Friday, January 29, 2010

Being Watchful

This is my second year practicing Tai Chi without being enrolled in a class. Some days I feel like I am just going through the motions when I do the form. Interestingly, I found some inspiration in a book that I just started reading, Rim by Alexander Besher.
Two of them were the old man’s bodyguards and they took up a watchful position at the threshold to the roji, their senses alert, but their bodies relaxed.
That is exactly how I would like to feel on a regular basis.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saving the World

I finished reading La’s Orchestra Saves the World, by Alexander McCall Smith, last night just before I went to bed. I am still thinking about the book this morning. I teared up in a couple of places, and I am not sure I could explain to someone why. We are so disconnected from our spirits, from that undercurrent of feeling and meaning that is so vital to us. La’s small actions during WWII, like taking care of her neighbor’s chickens and forming an orchestra, helped keep people whole and gave them the vital energy to continue on when the present looked bleak and the future was in doubt.

Yesterday I received a Facebook post in which the sender said she was broken. I was alarmed and sent a post of concern. Later on I realized that she probably meant that she was financially broke because she had spent too much money. I felt like a dweeb, misinterpreting an idiom. But maybe I wasn’t wrong. In the last few decades depression has become epidemic. Autism rates are staggering. Now millions of people are “broke.” I believe that our thoughts affect our world. Maybe this is farfetched for some people to believe.

We so desperately need wholeness. We need to feel connected to each other and the world on a deep level. How do we do that? Perhaps by praying and meditating. Perhaps by demonstrating small kindness. I have been in a deep, deep depression. This morning I realized that I felt “broken.” What has kept me going were the small kindness: a neighbor coming over with some things from her pantry that she couldn’t use, two neighbors snow-blowing the sidewalks after a major snowfall, a woman from church giving me her left over socks, a friend buying me a piece of dessert. People do many grand gestures and communicate many profound thoughts, but the small actions are what ultimately save or break the world.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Human Complexity

If I could go back in time, I would like to help my younger self understand that human beings are a whirl of complexity. We tend to categorize people as friend or foe, good or bad, eat or be eaten. We too often interact with people as though we were a small primate in a tree in the jungle having to make a split decision for our survival.

I would encourage my younger self to enjoy the wondrous dimensionality of every person she will ever know. Even the worst person will have some good part to their personality. Even the best person will have aspects that are not so admirable. Over the years I have had people I thought were my friends turn into utter jerks—to use a kinder, gentler term. It was only later that I discovered that they were in physical or emotional pain. I wish that I had been aware enough to begin to look at that, to perhaps probe, or at least not to take the interaction so personally. Even the most aggressive person can be passive at times. Even the most passive person can have an aggressive side. Even the most dependable, loving person will at times disappoint us and let us down. At the same time, some person we dismiss as not friend-worthy will come to our rescue. Every friend, colleague, family member will have a part of them that irrigates the heck out of us. If we look hard enough, everyone we meet will have a side that is utterly charming.

Of course, the same is true of ourselves. Sometimes we are jerks, sometimes wonderful individuals. In some situations we are aggressive, at other times we may surprise ourselves with our passivity. At times we are generous, at other times selfish. For people who are depressed, it is too easy to only see the times they didn’t behave according to their ideal. Others feel misunderstood when people imply they ever behaved other than admirably.

I would give my younger self a “prism” so that she could see all the colors within each person she meets and within her own self.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Failing and Succeeding

I was brought up on a steady diet of “Don’t make mistakes,” “Don’t fail,” “Don’t do anything foolish.”

Seth Godin writes in his December 21st 2009 blog entry: “Painters, musicians, entrepreneurs, writers, chiropractors, accountants--we all fail far more than we succeed. We fail at closing a sale or playing a note. .… But we succeed far more often than people who have no ideas at all.”

A similar discussion between Mary and Lurt takes place in Humans, by Robert J. Sawyer, a story about discovering a parallel universe where Neanderthals are the “human” species. Mary, a human as we know it, falls in love with Ponter, a Neanderthal.

…when your life is ending, will you regret not having tried to make a relationship with Ponter work? .... Listen carefully to my question, friend Mare. I am not asking if you would regret not pursuing this relationship if it were to succeed. I am asking whether you would regret not pursuing it even if it fails.

Lurt goes on to tell about trying to become a fiction writer and failing at it.
But I do not regret having tried and failed at fiction writing. Of course, I would have preferred to succeed, but on my deathbed I knew I would be more sad if I had never tried, never have tested to see if I might succeed at it, than I would be had I tried and failed.

Changing my thinking about success and failure has been like trying to turn around a team of a dozen Clydesdales. I am beginning to ask myself the question, “How can I increase my probability of succeeding?” Slowly, I am finding that I am changing my everyday behaviors.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Last year my New Year’s resolutions were to read at least 52 fiction books and new (to me) authors with last names beginning with each letter of the alphabet. I checked that off my list by early fall and had a lot of fun in the process.

This year I have three resolutions for 2010: to write 50 entries in Kata Chimes In, write 100 entries in Kata’s Cadence, and to do some stretching every day. After walking three miles yesterday, half of that carrying groceries, and hacking at ice on the sidewalks for half an hour, my back has insisted I add the last resolution to my list.

Happy New Year to all!!