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Week 11, by Maria Rodgers O’Rourke (Tracey here: If you’re a writer, I encourage you to check out Maria’s website, the services she offers, and the support you can gain at any step in your writing journey!)

“It’s all a matter of entering what-is and taking heart-notes.” P. 197, “Travel and the Writer’s Mind” section of Drinking from the River of Life.

As I read Mark’s email exchange with Jacqueline, a familiar feeling of jealousy rose in me. Envy of their lives, and the apparent ease that allows them to live such thoughtful days, spontaneously following impulses and whatever appears on their path. Jacqueline says she abandoned her work plan to follow her musings. Mark tells of books-in-progress, and how research for one lead to another, and the beauty of the threads all coming together. All true.

Yet, a cynic arises in my mind to dismiss these insights. It says: These are the musings of people who don’t lead “real lives” of working jobs that demand mental and physical presence that’s far removed from the heart’s work. “Yeah, I’d pay attention like that, too,” something in me mutters, “if I had financial freedom like that.”

And I miss the point, entirely. Resistance disguises itself, again, as righteous judgement. Any fruits of the effort to create are thwarted. What might have been revealed is lost to the inner cynic.

So, I tried a different approach. Taking Mark’s lead, I dismissed the cynic and sat with what-is. Here’s what came up:

I’m scribbling these words as a cardinal bird chirps in the tree outside. Cool autumn air drifts in through the window, opened just enough to allow a song and a bit of breeze to rest with me. My pen scratches the page. The ink flows out of the pen in a steady blue stream. Breathe. The gentle draft touches my hands as they rest on the page. Legs crossed under my lap desk. My body is snug in a sweatshirt, jeans, and favorite sneakers. The chair supports my back like a pillowed nest. The chirps continue. All is well. In this moment, I have all I need. My heart rests and opens. I am here.

The point is: human beings can, by paying attention to their lives, find meaning in them. We don’t have to travel – though a change of scenery helps! – to notice what’s around us. For me, “taking heart-notes” brings me to a centered place – where time is suspended, and all things are possible. This is this fertile ground for creativity.

I have a work-in-progress, a novel. The other day, I opened the file on my computer, and hunkered down, once again, to crank out another 500 words. It felt so exhausting, so harsh, to approach my work that way. And yet, aren’t we conditioned to think it should be hard, and that we have to grind it out? On this day, I stared down the inner bully behind this strategy, and decided I wasn’t going to do it that way, anymore.

Instead, I took my notebook and printed manuscript draft and sat on the floor with them open in front of me. I took a few deep breaths and asked the story and characters to come to me. I felt the threads of the plot float up and rest around me, like sitting in a garden of flowers stretching in the sun. My heart and mind relaxed into the beauty, and relinquished control of the project. It will find its way to the page because it’s already there. Letting it come to me, instead of digging it out, is the true work.

I described the scene to my wise-beyond-her-years daughter, who proclaimed: “Power move, Mom!”

Power, not in the old way of control and conquer, but in a new way – allowing, releasing, growing, and noticing. My new mantra these days is: “Welcome it in, don’t hash it out.”

What struck you about this week’s reading?


Book Club Schedule:

  • Week #12 Placeholders through Going With The Stream, Tammi Scott, Nov. 18
  • Week #13 <<<BREAK>>> Happy Thanksgiving
  • Week #14 Everything We Need through Becoming the Poem, Kim Prendergast, Dec. 2
  • Week #15 The Empty Saddle through This Belongs to Everyone, Eva Tsoureka, Dec. 9
  • Week #16 FINAL book club round up Zoom, Saturday, December 18, 10am pacific

A link will remain here to week 1 in case anyone wants to review the spearheading guidance. Week 1.

9 Comments

  1. I love this concept of “taking heart notes”. What a beautiful way of thinking to engage with the world, another or a problem in a different manner. It resonated with me as I feel like I am in a transition and will have some big decisions to make in my life in the next year and I don’t want to approach them aggressively. I want to be mindful and intentional.
    I am so busy and stressed out on a daily basis that it is challenging; but I must slow down and get connected and learn to listen to my heart more. I love that the reading is reinforcing this in myself. Several years ago I quit a job at the County where I live and what had rumbled around in my heart for several years prior to that was ” I am not a human doing. I am a human being.” I think this concept was eluded to in an earlier reading as well. And now anytime my doing takes over my being a red flag goes up. Well my red flag went up this fall and now I will take some time to process, explore my heart before I divert to the next decision.
    I related to your post as well, regarding the thoughts that people don’t really have time to do this in real life!!!! I am just tired of all the excuses I a make that keep me disconnected from myself and staying way to busy is one of them.

  2. I’m with you, Kimberly! We are so dang rushed in this world. Have to be so intentional about taking the quiet time! So glad you’re doing it, too.

