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Archive for the ‘Simplicity’ Category

Language finds a place in the world. Language finds a place in the body.

 

One of the best things about working for myself is that sometimes almost everything just stops. There are lulls in the workflow, where regular work comes in but it’s not crazy. The daily to-do list is manageable. There are spaces in the rush of New York. I love being busy and working on a huge project and kicking ass on it and being inspired and energized by deadlines and the great teams I work with. And I also love when it slows down and I wake up to quiet mornings and slowly drinking coffee and reading and answering emails without the pressure of fifteen deadlines ticking through my brain.

 

I have been working on getting more honest, with myself, in the words that I speak to others, in what I write. I’ve been working with observing what I’m feeling and thinking and asking myself, are these honest thoughts? What am I really feeling? This bareness of observing and awareness to come to a place of truth is a solid path. Awareness itself becomes the stability, is the stability. When the pace of life and work slow down, there is room for this inquiry. And for noticing and listening without agenda or goal. Giving up of goals is difficult in an accomplishment-driven era. But that is the only way to really see your basic nature, hear your heart, allow your soul to express itself in unbidden and unpredictable ways.

 

So, lately, work has been slow. I finished up two big projects that took up much of my time and energy and mental space about two weeks ago. The silence and slowness have allowed me to get back into the imaginary worlds of my poetry manuscript and novel and spend lengths of solid time there. These are the stories and lines and paragraphs I write and live inside that are distinct imagination and creativity.

 

Then there are the other stories, the psychological constructs and emotionally driven patterns that are created. The slow pace of days and nights has also allowed me to separate my emotional reactions to events and see where the raw emotion is and where the story that accompanies the emotion starts. We all have memories and past hurts and past joys that connect to present events and we have overarching stories about who we are, what our lives are, what they’re going to be. These stories are based in fear and reaction, not the true presence of what is actually going on in our lives. It’s easier sometimes to create scenarios and outcomes in our minds than to face an uncertain array of futures, the fact that the future and even some things in the present are uncertain.  So we build stories, attributing opinions and actions to the people in our lives that we don’t know are real, but they comfort us, in their known-ness. When we allow ourselves the time to look at these stories honestly, and really break out which of the storylines are ones we have clung to so that our lives make sense, it becomes clear that most of what we think we know is not actually known to us. Then we are left with the honesty of that: that we don’t know what other people think and feel, we don’t know what’s going to happen, we don’t know the outcome of the path we are taking. When we face this, it is easier to stay grounded and make good decisions and choices, based on where we are right now, rather than reacting to a scenario in our heads.

 

Our concern then is: what can we do now that is true to ourselves and honest? What can we do now that feels right in a grounded way? This is a beautiful thing, this awareness and slowness and quiet. From this aware, slow, and quiet place, we make decisions based not on fear but on that quiet, still space inside of us that is connected to our root, our heart, our soul. Right action for the sole purpose of itself. Not to get anything or get anywhere but simply to be in the right place doing the right thing. The attunement to what feels right becomes steadier and is easier to gauge. This affects every action, from answering an email, to making a salad for lunch, to whether or not to move or take that job or sign that contract.

 

From this place, we naturally do what is most beneficial in a wholesome sense for ourselves and those around us. Beneficial in promoting peace and understanding and growth.

 

From this place, writing becomes a measure of silence, of the spaces between lives, where the dead speak and the unknown reaches of time and universal space inhabit themselves. Life, the way it moves, is an uncertain paradox. My connection to the words and the space that words represent becomes deeper and more intimate. Language finds a place in this quiet and quiets me. Quiets my breathing and my mind and my heart. This allows the stretch of language, of writing, to go deeper, to awaken musculature that has been sleeping, to open up the prime numbers of the mathematical equations that underlie grammar. I love the quiet intensity of these times of writing where I feel closer to language itself because it becomes a code through which the world is deciphered, for a minute, then the code breaks in another direction and is as soluble as so many substances in water.

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There is an episode of the X Files called “The Field Where I Died.” Mulder stands in the middle of a field of what looks like wheat gone to weed, reciting “Paracelsus” by Robert Browning at sunrise. Open field around him, light widening. This image moved me deeply when I first saw the episode and has been with me this week. Death is the ultimate returning home, returning to earth, to ground, to field. Times in the middle of life feel like deaths. Life is made up of many deaths. This accounting we do, surveying the land, taking stock of where we are against a dreamland we carry in our imagination. Our fingers work the surface, like a worry stone, a lucky penny. We want so much that, at times, we shut down to the desire, the dream becoming pale in the midst of such immediate and consuming details of everyday life.

Everyday life is that field, that openness and sunlight’s reach. We are uncertain fields, our lives and paths flatten to dirt high-growing stalks. Our task here is gentleness and to leave the field as it was before we got there. This is next to impossible, but our responsibility to sustain the earth’s health is crucial. We are inextricably linked, field and body. Our movement through like a lightning bug, if we do things right.

I have lived in a city for so many years. In the past few years, the disconnection from field has been sorrowful. I dream about wide skies with a full canopy of constellations, houses that are no more than two stories, and an exposed, honest silence. I have begun my journey toward that field, planning my move from Brooklyn to a small town along the Eastern seaboard. I want to be near water. I want a birdfeeder. I want a wide, open field surrounding me, across which I can see the actual horizon. In the country, horizon is a different thing than in the city. City horizons are crisscrossed vertically and horizontally with more horizons that are then pockmarked with even more horizons. I want to return to one horizon, that of earth meeting sky. I am beginning here, in a new world. More to come on this journey. Wish me luck!

