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Posts Tagged ‘practice’

At this point the only people who haven’t seen this yet are probably those totally isolated from all civilization.  This video (by Jefferson Bethke) already has 9 1/2 million views in just 4 days (!!!).  While I do not agree with a number of his wording choices or interpretations in regards to spirituality or the Bible, I do think he’s getting pretty warm…and I DO agree with the points he makes of being spiritual one day a week and putting on a costume rather than living with integrity in striving to be mindful your Word in every moment. (For the record, I am not endorsing or pushing any kind of specific religion or spiritual path in this post. I do tend to have posts that have spiritual notes, but that is a result of my own self expression, as for me art and spirituality are one and the same.  I believe that an individual’s spiritual path (or seemingly choice of lack thereof), while can be shared, celebrated, and even expressed with others,  is still exceedingly personal to the nth degree.  I do not label myself with any religious title whatsoever, but rather strive daily(often in vain) to live in constant awareness of all inner and outer life.  I strive to abide by the creed that my practice and the integrity and purpose of how I live my life is my “religion.”  I am by no stretch of the imagination always successful in this daily endeavor, however I keep showing up nonetheless.  What else can I do?:)) Most of all, I just find his spoken word and the sharing of his personal journey of self discovery a beautiful work of art.

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My intense artistic/spiritual (same thing) January practice has already begun to shine in some light, and with that the Universe also continues to deliver inspiration to keep the motor running. Today’s inspiration,  I AM (directed by Tom Shadyac), is so timely to me regarding the current world events, where I am (with myself) at this point in my life, what empassions  me, and what calls me as far as what to do about it all, and how.

 

I find this movie so synchronistically timely with the recent events of the world: the economy, global warming, Occupy Wall Street, poverty, health care (access and lack there of), educational systems, wars, and the list goes on an on and on and on.  What struck a chord with me while watching this movie was how Shadyac says we should approach the 1% (he doesn’t use that terminology, but when you see the movie, you will understand that he means the same thing); we must act to evoke the change we want in the world with compassion and the understanding that those that are wrecking havoc, abusing the system, the people, and the planet, are in fact mentally ill.  We, through compassionate understanding of this fact and the allowing and use of Love, can help them, which it turn helps and heals the collective all.  And the first person we must start with:  ourselves.

 

I use capital “L” love intentionally, as I do not mean the mushy, sweet, sappy, polite, I-dont-want-to-hurt-your-feelings kind of love.  I mean love in the way that Gandhi meant it when enacting Satyagraha: Soul Force, or Soul Love; Truth.  For any real GOOD change to be born and have lasting effect and growth, it must start  and end from this place.  Which means, then, that the responsibility falls upon us, individually and collectively, to open up to this change within ourselves that needs to happen in order for this to occur.  This is where our real Power is.  To open up and allow what is already there to emerge and be what moves and breathes and acts and interacts in our world.

 

(Side note:  Towards the beginning of the movie, Shadyac briefly mentions once hearing about how talking to plants can effect their growth.  I actually did this as a science project experiment when I was in the 5th grade.  I had two sets of plants.  Group A I said loving things to, played them classical music, and “sent” them loving energy.  Group B I yelled at and insulted and neglected other than the basic needs of sunlight and water.  The sunlight and water provided for both groups were identical.  By the end of my experiment ( 6 weeks), Group A plants were strong, bright,  green and flourishing.  Group B had fewer leaves, several yellow or blackening on the tips, and  much weaker structures. TRUE STORY.)

 

I just cannot recommend this movie enough.  Just see it.  Just see it.  Just see it.  It is already available on Netflix (although I believe there is a long wait…and I do currently have one of the copies:)  and Amazon.  Yes there are spiritual undertones and possible interpretations, but if this tends to not be your cup of tea, know that it is not a religious or woo-woo film.   It is about humanity and life and who and what we really are and what we are really capable of being and creating in our world.  In the words of my late and great friend and ASL instructor, Geoff Mathay:

I believe.  I have hope.”

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That’s a little how I am feeling right about now. Just finished Week 4 of The Artist’s Way (so perfectly titled “Recovering a Sense of Integrity”), which included among many things, “no reading” for the entire week. TAW was written quite a while ago, so I have taken it upon myself to update that to include anything I use as a distraction/escape (TV, internet, email, facebook, texting, etc). A few “needed” slips here and there, but overall I stayed true to the course.

