We've just returned from a roadtrip to North Carolina + I'm trying to keep that vacation lightness going. We're happy to sleep on our own pillows + to spend less time in the car...but it's also back to work + all the rest.
This morning I have a quote I heard on a podcast on my mind:
The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention,
over + over again,
is the very root of judgement, character + will.
-After reciting this quote, Jer Clifton says it is offered as an invitation! I love that interpretation! He calls this practice "educating the attention".
The necessity of this practice is something many of us have discovered for ourselves. I've been thinking so much lately about how my perspective informs my outlook, feelings + experience. It really is everything. I find it so difficult to lasso + keep my perspective corralled from day to day or even moment to moment. Hearing others validate the need for this practice + also point towards its rewards makes me feel both understood + motivated.
I thought it might be helpful to make a list of what I want to bring my attention back to...and ways that I jumpstart connection to my chosen values + perspective. Maybe you'd like to play along. :)
Here's what I jotted down today:
-My thoughts on simple living...or...
-My simple thoughts on living...or...
-Where to bring my wandering thoughts back to...
I like keeping this list very simple. I don't want to complicate my focus + direction. Each of these words might spark different thoughts in different situations + on different days.
This second list is certainly just the beginning. I want to add to it over time + to keep it somewhere handy + prominent. Bringing my wandering attention back over + over is a practice, and I want it to be as simple as possible to educate my attention.
I've had one of those mornings when I come to what I think will be a lifting conclusion in my journal, and it ends up being another dead end. Over the past few years, I've learned that there is so much I don't know. It has been incredibly unmooring.
I've filled journals with things I don't know...things that I will never know...cannot know...things that perhaps don't matter in the grand scheme of things. The thing is I live in a very small scheme of things too, and things that won't matter in one hundred years do matter to me now.
So, I still haven't untangled my unknowing. I think back over what I've written + wonder...what do I know for sure? Today my offering is this:
-I never regret choosing to love. I may be saddened by how my love is received. Usually there is something to learn from this, but there may be times when the reaction is not entirely my story to carry.
-The mint standing tall in my garden smells amazing. The great imperfection of the rest of the garden does not make this less true.
-Laying flat on my back after a day on my feet feels blissful. Dinner can wait another ten minutes.
-It's incredibly hard work, but I can shape + reshape my perspective. I can have hope without being a dope. I can have joy without being ignorant. I can know that there is, was, and will be pain + sorrow...and I can know that I am doing my best with the best of intentions- when I am.
-Helping remove a tick from a beloved dog feels like an accomplishment. No one getting bitten in the process is a bonus.
-Just because another "I don't know" comes along doesn't mean that there aren't things I know for sure.
Wishing you many knowings of your own today,
Ritual is a delicious concept. It conjures thoughts of centering actions with deep meaning that we can return to over + over again. Rituals have the power to gently turn our attention + transform our perspectives.
I've been enjoying the ritual of dipping into guided journaling each morning, and I'm so happy with this little gem of a tool of late. Rachel Garahan starts out by expanding our gratitude vocabulary and then lays out a simple, yet profound guide to transforming our perspective (+ action) with a weekly practice. This practice goes beyond the familiar gratitude list + offers something deeper. It's a guide for days when it's harder to feel grateful + for taking action in the week ahead.
All I can say is that I ended up purchasing three more copies for my nearest + dearest and since then have thought of a few more people with whom I'd like to share it (including you!). I want to sincerely thank Rachel for creating this beautiful book + for inviting us to "fill not just our own cups, but others' as well, the fountain of gratitude propelling its cycle forward."
noticing the good this week:
wondering if noticing that two things can be true at the same time is an important part of healing...understanding ourselves + each other...
this situation can suck AND i can still experience beauty
i can feel totally beat up AND i can be gentle with myself
people are not always trustworthy AND i can accept love in this moment
there can be things that i really loved about that AND it isn't for me
my confusion + frustration often come from trying to figure out how to hold these two truths at the same time...feeling that one is winning + wanting to live more into the other
sometimes i think it's ok to FEEL the one...knowing i will move toward the other in time...being gentle with myself in the in between
and sometimes it is making the choice to live fully into the better side...even for a moment...or a sunny afternoon...like a tourist in my own hope
what two things are true in this moment?
I have to admit that hope has been harder + harder to find in myself during the past few years. Like many, I have had to come to terms with the recognition that things are not just getting better + better by themselves...that humanity is not on an inevitable, upward trajectory toward equity, love and "good". Climate change, racism, refugees, sexism, alternative facts, capitalistic greed, pandemics, identity discrimination, mass shootings and gun violence all point toward movement away from equity, love and "good". It all feels so extraordinarily heavy. Hope can just feel lost...trampled...decimated...in the weight of it all.
