What makes you come alive? Where do you find your joy?
What are you committed to in your life? Where have you put energy that you feel good about?
Imagine if these questions were at the center of your decision making.
Imagine how alive things would be.
Who is in?
My wife turned me on to the podcast Dolly Parton’s America. It’s a wonderful look at the country singer’s career, as well as numerous aspects of American — as well as international — life. There are a lot of wonderful stories told throughout the podcast (and truth be told, I’m only about 2/3 of the way through the series), but one thing stood out in the episode I just listened to, Dollitics.
I’m not going to get the quote exactly right, but this is a pretty close paraphrase. While exploring Dolly’s reasons for not engaging in political questions (spurred by her refusal to say anything, one way or another about Donald Trump), Jad Abumrad, the host, lands on an interesting observation. It goes something like this:
Dolly has a philosophy that is core to who she is — cast no one out. It’s a spiritual tenet that drives everything she does, and it’s something that can help explain her broad appeal.
There are certanily things that she can be criticized for regarding her decision to not make a statement (if children in cages isn’t a reason to, what is?), but the underlying philosophy is powerful.
Personally, I’m not sure that speaking out and choosing to not cast anyone aside can’t live side by side. Indeed, I believe they can.
I’d even argue that until we get to that place — where we can hold someone to account, while refusing to hate them, refusing to turn into the very thing we are pushing against — we will just spin in this world of division.
Until we are able to answer the above question — who is in? — by naming everyone, we are doomed to continue to spin. And spin. And spin.
In the spirit
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
~ David Wagoner (1999)
- Find Beauty. Be still.
- W.H. Murray
In the spirit of pace.
This morning, as a friend and I were having coffee, I shared the above poem, Lost, with her. We were talking about the natural world — mostly notably, mushrooms — and what it has to teach us. Reflecting on that poem, I was reminded of the Murray quote, which I encountered while reading Robert Macfarlane’s Underland. Both of these speak to me at a very deep level. They speak to the journey of life itself. To deep time.
What we are encountering on a day-to-day basis is generally constructed on top of that time — it has a self-importance as if the time frames we can know in our lives (counted as decades at the most, years, weeks, and days at the finest) hold meaning beyond the immediate impact. In other words, we live with an idea that our actions are generally more important than they likely are.
Yet in the present moment, we seem to be living in a time where the two intersect. Deep time — geological time — and the ever present needs of the world. With the climate crisis looming, our moment-to-moment actions may very well impact the long-term of the planet. Of life as we know it. I’m not so much talking about our carbon footprint as our relationship to the world itself. And thus, the connection to pace. To listening.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost.
What do these do? Do we know? Does our society have a story that helps us understand their role? Can we converse with them?
I can’t help but wonder if we’ll make any headway on the crises before us without this understanding.
Past, Present, Future
For the last 8 years or so, one of my favorite (nearly) weekly experiences has been listening to the latest episode of Roderick on the Line, a podcast in which John Roderick and Merlin Mann record a conversation for all of us to listen in on. There are a lot of reasons that this podcast floats toward the top of my favorite things, one of which is the way that John is able to articulate his perspective and experience in the world. Over the course of the 360 episodes, one of the standouts for me has been his description of “Past John” and “Future John”, and how they both impact “Present John.”
It can look like this: Past John booked a show for Future John to play. Why wouldn’t he? He doesn’t have to do anything about it, and it sounds like maybe it’ll be fun. Of course, the day of the show comes along and who has to play it? Present John, of course. And he has no interest in playing the show. This take on the way we think about our lives really resonates with me.
It came to mind as I wrestled with why it is that I’m having some trouble making some changes to my day-to-day. I’d like to eat a bit differently, and to get some practices up and running. As I was thinking about this recently, it hit me: Present me believes that Future me will be better, more capable! Present me doesn’t see himself as someone who can make the change — he’s weak, and easily succumbs to the desire. But he believes that Future me will have the strength, will make different choices.
The problem, of course, is that these changes are always in the present. There is no other me to pass them off to. One of the primary fallacies of punting for Future me is that by doing so, I can skip over the difficult, uncomfortable part of the process. But this is the most important part of the process. And it can only happen for Present me.
From this point of view, the past and the future collapse. All there is is now. Just like the world’s great spiritual teachers have been telling us.
More on Shapes
I wrote some thoughts on the shapes that make up a life. Looking at the longitude if dep time tells us that these shapes will shift and change. The true shape of life is shapeless.
Yet what if the shape of a day? How do we hold that — a timeframe that is measureable, and that we experience often? I found myself in this inquiry today. What came to me was that the shape is informed by a few categories:
- Ground and Settle: Both in the form of opening the day, as well as a space to return to again, and again, this means to create the inner space to move through the day with foundation.
- Produce: This is about letting the energy that’s moving through me generate itself in a form — this might be writing or doing my work; perhaps it’s sketching.
- Learn: Stay fresh, let something in, expand.
- Move: Engage the body regularly, feel it and let the energy within it express itself.
- Connect: to Self, others, and the world.
As I sit with these, I see how my day can flex and flow in a way that is nourishing, and supporting the journey I’m on.
Curious to see how this shape shifts.
I’m coming off of a couple of very busy days, full of client work. It’s work that has rooted its way into my brain and is, if I’m honest, getting in the way of my relaxing for the night, reading a wonderful book.
Sitting here and struggling to stop the spinning, I’m reminded of the importance of creating — and maintaining — inner-space. Meditation is, of course, a primary approach to that. And, you might guess, something that has slipped off the forefront in recent weeks.
A good reminder.