Heart of the Moment
I become mindful of my present self
Here in the present moment
Of all that is.
I am not all of one being—
Not soft and sure of all I do,
Not wrapped in the knowing grace of soul visions.
Instead, I am slivered and unsure,
Stepping carefully upon the open heart
Of earth mother, into the open mouth
Of moaning wind.
Waiting, watching, breathing
It all into the cauldron within me,
Into the stew of felt impressions,
Mistaken words, mis-thought images,
I swirl the spoon with each step,
Heart of the moment,
Be in the heart of the moment.
Savor it now, not when.
Let the swirl of emotions come to rest
In the heart of the moment,
Savor the sweet and bitter blend
Of life as it curls within me,
Enough for the moment.
Come to be still.
Come to be.
I had meant to conscientiously blog each week for the whole year. It was a noble resolution
and, as most resolutions are, it was doomed to fail. Or, maybe not fail, but falter. It has been only a couple of weeks since my last blog entry.
So here I am with an offering about something quite real in the moment for me: Re-Inspiration.
Inspiration is a process, just like breathing. We think of it as a momentary thing, a bolt of lightning from out of the blue, a brief moment that lights the dark sky of our mental landscape, leaving us scrambling to catch and remember the afterimage. But if we limit inspiration to just that initial energetic moment, with words written down, ideas sketched, concepts revealed, decisions made, goals set, and motivation captured in a timeless bottle, we lose that inspiring moment as it shifts further and further into the past.
And then we find ourselves wondering why we started down this particular path. It seemed like such a good idea when we started, fresh with the lightning bolt of inspiration, with everything ahead of us revealed in bold contrasts—simple, easy, just keep walking that way and the results will be glorious! But then the afterflash dazzle disperses and our vision fades back to normal and here we are, shuffling our feet on the edge of our path to creative greatness. How do we recapture the vision? When we falter and find ourselves taking breaks to fiddle around with emails and tidying things up and sorting through junk mail, with no clear purpose, how do we pump energy back into inspiration, turn it into re-inspiration, and start meaningfully down the path again?
I’m not much of a knitter, but I do like the process of turning yarn into something decorative and useful. I learned early on not to start a big project, though, because I would never finish it. Even little projects like a scarf or socks can take forever. I will knit a few rows and put the project down, maybe pick it up again the next day, knit a few rows, then put it down again. Eventually I might finish a sock only to have it wait, limp and forlorn, while I haltingly create its companion. I find that I am most energetic and persistent when I start a project and when I’m in the last few rows of finishing it. It’s the endless miles of yarn in between that are the problem. I can’t quite keep marching through the mission at a steady pace to produce a pair of serviceable socks before the seasons turn and it’s sandal weather again.
So how do I manage the process of re-inspiration in order to achieve my goal? The best tool I have found is to pause, breathe, and focus on the project as it is, here in this present moment. When I look at the tiny rows of stitches clinging to the needles and admire the beauty of the patterns of colors they form, I become closer to what I am creating. When I focus on what I have accomplished so far, see what is real in the present moment, I can feel good about what I have done, embracing even the flaws and dropped stitches in the essence of their realness: I have created something. I have created. And I can continue to create. And whatever I create, it will be good because it is real in the present moment and I am caught up in the moment of creation—I am creating. And then, having recaptured a bit of re-inspiration, I can continue to create.
This past week I have been meditating on the topic of persistence. Given that I had planned to write and post a blog about it over the weekend, but it is now Monday and I am just getting to that task, I may be better at thinking about persistence than in actually doing something persistent. But then, I am doing something about it now, so I guess that is persistence in itself.
The past few months have been an exercise in persistence for me—not the steady slog of one foot after the other, but a sputtering, on and off sort, like learning to drive a car with a stick shift. Each time I stall out, I take a moment to breathe, then start again, hoping I will travel a few feet further and that, eventually, the process will smooth out.
I often think of my life as walking along a path. Last year I realized I had a choice of paths, one clear to see because it was a long, straight stretch with nothing exciting about it. The other was harder to view, but it was clear that the start of it ran along a rocky cliff edge. I could choose the straight path and continue along the dull but generally comfortable slide into the end game of my life or I could jump off the cliff and see if I can grow wings.
I opened my eyes and jumped.
How do we change our lives? How do we go from recognition that there is a problem, to having a glimpse of the solution, to decision, and then onward to action? And what do we do with ourselves at that point?
