I have a friend who loves Yes! In fact, he loves it so much that he has named his consulting business, Live Yes, and…. His name is Travis Thomas and if you haven’t already started listening to his podcasts and daily Periscopes, you are missing out! And he has a book soon to be published too! (Follow this link to find out more about Travis and Live Yes, and…!)
I took a “30 days of Yes” course with him a couple of times. It is a real stretch for the places where I have preferred to settle back to my comfort zone, but even so (and especially because of that) I highly recommend it.
For example, one of the days the assignment is to call someone and tell them you appreciate them. I’m not sure I have done that yet during the course. (I am noticing that some days I just say no. haha!) To be honest, I am not a big fan of talking on the phone, unless someone like my sister calls me and we catch up and talk for quite a while. Otherwise, I have found texting to be a life-saver.
But I have noticed that recently, I have been making more phone calls instead of texting, especially when I am coordinating information or asking questions. I notice more light-heartedness about calling, that I am not as worried about what the other person will think or how I will get off, if the conversation goes too long. I just offer my honest need to go and let it go! Its almost an epiphany to learn that it can be so easy.
Today I had to make several (only 4!) phone calls to professors at a local university for whom I had no email address. On top of that, I had to invite them to an event and explain the purpose while I am still not very fluent in how to discuss it. I had been avoiding it for a few days and finally, today I did it. The first one I got a voice mail and hung up. Then I collected myself and called back and stumbled all over myself but managed to get through it. The second call someone answered! That was almost worse, and I pretty much fumbled around on that call too. By the third and fourth calls I was getting the hang of it and did pretty well leaving messages.
And even though I was a bit embarrassed in the moment on the call with a real person in particular, I was able to let it go immediately afterwards. What would be the purpose of holding onto it? They will either accept our invitation and attend or not. Thats the way of it.
And today, I said YES to walking into my darkness and doing what I was afraid to do, instead of staying in “no” and running from it. It’s a small step, but thats all it takes to move forward….one small step at a time.
There has always been a place in my heart for this word, Wild. I don’t really understand its full meaning or resonance, but it definitely evokes something in me that is primal and vital.
Its not about acting wild. It doesn’t have to do with physicality either. It’s more of an honoring of the Source of my existence and living out from that with freedom.
If instead we choose to follow a broad path of acquiescence to societal norms and expectations, we may find that our spirit gets tamped down, caged and eventually withers us from the inside out.
We have all seen these withered people. Some are angry all the time (and rightly so). Others are despondent and depressed. And still others drink or drug their anxiety into numbness and oblivion (even prescribed medication can be a form of numbing because we refuse to acknowledge the real source of our ailment.) And we may recognize the withered one in ourselves.
I remember when the Dallas Zoo had all their big cats in small cages (some still are, I think.) Their life span at that time was 3 years! Ours might last a little longer because we let our anxiety seep out or drug it. But its worth noting that we can’t keep our true wildness caged for too long, or we will wither and die as well.
As for how to go about truly honoring what is inside, I can only suggest that we each find stillness and listen to the voice within. That voice is God, the Wild Original, and is calling to us always. The path to our expression of it is our own and will be like no one else’s, although we will find encouragement and camaraderie by others who have the courage to venture toward their wildness as well.
Today is a good day to begin or renew the journey.
I like the writings of Pema Chodron. She taught me how to stop judging others, to just allow people to make mistakes and be human. And she taught me how to be with myself without judging too. This has been particularly helpful.
One of the concepts she teaches about is groundlessness–another word for the unknown. Many spiritual teachers encourage their students to relax with what is unknown, to stop trying to outline or control the future, to stop pushing away what we are uncomfortable with, and to stay. After years of practice, I can say that this has been one of the best lessons for me to learn–stillness.
When we are faced with things we can’t control, when faced with the unknown, we often grope for something familiar, something to hold onto to steady us. And usually, we end up doing the same things over and over and over again. We react in predictable ways. We run away, we numb ourselves with addictive substances (alcohol, drugs, sex, food, tv, Facebook), we shut down, or we act out (anger, temper tantrums, depression, tears, sarcasm). No matter how you slice it, it ain’t pretty.
But learning to sit with the discomfort and just to stay, even to move in closer to learn what it is really about, is to learn to be still. And when we are still, we can see things more clearly than ever before. What seemed so terrifyingly unknown is actually very simple. We may not know what the next moment will bring, but it doesn’t matter, because we aren’t afraid to sit with it. Whether it is light or dark, we know we won’t run. Because we have learned to be still, we aren’t afraid of our reactions. Even if we choose to react, we soon see it in the reflection of stillness.
Then the unknown becomes a friend and an adventure. Everything is an opportunity to learn more about this amazing Life and our place in it.
I have often lamented the battery of standardized tests that my kids have to take every Spring. It isn’t given just to score how well the school is teaching children in my state, it determines whether they can move up to the next grade level. I find it tantamount to treason (and 2 more T words!)
In life though, as we learn new concepts, we are often put to the test. The situation comes up once again, suspiciously similar to the last one that “taught us a lesson.” And we have the opportunity to put our new-found knowledge to use. Or not.
If not, we can be assured that it will come up again…and again….and again. Life is very thorough in that way. We will get to keep repeating this grade level until we pass the test. Then we are given more to handle.
I have thought about this in terms of career and relationships and other life responsibilities. Like many people, I would love a successful career. But have I demonstrated that I can handle the one I have yet? And I realize I have no idea how I would handle a lot of clients or customers or commissions. I don’t know how to do large-scale business deals. These things I am not even prepared to approach!
