Posts Tagged ‘writing challenges’

Out of the Depths

April 22, 2017

I’ve come to realize there’s a subtle dynamic at work behind my long absences from posting. I first thought it was just a function of the many other demands on my time: an often 50 hour a week job, keeping house in a still new marriage, guaranteeing my own needed “down” time, assuring enough together time with my husband, and looking after our growing collection of animals. I’d thought I was, as I put it once, “too busy living to reflect on that living.” That may be true, but it is now apparent to me that it is not the whole truth. And in this age of alternate facts, blatant lies, and outright perjury, it is vital to me to be unflinchingly and unfailingly truthful.

I follow, very much enjoy, and not coincidentally frequently agree with, the blog Musings From a Tangled Mind. But I cannot conceive of myself ever following that pattern, with daily posts (sometimes twice daily) about anything and everything that arises in the tangle. I have the thoughts, I just can’t imagine myself sharing them.

It’s not just a generational issue, although I’m aware that the age groups beginning, some 20 years younger than I, do have a different ethic around filtering – or rather not filtering – their thoughts. There’s another more subtle dynamic at work that has become clear to me as I live with and beside my husband, and observe both of us in social settings or on the phone. He talks easily, especially in groups of his country mates, and I sit silently except when I have something to offer that puts a different slant on the discussion. He chats freely by phone with friends across the globe, whereas I prefer to text hellos to those not near at hand.

A couple evenings ago I spent over an hour on the phone with an acquaintance, answering her questions about my employer and the way my job is done, to help her decide if she wanted to apply for a similar position in her corner of our large state. My husband was amazed that I was on the phone for so long, commenting that there is only one person, a special quasi-daughter, with whom he has known me to talk on the phone at length. “You must have really wanted her to join the company” was his observation. I do think she’d enjoy the work, but I also want her to have a realistic picture of what it entails.

Back to my point – I have only just begun to peel off layers in order to get to the nub (in the onion, the sweetest part) of why I fall into long blogging silences. Outermost layer is the obvious outer, daily life demands on my time. Next down is what I perceive to be a reluctance to air matters I’ve not thought/felt my way through completely. Below that is recognition of a personal style of reticence somewhat at odds with the “spill your guts and let it all hang out” expectations of social media.

But there are more layers, and I’m aware I have not yet identified them all.

I used to write – usually letters to one special friend – in order to clarify my mind on a topic, or to help me sort out my feelings. What would stay roiled internally could be perceived clearly in the act of explicating it to someone else. Not infrequently those essays were adapted into blog posts as well. I’ve not written, not needed to write, such clarifying documents since having the benefit of a caring and able listening partner in the house with me.

I also used to write to create a sense of connection with others – reaching out from my quiet sideline position to drop comments into the broader stream of national conversation. Now my job puts me into close, often highly personal, interaction with a wide range of other types of people, plus I’m still learning the ways of a spouse from a radically different cultural background. I have all the “connection” anyone could want, and then some.

But I do miss my exchanges with those distant readers who had become friends through our process of commenting on, and knowing something about each other’s lives through, our posts.

Back to the onion… Letters to clarify thinking or feelings meant using writing as a means to better understand my mental and emotional states of being. As I have proceeded deeper into my spiritual life, it has become less salient to me to give attention to those states. I do need to recognize their antics in order to let them go, but I don’t need to dwell on them, seeking understanding. Staying focused on a more purely spiritual state of being allows me to function effectively in my daily life without wasted energy. Insights arise, are recognized and usually shared with my spouse, and then let go rather than enlarged upon in a blog post.

So what has now changed? Perhaps a sort of “coming out the other side” of introspection, to feel at least occasionally like sharing the insights for no other purpose than just to put them “out there”. They may not be profound, nor necessarily of broad interest, certainly they won’t be “well thought out and reasoned”, but I suspect it is nonetheless important to share them. Because whatever arises from Soul and spirit to make its way through our mental and emotional barriers has a deeper meaning for someone, somewhere.

I seem to have a knack, dealing with my clients at work, for reframing or restating their issues in a way that helps them see themselves or their problems differently and more productively or positively. It seems to me to be time to use that same skill in this blog, reframing my occasional insights to have broader-than-just-my-life potential. I’m not sure how it will go – but rely on my readers to let me know. Thank you in advance for your comments.

