The awakening

Created in beauty and secretly sustained all the while by beauty, you surrender now to ultimate awakening.*
(John O’Donohue)

Oh no!

I didn’t set the alarm on my fitbit.

I was trying to get back to sleep, lingering in bed because I thought it was five, but it had gone seven and I needed to be up at six.

When I discovered this, I was fully awake.

There’s an equivalent here with beauty.

For a start, none of know know quite what we’re capable of: unexplored continents of possibility.

We’re waiting for an alarm to go off, for something to happen that will be significant, life-transcending, and all the time we could have been up to the adventure of exploring more beauty.

The reason we’re really positioned is because we are who we are.

*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

Before the sound, the silence

The pot, the poem, the lesson – the universe speaks in forms that tell us of our own.  A vast theatre whose architecture, whose movement and sound, whose episodes have us billed in cosmic roles, speaking lines we cannot memorise for we know them for the first time consciously only when we utter them, developing character and destiny amid what scenery.*
(M. C. Richards)

There is so much to be learned of Divine Beauty from the silence of God.**
(John O’Donohue)

May there be some thin silence in your day.

*From M. C. Richards’ Centering;
**From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty.

Filling squares

I would rather wonder than know. It makes it more and more difficult to be alive on earth in these times, when your inclination is to wonder rather than to know. … I think wondering is a way of inhabiting and lingering. There seems to be more dwelling. To dwell, inhabit, and linger. I’m interested in those things. And you can do that when you don’t know. … I would rather inhabit the question, or dwell. For me, that is the place I want to live in.*
(Mary Ruefle)

Here’s something you may like to try this weekend … or do a little each day through the week.

Take an A4 sheet of plain paper and divide it into square. I’ve darkened my incomplete doodle here so you can see the pencil and how you don’t have to do this with a ruler.

The temptation is to draw a picture on a big sheet of paper and that can be intimidating. The idea here is to get abstract and work small. So take a square at a time and fill it in with abstract shapes from the visual alphabet. Jump around a little, rather than starting in the top left corner, and when sales touch “stitch” them together with some more abstract shapes.

As I mentioned, you can this is one last a week, setting it out and taking a few minutes here and there to dawdle and chill, or as it says – I like the Mary Ruefle quote a lot – dwell, inhabit, linger.

*Mary Ruefle, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: To wonder rather than know.

Wonderful you

I would rather wonder than know. It makes it more and more difficult to be alive on earth in these times, when your inclination is to wonder rather than to know. … I think wondering is a way of inhabiting and lingering. There seems to be more dwelling. To dwell, inhabit, and linger. I’m interested in those things. And you can do that when you don’t know. … I would rather inhabit the question, or dwell. For me, that is the place I want to live in.*
(Mary Ruefle)

Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”**
(Jesus of Nazareth)

To understand or to wonder?

I choose the flexibility of wonder rather than the rigidity of understanding:

We do not need understanding, we do not want understanding, we want to love. Understanding already separates the observer from the observed. It is faintly condescending, faintly superior.^

It is not that I do not want to understand and to understand as much as possible, it is that I want my wondering always to outmeasure it.

Jesus’ words are a blessing for prosperity, for more: bless yourself by dwelling, inhabiting, lingering in wonder and then bless others through more dwelling, inhabiting and lingering.

Indeed wonder is how we dwell, inhabit and linger.

*Mary Ruefle, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: To wonder rather than know;
**Luke 10:5;
^From M. C. Richards’ Centering.

Let’s open up the borders of potential

[W]e do not win our depth and our inner form and our texture and our truth of being without the fire. Ordeal by fire. There is not substitute for transformation of the body.*
(M. C. Richards)

Read, look into other areas, use different learning mediums, ask better questions, reflect, be open to ideas, be surrounded by learners, and prioritise learning.**
(Michael Heppell)

So you’re saying that the best place to begin is by looking inside of myself, to see who I am and what I have, which is more than I know and more than enough?

Yes.

But you’re also saying, I need to be open to more and more of more, learn every day, meet new people, try new things, experiment and explore and fail and try again?

Yes.

Okay, just checking.

*From M. C. Richards’ Centering;
**From Michael Heppell’s The Edge.

Learning myself bigger

I am bigger than this. And may I be helped to grow to my full size.*
(M. C. Richards)

Each year, Rohit Bhargava compiles a list of non-obvious trends.

For 2019 he includes what he carefully describes as the trend of extreme uncluttering.

This not only includes possessions, but also venues and experiences, digital distractions and brands.

