The 19th century Russian novelist Turgenev, once advised, "You have to arrange life so that every moment is meaningful."
“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”
Edward Everett Hale
Friday, 13 May 2022
Friday, 6 May 2022
The French moralist and essayist, Joseph Joubert, once wrote, "Completion is made up of little things." Interestingly, the German translation of the word "completion" is "die Vollendung", which may be translated as either "completion"or "perfection". Which to me are quite different things... it is possible to complete something by doing many "little things" but perfection is rarely attainable.
Wednesday, 4 May 2022
In last month's Writing Magazine, there was an interview with Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, to mark the 30th anniversary of its publication. And the main practice she recommends is Morning Pages.
I had tried Morning Pages before, years ago, and had not managed to stick with it. And I already had three items on the to-do list that is my morning routine. I was struggling to do the three I had - morning sit, write and walk - consistently. In the last few months, I have skipped the walk more often than not, because it didn't seem to follow on from writing - work did. How on earth was I going to shoehorn in a fourth?
Yet, the person who had interviewed Julia Cameron was enthusiastic about Morning Pages, so I decided to give them another go. After breakfast, I would check my e-mails, go on Facebook for ten minutes, then sit, write the Morning Pages, do some creative writing, then go for a walk before starting my working day.
But Julia Cameron insisted that Morning Pages be tackled as soon as possible after waking, so I shifted checking my e-mails & Facebook to the end, and wrote the Morning Pages immediately after my morning sit.
Still no joy. I was struggling to write the Morning Pages and was still skipping a walk regularly. Which was making me miserable, because being up in the Forest nourishes my soul. What to do?
Friday, 29 April 2022
Leo Tolstoy once wrote, "Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them." And I have found this to be so true. I am an optimist, married to a pessimist (although he would call himself a realist...)
It reminded me of the old rhyme, "Twixt optimist and pessimist, the difference is droll: the optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole."
Friday, 22 April 2022
The French-born American novelist and short story writer, Anaïs Nin, once wrote, "One's own life, lived consciously, carries one beyond the personal."
Friday, 15 April 2022
In this frantic century of ours, it can be difficult to find true rest and peace. Ferdinando Galliani, the 18th century Italian economist, who was also a leading figure of the Enlightenment, once wrote, "True peace can only lie in the truth."
Thursday, 7 April 2022
I only bought Cal Newport’s book, Digital Minimalism, on a whim, because it was on offer as a Kindle daily deal for 99p. But I have found it to be a fascinating and challenging read, which has caused me to reflect seriously about how much time I spend mindlessly browsing on my smartphone – usually either on Facebook or Pinterest – or playing time-consuming games like Match 3D. In fact, I would guess that the total time I spend on social media or playing games is not far short of the ten hours a week Newport mentioned as a typical time spent feeding a Twitter habit. Which has shocked me. I agree with him that “this cost is almost certainly way too high for the limited benefit it returns.”
Although I am not of the generation which grew up with smartphones (those born in the nineties and later) I, like many people of my age, have embraced the possibilities that a smartphone offers – the ability to stay in contact with Unitarians all over the country on Facebook, for example, or to discover wonderful new crochet patterns on Pinterest. And the ability to text my family and close friends to stay in touch when I am out and about is very useful (it would have been marvellous in the days when my husband was delayed on his evening commute from London and I was at home, wondering when he would get back). And I find the alarm and timer and weather forecast functions very useful. And have three prayer or meditation apps, which I use during my morning sit (not all three!)
My phone and I are not inseparable… when I am out walking, I only pull it out of my pocket to take a photo of something beautiful, that fills me with wonder. And it spends quite a bit of time sitting silently in my handbag. Unlike some people, who seem to have their phones in their hands all the time and seem to prioritise connecting with the digital world almost more than connecting with the people they are with. It always makes me sad when I see people allegedly out for a meal together, who spend more time texting absent friends or scrolling through news feeds than in talking with their dinner partner. Or someone walking with a child, who is trying to engage their attention, but they are too busy looking at their phone to notice. Yet who am I to judge? If I had grown up with a smartphone, as the younger generation has, I would quite possibly have done the same.
Newport’s book has made me uneasily conscious that my relationship with my smartphone is not an entirely healthy one. It is not simply my servant, enabling me to do things I could not otherwise have done, like letting my husband know I’ve arrived somewhere, or staying in touch with my adult children. Slowly, insidiously, my phone has become my go-to method of filling odd moments of time. I find myself checking Facebook or scrolling through Pinterest in the evenings, when Maz and I are watching something together on TV. Digital Minimalism has made me conscious of this, has made me ask why I’m doing it.
Reading the book has made me understand that I am not living in consonance with my values. I have allowed the ever-present “convenience” of my smartphone to distract me from being fully present to those I am in the same room with. It has made me appreciate that I have been allowing it to invade my life and to hijack time when I should enjoy space and silence and being in community with my loved ones.
So it is time for me to do a re-set. I have deleted some apps from my phone and silenced all notifications except phone calls and texts. I have announced on Facebook that I will only be checking it once a day, for ten minutes, and have asked that anyone who needs to get in touch more urgently to ring me, e-mail me or text me. Because I want to live my life well, to be completely present to my family, my friends and what I am experiencing in the present moment, to make sure that each of my todays is “well lived”. I have decided to relegate my phone to a back seat, and only bring it out when using it adds some real value to my life.
What might “living today well” look like for you?