Archive for the ‘Intention’ Category


I read a gorgeous article on Art Blart recently about the photography of Walker Evans. In it, he cites an article by Thomas Sleigh about Tomas Tranströmer, Too Much of the Air (see links below).

In it, Sleigh writes:

My first glimpse of Tomas Tranströmer was many years ago in Provincetown, Massachusetts as he ducked his head under the metal lip of a twelve-seater plane’s exit door, then stepped hesitantly down the stairs to firm ground. He seemed a little shaken, his long face blanched, his features reminding me, when I think of it now, of the circus horse in a late Bonnard painting: gentle, wary, potentially sad. “I don’t mind large planes or middle-sized planes (his English was slightly gutteral, his intonations lilting in a mild brogue), but small planes—you feel too much of the air under you.” That remark, direct, plainspoken, but also flirting with the metaphysical, has seemed over the years a keyhole into his work: a void; a sense of hovering above that void; the nerves registering each tremor with precision; the mind fighting back the body’s accelerating fear.

Thomas Sleigh’s article:


Art Blart:


The void always there, hovering—our bodies.

And how, my whole life, I’ve been afraid of things being taken away. This is a pretty natural fear, primal, human, animal—everyone has a survival instinct for both themselves and whom they love. What made the difference in my life was that people told me this would happen. That I would lose everything and everyone. The way this was presented to me was that this was a fact. I was very young when people started telling me this. And as I write this, it sounds like the beginning of a good detective novel or a psychological thriller, exciting, terrifying in the way of terror when you’re lying cozy in your bed, reading or watching TV. But when people you trust tell you that what is happening on the screen will happen to you if you don’t do certain things, that you are patently unsafe because of who you are, who you were born, that instills a habitual terror that never quite leaves you. Or that you spend a lifetime confronting and healing, over and over again.

The body reveals what the conscious mind doesn’t.

My nerves fighting with the air: delicate underbelly, sky’s reaching. I was never certain what was air or ground. These are terrors, fully embodied, but unspoken for many years. And it is raining outside now.

Of course, it is not raining inside.

Get it down on paper. This refuses the chugging blood pressure as the plane soars upward.

The red brick of the brownstones. Rain comes down on snowed-in cars.

When days change you, you give them space, give yourself time and space around that day. I spent the next two days after lying in bed, watching TV and resting. The first day, I wash the dishes. On the second day, I take out the trash, clean out the fridge.

Some days change you. I bought a battery-powered radio with my uncle on Tuesday. I put it on the tray I have on the heater on the side of my bed near the windows. The seated painted-black Buddha is in front of it, along with a red velvet box containing condoms, earbuds for the Roku, and Chapstick, a tarot deck, four remotes, a coaster.

It has been a week of seeing behind the veil of things— one veil, plural things. Got my blood drawn for annual tests on Monday, went through old papers and calendars and maps belonging to my great uncle on Tuesday. Maps of Africa and Poland and Europe and Maine and Peak’s Island, where his son now lives, a lobsterman, and where he and two wives used to summer. We found Xeroxed, stapled papers with a typed family tree, done simply in Times typeface with lines and arrows, and going for maybe five pages, each generation going further into the present as we turned the pages. Along with this very basic family tree were some marriage records from Bialystok, Poland, and three handwritten pages in Polish, in beautiful script. Inscrutable because neither of us know Polish. Lists of things to do, to buy in his late wife’s handwriting, business cards, typewritten lists of her paintings, with name and price, letters from her gallery about sales, the letter from the gallery of two paintings sold at her last show, put on after she died. Letters from about twenty organizations, human rights, animal rights, environmental, asking for money.

The deep, good heart of my great uncle, the way he cares about the world, really made an impression on me. I’ll never forget it. I see my father in him, see where in the bloodline this connection to the world comes from, this faith that ties us all together within the same fate, animals, humans, continents, lands. This knowing I grew up with and never doubted that we are all one and, that if one suffers, all do. This has been in me since before I could articulate it. The week of lost things. Lost things returning. Things we don’t even know are lost. He warmed up coffee from the morning, left on the coffee maker, and turned the machine on to heat it up. It was very good, actually. Tasted strong. What a strange, strange world we live in and our lives, too, are weird because they’re so intense and overwhelming, we fade in and out of them, hallucinate, remember and experience at the same time—memory and history and the present all at the same time—my legs ached after a while, standing at the table we were clearing for hours. At some point, my uncle sat down, exhausted by the standing as much as the weight of history.

