The Important Concept of Yutori

This morning I began a new plan, or rather, I have revived an old plan. As soon as I dropped my grandson off at school I went directly to Dow’s Lake for an attention walk. This walk is not  to get my heart rate up but rather to  lift up my spirits. Although heart related, it is a measurement of a different kind. This practice requires slow walking, awareness, and my camera. What a beautiful 40 minutes I spent walking by the cattails, listening to the red-winged blackbirds and sinking into the wonder of nature.

Stopping to take a photo at whatever caught my eye or simply to listen to the feathered choir and notice the graceful draping leaves of the weeping willows bursting forth all along the lake shore of my stroll transported me for a time.  The short 40 minute journey highlighted how easy it is to involve ourselves in beauty and how easy it is to miss out. Not, just with this unfolding of spring but so many other aspects of our life too. We need to take the time and use our attention if we want to activate our senses to the life around us.

On Being Project

There is a concept, brand new to me that I also discovered today. The Japanese word is Yutori. One of my most favorite poets,  Naomi Shihab Nye, discussed it on an  interview with Krista Tippet  and the  On Being Project. (link in the notes) Naomi  tells how she encountered this word.

I just came back from Japan a month ago, and in every classroom, I would just write on the board, “You are living in a poem.” And then I would write other things just relating to whatever we were doing in that class. But I found the students very intrigued by discussing that. “What do you mean, we’re living in a poem?” Or, “When? All the time, or just when someone talks about poetry?” And I’d say, “No, when you think, when you’re in a very quiet place, when you’re remembering, when you’re savoring an image, when you’re allowing your mind calmly to leap from one thought to another, that’s a poem. That’s what a poem does.”

And they liked that. And a girl, in fact, wrote me a note in Yokohama on the day that I was leaving her school that has come to be the most significant note any student has written me in years. She said, “Well, here in Japan, we have a concept called yutori.” And it is spaciousness. It’s a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around. Or — and then she gave all these different definitions of what yutori was to her. But one of them was… and after you read a poem just knowing you can hold it, you can be in that space of the poem. And it can hold you in its space. And you don’t have to explain it. You don’t have to paraphrase it. You just hold it, and it allows you to see differently. And I just love that. I mean, I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say all these years.

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author of numerous poetry books, including Famous (Wings Press, 2015). Excerpted from interview

Yutori

I encountered this word, after I came back from my walk. I then tracked it down in several places and understood that it accurately explained my outing this morning. It was the conscious slow down to allow me to savour the world around me. The refusal to rush. No talking. The stirring of what I love and have been missing for too long. I simply stepped into absorption with nature and with no agenda except to see. Spaciousness opened up.

I can imagine that all of you have had  experiences of spaciousness. It is easy for me to imagine how it  happens with a poem, music, and other meaningful moments. Yet this snippet from the interview hints at the many more opportunities we have to savour our everyday.

There is a spot on my walk, where I will take a photo each day to see spring unfold. Slow time is underrated. I picture the bridge as the path to slow and spacious time. Just like the young Japanese girl intimated. You don’t arrive early by going fast; you leave early to arrive early.

Notes

Note 1:)Here is the podcast and transcript to the interview for those who are interested.

Note 2:) An angle on the bridge – April 7th, 2021

 

 

 

 

Note 3:) Thank you all, for reading last week’s blog and sending me comments and emails. I was touched by all of them. I appreciate each and everyone of you and send all my best wishes that you stay safe and resourceful through this next challenging phase of the pandemic. More importantly, “may you take time to notice that you are living in a poem.” Warmly, Trudy

PS I took the banner photo this morning too. It is the small pond in the marsh.

Disenfranchised Losses

Last evening I met with two friends on Zoom to catch up. All three of us had lots to say about many things but as so often happens now, we spoke of Covid, vaccines and with caution – some of the disenfranchised losses that we  experienced due to the virus and its varients.  According to Kenneth J Doka,  a grief expert, disenfranchised grief is made up of the disappointments and losses that are hard to acknowledge, when worse things are happening to others.

