Already Happy

February 26, 2014

True happiness has no cause. It is the natural state of our being, when unobstructed.  ~Ezra Bayda, from Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts)

“Let it be,” say the Beatles. How hard that is! We think that doing this or buying that or being with this person or achieving that will move us closer to happiness. But Bayda says happiness is the natural state of our being! It’s great good news that we already have it, if we can just clear the obstructions.

One of the obstructions for me is mindlessness, distraction, forgetting to stop and notice the world. Isn’t it easy to get caught in a web of striving? Today I am committing to write a haiku a day to help me remember to take a moment to just be in the world, to notice things outside my own head, and to “let it be.” Satya Robin would call this piece of mindful writing a “small stone.”

So, no matter how trite this may be, here’s the first:

Clouds blanket the sky
Trees are buffeted by wind
Yet daffodils bloom

What are your obstructions to happiness? What will you do to clear them?


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?


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!


Becoming Nobody

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.


Make It a Good Day

August 19, 2010

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action.  ~Eckhart Tolle

Everyday, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings.  ~His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

While we have almost no control over external events and conditions, our happiness is largely within our control. “Hah!” you say. And I have said the same. But I do believe that dropping our ego identification as much as possible, waking gratefully, and paying attention to the present moment can radically alter our days.  

On good days, I work, I play creatively, and I interact mindfully with others. Mostly, on those days, I can act to make it a good day. I’ve learned that if I pay attention to the nourishing things, instead of despairing over the time-wasters and bad habits, the good things increase.  While I don’t buy any of that Secret stuff about the laws of attraction, it’s just common sense that where we put our attention profoundly affects our lives. 

Tolle makes it sound simple, but the connection between intention and action can sometimes be tenuous for me. I try to remember what Annie Dillard said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

May we begin each day in gratitude and aspire to act out of present-moment awareness, feeling the flow of life, making it a good day.


Monday Morning Motivator

June 7, 2010

YOU’RE REALLY, REALLY GOOD, YA KNOW IT?
Actually, you don’t know it. Not really. The fact is we’re so much better, so much stronger, so much more talented – and necessary to the world – than we know. We’re so obsessed with our shortcomings, the times we missed the mark, the time someone slapped a “C” on what we thought was our best work – that we doubt ourselves and play small. So what’s the cure? Actually, it’s pretty simple: Keep a running list of the good stuff – the times you knocked it out of the park, the times you made the sale, got the vote, or just got back up after you fell down. Forget the other stuff. Hey, remember what the MGM casting director wrote about Fred Astaire? “Can’t sing; dances a little.” Thank God he didn’t stop doing either. So don’t you. Not this week; not any week.

~Gail Blanke

I first encountered Gail Blanke when I read her wonderful book, In My Wildest Dreams, which she followed up with Between Trapezes. (Come to think of it, I probably need to reread that one, since I am in an in-between space in my life at the moment!) Her most recent is Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. It has an accompanying Web site, where you, too, can subscribe to her “Monday Morning Motivator.”

I really like getting this short, inspirational message every Monday. It reminds me to be grateful, to love myself so that I can love others, and to live life mindfully. Today’s MMM validated a practice I’ve had for a while now, and that I frivolously call my “smiley book.” Each day (as I remember to do it), I make a list of the good things I have done for myself or others: yoga, mindful eating, connections with others, meditation, appreciating nature, and so on. A focus on these positive things really seems to reinforce the behavior.

How do you motivate yourself to be the best you can be?


Dreamy Idleness

May 26, 2010

Good ideas must come welling up into you. Wait for them. They come from the dreamy idleness of children. ~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

This, from the woman who gave us the term “moodling.” See references here and here. Ah, dreamy idleness! I am winding down May’s work and trying to prepare myself for a June of moodling before I go back to work in July. I suspect ideas (maybe good ones, maybe poems) will come as Ueland suggests. But I am resolved to rest in the no-expectations mind state, to be merely receptive.

I feel privileged and grateful to have this space and time; it seems luxurious beyond measure. To breathe and pay attention to the breath. To walk and notice walking. To bask in sunshine and feel breezes and be mindful of my body in yoga. To slow down, for goodness’ sake!

What happens to you in dreamy idleness?


Hello Again!

May 3, 2010

Do you know that disease and death must needs overtake us, no matter what we are doing? What do you wish to be doing when it overtakes you? If you have anything better to be doing when you are so overtaken, get to work on that. ~Epictetus

I have missed writing. In the flurry of changing jobs, preparing for retirement, completing a demanding class, and taking a couple of short trips, I forgot what I want to be doing when I am overtaken. Luckily, Teresa has reminded me: It is writing! Or perhaps writing is the means to the end: living mindfully, being present for life.

So, today, I am grateful for readers. (I have missed you!) I am grateful for writers, especially the Paperwhite Writers and the Stonepile Writers. I am happy to be back at the keyboard.

Epictetus calls us to our important work on earth. What is it that you want to be doing?


Sitting Apart

April 15, 2010

What I want is to leap out of this personality
And then to sit apart from that leaping—
I’ve lived too long where I can be reached.

~Rumi

These lines seem appropriate for this time in my life. While I haven’t yet sat where I can’t be reached, I know what it is like to leap (however briefly) out of this personality. Today I stood before the hollies at the side of the house that are loud with the extraordinary hum of bees. More bumblebees and fewer honeybees this year, I notice.

Life is full of endings and beginnings at the moment. There is no place very solid to stand. So I will ground myself in yoga, notice what I can as it passes by, and stay as unattached as possible.

Gabrielle Rico said, “The end of one turn of the spiral becomes the beginning of another…we are designed for possibility.” Namaste.


Hurry

April 9, 2010

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu

How many of us, when asked how we are doing, use the word “busy” in our response? I’ve certainly been guilty. It is as if we are of little substance if we cannot claim to be rushing through our lives. For years and years, I have hurried. Now I think hurrying is often a substitute for being present. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “He who hurries cannot walk with dignity.”

What will we see differently if we slow down? Leo Babauta at Zen Habits advocates having only three items on your to-do list in any given day. I think that is a wonderful suggestion! If you do those three things, you will be successful; if you happen to do more than that, you will feel incredibly productive.

I challenge us all today to cease hurrying. Stop. Listen to yourself. Be in the world around you, fully present for the people you encounter. Then see which three things rise to the top of your priority list. Let me know how it goes.


Self-Compassion

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!


Doing Nothing

February 28, 2010

How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards. ~Spanish proverb

In one month, I will go from full-time to half-time work, and then to retirement status to do consulting only. Yet I have found myself approaching this with some degree of anxiety, already feeling behind! I haven’t completely mastered my new QuickBooks program, haven’t printed business cards, haven’t learned enough about social network marketing. For years, I have felt a need for a sustained period of rest. And here’s my opportunity, but I’m not sure I know how to do it!

I once attended a week-long retreat called “The Lost Art of Doing Nothing.” License to loaf. Perhaps I can think of my upcoming retirement in the same way. If consulting jobs come along in the first year, that’ll just give me something to keep the boredom at bay. A mental shift is required, I think. As always, more mindfulness and less projection about the future will be helpful.

After all, Merton says committing oneself to too much is a form of violence. What do you think?


No Violence

February 14, 2010

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. ~Thomas Merton

Retirement is on the near horizon for me. Yet last week I found myself anxious and with too many demands. True, I am taking a post-graduate class and starting a consulting business, but I lost sight of the fact that I can build the business at my own pace. I don’t have to write a proposal for the first interesting RFP that comes across my path! I said recently, “If only I had as much time and energy as I do enthusiasm.” I want to help everyone in everything, and it is a form of violence, as Merton asserts.

He also wrote, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…[and that is] activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence.” It is mindfulness I need…yoga, meditation, or simply sitting still and noticing the gently swaying branches of the maple tree, the silently melting snow, the clouds drifting across the mountaintops, the quiet of the house in morning.

Today, I will cease doing violence to my psyche. I will set aside rush and pressure. I will love myself as well as my lover on this Valentine’s Day!

How do you manage many demands without succumbing to violence?


Seeing, Doing

January 30, 2010

What you will be is what you do. ~Buddha

Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing? ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today I will do yoga, engage with my husband and my life, enjoy the icy wonderland outside my window, rest, read, and write. I have resolved (again) to be more mindfully present for the unfolding of my days, to practice healthy eating and exercise, to remember that creative efforts sustain and feed me.

When I stop long enough to see clearly, I know what is right for me to do. Avoidance behaviors, comforting time-killers (for me, playing computer games, eating sweets, and other non-nutritive activities) are the way we keep from seeing clearly. After all, if we can hide what is needed from our conscious mind, we feel free from responsibility. I think this is true in both personal and social action. How can I change the world if my own house is not in order?


