The thing about living your life as a poem or a story or any other kind of art is that there’s got to be a theme to the thing. (It’s one of the rules, according to grade school English and art teachers when it comes to analyzing some bit of self-expression.)
This online dictionary I am looking at tells me that a theme is “an idea that recurs or pervades a work of art or literature.” It’s how you make sense of the art (or the life) you’re making.
I was browsing through my bookshelves the other day and it occurred to me that the life I am living now has been shaped not only by the experiences and people I’ve encountered through the years, but also by many of the books now sitting on those shelves. It got me to thinking about the prequel to my now-story.
In the middle of this reverie, I was drawn to aikido master Wendy Palmer’s book, THE INTUITIVE BODY: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice.
As I looked at it, I was struck again by that subtitle. (The online dictionary.com says “clairsentient” means “the ability to perceive emotional or psychic energy that is imperceptible to the five senses.”)
Okay, yeah. I know – woo-woo to the max and all that — but, hey, it’s a book about martial arts. For me, that resonates. As a long-time fan of old Run-Run Shaw movies and a really lousy kung fu practitioner, I still consider the thing a keeper.
I found the book during the first year after the death of my husband Fred, at a time when I was trying to figure out how I was going to walk on without him. It took a while to suss that one out, and Palmer’s book was one of the resources that I tapped. It helped.
So did an extreme number of self-help and self-improvement manuals, a mind-boggling array of psycho-pop and microwaved New Age publications, and as many old and antique philosophy, religious, indigene and ancient wisdom tomes of whatever ilk that I could get my hands on.
Gawd! I had hit the mother-lode of stories. Woo-hoo!
THE BOOKWORM TURNS
I spent the first two mourning years with my head constantly in some book or other. (It is my default move.)
I also spent a heck of a lot of time writing long-hand in old-style grade school composition notebooks. I did journaling. I wrote poetry. I did essays and opinion pieces.
I’m a writer. It’s how I roll.
(At the time, I was in a very volatile emotional state. It was all sturm und drang. My left brain took a hike. In that condition, until I write something down, I don’t actually know how or what I am really thinking. It is an uncomfortable place for me.)
I found myself very curious about what other people who’ve thought long and hard about Life-Its-Own-Self had to say about assorted life-questions mostly dealing with principles and ideals.
I distilled the thoughts I stumbled across into pages and pages of notes that I then re-read until I got all dizzy from the multiplicity of viewpoints. It took a lot of effort to pull together my own thoughts and reactions to all of these (often contradictory) mindsets and attitudes.
During my headlong high dive into the library stacks and new and used bookstore shelves, and through all the subsequent self-lessonings, I did a heck of lot of scribbling.
To make it more real to me, I also went out and tried some of the more intriguing bits, then wrote up reports to myself.
(I figured it was way better for me and my dignity to do that rather than consuming large quantities of alcohol or opiates or initiating wild-assed dancing or mad jungle sex – even though, I admit, the last two really did look like extremely attractive options.)
When I did write something down that had real resonance and meaning for me, I had the teachings of Palmer’s book to help me work on starting to “embody” my philosophical tunings and turnings and bring them back down out of my head and into my body.
I devised routines and practices that I did day after day for months on end, trying to see what living these ideas felt like. It was really cool in the same way that I imagine cosplay must be.
Once I thought on and embodied all these different kinds of knowing and knowledge, I could actually use them to help me navigate through the world and make my way through all the confusion and crowds of people around me.
It was my way of getting on the bus.
The whole thing eventually became a delightful swim through the minds of many great thinkers and soulful sorts. I also met such a lot of heartful, creative people in the analog world as a result of my explorations, and all of these encounters helped me heal and helped me grow.
Through the many experiments, explorations and iterations in which I’ve engaged as I went forward in my life, I often returned to Palmer’s book to remind myself of the questions it helped me ask and the answers and lessons I learned along the way.
AN INTERNET SIGHTING OF THE MASTER
I stumbled across a YouTube video (uploaded in 2015 by the Fetzer Institute) about Wendy Palmer’s Leadership Embodiment course that she took to South Africa and other places to teach people how to be centered under pressure, and to speak and take action in non-aggressive ways.
Palmer has been practicing aikido and her own brand of philosophy, it says here, for 45-plus years. She was already a master teacher when I first read her work more than 20 years ago.
