Creating Joy

Donna Rockwell

I want to feel joy for joy’s sake
Not wanting to earn it
Or reach it
Or arrive finally at its door
After working
And seeking
After years of wracking pursuit, falling at the threshold
Begging for mercy and entry and somewhere to rest and sleep in peace.
I want to awaken there
Dancing on the head of that pin
Smiling in my sleep
And rising to a peppy dawn
I want to jump up in inspiration for the new day
I want to take pen to paper
And explode upon the page,
my existence on this planet
At this time, at this place, in this body, with this mind, and countenance, and spirit and soul
With these eyeballs, and ears, and fingers, and taste buds, and ability to experience aromas, exotic and sublime, miraculously breathing in and out, and in and out again.
I want my moments of being alive to be a celebration of the moments I get to be alive
Love the people I get to love
Feel the love of those whose energy, flow, willingness for interbeing, makes me somehow feel loved, too.
I want to bathe in child-like wonder
For innocent experience, naked awareness, clear seeing
Present a truer reality
A realization longstanding
A wisdom
Transcendent of deluded mind, frightened mind, ego mind, hurt-child mind
To original mind, mirror-like
and free
I stand, reflecting awe, embracing mystery, curious, openhearted, immersed in the now and loving the opportunity to be in love with this very life.

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The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

An excerpt from Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep by David K Randall. The effects of sleep deprivation.

“In the 1980s, researchers at the University of Chicago decided to find out what happens when an animal is deprived of sleep for a long period of time. In but one of the many odd tests you will find in the history of sleep research, these scientists forced rats to stay awake by placing them on a tiny platform suspended over cold water. The plat­form was balanced so that it would remain level only if a rat kept moving. If a rat fell asleep, it would tumble into the water and be forced to swim back to safety (or drown, an option that the researchers seemed strangely blase about).

“Fast-forward to two weeks later. All of the rats were dead. This confused the researchers, though they had a few hints that something bad was going to happen. As the rats went longer and longer without sleep, their bodies began to self-destruct. They developed strange spots and festering sores that didn’t heal, their fur started to fall out in large clumps, and they lost weight no matter how much food they ate. So the researchers decided to perform autopsies, and lo and behold they found nothing wrong with the animals’ organs that would lead them to fail­ing so suddenly. This mystery gnawed at scientists so much that twenty years later, another team decided to do the exact same experiment, but with better instruments. This time, they thought, they will find out what happens inside of a rat’s body during sleep deprivation that ultimately leads to its death. Again the rats stayed awake for more than two weeks, and again they died after developing gnarly sores. But just like their peers in Chicago years earlier, the research team could find no clear reason why the rats were keeling over. The lack of sleep itself looked to be the killer. The best guess was that staying awake for so long drained the animal’s system and made it lose the ability to regulate its body temperature.

“Humans who are kept awake for too long start to show some of the same signs as those hapless rats. … Within the first twenty-four hours of sleep deprivation, the blood pressure starts to increase. Not long afterward, the metabolism levels go haywire, giving a person an uncontrollable craving for carbo­hydrates. The body temperature drops and the immune system gets weaker. If this goes on for too long, there is a good chance that the mind will turn against itself, making a person experi­ence visions and hear phantom sounds akin to a bad acid trip. At the same time, the ability to make simple decisions or recall obvious facts drops off severely. It is a bizarre downward spi­ral that is all the more peculiar because it can be stopped com­pletely, and all of its effects will vanish, simply by sleeping for a couple of hours.”

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep
Author: David K. Randall
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Copyright 2012 by David K. Randall
Pages 32-36

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Paradise Found

Paradise Found

I have a beaten up copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry which I treasure, it must be about 20 years old and I have found reliable refuge between its well thumbed pages during numerous dark nights. In Miltons epic poem Paradise Lost, we encounter Adam and Eve’s traumatic expulsion from the Nirvanic garden of Eden. It occurred to me, while re-reading it recently, that the ultimate rejection of the lovers from this idyllic paradise may in fact have been a quite a good thing. Let me elaborate…

There are few things as distressing to humans as entering into what often feels like mortal combat with those we love. It never ceases to amaze me how someone we have shared our deepest secrets or most pinnacle life experiences with, can instantly transform into a raging, fanged, horned beast who , at times, can appear to threaten our very selfhood. During these raging conflicts, our antiquated defenses rush to our aid and very often, in an attempt to protect the ego, inflict grievous injuries not only on our partners but ultimately, on ourselves.

Barbed words are expertly wielded to penetrate through the toughest defenses our lover can muster in an effort to make them feel the pain we too are experiencing. A predictably destructive spiral of recrimination ensues, during which both parties lose. So, what I hear you say, could possibly be the upside to this agonizing exit from the Edenic state many of us aspire to in relationship?

Perhaps this expulsion, this separation from the intimate, tranquil, resonant space, echoes the separations we have all encountered in various ways, the progressive separation from the Cosmic Soul, from our mothers, our parents, our home, our friends, jobs, lovers…eventually we are forced to separate out from life itself… as everyone before us has had to. Perhaps these ruptures in the relational field are merely practice, a reminder that while we constantly seek Union, essentially we are here on our own…and that’s ok.

Not only do separations teach us to be more than that we project onto others, they teach us to cultivate our own resources, to trust that we will survive in a bewildering world and finally, they offer us an opportunity to connect with our core essence in a very profound way, which ultimately enlarges our capacity for true, loving Union.