Movement

January 5, 2010

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is…more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life and in change there is power. ~Alan Cohen

I have given notice at work, and will be leaving full-time employment at the end of March. I will work a couple of part-time months at a library system, then retire. This will give me more time to build and market my new consulting business, as well as attend to soul time.

If you’re interested in the growth and development of libraries and nonprofits, you can check out my Web site here and my business blog here. Go ahead–critique and comment!

During this period I will be vigilant about keeping my new business activity separate from salaried work time. Mindfulness will be especially important for me in the upcoming months, so that I am fully present in whichever sphere I am working. But I am starting to feel the energy and power of movement!

Will 2010 mean change in your life? What adventures await you?


Home Ground

December 13, 2009

In dwelling, live close to the ground. ~Tao Te Ching

In the end, the final refuge is sustained practice. ~Dogen Zenji

Perhaps I am learning how to practice at long last. I spent all of last week traveling to, sitting in, and traveling home from meetings. But unlike on most of my business trips, this time I ate well and I exercised. 🙂 Instead of being exhausted and depleted when I got home, I was energetic and relaxed.

What made the difference? I believe it was a combination of greater self-awareness and mindfulness, the ability to stay present in my experience moment to moment. More and more, I feel at home with myself, regardless of where I am, who I am with, what I am doing. More and more, I live close to the ground of my being.

How about you?


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.


Here I Am

November 8, 2009

You always have to be working on something because you have to trust your unconscious life, to be ready to deal with a play [poem] when it says, ‘Here I am.’ ~John Guare

This afternoon I will read, along with other Stonepile Writers Group members, at the Dahlonega Literary Festival. It would be lovely to have a new poem to read, but my last one was written several months ago. Today’s quote is a reminder to myself to get busy working on something. Nothing has said “Here I am” in some time, and I believe that is because I have not sat still enough.

Today I renew my intention to build in time for reception and gestation of images, the attunement to the senses, the mindfulness that often eludes me, crowded out by busyness. I think I will have to schedule this time, as paradoxical as that sounds, to put it on my calendar as sacred time. I am on vacation this week, so it seems like the ideal time to practice this intention.

How do you get yourself to a place where you can manifest your talents, where you are in “flow,” ready to receive that which calls to you, “Here I am?”


The Myth of Multitasking

October 25, 2009

To do two things at once is to do neither. ~Publilius Syrus

As I read Patti Digh’s Life is a Verb, try syncing my ipod once again (still can’t figure out what’s wrong with it), and check my Email, I run across today’s quote (p. 186 in Digh’s book) and am reminded that I often say that multitasking is a myth. Splitting our attention among tasks likely means that we are not fully present for any of them. But even if we are, it means that our energy and time leaks away during the shifts in our attention.

Edward Hallowell, in his book, Crazy Busy, says, “It is fine to believe that multitasking is a skill necessary in the modern world, but to believe it is an equivalent substitute for single-minded focus on one task is incorrect. It may be convenient or necessary to multitask…however, you will not be doing any of these tasks as effectively as you would if you were doing them one at a time.” Hah–now I have Crazy Busy perched on top of Life is A Verb, and I am blogging in addition to the rest…how easy it is to practice this way of living!

I am putting down Crazy Busy. I am unplugging my ipod to troubleshoot another day. I am closing out my blog entry. Now, I will sit back in my reading chair and finish Life is a Verb like the good unitasker I aspire to be.


Soul Time

October 24, 2009

maple leaves
This is one of the best daily meditations. Sit and allow action directives to come from the Greater Intelligence and bring them into your own lives. To maintain your own inner health, you need to become stewards of your own time.

While you have to work and earn a living and need to interact with the engine that drives commodity time, don’t take up your residence in that pressure tank.

Your home and soul time is organic, regulated by heartbeat, breath, sun, moon, the seasons, and the tides.~Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, “Take This to Heart”(Graduation Address at the Naropa University, May 8, 2004), in Living the Questions: Essays Inspired by the Work and Life of Parker J. Palmer (Sam M. Intrator, ed.)

How many of us are even aware of our heartbeats, our breath, the sun, moon, seasons and tides? This morning I am feasting my eyes on the brilliant gold-orange maple outside my window, struck by sun rays, aflame. Sometimes these things just rise up and demand our attention. But I want to notice even the subtle shifts. To learn to be a steward of soul time. How about you?


Mindful Management

September 25, 2009

tightrope

In October, I will be giving a one-hour presentation at the state library association conference on “Mindful Management.” I selected this topic because I wanted to learn what had been written about mindfulness as it pertains to management and leadership in organizations. I selected it because I want to practice more mindful management. And we all know that the best way to learn something is to have to teach it!

Here are some of the quotes and ideas I plan to share in this workshop:

Mindfulness is the process of deliberately paying attention to the present moment in a non-jundgmental way. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Michael Carroll, in his book, Awake at Work, encourages us to see things as they are, not as we would like them to be, to welcome whatever our work presents to us.

According to psychologist Ellen Langer, mindfulness is a habitual state of mind in which old schemes are continually reexamined and redefined…Mindfulness includes openness to multiple points of view, and a focus on process rather than outcome. ~Charles R. Schwenk
Dropping our identification with self, we can become open to others’ ways of seeing things.

Before you speak, it’s a good idea to ask yourself these questions: (1) is it true? (2) is it kind? (3) is it necessary? Will it improve the silence?

Power stress means subordinating everything to your own wants and needs. Compassion involves understanding others and acting to address their needs…For the leader feeling the effects of power stress, the place to start is by courageously asking a few basic questions: What am I doing here? What am I out to accomplish? Is this what I want in life? Am I being true to myself? Am I happy? ~Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

STOP:
S top what you are doing.
T ake a conscious breath.
O bserve your bodily sensations.
P roceed with whatever you were doing.

Through purposeful, conscious direction of our attention, we are able to see things that might normally pass right by us, giving us access to deeper insight, wisdom and choices. ~Boyatzis and McKee

By working on ourselves, by coming to know ourselves better, and then by sharing our growing strength with others, we create a base of support that helps to make our lives, and the world, a better place to be. ~Tarthang Tulku

Have you ever had a manager you would consider to be mindful? What are your thoughts on mindful management?


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?


Meditation

August 9, 2009

036
Prayer is the voice of longing; it reaches outwards and inwards to unearth our ancient belonging. ~John O’Donohue

I can’t say that I’ve done what most people call prayer in decades. But I actually showed up on my cushion today. (Hooray!) Meditating reminded me of the beautiful string of black and white meditation beads that my friend Elaine made and gave to me a few years ago. I adapted a sort of litany to use with them, and I suppose this qualifies as prayer, really.

Centering (large center bead)
Breathe in and out several times, quieting body and mind

Warm-up (four small beads)
Let me open my mind and heart
To the place of quiet,
To the silent prayer for the healing of pain,
And the soft, gentle coming of love.

Naming (first medium bead)
Count the miracles and blessings in your life.

Breath (five small beads)
Breathing in,
I calm body and mind.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is the only moment.

Listening (second medium bead)
Feeling what comes
Self-appraisal
Places that call for reconciliation and atonement

Breath (five small beads)

Letting Go (third medium bead)
Empty the mind

Breath (five small beads)

Loving (fourth medium bead)
Lift up those in pain or need

Cool-down (four small beads)
May the courage of the early morning’s dawning,
And the strength of the eternal hills,
And the peace of the evening’s ending,
And the love of god, be in my heart.


Moodling Day

August 2, 2009

still water

Who is it that can make muddy water clear? No one. But left to stand, it will gradually clear of itself. ~Lao Tzu

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

I was wrong about being through with this blog! It had begun to feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure, but perhaps I just needed a break. (And Karen, it didn’t hurt that on Friday you said you missed it–made me realize I missed it too!) Today I was drawn to it, and after reading a while, am ready to write again.

There is soft rain here, much-needed rain, and the trees are rejoicing. Which reminds me of the hymn we used to sing at the UU church that takes its text from Isaiah 55:12–“For you shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”

I am having a pleasant morning moodling (for a definition, see this entry). I think it is necessary for creative work. I am going to think of Sunday as Moodling Day.

Today, I want to be in the moment, engaging in process rather than fretting about product, listening to my heart instead of my head, following my body’s rhythms, slowing down to notice details. Listening to that gentle rainfall, breathing, smiling, being part of the miracle.

How do you set aside or ensure time for moodling?


From the Archives: June

May 29, 2009

lightning
I’m not afraid of storms for I’m learning how to sail my ship. ~Louisa May Alcott

As I review last June’s posts, I am struck by how few there are (five) compared to other months. And this month, only four. Hmmm, maybe this is the “off-season” for blogging for me! I do want to spend more time outside for sure. But here are three of my teachers from last year.

The Case Against Will helps me remember that only what I want to do, I will do. No “should-ing” will help me get there.

