Here we go again on a dizzying upswing. Possibilities are stars and I am hurtling through them at lightspeed. Somebody told Chewie to punch it, and it seems the hyperdrive is working just fine. Opportunities are endless. I can zoom onward, my heart in my throat as I watch all these amazing chances streak by my windows.
But, wait, help! It’s all flying by too fast and I can’t connect the dots of stars if they just look like trails of laser fire. And I might be moving at stunning speed, but do I even know where I am going? Euphoria is sweet, but I’m risking my sanity, achieving all this altitude without sufficient oxygen.
Reaching such velocity and then slowing to the inevitable crawl between these frenzied trips beyond the atmosphere of my every day experience is nothing new, but traveling through life as a new mother is making the ride more brilliant, terrifying, and death-defying than ever before.
This is passion, this is euphoria, this is limitlessness. And it can be as difficult to harness and capitalize upon as a passing comet.
Christine Kane has a guest blogger who writes about passion today. She names it, desrcibes it, and invites readers to uncover it in themselves. What she does not address is how to harness it so you don’t just feel like a helium balloon, rising so fast you forget the feel of the earth. It’s only the combination of a pair of boots firmly planted in the mud of daily life worn with a set of passion feathered wings that stuff really gets done, that the necessary changes happen.
For me, passion is hope, ever springing eternal. My task is to capture all of this fabulous momentum and distill it into a potion I can drink each day, a little draft I can add to my morning tea to keep the sweetest adrenalin pumping even when real life is trying to tell me it is impossible to fly.
What a brilliant reminder of how vital it is to respect and heed artists for the vital services they perform in our societies.
Today I am particularly struck by Sybil’s words because I feel like my walk across campus was like passing through a gauntlet of emotions. Every pair of students and every cell phone carrying individual I passed was engaged in heated conversation. There was no single, energizing event happening at the college that had everyone excited. People were just recounting their own dramas, all of which sounded like they were full of angst and strife.
A girl steamed angrily because she had been swindled on a car that had already broken down. Another describing how she had reason to storm from someone’s bed that morning. A couple looked to be in the middle of a break up on the library steps. Everywhere were words upon words meant to describe the darkness,anger, and pain mentioned above.
All of these stories seemed too fresh to yet get sublimated into art. The only creative expression was the art of venting. I am of two minds over whether venting equals the necessary release of emotions or an unproductive way to make sure the whole world cries with you. Regardless of what judgments I may have wanted to passed as I walked through all this venom and exegesis, all sorts of unpleasant was reality flying about.
No doubt, there is great creative potential to be uncovered on the other side of grief or getting really pissed off. I guess the magnitude of one’s creative power can be measured in how quickly that the alchemy can be performed that turns all that darkness into soul-enriching gold.
In my life, there has been a time for emotions – be they joy or grief, and then a time to of quietude to distill those feelings into a cocktail of (hopefully) artful words. Admittedly, the second stage, when I make something enduring from those great waves of feeling has always the optional stage. If I did get around to turning it all my real life drama into inspired creations, it all happened much later when I felt the dust had settled enough to make way for artistic inspiration.
But as I listen to all the frenzied conversations around campus, I realize how much energy is being released (wasted?) in such sessions. What if I decide to harness my own such energy and choose to pour it onto the page? As fast as possible, not days later when I have already bored friends with my outrage. I don’t want this to happen at the expense of living in the moment, but I wonder how this approach would color my waking life. Can it help me cultivate the perspective of a creator, one who is always mining for the material to engage the next fit of creative fancy?
And then I wonder how my relationship with language and communication might change if I started reserving a portion of my passion that so often squandered on gossip and indignation. Would it help me to realize that words matter? Would it give new potency to all that I do chose to voice?
At first, implementing this change may mean that I am writing down my frustrations rather than speaking them aloud. Eventually though I am dreaming that the magic that is art may begin to invade and I will find a way to enact some of what Sybil describes, to help locate elation and defeat in the “universal experience.”
I have written many times about the tension between having a day job and wanting to pursue my writing and healing live full time.
Green as a Granny Smith apple, I look to the bloggers and friends who can dedicate all of their time to their creative pursuits. I wish constantly for the financial freedom or the artistic warriors’ courage that allows them to refuse the constraints of the nine to five.
