Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Unexpected Blessings

Physical challenge can come into our lives at any time.  It can involve struggle, suffering, frustration, and even grief.  But these challenges can sometimes also confer blessings when we are open to them.

A time of physical challenge can be a time to take a look at what is important in our lives and what is not.  It can be a great time for letting go—of activities and things that no longer enrich our lives. Old patterns pop out in clear relief against the backdrop of illness and limitation and can be examined and, sometimes, changed or released.  This can be a wonderful time to reaffirm what is precious, what works well, what is supportive to our lives, and to think about what we might like to add in the way of enrichment to nurture those lives.

One physical challenge I am working with can illustrate this point.  I know that my body works best if I give it lots of physical activity (housework, gardening, walks) rather than sitting at the computer editing recordings, or playing a new song over and over again to sink it deeply into my mind and kinetic memory.

The computer and guitar work challenges my arms and wrists, leaving me with the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.  Ignored, the symptoms simply gets more and more painful and make the recovery time longer.  To recover, I need to stay away from doing very much work on what draws me the most, music and sharing the music, and  I need to honor my body’s need to move A Lot.

And I need to trust.  I need to trust the Divine impulse in my heart to guide my actions and life.  The more I do this, the more at ease I am.  The miracle is that when I allow this way of being to take hold, when I nurture it and invite it in to my life, the work that I want to accomplish, that seems divinely given to me to accomplish, flows easily and naturally.

Even if my body can do very little computer or guitar work, even if most of my time is spent cleaning the house, or working in the garden, or taking a walk, or doing yoga, it is possible to take small breaks for making music and working on the computer.  I have found, in the last couple of weeks, that these short breaks are often very fruitful.  When I trust the direction of my heart, my work is very focused, and what I need to do in order to give what I see as my particular offerings to the world can be done nearly effortlessly. 

For me, this is the essence of what it is to allow the Divine to work through me. This kind of “limitation” teaches me what I most want to know, how to work with the Divine, for the Divine, and in the Divine embrace.  And, truly, that is a blessing.

Friday, October 19, 2012

By Your Grace

Each time we help another, we give them a tool for realizing their own unique gifts.  It doesn’t matter how many steps away from that realization the person is.  Everything happens by small steps, whether we realize it or not.  We are part of each other’s journey, step by step.

I came across this video several weeks ago.  On it, Cathy Ginter brings together beautiful souls from across the world and across the boundaries of religion.  Krishna Das' sublime chant, By Your Grace, is beautifully rendered in the background.  One of the ways we share with one another, support one another, is by sharing what we bring into the world.  This video has held me in Divine embrace for weeks now, every time I see it.  The music stays with me, holding me in that Divine connection.  I am blessed by this creation, and the gifts that Cathy, Krishna Das, and all those chanting with him, bring and hope you will be, too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Allowing the Space for Silent Companionship

Today, my husband and I are celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary. Our lives came together some years before that, so we have had many years of love and experience with each other. I feel exceedingly blessed by our marriage, by all the joys we share, all the interests we have in common (and those we each enjoy individually), and by watching creativity grow and bloom in our lives. We have had trials and tribulations, too, as most do in life and we have worked our way through them, learning in the process.

I learned something yesterday morning, something that flowed out of a moment with Ed, and came to a realization that I have been dancing around for months, maybe years. I was chattering away to Ed about something not very important (I can’t remember a thing I was saying) and expected from him an answer or a comment. I got neither. He was looking at something, his back turned to me, and he remained silent.

I watched my reaction. From feeling lighthearted and joyous, I moved quickly into irritation. I watched this movement of emotion in myself and, because I’ve been learning to let go of the need to react to inner turmoil, I was able this time to stay with my moment of observing, quietly.

It seemed he wanted to concentrate on what he was doing in that moment. The realization came to me suddenly that silence from me right then would be a small gift to give to him, a way of offering companionship and love, a way of not demanding but, instead, of supporting. I could honor his momentary need for silence, trusting his good intentions (and I have every reason to trust them; the evidence of 31 plus years has shown me that).

