Friday, December 31, 2010

Why This Moment?

I just checked ... it's now 2011 in Rio.  Here in the Sierra foothills we have 5 1/2 hours left of 2010.  What a funny way to think about things.  As if all the minutes of 2010 were painted purple and the first minute of 2011 turned time pink.  There is no real difference between 11:59 pm today and 12:00 am tomorrow but bells will ring, fireworks will rocket, and a glittering ball will mark the moment for millions of people.

Why do we take this drop from the ocean and hold it up as if it were a rock star?  Not one thing is different from one moment to the next and yet instantly a million diets will be launched, exercise gym memberships will spike, and nicotine patches will fly off the shelves.  Slates will be wiped clean, do-overs will multiply like bunnies  and hope will blossom in the universal heart.

Perhaps the question isn't "Why do we celebrate this one moment?" but rather "Why don't we celebrate every moment?"  Why can't we start afresh every moment? Wipe away the dust and grime of the past and open our hearts to hope and joy every single second of every new and glorious day?

Why not indeed!  May every moment of the coming year be filled with joy and a great forgetting of all past hurts and wrongdoings.

Vision Collage - You're Invited!

On the first day of this year, several of us gathered with magazines, glue sticks, journals and an impulse to discover more of ourselves and what the year might hold for us.  It was such a delightful day I decided to make it an annual tradition.  So, tomorrow a new group will meet in a new place and you're invited to join us wherever you are.

Here's what you'll need:
-- a journal or someplace to put your collage (a canvas or board or anything else that you could put somewhere and see it often.  Blank 8 1/2 x 11 paper works fine but you may want something more special.
-- 4-5 image-oriented magazines (home, travel, O, Real Simple, etc.)  Spend some quiet time thumbing through them and pulling out images that strike you.  (Don't worry about whether or not they make sense.  If they capture your attention, they do.) 
-- scissors, glue sticks and any embellishments that look like fun ... yarn, sequins, stamps, etc.
-- most important:  dreams and wishes that you would like to see turn into reality in the coming year.
Once you've got several images that appeal to you, simply start to glue them onto the paper you're using as your base.  You may want to cut or tear the image so that you're only getting the pieces you want.

Here are two short articles about creating a Vision Collage that might give you a little more insight (the first one calls it a Vision Board):

Wishing you a joyfully fantastic New Year even if you can't be with us.  We'd love to hear about your Vision Collage.

About the Image:  This is the 2-page collage that I did the first day of this year.  It is the inside cover of my journal so that I could see it frequently as I went through the year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sketchbook Challenge

I don't do sketchbooks ... they scare me silly.  But I love looking at sketchbooks and wish I could (would) do one.  So when a friend turned me onto the Sketchbook Challenge, my immediate response was "No way."  Then I tiptoed over to the blog post that announced the challenge where Jill Berry was reading my mind when she said:
So you want to start keeping a sketchbook but every time you sit down with a book in front of you and pencil in hand you freeze up and just can’t seem to get started. Wouldn’t it be helpful to be able to get a glimpse inside another artists sketchbook to see how they use theirs? Well you’re in luck because help is on the way!
The sketchbook challenge is a new project launching on 1/1/2011. Follow along with a diverse group of very talented artists working in a variety of styles and mediums as they fill their sketchbooks based on a monthly theme.

So, what have we got to lose?  We don't have to share the pages that look like kindergarten homework.  I'm going to do it and invite you to join me.

About the Image:  This is a page from Jill Berry's blog.  My sketchbook will not look like this ... nor will I build a special box from scratch to hold my sketchbook pages.  Just so you know.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Gift without Price

“Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace.”
-- Leo Tolstoy

"Without forgiveness there is no future."
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
In this season of bright bows and colorful packages, it is easy to forget the gift without price.  Forgiveness is the gift that costs us nothing other than letting go of our angers and hurts.  This year I was gifted with forgiveness of my darkest moment.  It was an unexpected and magnificent gift that washed away years of guilt and self-condemnation.  It set me free of the past.

