Possibility

April 12, 2014

…if we describe revenge, greed, pride, fear, and righteousness as the villains–and people as the hope–we will come together to create possibility.  ~from The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

Just yesterday, I found myself telling a story with another person as villain. I SO know better than to do that! I know that it makes me feel mean and small, that it has potential for hurting others and creating ill will.

How easy it is to judge, to condemn the behavior of others, to set ourselves up as right and righteous. How destructive, how counter-productive this is, when we have the capacity to enter the realm of possibility instead. In The Art of Possibility, the Zanders eloquently state the case for moving toward a WE story, for focusing on what is best for all of us.

I am so grateful to Maureen Ryan Griffin for reminding me about this book. She first mentioned it when I was a student in her writing workshop at the John C. Campbell Folk School, where she told us about one of the practices from the book. Here is the practice: When we are trying something new and not completely succeeding, we are to throw our hands into the air and say “How fascinating!” Guaranteed to help us take ourselves less seriously.

“It’s all invented,” say the authors. This is the second book I have read in the past few weeks that makes this point.* I have come to believe it. Here is the practice offered in The Art of Possibility to help us create a new framework.

Ask yourself:

What assumption am I making,
That I’m not aware I’m making,
That gives me what I see?

Then ask:

What might I  now invent,
That I haven’t yet invented,
That would give me other choices?

May I realize the power I have to create my life orientation, to choose to look toward possibility rather than dysfunction, and (importantly for me) to contribute by practicing my gifts. May I abolish the notion of failure, throw up my hands and shout “How fascinating!” rather than measuring myself against some standard of perfection.

Are you the creative director of your life? How does the story you have created prevent you from opening to other possibilities? What would expand your choices?

__________

*the other book is The Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Be the Creative Force in Your Own Life, by Robert Fritz


Both-And

August 18, 2012

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few weeks ago, I created a post called “Leaving Librarianship,” and said I wanted to make space for something new in my life. Since then, I’ve gotten a job with a Georgia library system to facilitate their strategic planning process, and I’ve volunteered to help start a local Friends of the Library group! Apparently, I’m not really leaving librarianship, at least not yet. And I realize (again) that making space for something new needn’t be done at the exclusion of everything else. Instead of either-or, it can be both-and. The poem I wrote about this a while back is here.

Life is a spiral for sure. I circle back to the same themes again and again, each time at a slightly new level of understanding. What themes repeat themselves in your spiral of learning?


Risk

August 4, 2012

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more. ~Erica Jong

I have put myself “out there” by applying for a residency at the Hambidge Center in northeast Georgia. I imagine the competition is stiff, but I am proud of myself for applying. And, who knows? I can dream that I will be accepted to spend two weeks in the woods with my poetry!

I’ve never understood daredevils or adventurers. (Why does anyone want to climb Mt. Everest? I can’t fathom it.) But there is something about this kind of risk that is exhilarating to me. What kinds of risks affect you in that way?


Leaving Librarianship

July 24, 2012

For nearly 30 years, I have been working as a public librarian. Even when I “retired” in 2010, it was to do consulting and teaching in the field. I have now come to a place in my life where I want to make a space for something new. I don’t know what that something is right now. There is a certain amount of angst associated with jumping off the path and into the void. Where will I land?

Below are some words I am drawn to at the moment. As one who is typically mad for closure, it is difficult to rest in uncertainty, to not pick a new path right away. The challenge is to remain receptive in order to hear my soul speak. I am grateful for the luxury of choices.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell

The end of one turn of the spiral becomes the beginning of another…we are designed for possibility. ~Gabrielle Rico

There is only one success—to spend your life in your own way. ~Christopher Morley

Where there is a path it is someone else’s way. ~Joseph Campbell

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. ~Howard Thurman

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. ~Henry David Thoreau

Trust yourself, then you will know how to live. ~Goethe


Soul Adventure

July 31, 2011

Today, I discovered the delightful Fridaville. I was prompted by a search that showed up in my blog stats for Nikki Hardin, which led me to a comment she made on one of my posts here back in 2008, which led me to her blog. So funny that her tagline is “where my imagination rents a room.”

