Coasting Along: A Writer’s Journey “Entertaining a Vision”

 Occasionally in my yoga classes when my instructor is introducing a pose or movement that may be new or different or more challenging for some, she will say something like  “Entertain the idea of your fingers reaching one another in this pose,” or “If it’s not possible for you to do this or if it’s uncomfortable today, simply do your best and entertain the idea of you being able to do this when the time is right.” I always love it when I hear her say this because in a yoga class as in the rest of life, we are each at a different level of development, understanding, physical prowess or well being, and ability.  To expect that everyone in any kind of class will perform in exactly the same way is not only unrealistic but also potentially dangerous. We are not all ready for the same steps at the same time.
Entertaining a vision of myself doing something or being in a certain state
or condition or ( in the case of yoga) position is something we can all do. When I am able to entertain an idea that means that I hold onto the possibility that at some point I may be able to do that. Entertaining an idea is like entertaining a guest. First you invite the guest or idea into your experience. As you might suggest to a new acquaintance, “Why don’t we meet for coffee this week?” or “I’d like to invite you to come to dinner next Sunday,” we invite ideas into our experience. I invite the idea of my going on a trip to Europe next year into my experience. Or I invite the idea of riding my bike once a week, swimming twice a week, and doing yoga at least four times a week.  I might only start with one idea–riding my bike. Later once I had made riding my bike somewhat of a regular habit, I might add the swimming, the Tai Chi class, or a long walk every Saturday with a friend.  Over time, what starts out as a mere thought or an idea that crosses our mind once in a while, the idea becomes more of a reality in our experience.
After inviting a guest into our lives, we then sit with that person for a while. We spend time with someone, getting to know them, letting them get to know us. As we entertain our ideas like our guests, we provide refreshments and relaxation for each other. Guests ought to come to our homes because it is a pleasure to be experienced. If we have guests too often or guests who aren’t enjoyable company, we soon dread having guests at all. Likewise an idea may sound good when we first entertain it.
We nourish the idea so that we give it a chance to grow and flourish. We get to know what the idea is like. For example if an idea we are entertaining has to do with getting more involved in a community project or artistic collaboration, we spend more time with those who share the same interests. We work with people for a cause or for an end result of some type. If it is a more permanent type of idea (a job, a business venture), we might find ways to test the idea out first before investing ourselves too heavily. We learn as we entertain an idea whether or not we are willing or able to commit to that idea.  Or  we get involved, entertaining the idea further and we learn that it may be more feasible than we had thought.
What does all this have to do with writing and being a writer?  Or for that matter what does the idea of entertaining an idea have to do with any form of art? As artists and writers our day begins and ends with ideas that we bounce in the air like balls we are juggling. Though we often feel the blank page or canvas before us is daunting, we know, we have the experience that when we pick up our pen or put our fingers to the keyboard and start writing, words and ideas do come. The words and ideas that come may not all be what we want them to be, but we are people of language, words, and the need to communicate.
Writers use words to communicate their ideas. Writers come in all forms. Some put their ideas into poetry, others into pieces of fiction. Other writers entertain a whole cast of characters and possible scenarios, and bring their ideas to life through novels, screen plays, dramatic plays, or comedy. Some writers are captivated with uncovering and bringing forth the truth of something or someone, and aim to bring their ideas into form through an essay, an article, an expose, or a series of blog articles.
Artists use all sorts of mediums–paint, clay, textiles, everyday objects, paper and natural elements.  Photographers capture images, and fine art photographers also capture images but then they play with the images. Manipulating and using  their minds to envision how to use distortion and movement to create or uncover something in a suggestive way through photography. Creative people are used to entertaining ideas and then working out how to bring those images into some form.
All the ideas we now see flowing forth in the vast numbers of books, blogs, and magazines being written, attest to our need to do more than entertain ideas.
After we entertain our ideas, we then either work towards allowing the ideas to come forth and flourish or we abandon them, at least temporarily. Sometimes we determine we need to use our time differently, or our interests are more focused on something else. Our commitments to ideas may change or alter over time. The discernment process is something that most writers deal with. Do I keep developing this set of characters, or are some other characters and plot ideas calling me in that direction? Am I willing to try a new poetic form or delve into a different theme or topic?   Since we cannot possible do everything we would like to do, we often have to choose among all the ideas we entertain and discern which ones fit into the life we are living now. What seemed like a great idea six months ago, may not be feasible at this time. What we committed to ten years ago, is not reaching a conclusion, and we are now entertaining a new path or new option for how we use our precious time.
All kinds of factors figure into how and where we use our creative ideas. Everything from age, health, resources, time and relationship commitments, to frame of mind and spiritual longings. The process of discerning what is important and what is not allows for  us to examiner both our use of energy and time and our intentions for those ideas we are entertaining.
Entertaining ideas allows us to  invite those ideas into our heads and hearts to let them sit with us for a while until we have a better idea of just what living with that idea might entail and how it might lift or help us grow.
When we are entertaining ideas as writers, we know that even with one project, there are a variety of tasks within that one large project that need doing. We can only move through a project one step at a time. As we entertain new ideas, we do so in the complex web of what our lives are already full of. Recently, I gave myself some time to stop entertaining new ideas or even working on old ones. I gave myself a break. It wasn’t a long break, but it helped me sort out what ideas were more important than others, what activities and relationships were nourishing or draining me, and what my own needs were. As I went through this period of sorting out the physical areas and spaces of my life, I also gave myself more time to rest and practice being present and mindful with whatever I was doing. It was a time when I stopped worrying about much of anything except just taking care of what was right in front of me.
Putting down work, backing away from making new plans or spending time doing busy work or engaging in social activities gave me  a newfound sense of freedom. No longer bullied by my inner disciplinarian who warns me throughout the day to” keep my nose to the grindstone”, to “not waste time”, and to “make sure I get things finished” I found myself releasing the chains that I had put on myself in order to maintain a rigid and backbreaking schedule and set of expectations.
At the market the other day I was chatting with the woman who was checking my groceries. She is a very hard working woman who has children. She is balancing her time and energy between a demanding job and a the demands and desire to be with her children. We were talking about how we use our time, and how we give ourselves time off. I mentioned that I worked for myself, and that I found early on that I could be my own worst boss.  I was reluctant to give myself time off or allow myself to take necessary breaks and vacations. We both shared our experiences of needing to take better care of ourselves as we tried to keep everything going.