The extreme generosity of this gift lifted my heart and made me want to be equally generous with forgiving all my real and perceived wrongs and injuries.  However, even with the example and leadership of Jesus, whose birthday much of the world celebrates tomorrow, forgiveness is not easy.  I find myself in one particular instance holding onto the past, turning our dark history around and around as if looking at and polishing each facet of a valuable gemstone.  Why is it so important to continue to feel wronged?  Why am I reveling so in my own "rightness?"

In this instance, forgiveness has not been requested so I know that, if I can make the choice to forgive, the primary gift will be to myself.  In searching the Internet for ideas on forgiveness, I found the following from Larry James
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. It is not something you do FOR someone else. It is not complicated. It is simple. Simply identify the situation to be forgiven and ask yourself: "Am I willing to waste my energy further on this matter?" If the answer is "No," then that's it! All is forgiven.

Forgiveness is an act of the imagination. It dares you to imagine a better future, one that is based on the blessed possibility that your hurt will not be the final word on the matter. It challenges you to give up your destructive thoughts about the situation and to believe in the possibility of a better future. It builds confidence that you can survive the pain and grow from it. 
I can do this.  I will let go of this hurt.  I will forgive.

I invite you to join me in finding one wrong to forgive in this season of love and forgiveness.

May all your holidays be joyful and safe.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010: the year that ...

It's a time of the year when we make lists of everything and I thought it would be interesting to complete the subject sentence with five answers that capture the essence of the year for me personally.  So, here goes ...

2010:  the year that I ...
- returned to California and knew it was home.
- traded half a house for a 10 pound dog and got the better part of the deal.
- settled for my 3rd choice house only to find out that it was the perfect choice.
- gained a best-friend house-mate and discovered that solitude and companionship can co-exist.
- joined a mosaic group and found a new passion
I would love to see your list.

About the image: "Amarantine Garden #3"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Seeds We Sow

Maureen at Writing Without Paper found this wonderful little animation by Joaquin Baldwin and it is definitely worth sharing.  Enjoy.

The Windmill Farmer from Joaquin Baldwin on Vimeo.

Word for the Year

For the past ten years, I have chosen a word for the year although sometimes it chose me.  My first word of the year was found on a beaten up old RV... across the back was splashed the word:  JUBILATION.  The very sound of the word lifted my spirit and I knew I wanted to spend time with it.  It began a tradition that has become very important to me.  Some of the words in past years were familiar and some were completely new to me.  Annual words include  "chrysalis," "querencia" (a quiet place of safety where we gather our power for the coming challenge), "abbondonza" (an Italian word that made me think of dancing with abundance), and "autopoiesis" (life continually re-creating itself and its parts while organizing itself in relationship to its surroundings).

Each year about this time, I open myself up to the words that have come my way during the year ... kept  on the last page of my annual journal so I can find them easily ... and pick the one that calls to me.  This word goes on the cover of the journal in gaudy and colorful glitter glue with the word and the year on the spine for quick reference once they're shelved.   I start a new journal every year even if the previous year's journal wasn't filled.  It's a metaphorical new start.

During this end of the year time, I also reflect on this year's word and review the year's journey.  My journals are not diaries ... there's very little "what's going on and what I'm thinking and feeling" type of stuff but rather lots of mindmaps, lists, ideas, images, quotes and anything else that captures my attention.  Flipping through them is a little like time travel on fast forward.

This past year had two words ... "beauty" and "equanimity" (mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, esp. in a difficult situation) and both were perfect talismen for a chaotic year.  For the first time, the cover of my journal was actually a mindmap.  Since I knew it was going to be a transition year, I mapped the qualities that I thought would help me maintain equanimity:  gratitude, solitude, joyful play, kensho (seeing one's true self/nature.  Seeing the non duality of subject and object); co-creation, praxis (spiritual practice), creative expression, naikan (gratitude reflection practice) and maitre (Sanscrit for loving kindness toward self).

While I wouldn't say this past year reflected perfect equanimity, I think the focus on maintaining calmness helped me deal with the changes of the year.

This year there are again two words calling me:  "hallelujah" which seems to be a call to a constant state of gratitude ("nothing on my tongue but hallelujah") and "temenos" (the circle in which magic of the soul can happen).  I may choose them both.

