Blessed Unrest

When we become discouraged with what we’re creating (or trying to create) in the world, when we think that no one will care anyway, it’s SO easy to just give up.

But please, just pause instead. Take a breath. Read the words below that Martha Graham spoke to Agnes DeMille…. read them over and over and over again.

And remember… the life force that flows through and as YOU is a unique and never-before-seen thing. It’s not your job to judge it; it’s your job to keep the channel open and to keep listening.

Here is DeMille, recalling what Graham said to her over a soda at Schrafft’s restaurant shortly after Graham’s “flamboyant success” with the choreography of Oklahoma! (choreography, it should be noted, that Graham herself didn’t actually feel was very good compared to other things she’d done):

“I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.”

“But,” I said, “when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.” 

“No artist is pleased,” Martha said.

“But then there is no satisfaction?”

“No satisfaction whatever at any time,” she cried out passionately. “There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

 

THE RETURN, by Geneen Marie Haugen

It’s All Hallows’ Eve here in the U.S, the day preceding All Saints’ Day (Nov 1), and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2). It’s the time of year when we honor the good souls who have passed from this earthly plane into the next realm of being.

As such, I felt called to offer a poem today, written by the gifted partner of one of my mentors.

Each time I read it, I’m returned to my own wild longing. It inspires me to take off the jacket of conformity that I’ve somehow slipped on (yet again), and go out to face my own final frontier. I’m called to let go of what is dying in me, so that I might, one day, return courageously with native gifts and sweet, silent whisperings of that larger conversation that is always happening…

So today, dear reader, I offer this poem to you.  May it feed or un-do you in just the right ways.

 

THE RETURN, by Geneen Marie Haugen

Some day, if you are lucky,
you’ll return from a thunderous journey
trailing snake scales, wing fragments
and the musk of Earth and moon.

Eyes will examine you for signs
of damage, or change
and you, too, will wonder
if your skin shows traces

of fur, or leaves,
if thrushes have built a nest
of your hair, if Andromeda
burns from your eyes.

Do not be surprised by prickly questions
from those who barely inhabit
their own fleeting lives, who barely taste
their own possibility, who barely dream.

If your hands are empty, treasureless,
if your toes have not grown claws,
if your obedient voice has not
become a wild cry, a howl,

you will reassure them. We warned you,
they might declare, there is nothing else,
no point, no meaning, no mystery at all,
just this frantic waiting to die.

And yet, they tremble, mute,
afraid you’ve returned without sweet
elixir for unspeakable thirst, without
a fluent dance or holy language

to teach them, without a compass
bearing to a forgotten border where
no one crosses without weeping
for the terrible beauty of galaxies

and granite and bone. They tremble,
hoping your lips hold a secret,
that the song your body now sings
will redeem them, yet they fear

your secret is dangerous, shattering,
and once it flies from your astonished
mouth, they–like you–must disintegrate
before unfolding tremulous wings.

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Photo: Noah Silliman

The Portal of Discomfort

In the discomfort that sometimes marks this being human thing, I’ve noticed a tendency in myself to want to escape those moments when I feel the dull thud of sadness, loneliness, or emptiness dropping in.

When I’m feeling lost, uncertain, or blue, some part of me (my ego) wants to make sure that something is done about it, immediately. Something, anything, to make the fogginess, uncertainty, or emptiness go away.

Make a PLAN. Figure it out.

“Just do something,” it says, “because feeling this way can’t be healthy or right or good for you.”

However, I’ve always sort of had this theory that if I could slow down even more when I feel that discomfort, and actually try to go into it, that I will find a much deeper, richer place inside.

My thought is that if I can muster the patience, courage and willingness to actually go right into it, explore and muck around in (rather than escape) that deep discomfort, then I will come to a new level of awareness about myself, my situation, and the discomfort itself. And it won’t be as unbearable at all… in fact, it might even be a portal to something new.

photo: Julian Bock

Today, while feeling myself in the discomfort, I was able to slow down enough to catch these words:

“Be with yourself here,  in the discomfort of this place.

Be with your own un-doing. Be with your own dying, in a way, and then, eventually, your own re-emerging. Be with your own SELF in the deep discomfort of your disappearance. Then, maybe, someday, you will re-appear into something even more real and true.

But do not rush it. You cannot rush it. You cannot get there faster than you will. You cannot will yourself into being, just as you cannot make a tree grow faster or a fruit ripen more quickly than it will.

Just be with yourself in THIS moment, and then THIS one. Be in this process…. It is the most true thing you have right now…”

Put this in your cauldron and boil it.

In my meditation this morning, I heard a quiet voice say, “The hardest part is waiting.” 

I’m not sure about you, but for me, the betwixt and between place – that place where you’re neither here nor there in life – is the hardest part.

It’s the waiting place. The not knowing exactly which way to turn place. It’s the intuitively felt but not yet quite clear place. It’s the space of glimpsing something that feels real, but then it’s gone again, the very next second. It’s the liminal place: a place of pure potential, yet no actual direction.

For me, it’s a time when all I can do is tend to the cauldron, keeping an eye on the flame, making sure it’s neither too high nor too low.

It’s a time when it may seem to the outside world like I’m not “doing anything,” yet in actuality, a time when my inner cauldron is bubbling and brewing, cooking and stewing. And to take the lid off prematurely could affect the feast’s flavor immensely.

Therefore, it’s a time of deep, devoted patience and occasionally stirring.

It simply feels like the hardest part to me, especially in the busy, hyper-productivity-focused world we live in (not to mention the fact that my ego doesn’t like slow, patient cooking and stewing one bit).