Yesterday for the first time in two years, I had a massage. My experience of having the massage I shared with my writing group. I will share a piece of that with you here:”After our meeting, I went to get a massage. By now I should know that when I neglect my self care, it manifests in so many ways. And I’ve also learned that I can sit on a lot of pain, not even noticing it. I’m too busy focusing or doing or creating. I work through and around pain without even meaning to. So as I lay on the massage table in the beautiful space my friend Leigh has created, I felt as if every part of my body was releasing pain that had been stored up for far too long. I got in touch with the pain, and felt muscles and ligaments and bones twist and turn, being gently and firmly moved back into alignment. I slipped deeper and deeper into wherever my conscious mind sank as an hour and a half passed with my body being woken up to pain.

In a daze, my hair full of eucalyptus oil and coconut, pulled back in a catty wampus upsweep, I wandered down the street, on the sunny side of the main street. Trying to ignore the traffic, and doing a pretty good job of it, I walked past each small shop, inhaling the incense, pot pourri, and aromas from the shops and restaurants along the main drag. Making my way 6 blocks west toward 10th St., I pretended I was riding on the inside of a wave of silence and protection. Buffering out the sounds and odors of the huge semis and noisy pick ups and scooters, I attempted to stay within the curl of quiet until I made my way into my friend’s office.”

Entertaining an idea can be as simple as using our imagination and our mind to create an altered state of consciousness that allows us to deal with the stresses and strains that are part of our lives.  As Autumn begins today in the North and Spring comes to the South, lets all entertain some thoughts that envision whatever it is we need to bring us to a state of inner peace and calm. From that point we can create more of what is meant to come forth from within us. As we entertain thoughts, we energize those thoughts, giving them life. What is it you would like to bring to life? How is it you would like your own life to change, alter, or grow? What is flowing from within, and what has been held back and needs a new outlet. Release what is meant to go make room room to embrace the life that is meant to feed your soul. And remember the more we focus on worrying about end results or the ‘what ifs’ the higher our cortisol levels rise, and that throws a monkey wrench in our plans. Discerning ought not be all about worrying and planning and trying to control everything: it ought to be about being mindful with what your life, health, work, and spirit are showing you about what matters and what does not.

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Arduous

This morning the writing from my online writer’s group  was so full of captivating and powerfully beautiful images. It was  nice to read what was being written, and was in such contrast to the kind of grunt work that I have been tackling. The creating, contemplative work I love. The detail-oriented stuff drives me mad. Manipura, my third chakra roils and rolls and grumbles at the insult I feel sometimes when I have to do the arduous tasks to keep in balance.

