Monday, August 23, 2010

Walk Unafraid

Today it's all said by the R.E.M. song "Walk Unafraid" from their album Up

As the sun comes up, as the moon goes down
These heavy notions creep around
It makes me think
Long ago I was brought into this life, a little lamb
A little lamb
Courageous, stumbling
Fearless was my middle name
But somewhere there I
Lost my way
Everyone walks the same
Expecting me to step
The narrow path they've laid
They claim to
Walk unafraid
I'll be clumsy instead
Hold my love me or leave me
Say keep within the boundaries if you want to play
Say contradiction only makes it harder
How can I be
What I want to be?
When all I want to do is strip away
These stilled constraints
And crush this charade
Shred this sad masquerade
I don't need no persuading
I'll trip, fall, pick myself up and
Walk unafraid
I'll be clumsy instead
Hold my love me or leave me
If I have a bag of rocks to carry as I go
I just want to hold my head up high
I don't care what I have to step over
I'm prepared to look you in the eye
Look me in the eye
And if you see familiarity
Then celebrate the contradiction
Help me when I fall to
Walk unafraid
I'll be clumsy instead
Hold my love me or leave me
Walk unafraid
I'll be clumsy instead
Hold my love me or leave me

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spiritual Process

The older I get, the more I realize that life and art are both spiritual processes, and the visual journal has solidified that attitude in my mind. Except for an agnostic/atheist phase in my late teens and early 20s, I have always been a spiritual person - not in an organized religion or new agey kind of way. But I have always felt that the world was held together by forces far greater than we as individuals, and that feeling was always reinforced on solitary hikes in the woods or while leading journal workshops. I have been awed by nature and my connection to it, and I have been awed by the power of the journal. I have seen lives change because people have connected with themselves in the journal.

I think for me that is what this spiritual process is all about - connecting. It is first an individual process - a looking inward and connecting with all aspects of ourselves. Then it is an external process of connecting with others and helping them on their individual journeys through life. Happiness is within us and not with material objects, the love of another, or ordained on us by fate. All beings want to be happy and do not want to suffer, but that happiness cannot come from wealth, electronic gadgets, fancy cars, a young, attractive spouse, or a lavish home. It comes from turning inward and helping others.

Friday, August 6, 2010


It seems that every waking moment our minds are occupied with a tremendous amount of thoughts. No matter whether we are driving in the car, taking a shower, or trying to go to sleep, our minds are awash in a whole range of thoughts. Much of time we think about the past - the would'ves, should'ves, and could'ves - as we relive various moments regretting some and reveling in others. And the rest of the time we are occupied with thoughts of the future whether it's a mental to-do list for the day or the dream of when we have more time and money. But it is fair to say that we think very little about the present moment which leads to the paranoid feeling that we forgot to lock the front door or that we have driven many miles and are surprised when we suddenly arrive at our destination with no recollection of the journey. We seem to be on autopilot as we go on with the business of our day worrying and thinking about so much other stuff that we forget to live in the moment.

Recently I have been working on being more mindful of myself in the present moment. It began dawning on me recently during a vacation to the beach as I sat and watched the waves. The waves rolled in one after another, and though I began to think about riding my body board, I quickly found myself just being there watching the waves. Thoughts about grabbing my board, where we would eat lunch, or what waited us when we got back home just slipped away. It was as if I had become part of the wave as it moved toward the beach. I felt that sensation several times during our six day stay, and each time I sat for hours just watching the waves, listening to their crashes, and feeling the breeze blowing. I was very present in the moment and very mindful of the waves, the sun, the breeze, the people, and the sand.I have also been reading quite a bit of Buddhist writings including the Dalai Lama, and mindfulness is a key component that these various writers bring up. Being present for each moment and being mindful of that experience whether it is eating, meditating, or walking can help eliminate distracting thoughts and dispel afflictive emotions.

So, I have tried to be more mindful as I go through my days. My biggest mindful experiment was a recent hike. Usually as I hike, thoughts of all kind flash through my mind - everything from thoughts about previous hikes to imaginary conversations to ideas for future books and blog posts. And often miles can go by and I find myself thinking "How did I get here already? I don't remember passing that one part of the trail." Basically my thoughts take over, and my body moves through the woods without paying much attention to my surroundings. I find that I often cannot remember large pieces of the trail.

This past week I tried to hike while being more mindful of myself and the hike. It wasn't easy. I found all kinds of thoughts entering my mind, and I simply acknowledged them, and let them go always bringing my thoughts back to the hike. I looked around much more as I hiked, I "listened" to my body so that I did not get winded, and I trusted that my feet would find the best spots to step so that I wasn't hiking with my eyes staring at my feet scouting out each step. And whenever a stray thought entered, I just tried to let it go. I didn't allow myself to follow the thought and get caught up in reliving the past or trying to plan the future. I let it go and turned my thoughts back to the hike. I found myself hiking more softly and gracefully. I didn't plod along tripping over rocks and stomping down the trail. I felt much more like a deer moving through the woods ever on the look out for trouble.

It was an amazing experience, and though I hiked that section of trail a hundred times or more, that was the first time that I really experienced the hike. I can remember the hike much more vividly. Everyday now, I try to find more ways of being present and being mindful.