Heart treasure

“Connais-toi pour t’ameliorer” (“Know yourself to improve yourself”).*
Alain de Botton

When you get past making labels for things, it is possible to combine and transform elements into new things. Look at things until their import, identity, name, use, and description have dissolved.**
Corita Kent

We give up on our potential long before it gives up on us.

Let us fill our hearts with good and hopeful and generous words from many places and many people every day.

May we wrap these in a daily practice of our own invention and be open to see what emerges in thousands of new actions and words.

What if we made this our exploration for the upcoming new year?

*From Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists;
**From Corita Kent and Jan Steward’s Learning by Heart.

But I want a lightening bolt

good art is the sensuous presentation of those ideas which matter most to the proper functioning of our souls – and yet which we are most inclined to forget, event though they are the basis for our capacity for contentment and virtue*
Alain de Botton

Though so much else is in motion in the mind and the senses the hidden heart never loses sight of us. If we can ever feel lost or overwhelmed, all we have to do is become still and listen ins to our heart and we will soon find exactly where we are.**
John O’Donohue

There’s a story about the Older Testament prophet Elijah, who, having lost direction and forgetting what he had to do, wanders his way to the mountain of God and hides in a cave.

God finds Elijah there and promises to be present to the struggling messenger.

There ensues an earthquake, storm-wind, and fire, but he doesn’t recognise God in any of these.

Then follows a sheer, or thin, silence and when the prophet exits the cave there’s God waiting to recommission him.

We all lose our way, but when we’re tempted to want something dramatic to find our bearings and what it is we must do, the best way is to remember to fall into silence so that we might hear the beating of our own heart.

It is about discovering and living all that we are intended to be, with awe and wonder.^

*From Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists;
**From John O’Donohue’s Benedictus;

^From Sunil Raheja’s Dancing with Wisdom.

Finding faith

When you lead without compensation, sacrifice without guarantees, when you take risks because you believe, then you are demonstrating your faith in the tribe and its mission.*
Seth Godin

All you have is what you are and what you give.**

You are enough.

Attach this to faith and you will begin.

I’m saying this to myself, but you’re welcome to borrow it.

*From Seth Godin’s Tribes;
**Ursula Le Guin’s character Shevek, quoted in Maria Popova’s The Marginalian: Ursula K. Le Guin on Suffering and Getting to the Other Side of Pain.

Open for wonder


Awe is the feeling we have when we encounter the monumental or immeasurable. We experience a sudden shrinking of the self, yet a rapid expansion of the soul.*
Nick Cave

When we shift our mindset and open ourselves to the awe of daily life, we may find that opportunities to be wowed are all around us.**
Jonah Paquette

More often than not to be in awe is a choice I make.

Yes, I can wait for something incredible and breathtaking to happen: some natural occurrence or  human encounter, but wonder is all around me, hidden when I rush, get busy  or consume.

Jonah Paquette suggests learning awe-inspiring facts as a place to begin returning to awe: how we live in a galaxy potentially containing 500 million “Goldilocks” planets like our own (plenty of scope for Star Trek’s scriptwriters), and how there are some 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe.

But it’s not only about looking outwards.

I’m fascinated by the wonder to be found in people’s lives and how it is possible to grow ourselves through wonder and awe: the things we are curious about that grow into interests and pursuits, firing our imaginations and leading us into creativity.

I have rewritten the next lines a few times, trying to find the words that connect wonder, art and work together in a way that doesn’t make me sound naïve. 

Rainer Maria Rilke connects art and work, confessing:

I long so impatiently to get to work, to begin my workday, because life can become art only once it has become work.^

Corita Kent understood how we all get to be artists:

The root meaning of the word art is to fit together and we do this every day.^^

That we do not easily see ourselves to be artists with the the possibility of joining wonder and art and work together should not surprise us.  We must first enter into the wonder of just who we are:

One of the most important parts of growing up is to see ourselves as we really are instead of assuming we are what our parents and teachers told us we were.^^

Elsewhere, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi touches upon the way we see and understand ourselves as being critical to how we come to the work we perform:

Whether a job has variety or not ultimately depends on a person’s approach to it than on actual working conditions.*^

There are terrible jobs out there, for sure, but a little like the flight instruction to put your oxygen mask on first, we must open ourselves to the journey that leads us from wonder to creativity.