I visited my new un-virtual room yesterday. Tomorrow I will go and clean in preparation for…what? It is strange and wonderful to not know what I will do with this room. I have some vague notions: listening to myself, inviting poets and friends in, wicker, beauty, play, tranquility, possibility. But mostly, it feels like a grand soul adventure.

What is your latest adventure–or your next adventure to be?


Sitting With Possibility

July 3, 2011

Since I retired, I have been concerned about the amount of time I have spent sitting. The medical establishment says this takes years off one’s lifetime. I have found it compelling to sit, as I am unsure what I want to get up and do! Meanwhile, life goes on: yoga, writing groups, lunch with friends, therapy, teaching, work, travel, sleep. So it’s not exactly true that I’ve been sitting for a year, although sometimes it does feel that way–like I will think back on 2010-11 as “my year of sitting.”

As my post  in early June attests, my summer is actually a busy one for a “retired” person. But I feel as if I’m sitting still between spurts of activity, like I am incubating somehow. What is to be born?

I have rented a “room of my own,” a creative space, which I will assume August 1. It is in downtown Dahlonega, above Brad Walker Pottery and behind the Front Porch Restaurant. I have no idea what will happen there, except that I know it will be only what makes my heart sing. It is fun to think about possibilities. But I think the first thing I will do is just sit in the emptiness, contemplating that. I am so very grateful for time and space. All the while trying to remember that the present moment is all there is.

What calls to you? Can you sit with the possibility until you hear it?


Politics of the Brokenhearted

May 14, 2011

I am looking forward to Parker J. Palmer’s forthcoming book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit. I have just read the essay from which this book springs, “The Politics of the Brokenhearted: On Holding the Tensions of Democracy.” You can read it here.

Palmer speaks of breaking the heart open, not “into a thousand shards,” but into “largeness of life, into greater capacity to hold one’s own and the world’s pain and joy.” He speaks of the essential violence in majority-rule decision making, and urges us to consider the Taoist concept of wu-wei–“literally purposeless wandering, or creative nonaction, making space within and around ourselves so that conflict and confusion can settle and a deeper wisdom emerge.”

We are an impatient culture, desiring quick action to settle differences. Palmer offers that “only in contemplative states are we able to touch the truth.” He makes the case in this essay for holding the tension between reality and possibility in ways that open our hearts, that honor the soul rather than succumbing to cynicism or dreamy idealism.

Palmer asserts, “When the heart dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power, it can become a source of countervailing power, keeping our best hopes alive in the hardest of places and times.”


The Energizing Spirit

August 28, 2010

Nothing is secure but life, transition, and the energizing spirit. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately, I am keenly aware that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. I am not my body. I am not my emotions. I am not my personality. When I remember this, the energizing spirit fills me with joy. There is no separation between the spiritual and the material, between mind and body, between the earth and the sky, between you and me.

Roy Eugene Davis (founder and director of Center for Spiritual Awareness in Lakemont, Georgia) says: “Come to terms with the fact that you are in relationship with life for a purpose. Find out what that purpose is and fulfill it. You will then fulfill your spiritual destiny. Merely to be inclined to drift with the tides of circumstances, or to focus on satisfying petty personal desires and whims, is to waste the precious opportunity living in this world provides. There is no better place than where we are to learn our lessons and to awaken and express our spiritual capacities.” And I would add, no better time than now.

What is your experience with the energizing spirit?


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.


A Year of Potential

January 1, 2010

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential. ~Ellen Goodman

I admit to stealing today’s quote from Patti Digh’s blog entry, entitled “you are not broken. you don’t need to be fixed.” The post also includes an image of a beautiful Edward Hopper painting (alas, no relation!)