 

 

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For years, I believed I couldn’t cook. I come from a long line of brilliant cooks. My grandmother’s cooking was ridiculous—goulash, schnitzel, chopped liver, fruit soup (compote), and a cheesecake that defined every adolescent craving I ever had. My mom can make a queen’s meal out of an egg, a couple leaves of lettuce, an olive and pita bread. No matter what I see when I look in the refrigerator and cupboards, she sees a whole, satisfying, hearty meal. She cooks very simply, without a lot of salt or oil, no heavy sauces or dressings—a simplicity of food that is exactly what it is: carrots and cucumbers and lettuce and tomato and yams and bread and cheese and turkey—all simply cooked so the taste of the food is the taste of the food. This is the way I grew up, eating natural, simple food that my mom calls, with the greatest honor and pride, peasant food. I am all about it. It’s hearty, humble and filling.

In the past year, I’ve changed my whole diet, eating healthier and simpler, and have been learning how to cook. The first time I cooked chicken was uncomfortable. I started eating meat again after seven years of being a vegetarian because I felt my body really needed it. I love animals so eating meat is a difficult and complicated endeavor. Deciding to cook meat for myself is a way to be closer and more honest to eating meat. I say a blessing over the meat and thank the animal for providing me with the food and protein I need. I buy meat that has organic certification and from farms where the animals are treated humanely. Still, the first time I unwrapped uncooked chicken and washed it and cut it was difficult, to say the least. As I prepared the meat, I smelled a scent from long ago, from a different place and time—my grandmother’s house. The memory so overtook me, I felt my grandmother standing next to me, smiling with her whole face, a smile that has never left me, one of the most joyful and full-hearted expressions of love I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. My mom’s voice on the phone guided me through the rest of the preparation.

There is something deeply comforting and calming about a home-cooked meal. I love everything about it, the smells of the spices and meat and vegetables baking and steaming and sautéing, the sounds of cutting and stirring, the beautiful colors and textures of the vegetables, cutting boards and colorful bamboo bowls, moving around the kitchen with purpose, the feel of making a delicious, healthy meal, primal, simple and natural, and of course, the end result: the tastes of a delicious, satisfying, yummy meal. I am still a novice so I become completely absorbed in what I’m doing and forget everything else. I am completely present and focused fully on the exact, specific task in front of me. And I get to talk to my mom and share cooking with her. She patiently goes through each step over speakerphone and waits until I complete it and then we move on to the next one until the meal is done. After doing the dishes and cleaning the stove, sitting down to the gorgeous meal I’ve cooked is so relaxing and full of a childlike wonder that is home and family and delight.

Find something new to do this week. Something you’re not good at. Something you’ve always felt drawn to but didn’t know why. The focus of learning a new skill is life-affirming and generates a state of joyous flow. At a certain point or at a certain age, beliefs of who you are and what you do well, or what you do at all, set in and seem to prehistorically petrify. It becomes embarrassing or uncomfortable to be unskilled and a newbie. But this is exactly what life is and what art is and what joy is. The power of changing a belief that limits you is limitless. Novelty, falling down a million times on skis when you’ve never skied before, traveling to new places and missing trains and getting lost. Burning your first roast or overcooking your first veggie stir-fry. What amazes me, as I learn to cook more and more dishes, and develop a more natural flow and skill, is how these tasks aren’t new at all. They’ve been in me, in my blood, in my family, and connect me to something so deep and so connected in the history of my own life and my heritage and family.

Making time and, more importantly, making space in your mind to take on new experiences is a priority well set. It opens up new confidence and expands your field of vision. It allows you to discover aspects of yourself, your soul and your heart, that are rooted in the Old Days, in instincts you’ve had your whole life. These Old Days, these original instinctive curiosities are a vital and primal element of the present time. Connecting to the Old World reveals a history and heritage that is rich, fascinating and utterly relevant to life right now. Becoming intimate with their practices and lessons and stories is healing and a source of great discovery.

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Dharma is a Sanskrit word that denotes a concept in eastern religions. It is hard to define, as it loses meaning in translation, has a complex history, and covers broad ground across different faiths and philosophies. The word dharma derives from the root dhri, which means “manner of being.” Simply, it means the teachings of the Buddha and their manifestation in daily life. It can also mean universal law, a unit of basic experience, the ordering principle of the universe, the conditions that exist and are created in following one’s right path, the deep, unifying understanding and practice of Buddhist principles. As with most teachings in Buddhism, the interpretation and realization of dharma is deeply personal. Contemplating what dharma means offers a method of asking life’s deepest, most compelling questions and finding practical, doable answers for our complicated, rushed modern lives.

What does dharma mean to you?

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Home

Rest in the basics of breath and body. Observe your breath through your entire body. This is home.

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Washing Dishes at Occupy Wall St., Oct. 20, 2011, cut-out by Molly McIntyre, text by Arielle Dym Guy – for Re:Occupation, a group show organized by Ketch Wehr at Green Line Cafe Powelton in Philly, November and December.

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First snow – before Halloween!

I stayed inside, at home, today, worked on photographs and writing. Washed dishes, swept the floor, didn’t make the bed. Cooked pasta and broccoli for dinner. Meditated. Grateful for every minute of this beautiful, mellow day. After a hectic week, this snow day hit the spot!

Resting, doing nothing, doing whatever you feel like doing for a day, an hour, even five minutes can expand your life in a miraculous way. Knowing you can rest in whatever you want to do in that moment can bring you immeasurable peace, in heart and mind. So rest. Make a choice, know that you have a choice to rest, give this peaceful and relaxing time to yourself. When is the last time you felt completely relaxed?

How do you take time out?

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