Graces enumerates a few of my abundant blessings, from The Shambhala Sun to music.

Attention! is another of my frequent reminders to myself not to squander my life away, but to be fully present for its unfolding.

What have you learned lately?


In Praise of Slowness

May 4, 2009

There is more to life than increasing its speed. ~Gandhi

For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down. ~Lily Tomlin

Carl Honoré gives us a wonderful introduction to the Slow movement with his book, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed. For a long time, I have included on my blogroll a weblink for Slow Down Now, the delightful “official” website of The International Institute of Not Doing Much. Honoré has produced a more serious work on this topic, described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as “part reportage, part manifesto…an engaging, well-written journey into the various ways that people around the globe have attempted to live more patiently.”

Honoré is not against speed on principle, pointing out that “speed has helped us to remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating,” using the examples of the Internet and jet travel. He just cautions us against “accelerating things that should not be accelerated.” He is against overwork, sleep deprivation, children coming home to empty houses, and our society’s loss of the art of doing nothing. We must use speed and slowness in tandem to avoid the crazymaking do-everything-faster mindset. (The author’s wake-up call was when he found himself elated to discover “One-Minute Bedtime Stories” to read to his two-year-old son.)

In one of the bleaker passages he writes, “Time-sickness can also be a symptom of a deeper, existential malaise. In the final stages before burnout, people often speed up to avoid confronting their unhappiness. [Milan] Kundera thinks that speed helps us block out the horror and barrenness of the modern world: ‘Our period is obsessed with the desire to forget, and it is to fulfill that desire that it gives over to the demon of speed; it picks up the pace to show us that it no longer wishes to be remembered, that it is tired of itself, sick of itself; that it wants to blow out the tiny trembling flame of memory.'”

I do think we often use speed to avoid living fully, to “temporarily” escape the awareness of death, to self-stimulate. Honoré reminds us, “All the things that bind us together and make life worth living–community, family, friendship–thrive on the one thing we never have enough of: time.”

May we be mindful of our obsession with speed!


From the Archives: May

May 2, 2009

pen

Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~E. L. Doctorow

Selected posts from last May:

Radical Acceptance
This is a transformative practice.

Life is Now
Tolle exhorts us to pay less attention to our life situations, and more attention to life itself.

Faults-Image
Do we place greater value on projecting a positive image or accepting reality (in which we are all flawed)?

The Soul at Work
….or, as Parker J. Palmer calls it, the integration of soul and role


Spiraling

May 1, 2009

nautilus21

All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I imagine many layers of learning when I think about this quote. So often, I have heard and understood words of wisdom, only to return to them later with deeper understanding. I think of learning as a spiral; there are only so many truly important lessons in this life, and each day we learn them in a new way–returning to the same ideas, but at a higher (or deeper) level. If we are lucky, curious, and skillful, we acquire wisdom in the process.

It is such a loss for our culture that we devalue aging and the elderly. As I get older, I see so clearly the benefits of time and cumulative experience. If only we tapped the wisdom of our elders. Perhaps as the baby boomers move into old age, we can hope for a greater appreciation of this tremendous resource, but there is always a temptation to dismiss ones who are not “up on” the latest trends and technological gadgets.

I think Goethe is also saying that we must work at wisdom; it doesn’t happen as a function of simply living longer. Life provides opportunities daily to stretch, to delve, to reflect. We must pay attention, bring our intelligence and our hearts to bear on our experience.

I can see myself continuing to spiral higher, deeper, until death. How about you?


Love and Kindness

April 12, 2009

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. ~Aesop

The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love. ~St. Teresa of Avila

Today we visit my mother-in-law in the nursing home. She will know who we are, but she won’t remember we’ve been there. Still, she loves the hot tea Sam brings her and enjoys the attention while we’re there. So it is important to go.

Today, I want to focus on the kindness, the connection, the beauty of this sunny Easter day, and not the aging and end-of-life ruminations that usually take me over when we visit. I want to be mindful of each moment for what it is, and leave the thinking out of the experience. This is difficult for someone who has spent her entire life relying on “figuring things out” with her brain in order to survive and thrive.

I am grateful for growing into more love, less thought. I am grateful for another day in which to practice mindfulness, kindness, love. Namaste.


Moonlit Morning

April 10, 2009

Something precious is lost if we rush headlong into the details of life without pausing for a moment to pay homage to the mystery of life and the gift of another day. ~Kent Nerbern

Only Moment

Moon floods the morning kitchen,
trumps even the coffeepot
for my attention.
I am drawn onto the deck
to stand in the stillness,
the only sound a soft purr
from the cat on the rail
rubbing herself against my winter robe–
not even a meow of greeting.
My headache gives way to wonder:
clouds racing through the constellations.
The only moment of its kind, I think
as I move on
to poems, coffee, books.


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.


Making Our World

March 28, 2009

If we want to make something spectacular out of our world, there is nothing whatsoever that can stop us. ~Maria Ranier

Make or find? In a previous post, I grappled with Eric Maisel’s concept of making (as opposed to finding) meaning in our lives. How does that jibe with Byron Katie’s concept of loving what is or Eckhart Tolle’s encouragement to live in the Now? If we are attempting to make our worlds, our lives, our meaning, are we pushing the rope?

Right effort is part of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. As with other things, perhaps it’s finding (or is it making?!) a balance between effort and surrender. Changing what we can and accepting the rest, as the first part of the serenity prayer teaches. This prayer goes on to refer to a deity, but I think surrender can also be to life and the natural world.

How do you reconcile right effort and surrender? To whom or what do you surrender (if you do)?


Pacing

March 2, 2009

Success is the sum of small efforts–repeated day in and day out. ~Robert Collier

One of the striking differences between my husband and me has always been his ability to pace himself and my tendency to rush headlong into every endeavor. Yet I am most satisfied with my life when I move more slowly, give myself time to experience each moment, to reflect on where I’ve been and envision where I’m going.

I suppose this lesson is one blessing of age, at least for me. My body will simply no longer support my impulsive activity in the same way it did when I was younger! Of course, with the spiral nature of life, I have to learn this lesson over and over, each time in a slightly different way, from a slightly different place.

I have found it hard to restrain myself when I can see so many things I want to do. Patience has never, after all, been my strong suit–or even an acquaintance, really. That’s why I think a practice, such as this blog, is so important for me. It reinforces that idea of the cumulative effect of small things. Intention is also a critical element–imagining who I want to become, then giving myself permission to take only one mindful step at a time.

What is your secret for proper pacing in your life?


Loving the World

January 9, 2009

There is only one heroism in the world: to see the world as it is, and to love it. ~Romaine Rolland

Acceptance is coming up for me again today. When I can see the world as it is, and can also see how it could be so much better, how do I accept what I can’t change, change what I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference? I believe it takes intention and attention.

That old serenity prayer really says it well! It’s a good way to remember my intentions. I want to accept the world just as it is, and still love it (like Richard Nixon, maybe–we luv you, cuz you need it*). I want to discern the places where I can make it better, and to have the courage to foster change. As Donna said in the comments to another post, “Sure, the world is perfect as it is–but it could be better.” I just love that!

So I want to turn my attention to the things I can change, the places where I can make a difference, and stop spinning my wheels in futile endeavors. I want to keep my eyes open to the truth of the world, and at the same time, open my heart to it as well.

How do you do this?

*from Steve Miller Number 5


Distractions

January 5, 2009

Motion is not necessarily progress any more than noise is necessarily music. ~Gregg Levoy

I have sworn off computer games. (Well, maybe a game of Scrabble or two now and then, but definitely no more of those arcade-type games!) I swear they were stealing my precious life. I would sit down to be diverted for a few minutes and get up stiff and irritable hours later. What a waste! Already I can tell a big difference in the quality of my days and my ability to sustain mindfulness.

Yesterday, however, I set up a facebook account. What fun! Now I am asking myself whether this is just another mindless distraction. I hope there is social value that redeems this activity, this “motion.” While it may not qualify as progress, it is connection, and I have been hungry for connection. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, join me on facebook and let’s make some music together, or at least some noise!


Change and Growth

January 4, 2009

Change is inevitable; growth is optional. ~Tavis Smiley

Thanks to Carol for passing on this great quote. There are many people talking these days about change, the pace of change, the disorienting effects of change, “change management.” (Now there’s an oxymoron!) But I don’t hear much about growth within change, rather more about just keeping up, staying sane, not falling farther behind. There is something lost in this discussion. I don’t want to spend my energy just treading water; I want to swim into new water! Remembering what Marcel Proust said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

I think the first step for growth is embracing (or at least shaking hands with) the change itself, accepting it as a condition of modern life. Why struggle against the inevitable? But beyond that, I have found stillness and mindfulness useful for getting in touch with the part of me that hungers for learning and growth. It is easy to be overwhelmed with the plethora of choices today, and this stillness helps us hear what we need above the din.

