I read this this weekend: responsibility is the ability to respond (i.e. not panic). That resonated so deeply with me--the simplicity and the profound truth of it. That's all leadership of any kind is (including the ability to lead and master oneself) isn't it? The ability to respond. Beyond that, or to unpack that a bit, it's the ability to pause long enough to parse out the most prudent response called for in that moment.
The ability to pause--maybe that's the heart of it. That pause is necessary for any decision in any moment, but even more so in a situation requiring immediate action and immediate attention. A pause to take stock, a pause to note any fear or hesitation and to move forward anyway. A pause to keep us away from the long, treacherous fall into panic which, once stumbled into, there's no (easy) way out of that free-fall.
Maybe that's the only skill we need in this life--the ability to pause. From there, all roads clear.
I think I--like (too) many of us--have just one speed: immediate. It's as if I have this micro-manager standing over my shoulder, wondering, if I don't answer that email or that phone call right now, well then, what AM I doing with my time? It's relentless and driving
It's pointless! Good goddess. Yes, we come from hardworking stock, and yes, even they rested and took their time to do something right and in a way that was fulfilling to the soul, brushing aside all the unimportant nonsense that cluttered up the rest of their days.
Okay, then. So here's to slowing down, to living every inch of our days, and to letting the rest of the world catch up to us for a change.
There's a reason we zone out from time to time, and there's a reason that one-point meditation (focusing on a candle flame, a mandala, etc.) is so soothing and so revealing. Our eyes need time to adjust, not to what's before us, but to what's behind what's before us. Passive study, at least in my experience, is how the universe reveals itself to us, whether we're struck motionless by the impact of a landscape, the intricacy of a detail of shell or leaf, or the mundane familiarity of the objects we encounter daily. (I can't tell you how many times these daily blog posts reveal themselves to me while I stare at my pot of pencils...).
What we see matters very little--how we see makes all the difference.
Patience is certainly not my strong suit, but it's entirely my own fault. I focus, more often than not, on the endpoint, the final result. But, of course, the irony is that when I'm not focused on that endpoint, I'm perfectly happy in the moment-to-moment detail work that will, eventually, get me where I want to go.
You know how when you're so tired, you feel as though you have to, quite literally, pick up your limbs to keep you going? But once you're on your feet, it's not as bad as you'd feared? I think we have to do the same thing with our thoughts--as soon as they start kindling that impatience, we have to pick up our brains, settle them back in our heads, and focus with true absorption on the immediate--task at hand, the sounds in the moment, the sensations on our skin.
Because, really, this is only way we'll be sane enough to enjoy ourselves when we finally get there.
Working in the garden is essential therapy for me, for so many of us. It's the lesson, again and again, that you can start with nothing. You can start with nothing and with enough applied effort, the results are never anything short of miraculous. For so long, nothing happens--all that work, all that effort, gone underground. So much time passes with seemingly so little progress.
Unless you know where to look and what to look for. Eventually, the collaboration between seed, sun, weather, and your own effort, yields results that, to me, are an endlessly delightful surprise.
I never felt especially smart or talented or magical, but every year around harvest time, I reassess that very dour view of myself and think, yes, maybe there *is* a little magic here.
If whatever it is can't get done today because you need the time, the space for rest? So it doesn't get done today. In the vast scheme of this vast life, what will better ensure your (thriving) survival: that the to-do list be complete, or that you be rested enough to make sense of the list you (probably) penned in the middle of the night when sleep eluded you (again)?
A well-rested brain would surely know the wiser answer to that.
Granted, one needs to engage in self-reflection in order to learn anything in this world and to be a better friend to oneself, to the ones we love, to the planet in general.
But we, as is our wont, can indulge a thing to the point of madness--not every moment, not every impulse needs to be examined. At best, the practice becomes rote, at worst, an obsession. We are allowed to let ourselves off the hook. We are allowed spontaneity.
Storms--or for the sake of this exploration, sudden, arresting events--have a way of either stopping us in our tracks or sprinting for cover. Either way, they're a bookmark in what has become, perhaps, a rather repetitive story.
These events, these storms, these full-stops are an opportunity to pause, to look both ways--ahead and behind--and to decide, here and now (emphasis on the now) to move only forward.
Let the storm be a baptism--an initiation--into the present, where, thanks to the sudden drenching, you are overwhelmingly aware that you are gloriously alive.
I'm not a planned-surprise kind of girl, necessarily. I've never coveted a secret surprise birthday party or an elaborate proposal of marriage, that sort of thing.
But oh how I dearly love coming across the unexpected--a far-flung friend, randomly, at the airport; a bird's nest in an unused corner of the barn; a waterfall that wasn't on the map of my hike; good news; eagles flying overhead on my commute to work; or a giant pileated woodpecker in the backyard while I make breakfast.
Perhaps I'm very boring, but I like to know what's coming, what's next. I would never, however, opt for security if it meant I could no longer be astonished in my days or, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, surprised by joy.