And to start the new process… I just encouraged my husband to choose a topic for his “argumentative essay” assignment in his English Composition 2 class,  that is unique to his experience rather than one – like climate change – that has been widely discussed and reviewed. My reasons included that his proposed Africa-based topic would be more familiar to him and more easily argued, as well as having more accessible and concrete data points to use in constructing his argument. But I also admit to a mischievous interest in helping him demonstrate to his “new diploma clutched tightly in her hand” young teacher that there remains much in this world that she does not know. There is more to skilled writing than following a standard format, and there is vastly more to teaching than setting rigid standards and marking down for every small deviation from manuscript formatting.

Writing, whether an English class essay or a blog post, is communication and its import lies in communicating content: ideas, perspectives, insights, analyses or persuasive arguments.

So does that mean my long silences have indicated that I have nothing to communicate? No, I don’t think so. That I have not been willing to make the effort? Perhaps. That I’ve been resisting fulfilling my role as a channel for spirit? Probably.

If my resistence is the true core of the onion, I know just what to do now. Admit my stubbornness, give over the resistance and just get one with what’s expected from me. So be it. Amen. Baraka Bashad.

May these blessings be.

Weather Metaphor

August 10, 2016

We’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave…
Higher temperatures than I remember since the early 1990s, harder to handle for being unexpected in our high mountain area where few people have air conditioning. My house is situated to benefit from any breeze, and we are grateful for clear skies that allow the nights to cool to a level where sleeping is comfortable. Early morning brings closed shades, and closing windows to keep the night’s coolness inside, only opening windows and shades again after the sun has moved in its course. The system works moderately well, with the most difficult period being from 3 until 8 when the afternoon heat builds and there is no corner of shade to provide relief.
I am reminded, in these heated hours, of my early years first in D.C. summers, then in Vietnam, where the heat was unremitting and – more daunting than my present circumstances – also humid. What amazes me in retrospect is that I played tennis in that weather. And rode horseback in that weather. My parents’ bedroom had an air conditioner unit, but I refused one for my own room, knowing that going out into the heat of my school room Quonset hut would be intolerable by contrast with the comfort of the cooled air. My reasoning was that I needed to adapt to the heat, and could best do so by being consistently in it. I was successful at the time – but seem to have burned out my ability to adjust to heat in the years since.
Are we given only a limited physical tolerance for extremes, and should be careful how we use that quality, if it must last a lifetime? Or am I just discovering another aspect of getting older – decline in physical adaptability? I’ve been told that older people are more sensitive to changes in temperature, but the intolerance is usually expressed as related to cold rather than heat. All the U.S. retirement communities are in the southern, warm weather states.
Living near one of the main migration routes between Arizona and the mid-west, I’m aware of the numbers of people – usually retired and referred to as snow birds – who transit between the two regions each spring and autumn, spending winter months in the moderate temperatures of the Arizona desert, and summer months in cooler northern communities. I could see myself as one of them, but don’t need to join the migration so long as the winters at my home remain as they have been. At their extremes, only every 4-5 years, we have a couple weeks of 30F below cold on starlit January nights. The clarity of the air allows daytime temperatures to rise, even in those coldest periods, to a tolerable 15-25F degrees. Yes, that’s a 50 degree difference, a common occurrence here in any season. Only on the rare occasions that we have cloud cover for several days at a time, do we have a lesser contrast between day and night temperatures.
Did you want to know all this about the weather? What am I doing prattling on about it?
Seeing the extremes of temperature as a metaphor for the political extremes we’re also facing now. And as a metaphor for much of what we encounter daily, just living our lives – overly burdensome workload for months on end, then suddenly not enough to keep from being bored, while still unable to be out of phone and email contact. No communication from friends until the day that the phone seems to ring non-stop and the invitations pour in. So many story or post ideas there’s no way to get them all written – followed by a dearth of ideas that suggests my brain has up and died.
In other words, the weather extremes are just one more example of the constant ebb and flow of every aspect of life experienced here in the mundane world. Enter the benefits of a contemplative spiritual practice, which teaches me how to stay focused on inner Truth, finding balance and constancy amid the yin/yang of the outer reality. Don’t like the weather? Or the politics? Escape to your inner realms for stability, cooling breezes and total freedom.

Photo Courtesy of Leaf and Twig

Photo Courtesy of Leaf and Twig

 

Returned

April 3, 2016

I’ve done the one thing I’ve been told is lethal to a blogger’s career – abandoned posting without an explanation. Do I have any followers left? I guess I’ll find out now – or maybe not, since I rarely received comments even when I was posting reliably, although Cheryl at Artzzle always responded and I greatly appreciate her for that.