How have you approached change? Growth? How do we not only stay sane in this crazy-making proliferation of options, but expend our energy wisely for both our own development and a better world?


You Are the Gift

December 24, 2008

Like so many Americans, she was trying to construct a life that made sense from things she found in gift shops. ~Kurt Vonnegut

There is no need to capture or hold on to anything because you are everything. ~Sasaki-Rosi

Our most important gift to others this holiday season is our full presence, our aliveness, our unique expression. I am hopeful that the economic downturn is actually helping people understand the value of such intangible gifts. Who really needs another kitchen appliance or another technological gadget?

I agree wholeheartedly with Sarah Susanka’s suggestion to consider recycling something in our vast collections of “stuff” that we no longer need but that might bring joy to someone else. Fewer items for the landfill.

But most importantly, may we remember that we are the gift. Wishing everyone a joyful, simple, mindful holiday season.


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.


The Inner Voice

December 20, 2008

The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is sounding outside. Only he who listens can speak. ~Dag Hammarskjold

Success has always come relatively easy for me. I was a good student, never had difficulty finding a good job, have generally gotten along well with others, had some lucky breaks, and accomplished some things of which I am proud. But for the last couple of years, I seem to have gotten in my own way. I have found myself less effective in the outer world, and I think it is in part because my inner world was demanding to be heard.

In a more nurturing society, at least the beginnings of this process might have taken place early in my life and been my “vision quest” or “walkabout.” In our culture, I believe this process is often postponed by our focus on external success, and I think many never get there. So while I sometimes feel developmentally delayed, I also feel fortunate to be called by this inner voice now.

None of this is to say that I have not always tried to act from integrity, to better understand and define my values, to be guided by inner wisdom. But the voice is now more insistent, and is becoming clearer, for which I am grateful. Time shifts our stories. Not only is it not possible to step in the same river twice, but we cannot put the same toe in the river twice. Life is a spiral.

Has your inner voice ever had to shout for your attention?


Engage

December 19, 2008

How long will you keep pounding on an open door, begging for someone to open it? ~Rabi’a al-‘Adawiyya

What a great reminder that (as my friend Shirley used to say) “I have everything I need to be happy here and now.” Don’t we all sometimes just want to be rescued? How tempting it can be to be the damsel in distress, the victim, waiting for the white knight (read: lover, father, boss, president, savior) to come along. It is seductive to feel absolved of responsibility for our own lives. But in the process we are turning our power (and our joy) over to others.

How much more satisfying to engage in our lives, be mindful, celebrate all that is–the universe in its infinite wisdom; our friends, relations, and coworkers who are who they are; our life situation, which is no doubt perfect for the lessons we need to learn. Who are we, after all, to question the design of goddess/nature/god/spirit/life?

Yesterday I had a moment of profound gratitude for life, for breath, for the world just as it is. Today, I bow to the mystery and to you. Namaste.


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.


What Brings You Alive

December 6, 2008

The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. ~Brother David Steindl-Rast, from David Whyte’s Midlife and the Great Unknown: Finding Courage and Clarity Through Poetry (audio CD)

They say ‘I’ and ‘I’ and they could mean anyone.~Rilke

David Whyte is one of my favorite poets and authors, and this is a wonderful work. According to Whyte, when we are weary of the world, it is because we are not tuned into the world, not finding what makes us come alive. We are acting out of self-necessity, living strategically, rather than honoring where our energies lie, what we have affection for. “The antidote to exhaustion is whole-heartedness,” says Steindl-Rast.

In this audio (which is excerpted from a longer audio series, Clear Mind, Wild Heart) Whyte advocates cultivating a relationship with the unknown, living in a place of spaciousness and possibility. As a person who has always been uncomfortable in uncertain and in-between places, this is a lesson I need to learn. To live with ambiguity, to clarify and celebrate the questions, to remain open to the conversation that wants to happen between myself and the world.

I believe the path to whole-heartedness is mindful attention to what feeds us, recognition of what we love, and the courage to follow our hearts. What brings you alive?


Senior

October 26, 2008

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige

Today I turned 55. Officially senior by many definitions. I’ve always welcomed getting older, because it has brought equanimity and a better understanding of myself and others. But somehow this birthday makes me feel as though time is running out. For one thing, I still don’t have a consistent exercise and meditation practice after decades of trying. If not now, when?

When I contemplate Satchel Paige’s profound question, I’m concerned that I would feel older than I am in years! Yikes!!! Maybe it’s just been a hard year, or maybe my bad habits are just catching up with me. I want to think of 55 as my health watershed, to get younger by taking better care of myself.

So I am promising myself during the upcoming year to do these ten things:
1. slow down and pay attention
2. remember to take deep breaths
3. remain curious
4. practice gratitude
5. observe my experiences rather than trying to control or judge them
6. minimize sugar, alcohol and bad fats in my diet
7. do yoga as much as I can
8. get outside more
9. notice what feeds me, find flow
10. be gentle with myself

Learning has always been important to me also, and I believe it’s an age-busting practice. I didn’t list it, because it is already so much a part of me that I would have to try NOT to learn!

What are the things that make you younger?


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?


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?


Just Do It

September 15, 2008

The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives. ~Annie Dillard

After two days of moping around the house and playing computer games, I am sick of myself! Today I will practice yoga, mindfulness meditation, and writing. I am trying to come up with a sign for my office with the sentiment, “Just Do It!” only using different words, so I am not reminded of an advertising slogan. I endlessly read about my passions–mindfulness, soulwork, writing, exercise, simplifying, poetry, yoga, creativity, meditation–rather than practicing them! It is (past) time to move from learning to doing, from watching to engaging.

Here it is appropriate to recall the famous lines that were probably from a translation of Faust by John Anster (more here), but were attributed to Goethe by Scottish mountaineer W. H. Murray, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

How do you move from intention to action? Hey, send me your suggestions for wording for my sign…


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


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!


Renewal

August 30, 2008

The wave always returns and always returns as a different wave. ~Marina Tsvetaeva

Jekyll Island, 2007

These words are from the Russian poet’s essay on lyric poetry. According to Tsvetaeva, renewal is the “pivot of lyricism.” Edward Hirsch writes about this idea here, and I love what he says about poetry causing us to “deepen our breathing, our mindfulness to being, our spiritual alertness.” Geez, no wonder I love poetry!

There’s something lovely and hopeful about this line. I’m reminded of new mornings that bring a fresh perspective, rain that clears the air. Today, I have practiced an old yoga routine, one that my body remembers from long ago–so long ago, in fact, that I practiced to a Richard Hittleman LP (that’s long-playing 33rpm record, for those who aren’t sure!). A returning wave, but a different one as well, rolling through this 54-year-old body.

Earlier today, I worked on my journal project. I am culling things I want to keep from old journals and destroying the rest. Things I want to keep are generally quotations (are you surprised?), ideas about writing, poems, titles of book I’ve read, and major events of my life. I am almost caught up to the present and can certainly say that renewal has been a theme. Although these journals may read over time like the same old same old (and are often quite boring!), I can see from a longer perspective and condensed view that each time I wrote about a returning wave, it was also a new wave. 

What does renewal mean to you?


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?


Awareness

August 3, 2008

Do not look back in anger, or forward in fear, but around in awareness. ~James Thurber

Travels to coastal Georgia this week reminded me how much I love the slower pace one encounters away from the bustle of Atlanta. And that slower pace is so much more conducive to what Thurber calls looking around in awareness! I had lovely and real conversations with people outside the library as we waited for the doors to open. I felt more balanced, more at ease.

How can I slow down, become an eddy, inside the hectic pace of my commute/work/travel, the rapid swirl of activity that is the city? Remembering to breathe deeply is key, I think. Coming home, I found my chest tightening as I got closer to Atlanta on the freeway, and I noticed my breathing becoming more shallow. I read recently about one technique for “tending your own energy field“: visualizing light in the solar plexus, spreading and expanding to fill your whole body.

What helps you maintain your calm equilibrium when you are surrounded by frenetic activity? I want to practice looking around in awareness.


Health

July 27, 2008

Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. ~B. K. S. Iyengar

If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself. ~Leon Eldred

When I was very young (no older than 5, I’m sure), I spent one afternoon learning to ride a bicycle–under conditions that were hardly ideal. At that time, I didn’t have a bike of my own, so I learned on a 26″ model that belonged to my older sister. Luckily, I was a long-legged kid, so I could (just barely) reach the pedals. But I had no access to pavement, only a grassy slope on which to practice. Over and over, I fell, I got up, I walked to the top of the gentle hill, got back on, and tried again. I wanted to ride that bicycle more than I wanted anything that day.

