Just between friends…

Gather round my friends, and let’s have a chat about things that matter, things that are inspiring us, things that are floating our boat. I have been deep in the well of structured essay writing, and today I just want to be a bit looser, a bit friendlier. News media, the changing media environment, metadata, online data collection and mining is interesting, but it’s not very relaxing, if you get my drift. So, how about I tell you what’s floating my boat, and you tell me yours?

1. SPRING. Spring is really doing it for me, my friends. Now, you might be like yeah, everyone likes Spring, big deal. But this is not your average Spring. In my part of the world, Spring is often pretty crap. It’s dry, it’s dusty, it gets hot too quick. Not this year. This year, we’ve had rain. It’s green, the plants are going nuts with their fabulous new Spring dresses on, the birds are ecstatic,  I’m still wearing a jumper…and we have a brand new vegetable garden that the Bear has been working on in every spare minute. Look, I’ll give you a quick tour around my backyard:

2. Martha Beck. Now, I’m kind of new to her work – I had heard of her, but didn’t know much about her until I listened to her on the Beautiful Writers Podcast with Linda Sivertsen and Glennon Doyle Melton talking about writing and truth telling. She mentioned her new book Diana, Herself, so I checked it out, bought a little book of her essays as well, and BAM, I was hooked. Martha and I talk the same language, for real. What really  floated my boat this morning though, was this blog post:

No matter how many times I experience The Storm Before the Calm, it always sneaks up on me. I never recognize it until I’m fully lost in it; bruised, drowning, desperate for relief. Storms are devilishly clever at disguising themselves. “I’m Hurricane Bob!” “I’m Tropical Storm Betty Sue!” “I’m Low Pressure System Barry Manilow!” Don’t let them fool you. No two storms have the same name, but they all wreak the same kinds of havoc.

Of course I don’t mean literal storms. I’m talking about periods of intense disturbance we go through prior to deep and lasting personal growth. I suspect we all have these Storms Before the Calm. But I don’t think most people recognize them. So it’s about to get unbearably metaphorically meteorological up in here.

A Storm Before the Calm begins long before we see it. It’s born in deep wanting—maybe a subtle itch, maybe a yearning so strong it rattles our teeth. It begins down in our guts, and eventually we begin burping it up, asking God (or Whatever) for resolution. Maybe we consult priests and offer formal prayers; maybe we gag out strangled cries that never even make it to language. Either way, we’re begging for change, for fulfillment, for something better.

We want this to happen smoothly and prettily, a sunrise illuminating a perfect summer morning. We expect it to happen this way.

And Whatever says, “Mmm-hmm.”

We forget that to give us more than we currently have, life must make us more than we currently are. And that the first act of every creative change is the destruction of the existing order.

Make no mistake: when we ask for better lives, we are calling the whirlwind.

When the Storm hits, we don’t connect it with our wanting, with our calls for help. We feel blindsided by misfortune, attacked by circumstances, drowned in agony we can’t control.

Loss of control is the essence of the Storm. We may lose control of our emotions, our actions, our work, our relationships, our bodies, everything. It all devolves into chaos—not just the normal inconveniences of daily life, but disruptive, preoccupying chaos, events and feelings we can’t ignore. Plans fall through. Efforts fail. Jobs disappear. Relationships end, or become fractious and impossible. Controllable? Ha! A Storm Before the Calm barely feels survivable.

I tend to recognize the Storm Before the Calm just after I become convinced that I’m cursed. During some of my worst Storms, I’ve felt like a cockroach that God (or Whatever) was trying to kill, first with a rolled-up newspaper, then with a shoe, then with a ton of bricks. After every mammoth blow, I’d be dismayed to find myself hideously alive, missing my head and most of my thorax, but still able to creep forward on my single remaining leg. While, I imagined, God rushed off to deploy the nuclear warheads.

That’s when I remember.

“Wait,” I think with my tiny, headless-cockroach mind. “There’s something about this feeling, this horrible, horrible feeling…it’s not like ever before, but yes, it’s that bad. I think it may be the Storm Before the Calm!”

And God (or Whatever) whispers, “Bingo.”

That dim flicker of recognition is the moment I feel the sea change. I’ve done it enough to know roughly how it’s going to play out. I relax into the belief that Storms Before the Calm come to destroy us, as quickly and thoroughly as possible. And that this is grace unfolding. I know that the greater the gift we’ve requested, the wilder and more violent the storm will be, and the deeper the grace.