When I started this blog, I thought I was embarking on a new phase of a sporadic writing career that has spanned decades. I finished a novel and was starting to look seriously at marketing it; a blog with followers was a step toward finding an avenue to get my novel published and read. Then I got a job – a really good job with most of the characteristics I desired: working with people, working from home, good pay and a modestly flexible schedule. The volume of work has, however, been rather overwhelming, stretching to 55 or more hours a week. My limited “free” time has been devoted to a new marriage and other changes in my personal life. As I said in one of the few posts to go out in the past year, I’ve been too busy living to reflect on or write about my experiences.

The demands of my job are finally reducing a bit, to something closer to 40-45 hours a week and the schedule within my personal life has settled as well, giving me two evenings a week, alone, which I can use for interests that have been shorted of late.

One of those interests is reading. Most of my life I’ve buried myself in a book whenever I had an unoccupied moment – even standing in the grocery checkout line, or on occasion when stuck in a traffic jam. I was fortunate to be encouraged to learn to read very young, sitting in my grandfather’s lap and following along as he read me “I Went for a Walk in the Forest”. Fictional worlds soon became my escape from an unpleasant family life. Long before the household was transferred to Asia and then Europe, for my father’s work, I had visited many countries – both real and imaginary – and had great adventures solving crime with Nancy Drew, or uncovering ancient tombs on archeological digs on the plains of Argolis.

What better indicator of just how demanding my job has been, than the realization that over a period of 18 months I read at most 6 books – the number I normally devour in a month. In the past half year, I’m pleased to see, by the size of the pile of books ready to go to the exchange, that I’ve been able to resume reading at something closer to my habitual rate.

And with reading comes reflection, ideas, and the urge to resume writing.

So here I am, probably not with any consistency yet, but back from the deep silence of the past … oh my goodness, nearly a year!

My apologies for the abandonment.

Returning to Reading

November 15, 2015

I’ve started reading again.
Or, more accurately, I’ve resumed reading for pleasure at what used to be my normal rate of 2-3 books a week. For most of the past two years, until a couple weeks ago, I haven’t achieved more than two books a month. Knowing the why of the drop off did not make the dearth of reading any more acceptable to my impatient mind. It’s certainly mind that is now celebrating evenings spent on the couch with a book as a return to “normal”.

Mind had best not get too comfortable with this normal, as it’s a new one, with frequent interruptions to discuss medical terminology questions with my husband and sister-in-law as they work on their respective anatomy and pharmacology studies. I had better not get too comfortable with this new normal either, since it derives primarily from a lessening of my work caseload, and I don’t trust that this easing will endure. It should – my client list is now, after two years of numbers circling ninety, reduced to where it is “supposed” to be, around sixty-five. That’s a full third reduction, bringing my work week down from 60 hours to 45 and freeing time to read for relaxation.

In this past week I’ve been with Rei Shimura back to Japan, and accompanying an itinerant weaver to solve a string of murders in a Shaker community. It’s pleasant to go traveling again, without the stress of packing, driving (I do so much of that for my daily work) and sleeping away from loved ones, in seldom fully comfortable and always unfamiliar beds.

Being markedly less engaged with books these past eighteen months has made me noticeably more sensitive to them now that I’ve returned my attention to reading. In particular, I’m aware of the too frequent typos, words missed out of sentences and similar flaws of production which seem to be a different type of new normal for print publications. Or is this perhaps the new normal for the comparatively inexpensive, remaindered reprints available from discount supply houses, where I frequently shop?

I wish I could afford the $25-30 per book of a bookstore hard cover, but I can’t. I feed my … I started to say addiction to reading, but maybe it’s no longer an addiction?… pleasant habit of reading with acquisitions from second hand stores, and from remaindered and discount house catalogs. Books from these catalogs, in particular, seem to contain frequent composition errors. Sloppy workmanship? Or the results of computer-based typesetting that doesn’t recognize when a word is missing, or a cognate replaces the word that should be in the sentence.

I don’t read e-books. I spend too much time already in front of a computer screen. So I don’t know if e-books are similarly flawed in composition and construction. And I’m not sure whether to hope they are, or that they are not. If they are, then an entire profession that once prided itself on accuracy has fallen into slackness and error. If e-books are error free, then it would seem that a serious disregard for paper books is being made manifest by compositors who used to be in competition for the most perfect, flawless output.

Is my cranky complainer side showing? Am I sounding like a stereotypical older person ranting that standards are falling and are so far from what they were in my younger days? That complaint has been with us at least as long as the works of Homer and Cicero, and probably longer. I choose not to generalize, merely to observe that in my resumption of reading I am encountering more proof-reader errors than I have noticed before.