Other words collected this year include:
"delicious futures" - Dan Gilbert
Cantillation - each person's special gift or talent that gives one a sense of joy but also union with the Absolute ... Dr. John Diamond
Mosaic ... a wonderful metaphor for piecing together a life into a beautiful work of art
Amarantine - everlasting.  Imaginary flower that never fades.  Amaranth -- shade of deep purple - red.
 Abbey of the Arts also has a richly poetic post on the process of choosing a word for the year.  If you want to join this tradition, I highly recommend this post.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Twenty Years from Now

As the year winds down, I enter a transition phase ... reviewing this year's journal, setting up the new year's journal and imagining what's next.  Since we're in a seemingly endless rain storm, it's a perfect time to be quiet and contemplative while staying dry and warm indoor.

As I was pasting collected bits and pieces into my journal, I came across this quote from Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines!  Sail away from the safe harbor. 
Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover!
  -- Mark Twain
Twenty years from now, what will I be disappointed about not doing?  Lynne and I have been talking about creating a "bucket list" but so far haven't gotten around to it.  This quote reminds me to take the time and do it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A New Virus

I have caught a new virus.  Apparently it has lain dormant in my system for many years and has only recently been activated, apparently by exposure to others who also carry the virus.  The symptoms have been showing up slowly ... a purple and pistachio painted bench here, mosaicked "flowers" showing up among the pavers there but today the reality of the virus erupted like measles when I carried home from an estate sale ... not the set of new dishes (which were lovely and I actually need) or any of the useful kitchen or garden tools, or even anything from the rack of winter sweaters available for $10 each. 

No ... what actually wound up in my car were twelve concrete balcony posts, a three-foot length of irrigation pipe, two concrete pieces of unknown use and origin and a metal "thingy" that who knows what it's original purpose was.  And, what do these things have in common?  They are potential mosaic surfaces and triggered a vision of an art possibility for my yard.  Everything I look at seems to transform itself into a riot of colorful broken plates and glass ... at least in my mind.

What I seem to have come down with is known as vernacular artist-environment builder virus.  Vernacular means untrained and the rest means people who get way carried away with arting up their living spaces.  It seems to happen more to mosaic artists and sculptors but can also be seen in toll painters and stained glass artists.  Lately I've been introduced to some artists who have created art wonderlands around themselves.  They are mostly mad, magical, incredible spaces that have left me boggled, overwhelmed and deeply infected.

I don't know how far this virus will take me ... fortunately it usually takes 25-30 years before things get completely crazy and out of hand so I may run out of energy before it reaches that point.  Or maybe there's a vaccine that will let me stop after just a light sprinkling of yard art here and there.  Who knows?

About the image:  Detail of one wall of this artist-environment builder's yard.  How can you not be infected by this?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joy 82/82: Life

(This was scheduled for yesterday but something went awry.)
"There is only one journey. 
Going inside yourself. "
 -- Rainer Maria Rilke
Today is my birthday and I am grateful for this journey through life.  Perhaps no one captures the joy of being alive any better than D.H. Lawrence:
For man, the vast marvel is to be alive.

For man, as for flower and beast and bird, the supreme triumph is to be most vividly, most perfectly alive. Whatever the unborn and dead may know, they cannot know the beauty, the marvel of being alive in the flesh.  The dead may look after the afterwards.  But the magnificent here and now of life in the flesh is ours and ours alone and ours only for a time.

We ought to dance with rapture that we should be alive and in the flesh, and part of the living incarnate cosmos. I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me.  That I am part of Earth, my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea.  My soul knows that I am part of the human race, my soul is an organic part of the great human soul, as my spirit is part of my nation.  In my very own self, I am part of my family.

There is nothing of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surface of the waters.
82 days ago I made a commitment to write about one joy of my life every day until my birthday.  I probably averaged 300 words per post for a total of about 24,000 words.  D.H. Lawrence says more, and more powerfully, in his 211 words.  But, I kept my commitment and it forced me to be more aware and to think more deeply about how much I've been blessed in this life.

Thank you for being part of my journey.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joy 81/82: My Assignment

"Everything that has a beginning has an ending.
Make your peace with that and all will be well."  
-- Buddha

Tomorrow I turn 65.  I'm now officially a "senior," theoretically one of the "wise ones."  So I poured through my quote file so see what others have said about wisdom and chose the one above from Buddha.  When someone reaches the official age of Medicare and Social Security, it's pretty darn hard to deny the "ending."

