Monday, October 24, 2011

Many Ways to LEAP

Recently, a friend wondered aloud with me about a possible acronym for the word LEAP:

Hearing her words, I instantly saw her in a deeper way; four words revealing her essence in such a simple, poetic way. I hoped that it did the same for her. I imagined that her spontaneous, operational definition for how she uniquely LEAPS, gave her a guiding principle for her life's journey. Whenever she feels lost or looking for a foothold, she can return to her home base by reminding herself to keep Learning, Evolving, Appreciating, and honoring her chosen Practice.

I hadn't thought in terms of an acronym when I titled my blog - but my friend's idea got me thinking about how each of us LEAPS in different ways. Perhaps we LEAP based on what we hold to be most important in our lives. The notion of LEAPING registers in our awareness in a unique way, dependent upon the qualities we most value in ourselves. I'm guessing that our style of LEAPING is contingent upon what we long to actualize in our living years.

Mary Oliver, in her poem The Summer Day - cuts to the core of LEAPING when she asks... "tell me, what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" 

Following both my friend's and Oliver's lead, I LEAPED into my own acronym:
My guiding principle is to Listen and Explore with Alert Presence whatever new beliefs and actions stretch me out of my comfort zone in the most courageous way possible.

And, I must add, Love is in the mix all the time with my relationship to the L of LEAPING; falling in Love with my less than perfect self; bringing a Loving (gentle, friendly, open) approach to the hidden gifts and lessons of seemingly irritating others; Loving my life, such as it is, with all it's challenging curve balls and annoying invitations to stretch out of my fear-based, self-constricting and self-judging habits.

This idea of different ways of LEAPING, brought to mind my years of dancing and how long it took me to value and enjoy my innate way of moving. I spent many years comparing my movement style to others, coming up short, and so often feeling that I needed to change or improve in some way. It was only when I began doing authentic movement, that I finally came home to myself and was able to honor my unique way of moving/being. In the inward focused, contemplative process of letting myself move without judgment or shoulds, I found my home base. This more self-embracing ground of being allowed me to begin LEAPING with confidence, courage, and joy - in all areas of my life.

Of course - it's not always this easy, there are many moments when I still lose my way and don't lovingly embrace my way of being. But naming what is most important to me; what brings me alive and in my flow of valuing who I am and what I have to offer, has helped me to remember that I do have a sturdy home base to return to. It gets very confusing in the judgment, should zone. It's important to have a simple reorienting reminder to kick-start the clarity zone.

Thanks to my friend, I now have a new tool for kick-starting clarity: Four simple words, on the spot, to quiet the noise, self-judgment, and confusion.

So, I'm keeping it short and sweet today. I invite you to come up with your own acronym and your own anthem and scrawl it on a piece of paper. Tack it up in a prominent place in your home and/or shove it into your back pocket for those moments when you forget that you do have the confidence and courage to.....

PS - I'd love to read your four words. Please do send them along to me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Language of the Heart

While away on my recent island retreat I gave myself the assignment of being more mindful about the specific quality and content of my moment-to-moment perceptions. In other words, I was all about getting really curious about the beliefs and emotional states I grasp onto at any given moment. I was especially interested in how my sense of self and wellbeing (or not) is based on these fleeting weather systems of thought/feeling.

This is not a ground breaking intention; most certainly a Contemplation 101 type assignment.  But since I wanted some kind of close to the bone orienting theme for my time away, this one fit the bill.

During my days of silence, my habitual perception grooves revealed themselves to me with some startling discoveries.  I realized some things about my inner narrative that humbled me, some things that delighted me, and some things that inspired me to LEAP out of tired old habits.

