Communing

By | Body, Mind & Spirit, Writing | 2 Comments

Three things happened this weekend that saved me from despair, and renewed my faith in humanity.

 Number 1. These two got married.  R&J
At a time when we are feeling separated by racial tension, and fear, feeling like we’re headed toward an unbridgeable divide, a black family flew from LA to Fargo to join a white family in celebrating their children’s marriage. Not only did their love knit their two diverse families together, it also brought our community together with a very poignant and timely reminder that love is love is love is love is love.

Number 2. A community gathered to take this
before
   to this, in 10 hoursafterWhen a drunk driver plowed into John’s house a little after midnight, friends and neighbors pitched in to prove we all get by with a little help from our friends.

Number 3. Our local downtown market openedrrmarket

All of these connections point out that having a sense of place, a sense of community, and love is the only way of finding a path forward together.

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PaAtToThWo

Pay Attention To The World

By | Body, Mind & Spirit, Writing | No Comments

In addition to being handsome, charming and a brilliant politician, Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also a great human. He suggested in March of this year that he’d like to see Americans pay more attention to the world. And while his comments are directed outwardly more at the collection of humans clinging to this spinning rock we call earth, he’s in good company with his statement. Another brilliant human, Susan Sontag, made the same assertion, but more inwardly directed to writers. She said, “a writer is someone who pays attention to the world — a writer is a professional observer.” I think in saying this she believed, as do I, that this paying attention to something greater than yourself is as important to writers, as it is to being a good human.

I think, since I’ve learned to take my writing more seriously, and have started to do a lot more of it, the telling of stories is my contribution to the world, my price, if you will, of living here and now. I’m not saying that my thoughts or opinions are are any more or any less important that others. I just think that the ability to observe, to take in, to digest, and then to rephrase something helps others to understand. This is a part of human communication that I think is lost in today’s soundbites, and bombastic rhetoric. I don’t want to change people’s opinions, I just want them to pay attention to what is going on around them, and perhaps join the conversation.

In the article that inspired this post there is a link to Susan Sontag’s book of essays on storytelling “At The Same Time” where she talks about telling a story well helps information become wisdom, saying, “Obviously, I think of the writer of novels and stories and plays as a moral agent… This doesn’t entail moralizing in any direct or crude sense. Serious fiction writers think about moral problems practically. They tell stories. They narrate. They evoke our common humanity in narratives with which we can identify, even though the lives may be remote from our own. They stimulate our imagination. The stories they tell enlarge and complicate — and, therefore, improve — our sympathies. They educate our capacity for moral judgment.”

I take this as a call to pay attention, to look deeper into things even the ugly and loud and exaggerations, and once I have the information I need, it is my moral duty to write to turn that information into wisdom, if only for myself.

 

 

 

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LiQu

Live The Questions

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In the Brainpickings article that includes this “elevating resolution” Maria Popova invites us to read Rainier Maria Rilke’s take on having patience with unresolved issues. He writes in one of his Letters to a Young Poet: “I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

LiQu

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abmibu

Resist Absent-minded Busyness

By | Body, Mind & Spirit, Writing | No Comments

abmibuResist Absentminded Busyness. Hmmmm… What does that mean?

In the Brainpickings article that includes this “elevating resolution”  Soren Kierkegaard says this: 

“Of all ridiculous things, the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.”

and this:

“The unhappy one is absent… It is only the person who is present to himself that is happy.”

Ah, Kierkegaard. Existentialist. Philosopher. Yoga Instructor?

Well, why not? If you’ve ever taken a yoga class you see where I’m going. What’s the first thing the instructor tells you as you begin your practice? …OK, besides to breathe…

To be present in the moment. And being present seems to me to be the exact opposite of absentminded busyness.

There was an article published in the New York Times that says “busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness.” In other words we associate busyness with productivity, title, and importance.

But busyness goes beyond our ego. We use the term to contrast things we like and don’t like. If I say I spent the day doing yoga, meditating, and reading you’d assume I was not busy. But if I spent it catching up on emails, projects, and meetings, then I sound like I was busy.  