In leading into the remark, above, Csikszentmihalyi had written:

But originally “amateur,” from the Latine amare, “to love,” referred to a person who loved what he was doing. Similarly, “dilettante,” from the Latin delectare, “to find delight in,” was someone who enjoyed a given activity.*^

Love and delight are the fruit of wonder and awe, capable as we are of turning what we pay attention to into something different with artistry and joy, this beyond job roles, as we define ourselves as alchemistic creatures.  Sunil Raheja says it well when he proffers:

It is about discovering and living all that we are intended to be, with awe and wonder.^*

Austin Kleon offers a place before wonder that we may want to use as a place to begin – awe is a choice we make:

Try sitting in the same place at the same time for the same length of time every day for a month and see if anything happens.⁺

What might we fill this time with: silently gazing, reading, journaling, drawing, walking a familiar path slowly, or some combination of these?

*From Nick Cave’s newsletter: The Red Hand Files: Issue 157;
**Jonah Paquette’s article for the Wise Brain Bulletin:
Mind Bending Awe;
^From Rainer Maria Rilke’s
Letters on Life:
^^From Corita Kent and Jan Steward’s
Learning by Heart;
*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s
^*From Sunil Raheja’s Dancing with Wisdom;
⁺From Austin Kleon’s blog:
On praying, whether you believe or not.

There are no ordinary people*

With the senses, we see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world, drawing its mystery inside us. With the mind, we probe the eternal structures of things. With the face, we present ourselves to the world and we recognise each other. But it is the heart that makes us human. The heart is where the beauty of the human spirit comes alive. Without the heart, the human would be sinister.**
John O’Donohue

Every day we have opportunities for becoming more human.

Our day are filled with the many challenges and encounters that make it possible to explore living with heart. To repeat yesterday is to be in danger of cliché:

Clichés grow in the barren mind of the lazy writer. … Create a story that only you could write.^

Such a personal story takes a lifetime to write and, even then, is unlikely to be unfinished.

Perhaps Cynthia Bourgeault provides us with three practices towards such a tale when she writes:

The “letting go” of kenosis [emptying] is actually closer to “letting be” than it is to any of its “non-” equivalents (nonclinging, nonattachment, nonidentification and so forth); its flow is positive and fundamentally creative. … Abundance surrounds us and sustains us like the air we breathe; it is only or habitual self-protectiveness that prevents us from perceiving it. … To experience abundance is essentially to see from oneness^^

Emptying, abundance and oneness: not holding tightly to the person we were up until yesterday; being open to the pleroma or abundance experienced through all people and things which may bring invitations to live in new directions; and, bringing our mind and heart and will together as one so that we may move in the direction of fullness.

*C. S. Lewis, quoted in Sunil Raheja’s Dancing With Wisdom;
**From John O’Donohue’s Benedictus;
^From Robert McKee‘s newsletter: Why Story Needs Your Unique Vision;
^^From Cynthia Bourgeault’s The Meaning of Mary Magdalene.

What door?

Because it’s not for you. It’s for them. Generosity unlocks doors inside of us.*
Seth Godin

Is the universe a dangerous place of scarcity, or is it a cornucopia of abundance?

It can depend on what’s just happened when you ask me, though my overriding belief is that it’s both and what matters more is my mindset.

Do I choose to have a growth mindset of possibility, or a fixed mindset of limitation?

Which do you choose?

*From Seth Godin’s blog: The lifeguard hack.

Coming home

What is needed is only this: solitude, great inner solitude. Going within and meeting no one else for hours – that is what one must learn to attain.*
Rainer Maria Rilke

There are many things that keep us away from the home that is being our truest selves, from being at home with ourselves.

Busyness, hurriedness, fear of what we will find and what we will not find, things we have done to ourselves, things others have done to us … only begin a long list.

The solitude Rainer Maria Rilke writes about, I imagine to be on the far side of interdependence, which itself lies on the far side of independence.

Whilst being dependent is to have no self, independence is to find a self but may also abandon us to our false self.

Being open to others and to all things is to be attentive to the uniqueness of all, including ourselves, in whom we find our home, and out of which we bring our treasures to others.

*Rainer Maria Rilke quoted in Maria Popova’s The Marginalian: Rilke on the Relationship Between Solitude, Love, Sex, and Creativity.

Imperfect is our truth

All work and life exist within an imperfect space. … Imperfect spaces are your friend. … Imperfect is a superpower if you know how to use it.*
David Wolstencroft

Imperfect is my truth, and when I am prepared to own this then I am able to move in the direction of my hopes and dreams.

I do not have to be perfect, the other person does not have to be perfect, the situation doesn’t have to be perfect, the timing doesn’t have to be perfect:

Life is hard
I am not as special as we think
My life is not about me
I am not in control
I am going to die.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick … begin/keep going.**

*David Wolstencroft, quoted in gapingvoid’s blog: Imperfect is a superpower;
**Or, Check, check, check, check, check … start/keep going.