I shadowbox with guilt that my work ethic isn’t strong enough, that I should knuckle down and realize I wasn’t born independently wealthy and that I love this new house and have to earn the salary to pay for my piece of it.
At the same time I try to sort out the root my aversion to my job. Is going to a temple of knowledge every day and being paid for my pains actually painful or is it just an amplified version of the drama everyone experiences on Monday mornings? What if my soul is trying to tell me that I must do something else? What if I just don’t realize how good my job could actually be?
These are all still rhetorical questions, because I sure as heck don’t have any of the answers to them. Yet.
One thing I have sorted out, however, is helping me find new peace with my job as I continue to show up there each day. It sprang from a great deal of soul searching I did over my vacation when I started to realize how worried I was about returning to work.
I have been afraid to either like my job or give it my best effort because it might lead to contentment.
You see, I worried that if I was content in my work, the Universe might start to think that all I could do was take care of the logistics of a college library and design a few publications and manage a few budgets. The Universe (or God or my boss or myself) might start getting the idea that this life was ok for me and I could quit striving for that elusive something better. Even worse, I feared that that “something better” might stop trying to find me.
And so, I offered about 42% of my energy and attention to 40+ hours of my week. Somehow, I still expected to come home and switch into being able to give 110% of myself to writing and healing and loving my husband.
But, there is this thing called inertia. It the law that says that an object (or a redhead woman) is most likely to persist in a given state once she is already hanging out there. I am not sure what sort of magic I thought might happen during the commute home, but I guess I was hoping All Things Considered offered the alchemical secret of turning disaffected, scattered working girl into inspired, focused epiphany girl in the span of a thirty minute drive.
And so, I still have absolutely no idea if I am supposed to work toward escaping the relatively safe and predictable world of a salaried, benefit laden job in higher education (not that anything is all that stable these days) or if I am supposed to take all those risks and step into a “career” of my own creation. But, at least I am coming to understand the law of physics in my professional and creative lives and have stopped believing that I can make gold from the ashes of an unlived day.
I am dedicating myself to my job anew, and daring myself to look at every task and every person with fresh eyes. I am willing to risk offering all of myself to my position for the hours that I am paid to do so. Heck, if I do that maybe I can stop blogging about work on my own time!
What are your strategies for getting through the workday? Do you have this sense of tension too?
Those of you freed souls that we office-dwellers envy – what is it like on the other side? Any secrets you’d like to share with the class?
Christine over at Abbey of the Arts is holding one of her poetry parties this week, and the theme? Epiphanies. In her invitation to readers to share their work and favorite quotations, Christine offers this in way of a definition:
Epiphany essentially means a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something. It is those moments when in a flash we have insight into something we did not see before.
“Manifestation.” This word comes up in many sources describing the significance of today: the traditional Feast of the Epiphany. The twelfth day of Christmas. Little Christmas. Three Kings Day. The night when the Magi follow the star and offer their gifts to the infant in the savior. The day that the news of Christ’s birth comes to the Gentiles. In fact, manifestation and epiphany are presented to be virtually synonymous.
Funny how dictionary definitions and sacred meanings of terms tend to develop different connotations when they end up in daily use.
When the title of this blog came to me, “epiphany” certainly had no religious meaning. Like Christine above, I think of epiphanies as those little lightning bolts that allow what was once obscure into come into phenomenal focus.
And we use “manifest” all the time when we are talking about shaping our dreams into reality. (Christine Kane is a big advocate.)
Even as Miriam-Webster links these two words, in my world, there often is a great divide between the epiphanies I have and the actual manifestations of these stunning revelations.
Like I said, epiphanies often come as lightning bolts – brilliant to behold, but gone as soon as you can blink. You only know they ever cut across the stormy sky if there is a split tree or a growing fire at the point of connection with the earth. Electric moments of searing realization cut across the landscape, but so few strike a likely target. Brilliant epiphanies tear across the mindscape, and yet so few find an opening to truly manifest.
How many great insights have seemed to dawn like a never setting sun and suddenly vanished when “real life” stormed in? Are such moments really epiphanies at all or just sweet “ah-ha!” moments to temporarily savor but soon forget?