It could be things like: a missed graduation or a 100th Birthday party; no more sports for our teenagers; not getting to see our grandchildren or the once in a lifetime trip cancelled. There are other things like not being able to help a dear friend who is ill or a parent who died in long term care without us.  And so much more. The slippery slope happens when we look around and see the truly heartbreaking loss experienced by some of our friends and family, and we feel like we have no right to complain. It is a bit like the conundrum between caregivers and the person they are caring for. The caregiver often feels like they can’t complain because X has cancer or some other serious illness.

This is why we must avoid unnecessary comparisons of all kinds.  When we compare  pain, loss, treatments, disease, or wealth and status…there is no end to it. The bottom line is, we all have sorrows and joys in our lives and we meet them where we are, with who we are, and with what we know. We get to acknowledge our own suffering, without the requirement of fitting it into a graph.

Sometimes We Need to Wallow

For instance, my teenage granddaughter was grumpy, miserable and very discouraged this week. With all the bad news of going into a full blown lock down once again and schools closing, she was fed up.  Her parents weren’t thrilled with her attitude, but on second thought they got it, when she said, “don’t you see, I just need to wallow for awhile.” It reminded me of when she was a little girl and had a little pink cloth that she held whenever she was sad. She once said to an older cousin who babysat her, “I know you don’t want me to cry but I need to cry for awhile.” A few minutes later she said, “I’m done now,” and hopped down from her chair and started playing.

There are times when we all need a pink cloth and a little wallowing time. We don’t need to worry that we are turning into the whiner or complainer. We are simply acknowledging that life currently feels the pits. Be careful of the expression, “at least.” I don’t find it helpful and it risks being dismissive of the person who is suffering. That person might even be you.  We are allowed our own wallowing time, and when we are ready, we get back up and move along, with an awareness that we also have things to appreciate.

We All Need Dreams

One of my friends suggested that when we go through difficult times we all need to have something to look forward to. She thanks her visa card with every purchase, because she is accumulating points to fly out west in August, to see her beloved family. Her visa card now brings her joy because she thinks ahead to that trip. Of course, the trip may be cancelled because of Covid.  Still, she has the joy of planning it now.

While  firmly planted in the present, it is  good to have some dreams. Something to plan. Something to work towards, especially when the situation we find ourselves in can be discouraging.  We mostly do our best to recognize the privileges we have, and when the time comes where we need to wallow for a bit, we meet that unwanted guest at the door and allow the visit. It won’t be permanent. We were made to handle this universality of loss. It comes right along with all the love, joy, meaning, purpose and adventures of a full life. Never forget that we have what it takes and we have each other, whoever those beautiful others are in your life.

Notes

Note 1:) “When sad cry; walk; read; reach out to others; help others; and don’t forget humour” Jim Button

Note 2:) I send spring greetings to you all: stay safe, enjoy the unfolding of spring and find ways to enjoy each other’s company, whether together or apart.

Note 3:) Thank you for coming by. It will be April when we meet again. Warmest wishes, Trudy

 

 

The Season of Hope and Beauty

My heart gets all fluttery as I observe and live these early spring days. I spotted the first snowdrops on Sunday morning, returning from a delightful walk with my grandson. We took a new route, with few pedestrians, so were able to remove our masks for part of the time. We both felt a little lazy before we went outdoors, and, no surprise, we returned full of energy.snowdrops

Everyday there is a new arrival. I heard from a teacher that her lawn is covered in snowdrops and as she put it, “the scent is heavenly.” Truthfully, I had no ideas snowdrops had a scent but will soon correct that. This morning I see the outdoor table and chairs are set up on my daughter’s back deck, which allowed me to imagine all the lovely meals and laughter that will occur around that table.

To pay attention to the awe of the ordinary gives us a chance each day to experience joy, beauty, meaning and relief, which are welcome in all kinds of times. This never means ignoring reality nor does it mean effortlessness. But we may come to see that it is worth the extra effort, to notice, and to create and to celebrate those moments of today’s surprise.

So, I recommend today we live with outstretched arms. Raise a glass to something you want to celebrate. There are so many options: milestones along the way; one pain free hour; beginnings and endings; making music;  a new baby…I have a list a mile long. Make your own.  Celebrate your life. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (no such thing) Relish your life, right now today. Take a moment or a few to acknowledge you are alive.  Keep on finding lots of ways to enjoy your life and those who are in it. Do not wait until everything is perfect or back to so-called normal. work with what you have right now and make today a good day.

