what if…

What if it truly doesn’t matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?

How would this change what you choose to do with your life?

What if you could be more present and open-hearted with each person you
encounter working as a cashier in the corner store, a parking lot attendant
or filing clerk than you could if you were striving to do something you
think is more important?

How would this change how you want to spend your precious time on this earth?

What if your contribution to the world and the fulfillment of you own
happiness is not dependent upon discovering a better method of prayer or
technique of meditation, not dependent upon reading the right book or
attending the right seminar, but upon really seeing and deeply appreciating
yourself and the world as they are right now?

How would this effect your search for spiritual development?

What if there is no need to change, no need to try and transform yourself
into someone who is more compassionate, more present, more loving or wise?

How would this effect all the places in your life where you are endlessly
trying to be better?

What if the task is simply to unfold, to become who you already are in your
essential nature- gentle, compassionate and capable of living fully and
passionately present?

How would this effect how you feel when you wake up in the morning?

What if who you essentially are right now is all that you are ever going to be?

How would this effect how you feel about your future?

What if the essence of who you are and always have been is enough?

How would this effect how you see and feel about your past?

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really
want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?

How would this change what you think you have to learn?

What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and
trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practises
that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?

How would this shape the choices you have to make about how to spend today?

What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in
the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply
pay attention and wait?

How would this shape your stillness, your movement, your willingness to
follow this impulse, to just let go and dance?

– Oriah

rae in motion

 

the question in the doorway that won’t leave me alone.

i feel ready to let another layer go.
it never happens all at once,
this shedding of skin.
at least not for me.
it’s a gradual untangling.
a piece by piece.
a one step at a time
until
something shifts
and everything clicks
and then
enough is enough.
then there is no going back.
then it is game on
or game over.
immerse or abort.
pick up your heels girl
you’ve been shuffling for too long,
for just long
enough
to know
that this is not what you were made for.
this has been, at best, a catch-your-breath-place,
but it was never meant to be a sit-down-and-stop-trying space.
lighten your load.
loosen your grip.
your hands have bigger things to reach for,
your feet are itching to run.

the hanging question, always begging for an answer

the hanging question, always begging for an answer

travel as equals

i drove old familiar roads today to attend a celebration,
a memorial,
for a beautiful woman
with mischievous eyes.

not bound by walls or coffins or concrete crosses
this honoring, this grieving,
was happening among the trees
and their changing leaves
and the beauty of mid-september skies.

i knew the route to the forest like the back of my hand,
my mind barely aware of the landscape,
the landmarks,
as my car rambled by.

i was thinking about lives lived, lessons learned.
i was trying to put my finger on the words
that could explain what remains
after her passing.
what it is she leaves behind
in me.

those sorts of words don’t easily come.
i search for them anyway.

my friend was a woman who didn’t travel light in heart in this world.
her story was not simple nor easy to share.
but her laugh was contagious
and her perseverance relentless
and i think it would be safe to say
that her footsteps got lighter the longer she walked.
i don’t know if she would claim
that the journey got any easier,
but i do think she could write you poems
about the beauty she was learning to see along the way.

and i know that she knew
that she wasn’t travelling through life
alone.

in the afternoon light,
with black eyed susans and burning tobacco,
we brought our still-living bones
to gather together
to tell stories
to whisper prayers…pleads…blessings

to express our gratitude.

for so much.
for the way we are changed when we let ourselves walk close enough to someone else.
for the way a heart, even (especially?) a broken one, can be a vehicle for so much blessing,
so much light.

i don’t know, at the end of it all, if there is anything more that i aspire to,
anything greater that i could hope for,
then to have a community gather under autumn leaves
and say
we are better for having known you.
we are thankful for your life.

thank you, dear girl, for living your story with such courage, generosity, and humility.
you are already missed.

[ on my drive home, with the sun dropping lower in the sky, this song came on the radio. i had never heard it before today, but it seemed strangely fitting. If there is one thing that my beautiful friend and her gracious community have taught me, it’s that “the only way we can survive, [is to] travel as equals or not at all”. ]

the point is to live everything

The Questions
The Questions

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

a found poem, or something like it.

...

...

