Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts on the Word "Ought"

This morning, I am struggling with an inner list of things I ought to do. “Ought” is a dangerous word. When it appears in my thinking, I know I have strayed away from paying attention to my inner voice and, as a consequence, may miss an opportunity to allow God’s voice to move through me and into the world.

The first glorious whisper from within was to go back into the garden (where I spent most of yesterday afternoon in the sun, working a little, reading and dreaming a lot). Is the garden the best choice, my mind whispers back? Is there something else I “should” (another dangerous word) be doing? I slide headlong from that thought into stress and anxiety.

There are many times, I believe, when each of us allows that Divine voice to work through us. It doesn’t matter what we call it; the Divine is that energy that leaves us feeling right about ourselves, satisfied at a deep level of being with how we are conducting ourselves, able to connect in a loving way with the people and the world around us. We are immersed in our work, whatever it may be in the moment, and the resonance of that holds us in a stillness that exists even amidst the noise of life and the activity around us.

If we identify the inner guidance emerging from the center of our being, and then act on it, we can regain our balance when we are assailed by a list of “oughts”. Though the very things that are on my “ought” list may, in fact, at some point soon flow from my inner guidance, they will do so for different reasons. I will not be stressed by an inner struggle to find my center and act from it. I will act from the center of my being, not the center of what I perceive the world’s wishes to be, and that makes all the difference.

I finally realized that the first whisper of the day, to go into the garden, was truly the right one. I donned my hiking boots, grabbed my water bottle, and went outside. There, I swept, weeded and pruned, mulling over the changes in motion and yet to come in the tiny patch of yard I was working on. Just as I came to the end of my inner inspiration to work in the garden, the first raindrops fell. I put away my tools and came indoors. Now, as I write, the rain is falling and I am content to follow the next inner whisper.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Being open may be the only way to receive inner guidance. Often, this openness comes from change, the result of major difficulty, an internal crash, or loss. These events strip defenses and leave us wide open to illumination and transformation.

But, what if we could learn to let go of the defenses we set up? What if we could learn to respond, consciously, with increased openness, to the more minor forms of change in our lives? Could change, transformation and illumination come more gently, more kindly?

Change taken in smaller doses, deliberately, doesn’t activate our flight and fight response. Practicing change could allow us to become more at ease with it. Slowly, our boundaries can be pushed outward, a little at a time, enlarging the capacity to move with change and uncertainty.

To start, we can choose a change we completely enjoy (later, we might test the waters of more difficult challenges). I love to rearrange house and garden spaces; I find it gives me new perspective, allowing me to clear energy in my environment and do some deeper cleaning. It’s a lovely way to make way for new projects and new insight. I am refreshed and renewed by the process, inspired for the work to come.

I want to do this year’s spring cleaning early; I’m ready for the change in energy and perspective now. We have a small house; I plan, during the coming week, to take time for one room each day and to spend only one hour doing everything I can do for the room. Then I will let go of it.

That’s a bit of a challenge in itself. Limiting projects really demands creativity and thought. I must think about what is most important, what calls to me the most. I wonder if, to push my own letting-go boundaries, I might also be able to let go of one “thing” in each room that is not useful or beautiful or (in our house) potential creative material (an old shirt may have usefulness and become part of a creative project simply because it has beautiful buttons, for instance; there’s a harvest there that I may want to take advantage of before I turn old cloth to rags or quilt scraps).

And what does any of this have to do with openness? Letting go allows for openness. Every tendency we have to hold on tightly, to any thing or person in our lives, stands in the way of openness and creates a barrier to movement, inner awareness, guidance or epiphany. Wherever we let go, we make space for everything to shift, for new understanding to come, for our lives to move into new growth and greater purpose.