Knowing Your Path

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need.”

What if the right path presented itself as a dazzling staircase that we only had to climb to find ourselves exactly where we needed to be?  Would we do it?  Or would we look at the amazing path and tell ourselves; it is too high, it looks too slippery, I’ll come back to it later when I am not so busy, it might be an illusion?

We have  myriad ways to convince our-selves not to do the thing that we know is best for us, meant for us to do.  I just finished a book that I cannot more highly recommend, “SWAY, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior” by Ori and Rom Brafman.  It delves into the question of why we would do or believe something that makes absolutely no sense, and yet somehow we convince our brains, or vice versa in some cases, that it does.  A fast-paced read on a topic that could change how you operate and best of all, how to get unstuck from a behavior or relationship you have tried to escape.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2118114.Sway

If today the thought of one activity, one person, one idea, creates that spark of energy and imagination, then it is time to seize it with all you have.  Don’t climb that staircase, run up the staircase, shout from the top, slide down the railing and run up again.  Embrace this moment and give it your full attention and heart.  All of the paths are there, the bright sparkling ones, the cool deep ones that lead into the enchanted forest, the precisely laid stone, the overgrown tangled vine laden paths.  Which one intrigues you and calls you further along?  The path that resonates inside is not the same for each of us, rather it is the connection we feel to that path that has grown inside us as we have passed by so many others knowing they are not the right one.

Do not be cautious, do not choose with care!  Fling yourself at your path with all the daring and courage that you can muster.   The time for care and caution will be when you think you want to veer from that path to find another.  Be sure you have explored this one fully and allow yourself the time to reflect whether you have merely come upon a log you must climb over or if it is the end of this path and time to find the next.

And each time, let yourself light up, feel the thrill and magic of travelling exactly where you belong.  It is not luck that one finds oneself on the right path, all that you need is being open enough to see it and brave enough to take it.  Step quickly now, your path is right ahead!

Wisdom

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” ~ Saint Augustine

I have tried to imagine the face of wisdom.  The image I see is a person of enormous calm and reserve, taking in everything, yet slow to offer comment.  Storing knowledge and experience for later use with caution and proper timing, the wise being of my imagination uses their experience to facilitate foresight and takes time to carefully consider consequences.  Taking mindfulness out of time and space and placing oneself in the past, the present and the future to see most clearly.

This is a patient person, waiting watchfully for events to unfold; unhurried by the immediate demands with an eye to the overarching impact of an action.  Words chosen with consideration and mindful of their impact, my imagined sage sees time as its companion and equal, not driving the moment but walking in unison. With measured thoughts and words, comes insight.  Learning from each experience, the knowing among us carefully build understanding and exercise a judicious habit of action.

Developing a way about us that allows wisdom to evolve requires slowing in all things.  Observing and listening, contemplating and considering, holding a thought until it can be examined with care before acting; all change the pace and the results.  Practice editing by speaking little and absorbing more.  Build up patience to give an idea chance to mature.

Wisdom comes not with age, but from a way of being.  Stillness and silence gives wisdom a garden in which to grow, whether you are 18 or 81.  Quiet your heart, quiet your mind and let the wisdom around you take root and flourish.

Wonder-ful!

“Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.”―L. Frank Baum author of the “Oz” series

A sense of wonder has such a child-like characteristic to it, the very word evokes a vision of wide eyes, large smiles, standing on tip-toe, holding one’s breath.  How often as adults do we tap into our sense of wonder?  Wonder is magical and we become too jaded to experience that sense with any regularity.  Caught up in the adult sense of “knowing” we begin to lose the openness and sheer joy that comes from experiencing wonder.

I recently read an article about extremophiles.  Upon seeing the word I assumed it was about people who love the extreme; ones who would be good at reality television shows jumping off tall buildings onto a pile of pillows.  But no, it is a class of organisms that live in the extremes of heat, cold and pressure where it was previously thought no life forms could exist.  Digging deeper into the story, it describes an organism that has lived in a gas bubble in a crystal, and the crystal was fifty MILLION years old!  The organism apparently had not developed any way to divide or reproduce because it did not need to.  I continued to read filled with wonder.  The upshot of the article was we are discovering an entire new classification of life here on this planet; the obvious usefulness of which is to guide us to look for life in places we believed it could not exist here or on any other planet.

