Earth life is slow

We are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as plants and animals do. Earth life is slow; autumn and winter are as essential to it as spring and summer, and rest is as essential as motion.

-Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

It is winter, the days are dark, and nature does not offer up the comfort of warmth. But instead of complaining or decrying this, we can accept it as a part of the creative cycle.

Our bodies need rest. So do our minds. This time of year we can take more time for that by recognizing that everything has a time and place and season. Trust that you will progress and grow, when it is the right time. Spring brings energy, transition, a pushing outward. Winter brings quiet, inner reflection, an evening gathering with friends that is a natural response to the short days, and finally, sleep.

Let the bare trees of this season remind us that we are also needing to look at the bare facts of ourselves, the naked truth of who we are. That will be the starting point for all our love and all our work in the year to come.

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An Appetite For Possible Things

All happiness depends upon a natural zest and appetite for possible things.

from Bertrand Russell, “Conquest of Happiness”

When we lose our sense of the possible, our mood darkens.

That first inkling of the road stretching out to a point of light in the distance is about possibility. When we pick up a new book, this is what we hope for. When we embark on a new job, a new relationship, a new project, we draw motivation from the possible.

Inevitably, all people and all projects end up closing off some of the possibilities for us. Once we make a decision in one direction or the other, we commit to a path, and the rest of the options become unavailable.

Our own commitments and choices can thus make our lives seem bleak, like being enclosed in a possibility-less state, like a drab cubicle with no exit.

If we add to that a disposition to look at things fatalistically, it looks even bleaker. If this is the way it was, is, and ever shall be, then what is the point of hoping?

But within the world of constraints, there is still possibility.

We are endowed with creativity, which can find the cracks in the cubicle. We have, under even the most severe constraints, freedom to choose again tomorrow which direction we will go.

Let us open our eyes again to the possibilities, however faint or dimly lit they may be, so that we may be drawn to them, and feel our “natural zest” reawaken. If it is dark, let us be like the seed, and gently push up through the soil. Let us tap that deepest resource of our humanity, our creative spirit.

Sparkling Eyes, Good Posture

The warrior’s virtue or decency comes from this basic sense of well-being, free from any neurotic or habitual preoccupations. Decency here expresses a sense of joy, the joy of living, the joy of being alive.

So there is more to fearlessness than merely having overcome fear. Beyond that, when we speak of fearlessness, we are describing a positive state of being full of delight and cheerfulness, with sparkling eyes and good posture.

from Chögyam Trungpa, “Smile At Fear”

Try it – take your thumb, press it against your breastbone, and raise your chest up by an inch.

Just an inch!

An inch is all it takes to change your world, because an upright posture will release tension in your back and, as Trungpa points out, bring a degree of cheerfulness and fearlessness.

When I run my posture naturally improves. It raises up in just this same manner. No wonder I feel better afterward!

 

A Dream of Autumn

A dream:

I am lying in a bed of golden leaves.

It is afternoon in Autumn. Gold light shines through a canopy above me. The bed is thick and soft, it seems made for me. I am resting after a long journey. Light, warmth and softness are all around me.

There is a child here, playing nearby. I am looking after him. An older woman walks up and says hello to the child. She quietly entertains him for awhile.

Eventually I feel the sun getting lower in the sky. I sadly tell the child it is almost time to go. But I want to linger there and feel the light, the carefree rest, and the sense of the child’s joy. I feel a sense of belonging.

The elements to this dream are listed in 10,000 Dreams Interpreted by Pamela Ball:

  • GOLD – wealth, probably not of money, but spirituality.
  • LIGHT – divine revelation, expressed in the dream as energy
  • LEAVES – assessing how growth has occurred or may occur now
  • AUTUMN – letting go, preserving good in a time that is ending, old age and the mellow restful feelings it brings
  • CHILD – inner child, playful innocence
  • OLD WOMAN – feminine, the anima, spontaneous and nurturing

Interpreting this dream, I would say I have arrived at a time when I will come into the fruits of a long period of spiritual work. I am 42 years old, and entering the second half of life, the time of autumn.