But really, what a terrific way to start the new year, by considering our potential rather than making resolutions to overcome our perceived flaws. Acknowledging and celebrating our gifts gives others inspiration to do the same.

What do you want to bring forward in 2010? What do you have within you that wants expression? How will you celebrate your talents in the coming year? Share your list!


Creative Every Day 2010

December 24, 2009

Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about…Say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe. ~Rumi

I have again signed up for the Creative Every Day challenge–click on the badge at the right for details. Last year, I signed up, too, and posted a long list of possibilities for things I could do to follow through on that intention. In reviewing the list from my previous post, reprinted below, I see there are some things I actually did do in 2009! (I’ve made them bold.) Not bad, but lots of possibilities remaining for 2010. What will you do creatively this year?

draw from nature * write a poem * start a (joined a) local writer’s group * make greeting cards * visit a gallery * crochet a scarf * post photos to Flickr * finish my afghan-in-progress * take a new route home from work and see new sights * dye Easter eggs * build a bonfire * play with dots * write a short story * make a book * wear a new and different style of clothing * design a journal * see a museum exhibit * volunteer for the local arts council * write a nonfiction book * write a letter to someone in longhand * create a new smoothie flavor * make something from fabric scraps * take a creative day off work * make a dream book * learn to dance * knit a pair of socks * create a collage * make paper * visit a craft shop and see what attracts me * take a pottery class * weave a basket * make a gift for someone * try calligraphy * plan a vacation * find interesting objects in nature * play with words in a new way * fingerpaint * make beaded jewelry * do origami * take a walk someplace new * change my hairstyle * sleep outdoors * make a Hallowe’en costume * doodle * play the piano * design a workshop * browse an antique store * learn to quilt * go to a concert * write a chant * plant a garden * attend a theatrical production * read poetry out loud * organize photos in an album * try a new fruit * give away what no longer suits me * take someone flowers * sing * make a Zen garden * use the Milliande Creativity Club “artist date” prompt for the month * play a wooden flute * design a cross-stitch picture * decorate a box * make a list of funny words * read about a new craft * arrange some flowers * jump rope and make up rhymes * create a brochure * go to an arts festival * challenge a self-perception * burn candles * take nature photos * plan a party * illustrate a journal * create an arty wardrobe * dance to rock favorites from the 70s * make a snowman * play with crayons, colored pencils, or paint pens * plan a surprise for myself * make my own gift bags * recycle old earrings into new jewelry or sculpture * splurge on soft sheets * draw a picture of who I am becoming * write a fan letter * build a sand sculpture * think up arguments to quiet my inner critic * tell someone off in my head * play with stripes * buy myself a toy * create a mantra for each day * observe in moonlight * make love in a new way * make a drum * go caroling * light some incense * daydream in a hammock * create an altar * tell someone how much I care about them * meditate * shirk responsibility * rent a bicycle * build a studio * draw a cartoon * play on a playground * draw a picture of my creativity * have a pillow fight * press some leaves or flowers * rearrange the furniture * join a book discussion group * do some bad art * learn Spanish * climb a tree * pamper myself * write a Dear John letter to the part of myself I want to shed * try out for a play * write a letter to the creative child in me * take voice lessons * participate in an open mike poetry reading * enter a contest * make an artist totem * write a good review of my work * cuddle up with a blanket and my stuffed puppy * write verses for children * notice ceilings * make a spiritual corner in my house * make a junk sculpture * draw a mandala * take tap dancing lessons…


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.


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?


Rebirth

June 21, 2009

…human beings are not born once and for all the day their mothers give birth to them…life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves. ~Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I’m not sure it would be possible to count all the rebirths in my life, but I am grateful for most of them at least. There is something wonderful about new chances to move closer to what you aspire to be. I am now in the process of birthing a consulting business, which I plan to nurture slowly until retirement and bring into fuller flower (to mix the metaphor!) once I have retired. I hope this will give me the opportunity to share with others the benefit of my experience and learning over the years of my career.

