Improve Your Aim

Sliver of moon slides out from behind the palm tree at dawn.

This morning, during walking meditation, I had a thought. In my meditation, thoughts aren’t bad or meant to be chased away. Sometimes they drift in, settle down, take form and surprise me. This one did.

A friend of mine who is a ski instructor tells her students, “Don’t look at the big rock off to the side, once you look at it, you’ll go there.” If you ski, you know how true this is. You look at something you don’t want to hit, and while you don’t want to hit it, you head right for it. SMACK! No avoiding it.

My friend Don, who taught me more about motorcycles than I thought possible, always says, “Don’t look at the bike, look where you want to go, and the bike will take you there.” I’ve learned to get through hilly switchbacks by not overthinking and letting the bike do the work. I keep my eye on the spot I want to get to. Suzie Lightning (my bikes all have a name) takes me there.

The same thing is true of our thoughts. Think bleak ideas, “Oh, I’ll never be a good writer,” and you won’t be. You can’t be. You are looking at your goal—being a crummy writer. And you’ll head right for it. “I can’t write a book. I don’t have the patience.” OK, you won’t. All those negative thoughts we indulge in—that’s right, indulge in— fondle, clutch as proof of how we were damaged, those thoughts become our goals. We head right to that sad spot and live there.

Now suppose you imagine something fierce and bold. Imagine it in detail. See what the other side looks like. Love the image, the shadow it casts, the way the light slides over it when the moon rises. When we see something powerful that clearly, we head toward it. It’s ours. We keep our eye on that goal, we figure out the path to the door, we live in it.

Are you saying “that’s not how it works!” It won’t, then. Thoughts are tricky, but our brain follow right along. We have a gremlin that whispers destructive words, but we can develop a seer that shows us a bigger vision. I know it works. I’ve just experienced it over the last several days. I didn’t know what was happening, but now I do. My seer looked ahead and showed me a vision of strength, of abundance. And I kept my eyes on it and wound up at the door.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She believes in the mind-body connection.


Letting Go to Be OK

Anne was in for a visit; she’s a DC resident, and was happy for our dry heat. . .except for the heat part. The pool seemed the answer to the triple digits. We were floating in the cool water when Anne said, “I’m trying to be a good person, but I’m angry.”

images“What about?” I asked. Anne doesn’t get angry often. She told me a story about a slight that seemed to pile up on a precarious pile of patience and had toppled all her resolve.

“That seems a good reason be angry,” I said.

“Well, really good people don’t get angry, or if they do, they handle it better,” she said. I was a bit surprised at this news. I know a lot of people who aren’t handling anger all that well.”

“So what do you want to do?” I asked, curious.

“I want to get over anger faster.” Anne said. “I tell myself to get over it. I remember that The Secret says when I think negative thoughts, I’ll attract bad things into my life. That makes me worry, and then I get angry about being angry.”

I’ve never been a big believer in The Secret since I read the book and it seemed to miss the logic path and head into the ditch of materialistic consumerism. I wasn’t going to discuss it with Anne now.

“Suppose you spend that time being OK with being angry. Not justifying why you are angry, just being OK with the fact that you are angry. Anger is a legitimate emotion, sometimes necessary to solve injustice. It’s what you do with your anger that is important, isn’t it?” I asked Anne.

“I’m still angry and then I get angry that I can’t move on,” Anne said. I understood that. If you turn on a timer and demand of yourself not to think of 100 white horses, they will prance through your mind until the timer rings.

“How about if you tell yourself you are OK with being angry, that there was a reason for it at the time, and start to wonder what’s next? That checks the anger off the list, and lets you wonder about an action instead of focusing on your emotion? Beating yourself up for being angry doesn’t seem to help get rid of it.”

Anne was doubtful. “What if I start thinking about getting even with the person who made me angry?”

“That’s another step. That’s a choice. But first, be OK with anger. Or frustration. Or not knowing. Once we allow ourselves to have negative emotions, they have a tendency to lose importance. Brooding over our lack of charity doesn’t leave much room in our heads except brooding.”

Anne was cheering,”So I can spend some time being angry, and then decide what to do?”

“Sure, ” I said. “First, give yourself permission to be angry. Don’t punish yourself or beat yourself up for having an emotion. When the emotion is acknowledged, it falls into proportion. Then you can decide what to do. You can measure what needs to be done and what the consequences will be. You can weigh your action with the consequence and make a choice. But it starts with being OK with emotions, even strong ones.”

“So if I feel angry, and am OK with that, how long does it take to get over it?” Anne said.

“I don’t know. It depends on what you are angry about, and how angry you are. But the more you beat yourself up over the emotion itself, the more contorted your reaction is going to be.”

Anne floated on her back in the pool, slowly paddling toward her drink in the shade.
“Being OK and letting go doesn’t sound easy, though,” she said.

“Letting go anything that jacks up our adrenaline is hard,” I admitted. But it’s the whole idea about being in the moment, and non-attachment. It’s recognizing what isn’t working and being OK with it’s not-workingness, and not attaching more importance to it.”

“In that case,” Anne said, “I want to attach importance to supper.” And we did.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and a life- and certified creativity coach. She teaches life skills and writing.

“It was meant to be.” Really?

“God doesn’t give you more than you can bear.”
“If it didn’t happen, it wasn’t meant to be.”

I just don’t believe it. I don’t believe some all-powerful force changes all the traffic lights when you deserve it, and makes them all red when you don’t. I don’t believe an invisible man with a big beard sends cancer down on someone just to prove they can bear it. I don’t think children suffer and die in their parent’s arms because “it was meant to be.” I don’t believe in luck.

That kind of thinking makes a god too much like people, doling out favors to some, denying others. I believe in a bigger power, a god that gave us nature to learn from. Last summer, as the trees in my Washington, D.C. neighborhood died a day at a time because it didn’t rain, I never for a moment believed it was divine will. I believe people who are not using the earth wisely are changing the climate and the trees are warning us. By dying, one by one, until we get it.

I believe we ought to climb out of our SUVs, come out of our climate-controlled its not luckhouses, stand on our front stoops and sweat. Look around and see what we have done. Humans perpetrated a lot of these things that were not ‘meant to be.’ Suffering that was born of our own making, not given to us to see what we could bear. That would make us not responsible for the stewardship of the earth, and in my simple way of thinking, that is our first responsibility.

Go grab what you have and fix what you can. You might not be in control, but you don’t have to rely on luck, and you don’t have to blame the almighty when things go wrong.

I don’t think people were born to suffer. I think we were born to be creative. I don’t have an answer for suffering, but I don’t think it has a purpose. I think we all die, some of us earlier, some of us later, and it’s good to know that at a young age and be ready. Tell people you love them. Do good. Fight for justice. When you come to the end of your life, you’ll know you’ve spent it well.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who learns from standing on her front stoop and sweating. Even when it’s cold. (c) 2009 All rights reserved. Image: Journal page from my journal.