How do the seasons change? Sometimes gracefully transitioning from one to the next, other times with fitful bursts of stubbornness or exuberant joy, but change they do, inevitably.
Can we learn to be more like the seasons? Sometimes I find the inspiration to do something, whatever it is, and I run urgently down that path, reinforced by the sense of accomplishment or curiosity. Other times I get distracted by the flowers along the way. Or I find myself grumbling about how hot or cold or windy it is or the difficulty of scrambling among the rocks in my way. What makes the difference?
Sometimes the difference is the goal in mind. If I know that a pleasant café waits for me just another mile up the path, my feet move faster. Or if I’m counting the calories burned, and feeling successful in that endeavor, I might find another few ounces of motivation to keep me going.
Sometimes I lose sight of the goal. The shining mountains become obscured by clouds, the dips and turns of the path become confusing. Often the inner voice of so-called reason tells me that the journey isn’t worth it. Other times the difference is more subtle. I’m not sure why, but somehow I start to doubt the purpose of walking this path, the reasons I am walking on it. I feel like it’s all pointless and lose the motivation to figure out why.
So how do I keep myself going despite all of this? Sometimes it’s just one-foot-after-the-other-keep-it-up-until-it-gets-better persistence, but there are tools to make the journey a bit easier.
For me, given the wandering nature of my focus, the trick is to enhance what I call “spiral persistence.” I’m generally not much good at sticking to a task until it’s done. Even when I’m caught up in the flow of the moment, when everything moves beautifully in unison and great work is getting done, inevitably a part of my brain starts hopping down some other bunny trail, dragging my attention behind it. I’m good for fifteen minutes, but after that, I am hopelessly distractible.
The trick I have found is to focus while it’s good, then allow myself to release into the momentary distraction, or scratch my curiosity itch about whatever bright mental trinket caught my eye. Then, my momentary urges satisfied, I swing my attention back to the original path. Over and over until the job is done and the next loop of the path opens before me.
Here I sit
Inside a warm house, complaining about the cold
While outside my window I watch
Barefoot sparrows hopping through the snow,
With no concerns beyond searching
For a hidden seed.
If I say I am surrounded by community, what does that mean? It’s not like being surrounded by air, or miles of country roads, or a forest. There is no substance called “community” that I can see (or taste or touch). Or, maybe it is kind of like being surrounded by a forest: what that really means is that I am surrounded by a bunch of trees. Without the individual trees, there would be no forest.
Community is more like a garden, though: a defined expanse of plants that are mostly clustered in like groups. Eggplants stand near other eggplants, tomatoes cluster with fellow tomatoes (at least they do in most people’s gardens). Sneaky weeds infiltrate the community garden when we aren’t looking. Often the weeds pretend to be the “good” plants, blending in for their own safety. Grass chuckles a little as it pops up next to corn. Broad-leaved weeds grow quietly among the lettuce, keeping their hands to themselves until they are well established, then bullying their tender neighbors. But, even in a well-weeded garden, community is not one unified “thing” that can be identified apart from its individual constituents.
Does each eggplant think of itself as “one component of a whole garden,” or does it believe it is unique in itself, but surrounded by other plants, some similar and others not? (Assuming, for the moment, that eggplants think.) The squash vine may consider itself to be related to its fellow squash, but the steady butternut may distance itself a bit from the unruly zucchini cousins.
Community is a concept, not a unified object. If we think of community as a web of people, then community is the pattern of the web, not the substance of which the web is made. What, then, is my community? Who is in it, who is beyond the fringe? What if they don’t agree with how I draw the boundaries?
I don’t interact with a community as I go about my daily life, I interact with people, some supportive, some obstructive, some just waving as they pass me by. Community is in my head, not in some fanciful garden or web out there somewhere. Community is a matter of perspective and it gains structure and impact to the degree that we agree it is a real connection between you and me and those others out there. If the community I envision in my head agrees fairly well with the community you envision in your head, we are together. From that point of agreement, we can truly grow a garden, together.
So what does it mean to be honest? The word is used in a variety of ways, meaning truthful, genuine, real, marked by integrity, fair, straightforward, sincere, upright. It can be used to describe something that is humble and plain, or reputable and respectable. The word itself comes from the Latin word for honor, opening a whole new semantic can of worms: good name, public esteem, reputation, recognition, privilege. To “do someone honor” means to show deference to them, in respect of their position in society.