In any event, I will no doubt continue to pursue learning, as it is my passion! And when we are learning, a myriad of possibilities present themselves. I hope to be reborn again and again before I have to leave this world.

Take note of the rebirths in your life. Are you moving always closer to the person you wish to be in the world?


Surrender

May 3, 2009

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

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

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

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


The Heart’s Door

January 2, 2009

A basket full of bread sits on your head; yet you go from door to door begging for crusts. Attend to your own head. Knock on your heart’s door. ~Rumi

Today I want to swaddle my heart, protecting it from harm, and feel it beating through my whole body. But I also want to crack open the door and peek inside, get just a glimpse to help me on my way. Fear of opening that door has existed long past its usefulness!

The truth is, things have been leaking out for years…I just wasn’t sure where they were coming from. Perhaps that’s a gift of middle age, the capacity to become reacquainted with your own desires and passions, to claim them as your own.

My often-neglected passions include creative expression (but isn’t this true for everyone?), balance (think yoga, solitude vs. relationship, work-life balance), and learning. What would you find behind your heart’s door?


Creative Every Day: My List of Possibilities

January 1, 2009

Change and risk-taking are normal aspects of the creative process. They are the lubricants that keep the wheels in motion. A creative act is not necessarily something that has never been done; it is something you’ve never done before. ~Margaret Mead

As part of the Creative Every Day Challenge for 2009, I might:

draw from nature * write a poem * start a local writer’s group * make greeting cards * visit a gallery * crochet a scarf * post photos to Flickr * finish my afghan-in-progress * take a new route home from work and see new sights * dye Easter eggs * build a bonfire * play with dots * write a short story * make a book * wear a new and different style of clothing * design a journal * see a museum exhibit * volunteer for the local arts council * write a nonfiction book * write a letter to someone in longhand * create a new smoothie flavor * make something from fabric scraps * take a creative day off work * make a dream book * learn to dance * knit a pair of socks * create a collage * make paper * visit a craft shop and see what attracts me * take a pottery class * weave a basket * make a gift for someone * try calligraphy * plan a vacation * find interesting objects in nature * play with words in a new way * fingerpaint * make beaded jewelry * do origami * take a walk someplace new * change my hairstyle * sleep outdoors * make a Hallowe’en costume * doodle * play the piano * design a workshop * browse an antique store * learn to quilt * go to a concert * write a chant * plant a garden * attend a theatrical production * read poetry out loud * organize photos in an album * try a new fruit * give away what no longer suits me * take someone flowers * sing * make a Zen garden * use the Milliande Creativity Club “artist date” prompt for the month * play a wooden flute * design a cross-stitch picture * decorate a box * make a list of funny words * read about a new craft * arrange some flowers * jump rope and make up rhymes * create a brochure * go to an arts festival * challenge a self-perception * burn candles * take nature photos * plan a party * illustrate a journal * create an arty wardrobe * dance to rock favorites from the 70s * make a snowman * play with crayons, colored pencils, or paint pens * plan a surprise for myself * make my own gift bags * recycle old earrings into new jewelry or sculpture * splurge on soft sheets * draw a picture of who I am becoming * write a fan letter * build a sand sculpture * think up arguments to quiet my inner critic * tell someone off in my head * play with stripes * buy myself a toy * create a mantra for each day * observe in moonlight * make love in a new way * make a drum * go caroling * light some incense * daydream in a hammock * create an altar * tell someone how much I care about them * meditate * shirk responsibility * rent a bicycle * build a studio * draw a cartoon * play on a playground * draw a picture of my creativity * have a pillow fight * press some leaves or flowers * rearrange the furniture * join a book discussion group * do some bad art * learn Spanish * climb a tree * pamper myself * write a Dear John letter to the part of myself I want to shed * try out for a play * write a letter to the creative child in me * take voice lessons * participate in an open mike poetry reading * enter a contest * make an artist totem * write a good review of my work * cuddle up with a blanket and my stuffed puppy * write verses for children * notice ceilings * make a spiritual corner in my house * make a junk sculpture * draw a mandala * take tap dancing lessons…

Whew! That was FUN! What else would you include on your list of artistic possibilities for the new year?