Another special gift that I discovered today is this poem

April Prayer

Just before the green begins there is the hint of green
a blush of color, and the red buds thicken
the ends of the maple’s branches and everything
is poised before the start of a new world,
which is really the same world
just moving forward from bud
to flower to blossom to fruit
to harvest to sweet sleep, and the roots
await the next signal, every signal
every call a miracle and the switchboard
is lighting up and the operators are
standing by in the pledge drive we’ve
all been listening to: Go make the call.

April Prayer” by Stuart Kestenbaum, from Prayers & Run-on Sentences. © Deerbrook Editions, 2007.

Recording of poem

I recommend that you read this twice, once out loud. I also recorded it for you as poetry needs to be read out loud. It’s a funny think but at the end of this poem, when I am reading by myself,  I laugh out loud. I picture the call going out to every little seedling and bud that it is there time to shine – get up and be your best self, and of course we become the beneficiaries of all that life and beauty.

Notes

Note 1:) I stumbled on this quote yesterday and it made me smile because of course there may be a teeny, tiny kernel of truth in it. “No matter how old a mother is, she watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. ” Florida Scott Maxwell (Playright, Author, Jungian Psychologist – she wrote her first and I believe only book at 82 years old)

Note 2:) I think we all need more joy, celebrations, tolerance  and kindness in our lives. At the same time we can step up and take more risks. Of course, when we do that (take more risks) we will have failures. The good news is that we become the people who know how to get back up. We cultivate resilience. We don’t just celebrate success. We celebrate starting again, just like spring we hear the call to get out there and bloom away.

Note 3:) I am writing my blog early in the day, from now on, so no more late nights. I hope I stick to this new spring resolution. I am sending armloads of beautiful spring wishes. Watch for them when you are out for a stroll. With much appreciation for you taking the time to stop by. I hope you have many joyful moments this last week of March. Warmly, Trudy

 

 

 

Spring is Close at Hand

Spring is Close at Hand

I am very excited that spring is three days away. It is a rather artificial construct when you attempt to match the date to the weather. I have witnessed snow storms and deep cold on the first day of spring but this year all signs point to blue sky, sunshine, and plus ten celsius. (50 degrees Fahrenheit) For my Floridian readers this is a stay indoors temperature but for this snowbird it is a reason to celebrate. My spirit cannot resist the allure of spring.

Throughout my lifetime spring has always represented beauty and hope. It is no coincidence that the bright yellow daffodil is an icon of cancer. After a bleak and  desolate winter for some of my dear friends, the promise of spring is a promise of resilience, strength, courage and perseverance. A reason to get up in the morning, even when surrounded by a crowd of sorrows.

So for today I wish only to celebrate the constancy of spring. No matter what has gone on, spring arrives and with it the telltale signs of life: the tiny sprout, a spot of colour, the melting snow, the lightness of my step, the choice of boots or shoes, the impossible sweet surge of joy when the sun warms my face. And the smiling eyes of passerby’s, twinkling still above their masks.

Daffodil’s Return by Bliss Carmen

WHAT matter if the sun be lost?

What matter though the sky be gray?

There’s joy enough about the house,

For Daffodil comes home to-day.

There’s news of swallows on the air,

There’s word of April on the way,

They’re calling flowers within the street,

And Daffodil comes home to-day.

O who would care what fate may bring,

Or what the years may take away!

There’s life enough within the hour,

For Daffodil comes home to-day.

daffodilsNote

Note 1:) Poet and essayist (William) Bliss Carman was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 1861. He studied at the University of New Brunswick,  University of Edinburgh and Harvard University. He settled in New Canaan, Connecticut, in 1909, where he spent most of his life and achieved international fame.

Note 2:) A game I play with my grandchildren is using the flashlight of our attention to spot the signs of spring. Who will see the first snowdrop or the spindley shoot on the south facing sidewalks. What about the bird sounds. The first leaf or bud and the many shades of green unfolding. Each day is different as more and more living things appear. Wondrous Spring.

Note 3:) I wish for you a spring in your step and may none of us sleep walk through spring. Imagine each day as the first day and go exploring. Many thanks for coming by here. I deeply appreciate your generous gift of time. Warmly, Trudy

 

 

 

 

 

A Shout Out to a Maligned Medical Procedure

Never had I intended to write about a Colonoscopy and especially did not plan to get up on my soap box to praise its virtues.  But here I am!

