The Work I am Not at Liberty to Quit

Each day of this trip, we break away from our daily adventures and our cultural and spiritual learning to gather together for a two-hour writing class.

Writing class is a time to ground, to process the events and experiences we’re having, to bond as a group, to affirm the power of our words, to dive into story, to sink into our feelings, memories, and being.

Here I am teaching at Puri Lumbung, our final hotel.

This is what I wrote today in response to the prompt, “The Work I Am Not at Liberty to Quit.”

The Work I am Not at Liberty to Quit:

Opening my heart. Opening my heart. Opening my heart. Opening my heart.

Learning to be quiet. Learning to be still. Finding and celebrating awe and beauty, no matter the circumstances.

Developing my inner resources so I am less like an anxious, worried Jew, my ancestral legacy and more like the high priestess. I would love to hold, no to cherish, no to feel 1/100th of her joy and equanimity. My work is to move toward that inner stillness and that deep compassion in whatever way I can even though I will never make it in this lifetime. But only to try.

The work I am not at liberty to quit is learning about marriage and love, coming from a place where love equaled control and violation, overinvolvement and deep feeling. Good intentions, always good intentions, but love through untouched blind spots can hurt a developing child.

My work is to embrace who I am and not believe that I can become like the high priestess with her radiant joy. But to take each moment of joy I am gifted to experience and extend it by five seconds each time. Five more seconds looking at that flower. Five more seconds holding that person’s eyes. Five more seconds in an embrace. Five more seconds not turning away or back to my list. Five more seconds of dropping whatever I’m doing that I think is so important and listening to my beloved.

My work is to see her as my beloved, treat her as my beloved, recognize her as my beloved.

The work I am not at liberty to quit is the creative manifestation that flows so easily out of me into the world. I may step away from it. I may choose to focus my attention to other things, but I cannot curtail it entirely nor would I want to because it is me flowing out into the world, as natural as any tributary, stream, river, making its inevitable and relentless way to the sea.

The work I am not at liberty to quit is to notice beauty, walk in beauty, celebrating the trees, the grains of sand, the waves, the forest, the granite cliffs of the Sierras, the pull of tides, the desert sand. To soften my eyes and receive it all, never grasping, never insisting, just receiving.

The work I am not at liberty to quit is doing one thing at a time. The work I am not at liberty to quit is to stop seeing multitasking and productivity as my work. It is not my work. It is the antithesis of my work. It keeps me from my essence, it keeps me from the truth of who I am and who I am meant to be. It is a dam in the wall of my being that blocks my flow and numbs me to the real world. It is a habit. And it is my work to understand the source of that habit, be it ancestral, traumatic, or cultural and to push back against it by opening my palms and learning in the deepest way that momentum is not my friend.

The work I am not at liberty to quit is this breath and this breath and this breath. It’s being a channel, a healer, a community builder, but with open hands. The work I’m not at liberty to quit is to find optimism, to find a yes in a being that is so deeply wired to worry about the future and to have my first response be no.

I remember my friend Kimberly, 40 years ago, she had nine children, and she said her greatest asset as a mother was that her first natural response to any request from her children was to say yes. yes, and let’s figure out how we can do that. I remember being astounded when she told me that. And true to form, or wiring, or habit, whatever it might be, my first response to most requests is no…and then I come back to maybe and then trying to figure out a yes. The work I am not at liberty to quit is to say yes. to say yes, yes, yes, to all of it. To all life puts before me.

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