To understand how and why these creatures came into existence is far beyond my grasp, but I do not deny the truth of their being.  I am filled with awe and wonder at the things that are in our very midst and we are ignorant of their presence until someone with imagination and courage finds them.  The world outside and within is teeming with the undiscovered and when we allow ourselves the freedom of the wonder of it all, we become open to the great mysteries and excitement of life.

Opening up to that which strikes us as unlikely if not impossible with an inquiring mind and a receptive heart creates an entirely new space to grow oneself.  Tapping back into the sense of amazement at the world around us with a joyful sense of discovery feeds one’s creativity, imagination and freshens the perceptions of all that one believes and knows.

Let yourself believe for a moment in the magical, reclaim your sense of wonder, rediscover delight.

What Remains?

“All natural goods perish. Riches take wings; fame is a breath; love is a cheat; youth and health and pleasure vanish.”  William James

These words could be construed as the mutterings of a bitter old man, with a purely naturalistic view of life.  They are, when taken in the context of “The Varieties of Religious Experience”, presented as an example of the “sick soul”, a soul that cannot find the ease of living, forever searching and striving to discover some value, some greater worth than that which one possesses.  In the same piece James quotes Edward Everett Hale, “I can remember perfectly that when I was coming to manhood, the half-philosophical novels of the time had a deal to say about the young men and maidens who were facing ‘the problem of life.’ I had no idea whatever what the problem of life was. To live with all my might seemed to me easy; to learn where there was so much to learn seemed pleasant and almost of course; to lend a hand, if one had a chance, natural; and if one did this, why, he enjoyed life because he could not help it, and without proving to himself that he ought to enjoy it…”, as an example of what James calls the healthy-minded.  He acknowledges that there are degrees of healthy-mindedness and sickness of soul; and concludes that the sick soul has the more overlapping perceptions of reality.

Does this mean then that we should turn away from greater happiness, that we give up on the hope for a joyful existence to live a “real” life?  There is room in the mix for a respectful acknowledgement of evil, sadness, fear, loss, and all the elements the “sick soul” tends to dwell upon, without becoming consumed with the “problem of life”.  When it seems that all in life has the potential to eventually fade away, what is it that we might hold on to in the face of the inevitable loss?

When indeed all the material is gone, youth and health have fled, we are left with memories.  The memories of a lifetime of choices and chances taken; of seizing the moment to run free, making time for the joyous bounding adventures.  Memories of the people we have known, those we have helped and who have helped us; memories of tenderness, kindness and expressions of love.  Our fully integrated self has stored these and more in our bodies as well as our minds, and until both completely fail we retain the ability to remember, not just thoughts, but emotions and the physical sensations of those cherished moments.

As we are mindful today, we are filling the storehouse of our bodies and souls with the thing that lingers; that which holds far greater value than the car driven, the title or letters following names, the balance in the bank.  Let the thing that lingers fill our vessel with the sweetness and the treasures of a celebratory life.

Technology….it giveth and it taketh!

This blog comes to the Internet via the wi-fi hotspot on my cell phone from my home on the upslope of the Bitterroot Mountains.  It is the sole source of Internet connectivity here.  Yesterday as I was getting ready to write, my phone shut down completely.  It would not even react to trying to restart…so frustrating!  I fiddled for a few minutes, wrote some notes for the blog that wasn’t, and went about my day, which was one of heavy physical outdoor labor.  By the time I was done and I came back to my home office to see if my phone had repaired itself, it had, I was too exhausted to do anything more than shut everything down and hope for a better start today.

One of the blogs I follow, Health Demystified, comments in part on our striving to be more efficient.  I have used the concept of efficiency in my daily activities to try to do more in the same amount of time.  Never go upstairs without taking something that needs to go up and vice versa.  When I started to wear the FitBit tracker I realized that I was saving time and saving steps but to the detriment of my overall health and fitness.  Keeping those trips up and down the stairs to a minimum, trying to do every task with the fewest trips to gather supplies, seemed the best way to accomplish the task related goals I had set.  Suddenly, aided by the awareness the FitBit gave me, I was looking at not bringing a tool I needed to the location I was working as an opportunity to add more steps to my daily total instead of berating myself for forgetfulness.  I have not become obsessed with my step count and activity level, but it has added a layer of mindfulness that I did not have before.