In the practice of yoga we learn to calm our busyness and become present in our body. Physical tension fades away and we may also experience an emotional release as a result of that.

beherenow

I know when I first started my yoga practice, I had this notion that I was going to learn all the poses right away. That was totally a busyness way to think, and in no way focused on the present. The practice of yoga is not to get done and move on to the next thing. It’s purpose is to combine your breath and the poses in order to experience exactly where you are at that moment.

Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun, known for her charming and down-to-earth interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism, says: 

“Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have so we might as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy.”

The intention I have set for the year is to establish my own home yoga practice, and working on that has really made a difference in the way I choose being present, over being busy. 

Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.  — Eckhart Tolle

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schoolpic

The Beginning

By | Boomer Life, Higher Ed, Writing | 3 Comments

I escaped like a caged bird, out the kitchen door, eager to make my solitary way to school, lightly holding my lunch bag, neatly folded twice at the top. Dried leaves scented the Southern California air that morning, two months into my 5th grade year.

Suddenly, the new girl from two doors down appeared on the sidewalk in front of my house, clutching her own paper lunch bag scrunched at the top like she was carrying a chicken by the neck. Our paths joined and we walked together in awkward silence, into her first day at my school and the beginning of our lifelong friendship.

Tami wore her father’s fair, freckled features, and a red corduroy jumper that day. I, in my black patent leather Mary Janes with white socks carefully cuffed, envied her sockless ankles tucked into well-worn white tennis shoes.

She was waiting at my classroom door when it was time for first recess.

“D’ya wanna play wallball?” Tami asked, taking my arm and pulling me toward where a group of boys bounced large playground balls against the back of the brick bathroom building, like one-sided doubles tennis without a racket.

“Um, I usually play on the swings… with the girls.” I protested weakly. Secretly terrified at the prospect of entering the boys’ territory, yet not wanting to disappoint my new friend, I went along, but just to watch.

When it was Tami’s turn, she didn’t just return the big bounced ball with one hand like the others had, she reared back and thumped down on that ball with both fists and all of her might. The force of her effort made her opponent miss, and that red jumper to fly up in the back, causing the boys to snicker and make comments about London and France.

I thought she’d cry and run away. I would have. But she just grinned, wiped her hands on the front of her skirt, and took on her next opponent.

 

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fingerfriends

Cultivate Honorable Relationships

By | Body, Mind & Spirit, Writing | No Comments

Cultivate honorable relationships. Those are three deep words, and a rather deep sentence when taken altogether like that.

In the article that inspired this goal, Adrienne Rich defined what she meant in this way:

“An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.”  

How on earth can I go about achieving such a lofty goal? Well, that’s what it meant to Adrienne, but maybe if I break it down in terms that mean something to me…

cultivate
verb cul·ti·vate \ˈkəl-tə-ˌvāt\

Simple Definition of cultivate

  • : to prepare and use (soil) for growing plants

  • : to grow and care for (plants)

  • : to grow or raise (something) under conditions that you can control

honorable
adjective hon·or·able \ˈä-nər-(ə-)bəl, ˈän-rə-\

Simple Definition of honorable

  • : deserving honor and respect

  • : having or showing honesty and good moral character

  • : fair and proper : not deserving blame or criticism

relationship
noun re·la·tion·ship \-shən-ˌship\

Simple Definition of relationship

  • : the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other

  • : a romantic or sexual friendship between two people

  • : the way in which two or more people or things are connected

OK, I get it now… in other words: to grow or raise, under conditions that I can control, in a fair and proper manner, the way in which I am connected to people or things.

That sounds a lot less Smithsonian Institute Docent, and a lot more Pandora. My own personal network genome project! Like making and keeping great friends…

 

…maybe I’m doing this already. 

 

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“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” –Pablo Picasso

Challenge Assumptions

By | Making, Writing | No Comments

Day 4 of my 30 day Brainsparker Creativity Kickstart. Challenge Assumptions.

You know what they say when you assume – you make an ASS of U and ME. Lets not do that OK?

But if I’m honest, whether I do it consciously or unconsciously, I DO do it. Before I even try to do something out of the ordinary, I assume I won’t have enough time/money/energy/buy-in/space. Its not that I’m a pessimist, or negative. No, quite the contrary. But we are creatures of habit, and doing something new or doing an old thing differently takes effort.