    1. Thank you Maria for your insights about relaxing into the present. This has been very instrumental in my own life. I have meditated on and off throughout my life and started again this February. Ram Dass said “The mind is like a drunk monkey stung by a scorpion.” This will be recognized as true by anyone who tries to meditate. This time I am combining my meditation practice with the ACIM lessons. The goal of ACIM is a change in perception and for me it is working. I found a quote by Margaret Proust that sums it up. “The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Going within has become a priority for me and I am blessed with the time to be able to do just that. Each morning and each evening I make it a priority to meditate. I feel like I am going through a transition but am not sure where it will lead. The key to success with meditation is practice, practice, practice. The more I do it the more I love it. Sometimes I am able to enter a peaceful flow state that feels so wonderful I never want it to end. Other times I receive amazing insights about my life. Sometimes I start sobbing and releasing past traumas and other times my monkey mind takes over and I jump from one thought to another. The key for me is to welcome whatever comes and then go back to my breath or mantra. Like they say in 12 step programs “It works if you work it.”

      1. Thank you for sharing this quote so true.. and yes couldn’t agree more, Practice Practice Practice is the key 😉 loved how you talked about the monkey mind! Haha so true

  3. Yes, power move, Maria! It’s wonderful to find new ways to get our creative on.

    Reading Staying Close to What is Sacred reminded me of the work I’ve been doing (and have had much success with), as Nepo writes, “giving up on what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred.”

    For so many years, certain things would put me in a funk and I had a hard time snapping out of it. I know now that was because I didn’t have the tools to process how I really felt. So I just stayed in an emotional state that wasn’t fun because I didn’t know how to get from there to calm. But in the last several years, as I’ve been better at self-care, I have been able to let many things go without even getting into a funk in the first place. I’ve learned that getting stressed doesn’t work for me! It robs me of time and happiness. I am better able to stay close to what is sacred: calm.

    1. Thank you Maria for your insights about relaxing into the present. This has been very instrumental in my own life. I have meditated on and off throughout my life and started again this February. Ram Dass said “The mind is like a drunk monkey stung by a scorpion.” This will be recognized as true by anyone who tries to meditate. This time I am combining my meditation practice with the ACIM lessons. The goal of ACIM is a change in perception and for me it is working. I found a quote by Margaret Proust that sums it up. “The real voyage of discovery consists in not seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Going within has become a priority for me and I am blessed with the time to be able to do just that. Each morning and each evening I make it a priority to meditate. I feel like I am going through a transition but am not sure where it will lead. The key to success with meditation is practice, practice, practice. The more I do it the more I love it. Sometimes I am able to enter a peaceful flow state that feels so wonderful I never want it to end. Other times I receive amazing insights about my life. Sometimes I start sobbing and releasing past traumas and other times my monkey mind takes over and I jump from one 7thought to another. The key for me is to welcome whatever comes and then go back to my breath or mantra. Like they say in 12 step programs “It works if you work it.”

  4. Beautiful post, Maria. Thank you. I’m so excited to learn where this new stance with your novel leads! What continues to arise, what threads you develop. It’s such an exciting time for the story! And thank you for reminding us/me once again that we have choices in regard to listening/not listening, doing/not doing, being/not being. The world..life..circumstance…something will always get in our way if we let it. Taking pen to paper is one way to wrest back the “control.” It seems that slowing down and being more conscious is on many of our minds right now. It sure is for me. I was just speaking to my daughter about this yesterday..and how easy it is to literally forget that we can decide to make choices of our own rather than go with the flow. That we’re allowed, and even encouraged to question what we believe about ourselves. I never even thought about doing that when I was her age…early 20s. Each day was just each day and we woke up and went to school or work and did what was expected of us. I guess we have to do that to a certain extent. And it’s better late than never, but I’m so glad we’re culturally waking up to the fact that we don’t have to buy into what we’ve been sold for these last 100 years.

    Yes to the as-is. In my copy of the book on page 197 I underlined many lines and wrote, “as they are” in big letters at the bottom of the page. Every instinct fights against this…in me, anyway. And I think many of us, if the conversations before we began about writing were any indication. It’s hard to let things be as they are, to accept. I’ll speak for myself. It always felt like as I was was never enough. A lie that I fell for for all those years. So by extension..each sentence and word or phrase has to be considered and judged etc. How exhausting! Perhaps there’s a modicum of truth to that for writing that’s professional (whatever that means!) but what a change to sit with pen and paper and be okay with, or even enjoy, jotting down and communing with what is. I love how Mark writes that life’s vital specificity reaches out to love us and wrestle us to live more deeply in the world. That is sure true in the writing…we connect to the specific, not the generic. Just like I could so connect with what you wrote, Maria, because it was a musing of your heart space. XO

  5. Oh Maria, what a wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing, I truly loved your poem and this new approach that you took. I also must confess I felt the same when I read the exchange of their letters. So jealous! I miss traveling and exploring solo so much! Now that I realise how much I miss being by myself, I want to cry..

