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.