Leaving this kind of space can allow for a delicious silent companionship, a sense of space around interactions that is nurturing. It requires me to pay closer attention to whether or not the door is ‘open’ from his side for communication, and, even if I don’t notice immediately that he needs some quiet, I could take silence- rather- than- response as a clue, letting myself be in that silent moment of companionship.

I long for quiet sometimes, quiet to listen inwardly, to reflect, to immerse myself in some aspect of creativity. So do others. If I long for it, then I can also create it, and give it as a gift to one that I love.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Making Time

What is it that holds me back from finishing one of my new songs and getting it out on the web? This last weekend, I worked on a sewing project, something I have wanted to do for a long time. What moved me forward with this project was that I “simply” made the time to do the work. Now I am wearing the fruits of my labor. I had to choose to focus on this project rather than on other things. I had to center on each particular part of the work until it was done. And, for it to be truly done, I had to do each bit well.

Making time means to choose to put one’s focus on something. To start, there are questions to be asked—What exactly must be done? What is the first step? Are all the tools and materials at hand? Setting about to do any kind of creative work is very intentional, and that is a hallmark of making time. This is not about whether or not something is important. The choice has been made, the choice to give one pointed focus to something that is important.

Making time for something is different than finding time. Making time clears away confusion and assigns precious life-time to a work (which can be small or big). There is no doubt or choosing at this point—the work and its process is simply moved to the top of the list and given full attention.

My songs are becoming more complicated to record, a direction and a process that delights me. Each one involves the initial inspiration, a great deal of instrumental practice, trial and error to find the right instrumental and vocal combinations, and lots of editing.

So how do I dig into this process and move through the necessary challenges? The song I am currently working on has three finished instrumental tracks. I am working on a melody track and, when it is finished, the instrumental portion of the song is complete. However, there is another round of editing between here and there, and there are vocals to arrange, record and edit.

So, I must make time for this. I must say “this is what I will work on” and focus my time and attention on it. And that, in essence, is what making time is all about. To focus one’s time is to take the ability to focus to a new level. We make time by focusing it, by wielding time itself as a tool. It is our tool for the using. It is our tool for creating. We have the skill to use it—if only we will.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to Cook a Balanced Life

A few weeks ago, I found myself saying “I wish I had more time to cook”. An hour or so later, I had another thought: why can’t I spend more time cooking?

How often do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something that really calls to us? Yesterday, I noticed that I was telling myself that I “shouldn’t be doing so much music”. I thought that I should have been doing some necessary housework. For someone who believes that we should each honor and bring our gifts into the world, to the best of our ability, this is a kind of insanity. It is at the heart of the human dysfunction: to ignore the whisperings of our soul which lead to the blossoming of our gifts and the realization of our purpose in the world.

I thought that centering on cooking would take away from my time to record music (something that I want to do during the winter studio season). I thought I would play less music; contrary to my expectations, I actually have spent more time both playing and recording music. We are sitting down to good meals; and, I can hardly drag myself away from the current recording that I am editing.

Rearranging the elements of our lives can bring surprising insight. By putting another leading of the heart, cooking, into action, I cleared the way for a true purpose, a real gift, to move forward. By holding my thoughts in rigid structure, demanding that my life flow in a certain way and only in that way, I prevented the more “organic” flow of energy that resides in me and between me and others, from flowing. That flow of energy that connects us all helps us to realize and express our gifts.

And the process of that expression looks like this: I make a beautiful meal for my husband and myself. All the time spent enjoying the kitchen that he built for us this last year, moving about in it, creating in it, setting the beautiful space for us to eat, nurturing us with the food I have made, all this time and energy flows into us both. We are both enriched by it. With this enrichment, we return to our creative endeavors and there is something more to put into them. This is such a simple and obvious thing and yet I set this understanding aside often. The enrichment that feeds our souls and feeds our creative endeavors is not just the food; it’s everything that flows into that food and the sharing of it…all the openness to creativity, to preparation, to involvement with process, to serving another, to loving another. What part of that can fail to touch all that we create after?

