Letting life unfold

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,

spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

Basho


I have loved this haiku ever since I first read it. Twenty-five years ago I wrote it out on a piece of card and stuck it over my desk when I was revising for my final exams at university.

I felt instinctively that the words were true, yet I was stuck in a life where I had to strive to make things happen; work, and work some more, worry, then work harder, in order to get a qualification, so that I could get a job, so that I could carry on working hard.

The end was never in sight, just a life of effort and busyness.

I longed for a life where I was like the grass, biding my time and then growing when the conditions were right.

Or a life where I was just sitting, observing, not worrying or striving to control the grass (a pointless task!). Just relaxing, waiting for it to grow in its own sweet time and trusting that everything would unfold as it should.

Neither of these were true for me at the time, instead I was full of anxiety about the future. But I always felt that Basho was speaking across the centuaries to me, pointing out a better way to live.

I’ve been drawn to the haiku again recently as I talk to friends and coaching clients and think about my own life.

The idea of something happening, growing, reaching fruition in its own time and when the conditions are right. Of not knowing what the outcome will be, just letting life evolve and grow.

So often I’ve asked the question ‘now what should I do with my life?’ or ‘what should I do next?’ and expected an answer, fully formed and shiny, a new goal.

What happens when no goal appears, when I’m not sure what to do next? Can I allow my life to unfold naturally, following my interests and passions to see where they take me, without expectations?

My biologist self looks at the grass growing by itself and knows that it is only growing because of the coming together of the right conditions for grass to grow; warmth, sunlight, rain, suitable soil, the right numbers of grazing animals, strong roots that have survived the winter, viable grass seed.

So how can we create the right conditions in our own lives?

Sit quietly, do nothing. Or go for a walk, or whatever allows us the space and time to listen. We need the equivalent of sun, rain and sweet time to let us grow.

An idea nudges us in the quietness, whispers in a small voice ‘this is what I want’.

More ideas emerge, possibilities reveal themselves, action unfolds because it feels effortless, the right thing to do.

It takes faith and courage to let things evolve, to see where your path of life leads. Sometimes it can be a lonely road, it seems that not many others are taking it. But they are.

And eventually a goal emerges, a path appears in the undergrowth. There is a map and someone has been that way before. It might take some effort, risk and persistence to follow the path, but it feels right.

You just have to start walking through the grass, which is growing all by itself.


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Jealousy

Jealousy strikes,

irritates,

illuminates,

reveals the path

I wish to travel.


Jealousy. It gets a bad press, but it can be really useful. It can point the way to what we really want.

I don’t often feel jealous, but when I do, it’s usually because someone else is doing something that I want to do. Something I have told myself is impossible, or too hard, or not for the likes of me, for someone older, or younger, more talented, better educated….the list goes on.

This morning, while I was reading an article about a writer and explorer, jealousy bit hard. I read about one of the ideas in his new book, something I remember thinking about years ago. ‘It’s not fair’, I thought. ‘I could have written that’. But I didn’t.

Jealousy showed me that writing about these ideas, and writing a book, is important to me.

Then came the excuses. ‘Oh but he’s probably a much better writer than me. He probably studied literature and writing. He’s probably rich and can afford to be a writer and not need a real job.’

This may, or may not, be true. The point is, he did it, I didn’t. The point is, more clarity on what is important to me, what it is that I want.

Jealousy is not a pleasant feeling, but it gave me a little nudge into action. I could choose to take what I want seriously. I could take some writing courses. I could start redrafting the novel that I wrote a few years ago.


What do you think? Has jealousy ever made you stop and think? Pointed the way to a new direction, adventure or creative project?

Rough edges

My garden,

like much of my life,

a little scruffy,

a little rough around the edges,

beautiful to my eyes

but perhaps not everyone’s

cup of tea.

Today I watched

a queen red-tailed bumblebee

dusted in golden pollen

feasting on a dandelion,

mother of next summer’s bees

sustained by my laziness,

my dislike of weeding.

Perfection may ensnare us

but it is a sterile thing,

there is treasure

to be found

in the wild,

in the untamed,

at the rough edges of life.

Inspiration

‘I want to write a poem’
never works for me.
I have to wait.
I have to go to the places
where inspiration lies.
Sometimes I glimpse it
quietly sleeping
in a grey sky full of rain,
or shouting for attention
through the flowers and birds.
Sometimes I glimpse it
within myself
and I have to be quiet enough to hear it.
A blog post from a writer I admire
sparks a train of thought,
or I glimpse an old quote in
a book, inspiration travelling
across time and space.
Or I walk.
Usually I just walk,
and the world nudges me
into attention.

Featured

The spaces in between

The train to Manchester was busy.

Next to me, leaning against the window and not making eye contact, a young man with a backpack. He kept his backpack on all the way, and his coat. He hunched uncomfortably on the seat, moving constantly; cracking his knuckles, jiggling his legs, sighing, yawning.

The train took its time, and I distracted myself with my phone. Both of us would rather be anywhere but here, squashed into a train with strangers.

The kind of train journey that doesn’t have space, physically or mentally.

This one does. This train, from Manchester to Norwich, is blissfully empty. Hours of countryside pass by; tunnels, rivers, mountains, woods. I barricade myself into my seat, coat on the chair next to me, bag in front, daring anyone to sit next to me. My own little cocoon.

Then the journey works it’s magic.

The rocking of the train, eyes relaxing over the long views, grey skies giving way to silver, then blue, then back to grey.

The train sings nothing to do, nothing to do, nothing to do.

Space

To think

To relax

To breathe

To dream.

Ideas appear, then drop behind. Contentment spreads.

Ideas reappear, then blossom. The future appears more fluid, more malleable.

And all I have to do is sit here and be transported.

How rare it is to find this space, the space between. Between departing and arriving, between dreaming and becoming, between beginning and end.

The space where possibilies expand with the horizon, where new futures can be envisioned and old bonds can drop away.

My most audacious goals seem possible

And yet isn’t all life lived in this space, really?

How good we are at distracting ourselves from it, filling our lives up with busyness.

As the land flattens out and the towns get closer together, I start to weave my dreams into reality, mapping out actions for the coming months. Dreaming into doing, breathing thoughts into life.

The train arrives. I depart into the cold night air.

_

I would like to find ways of inhabiting this in between space more often, instead of leaving it to chance.

How do you find the time and space to reconnect with your dreams and to plan for your future?

On blogging

I’ve been in this peaceful corner of the internet for nine months now.

I wanted a place to write, to explore ideas, to experiment, to see what this blogging thing was all about.  To share, maybe, if anyone found my blog.

I started out thinking I’d write about creativity, and how to fit it into a busy life, about nature, and the importance of connecting with the natural world.

I ended up writing poetry.  Poems about everyday life; the first snowdrops of spring, anxiety before a hospital appointment, the first canoe trip of the year, tai chi.

I luxuriated in language.   I wrote about things that I don’t usually talk about, feeling safely anonymous among millions of bloggers.

I haven’t been trying to promote my blog, but somehow I now have some followers.

♥ Thank you! ♥

I follow some of the people who have commented or followed my blog and now every weekend my inbox contains poetry and stories.  Some of my favourites so far:

The Cedar Journal – adventures of a Cedar Canoe

Elle Guyence, who writes a beautiful poem every week

Paperbark Writer Australian nature meets science & art, which combines many of my favourite things in one blog!  Actually I’ve been following this blog for a few years now, it’s really inspiritational and makes me want to visit Australia again.

 

So, I’m going to keep on writing, exploring, experimenting and reading and see what the next nine months bring for Life In The Fresh Air!