There can be amazing benefits from technology used wisely and with restraint.  It is like so many other things in life; just because “some” is good does not make “a lot” better.  I can read about the thoughts and ideas of people in places I may never visit, I can share my ideas with strangers I will never meet.  I have more information than I could ever process at my fingertips.  The trick is balance; to keep the technology and the devices as tools to learn, to grow, to stay in touch over distances.  One must guard against the over-reliance, the anxiety of being disconnected, the use of technology to replace human exchange.  Used as a tool for awareness, as my FitBit lesson taught me, it is useful in achieving other goals.  Spending hours surfing mindlessly, or feeling compelled to check every connectivity account constantly, moves our devices from the category of tools to that of unhealthy habit.

Even though I was frustrated with my lack of connection yesterday, I was able to set it aside, work hard and accomplish the goals for the day outdoors without giving my temperamental phone another thought.  And missing my first daily post but coming back today to continue where I left off gives me hope that I can stick with this for the long haul even when life and technology get in the way.

Waxing Philisophical

It occurred to me that I have done very little reading in contemporary philosophical thinking and to that end I availed myself of the trusty online catalog of my local library to see what was out there that might introduce me to new ideas or new spins on old ideas if you are of the school, ” there is nothing new under the sun”.

First up is Phillip Shepherd’s “New Self New World, Recovering our Senses in the Twenty-First Century”.  Having only worked my way through the Forward by Andrew Harvey and the Introduction and first chapter by the author, this is not a book review by any means.  If I am following correctly the main concept is to seek wholeness, within ourselves and with our connections with the outer world.  In order to accomplish this he believes that it comes through the work of the body, that we need to “get out of our heads”.

As much as the word mindfulness sounds like a “head” word it is very much a body word.  Learning to pay attention to one’s body can give a volume of information that helps identify placement in the present space and time.  Chosing to pay attention to the sensory input and the bodily response to it is a step on the road the wholeness.  The fully integrated self, in tune and in harmony with the inner and outer world, especially the physical senses, gravitates to wholeness.  It is the center of all life to seek completion of the whole, reproduction, the yin and yang, to and fro.  No joy comes without knowing sorrow, no honest tears flow without having laughed with abandon.

The exercises from https://cathrinemclaren.com/2012/03/06/loose-ends/ of H.A.L.T. and S.I.F.T. are a great way to get in touch with where one is in the moment.  It can be used as it is in Loose Ends, to identify the cause for emotional eating; but it has far broader applications in the practice of mindfulness.  When lost in one’s head it is easy to ignore the basics; often something as simple as addressing physical fatigue or hunger can transport one from sorrow and frustration to a more realistic view of the issue at hand.  Continuing to practice mindfulness as a strategy for getting out of one’s thoughts and moving towards body awareness begins the unification process of wholeness.

Picking up the Ball

Going back through all of my posts has had an unexpected side effect…a severe case of “when did I lose track of that?”.  Although going through the ninety posts is slow going; I find I need to re-read each one to pick words that are somewhat reflective of the topic to use as tags.  I covered the first twenty or so and I know it will take longer as I go, the posts grew in length over time as well.

The first topic I lost track of was the “spin”.  Taking the negative or gloomy perspective and finding the positive, upbeat view.  Everything  from finding joy in a long gray day to finding the humor in an awkward encounter seems to have slipped away a bit.

Specific resolutions like Creativity Day and getting the filing under control – the work table for creative projects is now buried under all of that filing!  Some resolutions were kept and the one I hang on to as proof I can do this is writing daily.  So I will give myself a gold star on that one and pick one resolution to add in for the next ninety days. (Hey, I’m a slow reinforcer, most people it’s a month to six weeks, me, far more.)  So I will deal with my pigeon of discontent (as opposed to the Bluebird of Happiness, thanks G. Rubin), which is the filing.  It is not simply a stack of papers that need to go in folders, it is an entire shift of past years to boxes (need to buy one), make new files and purge the old, then put it all away.  But, once done, I am resolving to put the paper in the folder without it ever hitting the “to be filed” pile.  When I look at what has prevented me from doing this I realize, beyond it being a less than “fun” task, my perfectionist streak gets in the way as well.  The folder “needs labels” is the fattest, because I like printed labels, not hand written.  I will accept that it is important to me and make the time to print labels as needed, rather than “later”.

