Praise, Blame, and Failure

June 28, 2010

This has been going on through the ages.
They criticize the silent ones.
They criticize the talkative ones.
They criticize the moderate ones.
There is no one in the world who escapes criticism.

There never was and never will be,
nor is there now,
the wholly criticized
or the wholly approved.

~Buddha

Fall down 53 times. Get up 54.
~Zen slogan

This morning, walking down the hill to my mailbox, I stepped onto uneven pavement or slipped on loose gravel, twisted my ankle, and fell with all my weight onto my left palm, which now has a nasty cut that won’t stop bleeding. Then about 10:15 I had a call from my doctor saying I was supposed to be at her office at 10:00, a missed appointment that I will have to pay for. In my earlier morning pages,* I reflected on haunting missteps from my past, resolving to move forward with what I have learned, rather than dwelling on what I should have done differently.

So it felt like a personal message from the universe to open my email and find these quotes and other wise words from Margaret Wheatley, an excerpt from her new book, Perseverance. You can read her brief excerpt here. (Be sure to click the arrow on the first page, “Praise and Blame,” to get to the next, “Failure.”)

Wheatley says praise and blame are two sides of the same coin. I couldn’t agree more. For my take on that subject, see a previous entry, “Judgment.”

And now I’m going to get my hand stitched up. May we all walk more mindfully, with acceptance that we are human, and with compassion for ourselves and others.

Namaste.

*If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need the explanation that writing three pages in the morning (“morning pages”) is a technique for enhancing creativity described by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way


Engagement

June 10, 2010

Living in a vacuum sucks. ~Adrienne E. Gusoff

Today this quote on my Google home page made me laugh. But it also made me think about the seduction of withdrawal. It is a great luxury this month to have no particular place I have to go, no particular people I have to see, and no particular work I have to do. I can wander around the yard, take time to sit in the sun and pet the cat, read novels, take naps, write, draw, and generally do what I please. Dangerous stuff for an introvert who lives in the country!

So I want to fully enjoy this retreat from society, but also plan for my reentry, because I believe that engagement is a responsibility we have to the world. Thich Nhat Hanh teaches us about the interdependence of all things, which he calls interbeing. “I am, therefore you are. You are, therefore I am,” he says.

So during this time of rest and reflection, I will consider how to best be of use. What is it that I have to offer the world? And where and how can it be shared wholeheartedly?


Semi-Retired and Loving It

April 7, 2010

Devote six years to your work but in the seventh go into solitude or among strangers so that your friends, by remembering what you were, do not prevent you from being what you have become. ~Leo Szilard

Everyone should have a sabbatical every so often. I have been working practically non-stop since I graduated from college in 1975. It has been next to impossible to separate my self from my work. Yet in recent years, I have longed to be reacquainted with who I am outside of my vocation. Not that there are radical differences, just that work (as I engaged it) has taken vital energy, energy that I now crave for learning how to be (as opposed to do) in the world. Perhaps others are able to do both at once, but I have always found it difficult, as I chose a vocation about which I was truly passionate. My colleagues were my friends; my friends were my colleagues, for the most part.

And now I am working only half-time in preparation for retirement. There is time for rest, for reflection, for getting reacquainted with my soul.

I think the concept of sabbatical is brilliant. According to Wikipedia (could be true!), 20% of British companies have a career break policy. In the U. S., it seems that only academic and spiritual work environments offer sabbaticals. And those sabbaticals can feel like just more work. I believe enlightened workplaces could offer sabbaticals that give the employee great latitude for self-exploration, with few “products” expected. Life is process. Can businesses honor the process, the individual quest for self-understanding, spiritual enlightenment if you will, and still be profitable? I believe so. And certainly the social services should give inherently underpaid and overstressed employees a periodic break from their labors.

What do you think?


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!