I will try not to make my own such errors. Now that reading for pleasure is once again part of my days, perhaps writing posts will also pick up a former pace? Please do call my attention to any proof-reading errors you find. I want to keep my own standards high.

“Pantsing” as a Way of Life

October 22, 2015

A blog on elder issues that I follow, Time Goes By, Time Goes By recently discussed the idea of writing a ”final” post to be put up on a blog when the writer has passed away. Sort of an extension of making one’s funeral preferences known, completing a living will, etc. The stated intent, however is to have a way to say farewell to online followers/friends who may wonder what has happened, when posts cease to appear.

This is NOT my final blog, although my followers may indeed be wondering what has happened to me. I haven’t dared to check how long it’s been since my last post!

Not that I’ve stopped living, nor even stopped reflecting on all the living that is filling my days. I have, however, stopped making time to write out what I’ve been discovering during the rather brief reflective gaps in the hectic pace of my days. Perhaps now that the weather is changing, and more sedentary indoor days loom, I’ll be able to return to writing posts regularly.

Odd, that – I write regularly every day, just not “for pleasure” as is the case with this blog. I write summaries of the needs of my clients, I write persuasive letters to justify insurance coverage of exceptional procedures, I write recommendations to management for procedure changes to simplify my (and my 100 field co-worker) tasks. I even enjoy some of what I write for my “day job” but it is writing from the logical functions of my brain.

What tends to emerge in my essays that become blog posts is much more intuitive and – to me – more pleasurable. I don’t often know, when I start an essay, where it will end because I don’t “know” what it is that I know on the subject about which I have been cogitating. I wait for – and fortunately reliably receive – flashes of inspiration which mold themselves into coherence as I formulate the words to express the ideas and images which rise to awareness.

Should I be admitting in a public forum that I often don’t know what I’m going to say when I start to write? Will an editor at some future point read my manuscript submission and say that it’s obvious I have no idea what I’m writing about and that I’ve admitted as much already?

I hope not, since I do rework, rewrite and thoroughly edit the books and stories I send out (far too rarely now – my submission listing is sparse indeed). And I reread and edit my posts although not with the same degree of critical assessment as I give to works of fiction. It is part of the pleasure, for me, of posting, that I feel free to share what comes to me, rather in the way one speaks freely in a conversation with friends. Having to “watch one’s words” in fact describes a stilted and tense relationship between people, or at best a formal and careful one such as is the case for my day job writing which I mentioned above.

An interview I read recently asked a writer whether he was a “planner or a pantser” in the production of his novels. Like many of us would, I think, he replied that it depended on the circumstances. Some works require planning, others seem to take on life all on their own and – for me at least – write themselves through me. Those are the most fun and happily they quite commonly occur when I’m in the process of completing a post.

Pantsing this essay, I’ve come to a stop without feeling, in the logical part of my brain, that I’ve come to a coherent conclusion. Perhaps I have, however, accurately reflected the incoherent way my days are unfolding, full of unexpected events, and flashes of insight that bear little relationship to what I think of as the pattern of my days. I guess I’m pantsing my life at the moment, when I’ve always been something of a planner in that arena. Hmm… I should expect interesting new insights to accompany the very novel way my days are being filled.

Not a bad gift to self for the birthday in honor of which I’m putting up this post.
Best wishes to all – and thank you to my readers – for my new year ahead.

 

Autumn Color

Autumn Color

Accomplishments

December 21, 2014

In high school, I was required to complete English to French translations on a weekly basis. In college, minoring in French, the translation obligation continued. I became quite adept at it, even thought about a career as a translator but life took me in a different direction. Over the many long years I’ve lived in New Mexico with minimal occasion to use French, I gradually lost my fluency.

A year ago, I felt that if I did not do something – urgently – to begin using French again, I would cease to be able to express myself in the language. I sought out someone with whom to speak and not only regained fluency but totally transformed my life. Now, a year later, I was called upon last night to translate English into French once more. The task was only a short prayer for Advent, but I found myself able to complete the project easily and rapidly. Few recent accomplishments have given me as great a sense of satisfaction as that paragraph of translation, flowing readily from my pen.

Over the course of a day, I reflected on why I value the resurrection of bilingual skill so much more highly than I do the talents that let me do my daily work effectively. I have been complimented on what others perceive as my unique work skills which they value and appreciate. I don’t exactly take my talents for granted, but – like my ability to cook – they come so naturally as to be simply a part of me.

