Soft and supple: Thoughts for new life

Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus, whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life. 
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
- Lao Tzu, as found in Atomic Habits by James Clear

In this season of Easter | Passover |Ramadan—all times of self-reflection—we contemplate what it means to live fully and well.

The soft, supple, tender, pliant, and yielding are alive and growing. They stretch toward sunny new truths.

The stiff, hard, brittle, dry, and inflexible are breaking. They crumble and return to dust.

For me this is Easter Monday morning. A time of new life, in whatever way you believe it to be. A time of recognizing that good always arises out of the darkest of times.

I just need to remember that during the dark times.

Not grow dry and brittle. Stay soft and supple and ready for new life.

A field of corn in spring with rows of new sprouts about six inches high. A barn in the distance.
Soft and supple sprouts reaching for sunny new truths

Planner, Pantser, Pouncer

At a recent gathering of writing friends, the topic of planner vs pantser came up.

I declared that I used to call myself a pantser (a person who writes by the seat of their pants according to the whims of the day), but I learned that I needed to add in a little more planner (a person who plots out stories in advance) to get things done.

Cover of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron

For more on this, I recommend Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron.

One man in the group had never heard these expressions. He asked for clarification. “Did you just say planner vs pouncer? Because that’s what I do. A thought occurs to me and I pounce on it.”

How wonderful! He added a third element to the conversation, one that both planners and pantsers can embrace.

For example, careful planners who are stuck at a story plot point might take a walk for inspiration. While strolling their eyes might fall on something that triggers the solution to their next step. Ah ha! They would cry as they pounce on the idea, hurry home and add into their overall plan.

Freewheeling pantsers might sit with fingers on keys or pen hovering over paper. Open to receiving as they are, a thought—the genesis of an idea—arrives to them from the Amazing Mystical Universal Supply of Ideas and they pounce.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Even if you’re not a writer, have you pounced on any good ideas lately?

Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

Being rid of that which does not feed us

I have been reading Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May, a recommendation of TheHomePlaceWeb blog.

The book provides solace to the soul, and that is something we citizens of Ottawa, Canada need in our difficult times.

Katherine May writes about how we think of life as linear, a slow march from birth to death. That is true, but May reminds us that the pattern of life is also cyclical, or seasonal. We circle through periods of beginnings and endings, storing up and shedding, and wakefulness and sleeping throughout our lives.

At the beginning of a day, or a project, or a course of study, we are similar to trees with green leaves full of chlorophyll. The leaves absorb sunlight and convert carbon dioxide and water into tree food, and we absorb information and convert physical supplies into some sort of product that serves to advance our lives. Spring and summer cycles are about gathering and growing.

At the end of a day, or fiscal year, or a career, we prepare for change in the way of a tree. The chlorophyll in leaves breaks down in fall. The green disappears and exposes other beautiful colours that were always there but hidden. In a process called abscission, the cells between the stem and the branch weaken until supply to the leaf is cut off and the leaf falls. In our lives, this is when we pass on clothes we no longer need, or clear out university textbooks, or pack up personal belongings from the office and walk out the door.

Abscission, the process required for shedding of leaves, is “part of an arc of growth, maturity, and renewal.” In other words, to protect ourselves and stay strong, sometimes we need to rid ourselves of that which no longer feeds us.

BUT—and this is important —even on the coldest, darkest days of winter, when deciduous trees appear fully dead, there are buds. They are small and protected by thick scales, but they are there.

“We rarely notice them because we think we’re seeing the skeleton of the tree, a dead thing until the sun returns. But look closely, and every single tree is in bud . . .”

From Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
A twig of a deciduous tree in February against a background of snow. The branch has buds protected by thick scales.
Buds waiting for the sun

On this cold winter day in Ottawa, it helps me to know that buds are in place. It allows me to believe that the events taking place in downtown Ottawa had a spring, summer, and fall season and that the time of shedding approaches.

Soon we will be rid of that which does not feed us.

No matter how beautiful

“. . . Show me the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”

—A Benedictine nun, as found in Wake Up to the Joy of You by Agapi Stassinopoulos

This is the scene outside my window today. We are snowed under. Homebound.

47 centimetres of snow (18.5 inches for my American friends)

Some would say this is the ugly truth of winter. I say it is the beautiful truth.

A time for an in-breath. A time to take full advantage of my word for the year: FOCUS.

A time to seek out and, more importantly, believe my own beautiful truths.

Focus: A word I need

My word for 2022 came to me in December as I was reading a post on The Spectacled Bean.

What would my word for 2022 be, I wondered . . . Oh wait, the laundry needed to be changed.

. . .

Right. A word. 2022. That was what I was thinking about. What should . . . Oh, but then my husband was going to the grocery store. I just needed to tell him we need milk.

. . .

Back again. Think, think, think. What would . . . Sorry. A notification popped into my computer screen. I needed to respond to that.

. . .

If only I could focus, I thought.

That’s it!

FOCUS.

One thing at a time. Multi-tasking is a myth. I aim for a more productive 2022 as a result.

Do you have word for 2022?

The word BE written in black marker on white paper
Just be

Sun salutation

Illustration of sun salutation positions
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license: Kasun Perera

I began the solstice morning with a sun salutation, “a humble adoration of the light and insight of the self,” as it says in Yoga Journal.

[I have been practising yoga via Zoom through the pandemic with the amazing Andrea Robertson of bodyandbalance. No matter where you live in the world, you too could improve strength, flexibility and balance.]

On the darkest and longest day of the year, we salute the sun. It is returning to us here in the northern hemisphere—but not for a while. We have months of darkness first.

Darkness is a scary place of uncertainty, but it’s full of possibilities too. Darkness makes dreams came true.   

“For the first time, Chris [Hadfield] could see the power and mystery and velvety black beauty of the dark. And, he realized, you’re never really alone there. Your dreams are always with you, just waiting. Big dreams, about the kind of person you want to be.”    

From The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

The darkness of a movie theatre makes enjoying a movie possible. The images are clear. Any light—from a cell phone, for example—is unwelcome.

Darkness makes us uncomfortable, but it also forces us to focus. If we carry a flashlight out into a black night, we must choose where to shine the beam. We narrow our outlook to what’s important in the moment.  

I salute the sun. And I appreciate that, at a time of year when it is less present in my life, I must narrow focus and choose where to shine my beam.

Christmas tree with lights illuminated
Darkness allows me to enjoy my Christmas tree lights.