I don't know what that ending means even though all the great religions offer me their versions of what comes next.  Some I like more than others but the bottom line is that I'm ok with not knowing and I'm not afraid of whatever is coming.  I've enjoyed my journey through this lifetime and assume that I will enjoy whatever it is that comes next.  And, if nothing comes next, then I won't be around to like or dislike it.  I am at peace with the beginning and ending of what we call life but I'm also not sure there is an actual beginning or ending.

Where did I actually begin?  As a sperm and an egg?  Well, both of those came from a previous sperm and egg so that beginning keeps moving further and further back into the past until perhaps there was no thing that could actually be called a beginning.  And, when do I actually end?  When the last breath is drawn?  But, what about the bits and pieces of my flesh which will somehow enter into the planetary stew?  And what about the ripples I made on my journey through the world?  If the flap of a butterfly wing in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas, who knows what impact I have had or might continue to have long after "the end."

I like to think that God is consciousness and that I was loaned a microscopic piece of that consciousness for my Earth walk.  The assignment that came with this loan was to polish that consciousness and make it as bright as possible.  And, the polish available to me was, and continues to be, love.  I haven't always understood this so I intend to spend the rest of my journey making up for lost time.

About this image:  I was struck by the peacefulness of this woman who was sitting under a tree eating her lunch.  She was gracious enough to give me permission to take this photo.  I can almost smell the straw in her hat and feel the peacefulness radiating from her.  My guess is that she has done a great job of polishing the consciousness that was loaned to her.

Joy 80/82: Family

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
-- Jane Howard
Most of my "family" is by choice rather than blood.  My ancestors must have been an odd lot ... they seem to have embraced divorce long before it was popular so the family tree has more "steps" than many tall buildings.  Years ago, I looked around and realized that all of the family that I was close to, I wasn't actually related to.  Realizing that I could choose my family was very freeing ... and also a reminder that I  had to nurture the family ties to keep them alive.  I couldn't just depend on "blood."

Anyway, I love Jane Howard's quote and this time of the year when we pay special attention to the friends and family that make up our tribe.

About this image:  "Together Separately" -- Missy (poodle) and Boo (outdoor cat) were thrown together this year and are gradually becoming part of the tribe that includes Roxy (pomeranian), Buddy (shih tzu) and Kitani (indoor cat).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Joy 79/82: Writing ... and Rewriting

I got my first writing rejection in the fourth grade.  Perhaps it was preparing me for the long string of rejections that would follow.

I moved to a country school in the fourth grade.  There were two grades per room and I was the fourth girl in my class.  At recess we acted out little plays written by Charlene Storm ... who was perfect in every way ... but that's another story.  Day after day we acted out her plays until I decided that I wanted to write one.  So I went home, wrote a play and presented it to the group.  Everything would have been fine ... except that my handwriting was tiny and unreadable so it was rejected.

I was crushed but I accepted the rejection rather than just rewriting it more legibly.  Later, I received the only "C" I ever got in "Writing" (i.e. penmanship).  No wonder I was so insecure about writing and that it took almost 30 years and uncountable rejections before me I became a "writer."

Many years later, as a writing exercise, I rewrote that event.  In that imaginary revisiting of my life, I rewrote that play neatly and we acted it out and had fun.  Charlene and I started collaborating on plays and eventually wrote a play that we presented at our eighth grade graduation.  Rewriting that time in my life didn't change it ... but it did change me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Joy 78/82: Mystery

"I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it."      
 -- Harry E. Fosdick

"Mystery is the greatest need in the human soul."
   - Emily Dickinson
Why would Emily Dickinson say that mystery is the greatest need in the human soul?  Why would we need or long for mystery?  In some ways it seems like religion, one of our oldest institutions was born from the need to take the mystery out of the greatest of unknowns ... who we are and why we're here.  That makes it seem like we long for solutions rather than mystery.

