Welcome to the Present

Time is an invention. Now is a reality. So much creativity is happening for the simple reason that we have withdrawn ourselves from the past and future. Our whole energy remains blocked, either in the past or in the future.

When you withdraw all your energy from past and future, a tremendous explosion happens.

That explosion is creativity.

~Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (From Begin It Now, by Susan Hayward)

Kripalu Sundial - Tricia GriffithFind yourself in a creative rut? Or even just a general “life rut”? It could be that you are worrying too much about the future or the past and not living in the present.

If you are an artist or a writer and you spend a lot of time worrying about how you’ll ever become published or famous in the future, or about dumb mistakes you made in the past that you’re worried you’ll make again, chances are you’re getting little to nothing accomplished in your present.

Perhaps you’re holding out on taking a job that you don’t like very much because you’re waiting for that ideal job to present itself. Maybe you’re not allowing yourself to find a loving relationship because someone did the Mexican Hat Dance on your heart in the past, and you never want that to happen again.

It’s hard to wrap our heads around it, but in reality the present is all that matters. Do what you need to do now, and the future will begin to form and take care of itself without you fussing over it.

chocolate cakeLet’s bake a cake. You decide to use this delicious new cake recipe. You have all these dreams and fantasies about how fabulous this cake is going to be. But, instead of just letting it bake, you keep poking your head in the oven to see how it’s doing, and eventually the whole thing goes flat, and you have to start again.

Neither does your past successes or failures at baking a cake really have much relevance on that cake you’re baking now. You think to yourself oh, I didn’t use enough flour the last time I made that cake, so I better adjust it this time. You don’t say, oh my god, I screwed that cake up so badly I will never make it again. Well, at least you shouldn’t be saying that, anyway.

We make our lives so much more stressful by constantly dwelling on the past and wringing our hands about the future. Redirect your focus to the present. Pick a cake recipe and just bake it. If it comes out, it comes out. If it doesn’t, you note what you have learned and try again.

pen and inkPick up the paint brush or the pen. Make bad art and enjoy it. Write a crappy first draft. Take the job that will put food on the table today and keep yourself in the present so that you will see that new opportunity when it arrives. Go out on a date with someone you’re not sure about. Start a conversation with that person you’ve been admiring.

Nothing at all, good or bad, will change unless you take a step. Taking one small step today is better than planning a thousand steps tomorrow.


The Politics of Compromise

I don’t proclaim to know very much about politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand how a bill becomes a law (Thanks to School House Rock!) and understand the branches of government and checks and balances and all that. What I am not, however, is a politician.

I have my opinions and beliefs, like everyone else, but I am not good at debating them. I have friends with polar opposite beliefs from me, and I tried very, very hard this campaign season to avoid most of the political topics for that reason. I guess because at heart I’m a pacifist and don’t want to start fights or hurt feelings. Probably also because I am empathic and my sensitivity to emotions makes me avoid fights, arguments, disagreements at all costs.

I believe that part of what makes America great is that we are all entitled to our opinions and are allowed to voice them without fear of death (for the most part). I think that what I am missing, and maybe what the country is missing, is the ability to calmly discuss these differences of opinion. Maybe you enjoy a good political rant, or get your jollies from a heated argument about policies, but it stresses me out.

Maybe because over the years I have naturally gravitated towards the desire to neutralize volatile situations, as I work with people I try to put a neutral balance to situations. It seems to me that politics could benefit from this mindset. It would be nice if we could drop the incendiary rhetoric and consider a more rational discussion.

Our country has clawed out way out of much worse situations in the last 236 years. There have been much harsher differences of opinion over the decades, as we built our country and rebuilt our country, fought for our freedom and fought for civil rights. Through all of it, it was when the leaders of our country worked together, listened to each other, and yes, argued, but found compromise, that great things were accomplished. When they paid attention the basic foundation set forth by the Declaration of Independence and the most basic ideals the country was built on, that was when we grew, and changed, and became stronger.