An alarming thing happened at Pilates class last Thursday. I began sweating and shaking, turned pale as a ghost, and thought I would either throw up or faint, I wasn’t sure which. I know blood sugar dips, since I have had to pay attention to those for many years, and it wasn’t that. I attributed it to overdoing when I was depleted already, possible mild dehydration, and forgetting I was out of shape and no longer 18 years old. But the more disturbing thing was that it happened again Friday night, when I awoke from sleep in that condition. I am feeling much sturdier today, but am resolved to see my doctor.

There is a rash of health-related problems in my family at the moment. Stroke, dementia, and pancreatic cancer, to name a few. And it makes sense that illness in those close to us (and especially those close to our own age) can make us feel vulnerable and anxious about our own well-being. It feels impossible to separate the effects of the mental state, the worry about health, from those of the physical condition itself.

I have practiced healthy living only sporadically at best, and it is not for lack of information. I know what eating plan works for me, what things I should avoid (sugar, alcohol, the high-fat foods I love so much), what exercise I enjoy and am most likely to stick with (yoga), and what helps in controlling stress (mindfulness, connection to others). Yet I have fallen down on this grassy slope over and over, and I have to think it is because of some inability to fully commit, to want health more than anything. Though what could be more important in this life than what opens the gates of the soul?


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?


Finding Flow

July 19, 2008

The real challenge, however, is to reduce entropy in one’s surroundings without increasing it in one’s consciousness. The Buddhists have a good piece of advice as to how this can be done: “Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.” ~from Finding Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I finished reading Finding Flow* last night. It was very different from what I expected, but interesting! The subtitle is “The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,” and the book reads more like a science-meets-religion treatise than a self-help book. In the end, I found myself thinking optimistically of the “new earth” that Eckhart Tolle talks about.

In Finding Flow, the author encourages us to engage mindfully, to take ownership of our actions, rather than spending our leisure in passive entertainment. This, he says, will create flow as well as increase happiness. I have certainly found this to be true in my experience. It’s easier to work a crossword puzzle than to stare down a blank page and write a poem, less effort to watch TV than to call a friend, but I know which of these feeds me and leads to greater happiness.

And again the idea of loving what is pops up–what Nietzsche called amor fati–“the love of fate.”  Csikszentmihalyi warns us that people can also learn to love what is destructive, so we must choose our goals wisely. Science has helped us to understand what promotes and sustains growth, life, and order, and to understand the uniqueness of each of us. He says “each one of us is responsible for our particular point in space and time in which our body and mind forms a link within the total network of existence.” Being virtuous (that is, acting to preserve order, taking into account the common good, the emotional well-being of others) is not the easy path, but the satisfying one, and connects one to the flow of all that was, is, and ever shall be.

*Finding Flow was previously mentioned here.


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?


Writing

July 6, 2008

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else. ~Gloria Steinem

The interesting thing about this quote for me is that it applies to all kinds of writing. I am happy writing a paper for my graduate class or a professional journal article if it is on a topic of interest to me. A poem is bliss. This blog feeds me. None of these things is easy to do, though–why? Because each is discovery, requires something of me, can’t be done without engagement and effort. But how satisfying when I’ve produced a written work!

A blue-tailed skink pauses
between its cover of ivy
and the Japanese honeysuckle.
Blue sky peeks
from behind cumulus clouds
of mid-summer.
Sam is somewhere
watering plants, and I
am typing characters
that represent the seen
and unseen. Words
that act as temporary pins
for this moment.

What engages you? What is it that you do that when you do it, you don’t feel you should be doing something else?


Attention!

June 21, 2008

We create ourselves by how we invest the energy of our attention.  ~Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, from Finding Flow

Oh, dear, another book to put on my list. But what a pithy quote! (I got it from a post at Changing Places, where you can find more quotes on attention–thanks, Donna!) In spite of my desire to pay attention to my attention, I often forget how important and powerful it is–that I am literally creating myself through it.

I have paid too little attention to this blog recently, partly because of busyness, partly from avoidance. It is so much easier to play computer Scrabble against the maven or space out doing crossword puzzles. While I’m told that both of these activities are good for my brain, they feel like time-killers. How much more satisfying (albeit more difficult) it is to write something new.

I realize I need “down time,” but more attention to my down-time activities could result in choosing things that feed me, rather than numb me. A walk in the yard, a blog entry, or contact with a friend. Something that makes time expand (rather than disappear) because it requires a special kind of attention.

How do you squander your time and/or attention (if you do)? What feeds you?


Graces

June 15, 2008

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.  ~Vita Sackville-West

Life has been slipping by these past few days, with work-related travel, oppressive heat, visiting relatives who are not well, and general malaise. But I’m told there is at least one person who misses these blog entries when I don’t do them (besides me). So Janice, this one’s for us!

I’m behind in reading my Shambala Sun issues, so I took a half-finished copy with me on my recent trip to south Georgia. I was struck once again by how much I enjoy that magazine! I’m not sure I even consider myself a Buddhist, (although it’s probably the organized system for which I feel the most affinity), but there are always authors and articles within the Sun that inspire and teach me. So it is one thing I am grateful for today.

Another is the steadfast love of my husband waiting to greet me from my travels. There is language that enriches my life immeasurably. True friends who teach me something about the impact of my presence on earth and who want only the best for me. Yoga that helps me focus my attention on my body. Music, always music, that has the magical ability to lift my spirits and my spirit. Of course there are too many things to list here; these are just a few that grace my life.

What comes to mind when you consider life’s blessings? How does it change from day to day, month to month, year to year?


The Case Against Will

June 1, 2008

When you will, make a resolution, set your jaw, you are expressing an imaginative fear that you won’t do the thing. If you knew you would do the thing, you would smile happily and set about it. 

So you see, the imagination needs moodling–long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.  ~Brenda Ueland, from If You Want to Write (Graywolf Press, 2007)

It is easy to see why Ueland’s work is a classic and hard to believe I have not read it until now. I know already that it will be one of those I will want to reread every couple of years, as I do other books of distilled wisdom (Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, for example).

As one who has struggled for years to will self-care, I could not agree more with Ueland’s case against will. The harder I try to force myself to eat right and exercise more, the fiercer the rebellious resistance becomes. (If I knew I would do it, I would just smile happily and set about it!) She shares what I find to be an interesting insight: “People who try to boss themselves always want (however kindly) to boss other people. They always think they know best and are so stern and resolute about it they are not very open to new and better ideas.” (God forbid.) Describing herself as “a fearful self-disciplinarian” who has learned a better way, she promotes “dreamy idleness” as a way of quietly letting in imaginative thoughts. 

The best news is that Ueland’s “moodling” is (for the most part) simply being in the present moment! She says, “…when I walk in a carefree way, without straining to get to my destination, then I am living in the present. And it is only then that the creative power flourishes.” She tells us that “…it is the way you are to feel when you are writing–happy, truthful, and free, with that wonderful contented absorption of a child stringing beads in kindergarten.”

P. S. Did Ueland coin the word “moodling?” Merriam-Webster does not know it.


Clear Space

May 28, 2008

Present-moment awareness creates a gap not only in the stream of mind but also in the past-future continuum. Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through that gap, that clear space of infinite possibility.  ~Eckhart Tolle, from The Power of Now

Thinking about that clear space, ironically, as I prepare to return to work after a week-long vacation. But the space Tolle means is space we can have access to anytime. Ceasing our obsessive thinking, coming into the present, we understand that time and space are one, here and now.

This is good news. It means creativity is available to me virtually anytime, anywhere. I don’t have to have a special writing pen or desk, a lot of free time or extra energy, or even inspiration (especially not ideas!). I have only to stop, notice, be in the now. Surrender to life, to the moment. Tolle says, “No truly positive action can arise out of an unsurrendered state of consciousness.”

How do you experience creative moments? Do they come unbidden; do you arrange conditions to induce them? What if you surrendered to the gap, that clear space of infinite possibility?


Healthy Habits

May 17, 2008

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the weekend of the public declaration of my recommitment to taking good care of myself. Starting over. Again. I have just returned from a public library directors’ meeting, where I ate a pecan-studded brownie chock full of chocolate chips the size of Manhattan. Not to mention the wine, lasagna, key lime pie, and other assorted deadly comestibles I consumed during the trip. And of course no exercise beyond bending my elbow to eat all this great stuff.

Although I have started over many times in this attempt to take better care of myself, I now believe I can succeed in sustaining this effort. I have a better understanding of the reasons I indulge, I have more resources than ever to draw on, and I know firsthand the benefits of being fit. In addition, I understand–with my whole being, not just my brain–that health and fitness (like life) is the result of a series of moment-by-moment choices.

So, in order to hold myself accountable, I have set some goals. By the next public library directors’ meeting in September (seems as good a target as any), I will have lost 15 pounds, will be practicing yoga and meditation, and will be habitually exercising (at least 4 times a week).

How do you maintain healthy habits? Let’s support each other!


Anger

May 12, 2008

If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist.

