That Which I Can Recognize But Never Name

(I recently came across this letter in a file and have decided to re-publish it here. I wrote it to friends in February 2008, about my experiences not long after the death of John O’Donohue – for whom I had  begun working just eight months earlier.  )

 

As a child, I always had a room inside myself . . . → Read More: That Which I Can Recognize But Never Name

Farm Life

I’m feeling something shifting in my understanding of my way of life. This morning as I woke, I had the familiar thoughts (and accompanying dread) about a clambering to-do- list, “OVERDUE” flashing relentlessly in my skull. Then, for unknown reasons, I suddenly shifted away from that story.

It was a story about, “Get there. You’re not there yet.”  This morning I thought of my day more like a farmer looks at farm chores, “Up and at ‘em. These are just the daily efforts that support my life.”

This is a story about “I’m here. This is my life.” And, somehow, even though I have lots of plans and dreams for the future, the feeling of ‘not yet’ is diminished and my ability to notice and savour what I already love in my life is awakened. . . . read more

Dancing in Every Direction

When I dance, I take steps forward, sideways, backward.  I follow a rhythm.  I coordinate my movements and rhythm to those of other dancers and the music surrounding me, and I love the creative experience.

When I work, I make a plan for moving forward.  I set a pace and resent interruptions or obstacles that require me to slow down or take sideways or backwards steps.  I want everyone else to match my rhythm and I expect the surrounding circumstances to offer only support for my intention and achievement.  I hate when things don’t go my way; I resent and resist.

The question occurs: Is this why I love to dance and hate to work? Is it just a matter of my expectations?  Is it just that I have a misguided understanding of how work should go? . . . read more

Rejeuvenating Creative Energy and Willingness

Where Did My Willingness Go?

Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck.  I can’t seem to find my willingness to do the things I’ve agreed to do.  My pending to-do tasks are piling up and deadlines are boiling into urgency.

Something needs to shake loose soon, or I’ll be the one boiling in hot water.  So, . . . → Read More: Rejeuvenating Creative Energy and Willingness

Abiding Questions

Every Sunday morning, my dad and I use iChat to have a video-conference.  He calls it ‘having breakfast together.’  (I think of it as our “Jetson Family Moment.”)

Last Sunday, as I sipped my coffee and jiggled the headset connection, Dad said, “I’ve got to figure out what I really want to do.”

It stopped me cold.

My dad is 80 years old; and his question was exactly the question I’ve been asking myself.  In fact, only 5 minutes before the call I had written (with some desperation) in my journal, “What do I want to spend my days doing?”

Apparently, “What do I want to do with my life?” is a question that abides without ever ‘settling to sleep inside an answer.’** This thought might feel hopeless at first – but it is actually freeing if you give it the chance.

Is Planning Happiness Even Possible? . . . read more

Traveling Thoughts

I’m heading out for Colorado this week.  I’ll be driving. Road trip! I love to drive across the country and am busy planning and packing. I want to be well-prepared.

The hours of solitude are like a personal retreat for me. I take the roads less traveled whenever possible (in this case, Route 50 “The Loneliest Road in America”) and I carefully choose audio books and music to accompany me.

This trip, I’m taking David Whyte’s new 6 CD set “What To Remember When Waking” (available from David’s web site, from Sounds True, and from Audible.com, among others).  The title of the course is taken from David’s poem of the same name, from which I offer this excerpt:

What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.

What you can live
wholeheartedly
will make plans
enough . . .

. . . read more

Happiness & Possibility

Pursuit of Happiness

During the embattled years of law school, a friend and I clung together in our metaphorical fox-hole, confiding to one another all that was scary, going wrong, or likely to go wrong.  We’d spend hours (over nachos and margueritas) pep-talking one another into persevering.  Then, one day, she and I were together and I realized that I had nothing to talk about.  Just at that moment, nothing was scaring me, there was nothing to complain about – and I was at a loss.  What would I talk about?  I had nothing interesting going on.

“Nothing interesting going on.”  That thought got my ATTENTION.  Did I really believe that if there was nothing going wrong then there was nothing interesting happening? Then I began noticing that most of the conversations I heard revolved around some point of unhappiness; and if I began to talk about being happy (about things going right), the shift seemed to cause discomfort. . . . read more

The choice:

fitting myself to the system or communicating myself, ‘in my full stature and proportion,’ through the work and the way I choose to do it.

–Linda Alvarez

The common experience is that the man fits himself as well as he can to the customary details of that work or trade he falls into, and tends it as a dog turns a spit. Then is he a part of the machine he moves; the man is lost.

Until he can manage to communicate himself to others in his full stature and proportion, he does not yet find his vocation.  He must find in that an outlet for his character, so that he may justify his work to their eyes.

If the labor is mean, let him by his thinking and character make it liberal.  Whatever he knows and thinks, whatever in his apprehension is worth doing, that let him communicate, or men will never know and honor him aright.

Foolish, whenever you take the meanness and formality of that thing you do, instead of converting it into the obedient spiracle of your character and aims.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Spiritual Laws”

After seeing what was required to fit into the system of traditional practice of law, I realized that I was wholly capable of succeeding in that milieu and also realized that to do so would be antithetical to my character and aims.  A change was imperative. I began searching for what I would/should/could do instead, trying to make a plan, trying to imagine a new direction, a new occupation, and to “get it right” this time.

Available time planners and self-help books seemed to belong in one of two categories.  On the one hand, I found plenty of systems for those who already knew their calling—had fully imagined a new direction and were committed to that new path—and just needed a tool for organizing workflow.  On the other hand were a multitude of voices that advised finding and following a “bliss” regardless of financial imperatives.  (I noticed that most of their examples described people who had a spouse paying the way while the bliss-follower built the new dream.)

I did not have the option to quit my job and chase a dream with no visible means of support; nor did I have the energy to start a new career from scratch while simultaneously maintaining the one I was in.  Filling out questionnaires in workbooks and doing end-of-chapter exercises to illuminate my true bliss did not lead to ACTION.  It all left me feeling hopeless at the thought of all the re-schooling and re-tooling I’d need to leave the law.

I was yearning for a whole-hearted livelihood, not a job or career from which I would endlessly strain towards escape.  And I wanted to find a way to sustain my momentum and motivation once a choice had been made.  I needed a way to keep myself moving forward, bringing my dreams to fruition rather than watching them fade in the face of daily obligations and obstacles.  Unable to find a planner or system to fit my needs, I developed my own—the  Flourishment Planner—to discover and bring into being my new career. . . . read more