Its been a great thing to notice this so that I can watch for what lessons I am learning and what tests I am being given. And great incentive not to fall back on the old ways of doing things but to take what I learn and use it.
I know we hear a lot about purpose these days. We hear that we are supposed to have a purpose, that we need to find our purpose, that we need to live out from our purpose.
I was recently listening to Byron Katie on YouTube talk about purpose. She took it down to the basics. Her purpose was to sit in that chair in that moment, to breathe, to move her hand in just that way. This could seem simplistic, but what I came away with is that our purpose is to be in the moment!
Can I live out from this moment and “move at the impulse of Thy Love,” as an old church hymn goes. Can I take this day as it comes? Can I listen and do what comes to me to do without argument? without resistance? without complaint?
“Do the dishes.” Move to the sink and begin washing the dishes. “Wash the dog.” Gather the towels, soap and take poor pup to the patio. These are the instructions we hear in our thoughts, not what comes from another person. They might also tell us to rest, or run, or work, or play. Instead of justifying our taking a rest and complaining that we have to help someone, lets be with our purpose to live this moment however it comes to us to live it. Own it!
I recently had a dream about going on a train or subway with my son. We had an octopus that we had to put in a plastic box. It filled the box as we put the lid on.
I have a book on Native American animal imagery and meanings they have for different animals. Unfortunately, octopus wasn’t included, so I did what any modern-day inquisitor does, I googled it.
It isn’t so hard to discover what associations octopi are likely to yield: creativity, ingenuity, intelligence. Have you watched videos of their amazing escapes? I read just the other day of an octopus named Inky escaping from the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Now that requires ingenuity! Swim free Inky!
But this got me to thinking about my dream. Have I boxed in my creativity, my ingenuity and intelligence. I could answer yes, definitely so. I am just beginning to write again, thanks to this April A-to-Z challenge. But I go long stretches without painting. And not because I don’t have ideas!
So one of my intentions this week is to make room for painting. Are there things you haven’t made time for that you know would be good for you? Its never too late to create a space of even 10 minutes a day to cherish your well-being by doing what you love. Maybe this small opening will lead to the freedom of the ocean like it did for Inky.
I loved reading in “A Thousand Names for Joy” by Byron Katie that when people started arriving at her door saying, “namaste'”, she thought they were saying “no-mistake”. She said she couldn’t believe how enlightened they all were. She had never heard “namaste” before, so she had no reference for it.
And since Namaste’ means “the divinity within me greets the divinity within you”, doesn’t that indicate that there is no mistake there? No mistake in me, and no mistake in you. That’s who we truly are. Thats how we were made, “in the image and likeness of God,” as stated in the first chapter of Genesis.
But what about those who do bad or even horrible things? What about when we say and do things we aren’t proud of, things we consider mistakes? There is no person on the planet who has led what we humans would call a perfect life. Its impossible. So learning to love one another and stay centered and grounded despite these difficulties is part of our life-long earthly classroom. It softens us, shows us what grace looks like, heals and blesses…eventually. And for each and every one of us, it teaches us patience.
We are all born of and carried with this divinity for all time. So next time you meet someone, look deep within both yourself and them and see our divinity and speak to that.
Note: The photo was a “mistake” taken as I held my phone while waiting in line for the “photo booth” at a wedding I attended. But I LOVE it! No mistake!
As an artist, there are many ways to go about painting a painting or creating a sculpture or building a pot, but almost all of them involve the willingness to make a mess. Even if the process is a fairly neat one like drawing, there is a certain amount of messiness to the process, even if its just in the process of going from idea to finished product.
Life is often messy as well. And like many if not most people, I tend to think that messes are “bad” and clean and orderly is “good.” But putting those judgments on any given moment in a process is really self-defeating. If I am not willing to go through messy to get to a fully realized state, whether talking about art or life, then I will often be frustrated and stressed about what things look like. And then resistance shows up. Creativity does not thrive in this environment.
So I am trying to embrace messiness as just a snapshot in time. Its merely a stage, not a state of being–a stage that comes around again and again and again. And in making art, like living life, messiness is necessary. The more we embrace the process, the more we will stay centered and strong through it. We can even celebrate that we are moving forward and stepping into unknown territory (as if we have a choice!)
Each day is new. We have never done this day before, so there is always a possibility of a mess. Lets try on this idea of accepting it and seeing it as part of our journey to peace with ourselves.
When I first heard Jeff Buckley singing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, I was so moved tears ran down my face. He captures such depth and broken-heartedness. His voice, so intimate and personal, gently floats along like a slow-moving wide river carrying all who listen along with him. It is a slow dance; a gentle rain on tender shoots of grass. He finishes the ballad by holding an impossibly long note, which you will try to hold too the second or third time around.
And having written the above, I found it interesting to go looking for his life story a bit. I knew he died young, but I didn’t know that he drowned in the Mississippi River near Nashville while swimming alone at night. For several years I lived near the Mississippi River, and it was this very river I was thinking of as I wrote the first paragraph. Its interesting to me how writing, like life, knows its way and shares it’s wisdom so generously without our even asking.
To listen to Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah, go here.
Note: The above pastel painting was made during the time I lived near the Mississippi near St. Louis just as the water started to recede from the annual flooding. The small house is on one of the islands. The stacks in the background have been taken down and replaced with a larger single stack for the electric plant that provides for the communities surrounding it.