Contemplating this—that the Storm isn’t a curse, but preparation for the blessing—ushers me into the Calm. Right then, just like that, I feel the pain ease. Before the wind dies down. Before the argument is resolved. Before the disease heals. Before the rent is paid. The Calm doesn’t come because the Storm is over. It comes because I’ve moved into the truth.

Truth is always calm. Still. Gentle. Quietly and intensely alive.

I think almost everyone goes through this pattern. If we look, you can probably remember breaking through a few Storms into the Calm yourself: “Oh, right! After my nervous breakdown I discovered meditation and Klonipin, and things got so much better,” or “True, it was after Jack left that I finally got the nerve to quit my job slaughtering cattle.”

Right then, just with that tentative step toward a different interpretation of ill fortune, the Calm begins. It feels faint at first, but dropping attention deeply into it—focus more on it than on the Storm—begins to reveal that it’s VAST. So huge a million hurricanes could rage inside it and never disturb its peace. That Calm itself is what we really are. Every single pathetic-looking little human is bigger inside, far bigger, than any storm ever seen on earth.

Sometimes, when I can’t reach the Calm, I’ll just stomp into the Storm, betting wildly that it’s more benevolent than it seems. With a sort of inner Viking war scream, I’ll open the grim and complicated spreadsheets from the bank, or go get the painful medical test, or initiate the conversation I’m way too afraid to have. If there’s nothing else to do, I’ll sit in a silent room, refuse to distract myself, and face the tempest in my mind.

If I do this bravely enough, a weird thing happens. Right at the center of every Storm I find its eye—the one part of my flailing self that can see clearly.

From that still place right inside the storm, all the horrible luck, the stress, the pain, the shame, the loss, begins to reveal itself to me as an incomprehensibly perfect, intricately choreographed rearrangement of the universe, meant specifically to do one thing: Fulfill my longing.

“Oh,” I notice. “The illness came to teach me to relax.” Or, “Oh. The job loss came to teach me that people will help.” Or, “Oh. I failed because I had to discover that I’m worthy of love, no matter what.”

Oh. I called the Storm. It came because I asked. And it’s exactly—exactly—what I needed.

At that moment, I realize what my favorite yogi Nisargadatta Maharaj meant when he said, “Don’t you see? God is doing this all for me.”

Not to me.

For me.

Oh.

And that sent me to examine my own latest personal storm which began, I remember clearly, with a broken tooth on Summer Solstice, just before Christmas. And how shortly before the storm struck I had specially requested a bigger life from the Universe. And how I emerged from that storm with the knowledge that if you want a bigger life, then you must expand so that life can fit within you, and that expansion can be an intense, overwhelming and occasionally unpleasant experience. Yeah, that.

3. My cleaning job. I have a little job, four hours a fortnight, where I go to this beautiful, country community church on top of a hill, with big windows and a 180 degree view of the mountains, and I clean it, ready for the service on Sunday. Earlier on in the year a friend offered it to me; at the time I had no work and was feeling a bit desperate, so I took it. The Universe must have known that these were the only conditions under which I would have said yes, because a) I am not a church goer and b) I do enough cleaning at home, thank you. But as it turned out, these four hours per fortnight are gold. It is my paid thinking time. I save up all of my favourite podcasts (the Robcast, Magic Lessons, The Good Life Project, Buddha at the Gas Pump, Beautiful Writers Podcast) and have a four hour binge on wisdom and inspiration. Not only do that, but I also get to obliterate my ego with karma yoga. Lucky huh? I also get to ask myself questions like:

What keeps your heart alive?
OR
If you could design your own life to suit yourself, separate from what culture dictates, what would it look like? 

This is the last one, I promise. I told you it was going to be loose, I ain’t working to a word count today, and if I want to use pink text and personal pronouns then I will :).

4. Momastery’s key jar. WTF is that, I hear you say. Well, It’s awesome, that’s what it is. Glennon and a friend put together this free resource for parents and teachers:

the-key-jar
The Key Jar

I printed it, cut out the questions, stole a lolly jar from my son’s room, stuffed all the questions inside of it, and placed it invitingly on our dining room table. That was about 3 weeks ago. Most nights, someone pulls out a question like ‘what’s the most important job in the world?’ OR ‘Who’s a leader in your class/work?’ OR ‘What was the funniest thing that happened today?’ And get this: even the cynical tween boy and the jaded Gen X’er man-beast get into it. We’ve had all kinds of interesting conversations that have flowed on and around from the questions, and there is less unstructured baiting and bickering. Check it out. I love it.

So tell me – what’s been floating your boat lately?