The Year in Review

December 31, 2009

If what I say resonates with you, it is merely because we are both branches on the same tree. ~William Butler Yeats

At the end of the year, it seems fitting to review 2009 in at least three ways: (1) rereading this blog, testament to my passages this year; (2) going through my gratitude journal for the last year, and noting the “gratitude intentions,” that is, things I have wanted to be grateful for in future; and (3) considering the list of questions in the Year End Ritual described in The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka.

The Year End Ritual questions reveal my intention to move toward greater acceptance, connection, and egolessness. My summary aspiration statement is this: I will radiate love, acceptance, and gratitude from my authentic center into the world. (This shouldn’t take long, hahaha!)

Here are the themes from my gratitude aspirations during 2009: equanimity for both my husband and me as we move through family illnesses and deaths * robust health and vitality * practice (yoga, meditation, healthy eating, mindfulness) * a sheltering sense of community, warm friendships * letting go, acceptance, non-attachment * writing and other creative pursuits * love, compassion, and an open heart * right livelihood, meaningful work, being in tune with my calling * honoring my commitments to myself * opportunity to contribute to a better world * confidence, poise, and groundedness * more play, fun, lightness of being

And finally, here are selected blog posts from 2009, the “Cliff Notes” version of the year!

Generativity, February 9
Finding one’s true path is important for the world, as well as for the self.

Painting Myself, February 28
On the changing nature of autobiography over time

An Undivided Life, March 14
Discovering Parker J. Palmer and healing separation from self

Flowing Water, April 6
Surrender to the channel in which one’s life flows

Spiraling, May 1
Life is a spiral; each day we learn its lessons in a new way.

In Praise of Slowness, May 4
Basking in our lives instead of running in and from them–see also Moodling Day, August 2 and The Myth of Multitasking, October 25

Gifts, May 5
What’s easy for us might just be what we need to be doing.

Happiness and Belonging, August 10, an expansion of Thread, January 20
We are everything and nothing.

This is My Real Life, August 15
Transforming and softening our will into willingness

Groupthink, August 29
The antidote–laughter!

Goals Are Not Intentions, November 21
Read this before you make any New Years resolutions.

Wishing you all a joyous, mindful, creative, accepting, poetic, authentic year full of learning, laughter, love, and gratitude!


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?


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?


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?


An Undivided Life

March 14, 2009

Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view! ~Parker J. Palmer

I have just finished reading Parker J. Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. How can every sentence from Palmer be exactly the sentence I would write if I could think and write as clearly and beautifully as he?

This book covers virtually all the themes I have explored in this blog–integrity, the open heart, connection, woundedness, respect, attention, letting go, and many others–in the investigation of an undivided life. Bringing inner and outer worlds together is a process Palmer refers to as the joining of soul and role. Rejoining, really, because in his view we were all undivided at birth. But he cautions that this process is much more than “embracing the inner child,” since “we carry burdens and challenges children do not have.”

Solitude Palmer defines as not necessarily living apart from others, but apart from ourselves. And community he says is not necessarily living with others, but rather “never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other…being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.”

We cocreate each other in encounter, Palmer says, and he gives a specific method for establishing “circles of trust,” safe “communities of solitudes” where people can listen to their own hearts, discern their own truth, without being invaded or evaded by others. He likens the soul to a wild animal, shy and self-protective, and says we must not go crashing through the woods (arguing, preaching, proclaiming, advising, trying to be helpful). We must sit in silent attentiveness and hopeful expectancy if we want the soul to appear.

I already knew a little of Palmer, a Quaker, from the many times my minister/friend Marti spoke about him from the UU pulpit. But (as with most books), I have no idea by what route I got to this one. I am just grateful to have discovered it.


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?


Painting Myself

February 28, 2009

Painting myself for others, I have painted my inward self with colors clearer than my original ones. I have no more made my book than my book has made me. ~Montaigne

One of my friends often cautions me about maintaining more privacy. She is amazed that I bare my soul as much as I do in this blog, and I know she believes I will end up hurt as a result. But I am finding this experiment in personal revelation both clarifying and strengthening. I believe that vulnerability is, as David Whyte has said, “the door through which we walk into self-understanding and compassion for others.”

