind, unfreeze my fiery heart.


Not Knowing

December 7, 2008

It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings. ~Wendell Berry

My mind is certainly employed this morning! How do I break through resistance and protective barriers to be in full and intimate relationship with myself, my husband, my friends? I think this may be the real work in which I need to be engaged at the moment. Can I embrace (or at least shake hands with*) the not knowing how to get there?

Sam Keen says, “Hope is rooted in trust in the unknown. Work, wait, and hope. That is enough.” And from Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

It is so tempting to feel comfort in knowing, though! Rousseau reminds us, “We do not lose our way through what we do not know, but through what we falsely think we know.” May I let go of what I think I know, open to imagination, and at least shake hands with not knowing in order to make space for possibility.

*thanks to Whitney for this notion of compromise!


The Great Death

October 25, 2008

We have to face the pain we have been running from. In fact, we need to learn to rest in it and let its searing power transform us. ~Charlotte Joko Beck

Avoidance of pain can take tremendous energy. I don’t know if I am ready or able to rest in it as Beck suggests, but I do believe that letting it in, rather than running from it, is (paradoxically) a way to release energy. I have just read Larry Rosenberg’s Living in the Light of Death: On the Art of Being Truly Alive. The author has spent years practicing and teaching death awareness, and he shares the Buddha’s five contemplations on this topic:
1. I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.
2. I am subject to illness. Illness is unavoidable.
3. I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.
4. I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.
5. I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and live dependent on my actions. Whatever I do, for good or ill, to that will I fall heir.

This last reflection shows us what is in our control, that is our thoughts and intentions. Rosenberg says, “Going along with the strongly conditioned habit of grasping or aversion is its own karma, a mind-state that feels constricted, narrow and cloudy. The choice to observe rather than react, on the other hand, brings more immediate results, a more open, clear, and spacious state of mind.”

Mindfulness again! Being with experience as it is, watching it, rather than judging it. A few years ago I posted this reminder of my intention on my bulletin board: open, curious, grateful.

May I let go of attachments (grasping and aversion) so I can die the great death. Rosenberg says we can do that at any time: “It is what Krishnamurti was pointing toward when he said we must die day to day, moment to moment. It is the death of the ego. Once this death has taken place, there is none other to worry about. There is nothing but the body that is left to die.” I am certain there is restfulness and energy release in this practice. What do you think?


Interbeing

September 21, 2008

In one sheet of paper, we see everything else, the cloud, the forest, the logger. I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am. That is the meaning of the word ‘interbeing.’ We interare. ~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Being Peace

I have just read the book Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach. Before I read this wonderful book, I had a post by this title. I’m sure it was Brach’s book that was referenced by the authors I quoted in that earlier post. All that to say that this idea of radical acceptance is one that echoes for me as something I need to embrace.

Letting go of the idea of control allows us to better see and be receptive to the gifts that come to us. Brach says, “When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.” When I cease to struggle with the life I have, I see the beauty of the hills across the valley, feel the cool air of fall streaming in the window, hear the quiet on this Sunday morning, and know the peace of feeling safe and loved. Only when I can understand the great grace that has fallen on me can I feel true compassion for others. And that understanding is not with the head, but with the heart.

May I understand from the heart that we are all interconnected, worthy of grace, and responsible for each other. May I live my life as though I am no more or less than any other in the universe, and as though every breath I take ripples through all.

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


The Tyranny of Expectations

September 17, 2008

The unexpected will certainly happen, while the anticipated may never come. ~Nisargadatta Maharaj

…you cannot control the result of your actions. As painful as it is to admit, oftentimes you cannot even know if the results are truly positive or negative just because initially they appear to be one or the other. ~Phillip Moffitt, “The Tyranny of Expectations”

The title of Moffitt’s piece from Yoga Journal says it all. We can create a lot of suffering for ourselves with our desire for a particular outcome. Focusing on right effort is the key. Moffitt says, “The Buddha continually warned us not to be attached to any specific outcome, yet he also stressed the importance of making an effort and sacrifices, of living a life of moral discipline…The difference is in what you control. You have the power to choose your level of effort, you can learn from experience how to improve it and how to be balanced in what is skillful and what is not. But you cannot control the result of your actions.”