28 comments

  1. I’m so happy spring is here too! Although it’s pretty gloomy out my window to be honest. Those photos you shared are lovely! Things floating my boat lately – eating more vegetarian foods, yoga yoga yoga (I’m crazy about it) and the silverbeet in my yard that has decided to cooperate and provide me with sustenance and nutrient for months to come!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Michaela ❤️ yoga, Spring and silverbeet sound pretty good to me 😊 our silverbeet is just tiny green shoots poking through the mulch, but I have high hopes 😊 as for yoga, it saves me, but I want it to save me every day instead of twice or thrice a week…working on it! Thanks for your comment xo

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  2. I wish blogs had a ❤️ symbol so we could tell someone we love their post and not just ‘like’ it. But then I would need two 💕 for this one of yours. It has everything I love about a good blog post, connection, something about the author and something about the world as they see it. I used to read Martha Beck so I knew immediately who you were talking about. I loved her column when I read it, but I stopped subscribing to magazines in favour of the internet/blogs and I somehow got disconnected from her. Thank you SO much for reconnecting me. I really must learn how to listen to podcasts. One day. Love your backyard photos. Enjoy the Spring of Springs, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A love message! Yay, winning ❤️❤️❤️
      Martha, she is great. You can follow her on FB if you’re on, and you can also subscribe to her blog which I just did today. I love that her new book is an allegory; I wanted to read it to see how she did it! Podcasts are SO easy. Do you have a smartphone or a tablet? You can subscribe through your podcasts app. Do it, do it. 😊 thanks my friend xo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love it when you chat, share ideas & inspiration with pink text & personal pronouns and pics of your garden ♡

    So, I’m just back from downloading the podcast app and signing up for Beautiful Writers and the others you mentioned here & recently via FB, signed up for Martha Beck blog & FB… At some stage soon for me, travelling life will settle into quiet life with time to enjoy. And maybe for a coffee if you have time after the church. I love that church, its space & the light through the windows… at least you’re cleaning something beautiful.

    It could have been you writing Martha Beck’s words, you have expressed similar wisdom similarly. I so recognise the storm before the calm, my younger self had no patience for riding it out, often charging in saying to hell with it I’ll justbget it over & done with myself, sometimes to my detriment, wishing I’d let it run its course.

    Floating my boat is being in my travel bubble and still in the loop via social media, slowly heading towards home and looking forward to picking up that life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Dale, a beautiful note from you too, and even better, you went and followed my recommendations! Winning (again) 😍. I Must say, these types of posts are the easiest to write. Certainly easier than that bloody essay, which I slaved over for hours and days. And thank you for that high level compliment regarding me and Martha’s writing 😍. I would love to meet for a coffee when you get back, good idea…but you have misunderstood me slightly. I am not cleaning the TA church, but one at Tewinga, on the back road from Bowraville to Nambucca. You might not know it, but it’s lovely.
      Happy travels ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Podcasts are a floating my busy boat, as I combine the tasks of the day with words of wisdom, inspiration and open horizons. Speaking of boats – I am loving the Spring RIVER flow and living right alongside a stunning free flow river. These last few weeks I have been immersing {literally!}, slowly nurturing my shaky body & ego with a gentle knowing and try try again philosophy as I re-embrace a once-was-skilled before-the-kids activity of white water kayaking. Myself and my beloved went ‘paddling’ as they say, a few weeks back and I got dumped upside down in white foaming water – 3 times in quick succession. Not my remembered approach from my early 30’s. So as I approach my 40 – this month – I was gently determined to reacquaint myself with this wonderful activity…and a few weeks on my boat is indeed floating. 🙂 Kate

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so brave, Kate! White water rafting in winter/spring! I guess that’s when the river flows are best? Nothing brings me joy like a beautiful river, although I must say, I prefer to look at them rather than immerse myself, probably oh, until November 😊 I know you’ll come good again – keep practicing (and listening to those podcasts) ❤️

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  5. Sara, I love your yard. You must have birds–I’m a bird admirer. What kinds of birds come to visit you.? This is a very timely post for me. I just wrote my blog about a great turbulent storm in my life that ended in a sudden and unexpected calm that has lasted now for years.