We had a beautiful conversation that lasted all day. We talked about insomnia and waking up in the early morning—he said he listens to the radio, BBC News, news from around the world, and it makes him feel connected, even though a lot of the news is sad and sometimes awful, it makes him feel like he’s not giving up on the world. I will remember this for the rest of my life.

As we do, we change. It is inevitable. It is this inevitability that moves us forward towards grasp and branch. The dusk of forefathers and foremothers. Where does it say that the window’s light is not the breath of land? We are the open of the land. We creature permanency. There is no permanent redaction of the past. It holds us, trembling, in its little-bird branches. We are sewn into it. Sunlight picks through the underbranches creating force and catapulting loss into new fields. These fields of light destroy. Packed-in dirt from centuries of war and blood cold now, Addresses of the Wild Permanency, home now. We are not dead. We have lived with the dead for too long now. We let them go into a place we can’t follow. We look after them, as they blend into the surroundings, becoming less and less physical, to abandon all light by becoming part of the light. These creature-fields.

We are torn apart by light. We are torn apart by war.

We taper like candles.

Things have been really intense lately. Coming boom boom boom. Like firecrackers, leaving me deaf and blind for moments after the blasts, seeing rings and stars. Quavering and indulging in solitude. Processing or, more accurately, letting be what life is. Minutes pass gently, in relative silence. The rain helps. Opened all the windows and let in the fresh, clear air. Spring is coming!

Life is changing shape again. Shapeshifting. It does this. And every time, I’m sad, I resist, I feel such a deep sense of loss that I think I’ll fall into it. It’s hard, these changes. A lot is lost. Illusions, relationships, ways of seeing myself and the world. Right now, I’m at the beginning, or maybe the middle, of acceptance. I’m aware and I accept that certain things will never be the same.

Maybe this pain leads me again to where I need to go. Maybe with this mouth—with this dream—expressed without malady.

I’ve lost so much. Sometimes it seems everything is loss. The sky protrudes with it, the belly bloats with it, the speaking crows rebel into flock-dragons in a separating sky—where all separates into light and dark and the divine opens into itself, the huge mouth of destiny. I build and build and long periods of tearing down. I try to build things steady and strong, with brick-and-mortar foundations—all of this is impermanent and breaks my heart over and over again. Flocks of seabirds, city birds. The kiss is fleeting. Lips touch and fade. Bodies come together and break apart. This is what happens. A simple fact. All of this is certain. There will always be loss. But of the times in between that loss, the brightness is almost blinding. Loss and brightness make a whole—sweet as an egg—nest—

Poem or prose, it comes out the same. I’ve realized this, after months of writing against my natural grain—or what I thought was against—in sentences, that sequester lines—the problem is not form, but truth—where truth holds banister and crows—but the windows hold strong, the glass is steady in them, when it rattles, the wind always coming—I still have a house—language.


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Set it as your intention to love—to love what you say, what you do, what you eat, how you walk, the air you breathe, the people and animals you meet today, yourself, the world. Notice how your day and mind and mood shift in response to this consciously set intention. How does this one shift in awareness and intent revolutionize your life?

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There is a compelling truth these days that it is harder to make a living for almost everyone, and the uphill battle of making ends meet is staunch and, at times, merciless. These are essential concerns that are shaping our times and each one of us living and breathing and working now. The crux of our society and our world rests on being able to promote social and political reforms to assure wealth equity and economic justice.

There are many wise and compassionate and powerful voices that are writing and talking about what needs to happen so that people have enough food to eat, roofs over their heads, enough money to cover medical costs when they arise. Those of us who are working at writing, painting, music, dance, and other forms of artistic expression that don’t usually earn us a pay check have particular and specific questions to ask ourselves about how we support ourselves and, with that paid work, how we make enough time and have enough energy to work on our art. This goes for anything we want to do in life—how do we make enough time, have enough energy and make a good enough living to support our goals?

At the same time we look and see all that needs changing, we can also accept—accept ourselves, others, the world, just as we are. Accepting does not mean we give up and do nothing. True acceptance, with an open and forgiving heart, a heart that feels and gives love in the face of whatever comes, changes everything. Acceptance means having and nurturing compassion and understanding and respect in the face of anger, fear, despair and grief. With this compassion, we move to change our world from a place of love and strength, solidarity and hope. We work to make our world and lives and future better because we have hope, not because we’ve given up. Through this transformation, we can build lives and schools and studios and desks and performance spaces, equitable public policy and law, strong and warmly knit communities, lives of inspiration, creativity, spiritual wealth and material sustenance.

