How are you staying awake to life?

January 21, 2009 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Creative Risk | 3 Comments
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“Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love? We still and always want waking. We should amass half dressed in long lines like tribesmen [or women] and shake gourds at each other, to wake up; instead we watch television and miss the show.”

In the above quote Annie Dillard (in her book, The Writing Life) is referring to the capacity of a good writer to rouse us from the mundane and infuse our hearts and minds with a sense of fresh possibility.

Reading is a wonderful way to shake up your perspective, one of my favorites. But what else can you do to juice up your reality? Sometimes the smallest change — like taking a different route to work or trying a new recipe — can transform how you think and feel. It doesn’t have to be a major shift, like learning a foreign language or becoming a political activist or moving to a new town . . . but it could be.

The point is to do something — hopefully, every day — to stay awake to life . . . so that you’re not caught off guard by death or love or crisis when it shows up in your life.  These elements are part of all our lives.  Fear can make us avoid people or situations that make us uncomfortable, but it’s our willingness to embrace drama and break away from the ordinary that keep us truly alive.

How are you staying awake to life today?


Get your ya-ya’s out – it’s play time!

November 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Play | 2 Comments
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little-wolf.png“Little Wolf” is the name of the magical house and wild mountain acreage owned by my cousin Susan, her husband, and members of his family. Isolated amid conifers and madrone high above the Klamath River in northern California, Little Wolf is a sanctuary for those seeking simplicity. I returned to Phoenix late last week after spending 5 days at Little Wolf . . . and by now I’ve almost made the shift from spontaneous wilderness time to my more structured urban agenda.

This is the third fall season I’ve visited Susan at Little Wolf. Susan’s sister, Lindy, also flew out this year from Santa Fe, New Mexico. The three of us share similar life passions and spiritual awareness, and during our get-away time we talked about everything under the sun, from our children, to creative destiny, to sex. We also hiked in the woods, read, sang, slept in late, baked a pumpkin pie, prayed, worked with clay, drank wine, and swapped stories by the fire. We giggled like school girls and laughed — a lot! Laughed so hard our stomachs ached. In short, we played together.

easusan.pngOn our last morning we reflected on what our most meaningful take-aways would be from this year’s Little Wolf experience. Lindy began with, “Peace, fulfillment, rest.” Susan added, “A more open approach to community.” I said, “A reminder to create time for active play.”

For me, active play means more than relaxing or taking part in sports activities. It’s about seeking interests we choose to practice or discover for the pure, exhilarating, participatory fun of it. There’s an element of learning in it and also a willingness to release anxiety about a particular pursuit being embarrassing, weird, or overly difficult.

easusanlindy.pngEmbracing active play starts with identifying elements that, perhaps, we’ve always thought sounded appealing but (for a hundred different reasons) have never given a try. What do you think might energize you or get you laughing so uproariously that the tears stream down your face? Here are some of the active play ideas I’m considering for myself as well as for my husband and myself:

* Classes in gourmet cooking, home decorating, desert landscaping, pottery-making, jewelry-making, western swing dancing (this last one makes me nervous but at the same time, I can see it being really fun)

* Hiking or rafting trips in all the U.S. national parks, shorter local hiking trips

* Bed-and-breakfast hopping

* Singing in a folk or bluegrass group

What are some of the things you already do or that you’d like to do for “active play,” to get your ya-ya’s out?

Those liberating creative risks

October 16, 2007 at 5:19 am | Posted in Creative Risk | 2 Comments
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neptunus-rex.pngCreating something new that’s never existed before can be scary business. Whether you’re delivering a motivational speech, or singing an original song, or sharing a feeling with a friend that you’ve never voiced before, or having a baby — you can never be sure how others will respond to what you’ve so lovingly crafted. It’s always a risk, isn’t it?

The sensationally encouraging news is that even though it’s rewarding to have others appreciate our creativity, there are times when it’s good and right to take the risk to put something fresh out there in the universe and release any anxiety about the reaction of others. How incredibly liberating to stand back and declare, “I did it!” It makes us feel alive.

Today I hope you’ll indulge my parental pride for a few moments as I celebrate my son Logan’s willingness to take creative risks. The particular risk he took about 18 months ago was to move from Phoenix to New York City to pursue his passion to write professionally. One of the projects he wanted to work on with his friend Robbie was a film script. The very short version of that lengthy process is that now the 41-minute film, “Neptunus Rex,” is finished. In fact, it premiered this past weekend at the New Hampshire Film Festival and was awarded “Best Student Film.”

This is one of those times when creative risk met with praise. But the dream of critical acclaim was not the prime motivating force behind Logan and Robbie writing a film script. They came up with a novel concept and some endearing characters who had a fun, distinctive story that simply begged to be told.

Taking creative risks — whether or not there’s an audience, whether or not we’re pleased with the result — is an essential element in our becoming more whole and fearless . . . and infinitely more free.

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