And yet ... perhaps it's the very chase for answers that shows how great our need for mystery is.  What we don't know or understand calls us like a siren's song.  We spend our lives exploring the unknown, whether it's unexplored lands, the intricacies of a disease, the illusive form of beauty, or the strange and wonderful nature of another human being.  We're insatiable in our drive to know more, to make sense of the world we live in, and, perhaps, finally know our selves and why we're here.  It makes me wonder if we ever ran out of mystery, would we simply shrivel into dust and blow away? 

But, I guess that is another mystery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy 77/82: Coyote

The weather has been so beautiful we played hooky today and drove through Yosemite to take pictures of whatever came our way.  It's off season ... most of the fall colors are gone and the snow was patchy.  But it was a beautiful day and nothing much more until Coyote came our way.  He was at the edge of the road and we stopped hoping to catch a quick photo.

But, he didn't dash away like we expected (coyotes are known for not doing what you expect them to do).  He stayed and watched us intently.  Maybe he was tourist-wise and expected a handout.  Maybe he was old and lazy.  Maybe he was just trying to figure us out.   Whatever he was thinking, he stayed and stayed as we shot photo after photo.  This one is my favorite.

Since we saw another, much more evasive coyote later on the trip, I decided to look up coyote medicine.  There are many facets to coyote but the one I liked is about multi-tasking.  As we edge up on the end of the year, I always start to think about where I am and where I'm going and, as usual, I start to wonder if I should be more focused.  I tend to take on a multitude of projects which means I never quite develop the mastery that I would like to have in any of them.    Turns out that the curiosity of coyote nature makes it natural to have many projects going on simultaneously.  Accepting this tendency toward many projects, yet developing the discipline needed to finish the projects is a way of accepting the nature of coyote.  That seems like a good plan.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Joy 76/82: Nothing on My Tongue but Hallelujah

Occasionally a song gets stuck in my head and won't let go.  It happened last night when I watched "Saint Ralph," a lovely, little feel-good, Canadian movie.  "Hallelujah," written by Leonard Cohen and sung by Gord Downie plays late in the movie and it's haunting and beautiful.  (You may also recognize it from the Haiti Relief Telethon or Shrek.)

Here is a very touching video that includes Cohen reciting the stanza sung in the movie during his acceptance speech when he was inducted into the Songwriters' Hall of Fame.  Here are the lyrics to that stanza which is missing from most performances of the song:
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Following the Cohen video is a video of K.D. Lang's version which also does not include that stanza.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Joy 75/82: Wonders

There are many things in the world that are beyond my comprehension ... the great pyramids, Stonehenge, the Nazca lines, the human body, cell phones ... and the list goes on. Another one was added recently ... the rock-cut temples of India. It's hard enough for me to imagine how we build sky-scrapers today but the thought of people 2000 years ago "sculpting" a temple out of solid rock just fritzs all my circuits.

This video shows the results ... how I wish someone had videoed the work in process. I can almost get my head around building up but the idea of carving down is beyond me.

Joy 74/82: Wild Creativity

Creativity is our divine inheritance and I love seeing it show up in unusual ways and unusual places ... this video is way fun.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Joy 73/82: A Small Tale

In a land not so far away and a time not so long ago, there lived a small toenail cell living an ordinary, every day life.  She did her work, processing incoming nutrients and outgoing waste, signaling when danger approached, chatting over the back fence with her neighbors.  She was a smart cell, aware of what went on around her and quick to react to changes and circulating rumors.  She had heard she was only one of 50 trillion cells that made up her world (give or take a few dozen) but math had never been her long suit so she wasn't quite sure what that meant.

One day an old cell, one of the cells known as the wise ones, told her a fantabulous story about a universe beyond the wide world that she had learned about in school, a universe where miraculous things occurred.  He talked about something he called light and how it created a beauty known as color and about pulsing rhythms that came from this other world yet changed the tidal flows that saturated their world.  He told about his visions of that universe and other universes beyond, universes that were even larger and more amazing ... that actually the world was without end. He told her the great secret of his vision: that she was part of this endless universe, that she was eternal, a part of the Whole, something he called Source.  All she had to do was to believe and to have faith, he said.

Long after the wise one left, the little toenail cell sat in dazed confusion, trying to imagine how such an immense universe came into being and where she fit into it and what it meant to believe and have faith.  She struggled long and hard but the confusion sat like a hard lump in front of her.  As she sat, the incoming nutrients weren't getting processed and the outgoing wastes were backing up.  She started to shrivel and her neighbors began yelling at her and throwing trash into her backyard.

