Experience The Miracle

From the archives: Pidgeon Pier. This painting is about paying attention

From the archives: Pidgeon Pier. This painting is about paying attention

“It has become my view–my faith–that all elements of nature have that power to produce peace. It is surely why so many are drawn away from their urban lives and back to natural places. But those places need not be grand scenic vistas. The same peace can be found in the dandelion growing in the nearest vacant city lot.

It is, in the end, a choice either to “shut up and listen” to these sources of strength–no matter how great or humble or where we encounter them–or to hurry on by.”

~Master Jim Marsh in a comment about my post, Sit By The River

There was a cool breeze off the lake this morning that slowed the mounting humidity. We were a mile into our usual morning walk, rounding the path to the rocky lakeshore, when we entered the storm of dragonflies. There were hundreds of them, hovering just above our heads, occupying a narrow band that stretched as far as the eye could see!

I gasped and stopped! Never in my life had I seen so many dragonflies. Kerri said, “They come out when the weather has been hot and without rain.” Before continuing on our way, we stood for a few moments appreciating the hovering, the methodical zigging-and-zagging. Until our path deviated from the coast, they were with us, green and purple spirits, riding the air-line where earth meets water. For me it was pure magic.

Many years ago, as a way of ending our relationship, a woman told me that it was too hard to be with a mystic. I’d never before (or since) thought of myself as a mystic so I looked it up to make sure I understood why a mystic might not be easy to live with:

Mystic (noun): a follower of mysticism.
Mysticism (noun):
1. Belief in intuitive spiritual revelation,
2. Spiritual system,
3. Confused and vague ideas.

I laughed aloud when I read the three definitions of mysticism; the third definition applied to the previous two! I left my dictionary with two beliefs:

  1. All human beings are mystics if they simply slow down and pay attention. There’s no trick to it. And, that was certainly the problem in my relationship: I have always liked walking slowly in a world drunk on racing to the next big thing. That is hard to live with!
  2. The line between a spiritual revelation, a cathartic experience, a scientific eureka, or an artistic visit from the muse, seems to me, to be semantic. In our age of the intellect we generally run from the word intuition unless we apply a label like “gut instinct” (transforming a feminine energy to a masculine gut) or “I just knew it!” (transforming the scary clarity of an intuitive feeling into a safe clarity of an intellectual experience). It’s all wordplay.

Hearts know. Thoughts babble. And the only way to sort it all out is to stand still, stop the babbling, and see the miracle.

Sit Down

google "Chicken Little" and this one will come up. www.homesforsaleinlascruces.com

Google “Chicken Little” and this one will come up. http://www.homesforsaleinlascruces.com

Many years ago I was feeling disoriented in my life. I told my friend Rob that I was lost in the woods and looking for my way out. He replied, “Sometimes when you are lost in the woods the best thing to do is nothing. Just sit down.” His message was clear: no one gets oriented or reoriented by spinning. Running in circles, although it might feel useful, will only make you dizzy. Sit down. Get quiet. Listen. It was great advice and at the time nearly impossible.

Orientation to life comes from getting quiet. In one of his books, Deepak Chopra wrote that an important practice on the path to success is a half hour of meditation in the morning and another half hour at the end of the day. Make a practice of getting quiet. Exercise the muscle of stillness. Listen. Clarity will ensue. That way, when the inner compass goes awry, the right tool for the job will be more readily available.

Sitting down can be hard. Stillness and disorientation are not natural bedfellows. The impulse is to action, any action. I was once in a car on a remote mountain dirt road. The road collapsed and the car slowly rolled into a gully. My friend and I spent two days trying unsuccessfully to build a road out. It was only after we gave up and sat down that we were capable of thinking things through. Disorientation generally inspires panic. Panic-driven actions, like running in circles or hauling stones to build a road, are generally comical and make for great stories after orientation is restored. We’ve all turned the wrong way down a one-way street when lost and panicked. Pulling over would have been better but much harder to do when dedicated to forcing an outcome.