My own biggest take-away from the book was this thing:
“Without a firm root system or foundation, intuitive perceptions cannot be focused in embodied action.”
What that told me was that all of the most beautiful thoughts in the world mean little if you don’t enter fully into the life situations around you and engage with them.
You need to work with your own perceptions and feelings during the many challenges, expectations and pressures life presents. It’s the first step in moving yourself forward towards your own dreaming.
Getting through and past the demands of Life-Its-Own Self gives you a way to reach a place where your own dreams are more likely to become a reality for you.
I tried it. It does work.
STUMBLING OVER THE OLDEST OF HUMAN GAMES
In my forays into the book-stacks and the pools of deep-thinker words and words and words, I also stumbled across one other book that helped me set up the parameters of my explorations of Life-Its-Own-Self.
This mind-boggle of a book, FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility, was written by the late James Carse, a professor who taught religion at New York University for many years. It was published in 1986. I think it’s timeless.
I wrote a review of the book in a previous post that you can access by pressing on the button below.
In 2019, author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek explored the ideas and thought-constructs presented by Carse in a book of his own, THE INFINITE GAME. Sinek’s been running with it ever since, it seems.
The following YouTube video, “Finite vs Infinite Game” was uploaded in 2019 by Generate Insights, and is an introduction by the author to the ideas in his book.
The Sinek book is, I think, a worthy attempt to bring a most important and very esoteric rule-of-thumb into the awareness of entrepreneurs and business leaders — people who are very much grounded in the “Real World” and who may be more than a little bit impatient with the woo-woo factor that the thought-construct tends to invoke.
In any case, the Infinite Game idea was one I adopted whole-heartedly in my own search for meaning and mana. It resonated with me and it led me into some very interesting situations and side-roads on my own journey.
What I found is that it’s a heck of a lot of fun to be playing in a game where the overriding goal is to keep on playing.
WHEN YOU COME TO A CROSSROADS, ROADMAPS CAN BE A GOOD THING (OR NOT)
Lately I’ve been reading a lot about how “aspirational” lifestyles are keeping us post-moderns from “growing up” and getting on with “adulting.”
My guess is that some of that is probably a backlash reaction arising out of years and years of being subjected to an ever-increasing number of folks who are bound and determined to fix your sorry ass (for a suitable and often exorbitant fee).
There is probably a lot of resentment as well at being taken for a ride doing things that really don’t match your own truths. You end up trying to live in systems that either don’t make good on their promises of helping you reach for your own dreams or saddle you with responsibilities and obligations that keep you on a treadmill of one sort or another.
On top of all that, there is the really insulting judgment that gets shoved down your throat about how this “REALLY GOOD THING” The Ubiquitous They are selling as a panacea for all of your woes and ills did not work because YOU didn’t work hard enough or YOU just weren’t good enough or something like that.
Meanwhile, buried under all the bunk and the snake-oil (scientifically “proven” or otherwise) and dogmatic rigidities and such, the thought-constructs of deep-thinkers and those who are truly paying attention to the mysteries and the wonders of Life-Its-Own-Self still flourish. They still have their own validity and vitality.
BACK TO MY STORY….
In my own journey, I went looking for my own truths. I figured it would be a good thing if I could walk my own talk and make my life congruent with my own self-definition.
I checked out other people’s ways of thinking and ways of walking, and, after getting a feeling for the shape and the themes of their journeys, I tried out the ones I was curious about and kept an eye on where those ways of walking went.
Using that information, I started to construct my own roadmap that I now tend to use as a filter for any decisions I might make every time I reach another crossroad in my life.
It took a long time, this exploration of thought constructs and be-bopping along from joy to sorrow and back again, and tripping over Life-Its-Own-Self, but the journey has never been boring and it has made for a life filled with a lot of good people along the way.
MY OWN VERITIES
Just for the heck of it, I’m going to share my four “verities,” the truths through which I’ve learned to filter all of the decisions I choose to make in my life:
- The Creative has no limits and I am a conduit for the power of the Creative. (Basically, this is a reminder that I am way too small to actually encompass the all of everything, but I am still one way that the Divine can move into and through the world and I can honor that.)
- Freedom is the basis of the Universe. (I am free to choose how I respond to anything that happens to me.)