Monday, January 30, 2012

How We Learn

An anonymous comment, asking me where I learn what I write about, left me deep in thought. Learning has such expansive origins that it is challenging to even begin the explanation.

Essentially, what I write, both in my blog and in my songs, comes from my heart. I write from the deepest truth of my heart. I write what I have learned from my own experience with other people and within the events of my life. But, the workings of one’s heart do not happen in a vacuum. Our connections with everyone, every creature, everything in our world affect us whether we notice or not. In my experience, we learn from everything that happens in our day to day existence.

I think we go through a constant process of synthesis, taking what we learn and reaching for deeper truths in our own being. What comes out of my particular synthesis is unique, and that takes me back to what I have said about the importance of the special gifts we each bring to life. They are important. We don’t want to lose them.

I read a lot, sometimes science fiction/fantasy, sometimes gardening books, sometimes works about other times like the Aubrey/Maturin stories by Patrick O’Brien, sometimes autobiographies (I just finished the wonderful work by Li Cunxin, Mao’s Last Dancer). I read a great many works by saints or about them, and works about and by people like Mahatma Gandhi, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie (I am currently learning a great deal from The Work which Katie is sharing with others all over the world). I read the works of my own guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship, as well as the monks and nuns in that organization who share their wisdom. I could go on, but you get the general idea.

All of this feeds me, nurtures me, and even those books which seem to be lighter reading fare, such as science fiction/fantasy, can have deep truths in them. These are works by people who have also been reaching for their deepest truths and expressing what is in their hearts and their experience. These expressions of the heart can reach into my own, illuminating something within me. I am inspired in this way by other peoples’ actions, by their heart-felt words, by their growth and learning, the obstacles they have overcome and by their thoughtful reflections on their experiences. I gain new insight, renewed energy to do my own work, and courage to move into whatever life offers me.

This kind of inspiration is not limited to what I read in books. It comes from the dear people close to me in my life and from people I hear about who are thoughtful, whose actions are courageous, kind, and loving. It comes to me from music, from the creatures around me, from the rhythms in the garden…there is no end to the learning and the inspiration which comes from life and from the beings we share our lives with.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Getting Things Done (or not)

I often find myself falling into the trap, the belief, that if I work very hard on a creative piece, I can “get it done”. Creativity may not flow well from that kind of hard work; in fact, just the opposite may be necessary. As every writer knows, when you get away from something you are working on, and leave it some time and space, you may be rewarded with a fresh perspective when you return to it. From that perspective, the work can flow again.

Over and over, I keep coming back to the understanding that we really do need to leave space around things, what the Sufis call “spaciousness”. To nurture that spaciousness in one’s work as well as in one’s meditations is to allow life itself to be a meditation. It doesn’t mean that we don’t work hard. It just means that we listen carefully to the inner voice, the creative word within us and, even when it seems that we haven’t accomplished anything at all after working for only an hour, we honor that sense of “this is enough for now” and stop, walk away.

If you want to get things done in a chosen time frame, don’t sign up for creative work. You will be constantly frustrated. Only when you accept that creativity is a flow rather than a push, a flow that must move at its own rate, will you find satisfaction at a deep level. Then, from this spaciousness and allowing, things unfold before you and you are amazed.

This morning, I woke up haunted by a nightmare; then, beneath the dream’s activity, a whisper of creativity, a next step, rose to the surface. After breakfast and a few “getting things done” activities (do housework when you really want see immediate physical results!), I went to my studio and opened the files on the chant and the instrumental piece. I tested out the idea that came as I awakened, and suddenly several things fell together. I see the possibility that both the chant and the instrumental work can move a whole leap forward. They will share more than I thought they would, and yet, they will each be unique.

I am excited and energized. And I am aware, at this moment, that this is the next step only. This excitement and energy are about movement in my work, engagement in the process, not necessarily “getting things done”. The songs will be finished at some point, but not by any pushing of mine.