The Living Room is a project of gathering words and images, music and video, with an intention to offer the nourishment of engaged connection to the natural world, to our bodies, our beings, and the beauty of Earth & Sky, Fire & Water. Make contact in nature in different ways each day. Commune with [the natural world] silently and in … Read more About
“When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgment of the gift you have been given, which is the life … Read more Words as Soul Food
Recently, in the morning, when I first wake, I’ve been resting into the dawn by writing. In these first moments of daylight I find a gentle, quiet, listening – a stillness which feels more available to me in the emerging light than in the full swirl of day.
The cool morning air brings bird songs through the window. The blankets, cozy, feel soft and supple with my body’s warmth. Gratitude for the sweet simple details of this life feels as easy and as free as inhaling and exhaling. What a contrast the ragged end of the day can be, when I collapse into bed beside a tired child – seeking to soothe them into sleep before I too can rest!
Through writing I find myself as a kind companion. I feel accompanied, both emptied out and spacious.
I am thinking of the profound inundation of information that we adults are subject to. The noisy mind that jangles and remembers and worries and plans. Writing empties out the noise, for me. Strangely, writing becomes a pathway to silence and stillness: a method for attending to what is here, now.
What do I want to let go of and what do I want to give myself to? (Parker Palmer)
Life is ephemeral; death a given. The only uncertainties are when and how we will die, and what to do with the time we do have.
The older I get the more I appreciate getting older. I welcome leaving behind the insecurities and self-doubts of my youth, and, especially, letting go the female burden of the pursuit of ‘sexiness’ and the discomforts of the socially-scripted trappings of femininity. I welcome the deeper freedoms and creativity of a self-authored life that, for me, feels increasingly possible with age.
As I grow older, birthdays feel like an invitation for reflection: am I wasting time that I would enjoy spending creatively? Does the way I am choosing to live my life, through my day-to-day behavior, lead to forms of social participation that I feel good about?
And in this I take inspiration from the free play of my children, the unselfconscious honesty of their curiosity and their wildly experimental creative explorations in all directions.
For a long time I felt a pressure to do something with my time. To Make a Contribution. To Make Each SECOND Count. To Live Each Day AS IF It Were The LAST. I feel exhausted just thinking about it.
It seems revolutionary to me now, to simply be: to lay my body on the floor and breathe… and do nothing, or to stand still in the garden and watch the petals of blossoms flutter down from the trees. To be a quiet witness as the light emerges through clouds in the morning sky, and fall deeply in love with the gentle and steady passage of time charted by these small changes in the natural world. Revolutionary to savor the pleasure of lingering inside a hug, or taking the time to feel the layers of cozy pleasure in the telling of a story at bedtime.
To just be seems like breaking an unspoken but powerful taboo of busy-ness.
“Let the beauty we love, be what we do. there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground” (Rumi)
What do I give myself to? Kindness, to myself and others. Creative play. Breath. Stillness. Listening. In the moment improvised expression through dance. Friendship. Motherhood. And eventually the earth. And I’ll start now with this exhalation, resting me into the embrace of gravity.
Recently I learned about a family member’s terminal cancer diagnosis. In the days since I have been thinking about death and change and how I respond when these threads surface in my life. It’s a given that things will change, from moment to moment and across the expanse of days, weeks, years. I am considering impermanence as an inquiry: how do I actually organize around the reality of change as a given in my life?
How doI organize around change? Sometimes with a sense of relief and celebration, rushing in to embrace the change as it unfolds. Other times, I meet change reluctantly, with sorrow, frustration, fear, or outright denial and avoidance. It can seem attractive to me to end what I experience as painful, tedious, or frightening, and to prolong what I name pleasurable, exciting, or comforting. And in that rushing in, what am I fleeing? In that prolonging of pleasure, what am I avoiding? And what do I miss in all this rushing and prolonging, this fleeing and avoiding?
Impermanence, the reality that all things will change, end and reconfigure, offers a range of challenges. A loved one approaches their dying and we are faced with inhabiting life without their presence. We are faced with the reality of our own eventual leaving. Our children growing taller and the wrinkles forming on our faces are a daily reminder of time passing, possibilities changing, partings, and our own certain death.
