This has been a good week for the birds and sunsets. Actually, one good sunset, daily good sunrises that I’ve mostly missed. I have been answering daily questions posted by a group of teachers. Not school teachers, like myself, but meditation and organization and life coach sorts of teachers. Each day a question is posted, and each day I answer it before I go to bed. Here are the questions so far:
Day #1: Question: Where have I learned and lived in 2011? In my head, in my body, or both? What would living more fully in my body in 2012 bring to me? How can I embody life and learning as I move through this barely perceptible threshold space between now and next? How can I more fully learn from the neck down in 2012? (Patty Digh)
Day #2: Question: In what way have I been living in the shadows in 2011? How might my life change if I came out into the light in 2012? What strengths could I discover and share if I gave up hiding my weaknesses?
Sometimes we stay hidden, fearful that others might see our wounds and blemishes. We think we’re the only ones who bear them. But I find that when I expose my weaknesses, I give others permission to expose theirs, too. There, beneath the light and in between the blemishes, we find we have strengths we never noticed before. Hiding becomes far less appealing and we’re drawn to living instead. In 2011, what were you hiding all year? What could you do to stop hiding in 2012? What treasures will you find when you step out into the light? (Ken Roberts)
Day #3: Question: When I look back over 2011 and think about how time, choices and objects have been organized, do I see harmony and ease? Did I seek out the natural place for things to land and rest? Where did I struggle to force things into literal or figurative containers? Do I recognize the order in the universe and see my life reflected in that order?
Organization is about recognizing what ‘enough’ looks like and feels like; about holding things loosely while learning deep appreciation for the comfort, convenience, beauty and functionality that objects offer. When I clutch, grab, or hold something too closely or tightly, instead of creating a feeling of safety and security, what grows is a sense of anxiety and fear—that the object will break, be lost or assert its impermanence in some other way. Possession often hastens the outcome I hoped to prevent. The things I intended/expected to increase the quality of my life begin distracting me from that quality.
What can I do in 2012 to move through time and space more harmoniously, recognizing that everything I need is within easy reach? How best can I release those things that no longer serve me (on any plane) to find new homes more suited to their purpose? How might I increase joy in equal or greater measure to my worldly accumulation? (Andrew Mellen)
Day #4: Question: How did I serve in 2011? Whom did I serve? What aspects of my service brought me alive? What aspects drained me? If I could serve in any way possible in 2012, what would I create? Let your imagination run wild.
Service can sound so dull and feel so heavy, something only really good (cue white toothy smile) people do or something you do to other people for their own good. Yuck. Let’s ditch those ideas. Instead, try on the idea that service is your heart’s desire made visible. Service is the act of sharing what you most care about for the greater good. It requires no special goodness, thankfully. After our basic needs are met, we all yearn to make a difference and service springs from listening to that yearning – and taking action on it, step by little step.
Service makes you tingle with aliveness like all true acts of intimacy. It’s deeply creative, generative, and yes, risky, because it means you share your heart. It’s also as natural as breathing, and like breathing, must include giving and receiving. (Jennifer Louden)
That’s it so far. You may want to join in answering these questions for yourself. I’m enjoying the reverie and soul searching that is being stimulated by them. I find myself in resistance to Question #4 for some reason. I’m looking forward to responding to it today, just to see if I can uncover the source of that feeling.
My daily responses are too wordy to post here (and possibly uninteresting for anyone but myself to read) , but at the end I’ll post a summary of what I’ve learned. It’s a pretty satisfying exercise, all in all. Try it out and let me know what you think!
Update: Here are the rest of the questions.
Day #5: Question: What have I learned about living the creative life in 2011? And how will it change what and how I create moving forward?
I was somehow delivered into this life with the mad Jones to create, but not the ability to handle the process without a fair amount of anxiety. To do what I’m here to do, I figured, I’d have to suffer. But, I’ve now come to a different understanding. Action in the face of uncertainty is essential to creation. To life, really. How we experience that walk into the unknown is much more a matter of choice and practice. We can choose to frame and experience it not just as pain, but as elevation. It’s not easy, but the question isn’t whether it’s easy, it’s whether it’s worth the effort. I’m very much in the beginning of this learning, but so far, the reward has far outpaced the effort. So, as we move into a new year, what would you venture to create if you felt equipped to handle whatever the process brought you? (Jonathan Fields)
Day #6: Question: Where, how, and with whom have spiritual values such as gentleness, kindness, and bravery shown up in my life is 2011? Are these the qualities I hold as the highest spiritual values, or are there others? Where, how, and with whom do I wish to express/manifest/share them in 2012?
The Dalai Lama has famously said, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.” There are certain qualities that transcend all belief systems and these can be thought of as spiritual values. For me, gentleness (defined as opening to and accepting yourself from moment to moment, feeling what you feel without judgment or agenda), kindness (feeling, knowing, and acting as if all beings are just like me in that they seek love and happiness), and bravery (inviting my fears, confusion, and personal nuttiness as part of the path) are among those values.
How about you? How did 2011 meet or defeat your spiritual journey? Where do you long to go in 2012? Use today’s question to lead you further along the path. (Susan Piver)
Day #7: Question: Has my art been brave enough?
Art is a uniquely human endeavor, and act of genius. Art is what we do when we do something for the first time, do it uniquely, and do it to touch someone else. The generosity is built into the act. Painting might be art, pottery might be art, customer service might be art–but none of them are art if all you’re doing is commerce, or phoning it in, or following a manual or a map.
Art is where we expose ourselves, because in addition to being human, we really have no choice but to accept failure. And it’s failure (or the potential for failure) that creates art. When we talk about emulating the bodhisattva, we accept the risk that maybe we won’t touch anyone, won’t shed any light, won’t make a difference.
The only way to do art, real art, is to embrace that risk. To do less is to hide. (Seth Godin)
I enjoyed answering these questions for myself. They made me think about things in a different way, which I enjoyed a great deal.