As I rested on the  gurney this afternoon, waiting my turn, I thought a lot about how truly grateful I was to get this procedure. A rather strange turn around considering the day before I swore, “this is it; never again.”

The truth is the prep is shitty. (how could I resist) I find it extremely difficult, and the nurse said to me, “We can land Perseverance on Mars but we can’t find a better way to do the prep.” That old line is used for many things, but we are human beings, and some things that help us are frankly, unpleasant. I am sure you know that.

But that darn colonoscopy seems so primitive and raw and even embarrassing. And it must be painful! Certainly not something to talk about or write about in a blog post. But as I changed my mind today after swearing off this procedure, yesterday, I will tell you one simple truth. The Colonoscopy is a life saver. That is the bottom line, pun intended.

Here is my sales pitch.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer—if you are screened for hidden warning signs while you are still healthy. Screening finds precancerous growths on the colon wall, called polyps, which the doctor can then remove. The main benefit of a colonoscopy is that it helps detect early signs of cancer and allows the doctor to remove polyps which can turn cancerous. Harvard Medical School

The National Cancer Institute notes that colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer in the USA, and in Canada colorectal cancer is the 2nd leading cause of cancer death.

For me personally, I have had three of these procedures spaced five years apart and each time I have precancerous polyps and they are removed. Not all polyps are precancerous, but my oncologist was constantly on her soapbox about this inelegant, amazing and life saving  procedure. And I am grateful to her.

Screening guidelines are available in every health region and maybe YOU don’t need to ever have one. But many do and should, yet they avoid it for all the reasons mentioned earlier.

I want to tell you that the colonoscopy itself is a cake-walk. It is quick, pain free, and any polyps are removed on the spot and sent to the lab. The medical teams are usually friendly and skillful at putting you at ease. The light sedative helps so you feel nothing. (optional) Most people only have it once every ten years and usually between the ages of 50-75, unless you have symptoms or family history and then it begins younger and can go longer.

The prep is what people dislike. It is unpleasant but manageable, and absolutely worth it.

So back to that gurney today. My wonderful Nurse inserted my IV in one try, which was remarkable for my small and rolling veins. The Anesthetist was excellent and encouraging, and my Surgeon  was vigilant, personable and funny. I’m sure there is lots of gallows humour in that clinic.

I meet many people who will not consider a Colonoscopy, which is 100% their business. However, if you are avoiding it out of incorrect information, you may want to reconsider. It just might save your life.

Maybe I can write a Haiku?  (5,7,5 syllables)

Colonoscopy

inelegant procedure

yet, saves many lives

Notes

Note: 1) “Life is choices, and they are relentless. No sooner have you made one choice than another is upon you.” ― Atul Gawande, MD, author of Being Mortal

Note 2:) Spring is making headway in Ottawa and daylight savings time is this weekend. Birds are singing and I have my appointment to remove my snow tires on the 31st. What joy!

Note 3:) Warmest greetings to you all, and “live your life large,” as Jim Button, put it tonight in an outstanding talk at Wellspring Calgary. Thanks so much for coming by here and I will see you next week. Warmly, Trudy

PS I think I have discovered the problem as to why my posts aren’t publishing and being delivered. If I am right you will get this soon. Whew!

 

Blog - Sing while there is voice left

Sing While There is Voice Left – it may require a risk #2

(Speaking of risks and oops. Something technical happened tonight and my blog post would not send, so trying again.)

Musings

I have a few powerful mantras that have been with me most of my adult life. When I first began this blog almost three years ago this was my first post and is often a signature statement. And when I look back to the young 20 year old girl, who dashed to the book store every two weeks in Place Ville Marie, to buy books over clothes I don’t really see much difference 55 years later. Furthurmore, my interest is still captivated by the sages, the world’s wisdom, poetry, truth, beauty and the serious matter of life and death. And especially how wondrous and tenuous our ordinary everyday lives are and how easy it is to take them for granted.

Perhaps because of Covid-19 and all that has transpired this past year, my attention is turning to the call of the bird: Sing While There is Voice Left. And considering what that might mean now.