Obviously the birth of Christ was a true epiphany. Look where we are 2,000 years later – Christianity has manifested like no other faith. There’s no need to have epiphanies to the scale that you are founding you own faith tradition, but what can you do to make you own epiphanies take flesh more effectively?
When you can open your eyes with true awareness, it becomes the clear the messages are flying at you even faster than you can read them. Epiphanies are aching to find you with every step. How can you create the openings in your life so that those flashes of insight become a lived reality?
After a long time spent nurturing seedlings of thought and possibility, I am watching some of my work begin to blossom into the world. I have had the luxury of sticking close to the shelter of the earth, playing with concepts and ideas without risking their exposure to the elements of risk. But now, I realize I am not sticking so close to the underbrush. It is time to move outward.
For one thing, this blog has called to more readers, and while we are still a small, intimate community, I feel the pull of those who enjoy my presence here each day (thanks to all of you for the encouragement and receptivity!).
My healing work is beginning to take a new, vital shape. I find that I want and need to take loving ownership of what I am learning. I want to find the courage and the confidence to share my growing skills with the world. I am getting involved with a related business, a product I really believe in, and am both excited and a little nervous to see where all this will take me.
The productive serenity of the last week at home, when desire was my only guide, really represents the quietness that has surrounded me for the last few years. Plenty has been shifting and quaking under the surface, but externally, things mostly moved along at manageable pace.
Now I find myself back at work, immersed in my public life even as these “extracurricular” elements are reaching new and demanding heights. Some places are not so private anymore as I become willing to take the leap and put myself out there in support of my passions and my vision.
And so I decided that inertia would be my friend. I would become the woman in motion most likely to stay in motion since I could not risk a pause, lest the series of new spinning stars should slip from their orbits. In the past, all of the inner work I did just begot more inner work. Now it seems to becoming time that the outer work should lead me further toward the sun.
“Inertia” was lingering near the front of my brain because Anodea Judith uses it when she talks about the third chakra, the yellow chakra of fire, in her book Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System. She talks about the way that a fire that begins to burn will most likely continue to grow. All I could think about as I began to feel so full of all these new projects was that I needed that fire to roar and sustain me through all of my various ventures. I wanted energy to flow through my fingertips and enliven every moment. I’d fit in exercise in the thirty minutes before bed if I needed to, and if I needed to sleep less, I would do that too.
Then I sat down to write this tonight and I remember how much I love and crave the quiet, meandering process of collecting my thoughts in this space each day. Sitting at my beloved desk with a cat on my lap has little to do with a constantly increasing conflagration in my already busy mind. Something didn’t add up, so I went back to Judith’s book and read a little more closely.
The third chakra, in her view, is all about inertia, but it is also about the will. Inertia, even the kind that keeps you moving and productive, is not necessarily a good thing. Inertia is a kind of oblivious momentum that has little to do with consciousness and everything to do with feeling powerless. How many people suffer from being chronically driven overachievers not because they are enjoying being so good at everything, but because they are terrified to slow down and see what really may lurk within their usually frantic minds? It takes strength of the will to overcome these unconscious forces and summon energy when it is needed and call upon silence when it is time for stillness.
These are lessons I have learned and thought were deeply rooted in my core. This slowing down over the last couple of years was a hard won process that enabled me to listen and be after years of running around like a woman desperately afraid to fail. Suddenly, I wanted to throw all that work away for the sake of increased efficiency the moment a few projects seemed to be taking on new life.
In the face of all my excitement that was fueled by such confidence in my freshly forged sense of wholeness, I nearly lost sight of my integrity and my truth before I even began.
I said that I wanted to align my priorities in 2009. I decided “align” was preferable to “balance” because balance seems to be all about a crazy dance between opposites. And yet, I think I must realize that though I treasure alignment as an ideal, we have so little control over things in life, even the growth of our own dreams, and we must allow things to flow as they will.
Sometimes balancing the competing beasts of possibility is the best we can do. As I look upon all that I wish to accomplish, I think I can embrace balance as a fine strategy for the moment. It certainly beats losing myself to the fires of inertia and being burnt to a crisp!