Is it the perceived effort involved, that affects what I feel to be an accomplishment?

Once upon a time, I suppose, cooking took effort. That was so very long ago that I truly don’t remember not being easy in the kitchen, as I was when recently called up to create a satisfying Asian/African meal for 3 hungry men with only an hour’s notice. It did please me that the meal satisfied my guests. I expected nothing less of myself.

My mother had a part-time job, when I was small, that took her out of the house just before I arrived home from school. She would leave me notes listing my chores for the day, often including the beginning preparations for that night’s supper. I apparently absorbed the basics of cooking and seasoning so completely that, years later, I “created” a chicken dish for company that was a big hit. I later served it to my parents when they came to visit. My mother took a bite, then said, “When did I give you this recipe?”
“You didn’t. I made up the meal when I wanted to do something different with chicken.”
“But I used to cook this same dish,” she insisted.
We compared notes on spices and preparation and she said I had copied her exactly. I was 24 then. The last time my mother could have cooked the meal for me, I was eight.

I cannot so easily point to the origins of my skill with people, and with words, that contribute to the appreciation I have lately experienced in my work. Living in different cultures certainly played a part. So did my parents’ emphasis on speaking correctly. I remember my father walking around the house practicing “around the rough and rugged rock the ragged rascal ran” in order to soften his Germanic r’s. In recent years, I’ve had to consciously undo some of that early language training. It comes across to some people as arrogance or snobbishness, qualities that interfere with establishing the rapport essential to my job in health care.

It still surprises me, that people perceive me as having a unique talent for connecting “with all sorts” in many different environments. People interest me. Understanding them is necessary to assisting them. I’m just “doing what comes naturally.” Which brings me back to the idea that there must be some effort involved in an activity, for me to feel that it is an accomplishment. I had to work, this past year, to restore my comfort with French, so completing the translation feels like an achievement.

There is a caution offered, that one should beware of what comes easily. “Easy come, easy go.” I wonder if it is meant to warn against not taking one’s own easy talents for granted? If one disregards the talents, will one lose them? Certainly, not practicing and using French almost led to that sort of loss. But I cannot conceive of not knowing how to cook, and am now daily making meals pleasing to someone other than myself, using recipes I have not prepared in more than ten years.

My people skills and cooking seem to fall into the realm of habit – like riding a bike, swimming, or driving a car. I no longer need to think about them, I just do them. Habitual skills do not fade (except maybe with dementia or other brain malfunctions) for lack of practice. In fact, it took close to forty years of non-use for my ability to speak French to fade from fluent to almost erased. I’ve been told that my French was not at risk of extinction, only dormant and waiting for the proper environment to cause it to rise once more to a serviceable level. Maybe. It didn’t feel that way last year at this time.

Am I alone in not taking much credit for habitual skills? Is it common to only value that which one has worked to achieve? If skills and talents already developed are sufficiently satisfying, does one then “rest on one’s laurels” and perhaps cease to learn and grow?

Aspiration Accomplished

Aspiration Accomplished

I don’t have answers today, only questions… seulement des questions, pas de reponses.
Merci de me lire et de me repondre.

Unplanned

August 30, 2014

No promises as to resuming a regular posting. As today’s essay reflects, my life is unfolding in such an unplanned way that I know better than to commit yet to any regular writing schedule. I have missed the connection to my readers, however so let’s see…

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I walked two miles in about 40 minutes, before breakfast this morning. That activity is one of the several things I have been doing with my limited free time, instead of writing blog posts. My walking place is a dirt country lane, straight and well packed, through unfenced plains used for grazing by a herd of black Angus cattle, and occasionally also by a small group of antelope. Heading out – east – the sun is in my eyes so I keep them lowered and shaded by the brim of my hat. I see bugs scuttling across the road, and jeweled colors as the sun glints off shards and stones beaten into the hard clay by the passing of cars. Heading back – west – I can look around to appreciate how incredibly green my surroundings have been painted by our summer rains.

We’ve had as much rain these past three months as in the last 4-5 years of summers combined. Which means before I walk I douse myself in a home concocted mosquito repellant that works quite well. Oils of lemon grass, cedarwood, peppermint, citronella and a bit of lavender added to water and sprayed on. Sounds a bit wild but actually smells rather pleasant to me. I wonder why the mosquitoes don’t agree – but am glad they do not.

