Category Archives: Effort

Effort: Sinking into Stone

Stone Stairs

Blogging’s greatest gift for me has not been the writing but the reading of others’ stories.   I’ve encountered accounts of self-initiated healing. Posted triumphs.  Shared adventures and simple pleasures.  Creative works.  Acknowledged struggles. Inspirations.  And an overall willingness to live with transfiguring gusto physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

I figure each read post represents countless undocumented efforts to live Well. Generously. With Courage.  For the Good.   This heartens me, especially given the many planetary challenges unfolding, so often beyond our individual influence.

On this month’s warmer winter evenings I’ve been venturing outside at dusk or in night’s fullness.  Wool hat.  Enveloping scarf.   Sweater. Jacket.   And I’ve been resting back on the steps connecting my porch with the leaf-strewn drive.  The limestone’s curves and protrusions somehow perfectly placed to comfortably accommodating my hips, back, shoulders, neck, head.

 

Winter Trees

It’s peaceful to sink into these stones.  To feel their solidness.  To relax my gaze into the trees and the emerging stars.   To remember and thank all those who continue to strive and share their stories amidst the chaos of our times.

 

 

Effort: Lifted by Angel Wing Begonias

begonia

Suddenly the angel wing begonias have bloomed.  Or perhaps I, touched by a bit of pre-Winter Solstice sunlight depletion, have suddenly noticed their unapologetic vigor filling my living room.

I took this noticing as a hopeful sign.  A sign that despite the fact I have been somewhat struggling with push ups, sit ups, meditating, organization, and general emotional buoyancy, part of me still remembers vitality.

Fitness (physical, emotional, mental spiritual) isn’t won or lost in a day or even a short string of days.   Consistent effort establishes skill, steadfastness, and strength.  It also builds memory.   Memory of physical wellness, emotional loveliness, mental clarity and luminous intuition.

In periods of stress or fragility, this memory serves as salvaging, go-to patterning.   Reliable.  Trusted.  It can be evoked through consciously choosing proximity to and engagement with the positive (people, places, projects). And also through unexpected encounters  . . . .such as that with winter’s blossoming begonias.

 

 

 

 

Effort: Leaping into a Spontaneous Schedule

leaves

I returned home from a playful, leaf-tromping, freezing-rain-touched Thanksgiving Holiday eager to begin writing my second short story in an intended series of 14.

I’ve long wished my writing schedule would be as steady and rhythmic as the seasonal progression.  I believe Life responds to regular effort, cheers on creative risks, and supports steady devotion to the Heart’s expressive passions.   But I’ve never been able to stick to a strict writing schedule whether morning or evening.  Minutes or hours. Weekday or weekend.

I’ve given up tracking down the root of this regularity struggle.  Instead I’m switching to what I call a Spontaneous Schedule.  I’ve successfully applied this approach in upping my karate practice, so why not try it with writing?

The schedule:   An hour per day.  The spontaneity:   when inspiration and possibility coincide.   The former solidifies my commitment, builds momentum and zaps inertia.  The  latter accommodates employment demands, respects other commitments and moves with my varying need for rest, all while stoking creative alertness and a playful spirit.

I’ve written a continuous 60 minutes one day.  And  then a 20/40 split the next.  30/30.  Back to 60.  Whatever the scheduled spontaneity convergence produces. Additional boosts leap in here and there:  mulling over character motivations while squeezing toothpaste onto the brush; scratching down ideas on a sticky note during a lunch break.

Word by word.  Paragraph by paragraph.  The story is emerging.  And I’m enjoying the effort.

How do you approach your creative projects?    Balance schedule and spontaneity?   Experience the qualitative process and creativity you desire?

 

 

 

 

Effort: Let Memory Rule

crocus 2Last week I joined the core circle of the Heart of Many Ways.   This was a risk for me.  Memories of spiritual community dysfunction, in other words memories of my former life, threw up warnings on all sides.  In truth I’m not quite finished unraveling the lingering knots of misused power and my own naivete.

Yet the beautiful potential of meaningful, cooperative creativity persists in my heart, like a bulb waiting for the opportune rain, sunlight and warmth of springs.   I can’t uproot it.  Nor do I want to.

The Heart of Many Ways’ mission of maintaining a shared physical home for people of all faiths and spiritual paths strikes a worthy note.  Yet it is the active commitment to consensus decision-making that actually precipitated my decision to accept the invitation to participate.  An invitation in my mind to learn and to contribute.