One day, she shook herself and said, "I don't know.  I don't know what's out there.  I don't know Who created all of this or What it's all about or Why it's so complicated.  But, I do know what my job is.  Then she went back to work processing incoming nutrients and outgoing wastes, keeping watch for danger, signaling when something went wrong, and happily chatting with her neighbors over the backyard fence. 

And, if something hasn't changed, she is there still in that land not so far away, in that time not so long ago.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Joy 72/82: Thistles

Thistles fascinate me.  It is one of the most showy and beautiful of wildflowers, sometimes lavishing whole fields with their bright pink beauty.  But they are also nasty, prickly things that are almost impossible to get rid of.  Even one flowerhead gone to seed will launch thistledown across the landscape where it quietly waits for its spring onslaught. states:  "In agriculture the Thistle is the recognized sign of untidiness and neglect, being found not so much in barren ground, as in good ground not properly cared for. It has always been a plant of ill repute among us; Shakespeare classes 'rough Thistles' with 'hateful Docks,' and further back in the history of our race we read of the Thistle representing part of the primeval curse on the earth in general, and on man in particular, for - 'Thorns also and Thistles shall it bring forth to thee.'"
It is interesting to think of the thistle as a curse on man ... cursed by beauty that draws us closer; stung by needles that drive us back.  Butterflies love the nectar of its flowers; finches love the seeds but its aggressive nature sets it at odds with its neighbors.  Thistles don't place nice; they take over and crowd out less hardy species.  Perhaps thistles aren't just a curse on man but a metaphor for man's relationship with the earth.  Maybe we are the planet's thistles, beautiful but noxious weeds threatening the environmental balance wherever we go.

JOY 71/82: Appointment with Spring

While lecturing to a crowded classroom at Harvard, philosopher George Santayana spotted a forsythia in a patch of snow outside the window. Walking to the door he said, "I shall not be able to finish that sentence. I just have discovered that I have an appointment with April."
The rains came early this year and the grass has turned green.  It's my first full year in the foothills so I asked a neighbor if the grass would stay green till spring.  The answer was yes.  California has a long dry season which can last from April through October without a hint of rain  As a matter of fact, if it weren't for the Sierra and other mountain ranges that punctuate the state and practice "catch and release" with the rain, California would be a massive desert.  By May or June when the heat arrives, the hills slowly turn golden ... what some outlanders mistakenly call brown or dead ... until the rains come again.

There is something about the green here.  It's a piercing, innocent green that takes my breath away and on partly cloudy days, the light dances through the clouds and plays across the grass creating colors that cannot be captured.  Living here is like being hugged by nature.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Joy 70/82: Turning Pro

The call came at 3:00 pm. I thought he was joking ... but he's not exactly the joking type and his voice didn't sound like he was joking. Apparently he was serious. One of the two pieces I put in the "Water: Source of Life" exhibit had sold ... my first real sale. I'm still having a little difficulty understanding that someone actually paid for something I so enjoy doing. But, I guess this now means that I am a "professional" artist ... what fun.

About the image:  "Spirit of Water" ... this is the digital collage that sold.

Joy 69/82: Being Content

"Too much thought only leads to trouble . . . We Eskimos do not concern ourselves with solving all riddles. We repeat the old stories in the way they were told to us and with the words we ourselves remember . . . You always want these supernatural things to make sense, but we do not bother about that. We are content not to understand"
-- Orulo, Iglulik area as told to Knud Rasmussen, "Intellectual Capital of the Iglulik Eskimos," (Reports of the Fifth Thule Expeditions, 1921-1924, vol 7, 1929) p 69.
I'm part of a small book club (there are three of us) and we just finished several months of reading "Buddhism, Plain & Simple" by Steve Hagen.  The first two parts were indeed "plain & simple."  Part three left each of us befuddled as we grappled, unsuccessfully, with Reality, the Whole and Truth.  We kept getting tangled up in concepts, beliefs and perceptions, trying out one metaphor after another to find a way to understand.  Finally we gave up and just talked about our lives.