- Now is the moment of power. (Now is when something can happen. The past is gone; the future isn’t here yet.)
- The World is a mirror of my mind. (What I see in the world around me tends to match what I believe the world to be. This one is a good stance, it seems to me. I can use it to choose beliefs that help make the world around me a good one.)
Your verities are probably going to be different. Mine do work well for me and they do come in handy whenever I get to yet another crossroad in my life.
Have you checked out your own filters lately? How are they working for you? You might find out some very interesting things about how you are looking at your own world.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S WORKING?
One of the main things a lot of the people I’ve studied keep saying is that you need to be able to measure your progress on your own road-trip. Otherwise, you can’t really tell whether you are getting anywhere.
A lot of the self-help guys tend to start slicing and dicing Life and compartmentalizing everything. They spend a lot of time affixing labels on these categories and sticking bits of life into the little boxes.
The motivational mob has piles and piles of numbers and statistics and such that they then interpret in whatever way seems to sound good to them.
Myself, I could never stand dissecting frogs and pinning dead butterflies to foam boards. Dead meat is not alive. Get it? Slicing and dicing can make good stir-fry, but it doesn’t help you see the beauty of frogs hopping or butterflies flitting around.
The numbers that sing for other people just gag and giggle when I come around. When you’re prone to transposing numbers in a series and you tend to screw up basic arithmetic, numbers really are not such good tools to use, I say.
Whenever I take on another stance or taste the effects of a different mindset, I tend to watch the effects that happen because of that way of walking. I keep an eye on what happens next and next and next.
Then I look at where I want to be going and figure out whether the way I’m moving from point A looks like it really is going to take me towards that point B I want to reach.
This by-gosh way of reckoning comes from lessons I learned from the elders and other wiser sorts in my life. I pay attention to my na’au, my gut, which is the seat of all of the instincts I’ve inherited from my savvy survivor-ancestors.
And then I look past the gut-reactions and check again to make sure that the moves I’m contemplating are really the most effective ones I can do in a particular situation. Sometimes your gut can get you trapped in crappy stories that keep on repeating themselves, ya know.
That’s what default moves do. They work really well at getting you to replay some old story. Maybe different will work better. It’s worth a look.
I check out how the world around me is showing up in my life. I notice, pay attention to and appreciate the good things that happen as well as the not-so-good things like bad breaks, dangerous beasties, and other uncontrollable catastrophes.
I think on and feel what my gut has to say about these things and hunker down sifting through possible moves trying to figure out the best way I can respond to whatever is going on.
If I feel safe enough to make moves that further my own imperatives, I know I am in a good place. If I am full of confusion and angst and angers and fears, I know I have further work to do.
And then I go.
ONE FINAL TAKE
The YouTube video below, “All In the Mind,” was uploaded in 2018 by Green Renaissance, a couple of passionate filmmakers, Michael Raimondo and his partner Justine, who are dedicated to putting together extraordinarily poignant and heartful works that are also visually beautiful.
The short film features Elrieda Pillman. It moves your heart in a good way. Enjoy!
Here’s a poem:
I always hate the murky times –
The in-between spaces that separate
The ending of one passed-through story
And the glimmery start of the next.
Heavy fog rolls in, creepy-quiet, and
All the clearly labeled signs on
Faint outlines of old guideposts are obscured
As the Void lays claim to the landscape yet again.
You know that standing still
Results in your getting soaked to the skin,
Chilled to the bone by the Formless
That keeps gathering all around you.
You freeze inside the crapulous thoughts that arise,
And the worry-loops inside your head
Feature secret, insect claws scrabbling under your skin,
And hard, sharp tiny jaws biting.
And moving swiftly, making great, determined strides
Through old ghosts and defunct paradigms
Is likely to earn you a whack upside your head
As you slam into some blasted rock or broken tree limb.
Maybe there’s the big surprise of tumbling into
Some unanticipated ditch or falling down some unseen cliff
Or getting tangled up in giant jungle spider webs
Or chomped by randomly laid monster-traps.
Done that too.
I always want to know whenever this happens:
What kind of “happily-ever-after” IS this?
By Netta Kanoho
PHOTO CREDIT: “Torn in half” by Kate Kend via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
SOME OTHER POSTS TO EXPLORE:
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