“I’m just glad to hear that someone else is doing something that’s hard.”
My dear friend Lady Bird said this to me in one of our many conversations in which we hash out the contents of our souls and describe the decor of our interior castles. She was responding to a comment I made about how challenging it was to practice all I was learning in my healing artists’ school. This healing work was asking more of me, mind, body and spirit, than I had ever imagined.
As an English major, I remember being envious of my friends who were studying more technical things. I longed to be immersed in brand new concepts in the way that the biology majors learned about obscure physical processes and the psychology students learned about the activities of the brain.
It wasn’t that every poem and novel didn’t offer new gateways into knowledge – in many ways it was much more limitless than the structures of scientific theories. It was just that everything was so open ended and there were so few “right” answers that I sometimes felt a little at sea. We would all read the same books and compose completely different papers that flowed in countless directions. I was full of free floating thought (isn’t that what liberal arts educations are supposed to give you – the ability to think?), but I felt that I was getting little concrete information. My brain was learning expansion, but not necessarily discipline.
As my days as a student become a smaller and smaller percentage of my life (funny how that happens – when I was 22 I could say that I had spent 10% of my life in Ireland – I don’t want to do the math to know what it is now!), I look at that legacy of how I learned to learn.
What is my relationship with gathering and retaining knowledge now?
And, what does it mean to embark upon learning something that’s hard?
So much of life is already “hard.” Finding work that sustains you economically, mentally, emotionally. Taking steps to be physically and mentally healthy. Maintaining relationships and finding the balance between caring for ourselves and others. Monitoring all of the suffering in the world and making whatever small steps we can to alleviate it. Coping with pain and death and debt and loneliness
Getting through the day is so often challenging enough, why take on any more stuff? We have so many practical and emotional battles to fight, why add more information and “to dos” to the list?
This morning I started looking back on the last few years of my life. There have been countless challenges that have forced me to grow as a person and I know I have learned thousands of essential lessons.
I have read hundreds of books and meandered down countless avenues of thought. And yet, I have enjoyed the luxury of being my own teacher, putting the book down when the prose got too thick or the philosophy deviated too much from what I thought I wanted to absorb.
Last week, I mentioned that I still thought about how I had decided against pursuing my PhD. Though it is still in the back of my mind as a path not taken, I treasure the freedom I have had to pursue whatever wisdom strikes my fancy.
Now, I find myself in a completely other kind of study. It is wildly open ended as I use all of my creative powers in service to another’s healing process, and yet there is groundwork to be laid and structures to be learned first. I find my brain needing to adapt to a whole new sort of discipline that can let me fly free and stay grounded at the same time.
We are still in the time of a year’s fresh new thoughts and dreams. Maybe this is a good moment for you to consider how you learn new things and how you engage with stuff that’s “hard.”
Is there information that begs to be absorbed in a new way? Are there challenges that ask for a different sort of attention?
What new territory is asking to be claimed and explored?
I am still very much excited and energized by the word I have chosen to be my theme this year – align (I better be, the year isn’t even twenty hours old yet!).
And yet, the more I contemplate the ways I will practice “align” the more I understand that this is just a tool that will get me through my year. A single word cannot hold all that aspire to, all that I expect from myself in my journey through 2009. It isn’t supposed to, after all, since this is supposed to be an alternative to those cumbersome and cruel new year’s to-do lists.
Align is the daily breath of inspiration that will help me fly toward my larger vision – aligning with my soul’s purpose.
I didn’t exactly expect to receive the gift of a goal that was annunciated any better than that, but as I sat down in the meditation chair tonight, I was offered something slightly more concrete.
This holiday break has allowed me to pursue the activities that my heart dreams might occupy my every moment: writing, reading, meditating, healing myself and my beloved, tending to our home, and being present to watch the setting sun and the waxing of the moon. It has given me the courage to whisper to the Universe that I have so much work to do in this world that I am ready invest all of my energies in these creative pursuits.
It’s the old tension between vocation and avocation rearing its troublesome head again (or perhaps I should say still). As much as I have tried to crush it under the heels of my boots every time I walk from the car into work, this lingering conviction that I am meant to do something else, something more, still persists.