My walks – I try to do at least two a week – are about the only unscheduled, reflective time available to me these extremely busy days. Today I contemplated the saying that “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” In my case, life is what has virtually overwhelmed me when I had no particular plans at all. So much has changed, so radically, from a year ago this time. I had, then, just been hired by Presbyterian, with a start date in October so I engaged with the projects I wanted to have completed before the new job took over my days. I also wrote quite a few blog posts, to have a supply stored up for weeks when it would be challenging to write. As you must realize, I ran out of that supply several months ago.

The job has turned out to be pretty much what I anticipated but far more demanding of my time than I imagined. We’ve had a good bit of turnover among the 70 some of us across the state, mostly people burning out from the constant demands and deadlines, the 60 + hour weeks, and the aggravations of a profoundly user unfriendly computer data system we are obliged to keep updated. There is, now, a bit of light at the end of the tunnel – or enough light to perceive that the tunnel does have an end. Rather like my sighting in on my car, parked at the head of the lane, waiting for me to make my way back the return mile of my walk. I know a cool beverage awaits me there, so I keep up my pace. There IS an end to this madness, really there is!

Meanwhile, I’m busy living each moment, day after day. It’s an interesting change for me – from a good deal of time for reflection to virtually none. I feel stripped down to an essential core, deciding and acting without conscious planning for what will be done when, or how. For someone raised to believe she must organize and plan in order to achieve, living so immediately in the present is a most curious experience. Surprisingly pleasant and freeing. Productive, though not in ways I have previously measured productivity. Most of all, I feel relieved of a weight of responsibility that I’ve carried most of my life.

And that’s perhaps the most novel aspect of this new way of being. Looking back at the past six months, I have behaved responsibly, honestly, as reliably as ever – but I feel as though I’ve been gloriously self-indulgent. I am certain of one thing – I’m not going to analyze that good feeling. I’m simply going to enjoy it, like I enjoy my two mile walks, the people I’ve met through my work, my new marriage and the process of living my life rather than making plans.

Join me? Try it, you might like it as much as I do!

New Leaves

June 22, 2014

A friend recently suggested that feelings may be primarily transient, and not very useful as indicators of the progress of our lives. I responded with a short essay that I’m now turning into my post for this week.

Before I present that reflection, however, I want to review the insight which came to me during a morning meditation. I found myself considering what purpose is being served by my strict adherence to a weekly posting schedule. (Yes, I know, I missed last week. I was preoccupied with an important personal event which took precedence over everything else in my life.)

My contemplation this morning encompassed the vivid presence of Divine Spirit in the posts of a fellow student of MasterPath (Lesley King – The Inner Adventure) and my unanswered inquiry into the extent to which that presence shows in my own writing. What I received in lieu of an answer was another question – why do I continue to demand of myself a weekly post?

When I started this blog a year ago, my motivation was to demonstrate a commitment to writing that might be relevant to finding an agent and/or publisher for my then recently completed novel. Six months later I started a far-more-than-fulltime job which continues to occupy most of my days. And then a delightful but attention-demanding new relationship bloomed in my life, leaving even less time to focus on writing. Nonetheless, I’ve written something thoughtful – and I hope of general interest – weekly for a year. My circumstances have changed far more dramatically than I could possibly have envisioned a year ago. My relationship to this blog has, I now realize, also been transformed.

Meeting the demands of my ”day” job makes ample use of my mental and interpersonal, outer-directed skills. Building my new relationship stretches, embellishes, transforms, beautifies all aspects of me, but particularly my physical and emotional bodies. I know that I would not have been gifted with this delightful and rich blessing of commitment had I not already achieved a strong relationship to my Divine inner Teacher. I also recognize that I am now being nudged, once again, to preserve time and attention for the next step that Teacher will be asking me to take. Rather than pushing myself to put words down – I started to say on paper, but really it’s only on screen – I realize I need a break from words, a break from busy-ness, and instead, more mental silence.

So I will be continuing to post, when those silent periods allow Spirit to reveal to me material that seeks expression. I’m curious to see what schedule of posts results from freeing myself of the obligation to write weekly!

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I do want to share the gist of my response to my friend about transient feelings, and their relevance, or lack thereof, to the meaning of our lives.

“Would you grant that the feeling tone of a life can change, can also be positive or negative, loving or constrained – or sad, or calm, or impatient – and that this tone has an expanse across time, and breadth across activities? Rather than saying I am feeling happy these days, should I have said that the tone of my life has altered from practicing containment and patience, to active flowering in a variety of ways?