Experience has ingrained in me a few requirements for collective blossoming and thriving.  The application of relational skills that build understanding, along with processes (such as consensus decision making) which nurture group and individual creative power are two.  At the root of these outer practices must stand spiritual memory, an abiding, active remembrance of Heart-fullness and Communion.  Many faiths, many ways, lead to the reclamation and flowering of this Memory. The challenge is to make it so.

In your experience what is essential for cooperative endeavors in the family, community or otherwise?

Effort: Spiritual Amnesia? Remember the Heart.

Saturday I went to the city, something I haven’t done since the autumn of 2014, a long hiatus even for me. The purpose of my journey was to post advertisements for a locally-sourced theater performance engineered by some friends in the spirit of One Billion Rising and ending violence against women.

The hour drive from my rural Carroll County road to Highway 71 Business and Fayetteville’s well-appointed shops and bustling university offers time to transition from one habitat and rhythm to another. Even so, right off the bat, after parking my dirt-dusted car, I missed a crosswalk signal and a curb and nearly stumbled in front of a turning Subaru.pig 2

Eventually, however, I shifted into the urban cadence. I slipped through crowded doorways into aromatic, narrow coffee shops like Common Ground. I taped and pinned posters with the help of delightfully helpful college students, chuckled at the bounding razorbacks on random street corners, and studied the collective movement of traffic and shoppers while sipping an 8.45 ounce bottle of Pellegrino, a treat that can’t be found in that perfect size at home.

But after a few hours, the noise and bustle began to grate. I was out of posters and out of synch.

Getting out of synch with the Heart happens, too. Some people call it “spiritual amnesia.” It’s easy to stumble into, even easier than stumbling on an unfamiliar street. After all, modern society brims with stressors and rabbit-hole distractions.

I’m definitely not equating my visit to the city or urban-living itself with being out of step with the Heart.   I admire people who can dive into metropolitan life and thrive, spiritually and otherwise. Maybe you’re one of these hearty folks.

Urban or rural, alertness to being out of rhythm with the Heart is essential. So is learning what this dissonance has to offer and knowing when and how to get back home: home to the Heart’s beat – its power, clear aims, creative passion and nurturing love.

Effort: Honoring Earth Memories

grassesThis land remembers. The limestone, the White River, the patient hillsides rising from historic Blue Spring remember the feet and spirit of the Cherokee people who passed through this territory on the forced march from Georgia in 1839.

I felt these energy memories the first weekend I arrived to live on quiet Blue Spring Road.   Radiant. Palpable. Ripe with Suffering. Rich with a people’s inherent Dignity.   It was just a matter of touching the Earth and listening with Heart.

This morning I sat in the drizzle on the roadside, watching the next round of sleet and snow approach from the West.   Another cold, grey day, yet the surrounding umber grasses glowed visually warm, fire keepers of last Autumn’s sun.   I thought of the Cherokee and the many other Native and early European people who sought healing and peace at Blue Spring. I recalled, as I do each day in meditation, contemporary friends striving to live authentically with a spirit service and meaningful action.

Do they make a difference?   These acknowledgments and remembrances?   I can’t say for sure. But my experience here, on this stretch of hallowed ground indelibly touched by the Trail of Tears, tells me that the fortitude of the Human Heart is our fire to keep, to tend.   Through remembering. In honoring. Through acknowledgment. In our effort to live and walk with dignity upon the Earth.

Effort: Action’s Sweet Messiness

plate 5A stone’s throw from the turn into my narrow dirt driveway, a hand-painted sign announces the presence of Paradise Pottery with the following down-to-earth description:  Real Pots. For Real People.  Made in a Real Place.     https://www.facebook.com/paradisepottery.

When I first arrived at my new home with exactly one ceramic cup, a matching cookie plate, and a graceful soup bowl to fill my kitchen cupboards, I didn’t wait long to visit Jim Wallace, the Paradise Pottery potter and proprietor, and his wife Shannon.  We sorted through bowls, compared nuances in glazes and studied variations in the spirals swirling through a collection of plates that had caught my eye.

No two pieces appeared exactly the same.  As I held up two paired but not identical mugs, it did not escape me that I was touching art crafted with perfect imperfection by human hands through a messy, wet, fiery process, and that I was doing so less then 45 miles from WalMart headquarters, a standardized world away in Bentonville, Arkansas.  How refreshing that was!  Almost rebellious.

