Spending My Days

Consider the essence of magic as the enchantment of the unknown, a paradox that in the words of the Tao is the “named and the nameless.” Magic appears throughout this blog so similarly to its appearance in my life or to borrow from Annie Dillard:  “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

What if we spend our days creating and re-creating our lives as works of art rather than scheduling our lives by the hour, defining ourselves by the number of tasks we accomplish. Only late in my life did I come to this magic, this nuance of routine. Now, I spend my days in the experience of each moment where every minute is a way of life and not a moment on a timepiece or a task on a list.

I am not without day-to-day demands—mine is chronic illness—nor am I without the gifts that life’s demands provide, and chronic illness has its gifts, too. Of course, it took me more than thirty years to notice there were any gifts from any demands. We just don’t look for these gifts. We focus our attention only on the demands, maybe even calling attention to ourselves. Mark Nepo says “the threshold to all that’s extraordinary in life is when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. [That’s when] things come alive for us…[we] find our place in the beauty of things by the attention we can give.”

Perhaps the best measure of giving attention is how we live the routine of our days. Of late, I’ve been experimenting with routine in the larger context of creating a resilient life, which is, among other attributes, a work of art according to Dr. Symeon Rodger in The Five Pillars of Life. The process is a simple one. I record the moments of my day as they occur and not as a schedule of what must occur. There are requirements for each day—some specific tasks must be done–but there is not a plan. Within a week, I discovered a natural flow to how I spend my days as I watched them unfold, regardless of the interruptions and the unexpected. Most important, I discovered resilience and flow reside in the creative unknown.

Here is how that translates in my everyday life. The day-to-day unpredictability of my dis-ease as well as Cooper’s does not change nor does it require any more attention than juggling finances, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, writing—all requirements of my days. In focusing on each moment, I not only accomplish what is required but I complete tasks and chores that have been waiting for months. Furthermore, there is energy in everything I do as I immerse myself into each task and only that task. There is no multi-tasking for each moment belongs to itself completely. Not one day is like another nor is any day exhausting. I schedule nothing and record everything.

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I am quick “to soar with the oversoul”—Louisa May Alcott’s phrase regarding her father and the transcendentalists—and like Thoreau, I have built my “castles in the air” but few times in my life have I put “foundations beneath them” that did not crumble. Yet, in living a routine as a work of art and embracing the enchantment of the everyday, I have a foundation for my current castle in the recording of how I spend my days.

The role of voice recognition software  in my routine is nothing short of finding a new energy source.  Once I began using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I realized how much physical energy I was expending in typing, a necessity for a writer but  one I had overlooked. Ironically, I had spent considerable time, money, and thought in creating a comfortable work space. I work from an adjustable bed that supports my entire body, and my laptop rests on a spacious tray designed for use with adjustable beds. I believed I had a comfortable way to continue writing, and it was just a matter of settling into a writing schedule but those were days devoid of enchantment and full of design.

There never was a consistent writing schedule, and increasingly, neuropathy limited the length of time that I could use a  keyboard. Finally, I took a three-week hiatus from blogging and from scheduling my days. I knew I would no longer write as I had–I didn’t know whether I would write–yet, I knew I would continue to create and re-create, and that was enough as I explored the moments of my days. Then, I discovered Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and in the initial moments of using the software, I knew life was about to change even more, and so it has. Within two days, there was also a marked decrease in my physical discomfort.

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For me, dictating my thoughts is quite different from typing thoughts on a screen using keys on a keyboard. Dictating is sending thoughts through speech; typing is the tactile sensation of selecting keys to produce words. The awareness involved  in each process is completely different, and I am allowed another perspective on creating. I find the combination quite freeing. I focus on the writing before I bring it to the screen through my voice. Then, with my fingers on the keyboard, I edit and shape the words on the screen, creating and re-creating yet another perspective on the story of how I spend my days.

A Resilient Life

In my studies this past week, I read a novel on death from a teenage perspective, began an introduction into traditional Chinese medicine, and watched a DVD on coincidence, all within the context of discovering a resilient life.

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Increasingly, my posts refer to a resilient life–not my phrase–by which I mean that in all of existence all happens simultaneously. For human beings, a resilient life requires a fully functioning mind-body organism to create and re-create one’s life as a work of art. Essentially, then, living a resilient life is everyone’s purpose as Dr. Symeon Rodger offers in The Five Pillars of Life. Dr. Rodger acknowledges that the idea of a resilient life  can be found in all of the authentic ancient traditions, although each ancient  tradition expresses the concept a bit differently.

Similarly, all of the ancient traditions embrace Seng Ts’an’s observation: “There’s no need to seek the truth—just put a stop to your opinions!” Not surprisingly, if you search for Seng Ts’an’s quote on the Internet, the top search results reveal the Buddhist monk’s words as status updates on various Facebook pages. And no, I did not investigate any of the search results, having more than enough opinions of my own to stop.

In that regard, I found another element critical to my understanding a resilient life–my daily routine–where routine is not a schedule of minutes but every minute is a way of life, a distinct  difference.  In essence, every moment is free, without attachment. Any qualifying baggage such as right or wrong is attached to those moments considered future or past but never in the moment that is. Of course, time-space is much, much more than this casual allusion but I had not considered every moment as unattached. It changes a lot.

I discovered this idea of every moment being free  from a Deepak Chopra’s DVD seminar, The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire. Chopra acknowledges that the concept of every moment as free has its origins in the “ancient traditions of wisdom,” what Dr. Rodger refers to as authentic ancient traditions. To me, the title of Chopra’s 2003 DVD belies the heart of the seven-hour seminar, which is better revealed in the DVD’s subtitle: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence.

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Speaking of, I discovered Chopra’s DVD at the local library after being notified that a novel for which I waiting was now available. Chopra’s DVD was on display near the library circulation desk, and once I was aware of the DVD’s existence, there was never a doubt I would check it out. This is the same morning I was writing an essay on Seng Ts’an’s quote on truth.

Moving ever backward into this same morning, I was not considering making a trip to the library at all. As I reviewed my work for the week, an email notice from the library showed up in my Inbox, advising that a book I had requested was available. I seized the moment and decided a drive to the library was in order, much to the delight of Cooper James.

It had been at least a month since I requested John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, a young adult novel about teenagers, cancer, and dying, not in any predictable order but the story is a good one. It explores the idea of life being a side effect of death, specifically how chronic illness warps not only life but the entire experience of death, how chronic illness might provide a single moment in which we believe not that we will cheat death but that we will come to it prepared. Yet more often than not, life ends mid sentence. Green writes with wit and grit—it is a novel I recommend–I found it to be a page turner.

I did not anticipate reading a novel as part of this week’s course in a resilient life any more than I anticipated watching a seminar on coincidence but I had hoped to discover a text on traditional Chinese medicine, and I did, The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted J. Kaptchuk who is quick to explain: “The Chinese method is based on the idea that no single part can be understood except in its relation to the whole,” yet another expression of a resilient life.