Beneath Rob’s message to me was a more important lesson: let go. Let go of the need to do. Let go of the need to solve, fix, or find. The path to orientation always leads through a necessary disorientation and the disorientation comes from hanging on to old ideas, old roles, old baggage, old heroics. The cycle is perfect as hanging on necessitates letting go and letting go often means to sit down, surrender, and breathe. To sit down always affords the opportunity to see where you are as distinct from where you think you should be. To surrender is to open. To breathe is to invite in the new. No one is lost when they stop trying to be some other place.

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State The Obvious

Sometimes it is necessary to state the obvious (to myself). Sometimes, for me, the potency of life is found in stating the obvious: children are born and children grow up. They leave home. They become parents. Parents become grandparents. Grandparents grow old and pass away. At no point do things stand still.

Or, the obvious can be stated another way: children have dreams. They pursue their dreams or run away from them. Either way, they pass through the stages of becoming – and, at some point, believe that they have actually grown into something (doctor, clerk, lawyer, teacher, vagabond, parent, athlete, etc.). They learn that their dreams are infinitely more complex than they realized. All dreams come with challenges, regrets, and discomfort. Regardless of the path, at no point do things stand still.

We want to “get there.” We desire to arrive. Usually, the misperception of arrival leads to crisis when things change. And things always change. This river of life never stands still. It is never static. It is never fixed. The moment of birth begins the progression to dying. And, depending upon what you believe, a new form always arises when old forms fall away. The new form, the new leaf, turns brilliant colors, withers, falls to the earth, becomes soil and mineral, feeds the root, and reemerges as the grape that ripens, is picked, and becomes wine.

Where is the arrival?

Even inner stillness is fluid. Try to hang on to it; grasping always disturbs the pond. Stillness is more akin to surfing than to stasis. Chaos and order are not opposite sides of a polarity; they are essential phases in a single cycle. Ripples are necessary to experience stillness. Fulfillment and emptiness are necessary to each other. One does not gain without losing. One does not live without dying.

There is no arrival. There are fluid moments of recognition, moments of presence (a word that is often mistaken for an arrival). Presence, otherwise known as consciousness, might be defined as the awareness and appreciation of each moment amidst the realization that things always change. To try and stop the river, to hold on to the moment, to try and stop time will always bring frustration. Presence describes your relationship with change.

This is the obvious thing: nothing is certain. Nothing is still. We always step into uncertainty. We always step. We are never still. Our steps are always into the unknown because no one has ever lived their moments prior to the living of them- despite what the to-do list and cubicle illusion might lead us to believe. Realize it and life is rich and mysterious. Resist it and life is rigid and rich with hardship.

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Eat For Stillness

779. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am exhausted today. I spurned all work and cleaned the studio. I prepared canvases. I stayed away from sharp objects and power tools. I made sure not to cross the street until I looked three times. During days of exhaustion, personal safety is the best I can do.

During my cleaning frenzy I cleared space in the studio. I made space. I created space. I needed space and that meant that things had to go. I made a rule that if I hadn’t touched the book or the tool for a year, I had to get rid of it. I got rid of a lot of stuff! Had you walked by my studio today and mentioned that you liked a painting, it would have gone home with you. I’d have given you two paintings because the spaciousness – the feeling of space – was energizing in my exhaustion.

This evening, Megan shook her finger at me for not taking good care of myself. Yesterday I forgot to eat. It happens when I get focused and busy. It won’t surprise you to learn that lack of food and exhaustion are connected. Making space and eating are both great remedies for my low energy. Megan read to me a passage from a book. The passage was about listening. According to the book listening is about stillness. Inner chatter disrupts listening. Her message was about taking care of myself inside and out. I am not listening to what I need. I am not listening to what my body is telling me. She was prompting me to return to my practice of stillness with a reminder that stillness inside is impossible if I am not caring for myself outside, not eating well, not resting appropriately.

Now that I’ve created spaciousness I intend to regain my stillness. To that end, I’m going in search of some very big, very hot, very yummy food.

Step Toward The Pond

674. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

This is one of those days when I don’t have a thought in my head. It’s cold out and I have been writing all day. My thoughts generally float around at about 30,000 feet so to bring them down to ground level is often difficult for me. My inner archeologist complains about the altitude; he likes to brush dust off of small things and look at them with a magnifying glass. He gives me that look of disdain and I tell him I can’t help it. In truth, I would have done well in life as a hot air balloon. I could have carried Oz to far away lands and back again with no problem.