At the same time we are aware of what’s going on around us and we practice acceptance, we can continue to live in line with our passion. What we choose to do for a living is social, political, emotional, provocative and rooted in deeply held personal beliefs and values. In order to have a true balance of passion and work, you must make choices based on your most essential ethics and ideals. You decide if you want to make a living solely as an artist, from your art, or do other work for which you are paid and weigh many other choices along the way. This goes for anything you want to do in your life—you can make choices from a place of strength and passion. Living a creative life means living according to your own values, principles and passions. You ask yourself how and what can I contribute and build your life around those actions and ideals. In all circumstances, you must continue to inhabit and be true to your passion.

As a musician for a decade and a poet for the rest of my life, I have gone through periods where I’ve been so broke, I wondered what I was going to eat and how I was going to pay my rent. I was never in danger of starving or being homeless, as many people are, because I had and have the support of my family, but supporting myself, being financially independent and not relying on others has always been a strong driving force in my life. There were times that, even knowing I had that security, I wondered and worried every day about money coming in, money going out, what I would do if I had a medical emergency or a life-threatening or chronic illness. As Oscar Wilde said, many horrible tragedies have befallen me, and most of them didn’t happen—not to make light of the very real anxiety that is so prevalent for all of us these days.

In my early days in San Francisco, I was working as a freelancer and put most of my time and energy into my band and curating two poetry reading series. I worked hard but sporadically, so did not have a regular income. This was a semi-conscious decision on my part, to devote most of my resources to being creative and not to making money. One day, I was walking up Pierce Street, a block away from my apartment, thinking about exactly how much money I would need for food to get through the rest of the week. I figured I could do it on $10, if I ate mac and cheese and didn’t go out at all. The $10 would cover coffee and mac and cheese. I looked down at the sidewalk and there was a $10 bill, edges flapping but somehow staying put. I looked at it and was overcome by a sense of sweet fate, everything working together in order to get me through. I remember not being afraid that the bill would blow away. I bent down and picked it up and, right then and there, decided that I would figure out how to support myself and make art.

Finding that $10 bill was one of the biggest turning points in my life. All at once, I felt the almost unbearable strain of being broke, the certainty that I would always be taken care of financially, a sense of security that came from a place deep inside of me, and such gratitude for what that simple $10 bill gave me. That $10 may as well have been a million dollars. I knew, in that moment of picking up that $10, that I could be an artist and not starve.

The phrase “starving artist” is a phrase for a reason. Living on the edge, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, is both a romantic notion and a concrete reality, as an artist must constantly make decisions about how best to spend her time and energy. There are other characteristics of the darkness and core moral values that come with being an artist, that you are against the world’s systems, trying to reform and restructure a broken society, that your work on this earth as an artist is meant to be painful, self-sacrificing and agonizing. That creating means setting yourself apart from the mainstream, from the path that would allow you to make a decent and even lucrative salary, that somehow, if you made enough money to feel comfortable, the edge needed to make your work powerful and meaningful would disappear and that you would be aligning yourself with everything that is wrong with the current economic system.

It is true that, as an artist, you must continually challenge your limits, emotionally, physically, spiritually, artistically. You must put yourself in bare and raw situations where you don’t know what will happen. To live on the edge financially seems to be a given part of this life. What has become apparent to me, over the years of being an artist determined to have all of my survival needs and more met and taken care of, is that the “edge” is found in day-to-day, ordinary living. My reverence for and awareness of the brilliance of ordinary life developed over years of suffering and exploring what would make my life bearable, what would end the intolerable pain of struggling to make things work in a meaningful, practical and sustaining way—in work, love, friendship, family, music, writing and art. There have been many ups and downs on this path, and I am continually learning about myself, work, money, income and creative power, its root and importance in both art and daily life. A beautiful article is written on Belladonna and written about on Harriet, The Poetry Foundation’s blog dealing with these concerns, Ana Božičević’s Our Material Lives: A Working Poet’s Manifesto:



It is dharma to take care of yourself and make sure you have enough food and a comfortable place to live. We make a living, sweep our floors, take naps, write poems, play guitar, build chairs, cook meals, hug and kiss our families. This is dharma. Dharma is found in the struggle and constant navigation of the paradox of balancing money and art. Today’s times call on us to be compassionate and productive in our efforts, in our works to create sustainable lives for ourselves and our children. You make an income to give back—that is the only reason. To give back to yourself, health and food and shelter, to give back to your community, to give back to the world. That is making a living versus making money. Making a living is making meaning. It is up to each of us to determine how to make a living and make art in a way that will benefit and sustain ourselves and all of those around us. I admire and respect so many amazing artists, poets, musicians, dancers, woodworkers, potters, collagists, novelists, actors, whose presence in the world is a blessing, a catalyst, a lightning rod of hope and change and illumination.

