Monday, October 16, 2017

Even Though We Might Fail

I was flipping through Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, looking for inspiration this morning for today's post. I have a lot of little post-its throughout the book, and I happened to flip to the one marking her discussion of fierce trust. She says on page 258: 

"Fierce trust demands that yo put forth the work anyhow, because fierce trust knows that the outcome does not matter.

The outcome cannot matter."

To distill the essence of what she says next, I would say that she is talking about doing no matter what because it is the doing, the creation that is what it is important to focus on. Because if we focus on the outcome we might give up. I suppose another way to say this is to keep moving, keep acting no matter what. Because, while sitting and breathing is useful, it is as important to act. 

Interestingly, on page 259, Gilbert asks not what would you do if you knew you wouldn't fail, but what would you do even if you knew you would? Sometimes we gain a lot of insight by changing perspective or turning things around. True, she is writing about the creative life, which most people think of as art, writing, music, dance, and the like. But she is also talking about living your life itself in a creative way. 

I would say the indigenous people of Ecuador who sued to the government to prevent the sale of oil and gas leases on their lands (and won) were operating on fierce trust and living creatively. As are the indigenous peoples in other parts of South America who are working to protect the forest around their homes, and in doing so, have found ways to partner with North Americans and Europeans to do this. (See John Perkins' book, Shapeshifter, for example.) The Native Americans gathered at Standing Rock and lost, but haven't given up. They haven't given up for 500 years.

The suffragettes who imagined being able to vote acted even though they might fail - and they did over and over until they didn't. Martin Luther King acted with fierce trust and vision. Fierce trust, though, is called for in individual lives as well as movements. Someone who changes jobs or occupations can be acting through fierce trust, even though the change might bring failure. Someone who moves across country or falls in love does the same.

Fierce trust is moving on down the road. Acting even though we might fail is moving down the road. Whether it's working at a business, at our art, finding healing for ourselves or others, it's all about continuing to move on down the road. I confess that I often don't see the end of the road. I do have a current worry about the possible slashing of Medicare and Social Security as having both of these has made a difference in my financial life. I am, however, attempting to cultivate a fierce trust that I will be fine. So, I keep moving forward even though I might fail. 

The first photograph is by Jungwoo Hong. The second is an image from my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be. The third is by Kyle Glenn. The first and third photographs were found on unsplash.com





Monday, October 9, 2017

Laughter is the Second Best Weapon

Radical hope is a primary and necessary weapon to move through times of fear and distress, along with practicing radical ambiguity and radical persistence. These three can help us move through tough times. 

However, I think laughter is right behind radical hope as a weapon. Life is dull without laughter, without fun. I blogged about laughter previously (here), but thought it might be good to remind myself and hopefully others about what good medicine laughter is. 

In fact, I have decided to lift part of that blog and quote it here again. It is a message from my angels and guides: 

"Laughter is an antidote to fear and anger. It, in fact, may be the best antidote to fear and anger. Fear and anger want to be taken very seriously, but if you laugh they have no ability to attach themselves to you. It is not that you should not take the times seriously. And it is not that you should not take mindful, heartful action, but rather that you should clear out fear and anger from your energy field and your being with laughter. Then you can see, feel and send out love and compassion rather than fear and anger. Love and compassion are the tools to the deepest transformation."

(I also wrote about this in an article for Off the Cuff ezine. I recommend this magazine to you. You can find it here.)

Today, my angels and guides had this to say: 

"Laughter is what is required at times like these. Laughter drives the dark of doubt away. Keep laughing no matter what."



The first photograph is by Leong Lok. The second photograph is by Nathan Anderson. Both were found on unsplash.com

Monday, October 2, 2017

Enoughness

I contemplate the question of what is enough or enoughness from time to time. The rose in the picture strikes me as enough in and of itself. it strikes me that holding the rose is enough in and of itself.

Yet, we humans seem to, or at least most of us, constantly be seeking more, never seemingly having enough. Are we fearful that we won't be able to have what we need when we need it if we don't get more now? Are we trying to fill voids with stuff?

