Tag Archives: inspiration

A Glorious School for the Heart

 “Nature is a glorious school for the heart! I shall be a scholar in this school
and bring an eager heart to her instruction. Here I shall learn wisdom, the only wisdom that is free from disgust; here I shall learn to know God and find a foretaste of heaven in His knowledge. Among these occupations my earthly days shall flow peacefully along until I am accepted into that world where I shall no longer be a student, but a knower of wisdom.” – from Beethoven’s Diary, 1818

Okay, I’m going to risk being unpopular and say: I am loving this winter! And I’m happy to hear more snow is coming! Was that a snowball that just hit me in the back of the head? Could you at least have used less tired snow? – ick.

I’m not being sarcastic. This really has been one of the most beautiful winters ever. It’s true that I keep no kids or pets or car here, am able to adjust my days when snow comes and work from home, and go out just for pleasure and exercise. That makes a difference, I know. But before you pelt me with another white (uh, gray) stinger, let me share why I love the stuff:

Purity. Nothing is like snowfall. It defies imitation. In dusting the earth, even in blowing hard, it is purely and simply snow. It’s our atmosphere (so far we still have one) whirling about, dancing, coming to rest in windswept dunes. At the center of our hearts, we all love snow. What’s not to love? Snow is delicate, clean and white. It brings us back to something simpler, someone we remember, some place long gone. Snow brings intention. It has a clarifying effect. When it blankets us, we get to see what really counts – in our work and our play, on that day and on that shopping list.

Presence. Snow is a thing of this moment. Young and old, it has a quieting effect on our psyches and souls. Before it lays there, dirty and pee-stained and blocks our way, it’s a thing of beauty, right now. And we move differently through it – more conscientiously, softly and slowly. We think of ourselves and the person next to us. Like magic, snow brings out the best in us.  When it’s soft and fluffy and shimmering in sunlight, we love it. When it’s black and hard, we don’t. Everything that sticks around is like that. Settle too long in one place and you too will become dark and hard and be in someone’s way. That’s what snow does most for me. It nudges me back on the path.

Protection. Take heart. We’re going to have an amazing spring! Right now under all that protected ground, the earth and all its creatures are busy storing up their energies and reserves and protecting all the seeds. We call it the dead of winter, but there’s nothing dead about it. Another conceit of us humans, just because we can’t see something taking place. Nature doesn’t fault us. Soon she will gift us with a ground-breaking, death-defying, orgasmic Pop!, Pow!, Brr!, Shrrr!, Buzz! Breeeeee! Weeeee! Swang! Swing!….Spring! And that will be a great time for artists and lovers.

Poetry. Go ahead and take your inspiration now for snow is a poem. Snow is a story, a slice of a season, a gasp from a cloud. Snow is a pirouette, a prayer, a curse. It’s silence, a shadow, a whisper. Snow is light. It alights. Like a brushstroke, and a lyric. Thank God it’s here now and not coming down in July. That would really be shitty. Take your inspiration now. Take it before it’s gone. Gone for….good.

Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Feb 2014

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The Seed Within

Within us all there is a seed of resplendent life force. We artists feel it especially. This seed lies in its casing, a hard exterior shell. 

We have to let the flowering take place. For an artist this is always a necessity…this having to bloom. We cannot help it. We can hinder it, prevent it, stifle it, go another way. It does not go away. It is patient. It waits for us. And then, when we allow it… even then we cannot help it. It grows itself.

Resistance to it comes from the mind and through the body. It does not come through the heart. The heart may race with fear as easily as with exuberance. The two are the same when fear feels exuberant and exuberance, fearsome. Both originate in thought, in mind. And we resist. We resist feeling fear and we resist feeling exuberance.

My life in art has been a long path of getting out of the way of the flowering. Of not putting up walls and other defenses. Of becoming increasingly trusting. Of listening. I have thrown myself into the stream and sometimes I have floated and sometimes I have been hurled into rocks and I have come close to drowning more than once. Here my mind, my ego, has come to be a necessary ally. And I have survived, with the seed intact. And this seed has grown and begot new seeds. And that’s what it means to live as an artist. To sow the seeds of our destiny and see the path we must follow.  Like Hansel & Gretel and their breadcrumbs, only with better results. 

At whatever time you awaken to the seed that stirs within you, that is where you start….whether you’re a child or a very big grown-up. No matter how old you are or how you look or who you’ve been or what you’ve done. Or haven’t been and haven’t done. Start there. Begin to listen.

The other voices in your head will be there too. They will have you wait until some certain time, or some other thing happens first or is achieved – when I turn 21, when I quit my job, when I quit my marriage, as soon as the kids are gone, as soon as I lose 50 pounds, as soon as my father dies, as soon as I have a million on account – are stories. Set the story straight. Start where you are. Become the one who begins at last.

Everything comes from nothing. You have an inspiration, your intuition tells you something, turn in. Listen to that something, attune to it. It is the stirring of your seed.

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It needs your attuning and that’s really all it needs. Just your attention. Attune to it, believe in it, and watch what happens next. You are given things…clues, ideas, instrumental people, energy. Soon the seed becomes a root and a stem and a branch and a bud. The flowering happens naturally. Our job is to cultivate the seed, to make fertile the earth and to water it all the way into budding with our love and our belief. We can let others love it and believe it for us first, before we do. It’s all the same to the seed.

No flower asks for permission to bloom. It blooms in its own time. Claiming our birthright as artists is like making a pact with nature. Our responsibility is to the seed. Nature takes care of the rest. Our true nature.

If you are reading this posting, then something has likely already stirred in you. Your soul has been aroused from its deep sleep, or perhaps from a recent nap. Long ago or just this morning. It has called you to art. What will you do now?

A new year is an impressive time. It always feels pregnant to me. All of us people on earth who count the years, and that’s most of us, are focussed on this turning. And we feel it collectively, that focus. All those intentions and all that dreaming. Very potent.

Some things will stick. Some seeds will pop out of their shells. Some won’t.

Don’t set yourself up too broadly, too vigorously, hang up too many hooks around yourself. Pick a thing that is your heart’s desire and feed that. Just one essential thing. What is it you dream of most nights? What have you known about for as long as you can remember? What inkling have you had time and time again…

Here in the northern hemisphere it’s winter and all the seeds are dormant in the earth.

Any day is New Years day, all the live long year.


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