Part of this art, I think, is accepting and loving what is (including our imperfections in doing so). As Tolle reminds us (see Denial and Surrender), that doesn’t mean accepting the status quo, the whole situation, but rather embracing the present moment as it is. I am reminded today to turn my attention to right effort, to let go of expectations of results, and to rest in the present moment without dwelling on past or future.  

See also Expectations


Simplify! 10 Tips

September 16, 2008

In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Does it seem to you as though everything is getting faster, more frenzied, and less personal? I am convinced that the frenetic pace and complexity of our modern lives detract from its quality. I want to remove unnecessary complications in my life, to single-task with focused attention, and to pace myself on a human time scale, with plenty of time for rest and reflection.

Suggestions for simplifying one’s life pop up everywhere these days. Here are a few of my own ideas. Note that I don’t come anywhere near practicing all of these, but they sound good! Perhaps I’ll adopt one at a time for the next several months.

1. Register at Catalog Choice and “opt out” of all the catalogs you no longer want to receive through the mail. This is something I actually have begun doing. It works like a charm, is good for the environment, and reduces the temptation to buy things you don’t need.

2. For every item you buy and bring into your house, move two items out. I confess I stole this excellent twist on the one-in, one-out idea from Leo over at Zen Habits, where you’ll find a myriad of organizational tips and ways to reduce clutter (as well as some very cool quotations!). Bought a new belt? Discard or donate two old belts or other accessories that you rarely wear.

3. Keep only one calendar for all activities (work, family, and leisure), and write everything in pencil. Make this a calendar you can carry with you at all times. If it will accommodate a to-do list, even better. That’s a good place for your list/log of activities. Keep your current address/telephone directory in your calendar also, and you’ll have it with you when you need it.

4. Buy greeting cards and even gifts ahead of time and keep them on hand, so there is no last-minute rush when you suddenly remember that a friend’s birthday is this week. I love pottery, and when I see something I like, instead of buying it for myself, I buy it to have in reserve when I need a gift for someone. I have the fun of buying it, but I’m not wondering what to do with it later!

5. Use your public library instead of buying the books you want to read. If you have the money and believe that buying the books is simpler (since you don’t have to remember to return them on time), donate them to the library after you’ve read them.

6. Develop a wardrobe of simple basics and invest in a few highlighting accessories to change your look. Gray is a good foundation color, and I don’t think you can go wrong with black and white, either. I read somewhere that Jamie Lee Curtis is wearing only black and white these days. Simple, huh?

7. Cancel your cable or satellite contract. We recently did this, and now use Netflix to get the movies and TV shows we particularly like. Not only are we no longer subjected to annoying commercials, we save a lot of time we used to spend channel surfing dozens of channels with nothing worth watching! Think you’d miss your local weather? Explore the National Weather Service, the Weather Channel, or your local TV channel online.

8. When you get gifts or chachkas you don’t want or need, see how quickly you can pass them on to others. Keep these potential giveaways in a special place and raid your stash as often as you can. People will love to see you coming with their latest “prizes!”

9. Be very, very selective about what you collect and choose to keep. I am getting better all the time at appreciating things without having to own them. How many shells do you really need from your beach trip? I have some shallow shelves above my desk where I keep a few (small) items that are meaningful to me. Otherwise, I try not to collect things (of course I can say this only if we don’t count books and music!).

10. Keep a “tangent journal.” This is an idea I (again, shamelessly) lifted from another of my favorite blogs, Write to Done. But it doesn’t have to apply just to writing. Use it for reminders to yourself, to capture great ideas you hear about, or to record interesting things you’d like to know more about. Or better yet, instead of creating another journal, use that to-do list in your calendar!