Sometimes I find that our increasingly virtual, ideological, mistake-phobic, homogenized culture squeezes authentic action and its creative chaos to the fringes. Yet, the willingness and daring to physically act in accordance with the Heart’s aims is what births dreams and materializes our inherent gifts and passion-fueled inspirations.

This month I’ve been gathering courage and clarity to act on three heart-appealing invitations, which have come my way. One is a local community project called the Heart of Many Ways; another is joining with my business partners to transfigure our technology services and delivery.   Today I stand on the edge of action, a relatively safe and tidy place. Come March 2nd, I’ll be in the thick of it . . . in the thick of testing and stretching my creative and relational capacity. In the sweet messiness of exposing my skill gaps, finding solutions with others, and creating new products and authentic experiences that will hopefully benefit real people, in real places.

What potential actions are on your Heart’s plate?

Effort: Forgiveness Liberates

winter jasmineIn the late summer of 2014, as my old spiritual community life and relationships feel apart, I swung in and out of grief and bitterness.   The grief I welcomed as natural.  The bitterness troubled me.  It sapped my passion for life and for giving.   During that period I had taken to practicing karate katas under the stars, as a way of centering my energy and calming my nerves.  One night, as I felt the bitterness temporarily dissipate, my attention caught on the kata closing phrase:  “I ask for forgiveness.”   In that moment, I knew that forgiveness was my next step forward.  I just didn’t know in what way or how to begin.

When I returned to my room, I googled “Desmond Tutu Forgiveness”, as I recalled the archbishop’s revolutionary truth, reconciliation and forgiveness work in South Africa.  What I discovered was the 30 Day Forgiveness Challenge. https://www.forgivenesschallenge.com/#

When I began the challenge (which took me more than 30 days to complete), I had no idea how emotionally difficult, liberating and beautiful it would be. I learned that forgiveness isn’t about white washing or denying deep wounds.  Forgiveness supports honesty.  It reclaims stolen beauty and innocence.   Forgiveness frees energy to live more gracefully with the past and passionately with present Heart aims.

These days, as Winter Jasmine flashes her sunny color in my woodland garden, while spring whispers faintly and erratically on the Ozark Winds, my bitterness has faded.  My life is sprouting new opportunities for giving and cooperatively creating.  I feel emotionally fit and ready to give them my all.

I still have limited interactions with and news of individuals in my former life which occasionally frustrate me.   But like the confident Winter Jasmine, the training I received in the 30 Day Challenge eventually rises vibrantly within the chaos.  And then the choice is mine: to recommit to emotional fitness.  To be compassionate, healthy, enthusiastic and free.

What is your experience with Forgiveness?

Effort: Get Your Head into the Heart’s Game

angel 1“I can’t help you if you don’t have your head in the game.” That was the message my karate teacher gave to a fellow student last week.

I knew what he was talking about. The mind can be a powerful ally or a distracting foe.  When I first moved into my woodland house in November, my thoughts were pocked with worry. My mind was exhausted from intense months of navigating unfriendly seas. Yet, except when I was formally meditating, I couldn’t get my thoughts to rest or release into rejuvenating creativity. The judgments and defensive strategizing just kept on coming.

At that point my mind definitely wasn’t fit for contemplating let alone pursuing my highest Heart aims.   Sacred motivations need a mind that discerns healthy boundaries, but doesn’t degrade with criticism. A joyful mind that sees with compassionate clarity, unafraid of unhealed wounds, personal and planetary. A curious mind that is open to elegant solutions, rather than replaying outworn scenarios. An innocent, playful mind that revels in figuring out how to fulfill the Heart’s desire.

Some say that the mind is like a monkey, swinging and chattering from here to there. I prefer to think of the mind as being like many of the three and four year olds that come into my shop with their parents.   Energized and creative, these kids need something to engage them. For that reason when we expanded our technology business into a new storefront several years ago, one of our top priorities was to create a kids play table.

Directing my mind to beauty is like taking a child to play at the kids’ table. It lifts my thoughts into the creative vibration of my Heart aims (and keeps me out of trouble).   Clarity, discernment, joy, and possibility become my allies. That changes everything.   Relationship questions and everyday circumstances become manageable. Energy is available for the projects and people I care about most.

I’ve relied on touchstones to train my mind away from preoccupation and into the Heart’s service these past many weeks.   Symbols, a song, a scent, a  pleasing object (such as the angel poised outside my kitchen window) aid through their beauty.  Their elegant harmony reveals, via contrast, draining thoughts and draws the mind back into the Heart’s game where it belongs.

How do you keep your mind primed for your cherished aims and Heart motivations?