I hope you've all had wonderful summers - or wonder-filled winters in the southern hemisphere if that's where you are. Or wondrous seasons of sun and rain and cloud and mountain, day and night, night and day, wondering always in all cycles of all things.
I shake off the sand of my summer mind and take stock for the return to all that is the month of September.
It's a slow return.
I've done less than half the things I set out to do in the past six weeks. The most significant thing I did was sit for eight days on a cushion and count my breath. And even that task I didn't perform all that well. I keep losing count. I kept getting lost in story. I kept running into the same conflicts in my mind that brought me away from the simple task of staying present. And if I achieved anything, it was only to realize that the mind is funny place, and I don't have half the control I wish I had.
That said, at the end of the retreat, we ritualistically wound strings around our wrists to remind ourselves of the retreat or something significant that came out of it. We were asked to press in the wax of the string the memory, the silent imprint. Mine this year was "patience." Patience with all things not understood. Patience with all thins misunderstood. Patience with the longing to have it all understood.
And with patience comes an effort to slow down, one that is nearly revolutionary these days. You might even say it's counter-cultural. Everything in the culture suggests it's time to get a move on. Don't linger too long with the coffee. If you have an open hour, better do something with it: achieve something, buy something. Sometimes we take that ethos into our creative work too. We tend to equate our self-worth with our production rate. And we don't account for all the patience that great things require to come to light. We shun our darkness and our down days.
Sometimes, we need to push a boulder up the mountain. We need to keep steady with our quests and our questions, to pursue a means cross our finish lines.
"The world is more music than matter," writes physicist Donald Andrews.
All gardens need patience, a time when nothing that looks like anything appears.
Look at your hand and take a moment to observe the music that goes into a turning of one wrist. Imagine your cells regenerating - all without your attention. The muscles work together seemingly without effort. Note the grace, poetry and the miracle in every slightest wrinkle and scar and knuckle.
If you're a creative person who feels you haven't "done" enough - this summer or ever - take a moment to appreciate the small creative things you do everyday, sometimes without thinking. Make a list. Make it humorous. Count your heart and your lungs as part of your ongoing creative miracle.
If you're someone that thinks you've failed at something - take Samuel Beckett's advice and make it your mission to "fail better" next time.
What will you "fail better" at today? What dance steps haven't you got right? What meals have you made that look rather unlike the image you had in your mind? Are your first drafts a train wreck? Are you not performing up to someone else's standards? Whose?
Stop measuring yourself against all those numerous, exhausting, endlessly shifting rulers.
You can't be measured.
Omelettes are made by breaking eggs. Novels are published after endless drafts and even more rejection slips. Paintings are composed one messy stroke after another.
Keep making mistakes. Keep slipping up. Keeping setting out to make the messiness happen. And if something divine comes out of it, some success at an uncertain hour, give thanks. Acknowledge the many hands and many mistakes it took to get you there.
Studies in creativity suggest the unconscious needs down time. Our minds need the silent hours to digest whatever they've been fed. Our psyches ask for unsupervised play with whatever material has met us through one of our many senses without a certain outcome in mind.
Feed your heart with devotion. Move your body with love. Take care of your soul today. Surround yourself with people and things who adore you, even when you fail, and adore those beings back. And if you don't get there right away - wherever you're headed - remember, it's not a race.
I remember spending many summer afternoons as a kid in the basement of my parent's house, pulling books of the shelf and flipping aimlessly through them. I treasure those listless days where the unscheduled hours gave me a self-led curiosity. Summers meant doing nothing and allowing oneself to die of ennui.
Do you know that Aesop Fable called "The Tortoise and the Hare?" Well Hare, in all his bravado, skill and finesse figures he's got it made in the race against Tortoise. But he collapses in burn out before he gets to the finish line. Or, he lets his ego get the better of him and figure he's got nothing to learn - he'll win anyway.
Whatever the finish line is for you - whatever journey it is you're on, or line you must cross, (hopefully one you've made for yourself), try a steady approach, one that allows for rest.
Your manuscript, the degree, the contract - you'll get there. Keep going. Make room for mistakes. Ask for support. Expect some failure.
And above all - take it easy.