Living Creatively: 10 Ideas

December 9, 2008

I embrace emerging experience.
I participate in discovery.
I am a butterfly.
I am not a butterfly collector.
I want the experience of the butterfly.

~William Stafford

Recently I stayed overnight at Pat’s apartment, and was inspired by her creative spirit, the art on her walls, and her projects in progress. Then I saw this post on Creativity Portal–Deanne Fitzpatrick’s 101 Ideas for Living Creatively. I decided to come up with some of my own ideas for living more of an artist’s life.

1. Write or draw in a new place–in a coffeehouse, in nature, in the kitchen, at the library.
2. Find something around the house to alter or decorate and recycle as a gift.
3. Think of a game I loved as a child and play it.
4. Surprise someone who needs a lift–with a handmade card, a homemade treat, or just an act of kindness.
5. Just say no to computer games, and blog or write a poem instead.
6. Walk somewhere instead of driving. Notice the smallest things I can see along the way.
7. Carry a writer’s notebook at all times, and capture ideas, images, overheard conversations, anything that sparks my imagination.
8. Tune in to the natural world for a while with my senses. Watch birds, smell the earth, sit on the grass, listen to a flowing stream, sway in the breeze, bask in the sunshine.
9. Give myself a gift–a nap, yoga, a massage, or whatever my body needs at the moment. See what images come to me when I am nurtured and relaxed.
10. Ask a “what if” question about everything that comes my way for a day.

What helps you stay connected to your creative spirit?


From the Archives: December

December 8, 2008

Writing is a struggle against silence. ~Carlos Fuentes

My struggle last December included the following posts.

Being a Beginner
More on the recent theme of unknowing, the world of possibility.

Becoming
The year-end ritual from The Not So Big Life.

Loss
In spite of loss, we must love because our lives depend on it.

Activism
How effective is activism for social justice?

A New Year
Thoughts on New Year’s resolutions.


Not Knowing

December 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

*thanks to Whitney for this notion of compromise!


The Tyranny of Expectations

September 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

See also Expectations


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!


Do What You Love

July 24, 2008

Pursue the things you love doing, and do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you. All other tangible rewards will come as a result. ~Maya Angelou

I love blogging! I am surprised by that, as it is not something I would have ever thought I would enjoy so much. I’m astonished that I have been writing here for almost a year. I’ve always known I loved words and writing, and all my writing came out as poetry until I found this medium. But I’ve discovered that I really like writing these short, personal essays and ruminations. As I said in the last post, writing pulls me along into the work I need to do, suggests new ways of looking at life, and helps me make sense of the world. Grace Paley said, “You write from what you know, but you write in what you don’t know.”

What do you love doing? If you can’t do it for a living, how can you do it as an avocation? Or what small bit of it can you integrate into your life right now?


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.


The Beauty We Love

February 20, 2008

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

~Rumi

What a beautiful last line. It almost makes up for Rumi’s dissing of reading! 😉 And just look at that first line that describes the human condition–not one that’s special (“like every other day”) nor one that is unique to us as individuals (“we wake up”). The question Rumi begs here, of course, is “What is the beauty you love?” This poem is one answer for me.

Only in midlife have I begun to understand that this is the right question, much less to consider the answers to the question. As a child, I don’t remember having dreams about what I would be when I grew up. It didn’t occur to me to aspire to anything in particular, even though I came from a solidly middle-class household that valued education and achievement. Possibly this was true for many girls, whose socially acceptable options typically consisted of teacher, nurse, wife and mother. Most certainly, though, the question in my family would have had more to do with accomplishment as measured by society than with the beauty I loved. 