When you get angry, go back to yourself, and take very good care of your anger…Most of us don’t do that. We want to follow the other person in order to punish him or her.
~Thich Nhat Hanh, from Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

This morning I realized that I hold a great deal of anger in my body. While I have had this thought many times, I have rarely felt it so clearly in my body. So I returned to Thich Nhat Hanh, whose wise advice on anger has been seeping in slowly since I read this book a few years ago. He likens anger to a baby who needs holding:

When the mother embraces her baby, her energy penetrates him and soothes him. This is exactly what you have to learn to do when anger begins to surface. You have to abandon everything that you are doing, because your most important task is to go back to yourself and take care of your baby, your anger.

As practitioners…we hold our baby of anger in mindfulness so that we get relief. We continue the practice of mindful breathing and mindful walking, as a lullaby for our anger. The energy of mindfulness penetrates into the energy of anger, exactly like the energy of the mother penetrates into the energy of the baby.

When we begin to cultivate the energy of mindfulness, the first insight we have is that the main cause of our suffering, of our misery, is not the other person–it is the seed of anger in us.

And because you have not practiced the methods for taking good care of your anger, the seed of anger has been watered too often in the past.

May I be mindful enough to recognize anger when it arises. May I remember to go home to myself and take care of that anger, rather than water the seeds of the anger. May I then have compassion for those who may seem to be the cause of my anger, but who may be in reality suffering.


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.


Radical Acceptance

May 3, 2008

Radical acceptance can keep us from becoming progressively constricted and diminished in the face of painful experiences.  ~from The Mindful Way Through Depression, by Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn

You may note that I have changed the tagline of this blog to “words that illuminate the path to understanding.” Still way too many syllables for my taste, but more descriptive of what this blog has turned out to be. How would you say it more concisely?–send suggestions!

I have found so many of those illuminating words lately. It is great to be in a May-long break (is that at all like a bee-loud glade?) from my formal studies, so I can read other things!

I love this book from which today’s words come, in part of course because it validates what I have come to discover over the years and wrote about in my very first post to this blog (that mindfulness is key to God, the universe and everything). I read the research version a while back, and I am glad that the authors have now published a popular edition.

It includes one of my favorite Rumi works, “The Guest House,” translated by Coleman Barks:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


A Hand Up

April 25, 2008

What do we live for, if it is not to make life a little less difficult for each other?  ~George Eliot

I am writing less, working more, and handing power over to stress these days, in spite of the beautiful greening and flowering of spring. Stop. Breathe. Rest. Pay attention. I have to remind myself. It is easy to get far removed from creative impulse, to forget to listen to inner wisdom, in this world so full of distractions.

Last night my friends made me laugh in spite of myself. Eliot’s quote makes me think of a bad poem I once wrote with an ending something like: “Why would we be here/if not to offer a hand up/still reaching with the other?”

This evening, the indigo bunting is what takes my breath away.


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.


Clarity

April 10, 2008

If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself.  ~Rollo May

Note that May talks about expressing and also listening. How do I know my own original ideas without listening to my own being? My new word is clarity. Years ago it was acceptance, but now I need to know what my original ideas are. I need to sit and listen to the voice inside. There are things/ideas/yearnings that I return to again and again. I want to notice those things, but with stillness and openness, and without feeling an urgency to act.

I spent the first few decades of my life betraying myself; I don’t want to do it ever again. To live authentically requires clarity. I am on an edge, a cusp, the dawn of a new period of life, so grateful to have survived until now. Silvia says we won’t die until we have finished our work here. What is my work? What is this next phase supposed to be about?


Creative Work

April 5, 2008

If you hear a voice within you saying: You are no painter, then paint by all means, lad, and that voice will be silenced, but only by working.  ~Van Gogh

If someone thinks writers are crazy when they writing, he or she should see them when they’re not.  ~Hilda Downer

April is National Poetry Month, and I have subscribed to a Poem-A-Day during the month of April from the Academy of American Poets. I have hardly written any poetry in years, but I still yearn to do so. I am finding the Poem-A-Day a sort of lifeline to my creative self!

No writing, yet, mind you…but I feel that the stage is being set. Daily life has intruded for far too long. Too much busyness over the last few months–work, a heavy travel schedule, and two simultaneous post-graduate classes. But today, I am going to stop and see the mist hanging between the hills, the red-bellied woodpecker at the suet feeder, the graceful redbud branches heavy with blossoms. I am going to stop and hear the gentle rain, feel the cool, heavy air, and smell the cheerful hyacinths in their barrel.

Poetry is, after all, rooted in mindfulness. “No ideas but in things,” said William Carlos Williams. And saxifrage can split the rocks.


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.


Focus

March 16, 2008

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. ~Buddha

I am inspired today by the March 12 post on zen habits, one of the few blogs to which I subscribe by e-mail, entitled The Magical Power of Focus. In the last few days, I have noticed a backsliding from my healthy habits of the last several months. So I am renewing my commitment to focus on health. 

My frequent job-related travel presents a challenge, as does my too-full schedule, so an important health practice for me is to create buffers of space and downtime around those activities. In particular, as an introvert, when I have periods involving intense interaction with others, I need times of quiet reflection to replenish my energy. Another important practice is mindful attention to the task at hand, being in the flow, and avoiding the temptation to multitask. 

Having tried in the past to focus on more than one goal at a time, I can testify that it only made me feel overwhelmed and ineffectual. Although it may seem as though I am trying to focus on several things at once (healthy eating, increased exercise, stress reduction techniques, etc.), I will really be focusing on one aim of health and well-being, with individual practices subordinate to that goal. Evaluating each activity against that overarching objective will, I believe, result in my becoming healthier.

What are you becoming as a result of your thoughts or focus?


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?


Speed and Greed

March 5, 2008

How can you contribute your unique talents and gifts to the progress of the planet without damaging the environment or harming others? Can you be in the world but not of it, avoiding participation in the endless cycle of speed and greed that increasingly marks our culture? ~Stephan Bodian

Bodian explores the notion of “right livelihood,” deriving from the Buddhist tradition, but “evolved to refer more broadly to any meaningful, fulfilling work that makes a positive contribution to the world and expresses a compassionate or sacred intent.” The concept is simple: Do no harm.

But that’s harder than ever in today’s world, it seems. Bodian quotes Joanna Macy, “Right livelihood is far more complex now than it was in the time of the Buddha, because we find ourselves in economic and ecological relationships that are simply unsustainable in the long term. To the degree that we participate in these relationships, we inevitably cause harm in some way through our work.”

May I become increasingly aware of ways I participate in our culture of speed and greed, so that I may move ever closer to right livelihood through right intention and right action. May I be joyfully mindful of my work, seeking to be of service yet unattached to the outcome.


Walking in the World

March 3, 2008

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

What?

I can find stillness,
walking?
Heel, then toes.
I count,
solve problems,
talk to myself.
I hum, anything
to avoid presence
in my heel,
then toes. Heel,
then toes, relentless
practice. Where
are we going?
No matter. Heel,
it is all the same. Toes,
I stretch apart
as though mud
would ooze through.
Heel, going nowhere
slowly,
toes, walking
to awareness.

In addition to the quote, this poem is inspired today by Mad Kane’s poetry prompt, Julia Cameron’s Walking in This World, and writings of Thich Nhat Hanh and others on walking meditation.

Now here are a limerick and a haiku for good measure!

Sunday Lament for Gasoline Prices

Pedestrian thoughts in my head,
I travel from kitchen to bed,
It’s not very far,
So I don’t need a car,
One more day I stay out of the red!

Walking in Spring

Driving by the bed
I see a blur, but walking,
Snow-drops hang their heads.


How Others Feel

February 27, 2008

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  ~Maya Angelou

A part of my mind rejects this idea because I don’t like the discounting of what we say and do, but I know it is true. To a large degree, it is the emotional content of what we say and do that people connect with (or are repelled by), regardless of the intellectual content or even the actions themselves.

It’s usually easy to tell how people feel when we’re in close relationship: spouse, family, friends. But how can we better understand our impact on those who are less transparent to us or less forthcoming with their feedback? Do we need to concern ourselves with that?

I know that at work I am often intensely focused on a task at hand, and when I am interrupted, it takes a while for me to shift my attention to the person who needs it. I’m sure this has sometimes sent a message I didn’t intend. As an introvert, I am slow to warm up to people and need time to process interaction. But I would like to practice being more fully present for others and to smile more! 🙂


Time and Magic

February 25, 2008

     Now Haiku
here and now, sitting,
monkey mind is then and there–
in yesterday’s trees.

…and…

     Presence Limerick
I want to be present right now,
Connect to the flowing of Tao.
But when I sit still
My obstinate will
Appears, rises up, takes a bow.

~Lyn Hopper

Today I have self-quotes, written in response to Mad Kane’s challenge to write a haiku and a limerick about time. That was fun! As are her blogs. Check them out.