On the one hand, he encourages me to tidy up the bedroom cum study I use for working in and I will engage in some uncluttering today.

Before I get to the other hand, I was also reading M. C. Richards remark with which we begin, this emerging from a conversation she has with a four year old. She continues:

a good teacher is taught by his students. For he is not to teach them merely what he knows but to help to bring to maturity what is already in them. It takes, of course a very good ear, to hear what is present in a child, or an adult.*

So, on the other hand, the question presented itself, while I could do with clearing out things that fill my study, would I clear out any of the things I have learnt over all the years?

I don’t think so, for one way or another they are the very things that have grown me bigger, and I don’t know how big I can grow.

The same is true for you.

Richards names some critical superpowers we are all capable of developing and possessing:

I am not concerned with what we like. I am concerned with our power to grasp, to comprehend, to penetrate, and to embrace.*

I also happened to be reading Maria Popova’s post this morning on Derek Jarman’s retreat from London to a seaside home and garden, a place he came to terms with AIDs, reconnecting with one of the most important urges towards noticing – without which it is difficult to learn:

I have re-discovered my boredom here… where I can fight “what next” with nothing.**

Popova reflects on Jarman’s discovery of boredom:

His boredom, like all of our boredom, becomes a laboratory for presence — a nursery in which to grow the capacity for paying attention, a studio in which to master the vital art of noticing, out of which our contact with beauty and gladness arises — the wellspring of all that makes life livable.^

I feel as if I have come upon some important uncluttering: of busyness and rush, of noise and distraction, of avoidance and denial, of answers and the final word, but not of everything I have learnt.

May you keep learning bigger.

*From M. C. Richards’ Centering;
**Derek Jarman, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Growing Through Grief: Derek Jarman on Gardening as Creative Redemption, Consecration of Time, and Training Ground for Presence;
^From Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings: Growing Through Grief: Derek Jarman on Gardening as Creative Redemption, Consecration of Time, and Training Ground for Presence.

The stylistic cave

I think copying someone’s work is the fastest way to learn certain things about drawing and line.  It’s funny how there is such a taboo against it. I learned everything from just copying other people’s work.*
(Lynda Barry)

True worth for such a person inheres in the creative spirit, and the objects of the world move accordingly, not to see other illusory value.**
(Lewis Hyde)

This article in Futurity encourages leaders to spend time reflecting at the beginning of the day on the kind of leader they want to be, if they want to be more effective.

You don’t have to be a leader to benefit from this practice.

Whatever we do, we can spend time the beginning of your day pondering and playing with how others have done similar things to what we want to do, imagining ways to innovate, and then to use the day to make something original.

We might call it our stylistic cave where we listen to others and come to hone your own voice:

Ars tua vocem tuam: your voice is your art.

*Lynda Barry, quoted in Austin Kleon’s blog: Copying is how we learn;
**From Lewis Hyde’s The Gift;
^A term borrowed from George Saunders: Austin Kleon’s blog: Getting out from under the influence.

Improving our maps

We have to have some way of giving priority to different potentials within us. This is where a sense of self and self-identity come in.*
(Paul Gilbert)

If we find our story isn’t helping us, if it’s inaccurate or distracting or enervating, we can work to change it.**
(Seth Godin)

Personal stories are like maps.

Maps are not the real thing, but they help us record and navigate what is real.

The wise person, then, continually update their maps, which is to say, they work on their stories.

They know it’s foolish to deny their encounters with reality and instead hold firmly to their maps as they are; they know the resulting experiences can be painful.

The wise open their minds whilst the foolish close theirs.

They open their hearts rather than close and secure them.

They open their willingness to act, to grow rather than become fixed.

Every day’s a map-making day.

*From Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind;
**From Seth Godin’s blog: Inventing narratives.

Colourlines

The idea of playing with coloured inks came in a conversation with my friend Jeroen.

I think there’s more fun to be had with a dipping pen and ink pots.

Next time, though, I’ll finish with yellow rather than beginning with it.

Wanderdoodle

Here’s something you might like to to try out that combines wandering and doodling.

Take a slow walk around where you live. Enjoy the day, the temperature, breeze, scents: simply be aware.

As you go, look for a tree (or a plant) you don’t recognise.

Take some pictures, make a few notes – height, distinguishing features, etc.

Bring all of this home and go online (in the UK, the Woodland Trust is a good place to go) to identify the tree and find out more about it.

Make an information card with a doodle and facts you find interesting and intriguing: perhaps attach it to the tree for others to find and read.

Keri Smith’s The Wander Society is a wonderful place to start exploring wandering, and you can find out more about the Wander Society here.