And so, tonight I was asking for guidance for the year to come and I was given this new way to frame my identity, my sense of purpose:
It seems the Universe sees fit to offer me a fancy title in answer to my question of who I am meant to be in the year to come. All I need to do is live my way into fulfilling such a promising offer. I have been graced with this thirst to know, this desire to serve, this yearning to connect. (Pair that with this Gemini’s love of writing and communication and call me a mortal Mercury!)
2009, please help me to walk across your pages as
a seeker of truth,
a gatherer of visions,
a messenger of wisdom.
And you, dear readers, are there any insistent messages that have blown in with the new year? Any shifts so powerful they refuse to be contained by a single word alone?
This phrase has woven itself through my consciousness ever since I saw it painted on a sign at the country store.
It seemed more than fitting in this time of economic craziness. We all need to reframe “greed is bad” into some sort of life affirming mantra.
A post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago about finding an alternative to the consumerist imperative has managed to get a little bit of attention. It also connected me to Catherine at Frugal Homemaker Plus and clued me in to the fact that there are a lot of people out there who are dedicated to living more simply, desiring both to leave less of a dent in their savings accounts and to leave a less toxic footprint on the planet.
It’s as much a spiritual exercise as it is fiscal one, this learning to decipher the difference between want and need.
This last windy evening of the year has me looking both at the year’s spiritual legacy, as well as some more practical elements of life.
We bought our first house this year, a decided stretch into the luxury of three bedrooms and a huge kitchen and a perfect writing/yoga/meditation space. Money is a little tighter than we might like. Luckily, we have mastered the teeter totter of marriage in this respect – one of us always seems to remain optimistic and calm enough to comfort the other through bank balance related panic.
Are we living within our harvest or within the bounds of what the bank was willing to loan a nice young couple with a great credit rating?
It’s easy, and probably pretty useless, to look at the monetary decisions we made this past summer through the gloomy lens of this fall’s economic, um, fall. Were we victims of easy credit living or part of the problem, Americans with aspirations bigger than their incomes?
Now, we try to pare down our spending. It’s not enough to make up for the gigantic leap up the housing ladder that we’ve made, but maybe I should quit worrying about that so much.
I have accepted “live within your harvest” as a sage bit of chastening wisdom. A sweeter, less cliched way of saying “live within your means.”
But what if I have been looking at it all wrong? What if we reexamine the meaning of “your harvest”?
I was wasting my energy on resigning myself to the limitations I have assumed were placed upon my harvest. There were thoughts of my paycheck and the hoped for tax return, but no trace of the metaphysical ramifications of the idea. I saw no more than a single August field, already having calculated how many rolls of hay it could produce.
In a matter of hours, a new year will begin. Many of my friends have already toasted its arrival and find themselves in 2009. I will awaken to fresh snow fall and the knowledge that I am the only one who can reign in my potential, who can set the boundaries around my harvest.
I look at this still inspirational phrase with fresh eyes. To live within my harvest is to exalt in all that I have created and be content with all that I have.
It is also a reminder that I must work to gather the sort harvest that I most need to live within. Why would I ever want to exceed my lot in life if I understand that determine so much of what my lot is in the first place?
Why not sow more powerful seeds so that the eventual reaping will be all the sweeter?
What do you want to harvest in this flawless, sparkling new year?
In yesterday’s post about the way I have come to understand the connections between Christmas and the Winter Solstice, I mentioned that I have been having visions of Mary lately.
There was no simpler way to talk about how, while I am in meditation, I see images of an every changing woman who is named Mary and who gave birth to the child we have come to call Christ.
Who do I think I am and when did I start having visions?
If I were better schooled in mysticism, I might have a better vocabulary for these exchanges that take place within my heart and head. Anything I have read has always applied to spiritual masters like Teresa Avila who levitated and could say without hesitation that they had been touched by the Divine. I am certainly not to be counted amongst such company.
In my healing artists’ classes we have talked about the images one receives when working on a client or just walking down the street. They seem unbidden these colors and pictures and emotions. They are bits of consciousness so foreign to our own way of knowing the world and so seem like they must come from an external source. Our intuitive centers must be so open that we are receiving messages from new sources all the time.
