Don’t we all find our way around obstacles one way or another? I’m inspired, every day, by the persistence of those who know their purpose and pay it the proper attention.
That was last year’s entry on the word obstacle. A photo of a piano in the woods with a tree growing through it inspired me to write about getting around things that are put in the way to what we want or need. I didn’t have many words, just a feeling of focus, and an at arm’s length admiration for those who focus their attention somewhere, even if it is only in the direction of a feeling or an aesthetic. I was aspiring to do that with my own attention. I still am.
For a while on my phone wallpaper I had these two words: “Don’t Struggle.” They were there to remind me that if I caught myself gritting my teeth, trying to force something somewhere it didn’t want to go, to stop. To take a deep breath and reconsider. Do I really need to be doing this? Am I attempting whatever I’m doing in the wrong manner? Can I find a better way or just relax about it and let it happen in its own time? Some things are hard, no doubt, but not everything should be. Sometimes one has to step back and take the tension down, take a deep breath, look from another angle, find the center and start again. Bring it back. Bring it back. Practicing yoga taught me that. I can struggle to go deeper into a pose, but why? What is the point of pushing my body somewhere it doesn’t need to go? I should at least ask the question and examine the need, yes?
One day last fall I changed the words to this: “The End is Inherent in the Means.” The way you do anything is the way you do everything. The intention dictates the outcome. Now, I don’t totally buy this because there are both happy and sad accidents in life, and there are total flukes and freaky things and I do believe in such a thing as beginners luck. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t necessarily guarantee old age and a hedonist can live to be one hundred and one and innocent children get sick and killed and tragedy befalls us for seemingly no reason at all. But I do think, on the whole, that dedication increases the odds of the desired outcome. Let it be easy and it’ll feel easy. Make it hard and it’ll feel hard. Do nothing and get nothing. Put the hours in in the right way and see what happens. The Picasso quote again about inspiration being pleased to find us working…
There are all sorts of obstacles in the way of our aspirations and yearnings — to love, to success, to comfort and ease. Sometimes they are put in our paths to make us reconsider. Maybe it’s not the right one or maybe it’s not the right time to take it. Shall I build a bridge to get over this ditch or should I turn back? Sometimes they’re put in our paths to make us find a better, perhaps easier way. Don’t struggle. Sometimes they’re put in our paths to make us work harder to reach the source of our desire so that we are damned sure by the time we reach it that we’re supposed to be exactly where we are. I wrote, sang, toured, mothered, relationshipped, hustled, thought, loved, practiced, networked, walked on stumps, all in all tried hard and worked my ass off despite the hurdles I had to jump but I did it and I deserve this. Down the road, we might look back and be thankful for them or not, but we are never oblivious to them. They won’t let us be. That’s why they’re there.
In meditation, you’re not doing it incorrectly if your mind wanders, you’re doing it incorrectly if you don’t notice your mind has wandered and then bring it back to the breath. If you do notice and bring it back, that’s a success. I was hugely relieved when I learned that. And it resonates so deeply when I think of wandering off course in any pursuit for any reason — it’s okay as long as we catch ourselves and bring the focus back to the center. I am forever bringing the focus back to the center, looking up and around at where I am and where I want to be, studying those who’ve already gone ahead, considering the obstacles and then refinding my own intention. Bring it back, I say to myself. Bring it back.
Happy Wednesday, Y’all.
PS – Guess what? That tree didn’t really grow through that piano. Someone put the piano around the tree.