My false god

Chaplin_-_Modern_TimesI was on the phone with an old friend, catching up. He had read some of my blog posts and wanted to hear more about what’s happening in my life. And he asked some perceptive questions. Like this one:

“You’ve use the word ‘productivity’ a few times. Tell more about what you mean by that.”

Without stopping to think, I blurted out: “It’s my false god.”

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‘Soften where you feel the stretch’


beach yoga crop
Photo by Sarah Bass

One of my current favorite yoga videos is 47 minutes and 32 seconds of slow, gentle stretching—no strength-building balance poses, no sweat-inducing vinyasas. Just deep, relaxing stretches.

That’s not to say it’s entirely easy. The loud groans you hear coming from my living room are the sound of muscles reluctantly giving up some of their tightness and soreness.

Or rather, they’re the sound of my mind reluctantly giving up some of its impulse to clench those muscles—a subconscious impulse, born of the subconscious feeling that I need to defend myself at all times. Somebody might criticize me. I will certainly criticize myself. So I tighten my jaw, my neck, my legs, as if that can ward off the psychological blows. In trying to protect my “soft animal” from mortal injury, I trap it in an iron cage, where it is impossible for it to love what it loves.

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A little joy

Lately I’ve been practicing a  meditation called metta, or lovingkindness, which is supposed to cultivate compassion for yourself and others. The classical formulation has four parts (with some variation): menorah

May I/we be safe.
May I/we be happy.
May I/we be free from suffering.
May I/we be at peace.

I adapt these to my needs:

May I feel safe.
May I feel loved.
May I feel softness.
May I feel joy.
May I feel at peace.

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‘Tell me about your despair’

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.

Photo by Raja Patnaik, post-processed and uploaded by Alessio Damato, via Wikimedia Commons

I didn’t blog at all for five weeks in September and October. The despair was too thick.

I knew it would happen. Drawing inspiration from the stunning first lines of Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”—the verses at the top of every page of this blog—I am trying to let myself love what I love, to accept myself as I am. But all along, I knew I would eventually arrive at the next, pivotal lines:

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world goes on.

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