How have you simplified your life? What are your techniques for keeping your composure in this whirling dervish of a world?


Pushing the Rope

September 7, 2008

The Sun Never Says
Even
After
All this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
“You owe
Me.”
Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the
Whole sky.
~Hafiz

Dang! I am pushing the rope again.* Making life harder than it has to be. I need to remember that this day, my life, the universe will be what it is. I am not in control, nor am I owed anything. I can radiate love and light only when I am shining from my center, and not by willing myself to do so. On rereading a previous post (The Case Against Will), I am resolved to spend the day “moodling” in dreamy idleness.

Learning is hard! When the same lesson comes around again and again (there’s that spiral again), it must be important, eh? Today I am reminded to cease struggling and to listen for clarity.

*a concept described by Sarah Susanka in The Not So Big Life


Denial and Surrender

August 10, 2008

When you deny emotional pain, everything you do or think as well as your relationships become contaminated with it. You broadcast it, so to speak, as the energy you emanate, and others will pick it up subliminally…You attract and manifest whatever corresponds to your inner state.

Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life…It does not mean that on the outer level you cannot take action and change the situation. In fact, it is not the overall situation that you need to accept when you surrender, but just the tiny segment called the Now.

~Eckhart Tolle

The heartbreakthroughs continue, and they are good and cleansing–the opposite of the denial Tolle speaks of. I am somewhat astonished by the body-centeredness of emotion. As someone who has no doubt relied too heavily on intellectual solutions in the past, I am learning that there is no “figuring out” one’s emotional response, there is only being with it, feeling it.

For so long, my difficulty with surrender had to do with thinking of it as “giving up” while wanting to change things for the better. But Tolle reconciles these ideas in his quote above: Acceptance of the moment, presence in the Now, does not require being satisfied with the overall situation. In fact Tolle says, “…to surrender is the most important thing you can do to bring about positive change. Any action you take is secondary. No truly positive action can arise out of an unsurrendered state of consciousness.”

What do you feel or think?


No Regrets

July 20, 2008

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it is good only for wallowing in. ~Katherine Mansfield

Amen, Ms. Mansfield! I wish I had a nickel for every time I have wallowed in regret. It is tempting to think one’s sins or shortcomings are somehow more numerous or egregious than others’, that we are special in some way. Some of mine are sins of omission, some commission, but in the end, we all have them. While confession may be good for the soul, there are some I still can’t confess to even my closest friends, and I think the better route is to forgive myself and let go of the past, to stop wasting energy on embarrassment and regret.

After all, it was I who in the spring of 2004 wrote the lines, “I unfold my failures like old clothes/hug them to me, then let go,/watch them sail away on the wind.” I find that writing is so often prophetic, that it gets at truths long before I can understand them fully. Which is one reason this blog is so important to me: Even if I am not living my professions here, they are pointing in the direction I want to go, helping establish and explore my intentions. For example, way back in a January post I wrote, “More and more of being here now, and less and less of dwelling on past mistakes or future possibilities, is liberating and exhilirating.” Life is a spiral.

Have you found freedom from regret? What helps you to forgive yourself for your transgressions?


Showing Up

July 18, 2008

When we show up for our life, we are actively participating in being a happy person, achieving our goals, and generally living the life our soul really wants. ~from the Daily OM

Sometimes it’s all about showing up…for others, for ourselves. I am about to show up in my own life for some difficult work, that “heartbreakthrough,” I think, that I mentioned here. I am acknowledging and “containerizing” my sadness, rather than pushing it down (as has been my habit), in order to feel and deal with it at times when I can. So Iris’s “No Time To Cry” will become “time to cry later” for me. I’m certain that I’ll do this work imperfectly (as we all do everything, after all), but it does feel good to finally understand on a gut level that it’s what I need.

That may be another post entirely–the lifelong attempt I’ve made to understand everything intellectually, even those things we can’t figure out that way, like emotion. The only way out is through. Grief cannot be rationalized away. So I will show up when I can and let it be.

