Food for thought

Zaimu Challenge

The Japanese word for mission (shimei) means to “use one’s life.” For what purpose do we use our lives? For what purpose have we been born in this world, sent for from the universe? ~Daisaku Ikeda

Some people spend years seeking, but never really finding, their mission. Others seem born understanding their place in the world. I believe each life, no matter how many breaths allotted on this this plane, is here to accomplish something. Perhaps  some are more fortunate than others in being able to discern (and even work to fulfill) their mission early in life.

When you can’t perceive your mission, you may feel your life is meaningless. But this is false. Reflecting on the events and the nature of your life can provide a window.

Even when, or especially when, your overwhelming experience is pain, you can find a way to use the events of your life to create more peace – for you and for those around you.

This is I think is the key from the statement above. It says “For what purpose do we use our lives?” This implies choice and effort rather than a passive anointing.

You needn’t await permission or a special phone call. You can look at your current circumstances and ask yourself, what can I do where I am, as I am? How can I create value here and now? Your answer may evolve over time, and based on your capabilities. It can be as simple as creating a more hopeful environment at work, or as complex as finding ways to eliminate lupus.

The point is to use your life in a contributive way. In so doing, you can better discern what you can do best; how you can help best.

For what purpose do you use your life today? How will you develop yourself to do even more tomorrow?

The wise will rejoice

Zaimu Challenge

I watched a short video this weekend, and it featured excerpts from a piece by Buddhist philosopher and peace activist Daisaku Ikeda. I haven’t felt anything resonate so deeply in a long time. I quickly jotted down all the words I could remember and then found part of the poem excerpted online:

Morning sky by nicole denise.
Morning sky by nicole denise.

Quietly ask yourself
if it isn’t in fact true
that each of us,
before being defeated by an external adversary,
is first defeated by ourselves.

The weak in spirit,
the cowardly,
even before wandering reluctantly
at the foot of the wall
that towers in their path,
shrink first before the sight
of their own shadow.
Terrified of illusory figures
of our own creation,
we are defeated by the bandits
that infest our heart.

The strong-willed,
the courageous,
are always the conquering masters
of their own minds.
Thus, they fear nothing,
remain unbowed, unflinching.
Whatever occurs,
they live in perfect accord
with the Daishonin’s counsel:
          The wise will rejoice while the foolish will retreat.
They know that they themselves
are like that brilliant monarch, the sun.
Shooting bright beams
through the clouds
of impermanence and change,
they advance, heads held high
into the raging tempest.


From Be an eternal bastion of peace in Journey of Life: Selected Poems of Daisaku Ikeda

6 to go

Personal Narrative

I’ve been 40 for six months! Yesterday was my half birthday.

We have to blame Sojo and Sam for this whole half birthday thing. They are the ones who introduced me to the concept, and it took a few years before I actually paid attention to the calendar and remembered my own. But this year, finally, I did, and so happy half birthday to me!

Some days it seems I haven’t accomplished much this year, but as I sit and reflect, I have to admit that’s impatience talking.

I’ve gotten new opportunities at work and landed some interesting freelance contracts. I’ve made strides in my creative projects and midway between my birthday and my half birthday…

Me and Blue in NYC at an impromptu engagement party.
Me and Blue in NYC at an impromptu engagement party.

I got engaged. *shimmies*

It’s been a fun year thus far. My only regret is not documenting more of it. I’ve been writing morning pages and journaling semi-regularly, but I can do more to record this chapter of my life. In anticipation of the next six months, I plan to write a letter to myself to arrive on my 41st birthday.

There’s always a balance to strike between living life and writing about it, but inspired by Pearl Cleage’s work, I want to maintain the one, increase the other, and enjoy the hell out of both.

Cheers to life and love and all that jazz. And happy (half) birthday to me!

 

Old Snippets

Personal Narrative

I’m organizing.

This is one of the first steps in my creative process. It’s resistance, or maybe it’s preparation for creation. All I know is, I can always tell how serious I am about writing by how much I suddenly have to clear off desks and organize files. Ha.

Today’s resistance-preparation is clearing out some of the random notes I’ve written in my computer’s Stickies app. Some of these are a few years old and most of them are interesting.

The one I’ve pasted below was written on Christmas Day 2012. At first I had no idea what was on my mind, but on second thought, I was pretty sure it was about love.

It was stream of consciousness so this is unedited. Maybe I’ll expand it, revise it, or something. Maybe not.

====

Coming out of a cave is at once liberating and fear-inducing. Eventually, you see, one comes to love the cave without so much as a second thought. It is home. It is cozy. One is protected from the elements. And there again, in many ways, from life itself.

And there I was, comfortable in cave-as-home. Caged. And here I am, out. Free. And it is joyful. Yet painful. Elements assault underused senses. The prickly sensation of blood flowing through sleeping organs. It’s uncomfortable.

Laughter as sunshine. Tears for rain. Breath – sometimes quick and shallow, other times relaxed, deep – so much wind.

 

This is all there is.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

I’m unsettled, yet settling in.

Thinking. Reconsidering.

I was clear about a decision yesterday. I revisited it today and realized, although a good decision, it’s one that would lead me on a familiar path instead of the new path I’ve claimed to be walking.

Always grateful for moments of reflection.

I’ve long gravitated toward interesting, yet shunned exciting in favor of practicality. Sam might say that’s my Venus in Capricorn. It serves me, yes. I lean on it too much, this taking the practical road thing I do.

