'My fingers emit sparks of fire with expectation of my future labours.' -William Blake
The motivation to find both our vocation and our avocation in life, and bring them together in a restful way, is magnified and made compelling by establishing and then practicing the real physical understanding that we are all of us here for such a short time. This sense of urgency combined with the invitational nature of any art or craft or work begins, over time, to create real alchemy in our lives.
Our vocation and avocation, are almost always, to begin with, never found in the same place. But the necessity for earning a living is no excuse for neglecting that essential art or activity that nourishes us not only in its potential for the future but by the sense of the timeless it gives us in the present. In the very act of coming to ground in what we love to do, we find that from that place, we can lift our eyes to new horizons in our future.
An art form, or a serious intent to bring the precious invisible into an even more precious, visible form, has been a central longing accompanying human life since the dawn of human self-understanding. William Blake called this serious intent, “a firm persuasion”.
To have a firm persuasion, to set out boldly in our work, is to make a pilgrimage of our labours, to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task.
What is it in your life that just by touching, you find a sense of rest in the act itself?
Coming to ground in the essential nature of our work, we come to ground simultaneously in the simple yet marvelous privilege of existence. The simple opportunity in being here and being alive. Many psychological studies tell us that what we regret on our deathbeds are not the sins of commission, but what we omitted in our lives – the people we never told of our affection and love, the generosity inside us that never found an outlet. The work that was never attempted. That generosity is always possible for us through a certain kind of work; where we find something that's good for us and good for the world at the same time.
Strangely, in understanding ‘work’ there is a necessary sense of ease and rest from which good work comes. If we attempt to hold the conversation from an unrested, besieged, and coerced place where we feel nothing is right in the world, we are simply reinforcing the confused periphery that surrounds us, our inner confusion finds a kind of symmetrical confusion out in the world. As we shed our surface identity, we find that over time we can drop down to another concentrated center and from that place perceive something enormous coming to find us beyond the horizon of the circle we had previously arranged for ourselves. In that finding, in that deep sense of rested home, that ‘pearl without price’ as it's called in the Zen tradition, we give a gift just by speaking, by walking into a room – just by holding the conversation. In the physical contact with our true work, the true conversational contact with others, we touch a kind of heaven in the contact, in the act itself. Just as the violin maker takes off a perfect shaving of wood with a tiny plane, we move by tiny but beautiful increments as if we too are creating a violin, building a beautiful house, or digging, planting and tending a garden – whatever it is that by doing it, and in the doing itself, we find everything makes sense and everything gives us a sense of rest.
What is it in your life that just by touching, you find a sense of rest in the act itself? What do you love to do that feeds you just in the doing and at the same time provides a horizon of harvest in the future for yourself?
Rilke’s awkward swan finds grace not by lashing itself on the back and telling itself it must change. It transforms itself simply by moving toward the elemental waters that give it that grace just by entering them.
The Swan This clumsy living that moves lumbering as if in ropes through what is not done, reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks. And to die, which is the letting go of the ground we stand on and cling to every day, is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down into the water, which receives him gaily and which flows under and after him, wave after wave, while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm, is pleased to be carried, each moment more fully grown, more like a king, further and further on. -Ranier Maria Rilke, translation by Robert Bly
What are the elemental waters of your own life? How can you enter them for even a short time on a daily basis? What transforms you in an instant just by the act of making contact?
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I resist “rest” in the conventional sense. And I especially resist the absurdity that true rest involves screen time of any sort. But rest in the sense of getting quiet and still—rest in the sense taking refuge in the Yin part of our essence, elementals, self, and soul—this, so much this.
For me, for decades, this shows up as: the 5 Tibetan rites on waking, a couple of hours of yoga daily, seated meditation nightly. Most of what I know and un-know and create emerges from there. Life would feel desperate without it.
The song that breaks open my heart to dance. I am beginning to understand the importance of meditation and how it can help me to be more aware of myself. What is it that has been smothered and forgotten long ago? The very gift of rest and meditation brings clarity. My heart opens with awareness of the necessity to heal and remember the importance of sharing with others. Life is hard enough but we all have our unique dance to fully express.