Recently in a class, after the opening meditation, one of the participants acknowledged that she’d come a long way in managing her out-of-control thinking. She said, ”I’m learning to manage my thought addiction. Sometimes I’m surprised at how quiet my mind can be.” I loved her phrase: thought addiction. I believe thought addiction is the road we take when we define our lives according to our problems. When we start to recognize the patterns of our thinking, then we can kick the habit and let go the addiction. Our personal stories reveal themselves through the patterns of our thought – not only the content of our thinking but the pace: is your thought a runaway freight train or a still pond or something in between. Most of us run between the poles of freight train and still pond; orienting according to the problems will bring on the freight train. Pay attention to the patterns and you’ll begin to move toward the pond.

I learned years ago that, as a hot air balloon, the only prayer I had for developing a still pond was to learn to ground myself. I needed a root. My route toward the still pond began when recognized I was free floating without a tether. Now that I have a good root my clue that I’ve let go of the tether is the return of the freight train. And, without fail, the train comes screaming down the rails of a problem that I think I have. Once I remember that I don’t have any problems, I have patterns, then it’s an easy reach to the root and a only a few short paces to the still pond.

Show Up In Stillness

644. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It is the dark days of winter in Seattle. We are rolling toward the winter solstice and my inner bear wants to burrow beneath the blankets and hibernate. Is there anything better than a nap on Sunday? Isn’t it beautifully decadent to sleep in after a long stretch of early morning wake up calls? To stay in bed on a cold morning, read and drink coffee – my inner bear just groaned with pleasure at the thought; bears in my world love coffee almost as much as naps.

It is also during these dark days that I return to the necessity of stillness. It is easier for me to get quiet in this season. Persephone returns to the underworld and Demeter grieves so the world rests. We mortals bundle up and meditate on the year we’ve lived and the dreams we entertain. And when we wind down our reflection, we get quiet. This morning I stared out the window for a long time! Don’t ask me what I was thinking; I wasn’t thinking anything. It’s as if the cold and dark pulled the thought right out of me.

I associate inner quiet with health. To me, inner quiet is akin to the absence of war. I’ve exited the debate. I can be present to what is in front of me. I can see beyond the interpretation. In class a few weeks ago, someone said, “I want to foster stillness so it is the default mode.” Isn’t that lovely? What a gift to give yourself to foster stillness so that it is your state of being; inner noise as the anomaly. So much of our stress is a result of the story we tell; can you imagine your life if inner quiet was the norm? Another person in class said, “I have great choice in how I show up in the world. I think I will make it my choice to show up in stillness.”

Choose Your Practice

598. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

In preparation for our class I was reading Alan’s book, Create A World That Works, and read a passage that I’ve read at least five times but never before registered. This time, it was the passage that stood out, the passage that stood up and said, “Hey!” The chapter is about stillness and the passage that hollered is a kind of equation that goes something like this: the more inner chatter you experience, the more you will try to control your outside world. Or, flip it over: quiet your mind and you will quiet your need to control things that you can’t control.

The inner world and the outer world are not separate affairs. One of the Hermetic Laws is, “As within, so without” and I understood the concept in story terms: quiet the racket inside and you will not live a life of racket on the outside. Yet, I hadn’t understood it in terms of the impulse to control. It makes sense to me: a life full of racket is a life full of the frustrated attempt to control things that you can’t control – which feeds the internal racket. It is a feedback loop.

I worked with a group this week and we played with the concept of “controlling what you can control and letting the rest go” – as it applies to personal and organizational health. A healthy person, a healthy organization is not invested in things beyond their control. They focus their energy and action where it is most effective. They are not invested in what other people think or see or feel; those things are beyond their control. They are invested in and responsible for what they think or see or feel. Their worth is in their own hands and not in the hands of others. Inner chatter, what you think, is a controllable. Every meditation and self-help book on the planet has clues about how to quiet the inner chatter. Add this to the pile: let go of what you can’t control, care more for what you think than you care about what others think. Chatter is a pattern and so it quiet; it is simply a matter of the practice you choose.