Being in the presence of the child and the woman is an interesting and, I feel, quite profound aspect of the dream. These are archetypal images. It is as though I am discovering anew the aspects of myself that are pure, childlike, and feminine. It could also be that placing myself within an environment of spiritual insight and discovery puts me in touch with the feeling of wealth, which in turn relaxes me and allows me to be more spontaneous and nurturing of others, especially children.

The bed of leaves made of gold, made for me, providing luxurious rest underscores the need for retreat, for rest so that I can access these animating forces in my life, this light and energy.

Caring for a child is significant in that my profession as a violin teacher is now about children. Specifically helping them through music to find joy and belonging, self-expression and confidence.

What does the sadness mean, at realizing the sun is setting? Is it that the end eventually must come, or is it that there are other aspects of my life that are ending? Perhaps the sense of childlike wonder and playfulness is transient, and a sense of responsibility calls me away from the scene of rest. Perhaps it is simply that most of my childhood is gone now, and while getting in touch with it is restorative, it is a temporary reprieve meant to allow me to return to the world.

The joy and belonging I felt in the dream are truly encouraging to me. They are something I have been searching for.

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Bed of Autumn

Don’t Push the River

Midweek Devotion

December 9, 2015

Don’t push the river. -Richard Rohr 

Imagine standing on the bank of a river trying to figure out how to shove it forward.

A river doesn’t really need our help. It doesn’t worry about the rocks and trees in its path. It will find a way around them.

White Water

I like that analogy because it reminds me how often we push too hard. Life will flow on without all of our trying. 

I teach violin, and the more I work with children, the more I am reminded of this principle. Even when there seems to be no focus, no direction, and no progress in the practicing, we have to trust that our child’s natural growth process is occurring.

Shin’ichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki method, calls it the “mother tongue” approach. Children learn how to speak their native language by exposure, indeed they cannot not learn it. They will learn to play music as part of their natural development if they have an environment of music, an environment of daily repetition, an environment of support.

The same is true of life. The things we yearn for, the progress we would like to see, the accomplishments we strive after, will come as part of the natural course of things, if we allow ourselves to be open and influenced by an environment where they will flourish.

So don’t push the river. Don’t worry about the rate at which you or your child is progressing. I tell parents: “Just get them playing and listening, support them in that effort, and we’ll take care of the rest in lessons.” In life the same is true: just get playing, get out and into the environments that feel right to you, and the resources you need to support you will come in time.

Take a GoodMinute

In what ways am I trying to push the river?

What environments do I respond to energetically and positively? What can I do to put myself into those environments even more?

How can I help the children in my life to flourish in their natural development and growth, without pushing the river?

A Sense of Promise

Midweek Devotion #7

August 19, 2015

Look upon the rainbow, exceedingly beautiful in its brightness. —Sirach 43:11

Rainbows are startling, colorful reminders of promise.

Coming back from a run the other day, I saw one hanging in the sky. Light refracting through a rainstorm passed, it caused my eyes to go up and trace its arc. It seemed to connect the world below to the world above.

Perhaps it is this automatic response, a feeling of the transcendent suddenly appearing in the sky, that gives us a sense of

Hanging Signs

Hanging Signs

renewed connection to the cosmos. Our brains translate the bright colors into good feelings of hope, especially since we usually see a rainbow after a dark cloud has passed overhead.

For Noah, this was God’s way of saying, there will be no more flooding. The earliest religions were always concerned with that most primary fear: Will the weather take our life? Destroy our food sources? Will the power of nature, awesome and so much larger than us, overcome and destroy us in the end?

Anytime we feel depressed and overwhelmed, our brains experience this primitive fear, and we begin to retract, retreat, protect ourselves from being vulnerable. We go into our ark. And yet nature speaks to us with signs, reminding us to come out. The bird of peace has been released, and she has returned with an olive branch.

Take a GoodMinute

When do I go into my own ark? What things cause me to do that?

What things remind me of promise and hope?

Who has acted as a bird of peace, giving me an olive branch?