It’s Saturday afternoon, the end of March. There was snow on the rooftops this morning, but that didn’t last long. I saw two crows fight it out in an eavestrough, while at another house, the hyacinth bloomed. By noon the sun was so hot coming through the window of the Mexican restaurant that our skin was feeling parched. My legs are stretched out on the brown striped couch in front of me. For a couple of hours they sat cross-legged on a carpeted floor. A live version of Such Great Heights is floating up to my window from a car speaker a few stories below. Today those kids really sang the blues.

I made the hot chocolate a bit too hot, but the almond milk was a nice touch. That cactus salad sure is hard to beat. Where does cancer come from and why does it happen and why did they have to die so soon? If you sang the song of your past it sure would be a heartbreaker.

That guy on the rollerblades must have been in the military. Lightening bolts on his head and all. As soon as you took off your glasses, I remembered everything. Fireflies don’t always bring light to dark places. It was 2 years yesterday, I wish I’d remembered.

You want to bring her back to life to make your future bright. That monster still sleeps in your sweater pocket. I wish it was easier for all of us to live with our losses. What should we do when our fears keep us up at night? It’s tradition now, you know. I could tell by your face that I’d lost you. I’m just not sure why you left.  I want to change my address too. Damn knocking.  You asked the question we’ve all been dying to know, little sage: If God is real, why doesn’t she answer?

……

the poet answers her own question

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

– from This Summer Day by Mary Oliver

the poet

the poet

“What I have done is learn to love and be loved. That didn’t come easy. And I learned to consider my life an amazing gift. Those are the things.

– Mary Oliver, from an interview with Maria Shriver

the failure keeps us humble and leads us closer to peace.

Pic (65)

thanks to my sweet friend amy for sharing this song with me the other day.

it’s the kind that needs to be shared.

What if we break their brains?

* this guy blows my socks off. again and again. today i had 3 pairs on, and he took them all off with one right-on-i-want-to-shout-hallelujah-and-buy-you-chocolate blog post. please read it. i write and ramble and post a lot of stuff up here. i think it’s all good. but i think this is really really great. and true. and could change things in all of our lives if we were willing to be brave like he is. that’s my two cents anyway. read it for yourself and see what you think.

Dallas Clayton

Dallas Clayton

EMOTIONAL LESSONS

Sometime around the end of the year it occurred to me that in the current school system children spend a fair amount of their days working hard at subjects like math, and science, English and history, maybe even arts and sports, but rarely if ever do our kids get to spend any substantial amount of time working on any sort of emotional development. Of course there’s the implied emotional development that occurs throughout life- learning what to do or what not to do through imitation or routine. That’s a given much like learning to speak. But if speech can be refined, vocabulary built, and language elevated what about a child’s emotional well being?

This of course is no new idea.  There are schools, and temples, massive well-landscaped gardens and volumes of books that address the issue head on. And as a tax payer I’m sure there are a multitude of arguments that could be made in opposition. Things along the lines of: Why should kids take time out of their allotted educational curriculum to focus on something as abstract as emotions? Who would be qualified to teach it? What would be discussed? What if we if we break their brains?

However when I took a moment to shift the idea toward an average cross-section of adults I knew, each with adequate reading skills, functioning math levels, a general knowledge of art, or history, even a basic athletic ability, the one commonality that seemed to hold true was an emotional deficit. With each person, over and over again, there was an inability to deal with some of the basic ideas that make us human.

Consider for a moment how many adults you know in therapy, how many on medication, how many with estranged relationships with their families, distorted views of their personality or even more simply how many totally ill-equipped to interact with strangers with any level of confidence. The number of socially inept, emotionally off-balance adults I know far outweighs the number of adults I know who can’t read, or do basic math. Even in my own life with as many advantages as I’ve had I’m still trying each and every day to enrich myself emotionally,in a way that leads me to wonder how it is I know the capitals of states I’ve never been to or the mundane likely-fabricated life details of presidents who died hundreds of years ago but I don’t know for certain what the best way is to deal with someone who is sad.

This isn’t to say that even if I were given a time machine and the ability to swap out two semesters of regional social studies for two semesters of team-building exercises I’d have turned out any better, but it seems plausible that spending thirty minutes a day working on emotional ideas might have the same effect as spending thirty minutes a day learning any subject that is completely foreign to us when we are born.