    I’m happy about your “little job” It seems so pleasant to me and I like to think of you there. I too value Karma Yoga–the philosophy of doing good deeds selflessly, expecting nothing in return–just giving and giving and giving. Thank you for this thoughtful post friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you David, yes, my backyard is looking fabulous at the moment! I can take no credit at all, but if the way to Gods heart is through appreciating her good work…😍
      Yes, sooo many birds – I love birds too, and I keep a close eye on them 😊 Magpies and kookaburras wake us up every morning, along with noisy miners, lorikeets and bower birds. Two of the dearest little willy wagtails visited me while I was having breakfast this morning, and the peewee annoys me by swooping and pecking his reflection in the window, silly bugger.
      I am looking forward to reading your blog – I love storm stories, and I love that you know what karma yoga is! ❤️

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  6. Lovely post, Sara. We are headed into fall here in the northern hemisphere and it is equally delightful. I loved Martha’s descriptions of the Storm Before the Calm and it reminded me how valuable it is to find sources of wisdom that speak to us. Because we’re not really taught these things overtly, at least they weren’t in my educational program!– there’s no class about the inevitability of personal crisis, the glories that reside there, the intensity of the difficulty, or the fact that it’s completely natural and unavoidable! Instead we’re often too busy being perfect. Ha!

    May your lovely spring blossom into a beautiful summer. Interesting how you’ve noticed weather changes including more rain. It seems many places in the north, at least that I’ve had connection with this year, have experienced less rain.

    Peace
    Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Michael,
      Yes, I have been watching the weather changing for many years now. It used to worry me very much, but I just let it be what it is now. So, yes, some years are dryer than normal, but this year, blessedly, this spring is beautiful.
      I know what you mean about the holes in our life education – how much easier would it have been if we’d known more about the rhythms of life…but I guess that’s what the elders are for, to guide us through. It’s just that many of us don’t have access to wise elders.Thanks for your thoughtful comment, I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I find that it’s often the “looser,” less structured posts that draw me in and make me feel more connected to people. Which is exactly how I feel right now! That blog post by Martha Beck….. oh man, that hit me right in the soul. I just recently (like yesterday) came to the realization that I was in fact, in a storm. But (like Martha wrote!), because it wasn’t like ones I’ve had before many times in my life, I didn’t recognize it for what it was until I finally did. And then I knew I had to do something about it. I think this may culminate in a blog post, now that you’ve fed me thoughts with the ones you have here. Always good to read you Sara, and thank you for the inspiration. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • This conversation pleases me to no end, Lillian 😊 Not that you’re in the middle of a storm – no, I have the utmost sympathy for you there ⛈But the fact that something that I have shared has helped you gain insight into yourself, now that makes me happy. Also, a storm means that something new is swirling around, right? Looking forward to your post 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. My morning practice! I recently went back to kundalini where they refer to the sadhana, and though I’m not doing kundalini in these early mornings…I totally connect with this idea of a morning spiritual practice to clear out, and begin fresh. It’s changed everything for me. Yes, totally lights me up!

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    • A good morning practice makes such a difference to everything, Elysha. I’m glad you’ve gone back to yoga – I’ve done bits of kundalini practice, but never a class; we just don’t have access to it where I live. What I have done has been very powerful though. I’m just preparing to write another essay in my early morning today, which is hardly a spiritual practice…but I saw the full moon going down as a bookend to it rising last night, I have a hot cup of tea which is warming my hands against the unexpected chill, and taking moments of mindfulness is as good as any practice I suppose! Have a lovely weekend xo

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    • Hey Georgia, the earth is amazing 😊 well, we don’t get too cold comparatively – we are temperate to sub-tropical here. So, a really cold, icy morning might get down to zero (Celsius) and a really warm winters day might get to 25 degrees. Pretty good, but we are startling soft when it comes to the cold 😜

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  9. how wonderful to have questions
    here I can relate to, sara!
    and seeing your vibrant spring
    gives me hope for one
    half a year from now.
    wishing you happiness
    in that privileged cleaning
    detail 🙂

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  10. I haven’t dropped in here for far too long Sara (first of all my sincere apologies for one) and secondly damn good to see you are still rocking the blog posts with awesome quotes, resonating texts and suggestions that I’m definitely to take a look at, The Key Jar I’m looking at you!
    I can feel a loose blog post of my own coming on. xx

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    • Dear Brydey,
      You don’t have to apologise – I understand completely, plus I am also an inconsistent visitor. We bloggers have to manage our time very carefully, or we can find ourselves sucked into the wormhole that is keeping up with everyone else’s blogs! Hey, the key jar is great, it still is a part of our dinnertime conversations. It really works! I love loose; it smells like holidays!

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  11. wow.. Loved that boat ride with you Sara, and that Key Jar sounds a great idea.. 🙂 And I am so happy Spring has sprung with rain and all that it brings in freshness and growth… Loved all of those photo shares.. Happy Spring! xxx ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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