“I planted an avocado pit about 8 months ago, that had cracked open and put forth a small shoot as it sat in water on my kitchen window. In its pot of earth in the living room, it slowly grew, putting out a single leaf, sometimes two, which would drop off before new ones emerged. This pattern went on month after month. The plant became taller, more mature, but never fuller until just last month when it began producing new leaves without losing the original ones. Now it is both taller again, and sporting a head of 15 leaves. It is still a young avocado tree but it is nonetheless quite a different plant than it was 4 weeks ago.

avocat1

“Months of patient, repetitive experience (in my case years of it) have given way to a different look, a more fulfilled form, changed and more expressive energy, a happy presentation of what it is to be an avocado tree me… My energy level has escalated such that my daily being is much more productive. Next, unanswered, question – is happiness the result of that increased productivity, or the energizer which makes the productivity possible – or both?

“I’m pretty sure I won’t be puzzling over the answer any time soon. I prefer to focus on putting out more leaves.”

Leaves which I will share as they manifest.

 CIMG2428

Random Thoughts

May 11, 2014

What was that nudge to parents from quite a number of years ago…”It’s two a.m. Do you know where your children are?”…

Well, it’s four a.m. and I’m awake and writing.

Not with a coherent topic in mind, but rather with the flow of reflections that has been keeping me from sleep. Starting with the circumstances of a mother and son whom I visited in Taos a few days ago, for my “day” job (the one that has been running seven days a week of late).

The son is a mildly developmentally delayed and very hyperactive boy, youngest of six children, with all his older siblings grown and moved on. The mother is a 350 pound woman requiring constant oxygen, and in severe pain, barely able to stand long enough to move from bed to chair. They live in two cluttered, unheated rooms at the back of an old adobe house belonging to her mother and brother. I don’t want to know what lies beneath the piles of clothing, baskets, blankets and miscellany filling the floor and every corner of the rooms.

She cares about her son’s development, is worried that he has started to be bullied in school, wants to teach him to “man up” and not cry when he is teased (he’s ten). She has managed to buy him a computer, and he is enrolled in Little League, but is only able to participate in a few of the games because mom can only rarely manage to leave the house to drive him to the field. She wants a companion for him, someone to take him out to activities and help him develop a social life.

The day before, I was with a 97 year old woman whose family was gathering to celebrate her birthday. She birthed 17 children, of whom 14 are still living. She is frail, forgetful, incontinent, but cheerfully recovering from a broken hip and with a goal to walk using only a cane, not her walker. And the day before that, my visit was to a thin, grieving, agitated widow who had just lost her youngest brother, the third family death since the first of the year. She is a survivor – her husband had violently abused her, ending only when the shotgun he pulled out to shoot her misfired and killed him instead. She is in constant pain due to a metal plate in her neck, a repair from when he fractured her vertebrae in a prior attempt to kill her. Despite the violence and her recent grief, she is focused on what she can do to help her young nieces and nephews who have just lost their father.

Against such examples of striving for life in the face of dire need, I find it very difficult to be patient with anyone who takes for granted the support, care and concern offered by others.

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A young friend of mine is getting married this coming week, and I’m taking some leave days to go to the wedding in Sedona, Arizona. I’ve been doubling up on work this past week, in order to keep to the deadlines imposed by the state’s implementation of a new Medicaid model of service delivery. And I’ll be doubling up on work when I return from my four day trip (two days for the travel, two days for the wedding activities). Which is why unfocused issues are floating around in my head rather than coalescing into a coherent essay for this post. Too busy “doing” to “be” with any one thing long enough for it to form a pattern in my mind. “Doobee, doobee, doo” as a friend of mine has said, about the tension that arises between doing and being.

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I am most grateful for the support now in my life – a daily injection of humor, appreciation, respect, distraction and loving that is a vastly different experience than my mostly solitary path has been. I truly could not do my job, be of service to so many people in so much need, and manage the challenges in other parts of my personal life, were it not for the companionship and partnering I am delightedly experiencing.

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“When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone.”

A song from long ago, from the musical Carousel

Words to live by.

Have a great week!

Driving into Awareness

April 6, 2014

I am teaching someone to drive – again – no, I am again teaching someone to drive. There, that’s better, more accurate.

The same process of correction, of attention to exact explanation is required of me as the driving teacher (not driving the student hard, but teaching the student the art of driving). And it is as much art as science. Getting the feel of the vehicle, of the wheel, of how the car wants to straighten itself out from a turn so that trying to do the straightening produces an over-correction. Learning to position oneself in the lane, noticing important warnings of the intentions of other drivers, processing what one sees and hears without needing the time to consciously think it all through. Driving, especially in traffic, requires quicker responses than conscious thought permits.