I have had the pleasure of having some sessions with some local energy workers - a husband and wife who work together during the sessions. He goes into deep meditation to do his part of the work. You meditate at the same time. During the most recent session, I spontaneously started chanting in my mind: "I am enough. I have enough." It helped make a shift in me. 

Yet, on my own at home, I have changed the mantra slightly to be "I am enough. I have enough. I will always be enough. I will always have enough." There is that smidgeon of fear coming through. If I am enough and have enough, will that always be so? I realized while writing this that it would be good to put a stop to this. I bet that the butterflies in the picture never questioned the enoughness of themselves or their world. They just are. 

I have a safe, decent home. I have clean water and clean food. I have work that I love (although here is where I would like more). I have a book that I've published. I am able to think, talk, write, laugh, love, and more. I have the money to pay my bills and buy a few treats here and there.

I sometimes ask myself, how many houses does one person need to own? How many cars? Does having lots of stuff make us happy? Does it make us more productive, more connected to our communities? How much money does any one person really need? What do the people who make vasts amounts of money do with it? Hoard it? Spend it in a generous way? 

I have said to myself that I don't really want to own a car that costs what some people might make in a year or what might go towards buying house. I just need a car to get from one place to another. On the other hand, it might be nice to have the extra money in the amount that a Mercedes, a Ferrari or some other really expensive car costs. I am, after all, a work in progress at the enoughness practice. 

My MorMor (Swedish for Mother's Mother) used to say that you can only sleep in one bed at a time and only eat 3 meals a day. She was one of the calmest people I have ever known. I think she was good at the practice of enoughness. May I become as good at it as she was.

The first photo is by SHHTEFAN, and the second photo is by Boris Smokrovic. Both were found on unsplash.com


Monday, September 18, 2017

Radical Hope is Our Best Weapon

I was inspired once again by listening to On Being yesterday (here). This time it was Krista Tippet's interview with Junot Diaz, author, Boston Review fiction editor, and the Ridge and Nancy Allen Professor of Writing at MIT. Professor Diaz has a piece that was published in the November 21, 2016 New Yorker magazine about radical hope in light of Donald Trump's win.

I have, for sometime, felt that it is necessary to live with radical ambiguity and radical persistence. I also have felt that hope is necessary so that we don't fall into despair and inability to act. I will now say that I want to live with radical hope. In his piece (here), Professor Diaz quotes the philosopher Jonathan Lear's definition of radical hope. Radical hope is not warm and fuzzy. 

This is a quote from Jonathan Lear: “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Diaz then talks about radical hope is something you practice. 

This piece is succinct, but quite lovely - or at least I think so. It talks about the type of hope that can keep each of us moving forward, taking one step at a time to get where we want to be. To help us not give up. To keep finding the light in the darkness.


The first photo is Ron Smith's and was found on unsplash.com
The second photo is from my book Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here).

Monday, September 11, 2017

Love Your Country

I was quite surprised when this saying (and it's companion Love the world) came through for one of the mediation pairs for my book, Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here). I think it would seemingly be hard to love my country right now with all the things going on here. 

But, I find it still easy to love my country because there are still many things right about my country. Yet, I think there is more to loving a country besides what is right about it. The meditation text that came through for this saying talks, in part, about loving your country meaning wanting the best for it and for those who live there.

What aspirations and hopes do we have for our countries? I think we can work towards those things, doing what we are able to do.

I wrote this poem to accompany this meditation image:

Love of Country

Sometimes I find it
much too easy 
to say how rotten 
my country is, to focus
on all that I view as wrong.
By doing that I can end up
living in fear and amorphous
terror and anger.

What I'd really rather
do is live in love,
nurture the compassionate, 
the kind, the growth of
change. Focus on the
good-heartedness, the
strength of character that
underlies so much.

What lives in my heart?
Love for my country.

©2017 Kathryn L. Samuelson 

The first image is from my book.
The second image was found on unsplash.com. The credit goes to: mcml-xxxiii-steal-my---art






Monday, August 28, 2017

Inspiration Needed

I was out for a walk this morning before settling down to work. I was mentally mumbling to myself about feeling uninspired about taking my walk - it felt like just so much work. 