Doing what makes sense rather than what ignites is safe. Today it also feels useless. Or maybe it’s outlived its usefulness.

I’m taking steps, but if I get to the crossroads and choose the path previously traveled by, how will I arrive at a new destination?

On living, aging and growing old.

Personal Narrative, Spirituality

It is important to remember that aging and growing old are not necessarily the same. ~Daisaku Ikeda 

I cringe whenever my peers claim they’re getting old. Of course years pass and we physically age, but a lot of what they are claiming is more about mindset than time.

A friend argued that maybe those people are beaten down by life – they’re getting weary, not getting old. Perhaps.

My favorite models in life are my aunts and uncles. Three of them are active on social media and in real life. Here’s a picture:

Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.
Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.

Auntie Jessie, who will be 85 this year, called to wish me a happy birthday Wednesday. When we spoke around 9:30 p.m., she was just getting home after a full day, that started, of course, with yoga in the morning.

I’ve actually never heard her say I’m getting old. Years ago, she told me she knew she’d be around because longevity runs in our family. This was despite the fact that some of her siblings died at or near retirement age. She simply keeps living life to the fullest each day.

I logged into Facebook recently and noticed a conversation between two of my uncles. Live the life of your dreams starting now, wrote Uncle Grisby, age 78. Let the past be the past. Uncle Arnsel, 71, agreed, writing: I wouldn’t tamper with my life. I don’t want to miss out on what I have NOW! 

I agree. There are many past choices I would not make today, but I chose them based on everything I knew about myself and life at that moment. Those choices were also my teachers, and the decisions I make today incorporate the learning of the past. To erase the lessons may erase the past hurts, but doing so would also erase the wisdom that comes in healing.

But what if you’re still suffering from past choices? What if getting old really just means your dreams are slipping away?

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present. ~Nichiren

Nichiren implies here that not only are the lessons from the past contained in the present moment, but the power to change the present and create a new future are here as well. Youth does not spend its time looking backward, constantly lamenting what if? Youth looks forward, on to the next dream, a new goal, a different adventure.

What is youth? It is the inner strength not to stagnate or grow resistant to change but to stay open to new possibilities. It is the power of the spirit that refuses to succumb to complacency and strives ever forward. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Uncle Grisby was born on leap day, and yesterday he celebrated his 78th birthday. He shared this advice along with the following photo:

Start every day with a smile!!!

laugh every day

Here’s to growing older, while maintaining the spirit of youth.

xoxo

A quick word on clarifying and silence.

30 Day Blog Challenge

I don’t give advice. I won’t go so far as to say I’ve never given suggestions or answered specific questions  (should I wear this dress or that one?), but life questions and, “here’s what you should do” stuff? No.

I’ve always been of the impression that I can’t tell you how to live your life, I can only offer you my perspective on how I might handle a similar situation. But it’s what I might do, not what you should do. And since it’s not about me – it’s about you, I turn the spotlight in the other direction and offer up a mirror besides.

My goal is to help you clarify your positioning to the topic/question/dilemma at hand, as well as your options and potential consequences. Clarifying, I can help you with; but deciding? That’s up to you. Our life is our best teacher. My wish is that we all become better learners.

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it’s all over.
~Gloria Naylor

On ironing and grief. #NaBloPoMo #amwriting.

30 Day Blog Challenge, Personal Narrative

I remember when I stopped ironing.

As a young girl, I ironed all the time. And to some degree, ironing suited me. I’d iron shirt after shirt, and soon enough I’d be in a mindless rhythm. My thoughts were free to imagine new scenes for my current short story, or remember favorite scenes from a Judy Blume in progress. Usually I’d iron in the den on weekends. Daddy stretched out in his easy chair watching sports of some sort, momma half-watching, half-devouring a novel. It was easy, ironing was.

As I grew older, I continued ironing as needed. Didn’t think much of it. Maybe I no longer ironed clothes on weekends. Maybe I simply ironed the night before, as I laid out clothes for school.

In college, ironing happened decidedly less often. Using that mini surfboard on the bed proved neither effective nor fun, and it was college. Everyone knew you just needed to get your clothes out of the dryer while they were still warm. Ironing was reserved for the really stubborn creases, and only then at the last possible minute.

I entered the workforce and ironing again became a regular occurrence. Sometimes it was the evening before, yet more often than not, I saved it for my morning routine. There wasn’t much to it, after all. It was just ironing.

I remember when I stopped ironing.

Months after momma died unexpectedly, grief became stress became a fog. Life was thick. Heavy. Clouded over. Every morning it was time to get dressed and go teach my 4th graders, yet it got harder, not easier. Where was it? Where was the outfit I could just put on? I didn’t want to think about ironing. I couldn’t bear the thought.

I was near tears one day, trying to figure out tomorrow’s outfit and the requisite ironing, when cousin big sister suggested a radical idea: dry cleaners. I had only associated dry cleaning with my dad’s work shirts. Momma and I dropped them off early mornings before school and picked them up in the afternoons.

Neatly pressed clothes sans stress? Sign me up. I sighed away 10 pounds.

And thus marked the beginning of the end of ironing. Soon enough, through geography and professional choices, I all but eliminated the need for pressed clothes from my life. For years I donned sarongs and sundresses, jeans and fitted t-shirts.

As of late, the iron is no longer content to make cameos. It seems to be pushing for a more starring role. Yesterday’s sheath dress required a tap from the hotel iron, as did today’s button-down and slacks. And it was easy enough. There isn’t much to it, after all. It’s just ironing.

But I remember when I stopped ironing.