A Theory of Illusion

illusion

journal page – 2/18/08
We see things not as they are, but as we are. – Anais Nin

How to See Deer

Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

and fog before sun.
Expect nothing always;
find your luck slowly.

Wait out the windfall.
Take your good time
to learn to read ferns;

make like a turtle:
downhill toward slow water.
Instructed by heron,

drink the pure silence.
Be compassed by wind.
If you quiver like aspen

trust your quick nature:
let your ear teach you
which way to listen.

You’ve come to assume
protective color; now
colors reform to

new shapes in your eye.
You’ve learned by now
to wait without waiting;

as if it were dusk
look into light falling:
in deep relief

things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.

Phillip Booth (1925 – 2007)

Space to Choose, Room to Grow

space-to-choose

journal page – 2/11/08

Every year about this time, I begin to sense a lightening of spirit as I anticipate Spring. The days are noticeably longer, and although it’s bitterly cold in New England, the slant of light mitigates the discomfort of wind chill factors and icy roads. It becomes easy to imagine the return of green, and I feel the urge to clean my inner house, sweeping out stale ideas and behaviors to renew and redefine my goals, as if the Vernal Equinox were my New Year’s Day.

Just as it takes energy and the right combination of elements to coax the buds back from their winter’s sleep, it takes energy and nurturing to foster personal growth. Yet often we find ourselves up against a variety of obstacles that keep us from steadily moving forward, much like rush hour traffic on a highway with a closed lane. We’ve all experienced that feeling of trying to get quickly from one place to another, but having to constantly put on the brakes and slow down to a crawl every few yards. We get edgy, we feel irritable; we may even lose our temper. And how does it feel by the time we finally reach our destination? Does it ever seem as if it weren’t worth the trouble of the trip? The same idea applies to the tolerations in our lives that function as speed bumps on our own personal highways.

Although we often associate the development of tolerance as a behavior with positive attributes such as patience, acceptance of others’ differences, and selflessness, it can also become an insidious drain on our time, energy, and spirit. Think of all the things we “put up with” in the course of a day, things that annoy or anger us, things that divert our attention away from what we want to do, things that cause us to react in ways that are contrary to how we would like to see ourselves. Each of these tolerations in some way prevents us from moving forward, ultimately leaving us feeling depleted.

According to Thomas J.Leonard, a pioneer in the life coaching profession, there are logical reasons why we accept tolerations in our lives. Perhaps we’ve been raised to practice the virtue of selfless patience so we can get along with others. While that is often a necessary skill for peaceful social interactions, what does it mean when we are doing no more than allowing others to take advantage of our “good nature”? What we’ve been taught to view as a commendable quality actually puts us in the position of feeling anger and resentment, two emotions that tremendously sap our energy. Perhaps we’re afraid of the consequences we imagine will result if we eliminate negative behaviors and relationships, or take a stand to self-advocate and say “no.” We feel safer with what we know – even if it’s dragging us down – and ultimately we become mired in stagnation.

This year, my “spring cleaning” will be to identify and eliminate those things I tolerate that are really no more than speed bumps on my journey. I’ll start small with things I can easily tackle, clearing the decks for the bigger things that require more work. I want to give myself more space to choose, more room to grow. Anyone care to join me? You can start by making a list of ten or more things that consistently bother you, or you might want to start by looking at Thomas Leonard’s list of The Top 10 Tolerations that People Put Up With as Normal/Acceptable to see if any of them sound familiar. And feel free to share what you come up with, if you’d like!

Venturing Beyond

venturing

journal page – 1/30/08

Comfort zone
is a deceptively benign term. Although it can mean the place or state of being where one is at peace and happy, humming along at just the right speed, it can also mean a place where discomfort has become a familar, but safe feeling. How many of us stay in situations that seem comfortable, simply because we can easily predict what each day will bring? And how often is this comfortable place really a place of stagnation and resignation where complacency becomes the prevalent emotion? This complacency keeps people from moving forward and living more exciting lives, and even worse, can keep them in bad relationships, unfulfilling occupations, and unhealthy behaviors. Henry David Thoreau said that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” and perhaps part of that comes from cowering unaware within one’s comfort zone.

On the flip side, what does it mean to step out of that familiar place and try something you’ve always wanted to do, but have avoided out of fear? At first it might feel very uncomfortable, because usually there’s some kind of risk involved, but so often the payoff is well worth the initial discomfort. The most recent topic at Inspire Me Thursday is Expand Your Comfort Zone, and for me, it calls to mind that heady cocktail of fear and anticipation that comes before embarking on any new, initially uncomfortable situation that stretches self-imposed boundaries. It makes me think of the times I’ve listened to my inner voice telling me that those scary steps will ultimately lead me to a better place, and I’ve had the courage to listen. And that’s the trick…tuning in to that voice and mustering up the courage to expand your comfort zone.

Like a Stitch of Lightning

stitch

Spirit
– 18″ x 24″ x 1″ – mixed media on wood

Poem (The spirit likes to dress up…)

The spirit
likes to dress up like this:
ten fingers,
ten toes,

shoulders, and all the rest
at night
in the black branches,
in the morning

in the blue branches
of the world.
It could float, of course,
but would rather

plumb rough matter.
Airy and shapeless thing,
it needs
the metaphor of the body,

lime and appetite,
the oceanic fluids;
it needs the body’s world,
instinct

and imagination
and the dark hug of time,
sweetness
and tangibility,

to be understood,
to be more than pure light
that burns
where no one is —

so it enters us —
in the morning
shines from brute comfort
like a stitch of lightning;

and at night
lights up the deep and wondrous
drownings of the body
like a star.

Mary Oliver (1935 – )

I hope the world is well… I’ve been busy in the studio, busy at work, and busy at life… it’s all good!

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