Sunday, August 16, 2015

It Wasn't Courage if You Weren't Scared....

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Wasn't it brave of her to say that out loud? Georgia O'Keefe, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, a pioneer for women artists and a woman who lived what appeared to be an adventurous life, was scared the whole time. Wait - not just scared - she was terrified every moment!

Call me crazy, but I find that very comforting.

And recently I read a piece from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things, in which she talked about her own fear. She basically said that she'd been afraid most of her life, and it had bothered her until she realized it was just the way humans are and decided to accept it, and more importantly, not to let it stop her.

Fear is a real thing, and I'm pretty sure anyone who says they haven't been mostly scared is either full of baloney or in denial. I've known people who kind of swagger with cocky declarations that they aren't afraid of anything, but I don't buy it. I think it's just that what we fear is different for everyone. I guarantee those folks are afraid of something - we just can't see what it is and they aren't about to tell us.

One person might not be scared to go bungee-jumping, but they might be scared to be in a relationship or to change jobs or to write a book. Another person might be petrified to go bungee-jumping, but might not be afraid to run for public office or to work for the Peace Corps in an unstable part of the world. And then there is the possibility that both people are afraid to do all those things, but each one chooses those things that they want to do more more than they fear doing them....

I used to be mad at myself for being afraid. And there were definitely times in my younger life when the fear held me back from doing certain things and it led me to make fear-based choices that didn't work out so well. But with time, I started to be able to do things despite the fear - to leave unfulfilling jobs, to travel, to move, to learn new things, to try new things, to write my books. Even now, when I sit down to write, I'm scared - that nothing will come; that what I write will suck. But by now I've developed some faith that if I show up at my desk, inspiration will come. I fear it won't, but I believe it will. And I want it more than I fear it.

It helps when we know we are in the good company of people like O'Keefe and Gilbert. It helps when they have the courage to actually talk about their fear out loud. We think people like that are different from us because they are so boldly out there in the world. But their honesty and openness helps us understand that we are all the same.

I'll let Elizabeth Gilbert have the closing word on Creativity and Fear:

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Sunday, August 9, 2015


Everything is changing...all the time...

That's what they say, though sometimes it feels like nothing at all changes, for long periods of time....

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Or, it feels like EVERYTHING changes all at once....

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When we are in a happy phase, we immediately think, "Well this won't last." For some reason, when things are good, we leap ahead to the knowledge that it will, eventually, come to an end. Even while we are in our happy period, we begin to fear or mourn the end of it.

But when we are in a sad or unhappy phase, we think it will never end! I wonder why it is so easy to believe that a bad phase will last forever, but that a good one won't last for long?

I think about impermanence a lot in my life and in my yoga practice, which are pretty much the same thing now. In fact yoga is, in large part, about coming to terms with impermanence, because yoga is about learning to live in the present, and that is all about accepting that things will change; that things in fact are changing now, and now, and now.

Breath+hold.jpg (400×384)In yoga, we bring our attention to the breath and stay with each breath as it comes and goes. The breath changes; no two are alike. If we tried to hold on to the last breath, or if we pushed away the next one - in either case, we would die.

It is this practice of being with each breath, without clinging to the last or anticipating the next, that is the first step toward understanding how we learn to live with change.

Yesterday morning, we sat on a beautiful beach. The sun warmed us; the breeze cooled us.

Yesterday afternoon, the skies darkened and pummeled us with rain.

Impermanence ....

For many, many years, my parents were healthy. Then, suddenly, they were both ill.

Impermanence ....

For years before they died, I feared my parents' deaths. I thought I could never survive that. I grieved for years while they were ill and after they passed. Now, I miss them, but I do not grieve them every day.

Impermanence ....

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When I was younger, I worked for many years at jobs I didn't like. I thought it was supposed to be that way; that it was normal to just stay at a job you didn't like because you wanted and needed the money. I thought it would ALWAYS be that way.

Then one day, the company I worked for changed and that offered me the opportunity to make a change too. I leaped at the chance to leave behind this way of working, and have never looked back.

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Impermanence ....

Once, I was a child. I thought I would be a child forever. Now I am an adult moving into older age.

Impermanence ....

When I write, it often seems like I am getting nowhere. And then, after some months, I have finished a book and I'm not sure how it happened.

Impermanence ...

Our year of living on the road in our RV really heightened my understanding of impermanence. One night we stayed here:

A week later, we stayed here:

Impermanence ....

My favorite quote about change is this one from Faye Weldon:

"Nothing happens and nothing happens and then everything happens."

Change. We can see it as the enemy. Or we can see it as liberation. We can see it as something to fear. Or we can see it as opportunity. I've experienced it as all of these.

Or, we can just see it for what it is: The Way Things Are. Learning to let go of what is past; to stay right here, now, rather than rushing ahead to the future; to accept that "now" is already changing - this is the work of life.

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