Urgency Becomes Art

My heart is a clenched fist at the center of my chest. Some dark force pushes me forward, forcing me to peer over the edge of abyss. I have always had a fear of heights, of falling or worse yet jumping into the unknown. In a reoccurring nightmare, I am tumbling down a steep hill. Large bags of sand are inches behind me. With every roll, I fall deeper and deeper into darkness. I awaken just as the sandbags are about to catch up and crush me. Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov said: “Let me fall.  If I must fall, the one I will become will catch me.”

Now as I sit at my husband’s coffee shop (Relevant Roasters) reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook and waiting to leave for a ten o’clock appointment, I realize the extent to which my life has been ruled by urgency. In the past, I viewed the exigencies of my life as tempests wrought with anxiety, fraught with tension and ladened with foreboding, but today, I choose to see them otherwise.  Why not direct my urgency into my work? Like paint on a canvas, I can apply it to time and space, harness it’s energy for the highest good. I will strike a bargain with my inordinate need to do something, anything to alleviate my discomfort. I will require my urgency to work for the highest good. By using it to cultivate a higher degree of consciousness, I give it purpose and in so doing, silence it.  Once quieted, it is malleable and can be easily pressured into service. Urgency extended toward higher consciousness becomes art.

Art is, by it’s very nature, a superior level of action.  The space between an idea and its manifestation, is a world unto itself, a place where, with a “little touch of grace,” one can know the presence of God.  “But,” in the words of Anne Truitt, “we must pay attention to that area in order to notice the grace, or even perhaps to attract it.”  If I am to notice grace, I must channel my urgency.  I must pay attention to that part of me that knows God. For it is there that I will find immersion “in a process so absorbing as to be its own reward.” (Anne Truitt).


More about Aspiration

Webster defines ambition as “an eager or inordinate desire for preferment, honor, superiority, power or attainment.”  Reading this I cringe, not wanting to admit that my ego could be so demanding.  Experience teaches me that I am never more unhappy than when I am clamoring for the attention and praise of others.  When I manipulate myself, turning myself into a pretzel in an attempt to please another whether it be “Joe public,” a friend, my husband or my children, I inevitably fail to attain the desired results, which, in my case, are usually indefinable.  The need in me to be buoyed by another, to be praised for some act of kindness or for the work I do, arises from an insatiable, lonely, hungry ghost.  This phantom in me, a remnant of a lost childhood, can be likened Audrey 2, the plant in The Little Shop of Horrors singing,  “Feed me Seymour.  Feed me all night long.”  The more blood Seymour gives Audrey, the more she needs.


I aspire to do good work, to serve others,and to express through my yoga teaching and my writing a belief that labor, when done with love and devotion is itself the reward.  To this end daily do I offer this prayer written by Swami Rama to the Divine Mother.

O Divine Mother

May all my speech and idle talk be mantra

All actions of my hands be mudra

May all eating and drinking be the offering of oblations unto thee

All lying down be prostrations before thee

May all pleasures be as dedicating my entire self unto thee

May everything I do this day be taken as thy worship

and I add, May all that I am and all that I do today be of service to thee.

Can One Learn to Aspire?

How did I, the eldest of six children raised in an unpredictable, violent home, survive the tumult and thrive?  One brother dead of stage four lung cancer at the age of 44.  Two others brothers, high school drop outs, working to drink and drinking to work.  The eldest of the boys, my immediate junior, has been homeless for forty years.  My sister, bless her heart, has survived, made a life for herself, her husband and her dogs.

And so it is this Wednesday morning at 6:28 a..m. while reading Anne Truitt’s Daybook, that I again ask, “Why did I aspire to more?  Was I born with a propensity to achieve, to grow, to see the world as a playground of possibility rather than a war zone, or was I fortunate to have in my life people who pointed me in the right direction?  A father, though depressed and abusive, who took me to the library, signed me up for summer reading programs, and encouraged me to play an instrument in the orchestra.  Or was it my violin teacher, who knowing that we were poor, gave me free lessons and personally drove me to competitions?  Or Ms. Hanson, my  fourth grade teacher, who helped me produce a play that I had written?

Was it Felicity Green, my first yoga teacher who appeared much later in life, when I was in my second marriage and the mother of two one beautiful children, at a time when the weight of the past was more than I could bear?   I lived and studied with Felicity for several months.  What did she instill in me?  She inspired an awakening to live beyond what had been and even to welcome, without reservation, the possibilities of what might be.

I wish that I could live life without antidepressants,the tiny capsules that pull me back from the abyss, but I lack the courage to suffer gallantly and creatively as it seems so many other artists do.  I aspire to be a writer, but know that I must learn how, in the words of Anne Truitt, “to articulate my personal experience into forms that transcend it.” In writing about the Greek poets, she says, “It was their solution to the problem of universal pain that struck me;  not the direct alleviation, but a way that beckoned people toward aspiration.”


Galloping into the Unknown

Anne Truitt, in her Daybook, writes: “artists are like riders who gallop into the night,  eagerly leaning on their horse’s neck, without holding back one bit, into a course of action without having any idea where they will end up.  And they have to do it over and over again.  When the find they have ridden –maybe for years, full tilt–in what is for them a mistaken direction, they must unearth within themselves some readiness to turn direction and to gallop off again.”

Ready to gallop.  Just not sure which direction to go.  Reminds me of Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart, in which she encourages us to move toward pain rather than away from it, to approach suffering with friendliness and curiosity, relaxing into the essential groundlessness of every situation. It is in the midst of chaos that we have the opportunity to find the truth and love that are indestructible.

Gallop on!8365_1280x800

surrender to the muse

5365605f6b60fIMG_5749_large_mediumamused by myself
i wander in the tall grass
the dew wets my shoes