Here's what I found out: 
I talk way too much.
I am compelled to help others like a squirrel on crack.
I'm a bit of a know-it-all.
What needs to be said can be said in fewer words and with more heart.
Caring touch and quiet loving presence are powerful healers.
Sunrise, sunset, moon rise, the wind through the trees (really - all of nature and her critters) are wise teachers on the themes of impermanence, courage, reverence, and awe.
It's truly possible (moment-by-moment) to name and tame the onslaught of thoughts and feelings that cause me suffering.
Deep, full-bodied, compassionate listening might just be the answer to all that ails us.
Joy and grief are close companions and that's just fine.

On the ferry ride back to the mainland I could feel the clarity of my insights dull a bit. I heard the low murmur of my old habitual thoughts and feelings vying for attention, arguing with me that life is more complex, there really are conditions (about myself, others, the world) to fret about, figure out, fix, control, and change. But these voices just didn't have the same impact. My central nervous system wasn't buying it. My stress response was disinterested in kicking into high gear.

The language of my heart was calling me back to my calm center and I was choosing to return.

From this calm center I could hear the counsel of my heart assuring me that the conditions that needed tending could be addressed with a lighter touch and more skillfulness when unburdened of fretting and struggle.

Yes there are ideas to share, words to speak, actions to take, help to be offered, life to be lived with meaning and purpose. Yet the shift from noisy squirrel-fretting to quiet heart-counsel makes all the difference in my being able to participate with life in a way that brings true communion with others and beneficial change to my local/global community.

This passage from David Abram's book Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology is a perfect definition of what I am calling the language of the heart:
"... the power of language remains, first and foremost, a way of singing oneself into contact with others and the cosmos, a way of bridging the silence between oneself and another person, or a startled black bear, or the crescent moon soaring like billowed sail above the roof. Whether sounded on the tongue, printed on the page, or shimmering on the screen, language's primary gift is not to represent the world around us, but to call ourselves into the vital presence of that world - and into deep and attentive presence with one another."


And so this is where I'm LEAPING right now. Tapping away on this shimmering screen and trusting that the language of my heart is singing to your heart; perhaps even inspiring you to listen in a full-bodied way to your heart-counsel in taming your squirrel-fretting so that you can get on with the meaningful adventure of life and the invitation to....


Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Beautiful Mind

No this is not a post about the movie A Beautiful Mind; although that movie does offer a fascinating study on the subjectivity of perception and how it impacts the quality of our wellbeing.

And... perception is the theme of this post.

My thoughts on perception were stimulated by an upcoming workshop offered by the poet David Whyte, entitled The Art of Creating A Beautiful Mind. In his description of the workshop he writes: "How much stress or unhappiness we undergo can depend on the qualities of perception we cultivate."

As is usual with David, he swims in the waters of imagination. He sees imagination as a vital tool toward making sense of the complexity of our evolving selfhood.  He speaks of imagination as a form of intelligence and a deeply rich and intuitive faculty of perception, which supports "... a way of being in the world that engages a rested, alert intelligence with the courage to simplify, to act, and above all, to have a life worth living at the center of our endeavors."

It got me wondering how the being that I am, the life I unfold into, and all that constantly swirls within and around me - would be experienced if I swam in the waters of my imagination more. It felt liberating and a little giddy to imagine (!) such an imaginative life (and/or being); possibilities abounding.

How is this actually done?

Good question.

Since I haven't taken the workshop, I'm not sure how David would direct us on perceiving our lives via the faculty of imagination. But - I can take a LEAP and say that he might read this poem as a doorway into the territory of our imaginations:

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don't want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people's questions,
don't let them
smother something

To find
another's voice
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don't follow
someone else's
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don't mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don't want to take.
   From River Flow

I'll be taking this poem with me as I once again LEAP off the grid for 2 weeks (I seem to be in need of lots of time off the grid at this stage of my life. Time away fuels me to return with more passion to KEEP LEAPING in the mix of all that challenges and thrills me).

While away - I plan on being very curious about the qualities of the perceptions I cultivate - moment by moment. I'll be opening some windows and letting the breeze of my imagination blow in.

So, until I return, I invite you to do the same.