Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wisdom from Heron Dance #303

The most recent Heron Dance "A Pause for Beauty"--written by its founder Rod MacIver--had some lovely advice embedded within that I'd like to share here. It stresses the importance of slowing down and cultivating balance in your life. It stresses the need to slow down your life and look around at all your blessings. In short: it's truly lovely. Enjoy.

"I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to live life guided by love. I’ve got a long, long way to go but every day I’m trying to get a little further down the path. Love is a simple and obviously profound word, and in part that’s why I like it. I need something I can boil right down because I fall so easily off track.

I remember an inmate who had been in prison a very long time saying in an interview — it may even been one of the inmate interviews I did in the early days of Heron Dance — that “I love you” is one phrase we humans never tire of hearing. An Op-Ed article in the New York Times last week, by David Brooks, described a 72-year study of 268 men who attended Harvard College. They were gifted, affluent and apparently well-adjusted. It is a fascinating article (visit here to view), and the conclusion of the man who oversaw the work for 42 years was that “Love is happiness. Full stop.” The degree of happiness in a person’s life depends on the quality of human relationships.

Yes, I agree, but there is more to it than just human relationships. The degree of love we are able to pour into a work — for instance, a creative work — or even a place — for instance, a wild place or a community — affects the quality of our lives. Pouring love into a home even has an expansive effect: — creating a home of peace and beauty, a simple home, a home where others — strangers, friends and family — feel comfortable and at peace, contributes to the quality of a human life.

To build a life around love requires thought and care. You need to be rested. You can’t fill yourself with love when you are overtired and grouchy. You need to live a low stress life, a life with a margin in reserve — a financial margin, an energy margin. You need to put understanding and acceptance ahead of winning conflicts or prevailing in disputes. A life built around love probably involves a fair amount of surrender over relatively minor issues.

You also need to minimize the number of moving parts. When I’m going in lots of different directions or responsible for lots of different projects, I can’t find love inside myself and can’t offer it to others or even to my work. All of these things have some relationship with one’s friendship with oneself and, perhaps, as a part of that, a relationship to time in reflection and quiet meditation.

The Op-Ed piece also contains these observations: “A third of the men would suffer at least one bout of mental illness. Alcoholism would be a running plague. The most mundane personalities often produced the most solid success.” Mundane? We can’t be what we’re not. I’m not mundane and don’t want to be, but I have a very happy life. I love adventure, challenge, and learning. I’m fascinated by life. But balance is another thing. I often struggle for balance. I’m prone to extremes. When I’m living a balanced life — work and play, physical exercise and rest, the paddle down a wild river and then the return home to a quiet evening — I’m most able to find the love inside myself and offer it to the world."

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