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.

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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!