So I’m wondering, in the turbulence of change, what is it that actually can offer constancy, stability? What do we/I turn to for solace? In the midst of groundlessness what can actually help us/me cultivate and replenish a sense of ease? I am interested in exploring these questions.
And I am considering complexity. I am sitting on the cusp of a positive professional change and find myself avoiding the rite of passage that will signify and enable the crossing over. Noticing this I am struck by how even positive change can be scary. There are the changes that may bring a welcome end to one kind of discomfort or frustration but which create a secondary change we might fear. There are times when the known discomfort seems easier to be with than our imaginings and anxieties about the vast unknown. This is when I am inclined to resist change, actively seek to stall or avoid it, in favor of hanging out in the comfortable discomfort. But does this actually serve the cultivation of ease or relaxation?
It seems to me that all changes present, in some way, a small rehearsal for dying, for that larger letting go that is sure to come, and that how I organize around change reflects, in some ways, how I am currently resting with the eventuality of death.
In the midst of all the inner noise I may generate in my frantic dances with change — running from or rejecting change because I am afraid, trying to prolong pleasure and prevent its ending, grasping for change because I believe I can’t stand what is currently happening — what can help me accompany what is actually happening right here and now?
Stillness for one thing – slowing down to notice and be with present moment experience inside me and around me. Tending to my breath, the constant (for now) rhythm of my aliveness. Resting into gravity, into the solidity of the earth below me; noticing the rebound that lifts me up, lets me sit and stand on the earth. Noticing the play of light and shadow.
Yes, the practice of being with what is can help us accompany the rhythms of change in our lives. Rather than seeking to alter the circumstance of the sun setting or rising, I can bring my attention to noticing the changing light and how I am moved. This simple offering of companionship, through the gift attention, and the support of a nourishing, steady breath, is encouraging and crafts ease within groundlessness.
What I notice is that when I am curious about what is happening for me in the midst of change, my curiosity can be a doorway into the willingness and the courage I need in order to be able to sit with what is stirred up in me — whether fear or sorrow. Ironically, as I hang out with what is edgy for me I start to relax with it, and what was edgy itself becomes easier to be with. What a wide and deep relief it can be to let go the need to control change.
Impermanence offers us a beautiful, rich challenge. Impermanence challenges us to accompany the natural ebbing of what we love. Impermanence confronts us with the gradual pace of emergence — will we rush towards, run from, attempt to prevent or or accompany the growing?
I choose to accept the challenge of living in the field of impermanence, the challenge of becoming and leaving: to accompany the letting go of the familiar and to approach the unknown as it comes to meet me.
In a process of therapy for life change, the therapeutic hour is one part of the change process. How we practice daily is what builds the changes into a happier, more peaceful, nourished life. Our daily practice of nourishing our lives can take many forms — good food, play, exercise, creative engagement, friendship… to name a few.
How we tend to the needs of our bodies plays a substantial role in how we feel.
When was the last time you allowed your being the time and space to be outside, moving your body, in nature? Do you remember the sensory experience of the external details: feeling the breeze ruffling your hair, the smell of the earth and the trees, the startling beauty of light in the tree’s leaves? We can cultivate communion, connectedness, through deeply experiencing the nourishment offered by the natural world around us. When I notice the beauty and how I am moved by what I experience, then I can feel how I am a part of – rather than apart from – that living world.
Research is pretty clear that moving our bodies, and being outside are good for us. We feel happier, more alive, calmer, less isolated. A regular diet of pleasurable movement in the beauty of the natural world is a wonderful (ie: useful and enjoyable) companion in crafting a happier life.
I am not talking here about a type of exercise to do or a distance to achieve, but of allowing ourselves to nourish our bodies through movement outside, with a playful, curious attention to the natural world.
A key to this adventure: to notice the experience as I am having it (the movement of the breath in my body, the sound of my breath, the coolness of the air on my skin); to feel the sensory impact of what I am witnessing- what touches my heart (the vastness of the sky), what raises my curiosity (that trail branching off to the left), what makes me laugh (the play of the birds) — observing what changes when I allow myself to witness and be moved by the world around me.