Here is my old post:

Sing While There is Voice Left

I read a book, as a young 20 year old living in Montreal, called Sing While There is Voice Left.  A French theologian wrote this book and I remember nothing  about it, except the title.  It has stuck with me my entire life.

I hear sing as a synonym for those things I consider important to do. Like writing this blog, as an example, or facilitating workshops for people living with illness; taking photos; spending time with my Grandchildren; saying thanks; walking, talking and cycling with my family and friends or having a nap in a hammock (when was the last time??) Even more important, remembering when I say good bye to anyone that these may be my last words.

Sing while there’s voice left reminded me to take that cycling trip with my kids and ride in a hot air balloon with my Mother; move to Ottawa to help care for my youngest grandchildren, and  seven years later, create this website and write this blog, while I have the chance.

Embedded

This maxim  is embedded in my operating system. And it reminds me of what is important,even when the world is turned upside down. In those times, with effort, I  turn my attention to also include small joys where light filters in. I notice small ways, where I can contribute. And I take small steps towards changing what can be changed and accepting what can’t be changed.

We all have things, unique to each of us, that we want to do, learn, attempt and consider important. In fact, I think we all have things that only we (as in each of us) can do. This very moment is the time to begin. Conditions will never be perfect so we may as well take advantage of imperfect conditions to get started, while we can. What do we have to lose? One foot in front of the other.

What would you most regret not having done, if life was shorter than expected? What word gifts did you not give away, while you had the chance? I suggest we don’t save all our best songs and words for funerals. Why not spend them with abandon so that in the end nothing is left unsaid. Of course, that may require a few risks.

I wonder what “Sing While There is Voice Left might mean to you? It would be fun to know, and when we say it out loud to another we significantly up our chances of taking action. Good luck.

Notes

Note 1:) Some of you already know that for me, “sing” means doing a walking trip in Japan. And  spring 2022 it might happen. Closer to home one more cycling trip in Quebec, which will require some heavy lifting on my part to regain strength and stamina but it is a “song” worth working for.

Note 2:) I know my banner photo is not exactly seasonal but I love this bird singing its heart out in the foothills of the Rockies.

Note 3:) I hope many of you are getting your first vaccine and that we continue to do the smart things required of us as we make our way down this road.

Note 4:) If you need some inspiration, here is a beautiful video with Brother David Steindl-Rast called A Grateful Day. About six minutes and because of the photography best watched on your computer or tablet instead of a phone.

Note 5:) Finally I say good-bye. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I consider it an honour. Warmest wishes, Trudy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking Out Loud about Grief and Mourning

Loss

Twelve years ago I wrote about this topic after a dear friend died.  I wonder if anything is different today as I think about dear friends who have suffered the loss of loved ones: a spouse,  child,  siblings,  friends,  parent, including my Mother. Certainly customs have necessarily changed during this time of Covid. I notice the conversation has improved and death and loss are no longer hidden in the closet.  On the other hand, if you google death and dying we get 937,000,000 results.  In North America, in particular, we quickly commodify anything that gains traction.  As well,  we seem suspicious about prolonged grief and  critical when we think it’s not long enough. Snap judgements abound, whether it is birth or death.

I Imagine

Even though arm bands, veils, black garb, and drawn blinds are mostly gone, it may be that we could benefit from a reprieve from our usual duties, albeit in a sunny room, not a darkened one. A room where we don’t need to talk or greet or comfort another but where food magically appears along with a hot cup of tea from time to time, and where a fire is laid and burning.  A room where we can fall asleep in the chair and where fresh flowers adorn the single table and the cold is banished, and we are close enough to the sea, to hear the waves and smell the salt.

A room where you are automatically excused for not taking calls or answering emails or from trying to cheer up. A room where you can still expect, at any moment, for your loved one to re-appear- where maybe it has all been a big mistake, until you remember- no – this won’t happen.

This room would look out on to trees, and birds and water. There would even be a door leading to a path. But no fear of encountering anyone (no matter how dear) who wants to offer comfort or be comforted by you. A cloistered place where one is permitted to be alone with ones thoughts and fears and prayers and pain. No excuses are needed here to decline lunch or any social gatherings. No explanations are required.

