Saturday, September 12, 2009

on Lightening Up (And doing something different)

This fall brings many things. There is heaviness and there is lightness. It brings return to familiar activities here in Vermont and elsewhere, the end of summer, the beginning of fall and whispers of winter's approach. It's back to school time for many, a time to buckle down and stack firewood, preparing for the cold. For others it is time to refocus and dig into one's endeavours with a seriousness to match the season. It also is a time where the leaves float and swirl into piles and crackle beneath your feet, where giddy laughter of children and adults jumping into leaf piles echo in the trees and parks.

This sense of ritual and patterns of time and season bring peace for some and stress for others. It is hard to forget a year ago to almost the day the sky was literally falling into itself with the splintering apart of Lehman brothers, Merrill Lynch and our financial system as we understood it. If feels like ten years ago rather than a mere 12 months. Many are left with their world changed for what seems like forever. It feels heavy, very heavy.

Pema Chodron, buddist teach and author of small but powerful book "Comfortable with Uncertainty", published in 2003 by Shambala, offers 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion of which I'd like to share but one. The chapter called "Lighten up (And do something different) speaks to me more so than others.

So often in these times it's really difficult to be light when faced with such dire seriousness. It's important to find space to loosen up, to play and to laugh. Without such, anxiety and stress overwhelm, consume. Especially so for the cultural creative types who strive for inventiveness and inspiration in unlikley places. It's hard to summon when you are down, scared, anxious. Given our economy, general strife and society chaos, these feelings will be with us for a while I believe. Thus it's imperative to learn how to lighten up something different...make a different choice...intentionally don't do what's familiar and welcome the unknown, the untried.

Pema writes, "Being able to lighten up is key to feeling at home with your body, mind, and emotions, to feeling worthy to live on this planet"....."When your aspiration is to lighten up, you begin to have a sense of humour. Your serious state of mind keeps getting popped. In addditon to a sense of humour, a basic support for a joyful mind in curiousity, paying attention, taking an interest in the world around you. Happiness is not required, but being curious without a heavy judgemental attitude helps....Curiousity encourages cheering up. So does doing something's sometimes helpful to change the pattern."

So instead of walking the way you always walk home, walk another way and remember to look up in the sky and not at your feet. Do one less thing which you normally do each day and see what opens up in the space left over. It might be nothing at all, silence. However, that nothing might lead to inspiration, a long-percolating creative connection or something you forgot to do which was really important or meaningful for yourself or someone else.

Smile and be light. Make funny faces in the mirror. Loosen up, don't take yourself so seriously. Practice this skill often, learn how to shift your perspective, change your point of view, walk in other people's shoes. Doing so will help navigate the uncertain future gracefully with poise and balance.

(The image is from a recent family trip to Mt. Philo which when climbed, offers lofty views of Lake Champlain and the expansive valley surrounding)

1 comment:

Angelo said...

Steve, great post. It's so easy to get wrapped up in deadlines and stress out during the fall.

Mt. Philo is a perfect place to get a little perspective (in more ways than one). When we lived in VT it was a spot we frequented multiple times.