Do Whatever Works – until it no longer works. Natalie Goldberg

My attention was captivated by these words last Saturday Morning:

A Tender and Forgiving Practice

Maybe the first rule we should begin with, if we want meditation to be in our life for a long time, is: Don’t make a rigid structure and then chastise ourselves when we don’t live up to it. Better to keep a limber mind and develop a tenderness toward existence.  —Natalie Goldberg, “Rules for a Long-Term Relationship

These words showed up in my email, thanks to Tricycle Magazine. I subscribe to their Daily Dharma, mostly for the surprise of moments like this, when my heart does a leap of joy at such generous notions. And my mind readily transforms the word, “meditation,” into a synonym for all practices we take up, whether it is exercising, writing, attempting to live well under the same roof with another human being, not being so angry, or any number of promises we make to ourselves.

Failure to always live up to our own standards and all of our promises,  can be the slippery slope to begin “throwing sticks at out heart,” as Rumi reminds us Not To Do.

The longer I live the less inclined I am to browbeat myself or anyone because we slipped up. It seems to me that human failing is built right into our DNA, just like death. It will happen to all of us. We are born and if we are lucky we will get old, and at some point we will all experience ill health and death. And in between the beginning and the end we will have time to experience the highs and the lows and the great possibilities that ordinary moments bring. Including the moments we disappoint ourselves.

When I then clicked on “read more” of Natalie’s article I came to this delight. Do whatever works – until it no longer works. The generous spirited Dalai Lama says things like this. So twice in the last 13 months I an indebted to the generous Natalie Goldberg, not just for her writing advice, but for her wisdom on living.

I am not big on formulas, but this advice is not just kind, I think it works well. No reason to be mean to ourselves and no reason to give up. We brush ourselves off and begin again. And we pay attention to what works for us and when and how to adjust our expectations and strategies, when things stop working. What stones to overturn and which ones to walk around. What structures to put in place and what to remove. Just because we failed to eat well today is no reason to discard the desired goal. We have another opportunity tomorrow.

Dr. Itami (Meaningful Life Therapy) encouraged his patients to have a variety of daily practices, such as creative pursuits, helping others, visualization, looking for humour and establishing short-term meaningful goals to work on everyday. These, and more enhance the quality of everyday life. Criticizing yourself for not “measuring up” was not part of the plan.

Although Natalie’s article is about caring for her relationship with Meditation, it is about so much more. Encouraging words for living our perfectly imperfect lives.


Note 1:) A delightful incident in the above article: Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who was then in his sixties, was asked by a woman practitioner, at a retreat, how he kept his practice alive. He smiled a wry, sweet smile. “So you want to know my secret?” She nodded eagerly.  “I do whatever works and change it when it no longer works.”

Note 2:) On July 13th I am lucky to celebrate, although  from afar, the 50th birthday of my son Rob. He will be cycling the 336 km (206 mile) ride from Seattle to Portland that day. The magic is in the ride. OK, he wants to do it in a certain time too.

Note 3:) Hope you get outside as much as possible while the summer days are filled with warmth and light. When I was a young girl I thought summer was the same amount of time as the school term. Imagine the timelessness of those summer days. Many thanks for stopping by. See you next week. Warmly, Trudy



1 reply
  1. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    WONDERFUL post Trudy.
    And WHOOOOAAAAA….way to go Rob. SO proud of him (and in awe). Please pass on my AWE and also a huge HAPPY BIRTHDAY.


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