So here I am again circling back to mindfulness; paying attention to what is really happening or keeping me from attacking a project or task.  One of the huge benefits of putting things in writing is being able to look back as a check-up, to remind oneself where we were, where we thought we wanted to go, and hold that up against one’s current location.  There will always be some slipping, life happens, and all of our good intentions may lose some of their priority, but the good news is, with reminders, we can pick up the ball again.

Silence

After the roaring windstorm of yesterday afternoon, this morning there is a steady light snow that muffles any sound.  The birds are tucked away keeping warm, and the deer move quietly as they browse for breakfast.

Either my mood matches the day or my spirit is one with the world outside my door, but today is a quiet day for me as well.  One of the things I love most about living here is the silence.  There are times when the house is so quiet that I can hear the ticking of the stovepipe warming and cooling.  When I step outside the only sound is the slight crunch under foot with each step.  It is not just the lack of sound but the stillness solid as the mountains rising up behind me. There is such serenity in silence, the deep quiet of the woods translates to a deep quietness in my soul.

This is a piece of the puzzle I have not appreciated enough, I think.  Feeling joy, elation, excitement, enthusiasm, all have great value in the inner life of a truly happy person; but the deep resonations of a quietude are the fine covering overlaying the joyful noise that allow me to appreciate all moments and incorporate each into a way of being.  Silence is more soothing than the gentlest lullaby.  Today I will cherish the silence.

It’s A Riot

Of birdsong that is!

Last spring I was so lost in the gray days that seemed to stretch on forever that I would just look outside in the morning, sigh, and prepare for another nothing day.  But choosing happiness, I look out at the gray day, step outside and tune in to the natural world.  The birds are returning at a furious rate and the songs have gone from a symphony to a battle of the bands.  Stepping out on the deck I breathe in the cool mountain air, laugh at the cacophony and allow myself to feel the world around me reawakening.

A benefit of blogging is being able to compose on the computer, rather than in notebooks, which has been my customary practice.  I still keep a journal at hand when I am reading just to jot down quotes or ideas that strike me, but I am able to move to the computer and do the real work here.  As a result I am continuing to refine my workspace and bring together the items that allow my creativity to flow on to paper.  This has been such a fun and exciting process, it keeps me focused on my goals and I look forward to the time I can spend on my projects.

Today is my WordPress class at the library, hopefully I can get some tips on making this blog more interesting and connected with the rest of the blogosphere.  If not, I will run home and sign up for the adult education classes offered this spring.

Words to focus on today: mindfulness, joy, learning

Six AM

The world is so different at this hour.  The moon shining so brightly through the bedroom shades that I surrendered any hope of sleep and got up.  What a delight!  From the upper back deck I can see to the west where the moon is slowly sinking behind the mountains, one lone star for company as the horizon begins to brighten to the east.  The smell of wood smoke on the still cold air, I hear the last hoot of an owl and the first testing peeps of a songbird.  Joining it almost immediately are the gobble and yips of the turkeys to the south, and in seconds they are in full cry as the entire flock awakens and begins to move about.  The sunrise is still a way off, but the light to the east is enough that the landscape is beginning to show its colors again. I cannot imagine a better way to start the day.

I work with a guide to understand the mind-body connection and we devised an activity, part physical therapy, part meditation directed at the unhappiness I referred to in an earlier post.  Since my personal spot to store my unhappiness, in this case anger, is in my lower back, we addressed that particular area.  Using a therapy ball, I stretched backwards over the ball and gently rocked the ball to flex my back while paying particular attention to my breathing.  On the exhale when I was fully flexed I pictured the anger releasing in small particles from my body after being broken loose from the tightness in my back.  I would have been the first to tell you a year ago that this was just a bunch of new age hocus pocus, but after a year of being mindful, tuning into my body and paying attention to the connection between how my body is feeling and what my emotions and thoughts are telling me, I am a convert.  I would now say, if it works for you, by all means, do it!

I stepped outside for a moment to breathe the mountain air once more and even though the sun has not quite shown its face, the colors are deepening and the thin clouds to the east are a brilliant pink.  A woodpecker has added percussion to the bird symphony, as the natural world gives birth to another cheerful day.