Yesterday it was paying bills, which often feels very good. Just being able to take care of business is something that I am very grateful for. Then when it comes to detail work, redoing and rethinking how to use my resources and energy so I don’t drain or disturb the delicate balance of life–well that’s when I want to call in reinforcements. And so it is today I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with all there is to do, and how I seem to waste a lot of time and energy redoing and missing the mark in some areas. Guess it’s time to take a long walk and get some perspective.

Before I do that though, it’s time use this experience as a practice in mindfulness. Something a friend wrote this morning in her powerful piece, struck me as something I do to myself (and I notice others do this too), and that is use some of the affirming and enlightened rhetoric of life as a kind of mask for some real pain that is crying out to be noticed. Not that positive concepts are not necessary and important, but that sometimes they can be like a drug that like alcohol, numbs and muddies up the water. Or like other drugs takes your body and mind on a race or into a realm where the path is taken out of the context of the life and the path I’m on. I’m speaking for myself, and if all drugs work for you, take no offense. My body can’t handle alcohol or most drugs. The veils have always been pretty thin so feeling the energy and sensing what is moving toward or away from me, has never been a problem. Being aware and acting or reacting to what my senses, hunches, intuition, or spirit direct, can be a problem when I’m distracted or numbed or riding an adrenaline high or a cortisol jagged ride. So it is essential for me to listen.

Listen to the feelings. Like someone who can taste colors and see words spoken, I hear intuition and messages that come to me. Often the messages come out of my own mouth in answer to someone else’s inquiry. Other times I am sharp enough to notice how something I am doing or saying or feeling is akin to something someone else is.  If it is hurtful or harmful, and if I am at all wise, I pick up on it.

Intentions do not always go along with actions, or sometimes the actions we think we should take, actually take us in the opposite direction of what we want. It’s perplexing, isn’t it? At least it is for me, because I do think at this point, it ought not be so difficult to discern what the best choice is, especially when it has to do with simple, practical acts like taking care of business. And yet, here I am beating myself up for not being good enough yet at managing the many faceted aspects of daily life. Leave me to my art and my writing, and I am at no loss to sink myself deep into the work. I may not always know where I’m going, but the journey is less constrained by external concepts or dilemmas that have no solutions, yet.

I recall being in Monterey in my little office and studio, working on my very first website. It took me weeks and hours of backbreaking and mind-boggling attention to get that first site up. At the same time I was feverishly trying to (and here’s the trap) “put everything in order” so that I could get to work. Yes, that’s it. And as I recall the impact of this Virgo time and the need to handle a multitude of details, I realize we just never get everything in order, and if we wait for that to happen, we will drain ourselves of anything creative and life-affirming in the process.

And so it is. Instead of flying off the handle, emotionally, it’s time to slow down, tread water, and take one tiny step at a time. Breathe in. I do that fairly well. It’s the breathing out where I get stuck. I take the energy in, and forget I need to keep it flowing. So now, for just a few minutes on this page, I have been breathing in and out and pushing the words up from within out onto the page so I can catch my breath. Get back in tune with the flow of life, rather than getting trapped in some whirlpool, riptide, eddy, or quick sand that is bottomless. There are big issues in our lives. No doubt about it. We’re here to learn how to live in spite of those as well as learn how we can overcome some of what has happened to us or is happening within us. No one’s life is perfect and in constant harmony.

And when feeling pulled down into the quicksand of some turmoil or pain or confusion about what the hell I’m going to do about this or that, well honey, it’s time to take a break. Breathe. Breathe in and then breathe out. And get moving. Get doing. Do something, anything to get the movement flowing in our energy again. So I”m going to do the dishes, eat something wholesome, and take a walk. I am listening to the tingling of my body and the rattling of my brain, and I’m going to soothe the beast that is raging within. I’m not going to ignore this, but I’m not going to let it drown, trap, or destroy me either. Maybe I will be able to put my finger on just what is setting this off, or maybe I’ll find I’m caught up in some energy that is growing and ready to explode outside my own experience. What were my dreams saying to me last night? There were so many, and they were so active. There was movement in them, and deep connection and conversation. Usually I remember, but this morning it has escaped me, or rather it has stayed within me and become like a boiling pot of water, churning and mixing things up. So movement outside will help me release some of that steam and insight will come. It always does. Young mothers are taught these days to let your child learn to self soothe. I think we all need to learn or relearn that. Maybe you sucked your thumb or finger, or rocked yourself to sleep or counted sheep or made up stories to help you find some peace. It seems like a really good idea to me.

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