Saturday, 16 April 2016

Pipe Cleaners

A few weeks back I wrote in this blog that I was undergoing an AAGH – Another Agonizing Growthspurt Happening. I was in the waiting mode – waiting for growth and change. Growth and change are not an option: all living things are either growing or dying, always changing one cell at a time.

But growth and change are uncomfortable, and do not appear on command, at the snap of a finger. Much of growth and change happen under the surface in our lives, while we sit and wait for a break-through, a new insight, or a different vision of the future.

Since it wasn't happening yet, I decided I would be working on unfinished projects.

It was then that my friend M reminded me that the process of working on the “to-do-and-to-finish” list is like  “unclogging the pipes.” (She tells me this idea is not original...but, as happens to people our age, the origins of the phrase escape her. Lost in the mists of time ... )

Aha! What I need is some Drano for my soul, some Ex-Lax for the mind to clear away the debris and gunk that impedes my growth. Unclogging the pipes means making room for  creativity and new visions to flow through me.

I wonder if “unclogging the pipes” should be a regular maintenance feature for all of us periodically so that growth and change can happen in our lives. I wondered if  there are ways to “be” and things to do that encourage our growth? I noodled around with that idea, and came up with a few. These ideas are not prescriptions to be followed so you can live happily ever after; rather, they are invitations to consider, just a bunch of noodling thoughts coming from a waiting heart.

Working on unfinished projects is a good start to unclogging the pipes. I finished two projects that have been hanging around since last spring. “Done” is better than “to do”. Done takes a load off your heart and conscience. It is one less piece of “stuff” to carry around, stuff that can impede your AAGH*#@ experience. It’s not just projects, however, that need to be tackled. Perhaps there are relationships that need fixing, or unsaid words to be spoken. Perhaps your unfinished project is to open some doors to the past, long closed, that need to be opened so the sun can shine in.

Done: two baby quilts started about a year ago. They're destined for the nursery at St. Joseph's Hospital. Feels oh so good!
Work is good, but it needs to be balanced by rest. Joy, a fellow-blogger, has been sharing her excitement about allowing herself to ring the bell for “recess” every day. Recess is a break from work, and it could mean play time, nap time, yoga-stretch time, colouring book time – whatever it is that tells your mind to take a break and just have fun. Her research has shown that while there’s lots of evidence that recess is good for kids, very little has been done to show that it works just as well for adults. But it’s working for her, and I think she’s on to a good thing. Ring the Bell for Recess – RBR for RNR.

You can find a link to Joy's blog "Life by the Swake" to the right.
And because creativity is a spiritual journey – at least it is for me – it’s good to polish up our spiritual practices, whatever they may be. I’m no theologian, but to my way of thinking, any activity that opens up your mind and your heart to the Creator can be a spiritual practice: walking in nature, journalling, working in the garden, singing in a choir, prayer, long lovely conversations with friends where hearts are open to each other deeply; reading and study, meditation and more. These are activities that feature connections – connecting to the earth, to the Divine, and to others all around us. Connections help me realize that it’s not all about me – that I belong to a huge community that includes everything from the tiny bugs and  bees to the vast universe in which I -- and we all -- exist. When we reach that realization, we gain a new perspective on our place in the grand scheme of things. We realize that we need to get out of our own way. Sometimes, the big “I” is the block that prevents new growth from happening.

Sometimes, of course, unclogging the pipes calls for drastic action, drilling away at the unyielding mass that is causing the block to growth. Drastic action for me is to give up some part of my life that is not working anymore: bowing out of programs, giving up a habit that does nothing for me (AAGH! Surely not coffee or chocolate? Computer games?). It also means admitting that there are projects I will never finish, and it is time to pare down, clean out the closets, give stuff away. I came across this poem by Mary Oliver which captures the idea so well:
As I grew older the things I cared
about grew fewer, but were more
important. So one day I undid the lock
and called the trash man. He took everything.
I felt like the little donkey when
his burden is finally lifted. Things!
Burn them, burn them! Make a beautiful
fire! More room in your heart for love,
for the trees! For the birds who own
nothing—the reason they can fly.

~ excerpt from the poem "Storage" by Mary Oliver

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