One day in good time, (whenever that is) the desire awakens to move beyond the walls. It is different for everyone. No explanation for staying or leaving is required. Life does indeed move on but not easily or quickly for some and not at all by the timeline we typically use in our country. We speak a great deal about grief, the internal process of grieving. And yet we have few rituals for mourning – how we express that grief externally. I have no words either. Only glimpses these days of possibilities.

The Year of Magical Thinking

In Joan Didion’s book, The Year of Magical Thinking, she quotes a passage from Emily Post’s 1922 book of etiquette, which she found affirming after her husband of 40 years suddenly died.

“Persons under the shock of genuine affliction are not only upset mentally but are all unbalanced physically. No matter how calm and controlled they seemingly may be, no one, can under such circumstances be normal. Their disturbed circulation makes them cold, their distress makes them sleepless. Persons they normally like, they often turn from. No one should ever be forced upon those in grief, and all over-emotional people, no matter how near or dear, should be barred absolutely.

Although the knowledge that their friends love them and sorrow for them is a great solace, the nearest afflicted must be protected from any one or anything which is likely to over strain their nerves, already at the threatening point. And none have the right to feel hurt if they are told they can neither be of use or received. At such time, to some people, companionship is a comfort; others shrink from their dearest friends.”

The Nearest Afflicted

I am holding in my heart those who mourn, especially the “nearest afflicted.” And I want to say that there are as many ways to grieve as there are people.  For some, companionship is the answer, including our work, and for others, solitude is what helps the most. (solitude doesn’t mean physically alone but the chance to be alone, even with others) Please trust yourself. There is no formula or one size fits all.

And these words won’t help anyone either… still, I think of dear friends who suffer, and you dear reader, whom I may not know, but for whom I care. You come into my  thoughts and heart as I reflect on life and death; joy and sorrow. Tonight,  I am thinking in particular what the loss of a beloved and lifelong soul mate, or a child, can mean to the bereaved.  With special thoughts of D and K and any of you dear readers who know all too well what I write about.

Notes:

1:) Haiku

a)

In spite of the cold,

winter peonies, naked and leafless,

are in flower. by Sharai

b)

Little snail,
slowly, slowly,
climbs Mount Fuji.  by Issa

 

c)

Not a Haiku but a small poem that brings me solace and reminds me to do what I can do, by Nancy Gibbs Richard

It is a challenge

to accept the truth

of what no longer is possible.

and yet embrace all that still can be.

Note 2:) This evening was the most magical winter night of the season. There was something about the snow laden trees and the whiteness all around with the glow of the lights muted by the snow cover that simply made everything look like an understated and beautiful winter wonderland.

Note 3:) Naturally I think of my own sweet Mother who died last July. In truth, I think of her with love and joy, knowing she is free of suffering. I miss her delightful company but I don’t wish her back. 100 years, 3 months and 13 days was enough for her, and we had the gift of her presence much longer than could possibly be expected.

Note 4:) Thanks for opening this email and clicking to read. And thanks for your kind and encouraging words. It is a joy for me to show up every Wednesday and I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. Keep your eye peeled for joyful moments, as they are sometimes easy to miss.  See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy

 

 

 

How to Fly a Horse

So here is the thing:

I am captivated by creativity these days. Reading everything I can get my hands on, doing my drawing practice with abandon, writing like crazy and recalling great authors whose advice I mostly did not apply to myself. In some ways this focus makes sense. A big part of my Ikigai (a reason to get up in the morning, ) is the time I spend with my grandchildren who are uninhibitedly creative, and inventive and my work with people impacted by illness. Of course, I have also lived for three quarters of a century, so all of my interests benefit enormously by the creative arts, imagination and invention. And I might add that doing things ourselves, is the key, not just admiring other’s work. So I am really benefiting myself, which happens when we try to be useful to others.

As I was writing an article today on creativity for a different publication, it occurred to me that I had not told you about a book I found intriguing.  It is called How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery” by Kevin Ashton.

Kevin, led pioneering work on RFID (radio frequency identification) networks, for which he coined the term “the Internet of Things,” and cofounded the Auto-ID Center at MIT. His writing about innovation and technology has appeared in numerous publications.