The quest is for personal truth. I have just read the introduction to Phillip Lopate’s anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay. He tells us the essayist is fascinated by the changeableness of human personality, understands that we all start from self-deception, and uses the additive strategy: “offering incomplete shards, one mask or persona after another…If we must ‘remove the mask,’ it is only to substitute another mask. The hope is that in the end…all these personae will add up to a genuine unmasking.”

And so this blog serves as a collection of fragments describing my journey–with movement, changing personae, and contradiction. Lopate writes, “The harvesting of self-contradiction is an intrinsic part of the personal essay form…the personal essayist is not necessarily out to win the audience’s unqualified love but to present the complex portrait of a human being.”

Writing this blog is making me, even as I am making it.


Generativity

February 9, 2009

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

We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real? ~Ray Bradbury

Like most of us I guess, I have followed a lot of worn and recommended paths, made fairly safe choices, and rested in the familiar throughout my life. In recent years, though, I have been bothered by the question concerning what my authentic path is. What is it that’s right for me, that allows me to contribute creatively to the world in a way that no one else can?

It is this exploration that is to be the excitement of my old age, I think. There’s nothing inherently wrong with worn paths, and I have learned a great deal by following them. They save us a lot of time and energy in a way. But I feel the urge now to blaze my own trail, to better understand my gifts and how to share them.

I don’t think this necessarily requires a dramatic change in what I do and how I live; it is more an internal shift in perspective. I expect only gradual changes in the ways I engage in the world, the activities I choose, the invitations I accept or decline, the work I do in retirement, and so on. (But who knows, really?)

And this is not just about creative self-expression (no–I promise–it’s not all about me!), but about generativity. As someone who did not raise children, I want to help future generations in the only way I believe I can–by living my authentic life, by sharing what is uniquely mine to give.

What is your authentic path, your unique contribution to the world? Are you bothered by the question?


Mandalas

February 7, 2009

We will know what both the fullness and fulfillment of life mean only when the consciousness that the Spirit is our own very self comes to life within us. ~Paul Brunton, Perspectives

Be careful reading Carl Jung! As a result of delving into Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I became interested in mandalas. I found Creating Mandalas, by Susanne F. Fincher, and then of course I had to try my hand with my sketch book and colored pencils.

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Within a circle of growth, I am emerging from a dark night with boldness and hope. I connect to the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The sun is shining on me, but I also walk a dim labyrinth. Pushing up from my unconscious are the will to thrive and bloom, and greater understanding of and groundedness in the man-made world, society.

Well, that was so much fun, I had to draw another one!

And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom. ~Anais Nin

Flowering

Flowering

Dark seeds in my heart are dwarfed by healthy growth, the will to thrive. The path is winding, but I am flowering, bathed in light, moving outward from a solid heart center.

What will your mandalas reveal?


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?


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?


Woundedness

September 18, 2008

Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That’s where the light enters you. ~Rumi

There are things in this life that hurt! The challenge of the wounded, I think, is in not identifying with woundedness, in being more than that. But when we avoid or repress the woundedness, we don’t heal properly. Recently, old repressed pain has been bubbling to the surface for me (see also these references to heartbreakthroughs). An image came to me this week of a wounded bird, trapped and panicky, in need of soothing. I want to open my heart and let the grief and pain pass through and away, but it is difficult work.

When I considered the image of the bird, two things came to mind: a ring I have worn for years, and a collection of spirit stones my friend Elaine made for me a long time ago. The ring came from the Southwest Indian Foundation and has a prominent thunderbird motif. The spirit stones Elaine chose for me, and the characteristics they represent, were the following: Otter-laughter; Spider-creativity; Bee-organization; Loon-solitude, singing; and Thunderbird-spirituality. Some Native Americans believed that the water animals were healers, the land animals protectors, and the air and sky creatures embodied spirituality and wisdom. I like the idea of protecting (bandaging) myself with creativity, and of healing with laughter (and perhaps solitude and singing, too)!