Change comes slowly, but it cannot be stopped. Countries older than the US remain stagnated in old traditions, creating far worse civil unrest and violence than we have seen here in our short history. It is not one person’s responsibility to make things better or worse, that responsibility belongs to all of us. That is what separates us from so much of the rest of the world.

My wish, as we sweep up the mess left behind from the political campaigns, finish celebrating, finish licking our wounds, is that perhaps politics can become less of a matter of “Your side is wrong, my side is right.” and more “How can we work together to make things right?”. Change is not going to come if all each party manages to accomplish is to successfully block what the other party is doing.

We the people have the power to take the first rational steps.

Resolve to be Happy

res·o·lu·tion: [rez-uh-loo-shuhn] – noun
 1.) a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something. 2.) the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc. 3.) the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose. 
I have learned over the past few years that the more I am pressured by outside forces to do something, the less likely I am to do it. This can affect my art, my writing, my health, my work, etc. Rather than resolve to go to the gym, one day I just decided to go.
I know from personal experience that the stress and depression I have been struggling with over the last couple of years has had a physical effect on me. Nearly every day I felt fatigued and something ached. I used more sick days than I ever recall using due to nausea, headaches, all over aches, joint problems.
 I know quite a few people dealing with similar situations. After a bit it all piles up and even the smallest troubles seem overwhelming.
SO. This is what I say to all of you. Don’t resolve to exercise more, eat well, go to the gym, cut out caffeine, etc… Get to the core of what causes you NOT to do those things. What makes you happy? What is making you unhappy? Is it a work situation? A relationship? Let go of what puts you in this place. Step outside of your comfort zone. Isn’t it funny that we hang on to stressful, painful spaces in our lives because we are afraid of change? We’re afraid to move on and see what’s out there when it may be that very thing that makes you happy. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
This doesn’t mean quit your job tomorrow, even if maybe in the long run that is what is necessary. Start with baby steps. Does reading a good book make you happy, but you’ve filled your schedule so full that you don’t feel like you have time to read? Takes yourself on a little date to do something you like. Go to a museum, go to a movie, go shopping.  Make a list of the things you would do if you had no limits.
Finally, maybe its time to look at the bigger picture. Most of us are adults. We once had this ideal of how our lives would be, but now we think we are too old, that it is too late for us. Why? I have have seen for myself that people can make a successful career and life change, late in life, and live to tell the tale. It is never too late to go to school! Take heed of the stories of 80 year olds graduating from college! Ask yourself, what do I want to be when I grow up? If you could do ANYTHING, what would it be? Then, think backwards a little bit.
Here is my own example. If I could do anything I wanted, I would want to travel. Obviously you need some sort of income to accomplish that. I also want to have my own gallery and write professionally. Well now, look at this! Both of those things present the opportunity for travel. Travel to find art, travel to write. So then, what would I do before reaching that ultimate goal? Hey look at me! I’m already starting to write professionally. There’s an excellent step! The next few things I need to consider are my location and where I’d want to have my gallery. These are things I am already considering.
And now comes the resolution part. I love writing. I resolve to write more, become published in more magazines and papers. I want writing to become my full time profession. Then, I can mix in my art, build up my credit and financial position and presto! I can travel and own a gallery!
Perhaps it is oversimplified. But, when you think about it, shouldn’t happiness be simple? I think we all know by now that happiness doesn’t come in a bottle, in a bank account, or in a job that pays a ton of money but makes you miserable. I have done that job and I am happier today making a third of what I did at that job.
Happiness comes from family and friends you love and who love you. People who respect you for who you are and who you CAN BE. Happiness comes from respecting yourself, respecting that you are where you are and that you have the potential, the power, to put yourself where you want to be.
My suggestion for you this new year, start a journal. Write down the things you used to dream of doing. Do they still appeal to you? Are there new things that inspire you? Write down what love, what makes you happy and think on that list every day. Stop dwelling on what makes you unhappy, worried and anxious. Take the leap, and the net will apear.
My wish for you this new year is that you will find happiness, and then the things that you ‘expect’ – physical, financial and relationship well-being – will follow.
With love,