I found it fascinating when I first hear Ashton interviewed on CBC radio five years ago, when the book was published. I immediately downloaded a Kindle copy and found so many interesting ideas that I was continually sending excerpts to friends. If I recall, there were a few things that I didn’t connect with but overall I was engaged with his perspective and research around the myths of creativity and how credit is bestowed to the inventor or the maker of the final product, rather than to the team of people over generations who continually added to that outcome. I was fascinated by this research. In fact, I’m about to read it again.

Here are a few comments from others that fit my own experience.

Reviews

One of the most creative books on creativity I have ever read, a genuinely inspiring journey through the worlds of art, science, business and culture that will forever change how you think about where new ideas come from.”
—William C. Taylor, cofounder and editor of Fast Company and author of Practically Radical

“[Ashton’s] is a democratic idea—a scientific version of the American dream. . . . [A]n approachable, thought-provoking book that encourages everyone to be the best they can be.”
The Guardian (London)

“If you have ever wondered what it takes to create something, read this inspiring and insightful book. Using examples ranging from Mozart to the Muppets, Kevin Ashton shows how to tap the creative abilities that lurk in us all. There are no secrets, no shortcuts; just ordinary steps we can all take to bring something new into the world. Ashton’s message is direct and hopeful: creativity isn’t just for geniuses—it’s for everybody.”
—Joseph T. Hallinan, author of Why We Make Mistakes

“If you consider yourself a curious person then you will love this book. Ashton shares so many delightful stories of where things come from and how things came to be, I seriously believe that it will make anyone who reads it smarter.”
—Simon Sinek, New York Times bestselling author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last

The three most destructive words in the English language may be – before I begin. Kevin Ashton

It is so interesting how hard it is for some of us to begin. No matter what it is.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman: “To begin, to begin. How to start? I’m hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. I should write something first, then I’ll reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. OK, so I need to establish the themes. Maybe banana-nut. That’s a good muffin.”

This kind of mind chatter is familiar to some of us. Ashton writes this:

“The only thing we do before we begin is fail to begin. Whatever form our failure takes, be it a banana-nut muffin, a tidier sock drawer, or a bag of new stationery, it is the same thing: a non-beginning, complete with that dead car sound, all click, no ignition.

Having resisted the temptation of others, we must also resist the temptation of us. The best way to begin is the same as the best way to swim in the sea. No tiptoes. No wading. Go under. Get wet and cold from scalp to sole. Splutter up salt, push the hair from your brow, then stroke and stroke again. Feel the chill change. Do not look back or think ahead. Just go.

In the beginning, all that matters is how much clay you throw on the wheel. Go for as many hours as you can. Repeat every day possible until you die. The first beginning will feel wrong. We are not used to being with ourselves uninterrupted. We do not know the way first things look. We have imagined our creations finished but never begun…

Nothing begins good, but everything good begins. Everything can be revised, erased, or rearranged later. The courage of creation is making bad beginnings.”

There may not be a single thing that you really want to do before you die. But I suspect everyone has dreams and visions of something they want to leave behind. Maybe it is a tidy sock drawer and that’s ok, but it might be stories, videos, a song or musical composition or a new contraption of some kind. There are hundreds of things that any of us can learn to do, but there may be one or two important things that we would so like to do but are afraid to start. I wonder what they are? Will you begin?

Notes

Note 1:) The CBC interview I heard five years ago. less than 12 minutes. I won’t be the least bit offended if you don’t find him interesting.

Note 2:) I hope you are all managing the February blues, especially in the cold climates  where you are housebound by temperature as well as Covid. Good news- only 3 and 1/2 weeks until daylight savings time.

Note 3:) This is celebration month in my family with Birthdays for my daughter, granddaughter and cousins, not to mention the Lunar New Year and Valentines. Any excuse will do. We have discovered that you don’t need a crowd to celebrate and video chats work for Birthday greetings. However, next year… where there is vaccine there is hope.

Note 4:)  Thank you for arriving once again, to this spot. With armloads of appreciation, I thank you. I hope you have a lovely week and “begin,” or continue with that special creation of yours. Warmest wishes, Trudy

PS The banner was taken in the Gion area of Kyoto in 2014. I was awed by the market, narrow old streets, skilled crafts people creating form and function in food, art, kimona’s and so much more. Like this gentleman expertly weaving blinds, and other items by hand. It was an honour to stand and watch him and he allowed me to take his photo.