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Creative Myth-Busting

Creative Myth-Busting

Today’s selection — in his marvelous book Daily Rituals, Mason Currey provides a brief glimpse of the work habits of 161 famous writers, painters, scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. While the details vary greatly and are filled with humorous and surprising quirks, one thing is constant for the vast majority of them. They work hard. And they work hard almost every day, belying the myth that creativity is the province of sudden inspiration rather than of commitment and a deeply-seated work ethic. We have included the vignettes regarding George Gershwin, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse below:

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

” ‘Basically, I enjoy everything: I am never bored,’ Matisse told a visitor in 1941, during a tour of his studio in the south of France. After showing his guest his working space, his cages full of exotic birds, and his conservatory stocked with tropical plants, giant pumpkins, and Chinese statuettes, Matisse talked about his work habits.

Do you understand now why I am never bored? For over fifty years I have not stopped working for an instant. From nine o’clock to noon, first sitting. I have lunch. Then I have a little nap and take up my brushes again at two in the afternoon until the evening. You won’t believe me. On Sundays, I have to tell all sorts of tales to the models. I promise them that it’s the last time I will ever beg them to come and pose on that day. Naturally I pay them double. Finally, when I sense that they are not convinced, I promise them a day off during the week. ‘But Monsieur Matisse,’ one of them answered me, ‘this has been going on for months and I have never had one afternoon off.’ Poor things! They don’t understand. Nevertheless I can’t sacrifice my Sundays for them merely because they have boyfriends.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

“In 1911, Picasso moved from the Bateau Lavoir, a conglomeration of low-rent studios in Paris’s Montmartre district, to a much more respectable apartment on the boulevard de Clichy in Montparnasse. The new situation suited his growing fame as a painter, as well as his lifelong bourgeois aspirations. As the biographer John Richardson has written, ‘After the shabby gentility of his boyhood and the deprivations of his early days in Paris, Picasso wanted a lifestyle which would permit him to work in peace without material worries — “like a pauper,” he used to say, “but with lots of money.” ‘ The Montparnasse apartment was not without its bohemianism, however. Picasso took over its large, airy studio, forbade anyone from entering without his permission, and surrounded himself with his painting supplies, piles of miscellaneous junk, and a menagerie of pets, including a dog, three Siamese cats, and a monkey named Monina.

“Throughout his life, Picasso went to bed late and got up late. At the boulevard de Clichy, he would shut himself in the studio by 2:00 P.M. and work there until at least dusk. Meanwhile, his girlfriend of seven years, Fernande, was left alone to her own devices, hanging around the apartment, waiting for Picasso to finish his work and join her for dinner. When he finally emerged from his studio, however, he was hardly good company. ‘He rarely spoke during meals; sometimes he would not utter a word from beginning to end,’ Fernande recalled. ‘He seemed to be bored, when he was in fact absorbed.’ She blamed his chronic bad mood on diet — the hypochondriacal Picasso had recently resolved to drink nothing but mineral water or milk and eat only vegetables, fish, rice pudding, and grapes.

“Picasso would make more of an effort to be sociable if guests were present, as they frequently were. He had mixed feelings about entertaining. He liked to be amused between intense periods of work, but he also hated too much distraction. At Fernande’s suggestion, they designated Sunday as ‘at-home’ day (an idea borrowed from Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas), ‘and in this way managed to dispose of the obligations of friendship in a single afternoon.’ Still, Richardson writes, ‘the artist veered between anti-social sulking and gregariousness.’ Painting, on the other hand, never bored or tired him. Picasso claimed that, even after three or four hours standing in front of a canvas, he did not feel the slightest fatigue.

” ‘That’s why painters live so long,’ he said. ‘While I work I leave my body outside the door, the way Moslems take off their shoes before entering the mosque.’

George Gershwin (1898·1937)

” ‘To me George was a little sad all the time because he had this compulsion to work,’ Ira Gershwin said of his brother. ‘He never relaxed.’ Indeed, Gershwin typically worked for twelve hours or more a day, beginning in the late morning and going until past midnight. He started the day with a breakfast of eggs, toast, coffee, and orange juice, then immediately began composing, sitting at the piano in his pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers. He would take breaks for a mid-afternoon lunch, a late-afternoon walk, and supper at about 8:00. If Gershwin had a party to attend in the evening, it was not unusual for him to return home after midnight and plunge back into work until dawn. He was dismissive of inspiration, saying that if he waited for the muse he would compose at most three songs a year. It was better to work every day. ‘Like the pugilist,’ Gershwin said, ‘the songwriter must always keep in training.’ ”

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Author: Mason Currey
Published by Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright 2013 by Mason Currey
Pages 45-47, 94-96, 133

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The Big Reveal.

The Big Reveal.

The upside of revealing yourself and making yourself vulnerable…and speaking your truth about your own fears, insecurities and problems, will always yield a greater good than it does a backlash…

An obvious truth when you come down to it, is that we’re all in the same fucking boat- so many people experience fear and insecurity, lack of discipline, dark thoughts, self loathing- you name it, we all got it. When you raise your hand and talk about your own insecurities and problems- what you usually see is a lot of people out there nodding their heads saying ” oh my God! I’m so happy to hear someone say that- that’s what I’m feeling!

And that is ultimately the purpose of this blog, to make us all feel, just a little less alone.

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