But today, I will pause. I will be patient. I will tend this cauldron’s contents. I will wait.

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You are not a self-improvement project

We live in a world where many things seem to tell us and sell us on the idea that we’re not good enough as we are.

And sure – there’s ALWAYS more to learn, but we can only do so much.

What if, instead of constantly treating ourselves like self-improvement projects, we approached ourselves as the naturally creative, resourceful and whole human beings we actually are? What if we don’t actually need to clear any more blocks or change one more thing?

You were born perfect, and you still are.

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Photo by Luca Zanon

 

 

Harvest time.

I was going back through some old writings recently and found something I wanted to share.

I wrote this about 4 years ago, right around the time I was just starting out as a life coach running my own business. It was a time of me feeling very green in what I was doing, yet also a time of pure potential.

I’m sharing it today for a few reasons:

1. As an ode to this earlier one of me;

2. As a reminder to myself (and whomever is reading this) that we are all in our own process of becoming, and that the process itself takes time – often much more than we’d like;

3. As a nudge and a friendly wink that you’re likely much more ready than you think you are. Right now. Today.  As you are.

Ok. Here goes.


(written sometime in 2012)

Today,  I am writing about something I know:  corn

As a Nebraskan, I was born with it in my blood.

Images of yellow kernels are imprinted on my being. Golden seeds nestled neatly into dense cobs, like good friends snuggling cozily together in a big green jacket.

As for these kernels… their days are long. They wait patiently to ripen throughout the season, just biding their time in their green cocoon. Hour after hour, day after day. Sunrise after sunset after sunrise. They wait.

And while it might not seem like anything is happening in that cocoon, they are indeed growing sweeter and juicer by the minute.

And then, one day, it’s harvest time.

Women and men shuck cobs with bare hands to get that sweet gold.  It’s celebration time!

If I were corn, right now I’d feel somewhere between a tiny green kernel and one who’s growing sweeter.

While I’m constantly looking forward to that day when I’ll feel “ready enough” or “ripe enough”, I also notice that I’m secretly enjoying the fact that my day of ripeness is always out there, somewhere, sometime in the future.  Someday… but not today.

I notice that I still want to claim youth, unripeness, because it’s easier.

And yet…I keep hearing inside that I am ripe NOW. That it is time NOW.

No! I protest. I don’t want to be ripe NOW!

That means I’ll have to do something, be someone, stand up and be seen – and I’m not ripe or sweet enough to be really seen yet, am I?

AM I?

I bite through the fear and tear open the protective green jacket.

There’s more sweetness than I thought. I’m stronger than I thought. I’m more courageous than I thought. I’m more ready than I thought.

OK, then.

It’s harvest time.

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How You Stand Here Matters

I’ve shared it recently, but I must share it again:  a poem by William Stafford, called Being A Person. 

I’ll share a few more thoughts afterwards, too, but first, the poem.

(Oh – and read it slowly, out loud.  It’s the best that way 🙂


Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke

the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.

Let any season that wants to come here make its own

call. After that sound goes away, wait.

jordan whitt

photo: jordan whitt

—-

A slow bubble rises through the earth

and begins to include sky, stars, all space,

even the outracing, expanding thought.

Come back and hear the little sound again.

photo: Markus Spiske

photo: Markus Spiske

—-

Suddenly this dream you are having matches

everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.

If a different call came there wouldn’t be any

world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.

photo: Jay Mantri

photo: Jay Mantri

—-

How you stand here is important. How you

listen for the next things to happen.

How you breathe.


I love how Stafford ends this poem. It evokes the realization that how I am in the world matters;  that how I breathe even makes a difference. Imagine that! How I breathe matters…

This poem also evokes for me an idea I’ve been a bit obsessed with lately.

It’s something we all possess, yet rarely think about.

It’s extremely simple, yet supremely influential.

It’s a capacity that has the power to shape our existence, even if (especially if?) we’re not aware of how we’re using it.

So, what is it?

Your Attention Please

Attention – your attention, my attention – this nice, little, unassuming faculty we all possess, is one of our greatest tools of creation. It’s kind of like an awesome superpower we all have, but have all forgotten that we have.

Attention is creative, alive and ever-unfolding. In fact, when we place it on something, that thing tends to grow.

For instance:

When I place my attention on what I’m grateful for, gratitude grows in me.

When I place my attention on what I’m afraid of, fear grows in me.

When I place my attention on what I’m worried about, worry and doubt grow in me.

When I place my attention on love, loving grows in me.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “We become what we think about all day long.”

How You Stand Here is Important

In addition to what we’re placing our attention on, how we offer our attention is also important.

For example, we can impatiently rush past the things around us each day, OR we can move with more reverence, slowly noticing the beautiful details in each thing.

We can approach situations with our minds, analyzing, calculating, trying to figure everything out, OR we can offer our full-bodied presence to each thing and see what intelligence arises that way.

We can enter a room with a sense of boredom and expectancy, OR we can cultivate awe about the simple fact that we can breathe, that there’s a sun in the sky that makes things grow, and that we have hot water that comes right out of pipes and into our homes (miracle of miracles!).

Looks Do Matter

Finally, consider the wild possibility that how you look at each thing (object, person, tree, situation, etc) may actually be creating that thing in some way. Consider that how you offer your attention may, in fact, alter the very thing that you’re offering it to!

Science may prove otherwise, but I have a feeling that how we view a thing actually does matter.

And anyway, just think…. what kind of world might we create if we knew that how we offer our attention is a life-giving, creative act in progress?


“How you stand here is important…

How you listen for the next things to happen…

How you breathe.”