Willpower and Willingness

My inner nag is pointing out all the things I’ve left undone . . . and my inner resister-of-authority wonders if the ‘not doing’ is about needing a break.  This is always a tricky question.  I am so ready to believe that I’m a slacker who is just looking for an excuse to play hooky. 

 Productivity / Creativity – getting enough of both

Does productivity rely on effort or nurture?  I know that creativity needs nurturing (plenty of inspirational experiences and freedom).  I’ve always assumed that productivity needed a firmer hand, a driving force.  Now I’m wondering if that is necessarily true?

My creativity can dream things up – but bringing a dream from hope to fruition requires discipline, which is, in my experience, a triumph of will over unwillingness (nose to the grindstone; buckle down; straighten up and fly right . . . you get the drift).   

Might it be possible to have robust productivity without tyrannical will-power and the abrasion of facial features?  . . . read more

Change of Habitude

I’d been waking up several times in the night feeling intense anger and fear. Weird.  No reason for that.  When I took a mental step back, I realized that I was actually experiencing a strong surge of physical energy and interpreting it as anger and fear.   Granted, I’m a 50-something female, which might be a clue about the energy surge, but what really riveted my attention was that my logic center had supplied “pain” as the default explanation of what I was feeling.  What’s up with that?  Why is my automatic interpretation of strong energy “pain” rather than “joy”?

What if you aren’t who you think you are?

Becoming watchful of my habitual assumptions about myself, my life, and the world, I realized that my understanding of myself  was based on a sort of scrapbook biography, a concoction of partial memories and anecdotes.  I was taking these shreds and patches to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth about me.  What’s more, I was expending huge amounts of energy protecting the morsels I liked and trying to erase the bits of which I was ashamed.  I was a puppeteer desperately believing that my puppet was me, believing that this piecemeal creature’s existence (and approval rating) was essential to my survival.

I was abiding by its boundaries, like an compliant child careful not to color outside the lines.  I was living a tamed identity, restricting my life, cowering in phantom shelter.

Safety by self-imprisonment.  Hence the habitude of anger and fear.

Wild Identity

Did you know that researchers believe a newborn doesn’t associate itself with a body during the first months of life?   Just for a moment, imagine your infant self dwelling in this world without boundaries.  You have all your sensations and you are unlimited, wild.

Merely supposing that I might fully inhabit the wild identity that  accompanied my infant self into this life was a liberating sensation.  How much energy would I have, how much freedom, if I just stopped pumping effort into the tatter-shawl identity I’d been so carefully curating?

But I couldn’t simply flip a switch.  I had a life-time of commitment invested in this puppetry.  And of course, my well-trained intellect was screaming, “Reckless!”  I’d depended for so long on the approved versions of myself for my safety—for my belonging.

I needed a practice, a touchstone, a way to re-call my wild self into presence.  I needed just to begin the conversation with something wider, bigger, deeper.

“And so long as you have not experienced
This: to die and so to grow,
You are only a troubled guest
On the dark earth.”

– Goethe (The Holy Longing)

Here is what I do:

I listen to music; read poetry; go to place of scenic splendor; visit artworks wherever they may dwell; I sit in a sanctified place; I spend long stretches of time without verbal input (read or heard); I savour sensations – the scent of the air around me, the ambient sounds, the taste of my coffee– and I and let the cascading interpretations of my busy intellect arise and fade without being adopted as ‘true’ or ‘false.’

That’s all.  I don’t expect an ‘answer’ or a resolution.

All I look for is a wider horizon, a broader frame, a deeper, clearer understanding from which to consider my response—to break free of habitudes, into the unbelievable freshness of an already eternal presence that is experiencing this life, this world, this participatory co-habitation of planet earth.

Engage in genuine conversation with this moment-by-moment life and the strategic plan will reveal itself.

Maybe what is happening for me in the night is just the bees in my heart, making honey.

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

BTUs & Freedom

One bright morning, as we sat at the breakfast table with our good friends Phil and Rhonni, I looked down at the dreadful rust-colored indoor/outdoor carpeting that former inhabitants had glued to the floor of our cottage’s kitchen. To the table in general, I moaned, “I hate this carpet.  It would be so great to have a wooden floor instead; but I’m afraid it will be nearly impossible to get this dreadful orange stuff up.” And I sighed with despair at the hopelessness of it all.

Without a word and in one smooth, swift movement, Phil put down his spoon, whipped a mat knife from his back pocket, and without rising from his chair, leaned over and laid a long, tearing cut across two feet of the hated flooring.  While I was still drawing breath to shout, Phil re-pocketed the knife and reached down to rip away a large strip of the dreadful carpet along with an underlying layer of decaying linoleum.  Revealed in the gap was a strip of beautiful old heart-wood flooring—a sleeping beauty waiting to be awakened. At the end of that day, the finish on my lovely antique wooden floor was drying to a beautiful luster as we ate our dinner in the garden.

Phil’s “Make A Hole” philosophy of overcoming inertia &
My philosophy of
Freedom-Friendly BTUs

For those who work mainly in building, gardening, or other occupations that involve physically making/changing things – the above described approach is what I have come to call the Phil Perry principal of Make A Hole.  Start in a way that means you must continue.  Burn the bridge leading back  to “Reasons Why It’s Too Hard” and you are compelled beyond the inertia into “Now I HAVE TO DO SOMETHING” action.  Tucked into my day-planner  I have the little fortune cookie proverb from a years-ago meal: “The simplest answer is to act.”  (The lucky numbers on it are: 42, 17, 11, 5, 32, 24 – just  FYI.)

When you work mainly at a table, desk or computer, in order to get things done, you pretty much have to Apply Butt To Chair and spend some time there; hence, BTUs (Butt Time Units); but the imperative of BTUs often feels like a prison sentence.  . . . read more