I haven't written any poems to finish out the set that I've started to accompany my mediation book. I have felt just uninspired. I know that if I force the words that the poems will be stodgy and clunky. I haven't even felt like continuing to edit the ones that I have written. sigh.

Am I trying to hard to be inspired? Do I give up too easily when I don't feel inspired? I know that inspiration comes in different ways for people - it is most likely rarely exactly the same for everyone. What gateway to inspiration should I be trying right now when the voice in my head says: "I don't want to. I just want to play."

I have read Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, twice. Even it isn't providing me any inspiration right now. Sometimes the inspiration merely needs to be the discipline to sit down and do the work. But I truly seem to be in a space right now where I'd rather go for a walk, watch a youtube video, or something similar. sigh.

Maybe I just need to see this as a bardo period for any creativity. LLama Surya Das describes bardo in his book, Buddha Standard Time. Bardo is a Tibetan Buddhist concept of the life between human lives. Surya Das says that, to him, bardo can also be a period of, for example, illness between periods of health. Fields have fallow periods. I suppose I can see this as a fallow or bardo period and not try to force creativity. 

I know that some would say that you need to do whatever it is for you every day. But, it just never seems to work for me that way. 

I just hope that I can begin to harvest creativity again soon.

First photo by jebshoots.com
Second photo by Matthew Brodeur

Monday, August 21, 2017

Once to Every Man and Nation

This hymn popped into my mind recently. I used to love singing this hymn when I used to go to church - a lot for the music, but also for the thought. A time comes to choose, although I'm not sure the it comes only once in the life of a person, a generation or a nation. 

James R. Lowell, the author of the hymn lyrics, wrote a 90 line poem in 1845 as a protest against the Mexican American War. A part of the poem was put to music as a hymn. But, whatever Lowell's reason for writing these words, I think we really are at the cusp of choosing which direction to go - for the good or evil side. I don't think that you have to be a follower of Christ, or even believe in God, to appreciate the meaning of this hymn. The lyrics are: 

Once to every man and nation,
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
Offering each the bloom or blight, 
And the choice goes by forever, 
’Twixt that darkness and that light. 

Then to side with truth is noble,
When we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit,
And ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses
While the coward stands aside, 
Till the multitude make virtue 
Of the faith they had denied. 

By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever
With the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth, 
They must upward still and onward, 
Who would keep abreast of truth. 

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown, 
Standeth God within the shadow, 
Keeping watch above His own. 

You can hear the hymn here.

As I said above, I truly believe that we, each and everyone of us, are at a time to choose. But I also think that the choosing does not necessarily mean that the action we take is necessarily the same for everyone. I don't expect the deeply introverted to be in the front lines of protest marches. Not everyone can write blog posts. I do hope that as many as possible of us, including myself, will speak up in when people are shamed, ridiculed or treated badly wherever that takes place. We can sign petitions, call our legislators, give money to causes as we can. I believe that it all has to happen at the local, state and federal levels. 


Choosing can be letting our light shine in anyway that is meaningful to us. It can be reaching out a hand. It can be standing up and saying no. It can be camping out at the next Standing Rock. It can be signing up for a Muslim registry, god forbid it ever comes to be, whether or not you are Muslim. (I read that all the Danes showed up wearing the Jewish Star during WWII) It can be following the steps of Martin Luther King, Jr. I know someone who is on her second water blessing journey. For some it can be many things at once. 


My thought is that, if we all let our lights shine in our own ways, we will create, finally, a new way of being. A way of being where we have a theology/philosophy of personhood rather than a religion of materialism. We will have a way of being where everything we do comes from a place of heart, love, compassion, kindness, and mercy rather than hate, fear and greed. 


Now I just need the courage and discipline to follow through. 

The first photo is by Yaoqi LAI.
The second photo is by Mike Labrum
The third photo is meditation image number 53 from Opening the Heart: Meditations on How to Be (here)