Art is indispensable and imperative and artist’s work is invaluable to society and the world. Art is the way, the dharma. It is vital to take care of yourself and tend to a stable and grounded heart, a healthy body, an uplifted spirit and an open, compassionate mind. Gratitude for all you have and creating your life around your passions is sustaining and generous. We all have so much to give to the world. The way is constantly opening up before us, as we look at ourselves and our lives with deep honesty and courage. The struggles we have are opportunities to do work in a more efficient and productive way and create our lives and the world the way we desire it to be—beautiful and just, meaningful and creative, balancing and navigating each moment with openness and kindness, toward ourselves and others.


Please contact arielleguy@gmail.com with any questions about Dharma not Drama coaching.

© 2011. All words and photographs are copyrighted and may only be used with the permission of the author.

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you have no idea of the beauty, and then the sun and moon enter like horses

These are powerful times, when we make a stand, for ourselves, for what we believe in, what we value, where we want to place our hearts and homes. To have meaning in life, we make decisions and choices from a place of deep self-knowledge, hope and courage. Then we can gather our power and use it in pursuit of goals and dreams we hold most dear and contribute to the world from our true selves.

Life can be viewed as one beautiful, elongated healthy ritual, one deep, cyclical breath in and out. So many times in our lives, the cruxes we have built so carefully fall apart and we realize our true foundations with clarity and acceptance. The truth of what we want our lives to be is stronger than any denial, fear and resistance we construct. Barriers we’ve developed show signs of wear, beyond which we see patterns of light and openness and surrender. Something that once held in our breath releases and we accept with our whole hearts that we have choices. The unconscious decision-making based on survival skills, of self-preservation and preparing for imminent danger of many imaginary disasters and many real ones, falls away to reveal a deeper truth: that we, in good measure, make our lives and that we can choose to live in a way that nurtures and sustains us. The world is full of objects, people and events we have no control over and we spend invaluable amounts of energy trying to control, trying to feel safe, powerful, gifted, successful, loved. The reckoning comes when we realize that feeling safe, powerful, gifted, successful and loved is possible with very little effort once we’ve done the inner work. When we travel into the bones of our experience, those desires disappear and are replaced with a sense of peace and the deepest, most loving acceptance. It is a divine sensation, acceptance. You become a magnet of soft frequency.

There is something enthralling about doom and gloom, a gothic romance of morbidity and dark that is part of all of our lives. Secrets we protect as if they are crown jewels, fears we keep hidden, love we keep silent. Death and pain are integral parts of living a true life. We can’t sidestep the misery and loss that come over us, there are no shortcuts through grief, and time doesn’t heal unless we take responsibility for our lives, hearts, emotions, thoughts, actions and our being in the world. We accumulate sadness, store disappointment, hoard anger and make stories out of them, out of our past experiences. These stories become plots for our future, and we fall into the same self-defeating patterns. Knowing this, knowing our resistance to change and becoming aware that we have a choice, we can change the narratives. Being enamored of the dark is a survival mechanism. We play this show over and over again, trying to figure out where we went wrong. The past is the past. Letting it go is not easy, but knowing that it doesn’t determine the rest of our lives is a huge turning point. Having compassion and fortitude and committing to awareness and gentleness in every moment helps us bear the losses, disappointments and passionate ups and downs. Every point in time is a reckoning. Every minute is a turning point.

We use our experiences, wits and creativity to build meaning. Every action we take,  reflecting on our lives, being with ourselves through hardship and joy, gathering tools and knowledge and learning, helps us toward a life lived in greater alignment with our deepest desires. Hope and despair exist together, as do faith and doubt, and we all come to points of reckoning with these paradoxes. Life is not one thing, it is not one-dimensional, it folds inward and outward like an origami bird, like the child’s fortune teller game, like a love letter in an envelope in a drawer. Meaning is discovered, continuously, in the secrets and mysteries that come with weighing and balancing these seeming contradictions.

