Saturday, January 10, 2009

Joyful Simplicity

Happy New Year to All!

Here we are already well into January. Usually I've created my year by now. What do I mean "created my year"? I mean sitting down on New Year's Eve and writing nonstop for about an hour in retrospect about the year that hasn't happened yet. Prior to that writing, I usually spend the week or so before New Years taking stock as the “old” year comes to a close, and I think this clears the way nicely for the writing ritual. I write without thinking—just write—and see what comes. Later, I usually find the essence of what the coming year will hold revealed there.

This New Years I spent the turn-of-the-year period playing in Paris, catching a nasty cold, then trying everything to cure it. Consequently, I did neither the stock taking nor the writing. And as I am still recovering, I have yet to do them; I just haven't been up for it.

So having broken now with my longstanding tradition, I'm tempted to create the year consciously, versus through the traditional pouring out of my subconscious via ink on paper. I've already sketched out some intentions (even sick I could do that). And when I venture in the direction of an overall intention, a context for the year, what arises is this: joyful simplicity. I'm not even sure what that means, but something about it excites me.

And as for the stock taking, I don't have to look very far to see: I left 2008 clearer, more trans-parent than I've ever been. Surely this owes in part to my having left nearly all my earthly possessions (and papers and files and the gazillion sorts of minutiae associated with running two or three businesses, a household, a car, a lawn mower, and etcetera) on the other side of an ocean. And true, I am living in a substantially smaller abode, out of the proverbial two suitcases of goods and clothing. The books and files I have with me wouldn't half fill a shopping bag. But I'm no fool. I know clarity is not as simple as dispensing with or putting aside one’s material goods. It helps, but it's not everything. It seemed lately that not a day went by that I wasn't clearing something out of my path. Certainly it helps to throw oneself into a whole new environment, say 3,000 miles from all that is familiar and comfortable. For me at least, this act, this remove, this reckless abandoning of my comfort zones has highlighted vividly for me what is essential and what is extraneous.

Clutter comes in many forms. There's junk mail, there's memora-bilia, there's senti-

mentality and all it has us collect. There are household records and teaching materials from eons past. There's furniture that's been replaced by other furniture, the backup Mr. Coffee: the myriad "just in case"s in basement and attic. But perhaps the most obstructive clutterers are the habits of thinking and being that have done their time and do not serve us any longer. Clearing any of this leaves a space. Clearing all of it leaves a huge space. In either case, something new can enter, proportionate to the space made available.

I recently read a quote to the effect that we are always either fulfilling our lives, our intentions and ambitions, or we are engaging distractions. I am a curious woman; I have a lot of interests. But all of a sudden my interest in something isn't enough to qualify its taking my time or focus. I feel unwilling--moreso than ever--to waste the minutes and hours, to indulge myself with something that doesn't bring me forward. There is a laser quality to what I am experiencing, and I do believe it is a part of the larger wave of clarity and shift that got Barack Obama so heartily elected, for example.

Joyful simplicity requires a lot of intolerance, a radical break in the status quo. It requires death: not just one, but many deaths. And I am willing to execute them.

Patience is an odd companion to intolerance, but interestingly a new-found patience is arising in tandem with this refinement. Not the patience that would have me wait and wait endlessly for a result, but the patience that trusts in the process, knowing the outcome is assured. I don't need the Clarity handbook finished and published urgently; nevertheless, I am committed to that happening by June, and I know that putting my time in each day will bring me this fulfillment. The same goes for learning Photoshop and InDesign, for relearning to play guitar.

Last week, when my cough wasn't clearing, I went to the pharmacy, asked a few questions, and came home with Ivy-Thyme. I took my first 15 drops and proceeded to anticipate immediate relief, which did not come. There was my classic urban-American bratty "I want it, and I want it Now!" conditioning flaring! I recognized it for what it was, relaxed knowing I was taking effective steps in the right direction, and kept taking my doses. It all felt graceful, once I got past the initial reflex, and before long improvement was apparent.

Nota bene: I am speaking of refinement, not resolution. It is clearing, making room that makes this spaciousness and the fluidity which accompanies it possible. Deciding, resolving—even newly--on the same ground as before would get me just as far as throwing more bad seed onto stripped soil: under such conditions, what has failed once is guaranteed to fail again.

I notice now that more than ever I have nothing to prove. I wasn't much of a "fighter" before, but now I feel a broader and more durable tranquility. I am not tranquil to the point of apathy by any means. In fact, I can feel that this peaceful posture has left me more committed. Space makes room for what matters, and into the space that which matters flows easily, naturally. In the absence of a bevy of distractions, there is time and energy abundant to attend to these essentials.

Flow, ease, room for what matters, tranquility, true progress, real satisfaction: it’s easy to see where “joyful” comes in! I may sit down to that writing yet. But joyful simplicity will be serving me well in the meantime. And vice versa.


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