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?


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?


Solitude, Silence, Spaces

December 13, 2008

Every kind of creative work demands solitude, and being alone, constructively alone, is a prerequisite for every phase of the creative process. ~Barbara Powell

Winter is a natural time for hibernation, re-creation of ourselves, inward exploration. After three days of being with others, I am relishing my Saturday morning solitude. Jung said, “Silence is for me a fount of healing which makes my life worth living. Talking is often a torment for me, and I need many days of silence to recover from the futility of words.” I can relate to that!

Yet how many of us take time to listen to ourselves, to retreat into silence and solitude as healing practices? It is very difficult in today’s world of instant and ever-present communication. Our environments have increasingly become loud, busy, cluttered palettes without the pauses that allow us to make meaning of them.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron says,”Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God.” In a world where there are few spaces and silences, I think we must protect that dreamy idleness Ueland calls moodling (more here); that percolation process Bonni Goldberg writes about in her book on writing, Beyond the Words.

How do you create spaces and silences that help you digest your experiences, that make room for creative response?


Balance

March 2, 2008

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. ~Stephen Covey

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth and the soul requires inward restfulness to attain its full height. ~Mahatma Gandhi

Without great solitude no serious work is possible. ~Pablo Picasso 

I have recently submitted requests for vacation days several months in advance. In May I will travel with friends to a state park for a few days R&R; in June, I plan to see Iris DeMent in concert; and I have scheduled several Mondays off to extend my weekends. The Mondays in particular will allow me space and time for silence, solitude and creativity.

For too long, my paid work has been a priority that crowded out others. While I love my work, I have to consciously attend to relationships, home, solitude and rest in order to maintain balance. How do you achieve balance in your life among the many demands you face and roles you play?


Creative Space

February 2, 2008

Creative endeavor requires physical and mental space; without privacy, solitude, and time it suffocates. It is not easy to be independent in a crowd and it is impossible to pursue independent thought in the scattered remnants of a day or of a lifetime….Finally, the creative life requires an environment which is free, open, and never so logical and efficient that it cannot be unpredictable.  ~Judith Groch

I have been too much with the world the past few weeks. Today I am enjoying a little window of space and time before I go back to that hurried existence. There are days when I long to retire in order to have that “physical and mental space” Groch talks about. I remember a luxurious, solitary, twelve-hour train ride on Amtrak’s “Southern Crescent” that resulted in this little poem:

From the Crescent

Dry, brown kudzu climbs the banks
as the river sludges, rain-red,
beside the train.
Walls of windworn rock
loom suddenly, then fall away.

Language spatters the whitewash of sound
on board: floating phrases, murmurs,
an occasional cry.
Hours stretch before me–grace–
and I rock in the rhythm of all things.


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.