Perhaps that was the best thing we did.  Perhaps we were thinking too much, trying to solve all the riddles when we are part of the riddle, in the midst of the riddle and our real challenge is not to understand it but to simply live it.  Perhaps when we gave up the aggressive need to make the world make sense to our puny minds and simply began to enjoy the experience of each other's company ... perhaps that's when the riddle actually untied itself and invited us in.  Perhaps being content to not understand is understanding.  (I'm beginning to sound like the book.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Joy 68/82: Clarity

This is one of my very favorite poems as it describes so beautifully the journey from confusion to clarity.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world
determined to do the 
only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

from New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, Boston, 1992

Joy 67/82: Freedom

"I have felt the swaying of the elephant's shoulders and now you want me to climb on a jackass? Try to be serious."
-- Mirabai, Hindu mystic poetess and singer (1498-1546)
Yesterday I found this quote and thought it odd.  I read about Mirabai, and found that she "is one of India's most beloved poet-saints. Her devotional poetry -- directed toward Giridhara, a form of the great God-man Krishna -- is so intensely personal that it borders on the erotic while, at the same time, it remains transcendentally spiritual."  More here. 

Also yesterday I had a business meeting, one of the last vestiges of my professional life.  It was a deeply disturbing meeting with threads of lawsuits and betrayal of what I believe to be the principles of business and human conduct.  It wasn't until this morning when I reread the quote that I started to have an inkling of its meaning.

I have been outside the world of work for four years, years when I've had the time and freedom to follow my creative impulses.  I've made art that sucked and art that thrilled me.  I've "felt the swaying of the elephant's shoulders."  Why would I ever again want to "climb on a jackass?" 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Joy 66/82: Self-Trust

This morning Louise at Recover Your Joy posts about Jesse who has made a commitment to build a six-pack in the next 30 days.  Jesse has enough determination to reach his goal ... he proved that when he lost 100 pounds.  Over time 30 of those pounds slipped back ... now he is determined to lose those and gain the six-pack abs that seem to be one of the definitions of male beauty.  Louise finds inspiration and motivation in Jesse's journey.

I feel pulled in two opposite directions by the story.  Anytime I hear about someone who has successfully lost weight or reformed their physical presence, I am pulled into an "I should do that, too" mode.  It's familiar territory for me ... a life-long challenge with weight and a "never thin enough" mindset has been a major theme for me.  A zillion diets have passed through my life ... most took me on a roller coaster ride of success and failure and ultimately threw me off ... defeated.  Perhaps the worst result of this repeating pattern was the gradual erosion of my self-trust.  I became powerless to keep my commitments to myself.

Several years ago I renounced dieting and promised myself that I wouldn't do anything regarding food that I couldn't do forever.  I started making small changes and slowly began to lose weight.  Recently I've started testing myself again to see if I could keep my commitments.  However, I've become much more careful about the commitments I make and I've begun to craft them my them much more lovingly.  Right now I'm on day 66 of an 82-day commitment to post about the joys in my life.  The intent was to post every day but a few days were missed and I had to double up the next day.  That's ok.

Recently my eating has become more haphazard and less health focused.  So now I'm on a 30-day "real food" (no sugar, no dairy, no processed carbs) commitment ... however, the commitment doesn't mean that they are 30 *consecutive* days.  It's the holidays and I don't want to be a grinch so I'm shooting for 30 days within a 40-day period.  But, if it takes me 60 days to get my 30 days, that's ok too.

What this has made me realize is that I'm starting to trust myself again and I'm letting go of "perfection."  When I used to start a diet, I was filled with the notion that I could be perfect, do the diet perfectly.  As soon as I screwed up, I quit.  Now I just take a deep breath and realign myself with what I'm trying to do.

Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Joy 65/82: Beginnings

It's the beginning of the last month of the year so it seems like a nice time to start thinking about beginnings and to share this quote.
"Where shall we begin? There is no beginning. 
Start where you arrive.  Stop before what entices you.  
And work! 

You will enter little by little into the entirety. 
Method will be born in proportion to your interest.
In the calm details of work, we must learn patience,
which in turn teaches energy, and energy gives us
eternal youth made of self collectedness and enthusiasm."  
    -- Auguste Rodin