In the midst of that swirl of meanings that lead to trails of implications, what do I mean by honesty? For the moment, and for the sake of my own mental clarity, I am focusing on the idea that honesty means the unending process of searching for truth, both in myself and in the world I live in. Truth that shines a light on deception and confusion, clearing a space for unflinching assessment of a situation that can lead to real, achievable, meaningful steps toward goals. Honesty requires a clear, still space within myself in order to be seen, felt, heard—lived.
So, to be honest, I didn’t spend much dedicated time this week to meditating on the concept of honesty in any coordinated fashion. Mostly I pondered for a moment or two in the spaces between practical efforts to “get things done.” Still, those moments of intuition can be little beacons to guide me into deeper realms of thought.
There are mundane, daily life sorts of “tests of honesty” we all face. For instance, in order to manage my weight, I have learned that tracking everything I eat each day is a fundamentally helpful tool. I have an app on my phone where I can record it all in minute detail (both food and exercise) with daily totals for calories consumed vs. additional calories expended. I am usually quite honest in my recording of activities. The extent of my honesty can be measured by the scale I stand on each morning and the fact that the numbers on it have gradually gone down. Sometimes, however, when I am feeling tired or anxious or crabby, I find myself “fudging” a bit on the numbers I record. Was that serving of brown rice really ¾ of a cup or was it a whole cup? Did I drink 6 ounces of red wine or fill the cup up to 8 ounces? If I allow myself a little leeway in the tally, the total at the end of the day might look a little better, making me feel a little more competent in this lifelong effort to improve my health. The next morning, however, I will stand on the scale again and (given a bit of variance for water weight), the number of the truth will be shine up at me.
Why do I play around with the accounting of my day? There is no rational reason to do so. The answer has much more to do with the emotional side of honesty: I want to see myself (and be seen by others) as someone who can accomplish the goals I set out to meet, someone who has the answers to these confounding riddles of life. I want to be in charge of my life—or at least pretend that I am.
Pretending can take me only so far, but it can be a fun, comforting ride down the slope while it lasts. Eventually I have to get out and trudge back up the hill, get on with the real, genuine and honest steps that make up the journey of my life. I think it is through these little practices of leading an honest life that I build up the skills and willpower to be honest in more trying circumstances. When I have the choice between speaking truth to power or holding back, I speak my mind as clearly as I can. When I have the choice between speaking truth to pain or hiding from it, I choose to speak words of comfort that come from my heart. And, in doing so, I feel a little bit more genuine and respectable.
I am setting out on a year-long practice of blogging, week by week, on a variety of topics that interest me. I’m not sure what the range of topics will be, but generally they are, for various reasons, either elusive for me to incorporate into my life or a complex subject that I want to clarify. Each week, I will focus on a topic I am seeking more clarity/guidance on. I will work with a variety of methods each day of that week—meditation, walking, journeying, stream of conscious writing, structured writing, drawing, talking to other people or animals or plants, dreaming, whatever—and gather the message threads together into a pattern that I will summarize for the weekly blog post.
I find myself too scattered lately, and therefor ineffectual in much of what I want to do. My thoughts are seeds scattered on the wind, with many of them landing on bare concrete. I want to gather my insights/intuition/thoughts/wisdom together into a smoother, stronger spiral about the wheel of life as I travel along the path.
I do not plan for an end point at the end of the year since this is really a lifetime’s task for me and I don’t intend to refine my practice down to simple steps that can be followed in order. I am too varied in my nature for that. I am just looking for a more harmonious pattern of growth.
I also have no illusion that I will discern the deepest workings of the universe this way (at least not much). I’m just trying to sweep up the scattered pieces of my thought processes and get a better ability to sustain my focus. Maybe I will learn a bit about the universe, and myself, in the process. And maybe other people will read these posts and find them illuminating, helpful and/or entertaining.
r week one of 2013 will be honesty. It seems to me that if I will be looking closely at
my inner process, then sharing about that with the world (or whatever small portion of it reads this blog), then I need to start from a place of honest reflection. But what does that really mean in this context?
This is a House of Peace
Come in here, come in.
The table is spread for you,
This is a House of Peace.
When do the signals rise upon the hills?
Sounding loud into the valleys of hope:
Peace is come.
We are here, together,
In the moment of realization,
We are one.
This is a House of Peace.
Come in and join us
Around the table,
Feel the warmth of the fire within
As we speak together of the future.
This is a House of Peace.