What do you think about feeling? Feel about thinking? How do you show up for life?


Life is Now

May 9, 2008

Forget about your life situation for a while and pay attention to your life.  ~Eckhart Tolle

I am rereading The Power of Now. I realized this time that while I agree with almost everything Tolle says, I am reluctant to experience it. His story of losing everything on the physical plane (relationships, home, job, socially defined identity) terrifies me, even though he reports being in a state of indescribable bliss at the time. How many of us can afford to go there, and would eventually come out on the other side as a famous spiritual teacher?

This resistance is identification with my mind, Tolle might say, which comes between me and myself, between me and others, between me and nature, between me and God. I can’t use thinking to experience Being. Tolle suggests focusing attention on the inner energy field of the body, that is, feeling the body from within. That, he says, puts us in touch with our emotions, which is a good place to start.

May I put aside past and future when they are not useful in the present moment. May I feel the body from within, be in touch with my emotions, and let go of my mind-identification. May I focus more on my life and not my life situation, which is illusory and exists in time, whereas my life is now and real. May I trust that the universe will hold me up as I find my true path.


Submission

April 29, 2008

Better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.  ~Cyril Connolly

It has been many years since I have sent off a poem, but I have just submitted three poems to Kennesaw State University’s 2008 Poetry of the Golden Generation, a juried competition for southern poets 50 years of age and older. I hope this is an indication that I am paying more attention to the poet part of myself, as I believe it is the closest to my authentic nature, egolessness, the part of me that flows with all that is. Here are the poems:

Easter

The dogwood shines in the early light,
practiced from a night of bright moon.
The yellow-breasted chat is back,
repeating its repertoire.
To the east a pale orange glow
lies across the hills like a promise.

While some make last-minute trips for eggs,
you will think of “the old man,” twenty-six,
flying over Poland that Easter, 1944,
the day that twisted his future into a new shape,
that made him the father you knew:
wounded, sober, uncomplaining.

He is falling, unconscious, thousands of feet
to a Danish beach,
ribs and ankle broken, and waking
to the mercy of strangers,
the offer of boxed chocolates
to make up for his missing arm.

Somehow he rises through all that dark
to find the stone rolled away,
an ordinary life awaiting.
Patient and peaceful, he abides
until his soul is freed, a calling shrike,
circling in the blue sky.

White Pine Cabin

The wind is never far away
from this mountain cabin.
A breeze is sometimes just around the bend
even when the pines are stone-still.
In these days, a hammock hung
between before and after,
I sing to the mountain laurel
growing in thickets on the knoll.
I gather pine cones, memories,
resolutions for the life ahead.
I unfold my failures like old clothes,
Hug them to me, then let go,
watch them sail away on the wind.

Redbud

Spring afternoons at home,
I like to sit in the glider on the deck,
drink a beer under the wide blue sky
and watch the dogwood open,
my heart drunk with love
for the way you can’t wait
to show me the buzzing redbud
shimmering with bees and skippers.

You lead me to the top of the hill.
The black cat slinks nearby,
feigning interest in the moving grass.
Amazed, I suddenly want to contain that tree,
to feel the hum in every blossom
of my being, every pore electric,
to be lifted over the field
by thousands of tiny wings
beating to the rhythm of my heart.


Decisions

April 16, 2008

Our most important decisions are discovered, not made. We can make the unimportant ones, but the major ones require us to wait with the discovery. ~Anne Wilson Schaef

Patience has never been one of my virtues, so the idea of “waiting with” anything holds little appeal! However, I believe this with all my heart–that our paths are revealed to us, sometimes when we least expect it. And I know that forcing things only causes us stress and suffering.

I want to walk lightly through my life, neither pushing the rope nor dragging baggage. I want to step mindfully, with awareness that I am part of all that is, that there is no me as my ego defines it, but perhaps a reflection of something greater. (See Sarah Susanka’s blog entry, “Who’s That in the Mirror?” on the Not So Big Life site.) I suppose it can be argued that I am an integral part of the universe (or else I wouldn’t be here). But does any of that really matter? What I am or why I am?

