Energy grows where energy flows. Spring is the time of the year for growth and movement. Flowers and trees are bursting with blossoms. The air is filled with energy, the days with light. Right now there is so much energy flowing, and if we connect ourselves to the streams of energy running in and through our lives, we can ride the currents of that energy into creating, connecting, and enjoying life.
We had a brief hot spell here recently, and it resulted in my losing my will to live. As soon as the temperature rises into the 90s, I begin to droop like a week old daffodil (and anyone who has seen one of those wilted daffodils knows it is not a pretty picture). When heat sets in, I follow all the rules for letting in cool air in the mornings at the same time I get all of my chores and running around done. Afternoons and evenings are for doing as little as possible, and reserving my energy, what there is left of it.
A couple of nights ago, I had one of those lazy nights, and by about 10:00 P.M. I was getting antsy. I wanted to get something done, so I began clearing my hard drive on my computer. As I began doing quick views of files, and sending as much as possible to the trash, I began to find some pieces of writing that I had done and forgotten about. My style of writing is to have a variety of projects going on, some regular, short articles, blogs posts, and regular columns for online newspapers I write for (like Examiner), and longer pieces that I’ve been working on for longer periods of time. There are also pieces of writing that I do when the mood strikes me. I have pieces of poetry, essays, and ideas for larger pieces written on scraps of paper, napkins, note cards, note pads, journals, and even special files on the computer where I occasionally stick a thought, poem, or idea.
After publishing my first book of poetry about two and a half years ago, I continued writing poetry. Sometimes I write for contests, or submit to journals upon request, or write for special occasions. Poetry often comes out of larger works, and can even come as a result of a dream, an idea or awareness from meditation or yoga, or from a walk. It feels so good to have ideas bubble up to the surface of my being--and I credit this flow to spending at least as much time doing yoga, meditating, praying, and paying attention to my spiritual connection to everything as I do work and chores.
Clearing off the computer hard drive, I ran into a file of the poetry I’d been keeping since before I had completed my first book. For the most part, poetry is something that comes to me in moments when I need a special way to communicate--when I feel there is no other way to express what I feel. It comes through me like a welcome and cleansing breath of air.
As I looked through the computer file, I could see that I had already done a great deal of work to lay the foundation for a new book. I learned with all my years studying, teaching, researching, writing essays, term papers, theses, dissertation), and then my first two books, that when you want to get something finished, you put it in the form as if it were complete. You do the parts of the book that you have done, even if it’s not in the right order. It’s a bit like casting a net upon the water, except that it’s not like you actually catch anything. We’re taught to write an outline and then have a solid beginning to an essay or term paper. In theory, that might be an okay way to start. In reality though, the outline and the process of writing has to remain flexible. I write the introduction to a book or paper when I’m finished. The first version of an introduction gives me an idea of where I think I’m headed, but the reality of researching, or telling a story, or discovering what there is to know about a subject, is that life reveals itself to you. You may capture some of it, and then you shape it to fit your ideas, ideals, or point of view. When you spend a great deal of time with a subject, you discover there’s more to nearly anyone or anything than what meets the eye or the initial encounter you have.
Sometimes ideas come from outside, observations, assignments, or a need to capture an experience or thought. More often though what wants to be written comes up as something that pours out of a place that has something to say. A mood to express. A path to follow. A point to make. At other times, there is nothing to say, and there seems to be no path to follow. Like the moment I needed to ‘do’ something, and I began clearing my computer of clutter...All that clutter is connected to my own mind, energy, heart, and physical being. Clutter of any kind, ties our energy up and sits on us like a large old dog who makes it’s home on our lap or hangs over our shoulders drooling until we pay attention to it.
What I discovered when I started playing with the poems and the manuscript is that I wasn’t that far from being finished with a book. That night I played around with the manuscript, ran a final spell check and did a read over, from beginning to end. I knew better than to try to edit when it was after midnight, but I decided I would spend a little time with the manuscript in the morning before heading off to yoga. As the sun rises just past 5:00 A.M. now, I am woken by the first light and the first soft paw on my face at dawn. Rather than fight it, I have taken advantage of being up early to get things done. Because I have always had so many things going on at the same time, I have developed some good habits for keeping track of where I am on each project. When I’m nearly finished working on a piece (book, poem, essay, article, lesson, design, workshop, meditation, or whatever), I make a brief list of what I’ve just finished and what the next steps are that need to be done. I also highlight these notes in red so I don’t have to take ages finding them.