    The last few weeks have been crazy. My 4 year old was diagnosed with pneumonia and just a week later my little one was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems.
    I spent one sleepless night at the hospital with her and the following night her dad did, so I could be at home with my oldest one. After putting her to bed around 8pm, I was feeling so tired but excited at the same time. I had the couch just for me! Oh and this wonderful silence..

    What kind of mom am I to feel excited about being alone on my couch, while my daughter is at the hospital?
    I just need some time, ok?.. Some time on my own in complete silence..
    Oh, I want to scream, now that I’m reading Nepo’s letters again, trying to put my thoughts on paper. Daydreaming about disappearing for a while, somewhere in nature with my notepads and pure nothingness, listening to the calming sounds of nature interacting with herself. Instead here I am, locked in my bedroom, listening to my little sick girl playing with her nanny, feeling grateful that a client just cancelled and finally I have a couple of hours to comment on these wonderful chapters.

    “You see! You have time, Stop complaining!” I cannot even finish a sentence without having my roommate comment. I hardly ever complain, stop giving me that crap! I replied firmly.

    While growing up, I was the youngest in the family, followed by 2 brothers who were 5 and 6 years older than me. From the moment I stepped my foot on this earth they attached to me the labels of “whiner” and “complainer”.
    Still when people ask my family members how I was as a kid they always reply with something like “Oh a total Whiner!”
    It used to bother me a lot, subconsciously I had a growing fear that nobody will ever love me if I am a complainer. No matter what, I would put a big smile on my face and never allow myself to get cranky.
    And yes, at the end of the day, I’m now grateful for those labels, focusing on solutions rather than problems and being optimist is my true nature, but at some point I noticed that I was surrounded by whiners.
    Most people in my closest environment were big time complainers, with my partner being the biggest of all!

    “What’s the lesson for me here?”I remember asking myself, “What the hell is happening? Why am I attracting those types of behaviors?”

    You see, I was doing the exact same thing that my brothers were doing to me. Attaching to them the exact same labels.
    Since everyone, including you and me, is an infinite being with infinite potentials and multicolor personalities, why am I only seeing red? It’s like looking at the rainbow and getting drowned by this vivid red color, forgetting to allow yourself to admire the rest, whatever else is there..

    I remember those days, being code red. It was like I was waiting at the corner to hear the line that will make my blood vessels travel to the top of my head in seconds, causing an explosion of anger and frustration!

    It was around that time that I started the habit of meditating. I felt I needed to learn how to take a step back, stop reacting and start controlling. Observe and understand.

    During one guided meditation, after feeling relaxed while being in nature, blah blah blah, walking in the forest, I entered a cave to meet my higher self that had a message from me.. Instead of my higher self, my partner was there “why are you so hard on me?” He asked. I immediately burst into tears feeling guilty for all those moments that I was pointing a finger at him, highlighting all the things he was doing wrong. Neglecting all the things he was doing wonderfully.

    “Have you ever thought about the fact that by so strongly believing that he is a complete whiner, in a way you are attracting this type of behavior so you can prove yourself that you’re right?” I remember my teacher asking.

    Games of the ego mind, that loves to be right. After all, perception is projection, with reality being very personal, just an impression of reality I would say.

    So, Why am I experiencing this reality? Am I behaving in the same way without realising it?
    Have I “labeled” this type of behavior as good or bad? Is it bad for someone to be a complainer? Is it bad for me to be a complainer?
    It seems crazy to me, that all the things we have concluded to, when we were 0 to 7 years of age are the strongest beliefs we have, the ones that are the hardest to let go?

    I close my eyes to connect to the light, reminding myself..
    Every Time I hold onto a belief, it is a disbelief in God. I AM an infinite, timeless, complete, whole, perfect being of love, life supports me always and the whole creation is serving me.
    Releasing again, whatever is left there, that doesn’t allow me to be my true essence.
    Sending love and light to all the complainers of the world. Make them feel that they are being heard and loved.
    Allowing myself to be, without any autopilot labelling mechanism, forgiving myself and others for judging me, just making space to bring in love and compassion for myself and others. Giving up what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred. Sacrifice.

  6. Oh my, Eva. Where to begin..well? I just want to make sure you know you are seen and heard here…I am so sorry your girls were sick. I believe that they are now on the mend and feeling much better, thank goodness! And YES. I love you touching on the thoughts you had when you finally had a few moments to yourself because I think WE ALL DO THAT! Why can’t we just acknowledge that parenting is so fucking hard! (In additional to being so fucking wonderful!!) Why must we have this caveat every time we have a difficult thought about parenting?! We are entitled to feel relief when we have those precious moments of me time…I think every human would feel that way if they were aware enough to notice. And thank you for sharing about being a “complainer.” I agree that it’s so hard to shake the early lessons we got even when we’re well on our way to knowing that they aren’t in service of our true nature. Thank you again for these gorgeous words..and the important reminder that perception is projection.

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