Using the prompts from Brainsparker, over the next 30 days I’m going to ask my self the following when I start to think for some reason I can’t:

I Can't

  • Where am I saying words like, “never,” “no way,” “can’t,” “not possible?” 
  • When am I saying, “Well that’s just how things are,” “That’s how it’s done?”
  • When am I saying, “I’ll never,” “I can’t,” “I won’t,” “He/she will never,” “He/she can’t,” “He/she just won’t?”

 

Whenever I see an assumption, I’m going to challenge it, before it challenges me!

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Creative Marxism

By | Making, Writing | No Comments

Day 3 of my 30 day Brainsparker Creativity Kickstart. Associational Thinking.

I have always been a fan of connecting unconnected things, I just didn’t know there was a name for it.  

It’s called Associational Thinking, and apparently using it puts me in league with some amazingly innovative people, like entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, and the like. They too, like to connect unconnected things, but they also do something that is out of my comfort zone – they disrupt. I find disrupting very uncomfortable. I try very hard not to break things. I dislike conflict. I color within the lines – so much so that when I color, I make another dark line with the crayon just inside the printed line, to make it even harder to go outside of the lines. This is something I’m working on.

But do you want to know someone who knew quite a bit about disrupting, and did it well? Karl Marx. Marx believed that capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system – constantly. In short, he professed that systems of government would always become outdated and unstable and must continually be broken in order to create new ones. 

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So if Karl Marx knew about disrupting, therefore he also must have known something about creativity – right? Sure, I do understand the irony in looking to Karl Marx for creativity thinking. This is about as strange as looking for tips on meditation in Mein Kampf. But isn’t that what associational thinking is all about, connecting seemingly unconnected things?

Whether or not you agree with his thinking on politics or society, Marx was undoubtedly successful in his writing, he was a prolific creative. He likely didn’t wait to create until the bills were paid, or until after dinner, or until it was quiet (warm/light/comfortable) enough. He wrote, and thought and wrote and thought through and maybe because of the chaos.

When I think about creativity, I think about the importance of balance, of cultivating peaceful focus. My whole theory comes undone in light of the many chaotic creatives whose lives likely look more like Marx’s than mine. None of this means balance and calm aren’t nice ways to live, but you have to strike while the iron is hot, or write when then ironing needs to be done, or break an old habit and make a new practice by connecting the pieces to something outrageous.

So here is my takeaway: Take things apart. Create new things from the pieces. If you want be creative, disrupt.

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Let’s Get Started

By | Making, Writing | One Comment

the-secret-of-getting-ahead-is-getting-started-mark

Day 2 of my 30 day Brainsparker Creativity Kickstart. Overcoming blocks.  

Thinking today about what holds me back from writing. My first answer would have to be time. I never think I have enough time. As I said in the Day 1 post, I always put off writing until I’m done with all other things. Yes, it feels good to cross things off my list, and to head into the week with a clean slate – but I bet it would feel better if I had some writing under my belt.

My second answer would be that I sometimes don’t even know what to write about. I think that relates back to the time answer because I have a whole list of things I want to write about. I just don’t give myself time to think deeply enough about any one of them because I’m too busy thinking about other things, or crossing other things off my list.

I think the solution to overcoming these blocks (or the one REAL block) is to change my belief, or change the way I think about writing. FOCUS. This 30 day practice will help bring awareness to trying to fit in some writing every day. So the one thing I can do today is get started on making a list of three things I’d like to spend some time writing.

The Poets and Writers e-newsletter gives three prompts for the coming week and I’ve decided to make time to focus on one or more of those for my daily writing practice this week.

The three prompts for this week are”

  • Write a poem in twelve parts that tries to capture each month’s abstract feeling in a single line or stanza, OR
  • Pick a supporting character from a novel, film, or short piece, and rewrite a story from his or her point of view, OR
  • Write an essay that investigates your phobia–not its subject, but the fear itself–across history, culture, and science.

Each of those sounds super interesting! I’m inspired now!!! If only I had the time…

 

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