Monday, March 15, 2010

Mud Season

Occasionally the most thriving
creative life
gets bogged down, stuck and stagnant.

Don't know what to do?

Has "the true way been wholly lost"?(Dante)

Welcome to Mud Season
of creative work/life

Just beyond the winter
and just before the spring
--Kathleen Hannan

The Seasons in Maine:

Brief summer, gorgeous fall,

winter, more winter
and mud season

(followed by a couple weeks of spring).

Mud season isn't pretty.

Everything dead and unlovely
hidden frozen beneath snow
starts oozing into the open.

Impatience for soft breezes and flowers

makes time feel sluggish.
It seems like nothing is happening
except deepening ruts.

a beginning, a muddle, and an end

--Philip Larkin on structure of novels

The Surprise of Stagnation

In the uncharted middle of creating something

--a painting, a conversation, a business plan, a book--
sometimes inspiration wanders off for no apparent reason,

taking momentum and confidence with it.

You feel confused, out of alignment
the clarity of your Source.

In creativity's mud season, all you want
is for the standstill to end,
to welcome
the new green of productive work again.

The creative powers are not in relation
all things are benumbed
confusion and disorder prevail...

--I Ching Book of Changes, Wilhelm/Baynes trans
Hexagram 12 Standstill/Stagnation

Consult Jude's I Ching on Standstill/Stagnation

Get Going

You probably have good ideas about what might help--
maybe more outdoor exercise, less internet, cleaner diet, etc.

Sometimes just moving into action freshens things up.

You can find simple, small steps to take.
They don't have to relate to the area that feels stalled,
and you don't even have to feel like it.
Worth a try.

The Futility of Impatience

But activity doesn't necessarily bring clarity.
It can bring wheel spinning instead.

A command to 'just snap out of it!'
simply can't hurry spring.

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?

Can you remain unmoving

till the right action arises by itself?

The Master doesn't seek fulfillment.

Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.

--Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching trans Stephen Mitchell

Meet the Muck

How do you find patience
when you're feeling anything but?

For a moment, try just stopping
the mental activity of seeking improvement.
Welcome the whole of what's here, mud and all.

Relief begins with willingness to be present

with what's actually happening now.

The quickest access to Truth, and also to beauty,
is when you are totally intimate
with all of experience, the inner and the outer,
even if the experience isn't "good".

When you are being intimate with the whole of experience,
the divided mind has to let go
of whatever its project is at the moment.

Whether the qualities of the experience
are unpleasant or beautiful,
as soon as you are intimate with the whole
of experience, there is openness...

and whatever is happening tends to resolve itself.

--Adyashanti in Emptiness Dancing

Good Reasons to Be Here

Mud season is an essential transition time.
It accelerates decomposition into fertilizer
and softens the ground that tender shoots
will need to push up through.

What if a creative mud season comes
for similar good reasons?

Is there something that's been frozen in you,
held feelings, outworn approaches
misunderstandings, habits,
old stuff that hadn't fully composted?
Maybe it's dissolving now.

This could nourish future work
beyond what can be imagined.

When we stop agitating, even for a moment,
for things to start moving forward and looking up,
we can directly experience looking down, and in.

Unexpected treasures may be found
right under our feet.

More about ordinary treasures in Nesting

See Jude's ugly-beauty photos in Looking Down

Why Not Wallow?

Wallowing has a bad reputation,

(way worse than mud wrestling).

If permitted, it seems it might never end.

But if you're suffering through
a long mud season,
you may want to
risk some conscious wallowing.
How better to get intimate with the
of a muddy experience?

For me, what makes wallowing conscious

is open listening to the burdened aspects of self.

Let the Swamp Creatures in you
what's bothering them,
perhaps with
the help
of a coach, friend or journaling.

Try to simply listen, without blaming,
defending or correcting.

Thich Nhat Hhan on compassionate listening:

You listen with only one purpose:

to help [someone] to empty his heart.

Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions,
full of bitterness,
you are still capable
of continuing
to listen with compassion.

If you want to help him to correct his perception,

you wait for another time.

For now, you don't interrupt. You don't argue.

You just listen with compassion
and help him to suffer less.

--Thich Nhat Hahn in O, the Oprah Magazine, Feb. 16, 2010
(read the full interview here)

Don't Control, Relate Instead

The I Ching identifies the time of Standstill
as one when the creative powers
are not in relation.

Listening is relating.
It may bring conflicted aspects
of the situation and your response into harmony.

When you become this kind of compassionate listener
you already enjoy the patience that lets your mud settle.

This patience has no agenda, nothing to wait for.
It trusts the power of non-action.

The clarity of the compassionate witness
is already here, available to notice
the next right action arising of itself.

You'll know it when you see it.

Doodle: Scruffy Before-Spring by Jude Spacks