Take guitar for instance. With one thirty minute shot of guitar, maybe we’d have no retention at all. Maybe just a fun memory of the time we tried to jam, got confused and went off to play video games instead. But spread out over a period of ten to fifteen years those same thirty minutes a day might at very least produce a student who has a greater understanding of the basic concepts of music than one who has never held a guitar in his or her life. Whether or not he or she chooses to ever play the guitar as an adult, or use that skill socially is neither here nor there. It has been learned and the value of learning a new skill, especially in your formative years, is often beyond measure.

So this month I decided to test this theory. Treating emotional building blocks the same way you might treat guitar lessons. Take a simple subject, one that we all have issues with, myself included, and spend thirty minutes a day talking about it with my son.  I chose “Frustration” as the inaugural idea, because it is something that is quite common with both children and parents. For the past thirty days we’ve spent thirty minutes each day doing different exercises, working on different routines, and generally just bringing the idea of talking about frustration to the center of the table.

I haven’t done much in the way of research, just a few quick nods to the internet and a look toward my friends and all the issues that most frustrate them in their day-to-day adult lives.  Strangely enough a lot of the ideas I came up with would probably fall under the category of “things you might do at a company retreat” or “exercises from a corporate seminar.” Ideas most of my friends would find totally preposterous (see also, emotional development lacking in adults). But fortunately for me my work-partner is only seven and a half and acts much more like we all would probably act if we hadn’t spent so many years hiding behind walls. So for him these sorts of things are just as engaging and challenging as playing soccer, or reading a book. Full blown wonderment at times, confusion at others, and most often – joy when figuring out how to do something correctly.

At the end of each week I laid out a simple written test to review some of the concepts we’d learned and tomorrow as a result of finishing the final test there will of course be a fun reward for a job well done.

I don’t know exactly how any of this is going to work out in the long run. How each month’s subject will be chosen, or what will happen when we get there because at the end of the day I am in no way qualified to be teaching these sorts of things. But, much like most things a parent has to do- I’m learning, and figuring it out as I go. With any luck this idea of an “emotional lesson” will become just as commonplace in my sons life as stretching or talking and hopefully it will help push him to greater places both mentally and physically. As an added bonus, just as teaching someone to play guitar can reawaken skills that you didn’t know you had, or help you re-examine music in totally new ways, I’ve actually pulled a lot of personal emotional enrichment out of the past thirty days as well. Of course, how could you not get something out of spending some time each day having a dialogue with someone you love about how to become a stronger person?

Anyhow, I just wanted to share this idea because I know a lot of parents and teachers and even students check in here from time to time so I thought it would be nice to put this out into the world, maybe turn some gears, get people thinking. Like I said, I’m far from an expert so if you have any thoughts on all of this feel free to email me or if you want to take this idea and run with it on your own, feel free to do that too. After all, we’re all just trying to be better people right? Right.

Thanks for listening! – Dallas

what does it take to fall in love with being alive?

canoe tim steve

i went and saw this film the other night. it tugged and pulled at my insides.

it’s been swirling around in my thoughts ever since.

little lines, pieces of thoughts…

…if you can’t befriend your own death, then how strongly in your life are you?

…what we all need to know is that we are not alone.

…the greatest skill we can bring to the dying is our capacity to be heartbroken.

…how do you live your dying every day?

i have all these notes that i  scribbled on paper in the dark while the film played. little snapshots to return to. to keep chewing on. there was so much crammed in that 70 minute documentary. so much more than i could take in or absorb.

i think the biggest idea from the film for me, the thing that i keep repeating to myself, is the idea that in order to really love my life,       i need to learn to love the end of it. in order to fully appreciate the gift, i need to embrace the truth that i won’t always have it.

some days i feel like i can do that.

other days it feels too big. too scary.

how do i learn to relax my grip?

when the waters are calm it feels easy to relax. but when storms blow in, when the precariousness of life, the heartache of death, are crashing all around us, how do we still hold this gift in open hands…?

how do we let go and not grab on?

how do we live gratitude, both in the middle and at the end?

open your eyes

studio 080

i started my morning staring at this painting, chewing on these words…

“if you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief,

your body fills up with light.”

i’m still staring…

i’m still chewing…

Next Posts

Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015

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