Final Days of 59

“… Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with the feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end, because it is” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).

This past February, I wrote a post about some unexpected milestones at age 59 ½. At the time, I was struck by the synchronicity. Still am. As this is my final week at age 59, I decided to revisit those milestones before I step into my sixth decade, one that promises even more transformation.

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I have continued to lose weight beyond the 59 ½ pounds of February; I am down 69 pounds with another fifteen-twenty to lose but no more than that. My eating habits have not changed in the past six months but my taste buds have adjusted to other options, and I enjoy eating again. I found millet-buckwheat bread made with chicory root and without refined starch, absolutely critical for me.  Almond butter sandwiches are now a staple. While my future remains gluten, yeast, sugar, dairy and soy free, my grocery list items are crisp and fresh.

In my last week as a fifty-nine-year-old, I am in better health than I was at 58, sans an arsenal of allopathic medicine. I remain convinced that Eastern medicine– Ayurveda and Chinese–has a better understanding of autoimmune disease. Ted J. Kaptchuk’s The Web That Has No Weaver is an excellent overview of traditional Chinese medicine, and I am searching for a similar Ayurveda text. Until I find it, I am enjoying Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health, an informative volume regarding Ayurveda traditions.  This Tuesday, I have my first meeting with a practitioner of Eastern medicine.

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But in these final days of my 59th year, it is my writing that is undergoing the greatest transformation. My numbers alone are major personal milestones.  I no longer publish blog posts twice a week as I did in February but on June 2, I began writing the initial draft of a nonfiction manuscript. Currently, I am producing over 9200 words per week on this manuscript alone. At my 59 ½ milestone, my word count was 9800 words for the entire month of February.

While I do not write for a specific word or page count, numbers gauge a manuscript’s size so I knew the end of the nonfiction manuscript was close: currently, it is 330 pages or just over 91,000 words. But even before I tallied the numbers, synchronicity had come to call; what Deepak Chopra calls “a quantum leap of creativity…a relinquishing of the known for the unknown.” And like milestones, coincidence comes wrapped in the ordinary.

In February, I included my participation in ROW 80 as part of my regular blog posts.  Frequently, I discussed the initial draft of a novel that I wrote seventeen years ago; in some blog posts I’d opt for rewriting the novel and in other posts I’d refer to the novel as a life once lived. Rather than letting go, I was very like the speaker in Linda Pastan’s poem, “Ethics,” unable to decide whether to save the old woman or the painting.

So, I signed up for an online workshop, Conflict and Idea with Bob Mayer, and learned about “kernel idea.” I have not been the same since so I consider it my toehold in the unknown, a piece of a milestone.

Bob says that the kernel idea is what initially inspires the writing of a novel–it is the Alpha and Omega of a book–it starts and completes the creative process but here is the key point: the story that you write may and probably does change but the kernel idea of a book does not, ever.

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During the course of the workshop, I came to understand that the “kernel idea” for my novel was not the story I had written. The kernel idea had not changed but the story I wrote moved away from the idea within the first 100 pages. Finally, I realized what I was hanging onto for seventeen years—my kernel idea and 100 pages—yet, it took me a while to understand just what that might mean but when I did, it felt like a “quantum leap of creativity.” Still does.

Thus, as I started writing a new nonfiction book—my current manuscript–I discovered the way to tell the story of my original kernel idea. Maybe the years sorted themselves, maybe I was letting go of what no longer serves but with transformation there is also revelation. In letting  go of a seventeen-year-old-story that no longer served, I discovered the kernel idea for a new nonfiction book.

“When faced with great change—in self, in relationship, in our sense of calling–we somehow must take in all that has enclosed, nurtured and incubated us so when the new life is upon us, the old is within us” (Nepo).

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.