Or, these visions seem like such intimate extensions of our own souls that we are ecstatic to realize we are stepping deeper into our true selves. Such breakthroughs seem Heaven sent, such understanding a gift from God.
Either way, my classmates and I wondered about where these ideas came from. We worried that while in guided meditation we were just inventing our experiences, walking through the heady terrain our imagination rather than through the secret vaults of the soul. We were concerned that any guidance we received during a healing session was just judgment twisted into a therapeutic shape.
“I don’t have any intuitive power. I just make this stuff up!” we all feared.
And then our teacher offered a revolutionary idea: it doesn’t matter where any thing that dances through our minds actually comes from. If it was put into our heads, we must have been meant to notice it and experience it.
I see lots of holes in this theory. There are entire sections of the Vatican dedicated to determining whether people have had authentic experiences of the Virgin or whether they are charlatans with a crafty streak. The entire realm of faith is a dangerous dance between true relationship with God and the clouds of overactive cerebral cortices. Seers and liars – I think the two have become inextricably tangled in all too many ways.
And yet, this explanation is most comforting to me as I try to describe my new understanding of the intimate relationship between the rhythm of nature and the traditions of Christianity. I am not begging for attention by talking about this new way that I see Mary. I am not hoping to be canonized and make New Paltz the next Lourdes.
I have been envisioning Mary and gaining new wisdom from these phenomenal moments. Am I placing a sacred face on recycled bits of knowledge I have gathered along my way? Perhaps. But, if in this dialog between Self and Soul one of the players is going to wear a beautiful mask, I couldn’t ask for more than to have her wear the sweet, complicated face of the Great Mother gliding across my inner landscape in shining blue robes.
What would it be like if we took our intuition and the images that appear to us a little more seriously? What if we stopped denigrating these experiences as mere trifles of the overindulged imagination?
How much could we learn – from ourselves, from the world around us, and, yes, even from God – if we close our eyes and allow ourselves to have a dialog with whichever wisdom bearers come to call?
When you have to do it, belt-tightening’s no joke. But, gladly, most Americans don’t have to — not even in this economy. […]
If you’re blessed with good fortune in these hard times, you’re not helping anyone if you let frugality chic stop you and yours from having a very Merry Christmas indeed.
I nearly choked on my soy milk when I heard this commentary on Marketplace this morning. It’s yet another story about how resisting the urge to spend as much as possible this Christmas makes you worse than Scrooge – it makes you the scourge of capitalism and the American way of life.
I make no claims about having much knowledge of the economy. Nearly all of my news comes from NPR, and I know that’s not like being a daily reader of the Wall Street Journal. Maybe the commentator, Will Wilkinson, is exactly right and austerity is one of the factors that makes an already shaky economy begin to look even worse.
My issue is not with this interpretation of the the law of supply and demand, it is that we are stuck in a system that can only be salvaged if we acquire more stuff.
Wasn’t it greed that got us into this problem in the first place? How can buying more Gap sweaters in bizarre colors just because they are on sale and your sweetie should have a few more boxes to open make the world any more livable?
Change is a scary thing. Realizing that the global economic structures are being turned upside down and may never look the same again is frightening. Trying to imagine what might come after U.S. domination seems unfathomable for most of us in these fifty states.
Clinging to the very structures that have been proven to betray us is not helping matters. Continuing to shop like everything is normal isn’t the soothing balm the ad campaigns and the radio experts are trying to convince us it is.
What if we are choosing to buy less and handcraft more? What if it just makes sense to give to charity instead of purchase a book that your uncle will never give himself time to read? What if this down economy, even if you are yet unscathed, is just the reason you were looking for to ditch materialism and show your family you love them by giving them less clutter, not more?
I cannot believe that this financial crisis is just a fluke of the markets. With all of the internal shifts that are forcing people to look at their lives in entirely new ways, we need our relationship with money and consumerism to be transformed as well.
Our souls need room to breathe. Wouldn’t there be a lot more time to figure out how to do that if we spent less time in the mall and less time dusting our new trinkets?
Our earth needs room to breathe. Won’t easing the yearly December burden of delivery trucks and crowded landfills and depleted resources be the greatest gift you could give to your Mother this holiday?