I am, again, teaching someone to drive, and valuing this opportunity to become conscious of what I do instinctively. Valuing, also, this occasion to notice not just what I do right, but what I’ve gotten a bit sloppy about, and don’t want to continue to do, now that I need to be a role model of safe, defensive driving.

My daily spiritual practice is essentially an exercise in shutting down thought, in order to become aware of the subtler levels of my being. Very close to what I must do to teach someone a skill at which I am so practiced that I conduct the activity beneath the level of awareness and thought. When I come out of my daily contemplation, I often bring a new insight with me, into consciousness, then do my best to put into words and actions what I’ve been gifted to perceive. Very much like the way in which I am opening to the subtle habits ingrained by so many years of driving, and attempting to give voice to them in order to instruct my student.

So teaching someone to drive is a spiritual exercise! Or at least it can be, if one chooses to make use of the experience for one’s own growth in understanding. And in patience. And in trust.

The vehicle being used is my ‘second’ car – the back-up GMC that serves as my guarantee of transport should my trusty and trusted and much loved VW Rabbit ever fail me. (It has not done so, as yet, in ten years and nearly 220,000 miles of mostly solitary driving). I’ve realized already that I would be far more tested were I to be giving the lessons in the Rabbit. Not just because it’s a stick shift whereas the GMC is automatic. I have virtually lived in the VW; it’s packed with all that’s necessary for me to survive through a snow storm, hunker down to wait out a dust storm, take advantage of an unexpected opportunity to camp out overnight, be appropriately dressed for sudden changes in weather, provide roadside first aid in case I come across an accident… you get the idea.

Resting at Home

Resting at Home

My Rabbit has become far more than reliable, reasonably inexpensive transportation. It’s home away from home, an important means of connecting me to the world, a key element of my ability to earn my living and, because Rabbits remain relatively uncommon on our roads, a distinguishing mark of my presence. Not so long ago, I needed to let a mechanic drive the Rabbit so he could feel in the steering what I sensed was a developing problem. Sitting in the passenger seat as we went around the block was one of the harder things I’ve done recently.

Sitting in the passenger seat of the GMC has not been difficult. I don’t have much history with the Envoy, and my student is both a quick learner and a careful driver. The challenge for both of us is that he grew up using public transportation, not riding in cars, so he still has to acquire the non-verbal, body sense of what driving a car is all about. It’s not at all the same as riding a motor cycle, which he has done.

I’m also familiar with riding cycles – not driving them, but happily sitting on the back, free to enjoy the wind in my hair and the scenery flashing past with an immediacy totally lacking when one is shut inside a car or truck. I used to get the same sense of connection with my surroundings when I rode my horse out through the gate of my property and into the extensive acres of my neighbor’s ranch. A brisk canter to the far fence shut down thought and opened up my inner world. Yet another form of spiritual exercise.

Perhaps I should suggest to my student that he do a short contemplation before his next turn behind the wheel? Most physical skills come more easily when one relaxes into them (think of learning to float in order to swim). Those same skills suffer when one over thinks them (tensing up in the water, and sinking). Riding behind on a motorcycle, one has to relax and let one’s body bend with the curves in concert with the driver. Up on a horse, one must become one with the rhythm of the horse’s gait. Behind the wheel of my Rabbit, I feel in tune with every nuance of the vehicle, I know that car as if it were alive.

How does one teach that sort of awareness?

Hearing one’s True Voice in contemplation and then living from one’s Divine Self are, like driving a car well, skills which cannot be mediated through the mind. These skills cannot, therefore, be taught. They must instead be caught by the student, who first observes them being modeled by a teacher and who then, by trial and error experience, learns to shut down the mind and respond from a wise and capable Soul.

Inner commune, connection, inspiration, followed by action – the sequence of a spiritual exercise – is also the sequence many artists describe as their process of creation. Learning dance choreography many years ago, I was told by Miss Widener to stop thinking about my composition and instead to just feel my way through it. Yesterday I asked my student if he could feel how to respond to the impact of wind on the Envoy’s steering. Today I am challenged to create, with words, a feeling of intuitive understanding in my readers.

Do I evoke an “aha, yes, I am aware of that part of me?”
Do you go there, learn, trust, respond, live from that core? Yes? Then I’m happy for you.

If not, or not yet, teach someone to drive – or ride a bicycle, redecorate a room, weave a rug, or work with wood. As your student learns a new skill, you’ll gain a new level of awareness, and enjoy a new way of Being.


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