I had a great idea for a new book, although come to think of it, maybe it is just a Facebook post. But it would be called Pre First Draft, and address the way we suit up and show up to be writers, artists, and general tribal-two-stomp creative types.
I think it would begin with an admonition: if you used to love writing, painting, dancing, singing, whatever, but you stopped doing it when you had kids or began a strenuous career, then you have to ask yourself if you are okay about not doing it anymore.
If you always dreamed of writing a novel or a memoir, and you used to love to write, and were pretty good at it, will it break your heart if it turns out you never got around to it? If you wake up one day at eighty, will you feel nonchalant that something always took precedence over a daily commitment to discovering your creative spirit?
If not—if this very thought fills you with regret—then what are you waiting for?
Back in the days when I had writing students, they used to spend half their time explaining to me why it was too hard to get around to writing every day, but how once this or that happens—they retired, or their last kid moved out—they could get to work.
I use to say very nicely, “That’s very nice; but it’s a total crock. Continue reading
The beauty is forever there before us, forever piping to us, and we are forever failing to dance. We could not help but dance if we could see things as they really are. Then we should kiss both hands to Fate and fling our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls into life with a glorious abandonment, an extravagant delighted loyalty, knowing that our wildest enthusiasm cannot more than brush the hem of the real beauty and joy and wonder that are always there.
~Margaret Prescott Montague
Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust… and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.
~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Sentient beings are the cause of our enlightenment. When they bother us, we learn patience; when they’re suffering, we learn loving-kindness and compassion. No matter what reaction they evoke,we can relate to them in a way that leads to buddhahood. Instead of buying into aversion, we become tolerant. Instead of staying stuck in selfishness, we extend a hand to someone in distress. Instead of letting jealousy sabotage us, we train in rejoicement therapy.
You can’t find happiness at the end of your journey if you didn’t bring it with you all along.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be
greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career
it is a real possession in the
changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you
to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit
to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham,
drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
All good deeds that are prompted by hope of happiness in the next world cease to be moral.
~Mohandas K. Gandhi
I guess it’s time.
I’ve known it for a while, at least on an unconscious level. I’ve resisted it for several reasons, including this one: I’m just plain exhausted from jumping off proverbial cliffs…especially when they land me in places that end up being a struggle, which has been the case more often than not the last few years.
Nevertheless, here I am, preparing for another big leap. After digging in my heels for a couple of years now and resisting what I knew to be true deep in my heart, I finally came a place of surrender (“Uncle, already!”) a couple of weeks ago. I finally accepted what my inner being and the Universe (or my inner being through the Universe) have been trying to tell me for quite a while. Even though I know the big picture of where I’m headed, I haven’t a clue about the steps that will take me there, but I’m letting go of the wheel, so to speak. Kind of scary, but a relief, too.
I’ve spent a lot of energy these few last years trying to will things to happen, to will my path to open, to will my next steps to reveal themselves. However, in moments of calm, I remember—I know—this doesn’t work. The times when my life worked best were the times when I thought about what I wanted, kept my eyes open for opportunities, and then allowed those things to flow my way.
If this all sounds a little “woo-woo” to you, Continue reading
To be as kind as I possibly can be, even (especially!) to those who make it difficult.
To listen for and listen to my inner wisdom.
To create something beautiful every day.
To do more of the things that make my heart sing.
To look for the good in everyone.
To focus on what can be instead of what is.
To be true to myself, even when others might not like it.
To live every moment as if it is the most important one (and of course it is).
To cultivate joy in myself and others.
To focus on the things I have in common with people instead of the things that divide us.
To be present.
To make forgiveness a way of life.
To do things I’m afraid to do on a regular basis.
To choose happiness.
To make a difference.
To remember that the people that make me so mad and boggle my mind with the way they think and the things they do also have mothers and sisters and uncles and kids and dogs and favorite ice cream flavors and fears and loves, just like me.
To give myself a break when I don’t live up to all of the above (for I will surely have lots of days when I don’t).
(happy new year!)
I know the way you can get
When you have not had a drink of Love:
Your face hardens,
Your sweet muscles cramp.
Children become concerned
About a strange look that appears in your eyes
Which even begins to worry your own mirror
Squirrels and birds sense your sadness
And call an important conference in a tall tree.
They decide which secret code to chant
To help your mind and soul.
Even angels fear that brand of madness
That arrays itself against the world
And throws sharp stones and spears into
And into one’s self.
O I know the way you can get
If you have not been drinking Love:
You might rip apart
Every sentence your friends and teachers say,
Looking for hidden clauses.
You might weigh every word on a scale
Like a dead fish.
You might pull out a ruler to measure
From every angle in your darkness
The beautiful dimensions of a heart you once
I know the way you can get
If you have not had a drink from Love’s
That is why all the Great Ones speak of
The vital need
To keep remembering God,
So you will come to know and see Him
As being so Playful
Just Wanting to help.
That is why Hafiz says:
Bring your cup near me.
For all I care about
Is quenching your thirst for freedom!
All a Sane man can ever care about
Is giving Love!
I want a life that sizzles and pops and makes me laugh out loud. And I don’t want to get to the end, or to tomorrow, even, and realize that my life is a collection of meetings and pop cans and errands and receipts and dirty dishes. I want to eat cold tangerines and sing out loud in the car with the windows open and wear pink shoes and stay up all night laughing and paint my walls the exact color of the sky right now. I want to sleep hard on clean white sheets and throw parties and eat ripe tomatoes and read books so good they make me jump up and down, and I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.
~Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life
What I have learned from the year past is something about miracles—miracles of healing and answered prayer and unexpected happy endings. Each came quietly and simply, on tiptoe, so that I hardly knew it had occurred.
All this makes me realize that miracles are everyday things. Not only the sudden, great good fortune, wafting in on a new wind from the sky. They are almost routine, yet miracles just the same.
Every time something hard becomes easier; every time you adjust to a situation which, last week, you didn’t know existed; every time a kindness falls as softly as the dew; or someone you love who was ill grows better; every time a blessing comes, not with trumpet and fanfare, but silently as night, you have witnessed a miracle.
~Faith Baldwin, Many Windows, Seasons of the Heart