Ease Up!

August 6, 2010

We are the strivingest people who have ever lived. We are ambitious, time-starved, competitive, distracted. We move at full velocity, yet constantly fear we are not doing enough. Though we live longer than any humans before us, our lives feel shorter, restless, breathless…Dear ones, EASE UP. Pump the brakes. Take a step back. Seriously. Take two steps back. Turn off all your electronics and surrender over all your aspirations and do absolutely nothing for a spell. I know, I know – we all need to save the world. But trust me: The world will still need saving tomorrow. In the meantime, you’re going to have a stroke soon (or cause a stroke in somebody else) if you don’t calm the hell down. So go take a walk. Or don’t. Consider actually exhaling. Find a body of water and float. Hit a tennis ball against a wall. Tell your colleagues that you’re off meditating (people take meditation seriously, so you’ll be absolved from guilt) and then actually, secretly, nap. My radical suggestion? Cease participation, if only for one day this year – if only to make sure that we don’t lose forever the rare and vanishing human talent of appreciating  ease. ~Elizabeth Gilbert*

Having recently retired from my “regular” job, I have been interested in my fluctuating attitudes toward work, discipline, and creating new routines for myself. Life just feels different nowadays–different than it did when I was working, different than I thought it would feel, and different on different days. Sometimes it’s blissful (These Days), sometimes it feels like I’m spiraling downward and only have the energy to nap, and some days I am pleasantly productive without a lot of striving.

Today, this hit me in a new way: I get to choose. I can decide moment to moment how or even if I want to be engaged. I can notice what feeds me, what depletes me. I can determine whether I have done enough work, played enough, paid enough attention to relationships, meditated enough, exercised enough, and been kind enough to myself! Meanwhile, I am trying to avoid attachment to the good days and aversion to the not-so-good, to just experience each day as it comes.

What do you think about Elizabeth Gilbert’s advice?

*The passage is reprinted from Seth Godin’s free e-book, What Matters Now. Get it here.


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?


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?


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?”


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?


Plain, Common Work

May 26, 2009

The best things in life are nearest; breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I can hardly believe it’s been 21 days since my last post. What happened? Busy-ness. Vacation at Fort Mountain State Park. The Evergreen (software) International Conference. Excitement about the idea of starting my own consulting business. Family caretaking. Not enough yoga. Out-of-town meetings. Business lunches (fortune cookie: “A bold and dashing adventure is in your future within the year.”). Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival. Too much Facebook. Lots of reading (Olive Kitteridge may take its place among my favorites.).

Daily duties, daily bread. Sweet.


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!


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?


Rain

September 9, 2008

Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.  ~Bob Dylan

We have had lovely rain today, and this time not because of any tropical storms threatening others. There is something about rain, this gentle kind of rain, that is soothing and beautiful. Mist hangs between the hills, and things are still and quiet now except for an occasional rumble of thunder. The trees and plants are rejoicing, and there will be more grass to mow this year. I am grateful for this rain.

How often have I thought of rain as that inconvenience that makes me wet, that I don’t like to drive in, that ruins an outing? More times than I’d care to remember. I want a rhythm in my life that allows for being with rain. I think it would be heaven to awaken each morning and tune in to what the day will bring, adjusting one’s activities accordingly, rather than forcing our artificial routines on the day.

There is so much beauty in the sound of rain, as much as in the sound of poetry to me. Gentle or torrential, on the grass or a tin roof, rain can have a mesmerizing, meditative effect. May I listen to, feel, and be with the rain as often and completely as I can.


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!


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.


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?


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?


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?


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.


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?


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.


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?


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


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.


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.


Flying

January 26, 2008

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

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

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

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


Life as Art

December 16, 2007

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

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

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


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.”


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?