May I step lightly on my right path as it is revealed to me.


Being Flow

April 11, 2008

You write from what you know, but you write in what you don’t know.  ~Grace Paley

When the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself.  ~William Baziotes

Writing (or any creative work) is discovery. That is why it is so frightening, so exhilirating, so compelling. This blog is my exercise in writing in what I don’t know. When the blog entry is finished, the subject reveals itself. I merely try to follow my mind and heart where they lead–first in choosing a quotation, then in my response to it.

This is good practice, I believe, for surrendering to life, for letting myself “be carried” by the universe, for loving what is. Perhaps writing will save my soul. I keep returning to Ray Bradbury’s advice from Zen in the Art of Writing: “WORK. RELAX. DON’T THINK.” There is so much wisdom in that simple exhortation. I am not sure how it could be more perfect.

William Stafford said, “Intention endangers creation.” May I approach my work with relaxation and a spirit of inquiry. May I surrender to the world with faith that I will be carried. May I set aside intention, will, and the illusion of control in order to be in the flow–no!–to be the flow–of all creation.


Living in Process

April 1, 2008

Living in process is being open to insight and encounter. Creativity is becoming intensely absorbed in the process and giving it form.  ~Susan Smith

In creative endeavors, I have tried to remember that process is important, usually (always?) more important than product. But I don’t know that I’ve applied this principal consciously to living itself. At least this seems to me a new way of thinking about familiar ideas. What does it look like to live in process? Smith gives us some definition: being open to insight and encounter.

Cultivating openness seems a worthy goal. And I love the fact that the quote addresses openness both to intuition (self) and in relationship (other). If we think beyond subject-object dualism, this is one and the same, I suppose. An open heart is an open heart. And I long for a truly open heart.

It is fear that prevents the heart from opening fully to experience. Creative moments are so ecstatic because we flow, for a moment, in the stream of process, without fear. Because we open our hearts to the experience, surrendering the illusion of control. In that place, fear has no substance, no power.

When are you most open to insight and encounter? How can we expand those opportunities for living in process?


Trust

March 22, 2008

The key is to get to know people and trust them to be who they are. Instead, we trust people to be who we want them to be, and when they’re not, we cry.  ~from Thinkexist.com (unattributed)

Because I learned not to trust at an early age, perhaps I have been too eager to trust people in my adulthood, because I have often made the mistake of trusting people before I really know them. Really getting to know someone requires time, shared experience, patience, full awareness in their presence. In some cases, my instincts were dead on, and I developed a satisfying relationship in spite of my tendency to trust too soon. At other times, when someone turned out to be other than who I wanted them to be, I cried.

The foundation for those satisfying relationships is, of course, knowing and trusting one’s self. Getting to know ourselves (which also requires time, patience and full awareness) and trusting our lives to unfold as they should is a lifelong process, in my view. My friend Gloria once said, “Life can be quite radically trusted.” At the time, I had no idea what she meant. Now I want to rest in the lap of the universe, trust that it will hold me, and experience myself and others with crystal clarity. Although I’ve resisted it for years, the time has come for a mindfulness meditation practice.

May I learn the discipline of practice, the mindfulness to be fully present with myself and others, and the discernment to know when and whom to trust.


Questions

March 11, 2008

It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.  ~James Thurber

It’s not the answer that enlightens, but the question.  ~Eugene Ionesco

There are surely many more quotations on this theme! Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet, advises, “…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

And the point is, to live everything. Cease struggling against what is, worrying about what might be, regretting what has been. That is my intention, difficult as it sometimes is in practice. These quotes remind me, though, that engagement with the questions themselves gives my mind something to do. Clarifying, articulating, and posing those questions to myself might be the practice.

What do you think?


