There's this little saying from the Great Depression that I've taken to chanting as my own personal mantra: use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. There is so much I love about this, not least of which is the challenge of it and its inherent useful creativity.
But there's also the history, the this-too-shall-pass-ness of it, the reassurance that there's a whole generation behind us who lived their lives, not in a moment of history, but in a day-to-day reality that, while difficult, probably also felt very much like normal life--siblings fought, books were read, holidays were celebrated, people laughed, babies were born, communities brainstormed ease and relief where they could, art was made, music and books and poems were written, people died, people fell in and out of love, and days passed until they didn't.
Living in an historical moment feels, day to day, no different than some mundane year where things went more or less as expected (has there ever been such a year?)...
I like control; I like routine. We've established that ad nauseum on this little blog, so I'll say no more, except this: chaos sucks. Chaos makes me itchy and restless and urges me to pace like I'm looking for a way out. I know it can't last, that it burns itself out, but does it have to smolder so much? Does it have to suck up that much oxygen?
But here's what I realized this morning, thinking about this chaos-as-fire metaphor--the trick isn't to pace, isn't to give in to restlessness, because that's just another way to step into the chaos, to participate in its mad dance. I mean, if there's a fire on the floor of your building, do you run through it, or do you drop and roll away and wait for rescue, for extinguishing? And like fire, what's left afterward (think forestry management, think burning the blueberry barrens) is clean, clear, and primed for new growth. All that nonsense that kindled the chaos in the first place? Gone.
But we have to stay. We have to tolerate the discomfort o...
We can despair, justifiably, about the state of peace on earth--after all, it is the season in which we invoke such worldwide compassion through tradition, through music, through giving. But let me ask you this--are you at peace with yourself?
I know I'm not, rarely anyway, and it seems at best fruitless, at worst hypocritical, to wish and work toward universal peace when, some nights, there's just no sleeping with myself. And I think, if this is me, one small person pitched up in the far north of one country, what sample am I representing? How many of us work and work toward unconditional love and universal compassion while grinding our own gears, unlubricated by that same generosity of spirit?
And it's not that our efforts are absolutely ineffectual, not at all--we do feel compassion, we do feel oneness--but how much more powerful could we be if we could only apply that respect, that devotion, that appreciation to our own small selves? And talk about measurable effect--whe...
When we get anxious, overly sensitive, overly controlling, or overly expectant, it's because, in our wee little minds, we're voicing our extra-large opinion about the here and now. I had never quite thought of it this way until recently, reading a new take on witness-mentality in meditation. It's all well and good to remind ourselves to be the witness, be the witness, be the witness, but it's difficult to maintain, much less to put into practice.
But opinions? Hell, we subject *everything* to our opinion. And you know what? Almost every time, unless you're in a creative brainstorming session or offering advice on your BFF's NYE getup, that opinion is so not necessary. But we twist ourselves up in knots assigning labels, expectations, and assumptions filtered through our own very biased, very selfish perspective. Where does that leave us? Tight and twisted, forcing the situation (and the people involved, complete with their own opinions) into our own quite rigid view of how this should a...
It's impossible to know how it will all come together--all these dreams and wishes in spite of all these so-called realities and fears. And since we're such terribly cerebral creatures, we try to plot it all out--and when we can't, we try anyway. It's like we sweep off the doorstep for anxiety every morning. Trust me--he doesn't deserve such fastidious housekeeping.
A teacher once said to me--how does water return to stillness? It does nothing. This, too, is the only way the heart can return to stillness--by doing nothing.
It made so much sense that, of course, I promptly forgot it, recalling that snippet of wisdom only in times of already-existing stillness. But I'm putting it down here now in the hopes that I'll remember--when you don't know how to get back to center, do nothing. Return to stillness. Let the rest fill in around you.