What is so powerful about the “reading deprivation” week is that while it can be terribly uncomfortable at first (what do I do? sit and stare at the wall…stare…stare…stare…hungry?…eat…stare…stare…), you quickly start venturing out and playing. You also have NO CHOICE but to listen to your own voice because you no longer have anything else drowning it out. This can bring up a myriad of emotions (excitement, fear, anger, grief, joy) as you start to realize how you really feel about your work, certain relationships, habits, the color blue….And here is the most awesome part of all: all emotions and thoughts are TRANSITORY. Holy crap, does this mean you can’t even trust yourself?!!?

Ok, slow down, cowboy. No, it does not mean that, and in fact, quite the opposite. It means give FULL FAITH to that Voice within, knowing that while you listen deeper and deeper and deeper, you have COMPLETE permission to change your mind about ANYTHING at ANY given moment. And nobody else gets to say diddly squat about it. Not that that will necessarily stop them. But that doesn’t have to mean anything to you. Unless you *choose* to LET it.

So what did I do this week? I had an incredible extended Artist Date. It started with hanging up white string lights in my space. Then I enjoyed one of the guided meditations that I have on CD that I have been meaning to do forever. I enjoyed it so much, I immediately followed it with another. Then a meditative sea salt bath (no book!). Then the (solo) party really began as I cranked up a “cheezy mix” cd my sister made me for my 36th birthday back in September, while I simultaneously made dinner and baked a Funfetti birthday cake. Pilsbury of course. The birthday cake ingredients were bought on impulse earlier in the day, and while no nearby birthdays were on the horizon, I didn’t see that as any reason to stop me. Oh, and as it was “no reading” week, I attempted to get the necessary ingredients without actually reading the box. Only to discover AS I WAS MAKING the cake that it called for “3 eggs *OR* 4 egg whites” not “3 eggs *AND* 4 egg whites.” Oops. Looking inside my bowl of mostly liquid with some batter mix, I shrugged and said what the heck…it’s a done deal, let’s see what happens. Well, let’s see what happens turned out to be one of the best happy accidents ever, because holy momma this was one moist and delicious cake if I do say so myself (and I just did)! So let this be a lesson: if you are in mid-creation and you think you screwed the whole thing up, don’t necessarily scrap it altogether. Try considering to just keep on going and see what comes out in the end!

The rest of the Artist Date included a candle lit dinner with yours truly, followed by streaming, “Exit Through the Giftshop” on Netflix. Great great great great movie. Great.

Work was this weekend. And here was where the Voice could no longer be ignored. The satisfaction with my job went quickly South, and this left me with a lot to contemplate. Being that I couldn’t read or go on the internet after a long 12+ hours at work, I found myself writing after work. And writing and writing and writing.

Side note, speaking of writing, that Creative WRITING class I took via Gotham=complete crap. Nice teacher, but boy does the class NOT AT ALL follow the description. The class should have been called Creative Reading and Discussion of that Reading and Listen to the Teacher Talk and Talk and Talk and TALK About Movies and Everything Else He Finds Interesting Especially His Own Writing. I’m just sayin’.

So, re: my job, of course the plan has never been to work there forever, although I truly had no idea how dissatisfied I was with it until last weekend. So what am I doing about this? I don’t know. It’s not like I have any plans to leave or look for another job. It’s just where I am right now, and I’m acknowledging it. If anything, it is catapulting me into more “outside of work” work that fulfills me.

And, re: Integrity…what is also so interesting is the synchronicity of The Artist’s Way work, this week’s work in particular, and how I am looking and listening and stepping into and owning the integrity of my own voice around a situation with my family. Examining this fine line of being open and having compassion and willing to give, yet also not crossing the line of it being at one’s own expense, at the expense of one’s own mental and emotional health and wellbeing. Because if you aren’t taking care of yourself first and foremost, you’re *not* listening to what is True, and you’re not really good to anyone else anyway. The PLUS side to this (and which coincides with that god-awful creative “writing” class) is that there is a nudge (and also from Jeff W) to perhaps starting writing some sort of memoir(s)/personal essay(s)/one-woman piece(s) around my experiences. Letting that simmer for now, but ideas are boiling.

