The Feeling Compass

It all happens in a moment. You are feeling generally pretty upbeat. Sure, it has been a challenge, lately. But you are happy, right? You have a deep sense of joy at doing your right work. And a delicious feeling of freedom.

Then, I don't know…the check is late, you get a bad review, no one says good things about your blog, your client work is ok, but honestly not really inspired — you worked a little too hard at it, maybe payed too much attention to what you were doing instead of just being present. The cat coughs up a hairball, which you discover in the dark, with your bare feet. Oh, and then there are those "things" you said you would do. Not critical things, but agreements, just the same. And to be honest, you've failed to meet these agreements before, with the same group. You really can't do it again. And there's a check you can't remember writing that bottoms out the checking account. Again. And then, that client you were excited to be working with…who you really connected with, decides now is just not the right time. And even though it's nothing personal, just a timing thing, and you deeply support your client's choice, still you find your (ego) self bleeding from a thousand tender cuts. And just for a moment you think "I give up. it's too hard. I can't do it."

And here's the hardest thing: to just be with that feeling. Not to name it. Not to explain it, try to change it, try to understand it. Not to figure it out. Not to use it to spark a new goal or self improvement campaign. Not to deny it. Not to drown it in Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream. Not to play the "I shoulda" game…not to tell any story at all about it.

Just hang out with it. Just be with it. Maybe bring a little compassion to it. A loving witness. "Hello, there you are. Here I am."

Like a jostled compass that swings wildly before pointing again (always) to true north, allow the needle to settle.            

The Great Writing Game

Have you ever had something you really, really want to do…and find that day after day, you just don't do it? For me, that "thing" is writing. To you.

Perhaps you've "tried" to motivate yourself, inspire yourself, or  egads, "hold your self accountable" (…ick, ick, ick!) I certainly have. I find that I am of two minds about writing (truth be told, I am probably of two minds about lots more than writing…so let's say…writing, for instance). One mind loves writing and sees everything else that gets in the way as a terrible distraction taking me away from my most important thing. If I could just clear my schedule, or my "to do" list, this mind thinks,  I would naturally write both regularly and frequently (and of course brilliantly and perfectly, but that's another topic altogether). This mind is both enthusiastic, and I fear, delusional.

My other mind likes to believe that if writing were important to me, it would show in my strict  discipline: I would put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) every day, until I write some number of predetermined words, or some designated period of time passes, or I pass out from all the blood loss (sweating blood is a real marker of commitment, right?), whatever comes first. 

And just to keep life interesting, I even have a third mind, my inner rebel, that gets all huffy and fights tooth and nail against anything that has even a whiff of "you have to…" or any semblance of "forcing myself" to do what it is I want to do. All these minds can get very confusing.

What I yearn for instead is a loving practice of writing that gives me pleasure, gives you value, and ultimately becomes an easy, natural part of "what I do." But how to get there?

Any practice has to start somewhere, so I've decided to play a game I'm calling The Great Writing Game. By virtue of reading this, you are officially a fan (how cool is that!). The season for The Great Writing Game runs from today through the end of the year. During that time, there are 5 series; each series has 4 games (1 game per week); each game is comprised of 4 plays. A winning play occurs when I write to you, either here or on Twitter. (If I happen to write somewhere else, I'll let you know here or on Twitter). Four winning plays in a week equals 1 won game. I invite you to play along, cheer me on, help me keep score, and most important, help me celebrate! And along the way, I'll share what I'm learning about the power, the possibility, and yes, even the perceived pain of creating a loving practice.

My Unsung Song

"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung."  — Rabindranath Tagore

I've been "gonna write" for weeks…months…a really, really embarassingly long time. I have treasured colleagues saying "Oh, please write about …" "I'm so looking forward to your post about …" And all kinds of lovely appreciation for the words I use in sharing my wondering, and my learning on this creative path.  And then today I received this profound invitation, disguised in an email from the creative heart behind Heron Dance "Pause for Beauty" (and if you don't know Rod MacIver's beautiful work, please check it out here!).

"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung."

Can you feel the power — the yearning of these words?

"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung."

What did you do today?
"I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument…

  • organizing my email
  • doing laundry
  • running errands
  • researching strategies for "making time to write"
  • downloading a free trial of writing software
  • re-reading and savoring past writings
  • wondering if my song is "just right."
  • browsing the "new and improved" options for my instrument
  • tweaking the strings, strumming a little, tightening, loosening, adjusting
  • hoping to find the magical combination that let's me exclaim "There! That's perfect! Once I do this, then I can sing."

…while the song I came to sing remains unsung."

I find my ear is tuned to small failings — the notes a bit off key, the rhythm not quite perfect. "I'm not ready. Just a little more tuning." Time and time again, I lay my instrument down and walk away. Yes. The instrument needs care, loving attention, nurturing. But remember, the instrument is not the song. And music can be made with the meanest of tools. Perfection is not necessary. Only the bright, shining joy of singing out.

I notice the pressure of this music, this song I came to sing, building in my solar plexus. This melody — rich with harmony and dissonance, complexity and simple beauty. A paradox and a wonder. I can feel the bird-heartbeat fluttering fast with desire, pressing against my clasped hands. Asking to give birth to the song. To relax the constraints and let the notes fly out from me and into the world. Soaring.

Finding Passion

Got a call from a dear friend I haven’t spoken with in some time. You know how it happens — you get caught up in the busy-ness of life and before you know it three years have gone by. As we caught up with each other, I shared with him the evolution of the The Idea Midwife™. And he shared that he loves his job and has a great life, and he “still” wants to get his PhD, and teach, and especially write — if only he had something valuable to say.

This friend wants to make a contribution to the world. He wants his contribution to help others make their contribution to the world. He has an intuitive sense that writing and teaching are his pathways for this. He wants to move this desire from a hidden wish to something that has weight and substance in the world. And, when it comes to naming exactly the contribution he will make, he gets stuck. Because he isn’t sure he has found what he is passionate about. Yet, when I talk with him, I feel the strength of his passion like an immense, deep, still pool. So it got me wondering…is he not recognizing the depth of his passion because it doesn’t look or feel how he expects it to feel?

Perhaps we expect our passion to always feel like a frisson of excitement — a grand buzz — to send us to the heights of energy and enthusiasm to fuel our work. And, sometimes, it is like that.

And, I am finding more and more that our long & deeply held passions are more like a powerfully glowing ember than a crackling spark or raging fire. It can be so quiet that we miss it if we are expecting something else. It is a deep, still sense of knowing…a quietly whispered “Yes” that resonates in a space where sound, and feel, and sight are as one. Shhh…listen very closely…you can almost hear it…the voice of your greatest gift, your genius, your true contribution, whispering your name.