February 21, 2021

If you do your best in the search for personal freedom, in the search for self-love, you will discover that it's just a matter of time before you find what you are looking for.




The Four Agreements
By Don Miguel Ruiz

Will gratefully fill my cup with these words of affirmation. 

Two years ago, Don Miguel Ruiz recorded a soothing guest episode for WORDAFUL, titled "PERFECT." I knew then I'd need to read The Four Agreements someday.

I'm reminded that over the past year I had this revelation while reading old journal entries that I was perfect just as I was 5/10/15 years ago, and I wished I'd seen it then instead of desiring to always be different than I was. So with that wisdom in mind, when I'm feeling down I've started to tell myself I'm perfect as I am to save future me from that regret.

Domestication and the Dream of the Planet
"Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are. Just being ourselves is the biggest fear of humans. We have learned to live our lives trying to satisfy other people's demands. We have learned to live by other people's points of view because of the fear of not being accepted and of not being good enough for someone else."
(p. 17)

"If we can see it is our agreements that rule our own life, and we don't like the dream of our life, we need to change the agreements."
(p. 22)

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word
"Through the word you express your creative power. It is through the word that you manifest everything. Regardless of what language you speak, your intent manifests through the word. What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are, will all be manifested through the word."
(p. 26)

"When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself...Sin begins with rejection of yourself. Self-rejection is the biggest sin that you commit."
(p. 31)

The Second Agreement: Don't Take Anything Personally
"If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say, "I love you," without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need. You can say yes, or you can say no—whatever you choose—without guilt or self-judgment. You can choose to follow your heart always."
(pp. 60-61)

The Third Agreement: Don't Make Assumptions
"If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don't tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don't understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don't have the courage to ask questions."
(p. 68)

"We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear or being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works."
(p. 69)

"The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don't understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth. 
Also, find your voice to ask for what you want. Everybody has the right to tell you no or yes, but you always have the right to ask. Likewise, everybody has the right to ask you, and you have the right to say yes or no."
(p. 72)

The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
"Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward."
(p. 82) 

"Whatever life takes away from you, let it go."
(p. 83)

"If you do your best in the search for personal freedom, in the search for self-love, you will discover that it's just a matter of time before you find what you are looking for."
(p. 86)

The New Dream: Heaven on Earth
"Imagine that you love yourself just the way you are. You love your body just the way it is, and you love your emotions just the way they are. You know that you are perfect just as you are. The reason I ask you to imagine these things is because they are all entirely possible! You can live in the state of grace, the state of bliss, the dream of heaven."
(p. 126)



February 14, 2021

"Thing is, we're a community, and we got each other's back."


Intimations
By Zadie Smith 

Zadie Smith read Marcus Aurelius' Meditations early in the pandemic for practical assistance (her words). A few months later: the publication of Intimations, a series of essays inspired by his musings. In addition to "The American Exception," which was published in The New Yorker last April, her book includes "A Woman with a Little Dog," which she read aloud during a fantastic conversation with Ashley C. Ford. It is so specific, humorous, and a moving reminder of what we've lost and would miss so much: the seemingly insignificant exchanges that made up our lives before everything went down. Ashley describes it as foreboding. I loved it.

"There she sat on that last day—I was passing with my little dog; a final chance for Maud to pee before we put her in the rental car—and I could see Barbara was preparing to bark one of her ambivalent declamations at me, about the weather or a piece of prose, or some new outrage committed by the leader of a country which, in Barbara's mind, only theoretically includes her own city. Already missing New York, I was keen to hear it. Instead she sucked hard on her cigarette and said, in a voice far quieter than I'd ever hear her use: "Thing is, we're a community, and we got each other's back. You'll be there for me, and I'll be there for you, and we'll all be there for each other, the whole building. Nothing to be afraid of—we'll get through this, all of us, together." 
"Yes, we will," I whispered, hardly audible, even to myself, and walked on, maintaining a six-foot distance, whether to conform with the new regulations or to avoid Beck biting me in some vulnerable spot I couldn't tell."
(p. 51)

She starts reading "A Woman with a Little Dog" at 24:55—oh and just before then she describes her relationship with writing. ("I do need it. I'm not particularly proud of the ways I need it, but I need to organize my ideas, I need to set things down, I need to feel like life has meaning. And so that's why I do it. I do need those things.")

Their talk filled me up and it's well worth the watch. 


February 07, 2021

Well, there is time left—fields everywhere invite you into them.



Devotions
By Mary Oliver

One of my favorite things to do - lately - after a long day of excessive screen time at my desk, is retreat to my rocking chair, grab Devotions, and turn to a random page for a dose of poem.

This one made me a little teary. I had an inspiring conversation with a mentor on Thursday morning. That discussion and these tender words in the evening were perfect, complementary bookends to the day.

Have You Ever Tried To Enter The Long Black Branches

Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches 
of other lives—
tried to imagine what the crisp fingers, full of honey, hanging
from the branches of the young locust trees, in early summer,
feel like?

Do you think this world is only an entertainment for you?

Never to enter the sea and notice how the water divides
with perfect courtesy, to let you in!
Never to lie down on the grass, as though you were the grass!
Never to leap to the air as you open your wings over the dark acorn of your heart!

No wonder we hear, in your mournful voice, the complaint
that something is missing from your life!

Who can open the door who does not reach for the latch?
Who can travel the miles who does not put one foot 
    in front of the other, all attentive to what presents itself
    continually?
Who will behold the inner chamber who has not observed
    with admiration, even with rapture, the outer stone?

Well, there is time left—
fields everywhere invite you into them.

And who will care, who will chide you if you wander away
    from wherever you are, to look for your soul?

Quickly, then, get up, put on your coat, leave your desk!

To put one's foot into the door of the grass, which is
    the mystery, which is the death as well as life, and
    not be afraid!

To set one's foot in the door of death, and be overcome
    with amazement!

To sit down in front of the weeds, and imagine
    god the ten-fingered, sailing out of his house of straw,

nodding this way and that way, to the flowers of the
    present hour,

to the song falling out of the mockingbird's pink mouth,

to the triplets of the honeysuckle, that have opened in the night

To sit down, like a weed among weeds, and rustle in the wind!

Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,
and the opening of the window no more difficult
than the wakening from a little sleep.

Only last week I went out among the thorns and said
    to the wild roses:
deny me not,
but suffer my devotion.
Then, all afternoon, I sat among them. Maybe

I even heard a curl or two of music, damp and rouge red, 
hurrying from their stubby buds, from their delicate watery bodies.

For how long will you continue to listen to those dark shouters, 
caution and prudence?

Fall in! Fall in!

A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what's coming next
    is coming with its own heave and grace.

Meanwhile, once in a while, I have chanced, among the quick things,
    upon the immutable.
What more could one ask?

And I would touch the faces of the daises,
and I would bow down
to think about it.

That was then, which hasn't ended yet.

Now the sun begins to swing down. Under the peach-light,
I cross the fields and the dunes, I follow the ocean's edge.

I climb, I backtrack.
I float.
I ramble my way home.