So…what is the beauty I love? Poetry, words, music, textural arts (fiber, glass, multimedia), laughter, yoga, living spaces with feng shui, human connection, singing. What is the beauty you love?


Presidential Politics

January 4, 2008

To be impartial is to have taken sides already with the status quo.  ~Desmond Tutu

It does not require many words to speak the truth.  ~Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Well, here it is upon us, the season of polls and caucuses, speeches and posturing, promises and attacks. As Ronnie Shakes said, “I was going to buy The Power of Positive Thinking, and then I thought, ‘What good would that do?'” (sounds like a Steven Wright joke to me!) I really am fighting cynicism, but still don’t have the heart to tune in for all the media coverage.

Gandhi said, “In matters of conscience, the law of majority has no place.” Neither does the electoral college. And there are so many matters of conscience facing our country. I am far from impartial, but neither am I captivated (as are some political junkies I know) by the finer points of every argument, poll, platform, or candidate (celebrity?) bio presented by the media. In recent years I’ve shed my guilt at not knowing all those details, because our system is such a juggernaut, and the brush strokes on the political landscape are so broad. Ultimately, I know that I will vote for whichever Democratic candidate ends up on the ballot, and continue to hope for the best.

I just love the words Dick Scobie used on the occasion of his retirement from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee: “I hope I can keep reaching for a world in which those seeking justice will find it; for a world in which children wake up to days of promise and laughter; for a world in which old people will be respected and go to bed warm and secure; for a world in which young people will find love and work and there’ll be no need for guns, or police, or prisons; for a world of dancing and music where all manner of diversity is a cause for celebration; for a world without need for the tools and cruelty of war; and where the green pastures, the air and the water are kept clean.”

May it be so.


Being a Beginner

December 15, 2007

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.  ~Shunryu Suzuki

I’m convinced that the most direct path to our creativity starts from a place of unknowing. Or perhaps the creativity is the path. Young children know how to play their way into understanding, making mistakes, falling down, trying new approaches. But as we grow, those creative impulses are trained out of us. We become afraid of looking foolish, of not knowing, and we cling to certain answers, indisputable facts, narrow views. I want to recover the ability to see as a beginner, and I want to practice being a beginner over and over again, so that nothing becomes fixed and without possibilities.


Exploring

October 9, 2007

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
~T. S. Eliot

I just love these lines from Eliot’s “Little Gidding” (No. 4 of “Four Quartets”).  They so perfectly express to me the cyclical nature of our understanding (spiraling, really, because we never exactly “arrive where we started”). It is said that you can’t put your toe in the same river twice. I would add that you can’t put the same toe in the river twice!

And what about the urge to explore?  Henry Miller said, “Until we accept the fact that life itself is founded in mystery, we shall learn nothing.”  St. Francis reminded us that “Who we are looking for is who is looking.” But perhaps Graham Greene said it best: “When we are not sure, we are alive.” I want to maintain the openness (Miller), the groundedness (St. Francis) and the curiosity (Greene) to keep exploring!


All Is Now

September 12, 2007

I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
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.
~Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”

No beginning, no end…the circle of life. All time exists now. We Westerners have a hard time giving up our linear thought, our linear sense of time.  I think I love poetry in large part because it can cut through habits of thought.  Good poetry surprises us, makes us see new relationships, gives us a glimpse of the poet’s creative joy.  How does linear thought, a linear sense of beginnings and endings, limit us?  What might be possible by suspending it?


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?


Possibilities

August 23, 2007

Not knowing when the dawn will come, I open every door.  ~Emily Dickinson

Life is all about possibilities right now.  And what I’m finding is that it’s difficult to hold open many doors–I want to find THE right one and close the others.  So it’s a good exercise for me, staying open to a multitude of possible futures, choosing none, but striving to live in the present all the same, stretching my tolerance for ambiguity.