 

Scrambling for Certainty

The Human Predicament

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground—something predictable to stand on—seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.

What a predicament! We seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we’re part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process.

So this is where we find ourselves: right in the middle of a dilemma. And it leaves us with some provocative questions: How can we live wholeheartedly in the face of impermanence, knowing that one day we’re going to die? What is it like to realize we can never completely and finally get it all together? Is it possible to increase our tolerance for instability and change? How can we make friends with unpredictability and uncertainty— and embrace them as vehicles to transform our lives?”  Pema Chodron

Pema has a gift and a skill of putting into a few paragraphs what I might take a few pages to talk about.

We will never arrive someplace where we can rest undisturbed for the rest of our days.

While we are still breathing we will be interrupted, disturbed, happy, sad, in pain, pain free, scared, uncertain, in love, out of love, rich, poor, healthy, unhealthy. Or at least we will have moments of all those things. We just don’t want to define ourselves by any one particular state.

I believe that we are all doing our best, with what we know. We fall down, we get up. We start again. We notice. We pay attention and sometimes we don’t. We are our perfectly imperfect selves. And it helps when we clearly distinguish between the things that we don’t have direct control over by our will and the things that we can control and influence. (like our own actions) And it is the latter where we can best invest our precious energy.

I have experienced that none of us is alone. Life/friends/family/strangers/medical professional’s/ and more, keep supporting us at every turn, even if we don’t notice. This doesn’t mean life becomes easy but it does mean that it is doable.

We all can have moments of joy, learning, laughter, friendship and a sense of purpose.May this be true for you.

Notes

Note 1:) The banner Photo is taken in Salmon Arm, BC, by Gottfried and the Valentines collage was created by my friend, Patrica. Thanks to you both!

Note 2:) I hope you are all well and managing to find creative and fun things to learn and to do this winter.

Note 3:) It is always a joy for me to show up here and meet you each week.  If you have questions or suggestions or just want to say hi, please feel free to drop me a note at trudy@livingwellwithillness.com I love hearing from you. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Arugamama – An Important and Favourite Japanese Word

Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters and belongs to the shrine grounds.

Arugamama

Arugamama is one of my favorite Japanese words and I keep it in my back pocket for everyday use.   It means something like things as they are.  An acknowledgement of what is, even when what is,” is  something we do not like, and cannot control.  Clearly cancer is one thing that is out of our control. But so are thunderstorms and viruses and the stock market.  I suspect we all can come up with a long list. What’s  important about this word is that it doesn’t imply passivity, rather better described as an active acceptance. With things as they are, what can I do here?  I see it as the first step towards initiating change.

When we reflect on the question — with things as they are, what can I do now, we need to distinguish between what is controllable and what is not.  Working to learn, influence and change what can be changed is meaningful, satisfying and a worthwhile expenditure of energy. When we refuse the victim mantel, and turn over every stone to influence what can be changed, we gain confidence and often satisfaction.  We can ask questions, seek advice, listen, and learn. Action is essential.

Looking at the challenges and catastrophes that come our way we can view arugamama as a readiness to say, “what now?” With things as they are, what can I actually do right now?

Acceptance

Acceptance often gets a bad rap as it gets equated with resignation and passivity – lie down and let the world walk over me. However, this wonderful definition from Jon Kabat Zinn puts that misunderstanding to rest. This is the best definition I have ever seen.  It is included in a collection called  Arriving at Your Own Door: 108 Lessons in Mindfulness.

Acceptance doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is – especially when you don’t like it – and then work mindfully as best as you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in, and with the resources at your disposal, to be in wise relationship to what is, which may mean at some point acting to mitigate, heal, re-direct, or change what can be changed.

special moment on a sunday afternoonNotes

Note 1:) One line from our wise poet, Mary Oliver: “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”

Note 2:) Something for listening. This video was created from the contributions of over 200 physicians from across Canada, singing and recording this music in isolation between November and December 2020 and under the auspices of the  Phoenix Chamber Choir in Vancouver. It’s purpose is to help support  front line mental health and addictions programs across Canada. I so enjoyed this cheerful, encouraging and worthwhile production called:

An Ordinary Day.

Note 3: ) Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read these musings and sending encouraging words.  With appreciation and warmest wishes for you all. See you next week, Trudy