Hardest news for last. My sweet almost-17 Lucy girl (who has been treated for CRF since last May, (and very successfully so) became blind this week. I don’t care how many cats you have known in your lifetime, you have never met anyone else like her. She is almost human. She might actually be human. Emotional, smart, (manipulative, haha!), demanding, beautiful perfect little creature. And so to watch something so innocent and that loves you so totally unconditionally (and not only because you feed her, although you better feed her when she demands it) suddenly lose her bearings and not really understand what is going on…just completely breaks my heart. I took her to the vet on Tuesday (which, you know, she LOVED), and her CRF numbers are up, although not terribly so; and so we are on a new regimen with her fluids. She was very depressed all day Tuesday, but has been more active and upbeat since then. The vet says cats adapt very well to blindness and that it is harder on us humans than it is on them…which I am sure is true. Does that make me feel any better? Usually I embrace change. Sometimes, though, I hate it.

Despite the up-and-down-ness of this post, we (Jack and I) are in a very good spot. It feels a bit like the storm before the calm before the storm of getting ready to settle into the next big thing. We are focused and ready and grounded.

Listening.

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Riding home on the 6 and then L trains from work tonight, I finished up my latest read, “Writing Down the Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg. While reading the very last pages of the afterward (which is in interview format via Tami Simon of “Sounds True”), I was so wholeheartedly moved that I was oh so nearly brought to tears right there on the train (can you say, “awkward”?).

The excerpt is below, but what I also want to say first is that I love how she says (via her own personal “guru,” Katagiri Roshi), whatever it is that you love, that you want to be doing more than anything, make THAT your practice. In fact, not just make it, but that IS your practice. For her it is writing. For me that would be acting, for another it might be math, painting, building, cooking, etc. THAT is the (spiritual, no religion necessarily needed) practice of your life.

What she says below also reminds me of the late great Mystic of the Theatre, Elenora Duse, who said that the point of it all was to forget the self. To me that does not mean to discard the Great Self that is within you, that is pushing and pulling you in all ways to become and express and be all that you are to be, your whole reason for being. It means in the pursuing of your (own personal) practice, forget that small self, that objects, throws a tantrum and a fight, says you can’t, you’re not good enough, talented enough, IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSSIBLE IMPOSSIBLE. Because the truth of it is that’s really none of your business. So look at yourself squarely, tell the truth about what your joy is, release “control” of any needed outcome to it and just get busy “practicing.”

Excerpt from the afterward of “Writing Down the Bones,” by Natalie Goldberg:

“Q: What does “Don’t be tossed away” mean?

A: Don’t be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something–(example)”I really want to be a writer”–then that little voice comes along, “but I might not make enough money as a writer.” “Oh, okay, then I won’t write.” That’s being tossed away. These little voices are constantly going to be nagging us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don’t be tossed away. But part of not being tossed away is understanding your own mind, not believing it so much when it comes up with all these objections and then loads you with all these insecurities and reasons not to do something.

As I got closer to finishing this book, I had tremendous fear both of failure and success. I stopped working on “Bones” for almost six months and became a baker at a restaurant…..One day during a break I took a walk…and I fell down sobbing, and I said, “Nat, you have to do it for Katagiri(her “guru” mentioned earlier in the book), forget about yourself.” And that gave me the drive to do it. In my mind I grabbed on to Katagiri and told myself, “I’m doing it for him.” I have as much insecurity as anybody else, but I don’t pay attention to myself so much when I’m in the process of doing something that I really want. I don’t think, “Natalie, do you want it? Don’t you want it?” Because that fear of success and failure stops me. If I think of myself, I get caught in myself, like everyone else. First my insecurities, then my overblown idea of myself. I swing from one extreme to the other. But if I forget myself, then I can do it. Don’t be thrown off by yourself or anyone else. Let your big mind move forward.

At the time I was writing this book, I felt this tremendous love for Katagiri Roshi. When I say love, I mean beyond anything I’d ever felt. And maybe I needed to share that with readers. But that great love was something bigger than good or bad. He had pulled true Natalie out of me. So, big Natalie wanted to do it for big Katagiri. And now what I understand is that big Natalie and big Katagiri were never separate. But that’s not psychological. That’s the truth.

The great freedom for me came when I understood that we were never separate and that I was him and he was me. That huge love helped me not to be tossed away. In completing this book, I felt a willingness to step up to the plate. It was my time to stop clinging to myself, to take deeper vows. To take on this writing life, and the practice was for me to realize that I was capable of what I was capable of.”

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