We can’t know what will happen. There is tenderness and beauty and fear and courage in that. We take each step in relative darkness, relative light. The relativity of the darkness and light that are always present is what sustains us. We can open to all elements, bright and dark, knowing that we don’t need to succumb to an overriding theory of our lives that determines a certain future. The premise of life, its ground, is found in our integrity, spirit and bravery, and our commitment to let life in, let life change and transform us, move us, bring us to states of reckoning. These moments create us, the decisions we make in these moments are so important. What is truly important to us? What could we not live without? How do we want to spend our time and energy? Then, with discipline and kindness, we take a deep breath in, let it out and put our backs, hearts and bodies into it.

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My first poetry chapbook was “The Gates of the House,” a sketch of a farmhouse in winter showing through a hand-cut window in the cardstock front cover. I like to pretend I am writing from there—sitting at an antique, plain wooden desk, lit with an old gas lantern, with my typewriter in front of me, surrounded by organized stacks of old books and papers and pens and pencils.

Making “The Gates of the House” was one of the first times an idea in my head made it to the real world, intact. It was a labor of love, hand-cutting 45 covers, copying the sketch of the winter farmhouse and the pages with all of the poems I had written, deciding on the sections: The Gates, Patterns, The Lives of the Wife, and Some Poems for Insects. The chapbook was finished shortly after September 11, 2001. To say that I was affected by this tragedy is pale. I am affected by all tragedies and carry them with me. I always have. As the dedication to my chapbook says, we are all bent to history, and those we love and the sustenance we are lucky enough to recognize are the greatest lights in a world that seems sometimes to dim before our eyes.

Today, September 29, 2011, it is thunder storming, which is like rain with a circus in tow: welcome the Tattooed Woman, the Sword Swallower, the Fire Eater, the elephants, tigers, horses, their tamers, riders, the colored orbs and the tents. It is beautiful. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about history and every one of us being witness. History is the present moment, what is happening, remembered as if from a different time in the future or the past. The present is looking straight at the light and the darkness and noticing what is there, how we feel, what we sense, what we’re thinking, being aware of all of it, with our feet firmly planted on the ground.

There is always suffering. Life is a beautiful struggle. Writing has always been my comfort, through the darkest times in my life and the happiest. My good friends and family have always been my comfort. I think about meaning all the time. What it is, what it means. What does having meaning in my life mean? I have come to places where I just fell down and stayed down, for a very long time. I have rushed through days and weeks and years, achieving and accomplishing. There has been one constant in my life that I always come back to: washing the dishes. This simple, productive act has given more meaning to my life than I knew sometimes. To me, writing poetry has always been exactly and fundamentally like washing the dishes. They are the same thing. Every act is made up of the same elements, same building blocks.

I have always seen myself as part of the world and been determined to give of myself to the world. Everyone is part of the world and gives of themselves in such beauty and grace. You are yourself in the world. Decide to do something to give yourself to the world. Express yourself from your own unique point of view, settled in a love of yourself that can be felt by others, people, animals, rocks, plants, air and rain, weather, sun, sky, and water. This act, in itself, is magic. It is magic. What is your unique act of love and change going to be in the world today? Loving yourself is not easy, it takes a strong and open heart. It is not automatic, although it is the most natural human act. We learn to step around our love for ourselves, to hide from it, to protect ourselves from the naked feeling we have when we are present in love. And we can come back to it. It is always there for us, as steady as the beating hearts in our chests and breath in our lungs.

You have the courage to do exactly what you need to do for yourself and for the world today. Washing the dishes is a powerful act of courage and determination to make a better world. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, wash the dishes before saving the world. Breathing is saving the world. Saving yourself is saving the world. Waking up is an act of courage. There is so much anxiety and fear and regret and pain that we carry with us, in our hearts, in our bodies, our legs heavy as we walk, doing our errands, bringing our children to school, going to work, sweeping the floor. And in all of this, courage. Tremendous honesty and grit and power. These daily acts, when acknowledged and mindfully performed, are acts of the deepest life in us. They reach into a place in us, barely known even to ourselves, hidden, mysterious, pounding, like the heartbeat all of us have, challenging our prior ideas of hurt and anger and misfortune—sweeping the floor is an act of the highest gratitude for our home, the place we live, the floor that holds us, that connects us to our families, the ground beneath the floor, the walls, the sky above the walls, the divinity in every cell of every being in nature. We are part of nature, urban nature, the parks, the wilderness, the species, discovered and undiscovered, endangered and flourishing. We are part of the world.

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