I was naive enough to be surprised by the "All Lives Matter" reaction to "Black Lives Matter". I believed that people would notice that racism is passé as they live further + further outside of it...that we will all come to recognize that love feels better than hate. Embarrassingly naive + privileged, I know.
When a local DJ made the comparison of BLM/ALM to when people say, "save the whales". He said that no one reacts by saying: but what about the sharks. Shark lives matter. I think this comparison breaks down quickly when we realize that sharks can't make signs. It is when people feel that they themselves will feel the effects of "acceptance" of the "other" or "progress"...that the call to love becomes colored by fear...and love becomes negotiable. Fear not only throws a wrench in the upward trajectory, but the weight of it throws the whole thing into reverse.
And yet, when I go searching with all my might for hope, I still believe it can be found in the realization that we are not naturally moving toward better...that we cannot just depend on love always winning in the end...that our better angels won't just naturally prevail.
It is precisely because of this that we can recognize that individuals have to choose love...that they often do choose love...and that a sort of general consensus can follow. The civil rights movement did happen. An elected black man is now an elected party leader in the House of Representatives in this country built by enslaved people.
And maybe this is an even greater hope. A hope that makes effort not only necessary, but fruitful. A hope that has the power to break the chains of fear + bring waves of freedom to love.
Hope may be an inconstant companion...but a visitor worth the effort of inviting again + again.
It's strange all the things that I've run from
are the things that completeness could come from.
Let your life grow strong + sweet to the taste.
I love this song. I remember finding it for the first time...listening to it over + over...tears streaming down my face. I don't play it often, because it has that effect on me. Today, I listened to it again and something different stood out to me. It didn't seem quite so sad this time. It sounded more like...even so, it's worth it. Choose the juicy, sweet life...knowing the risk + all.
I've been stuck in spirals of doubt + uncertainty so often these days...aware of the fact that I'm stuck...sometimes choosing to stay in the quicksand just a little bit longer. I've had a harder + harder time choosing to live into the risk...even as I know that the risky choice is the only one in front of me that offers any possibility of completeness. Not taking the risk sometimes is it's own sort of risk. You know?
I'm not sure this will make sense to anyone else or if anyone else needs this today...but I'm gonna put it here, just in case.
Get out of your head if it says,
"Stay cold and be deathly afraid."
Do not let your spirit wane.
Do not let your spirit wane.
~Gang of Youths
Be gentle with yourself, friend.
I imagine there are a few of us who have tackled simplifying our stuff in one category, but just haven't gotten around to seeing it as an issue in another category. This is a story about one such person.
J had a pretty minimal everyday wardrobe, but had a lot of clothing related to an athletic hobby. J spent a lot of time doing said hobby. J not only spent long hours doing the hobby, but spent much time on related social media, watching others do it competitively, reading about it + talking about it too.
Related to the stuff, J would say things like:
When asked, "How many of this one item do you think you own?" "Oh, maybe 5," J answered.
One day J agreed to grab all of their hobby related clothing from all of the various locations it was stashed around their home + to place it all in one spot. It made an enormous pile. Next J agreed to sort that pile into like items. This seemed to be when the volume of the items started to dawn on J. That one item they were asked about above? The actual count was 23. Twenty-three of one item that was only worn one season of the year...for a "hobby".
At this point, we can step back + tenderly ask a different sort of question. "Hey J, what are your priorities?" Now we are not talking strictly about stuff...but about what J values most in life. Is there a reason J has curated their everyday wardrobe, but has not been able to bear letting go of any of the things related to their hobby?
These can be a tough but telling questions to answer. On one hand, J wants to say that their partner + children are the top priority...that making sure these precious souls feel loved + cared for is the priority. Maybe they want to say that friends + community + generosity + service + doing good work are priorities...or maybe they have not thought about this question in a really long time + don't really know how to answer it.
Is it possible that stuff is betraying true priorities? Does where J spends most of his non-working hours point to the same thing? In this case, stuff + time priorities agree. Maybe looking like a successful athlete or having a sparkly social media tracking profile is J's actual priority.
J can now decide if their intended + evident priorities agree...or if one is squeezing out the other...or if some realignment is in order. Intention can now inform action! Exciting!
Is there a clear picture of our priorities in our own stuff? It's strange how we can sort of become blind to our own stuff. I washed out a pot the other day + set it on the rug to dry. It's still sitting there a week later. I've just stopped seeing it as I step over it each day.
What can we start to see anew?
P.S. J was able to identify a number of each hobby item in appropriate alignment with their newly formed priorities. They were then able to select that number of each item + let the rest go (by offering it to others with the same hobby). J started to recognize that most of the others doing the same hobby only had one or two of each item + found it to be enough. J was able to adjust how much time was spent on the hobby too...and is currently living into a new set of priorities...consciously. :)
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time