Flow

March 8, 2008

Life is a series of natural spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them–that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ~Lao Tzu

Flow with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate. ~Chuang Tzu

Boy, do I need these quotations this morning! I am feeling battered by my situation, and it is so tempting to sink into bitterness or depression. I have just reread The Not So Big Life, and although I intellectually understand the concept of not “pushing the rope,” I find myself doing it over and over.

My whole orientation as a manager is to work toward positive results, so how do I let go of the results, “let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like”? I think one reason I long for retirement is to escape this conflict in me, but I do understand that is not the right reason to retire.

May I center myself by just sitting with things today, letting my mind be free. May I learn to let go of resistance, making way for acceptance of whatever I am doing.


Grace

February 16, 2008

The winds of grace are blowing all the time; you have only to raise your sail.  ~Sri Ramakrishna

I have always loved this quote, pointing as it does to the sea we swim in, but of which we are usually oblivious. After listening to The Power of Now, I am interpreting “raising one’s sail” as being present–without resistance–in order to experience unity with all that is, enlightenment, or “the winds of grace.” Tolle says that surrender, acceptance of what is, doesn’t mean we have to give up doing, but gives us clarity about what needs to be done, and I have found this to be true.

It is so refreshing to hear that direct perception, (consciousness, feeling) is as critical as thinking in our mind-dominated Western world. I’m the first to disagree with (uh-oh, mind identification!) those who would dismiss reason in the affairs of the world, but I do know that my mind will not get me to a state of grace, enlightenment, unity. Judging, thinking that we are separate from all that is (ego-identification) is destructive for us and for our planet. Tolle cautions that once we take a position, we have identified with an impermanent form, have created a resistance to what is that blocks our natural flow of energy.

So raising one’s sail to the winds of grace occurs through experiencing the now with full consciousness, Eckhart might say. Have you had such moments of spiritual connectedness? 


Flying

January 26, 2008

Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.  ~Toni Morrison

Birds and flying figured in all the poems I wrote for several years. I used to dream about plane crashes regularly. And I carried excess weight in my body, even though I am not a naturally heavy person. Perhaps these things are related.

Now I feel lighter, literally and figuratively. What are the things I have let go? The over-reliance on the opinions of others; unnecessary striving when waiting would do; and struggling to live each day without the understanding that the day will be what it is, with or without that struggling.

What is the shit that weighs you down? What could you jettison that would allow you to fly?


Life as Art

December 16, 2007

The Balinese say, “We have no art. Everything we do is art.”

What if we were to live as though everything we do is art? How would life change? For me, I suppose it would require mindfulness, attention to the present moment, a different relationship with time. I can really relate to Susanka’s assertion that she is “identified with being busy all the time.”  But that identification is unnecessary, as life will move at its own pace regardless of any attachment or resistance on our parts.

Maybe life as art is simply this: tuning in to the natural flow of life as it is, regardless of one’s situation. Being fully present in the unfolding, able to respond from the heart. Noticing life with curiosity and engagement rather than an object of our will.


Getting Out of the Way

December 3, 2007

…by simply listening to and recording your inner longings…they will begin to manifest in your life without your having to do anything else…by carefully listening to our hearts we seed our waking dream with those intentions. If we try to force our longings into being however, the door to their realization remains firmly shut…We have to get out of the way in order for the things we long for to start showing up, and when they do, they almost never look quite the way we had imagined.  ~Sarah Susanka’s blog at http://www.notsobiglife.com/

Well, this seems to be a theme this week–listening to the inner voice. I have read many accounts of witness to this phenomenon, that clutching the illusion of control inhibits finding that center. The concept of surrender has for so long been anathema to me, carrying a connotation of helplessly giving oneself over to the power of another. I spent my childhood practicing self-denial and self-betrayal (surrender) to survive, and my young adulthood rebelling against virtually everyone and everything that would try to control me. In the end resistance is no better than surrender, and I must learn to get out of my own way, to relax into all that is (what some call nature, God, the universe, a higher power). To wash myself of myself, as Rumi suggests, to be melting snow.

