Unnecessary limits

Overheard on a flight from L.A. to Chicago, an exchange between a young mom and dad and their very young son who sat between them:

Mom (to dad): It’s late. I’m going to get him into his pajamas.
Dad: He can put on his own pajamas. He’s a big boy.
Son: I can put on my own pajamas. I’m a big boy.

(Pause)

Son: I can put on my own pajamas. I’m a Jedi.

It was mid-August when John came home and announced that he’d found the perfect spot for The Well Within Workshop, a storefront in an old building in downtown Batavia, a city 6 miles west of our home. Though the structure “needed a little work,” he proposed that we buy the building.

But we’re not “buy-the-building” type of people was my first thought, and a curious one at that. After all, what constitutes a “buy-the-building” type of person?

I’m not sure The Well Within Workshop needs 1500-square-feet came soon thereafter. What was I thinking? If I was to allow my vision for the workshop to be as big as it needed to be, with working studio space and a reading library and utility sinks and a lounge area, wouldn’t it need every inch of 1500-square-feet?

The trifecta of no came during our walk through the building. Despite its beautiful bones and 116-year-long history, it became undeniably clear that nothing short of a complete top-to-basement overhaul would save this place.

As I turn to my husband to ask him whether he’d gone out of his mind, he turns to me and he’s radiant. Beaming from ear-to-ear, he declares, “Isn’t it great?!!”

.     .     .

Creativity is great. Whether it’s a renovation project, a painting, a sculpture or a workshop, you dive headlong into the deep unknown, having no idea what you’re getting into or how it’s all going to unfold. You come up against your edges and your limits again and again. Yet in spite of the cacophony of resistance that’s urging you to stop, you don’t.

My own next edge comes on August 28 when I present to the Batavia City Council The Well Within Workshop as a creative space where, using simple materials and simple strategies, folks can come home to themselves by learning to tap their own well within. I’ll underscore the proven health and well-being benefits available to anyone who learns how to invoke that force built into all of us through millions of years of evolution, a force that allows us to discover our most essential selves, to be healthier, whole human beings in mind, body, and spirit.

May the force be with you.

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Favorable conditions

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There was a wonderful old man up in Woodstock, NY, who had a piece of property with these little chicken coop places he would rent out for twenty dollars a year or so to any young person he thought might have a future in the arts. There was no running water, only here and there a well and a pump. He declared he wouldn’t install running water because he didn’t like the class of people it attracted. That is where I did most of my basic reading and work. It was great. I was following my bliss.

~ Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

This primal threshold

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We are always on a journey from darkness into light. At first, we are children of the darkness. Your body and your face were formed first in the kind darkness of your mother’s womb. Your birth was a first journey from darkness into light. All your life, your mind lives within the darkness of your body. Every thought that you have is a flint moment, a spark of light from your inner darkness. The miracle of thought is its presence in the night side of your soul; the brilliance of thought is born in darkness. Each day is a journey. We come out of the night into the day. All creativity awakens at this primal threshold where light and darkness test and bless each other. You only discover balance in your life when you learn to trust the flow of this ancient rhythm.   ~John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

Keeping company with the possible

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Wishing you a year ahead that brings opportunities for taking quiet delight in the presence of your own company. May you notice inklings of interest and curiosity that could only spring from the heart of your own interiority and may you find the wherewithal to follow them. May you feel sufficiently rewarded by this process to repeat it over and over and, in so doing, may you find that you’ve once again stumbled upon the sustaining force, the inoculating force, for living a creative life, an authentic life, one that’s rooted in the wellspring of immense resources that reside, and will always reside, within you.

The Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue, who died just two days after his 52nd birthday, on January 4, 2008, wrote this poem for his mother on the occasion of his father’s death. I offer it here, for whatever the year ahead may hold.

Beannacht 

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green,
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.

 

Wild heart

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Closing paragraph from Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone:

I’ll leave you with this. There will be times when standing alone feels too hard, too scary, and we’ll doubt our ability to make our way through the uncertainty. Someone, somewhere, will say, “Don’t do it. You don’t have what it takes to survive the wilderness.” This is when you reach deep into your wild heart and remind yourself, “I am the wilderness.”

Get out now

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GET OUT NOW. Not just outside, but beyond the trap of the programmed electronic age so gently closing around so many people. Go outside, move deliberately, then relax, slow down, look around. Do not jog. Do not run. Instead, pay attention to everything that abuts the rural road, the city street, the suburban boulevard. Walk. Stroll. Saunter. Ride a bike, and coast along a lot. Explore. Abandon, even momentarily, the sleek modern technology that consumes so much time and money now. Go outside and walk a bit, long enough to forget programming, long enough to take in and record new surroundings. Flex the mind, a little at first, then a lot. Savor something special. Enjoy the best-kept secret around–the ordinary, everyday landscape that rewards any explorer, that touches any explorer with magic…all of it is free for the taking, for the taking in. Take it. Take it in, take in more every weekend, every day, and quickly it becomes the theater that intrigues, relaxes, fascinates, seduces, and above all expands any mind focused on it. Outside lies utterly ordinary space open to any casual explorer willing to find the extraordinary. Outside lies unprogrammed awareness that at times becomes directed serendipity. Outside lies magic.”  ~ John Stilgoe, Outside Lies Magic

Thanks, Austin, for this one.

Bright Field

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I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ in Later Poems 1972-1982
by R.S. Thomas

Note: This poem was the June 16 entry in Almanac for the Soul: Anthology of Hope by Marv and Nancy Hiles. I so appreciate the generosity embedded in this self-published collection of life-giving poems and passages, providing my mornings for almost 10 years now with an anchor, a beacon and a beckoning for deeper reflection.