Monday, February 24, 2014

Head to Head with Expectations

I think of things I want to do with my day and have a lot of energy to do them. That energy can sometimes be derailed if something sends me sideways, away from what I expected. I lose my focus. When that happens, what derails me is not that something new comes up. What actually derails me is that I become upset about it. It’s a matter of attitude. I have expectations about what should happen. When things change, my reaction closes off the flow of energy that is alive in me.

This morning I awoke with energy to Get Things Done. I planned a day balanced between physical activity and creative pursuits that involved the computer. However, we discovered that the step-counters we ordered a couple of days ago were already on our doorstep. Suddenly my day took a detour as we took the time to set up our step-counters and synced them with our computers.

When the unexpected comes we have to be nimble to flow with it. Life by its very nature is not compliant with schedules or lists. We must accept that part of the creative process is to work with the unexpected. We do our work here on earth, in the midst of life, and this process of living is full of interruptions, sideways movements, dropped balls and unexpected events. Our focus needs to be at the center of our being to move with this.

The question is, what exactly was essential in the things I thought to do today? The answer is that I needed to move. I needed to move physically and that focus on physical movement gave great energy to my whole day and all of my activities. I also needed to move with events and the unexpected, to adjust to them. All of this movement allowed me to accomplish a lot during the day, but it played out differently than I thought it would.

Over the course of this day, I have realized that the fullness of movement in our lives gives to us everything we need to learn, grow and create. Out of sideways movement and the unexpected can come new perspective and clarity. Creativity and life are large, spacious, full to the brim with material for us to work with. Confining them to our expectations robs us of their gifts and keeps us from our deepest expression. Listening to the wisdom at the center of our being can guide us to the best use of these gifts of life and creativity, but only if we let go of expectations and actually listen, watching for the rich material that is made available to us. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Expectations have a way of circumventing focus. The magic of the creative process is that it can lead into discovery and wonder. We start with a vision and an idea of how to bring that vision into reality, but the route we take to get to it may end up being very different than we expected. That is the nature of vision and creation. The vision itself shows us the endpoint. The pathway to that endpoint must be accomplished step by step, and we can only take those steps one at a time. As we focus on each of these steps, unexpected pathways can open up before us.

Expectation may keep us from seeing these alternative pathways.

I begin a piece of writing with an idea and a direction to take it in. As I continue in the direction I have set I sometimes find myself at an impasse. I may get stuck at this impasse if my expectations make me unwilling to look around a little. A door opens before me, a pathway to new understanding, and I am looking in the other direction, toward my expectation. In this situation, I have only one accepted way to move and that way ignores all others.

I know the fear is that we will wander far and wide, down one pathway, up another, and never get to the final result. But it may be that we have something to learn in the process, something that brings added depth to the final result. Following a different pathway may lead to a richer creation, both within the deeper self and in the outward result.

It is challenging to let go of expectations, to open ourselves to unknown possibilities. Before we can even see alternate pathways we have to realize that they are there. We have to look. We have to release our wish for control. If we can do that much, then we can make new choices, guided by our inner sense of what is best. I believe that just realizing that there are alternate possibilities, just taking time to consider them, opens doors within us.

I think that focusing while releasing expectations allows us to explore both outward processes and our own inward depths. What will we find? That is the delight; we won’t know until we try it out.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Essential Time Out: Walking Away

It seems a contradiction, but focusing on something does not necessarily mean giving it all of our attention all of the time. Focusing on something sometimes means we have to walk away from it.

For me this happens often, both when writing and recording music and when writing in the blog. Sometimes what I am creating comes in a beautiful and miraculous flow, finished primarily in one session with some editing to complete the process. That, however, is not the norm. The norm for me is to get something started, get excited about it, work on it until the initial inspiration is spent, and then walk away from it for a while. The next step is to go back to what I am working on, act on whatever new inspiration has arisen in me, and then give it another rest. I keep on in this way until the essential parts of the creation are done.

The only way to see things clearly, once the initial inspiration is spent, is to allow time for new inspiration to arise.  If we don’t take time for this, we lose the gifts that our inner guidance can give us. The spark of creativity that comes from seeing something fresh comes when we stand back and make space for it.

When we focus inwardly for inspiration, we are tapping into something deep within ourselves. When we are not working from that inward flow, when we push and force creation, we are using the mind to create something that is actually not quite ready to flow into being. The mind is a wonderful tool but it is not, in and of itself, the source of inspiration; it works with the inspiration, which comes from a deeper place within us.

If we want inspiration to flow, we sometimes have to stand back and give the resources deep within us time and space to move. We have to wait, holding ourselves in readiness to act when the creative inspiration again rises to the surface. Holding ourselves ready is the way we maintain focus; allowing time out is the way we make space. 

The creative process is a flow.  We focus inward for inspiration, we focus outward to create. We wait (a minute, a day, a week. . .) until the next creative inspiration arises. As we move back and forth between these two states, we find that we are dancing with the creative process. And that dance is truly joyful.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Focus Inward, Focus Outward

When I started this year’s Focus on Focus I wanted to explore the kind of focus that, I hoped, would allow me to stay centered in the moment. I’ve experienced that kind of focus before in my life and thought that a year spent exploring it, immersing myself in contemplation of it, might lead to a stronger and more sustained experience of living in the present moment.

My most recent blog post (Trust) was a challenge to write. I started with a recording process, seeking the best next step for it. I wrote, threw out several paragraphs, wrote again, threw out more, walked away from it, and then tried again.

Commitment to writing from the deepest part of one’s being is a meditation. Sometimes it flows easily, swiftly, wonderfully; it’s a loving and joyous ride. But, sometimes it moves slowly, sluggishly, in fits and starts. When this happens, I can find that my starting point doesn't lead anywhere. I get lost after a while and have to ask myself: “what exactly am I trying to say here.” 

This happened as I wrote this most recent blog post. Days went by as I wrote and then tossed out what I wrote. I was seeking my center with this piece of writing and not finding it. I was seeking my center with the recording and not finding it. I was seeking my center with this year’s focus on focus and not finding it.

What finally emerged clearly as I finished and posted Trust is that I am now writing about two kinds of focus. One is an outward focus that is about staying in the moment, completely immersed in doing the one thing before me. The other is an inward focus, searching within to find the very best thing to put that kind of focus on. (I wrote recently about this inward focus).

When I look back on previous blog posts, I realize I have been moving back and forth between these two ways of focusing. I see the pattern, a flow from inward focus to outward focus. I see that when I do both, I am truly centered in what I can only call a divine focus. I find where I can best place my attention by searching in the heart of my heart. I then take that focus into the world, creating by staying in the moment, immersed in my work.  It is in this movement between inner and outer focus that I believe we can give what we each uniquely and truly have to give to the world.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Following inner guidance is not an easy task. Inner guidance is elusive. It is very difficult to sort out where the small self ends and the true inner guidance begins.

I came to a turning point this week with my recording. The recording part of the song could be called done. I could move on to the mixing process. This recording has been so long in the works that it seems like I should be finished with it by now.  However, there are a couple of things in two different tracks that bother me.  The only way to change that is to record the tracks again. Am I being hypercritical? Should I leave well enough alone?

The small self is often very dysfunctional. It lives in a whole universe of its own and can sometimes push its agenda remorselessly. It is hard work to get beyond it, to see what is truly needed, to be able to hear the still small voice within and to act on its counsel.

The truth of the matter, in this instance, is that those two tracks do not satisfy me. Whether or not they ever bother anyone else, I need to change them. I realize now that the feeling of being bothered, in and of itself, is the true inner guidance.