What is the middle way? Listening to the inner wisdom, being fully present in order to respond authentically from the heart, moving toward the heart’s desire but understanding that there is no controlling one’s life; there is only finding the path with that next step. How frightening that is!  But as Susanka says, “In fact we’ve never been in charge. We only thought we were.”


INFJ, Again

November 6, 2007

This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
~William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 1, Sc. 3

An assignment in the leadership institute I am in this week was to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — in my case, for the third, fourth, maybe fifth time.  Each time the result of my score has been INFJ–Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging–the rarest combination. 

There were a couple of changes this time, however. Always before I have had close scores on the Introverted-Extroverted dichotomy; this time I showed a clear preference for Introversion.  Before I have shown a clear preference for Judging over Perceiving; this time my scores were much closer. What does that mean? I’m in a job that requires less extroverted behavior than my previous one, and I do feel myself getting more solitary as I age. I hope the move toward Perceiving indicates a greater openness to change and less need for control. 

I want to think and write about surrender soon. I have always resisted, struggled with, protested any attempt to control my behavior, including self-control in many cases.  This is no doubt a result of being overly controlled in my youth. But I am beginning to realize the foolishness of that stance and recognize the many ways it has prevented my growth. Can you give up control? Some say “let go and let God.” Creatives talk about ceasing to think about or sleeping on a problem and “receiving” a solution. I want to learn surrender.


Overlooking Yahoola Valley

October 13, 2007

i wake to a perfect patience of mountains.  ~e. e. cummings

yahoola-valley-2.jpg

Sound travels up, my husband says.
I hear the whinny of a horse I cannot see.
A wisp of fog lingers behind Chestnut Knob,
and the aluminum chair warms
to the underside of my arm.

They’ve taken a calf away.
The mother mourns,
as turkey vultures, leaving their roost,
begin slow circles, their shadows
kaleidoscoping all around me.

What is morning but another chance
to listen for echoes, to note
what keeps coming back to me:
that deep loss, that fear of letting go,
of letting this moment be
the simple thing it is?


Merging

October 3, 2007

If you forget yourself, you become the universe.  ~Hakuin

Crabbing with My Grandmother (in the marshes of Glynn)

With rattling traps, chicken necks, and string
We descend the ramp to the floating dock
Aground now, on the bank of heavy, black mud.
Scrambling fiddlers brandish white claws.
A crane rises from the bend.
Something splashes at the edge of low tide.

Only the sun can find us,
So my grandmother ties a straw hat
Under her wrinkled chin
And I wear a skimpy bathing suit
And curse the oyster bed
For cutting my feet when I swim.

My grandmother laughs and forgets herself.


Acceptance

October 1, 2007

There are only two possible responses to every challenge–balanced acceptance or embittered resistance. Acceptance is freedom. Resistance is suffering.  ~Sylvia Boorstein, in Pay Attention, for Goodness’ Sake

I’m not sure I agree with any statement limiting possible responses to two.  However, the point is a good one: We can struggle or we can go with the flow. And in my experience, struggling usually makes things worse. I have wasted a lot of energy resisting. I don’t think this means we can’t work to make the world a better place; I just think that we must wholeheartedly accept what is and start there.

Boorstein’s choice of adjective is interesting–not just (blind) acceptance, but balanced acceptance. Both feet on the ground, a steady equanimity, makes this complete acceptance possible. And vice versa!


Let It Be

September 25, 2007

Let life happen to you.  Believe me: life is in the right, always.  ~Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

My friend Gloria (now in her family cemetery) said to me once, “Life can be quite radically trusted.”  At the time, I was intrigued by that but really had no idea what she meant.  Lately, I have been letting go of my (illusion of) control of things, and what a relief that is!  Resting in the net of the world that supports me, trusting life if not radically, at least more than ever before. It will unfold as it does anyway–and the trick seems to be just being present for the unfolding.

Incidentally, I am so grateful for the Rilke book–it is one I have to read every couple of years.  On every reading, I “hear” something new or am reminded of something I am ready to absorb in a new way.