It's ironic, I suppose, how much time I spend wishing for faith. I guess, like so many of us, I have this reverse, perverse sense of faith--not the assurance that everything will be well, but the quite firm expectation that it won't. If faith is the belief in something despite lack of evidence, then my rather pessimistic version of faith fits the definition, I suppose. After all, if you're reading this and I'm writing it, then our success rate at this life business, at least, is 100%.
And then I wonder if it's not faith I lack, but happiness? Buoyancy? Ease? Maybe that's it. Maybe I, and my fellow seekers, simply vibrate and hum at the bottom of the scale? Perhaps we are what grounds the melody, giving it space and footing to sweep higher than we can reach, letting the sweetness and light of the song trickle down. Perhaps we're meant to gather what falls, internalize it, transform it where we stand.
I don't know. I don't know how it works, how the light returns, but it does--every year....
I was surprised, looking in the mirror this morning, to hear this message: you're not really robust, are you. Statement, not question. And I looked at myself for a long time before finally agreeing--it's true. I'm not robust. I'm resilient, sure, but that's a different suit of armor altogether.
But immediately an image of a friend came to mind, an incredible woman with whom I went to massage school, who has walked through the fire and come out the other side, not just resilient, not just robust, but burnished and honed to a fierceness that is as kind as it is quick, as compassionate as it is powerful. She was built for this, and the more she takes on, the stronger she becomes.
It's endlessly inspiring to be a witness in the process of, not transformation, but rediscovery--like the sculptor who says that the art is always in the stone, just waiting to be unearthed. That takes a fortitude, a trust, and a vision so heavily dependent on one's faith in the earth and its ability to provide an...
Our lives were never supposed to be anything dictated or decreed in some transitory cumulus ephemera somewhere overhead. I've finally come to the conclusion that the gods, the spirits, the guides, our own higher-planed selves are not that cruel, not that secretive, not that bored. This isn't a test, it's a celebration.
Think of it this way--imagine you're a parent of a child young enough to have an easy belief in wonder, but old enough to be surprised by it. Imagine, as this caretaker, setting in motion a day of such surprises, a day of unfolding wonder. Imagine the anticipation of joy you'd have as this parent, this guardian, watching your young being discovering joy.
That's what I've finally realized our lives are--loosely plotted days of unfolding wonder. We were never set up to fail, to take the wrong path , to miss our chance, to suffer under the burden of ancestral karma. On the contrary--we were taught that fear, that trepidation by beings who have peered so long into scarc...
So many of us have a hard time with holidays. And while there are countless reasons for this difficulty, I think a lot of it has to do with an ancient, inherited need to mark the passing, to celebrate the arrival of massive, universal shifts--light to dark, warm to cold, one year to the next. At our roots, we are creatures who respond to light, to warmth, to cool darkness. We age and shift, grow tired and sleep, awake with the light, and draw ourselves outdoors with the first scent of snow, the first birdsong of spring, the first hint of mud and thaw.
This, because we are--for better, for worse--creatures of language and hierarchy, has been appropriated by religion and commerce. True, those institutions offer structure and warmth, company and leadership, a tradition all their own. But there is something older here, something ageless, something *necessary,* despite who brings the light, despite what night we celebrate, despite the language.
Minimalism is quite the buzzword in our holistic circles, and with good reason--we do tend to collect a lot of stuff, and sooner or later that stuff begins to own us. But there's something about that word that bothers me. And yes, I know I read personalities into words that are (probably) not there, but minimalism always seems like such a haughty concept, the just-as-caustic flipside of besting your neighbor's television/gadget/luxury automobile. It feels forced, enforced. A competition.
And though I suppose I fall into the minimalist camp, I much prefer the term simplicity. There's something so much kinder in the concept--do I love this thing? Do I use it? Yes? Simple--it stays until it's no longer loved or useful, then it's conscientiously, sustainably given away or recycled. I've said before that I didn't come with a sentimental gene, so that helps with the love it/useful tagging process. But here's the thing--does anyone really need 20 random mugs? Have you ever had 20 people over f...