When I read the notes, I discovered I was at the point where I needed to double check and format the table of contents. That is where I began in the morning, and that also gave me the chance to do a close edit of the text. In very little time, I was finished. Before me sat the rough manuscript for a book. I began preparing it for publication, and by the end of the day, had submitted the manuscript for the paper back copy and the Kindle version of the book. Today, I’ve been checking my proofs, making some minor adjustments, and am very nearly done. The energy generated from getting something accomplished, fuels me up to do more. So while waiting for final proofs, I submitted another book for the e-version-something I had been meaning to do for quite some time. What had taken me months before, had become part of my writing and working process. Rather than torturing myself about deadlines and unrealistic expectations, I allowed myself to enjoy the process, and do what was right before me. In the case of this latest book, it was like having a lovely gift float down from the sky, softly landing in my lap. Of course the final proofs, formatting issues, and the major task of marketing that is ahead, are not as much fun as the creative process, but it is now like teaching was for me years ago-like a giant toy shop waiting for me to make one discovery after another.
The thing about working for myself is that time becomes a huge amorphous energy ball that I live in. It is where I seem to lose track of time. I enter chiros time-that place where time slows down, stands still, or whatever it does, and it passes in the wink of an eye. While I don’t think about it much, I guess I’m more productive and more well organized that I think I am. I’d really like an assistant who’d come in and pick up some of the pieces for me. Someone to handle my business, but in the end it seems I’m a one-woman band. It’s how I learned to get things done and it’s how I still operate. For one delicious year, I had a secretary. And she was wonderful. I got to hire her, and found she taught me so much about learning to let people help me and letting myself focus on what really mattered instead of thinking I have to handle everything. My time management skills have helped to. I use time management to deal with how much time I spend doing unpleasant, stress-producing tasks. I limit this. I set strict boundaries around the time I allow to deal with budgeting, bill paying, and taking care of household and business needs. One area of life I limit is time spent worrying. Where I would get upset and worry endlessly in the past, primarily about things I couldn’t do anything about, I now limit worry too.
I take care of business in an orderly, regulated manner, and then I let it be. My life is not that complicated that I can afford to worry for hours every day. Fifteen minutes to take care of a piece of business is enough. Putting my energy into tasks that are more productive seems to work out best. I believe it was Alexandra Stoddard, the author of Living a Beautiful Life, who described her ritual of bill paying. She made it pretty. She set aside a specific time, set up an attractive desk to take care of her bills, and saw it as a blessing to her life. I too feel glad to be able to pay my bills. It gives me great pleasure to take care of business, and that’s what I focus on. When I let myself get over anxious about finances or lack, I do myself great harm. It’s simply not healthy. Instead, I see it as one part of my spiritual practice-changing one kind of energy into another. I do business, for the most part, with people I care about, people in community, so paying bills becomes more of a blessing when I feel I can help support someone else through my business.
One of the things we can do is to find ways to use our time more wisely, and to take care of business but not make our life solely about seeing life as one gigantic obligation after another. Find the blessing in the work, in the task, in the chore, in the clearing of clutter or the cleaning out of files, closets, or drawers. Watch how the energy flows when you are not busy blocking it with negative thinking, stored up emotional baggage (anger, frustration, fear, jealousy), or with negative self talk. Allow yourself time to enjoy something of everything you do. I just got two kittens, and it’s been a while since I’ve been responsible for taking care of other little beings. I was concerned about how quickly it would take me to get tired of the litter box patrol. Instead of going into that task with dread, I use it as a source of humor and lightness. And I make the task as simple and stress free as possible.
We all have something we have to struggle with, and no amount of clearing clutter is going to eliminate the dynamic movement that keeps our lives interesting and ever-changing. However, we can become part of the flow of things, by avoiding beating ourselves up with unrealistic expectations, suffering unnecessary pain and stress because of some of our choices and our fear to change our circumstances. Yes, we can say “yes” to more of what is good for us, and then get out of the way and let the good unfold and fill up our lives with blessings. How are you going to spend your day today? What might you leave off your list of things to do? How would you like to live more mindfully aware of how each moment is precious? What gifts are in the garbage you have been carrying around, and how might you let go of some thoughts that are burdening your and draining your energy? Spend some time in meditation or prayer or take a walk or a swim and let yourself focus on breathing and becoming more attuned to the rhythm of your own life, your own energy, your own needs, and your own passions. Be grateful, and enjoy the beautiful energy that is welling up in you. Let yourself be ignited by the spark of life within you and alive all around you. Let that spark set you into motion in ways that feed your soul and nourish you. And let your energy grow and flow into all you do.
“All the means of action–the shapeless masses–the materials–lie everywhere about us. What we need is the celestial fire to change the flint into the transparent crystal, bright and clear. That fire is genius.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.