Thursday, February 18, 2010

Looking at the White-Hot Center of Herself

In her memoir Devotion, Dani Shapiro describes entering what Jung called the “afternoon of life,” a time to seek answers and meaning.  When her son asks her “What is sin?” Dani begins a journey to “do better,” to answer her son’s, and her own, spiritual questions with examined knowledge.

Shapiro’s life is ridden with anxiety.  The losses in her life have hit unexpectedly, in unpredictable ways, stripping her of the comfort of denial and creating a keen awareness of what might happen at any moment.  A constant hyper alert stance and a wound-up nature both exhausts her and robs her of sleep.  There are few times when she’s not anticipating crisis.

A Japanese filmmaker once said artists must be willing to look at the white-hot center of themselves and not turn away. Shapiro doesn’t turn away. She faces what she fears, including resolving her relationship with her ultra critical mother and her infant son’s unusual life threatening illness, and with courage finds her own answers, put together in her own way.  Her teachers include a rabbi, a Buddhist and a yogi.

Shapiro’s path to finding her spiritual beliefs, may not answer your questions, and probably shouldn’t, but the combination of beliefs she examines make perfect sense for her, mirroring her life and her heritage from the generations before her.

Shapiro writes with what appears to be raw honesty, allowing readers to share her most intimate thoughts and by example inspiring similar growth in others. 

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Creating Happiness: Learn Something New

For us who  are of baby boomer age, it is humbling to be a beginner at anything.  Playing guitar, writing, painting, speaking a new language--it doesn't matter.  The image of the successful gray-hair is to be wise and to have learned life's secrets.  So to keep that image we must stick to what we know or think we know.  The wonder of a child discovering new aspects of the world is not so appealing in someone whose face is wrinkled, though I'm not sure why.

Having a beginner's mind means always being willing to learn.  There is so much I want to learn I don't think I'll ever get to it all.  Thank goodness I've become quite adept at saying "I don't know how to do this" and "I'm a beginner."

Being a beginner is a relief in many ways.  Once I announce that I don't know, expectations of others are gone.  Not being the expert is freeing.  I'm tempted to not know anything at all about everything forever, but that wouldn't really work.

Learning something new brings a sense of growth and accomplishment.  As long as we're growing we're not just dying.

If you are working on your increasing your own happiness, try learning something new.  Maybe just something small everyday.