I tried to write two weeks ago, to keep up with my biweekly blogging commitment, really I did, but I wasn’t feeling it, and no amount of willpower could change that.
The same thing happened yesterday: it was a stunning day out and I had spontaneous access to wheels so the woods called stronger to me than the screen.
To every thing there is a season, as the Bible and The Byrds remind us.
My last post was on the then-recent natural and man-made disaster in Japan. Funk-producing, for sure. I spent three days pretty much nonstop online — watching videos, scanning news reports and corresponding analysis, trying to piece together what witnesses and experts had to say.
There were a lot of mental puzzle pieces to sort out. I felt affected by the crisis in Japan, though I live on the other side of the planet, and have never been there. The internet helps — it gives us instant access and the ability to feel close to wherever “there” is, and imagine that “there” could easily be “here.”
I remembered walking along the shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay, trying to find ancient sharks’ teeth, and seeing the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Reactor. A leak there, or worse, Indian Head Power Plant just 35 miles outside of New York City, would be a thousand times more devastating than, say, 9/11.
I couldn’t help thinking about the bombs that U.S. had dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how tragic it was that the current destruction was self-created. On the other hand, I have a lot of respect for Japanese attitudes toward healing — of humans and the environment (the Cove notwithstanding), which gives me hope. I’m grateful to have found Reiki for example, and am always surprised at how powerful it can be, given how gentle it is. Even the Japanese martial art Aikido has a strong healing vibe; it trains you how to stop your opponent from hurting himself. Dr. Masuro Emoto’s work that shows the effects of intentionality on water molecules has likewise been a source of promise, even as my intellectual side suspects we’re going to need a whole lot of cleansing of ocean currents (and marine life) in coming years.
Obsessing on bad news can only last so long. When that cycle naturally ran its course, I turned full-force into my work. Luckily I was on deadline working with a terrific group of educators, artists and community gardeners and my energy followed my attention and felt less flat, more inspired.
And now there’s a season of content calmness. I’m working my regular load, but between major projects (and, I might add, visitors). It’s been 15 years since I held a traditional job, and though it’s sometimes anxiety-producing, I appreciate that my life is less monorhythmic and more symphony — of sound or silence.
Even in the midst of compulsions and chaos, I’ve habituated myself to tend to the signs of life around me. Sometimes they’re metaphoric — a dead spotted owl in the middle of my walking path, a red-tailed hawk swooping down inches in front of the windshield, a particularly meaningful song that comes onto the radio when I randomly turn it on. Other times, it might be that while practicing or teaching an idea or a conceptual synthesis comes to me, and I see how seemingly unrelated events and experiences may be trying to show me something.
In slower times, I often sink into books and movies. After a few days of “ah, now I can really relax,” I started to hear familiar inner voices. (“How long do you plan on making a ritual of the daily nap? Go and be someone more useful in the world.”) I happened upon the late John O’Donahue’s Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom. (For a wonderful radio interview done the year before he died, go here. ) Here’s the passage that found me:
Spirituality is the art of transfiguration…We do not need to operate according to the idea of a predetermined program or plan for our lives. Rather, we need to practice the art of attention to the inner rhythm of our days and lives…..A dramatic example of this…is one all parents know. You watch your children carefully but one day they surprise you: you still recognize them, but your knowledge of them is insufficient. You have to start listening to them all over again.
It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than the idea of will. Too often people try to change their lives by using will as a kind of hammer to beat their lives into proper shape. The intellect identifies the goal of the program, and the will accordingly forces the life into that shape. This way of approaching the sacredness of one’s presence is externalist and violent. It brings you falsely outside of yourself and you can spend years lost in the wilderness of your own mechanical, spiritual programs. You can perish in a famine of your own making.
If you work with a different rhythm, you will come easily and naturally home to yourself. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny. Your soul alone has the map of your future, therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself….if you attend to yourself and seek to come into your presence, you will find exactly the right rhythm for your own life. The senses are generous pathways that bring you home…Your senses are the large pores that let the world in. By being attuned to the wisdom of your senses, you will never become an exile in your own life, an outsider lost in an external spiritual place that your will and intellect have constructed.
Sometimes what’s needed is a push, the kind of ambitiousness and vitality that gets you out into the world. Sometimes, it’s about the coziness of your bed in the late afternoon.
Wherever you are in your season, take some time every day to listen to the rhythm your essential self wants to live by.
Be well –