One serious thought about time, since we’re on the subject already. I have been practicing mindfulness, especially at my ultra-busy workplace, and I have learned through direct experience that what others say is true–mindfulness does slow time down. I know you’re now thinking, “yeah, right,” because that’s what I have thought every time I have read about this phenomenon.

Time slows down, I tell you! It is magic, really. I know it is a trick of perception, (or maybe the trick is busyness and the rushing of time), but I literally have more time to do the things I need to do somehow. And I’m oh, so much more relaxed about doing them. 🙂

Try it, and tell me what you find. Preferably in a haiku or limerick!


Free Time

February 24, 2008

…the Chinese pictograph for busyness is “heart killing.” ~from Sue Monk Kidd’s Firstlight

Whenever we have a little free time, most of us seek some form of amusement. We pick up a serious book, a novel, or a magazine. If we are in America, we turn on the radio or the television, or we indulge in incessant talk. There is a constant demand to be amused, to be entertained, to be taken away from ourselves….Very few of us ever walk in the fields and the woods, not talking or singing songs, but just walking quietly and observing things about us and within ourselves.  ~J. Krishnamurti

Today I celebrate space, free time. In addition to my work, which includes a lot of travel and a 3-hour commute 3 days a week, I am taking two post-Master’s classes this semester. So it is rare these days to have hours without busyness and obligations, but today I have virtually nothing I have to do. No “heart-killing” for me today.

I find that order, space, and free time are helpful in stimulating my creative impulses. So I will first tidy my office and then surround myself with the tools of creativity: paper and pencil, my favorite books, art supplies, and other familiar playthings. Even the computer is a tool for creative work if I refuse to be seduced by stumbling upon new Web sites, playing computer Scrabble or checking e-mail.

Later, I may “walk in the fields and woods…observing things.”  Or practice yoga and mindfulness meditation. How do you use free time?

P. S. This is a quote that belongs with my previous post on the ineffable creative process:  Art criticism is to the artist as ornithology is to the birds. ~Barnett Newman


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.


Ego

February 17, 2008

We’re swallowed up only when we are willing for it to happen.  ~Nathalie Sarraute

A number of forces combined yesterday to overwhelm my best intentions. As my last few posts have attested, I have been immersed over the past few days in the work of Eckhart Tolle on the power of living in the present. Yesterday, it felt as though my ego, or will, was so threatened by the prospect of  annihilation (through living in the now, surrender to what is) that it reared up and demanded my attention. It is a greedy beast! 

Though I tried to be the “watcher” in the throes of this experience, as Tolle recommends, I was unsuccessful at taming the unruly will.  My mindfulness muscles are not yet strong enough, perhaps. Today I hope to practice that mindful presence and surrender as I go about my day.

Do you have a practice that helps keep you mindful, that connects you with all that is, or that helps you avoid being “swallowed up?”


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? 


Now

February 14, 2008

When you have a disease, do not try to cure it–find your center and you will be healed.  ~Tao proverb

I can now highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now. I have listened to about 3/4 of the audiobook, and now I am planning to buy the print edition.  Read it and learn why humankind is insane, and why we must individually and collectively save ourselves by learning to be present in the now. Instead of talking about how when we come to die, we need to have lived, Tolle talks about the importance of having already “died” (as an ego, a form), so that we understand that there is no death.

It is the wisdom of the ages, if only we could hear and practice it. There is no present or future, only now. It doesn’t mean we cease to plan or set goals, it just means we fully experience the present as it occurs, without mental reference to past or future.  We step out of time and do not resist what is.

I started this blog on August 12, 2007, by speculating that mindfulness was the key to “God, the universe and everything.” Now I am convinced of that. It is no coincidence that mindfulness is the largest tag on my tag cloud!

Mindfulness may be the antithesis of thinking, however; it is awareness of being in the body, of the emotions as manifestations of thought. Transformation is through the body, not away from it, says Tolle. Going within and focusing on the inner energy field of your body helps you stay grounded, still and rooted.


The Art Spirit

February 13, 2008

The brush stroke at the moment of contact carries inevitably the exact state of being of the artist at that exact moment into the work, and there it is, to be seen and read by those who can read such signs, and to be read later by the artist himself, with perhaps some surprise, as a revelation of himself.  ~Robert Henri

I can hardly believe I omitted one of my favorite books on creativity in a previous post: Robert Henri’s The Art Spirit. And now, looking for it on my bookshelf, I believe I must have lent it to someone who has not returned it. As I can’t imagine being long without it, I’ll have to order another copy!

I’m listening to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now on my commute. Too soon to tell what I think of it, but so far I haven’t heard anything I disagree with. He invites us to imagine a world without people. Would you ask a tree or a bird what time it is? If you did and they were to answer, they would say, “It is now, of course.” I believe being here now is what enables us to channel creativity, to achieve “the brush stroke of the moment.” If we are not fully present, that stroke does NOT carry us into the work.

May I pause in the next busy days to be here in my life. May I listen for the winds of creativity blowing through my spirit.


Music and Cats

January 28, 2008

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.  ~Albert Schweitzer

I am sometimes astonished by the power of music to lift my spirits. The right music, of course. John Fogerty, for example, or Professor Longhair. Just TRY to listen to the Professor’s “Crawfish Fiesta” and not smile. I really don’t believe anyone can do it.

And cats…well, watching my cat stretch and roll on her back on the sun-drenched deck makes me want to be in that same state of mind. It’s really about being present in the moment, because she is quite alert and apprehensive when a deer walks into the yard.

I think Schweitzer did pretty well with these choices, although I might add one or two things. 😉 What serves for you as “a refuge from the miseries of life?”


Expectations

January 25, 2008

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations.  ~Michael J. Fox

I have missed blogging the past few days! It has become a habit, a practice, that helps ground me. In one 48-hour period this week, I drove 600 miles, or about 9 hours, for a 7-hour meeting. That just seems crazier than ever to me. Not to  mention the impact on the environment of that kind of living. I want to work toward a quieter, simpler life. I don’t mean to fight with the life I have, but as I said to David this week, I’m learning to completely let go of attachment to the outcome (expectations), while moving in what I think is a good and right direction.

I don’t think much about expectations these days. I am much more focused on day-to-day intention, action, reflection on what is (acceptance). And that is radical and wonderful. More and more of being here now, and less and less of dwelling on past mistakes or future possibilities, is liberating and exhilirating. What can I do in this moment to express my values, tune in to the rhythms of nature, be one with all, and honor the gift that is my “one wild and precious life”?*

Who am I really in this moment? It doesn’t matter who I have been, who I will be, who others think I am. What matters is living authentically now. And beginning again (and again, and again…). So…your turn: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”*

*from Mary Oliver’s extraordinary poem, “The Summer Day.”


Slowing Down?

January 15, 2008

You ask me how I can remain calm and not become upset when those around me are all bustling about. What can I say to you? I did not come into the world to agitate it. Is it not sufficiently agitated already?  ~St. Francois de Sales

My day yesterday started out to be relatively peaceful (one 3-hour meeting in a town 2 hours away), even though I forgot my intention to slow down for Slow Down Week.  Then I remembered (around 7:30 p.m.) that I had a weekly online chat from 8 to 10 p.m. for the class I am taking from FSU. My normal bedtime is between 9 and 9:30, since on the days I commute to Atlanta (like today), I get up at 4. And of course, at 10 p.m., following my class, I was wound up and had to spend at least a half hour unwinding before sleep.  Incidentally, my favorite way to do that is New York Times Sunday Crosswords.

Today consisted of one meeting after another–after my 1.5-hour commute, I did manage to have 7 to 8:30 a.m. to unpack my bag, clean out my inbox, and check my e-mail, but then the meetings began: one from 8:30 to 9, one from 9 to 10, one from 10:30 to 11, one from 11 to 2 (which went until 2:30) and one from 2:30 to 3:00 (my normal quitting time). Only at the end of the day did I remember it is Slow Down Week!

Now I am sipping red wine in honor of the week (a good excuse, don’t you think?) instead of walking on the treadmill (isn’t there something weird about that activity?) I used to go to a gym, where at some point I was really struck by all the simulations of natural activity–pretending to row, pretending to walk, pretending to bicycle. How bizarre.

I have another chance to observe this special week tomorrow–I am working from home, which means I can sleep an extra two hours. I’ll bet I can be more mindful, not cause much ‘agitation,’ and actually be more productive and centered.  So, tell me, friends…have you done anything differently for Slow Down Week?


Slow Down!

January 14, 2008

Beware of the anti-muse, she who distracts you and leaves you exhausted in a state of pique.  ~Christopher Richards

This quote made me laugh with recognition, as does Christopher’s site today with the animated cartoon advertising Slow Down Week (who knew this was Slow Down Week?) For me the anti-muse is decidedly busy-ness. Distraction, exhaustion, pique. I’ve never heard more apt adjectives for the effects of busy-ness.