I have resisted the thunderbird, though. In fact, when the ring came in the mail, I was disappointed, since the catalog image was a ring with tiny pueblos in relief. On my ring, little sections of pueblos flank a large central bird. I knew each piece was hand-crafted and so a unique design, but I expected the ring to look more like the photo. I even asked if there was any possibility of exchanging it, but received no reply. Now I think it might have been meant for me. Perhaps my life journey is moving from wounded bird to powerful thunderbird, eh? For now, I’ll do my best to keep my gaze on the bandaged place where the light enters.


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?


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.


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?


Flow

March 8, 2008

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

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

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

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

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


Sleeplessness

January 10, 2008

True silence is the rest of the mind, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.  ~William Penn

As I often do these days, it seems, I woke at 3:00 a.m. with a sinus headache. My experience tells me that the only cure is to get up and be vertical for a while. And I actually love the silence of the morning. There is something about silence that is like a warm cloak on a cold day; it feels luxurious, comforting, and calming. I am grateful for silence.

Solitude and silence are grounding, too. Thomas Á Kempis said, “If you wish to grow in your spiritual life, you must not allow yourself to be caught up in the workings of the world; you must find time alone, away from the noise and confusion, away from the allure of power and wealth.” Who among us today knows the joy and value of solitude, of silence? There is something disturbing about the ubiquitous cell phone, and the apparent addiction of so many people to that form of connection. What are all these people talking about? When do they listen to their own hearts?

Later today I will conduct a training session for about 30 public library trustees. Tonight I will visit with two close friends, share stories and laughter, and bask in their loving presence. And all I do today will be more mindful, more effective, more enjoyable for the solitude and silence that have fed me this morning.


What Others Think

December 28, 2007

Enslavement to the opinions of others is the source of a great deal of duplicity in modern society. How often we discover our action to be prompted, not by the divine Center, but by what others may say or think. Sadly, we must confess that our experience is all too frequently characterized by endless attempts to justify what we do or fail to do.  ~Richard J. Foster

You probably wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.  ~Olin Miller

How many of us were taught to consider first the appearance to others of our actions, rather than the rightness to ourselves? I have spent half a lifetime and a lot of therapy dollars unlearning that lesson, and still I catch myself sometimes justifying to others what I do or fail to do. Just look at my “About” page if you doubt me.

How liberating, though, to realize that I am my best counsel! Remaining open to the opinions and ideas of others, I strive to ultimately listen to my own voice, “divine Center” or conscience. There is a dearth of real courage in our society (as opposed to machismo/violence/aggression passed off for courage). I believe real courage requires us to be still, silent, reflective, and receptive–and these states are increasingly discouraged by modern lifestyles.

How do the opinions of others (real or imagined) shape your behavior, your thought, your deeds? What would change if you listened to your own wisdom?


Becoming

December 19, 2007

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.  ~Anna Quindlen

I have just completed the year-end ritual described in The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka. One of the questions (perhaps the most provocative and important one for me) is “What am I becoming?” The answer to this question, in my view, incorporates all one’s desires, longings, previous experiences, conditioned behaviors, reflections, and aspirations. What are you becoming?

Another question involves summing up all one’s desires and longings into one simple statement. My response at the moment is “I embody loving acceptance of what is, without fear or anger.”

And finally, I have once again confirmed my love of learning for its own sake.  I want to learn whatever is available to learn in a situation–inquisitively, not acquisitively. 

The Year-End Ritual instructions can be found at http://www.notsobiglife.com/resources/documents/TheYearEndRitual.pdf. Consider sharing your results!


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?