Sometimes I go a long time without doing it.
Yesterday I took the morning off with my kids and a dear friend and we went to the Smith and Bybee Wetlands, a 2,000 acre protected space for wildlife withing the city of Portland. The truth is it’s not really all that impressive. Flanked on every edge with industrial complexes, old landfills and highways, it seemed at first to be anything but a retreat from urban life.
As we were walking, heading deeper into the reserve, I noticed a familiar sensation. Within a few hundred feet the sound of trucks dissipated some and I was able to hear the sounds of nature. I felt a deep settling, relaxation of my body, slowing of my mind and a subtle sense of well-being.
It reminded me of last week when I took my kids to the park and after we gorged on delicious snacks, and the kids were playing, that same friend and I lay on our backs in the grass – staring up into trees. I had the same feeling.
This is more than a serendipitous gift. It is a reliable method for living an authentic and inspired life.
or if I am so stuck I just can’t bring myself to leave the couch.
If I am able to quiet myself long enough to reach the inner stillness of a plant or stone, something magical happens.
All the chatter. All the advice. All the rules. All the shoulds just drop away. If I can just get to that place of stillness (not like meditation – its no work at all), to plain old nothing-ness,and wait there… the muse arrives. She carries a clear and simple message instead of a thunderous cacophony of multitudinous to-dos.
Her message isn’t always easy to follow, but it is always clear.
If you are having trouble getting clear about what’s next, you may just need some time on your back under the swaying trees.
Here are the steps:
The next thing often flows naturally after you complete the thing. When we get of track we can get all super side-tracked and inefficient. All we need is a re-set, a reminder that surrender is way better than forcing things.
I believe that when we surrender we come up with ideas and plans that no amount of strategy could ever surpass, or even approach.
When I was 33 I decided to really put this theory to the test.
I decided that I would only take action after laying on my back or the equivalent (that’s advanced technique and you can learn it in Soft Animal). I made a pact with the Muse, that I would pursue her guidance even if it seemed crazy.
The Muse said, Start a Philosophy Café.
And so I did.
And the results were amazing.
Without ever sending out a Press Release (I still don’t really know what that means) within a few months of starting my project, I was featured all over local and national press. My picture was on the front page of this news section and written up by that National magazine. I had a crew of 15 volunteers who, each working 12 hours/week, made the project possible.
Together this crew and I built a darkroom, a literary performance space with a gallery and set up a letterpress publishing studio. We even built a Food Cart (a pioneering thing to do in 2003) which was run completely by volunteers. I had serious Movers and Shakers, non-profit Execs, the City Club President asking to interview me. We had an angel donor who dropped off a $10,000 check one day. Really, it was off the hook.
You can read more about the Philosophy Café-Press, and the Crêpe Cart if you want, but the point here is that you don’t have to do it right to be seen. You only have to be authentic.
Now, I do have to tell you that the Philosophy Café and the Creperie didn’t make a million dollars. Not even close. My current business gets a lot less press, but I make way more money than in those days (though I am still not making a million dollars nor do I want to).
The point is that wherever you are in the journey, you have an obligation to honor your Muse, your call, your destiny.
The reflection that comes back will vary in different cases and times of life, but it will be just right for you. It will be your reflection.
You don’t have to do launches. You don’t have to do market research. You don’t have to do monogamy. You don’t have to pretend, or brag. You don’t have to pour tea . . .
. . . unless the Muse tells you to, and then I encourage you to go to hell or high heaven for her.