And the antidote to the anti-muse, for me, is mindfulness. Noticing. Curiosity. Being present in my body (hmm, my hands are cold; hmm, my back is tired; hmm, I need to take a deep breath; hmm, something smells wonderful in the kitchen). Stillness. Pausing. Engaging. Being here now.

My best writing practice sessions begin with sensing the world around me and describing that as unconsciously as I can. “DON’T THINK,” is Ray Bradbury’s wise advice for writers. Thinking is the death of creativity, bringing with it judging, censoring, intention, self-consciousness, and abstraction, none of which will engage the reader. 

So, I for one will participate in Slow Down Week for the remainder of this week (as best I can in the midst of overstimulation, hyperactivity, and “noise” of all kinds). How about you?


Year-End

December 31, 2007

There is no such thing in anyone’s life as an unimportant day.  ~Alexander Woollcott

The last day of the calendar year is no exception. I am blessed this morning with a day of vacation before tomorrow’s holiday. In fact, I have had a lovely long break from my day job at the end of 2007, and I am trying not to spoil these last two days by fretting about going back to work (i.e., being other than in the present moment)!

A few days ago, I wrote about the unimportance of the calendar in marking beginnings (see “A New Year” below), so I suppose the same goes for endings. Still, December 31 does prompt us to review the past year and to look ahead to the next, and I think there is value in that activity (see “Becoming”).

May I remember that each day of the new year is grace. May I live fully and with awareness and gratitude each of those important days.


A New Year

December 26, 2007

Better keep yourself clean and bright: you are the window through which you must see the world.  ~George Bernard Shaw

Any moment of any day, of course, can be (and is) the start of a new year. But the tradition in  our culture is to consider January 1 a new beginning. New Year’s Day for many people comes with a list of resolutions, most of which are abandoned by January 15 or so. I suppose we party with such reckless abandon on New Year’s Eve because we know we will pay penance with our resolutions the following day. It’s like that last binge eating spree before the diet starts. 

But I think we’re all wrong in this practice. First, because I think our intentions are important to consider every day of our lives; who knows whether there will be a tomorrow? Secondly, because we set impossible goals for ourselves with these lists by trying to think in terms of a whole year. And finally, because life is happening now, not later, not even in the next hour, certainly not next week.

I want to be a mindful being for as many moments of as many days of as many years as I have left on the planet. So I won’t make a list of resolutions next week. I’ll connect in this moment (and this, and this…) to my intentions toward right action, right speech, and lovingkindness toward everyone in the new year that begins right now.


Activism

December 21, 2007

I don’t try to change the world–not ever. It changes by itself, and I’m a part of that change. I’m absolutely, totally a lover of what is. When people ask me for help, I say yes. We inquire, and they begin to end their suffering, and in that they begin to end the suffering of the world.

Violence teaches only violence. Stress teaches stress. If you clean up your mental environment, we’ll clean up our physical one much more quickly…And if you do that genuinely, without violence in your heart, without anger, without pointing at corporations as the enemy, then people begin to notice. We begin to listen and notice that change through peace is possible. It has to begin with one person. If you’re not the one, who is?  ~Stephen Mitchell

For years I’ve had an ambivalence about social activism because I’ve seen so much of it further polarize people. Who am I to know what is best for the planet? Righteousness is no good; if we are to make a difference in the world, we must speak authentically, lovingly from the heart. Accusations and anger simply raise defenses. The world is perfect as it is, according to Mitchell (and his wife Byron Katie), but that’s no excuse for withdrawal or separation.

May I clear my mind, understand that the world is perfect just as it is, but stay connected with my heart to those who are suffering. May I question for the love of truth, not in order to save the world. And may I speak always, even to power, with honesty and kindness and without fear or anger.


What Is

December 18, 2007

The inner Self simply knows that behind all situations, challenges, and opinions, behind all questions of preference is the ground of what is, and that when we rest on that ground, we’re open to the grace that is the real source of contentment.  ~Sally Kempton

The ground of what is–not what the ego wants or what we think we want, not how we wish we were, but how it is right now, breathing in this world. I’m reminded of Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is. I want to rest on the ground of what is here and now, how the world is here and now, how I am right here and right now. I love Walt Whitman’s lines, “there was never any more inception than there is now,/nor any more youth or age than there is now,/and will never be any more perfection than there is now,/nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.” Kempton says, “contentment is the gift that comes when you touch the timeless essence inside a particular moment of time–the ever-present now.”


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.


Watch the thought

November 28, 2007

The thought manifests as the word;
the word manifests as the deed;
the deed develops into habit;
and habit hardens into character.

So watch the thought and its way with care,
and let it spring from love
born out of concern for all beings.
~the Buddha

Again, we are talking about mindfulness I believe. To what thoughts are we giving energy? I used to have this poem on my bulletin board at work. What better management meditation? A reminder to focus on others’ well-being, to give attention to where an organization or relationship is going rather than where it’s been.

What are the habits that by definition I take for granted? Are they habits I want or habits I would rather not have? Increasingly, I am able to develop habits of kindness toward myself–love and concern for myself as well as others (“all beings” after all–not just you, but also me). And that frees my energy to be present for others.


Attention

October 22, 2007

Life is denied by the lack of attention, whether it be to cleaning windows or trying to write a masterpiece.  ~Nadia Boulanger

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.  ~John Lennon

How many ways are there to talk about mindfulness? “Pay attention!” wrote Sophia, and I try. And then I don’t, and then I try again. And then I don’t.  First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is (Donovan).

Boulanger does not write that life is ignored by lack of attention, but denied. Big difference. And the opposite is? Embracing, perhaps. And all there is is this moment, now. I embrace this moment in which I write this post, my bare feet pleasantly cool, the smell of dinner wafting from the kitchen, my body loose from yoga.


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.  


Expanding Time

September 23, 2007

Life is so short we must move very slowly.  ~Saying in Thailand

My recent week at the beach felt like expanded time.  That is what going slowly and mindfully seems to do for us.  We realize simultaneously that we have only this moment, and we have all the time in the world. 

Steve Hagen, in his book, Meditation Now or Never, expresses this idea, too:  “If you feel you’re being rushed at work, just bring your mind into the moment–into the task at hand–and you won’t feel rushed, even if you’ve got to work fast.”  He notes that people who are in accidents report that the crash seems to unfold in slow motion, and attributes it to the person being really there, and not distracted by thought.  He says, “The more present we are, the bigger picture we see. The bigger picture we see, the more things seem to slow down. And when the Whole is seen, all is utterly still.”


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.


Sitting

September 10, 2007

Breathe in,
breathe out,
Thay says Calming,
Smiling,

Present moment,
Only moment.

In, out,
as though it is you
breathing,
and not the world
breathing you.


Spaces

September 9, 2007

Drop the question what tomorrow may bring, and count as profit every day that fate allows you.  ~Horace

What a wonderful week of space I have had to rest in!  Time to do as I pleased–indeed, time even to ask the question, “What do I please?” What is it that I need right now?  Claudia says I worry too much about my future (she’s absolutely right), and it keeps me from being present in the moment.

I have resolved to give myself one full hour a day (space) between work and dinner, to ask my mind and body what they need and to nourish myself with that–yoga, meditation, sitting quietly, reading, counting things to be grateful for, writing. 

 Do you have planned space? How do you nourish your body, mind, and spirit?


Discourse

September 3, 2007

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.  ~Rumi

How polarized the human family seems to me. Where are the places we can come together to talk as living, loving beings, transcending the IDEAS of wrong and right? Public libraries could be one of those places; liberal religious communities could be another. Privately, meditation helps us connect with all that is, to sense our place in the interdependent web of all existence. And I am convinced it is only this awareness that will save the world. If  we know the world is us, we are less likely to participate in harmful practices.

Is it enough to radiate peace as individuals, or must we work toward peace with others? How do we best create or discover fields in which to meet?


Busy-ness

August 30, 2007

It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about? ~Thoreau

I’ve just returned from a conference in Charleston. Although most of the scheduled time there was very productive (Sandra Nelson teaching people from state libraries all over the country how to develop a Continuing Education plan), there is so much busy-ness to traveling: the planning, the packing, the breaks in routine that necessitate extra decision making, the orienting oneself to surroundings, the eating out, the meeting new people, the long hours of driving (in this case) or flying, the unpacking…

Now I am looking out at Cedar Ridge across the valley, and being grateful I am through with busy-ness for at least a day or two.  It has rained, a slow and gentle shower, and now mist is rising between Chestnut Knob and the ridge behind. 

It’s a good thing I will forget the irritation of busy-ness quickly, because this weekend I do the packing all over again for a week’s vacation at Gulf Shores (hallelujah)!