Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dormant in the Ground

Inside any bed of living soil in a field there lies a bank of seeds waiting dormant. When the conditions of moisture and temperature are just right they will germinate into a growing plant. In our fields these can look like stray sunflowers, rogue heritage tomato plants, squash vines, or other welcome specimens. But most of the time they are quack grass, sorrel and other pesky competitors for the organic vegetables.

I am listening to an audio CD written/spoken by an author who described a time where he centered himself in his home. When a certain success did not materialize, there was more time for enjoying his kids, nurturing his relationship with his spouse, reading more books, exercising more. During this time the author realized something in himself that allowed him to make a decision that would change his life forever. Incidentally it also changed American history. The decision that followed this period of ‘dormancy’ was to run for Senate instead of pursuing a career in law. The author’s name is Barack Obama.

I am a firm believer that being humble is an excellent trait. I value wisdom and talent over showmanship. Yet when an art form appears inside of us, whether in a song, a sculpture, a picture or a garden, it is our duty as a human to give it form. We must let the form exhibit itself. I find the trouble comes when showing ones art tumbles over onto the side of exhibitionism. By definition exhibitionism is loud, exaggerated, or boastful and designed to attract attention.

I do not believe we are meant to serve our own egos. There is a subtle place just before that kind of misplaced arrogance where a person learns to meet their fullest potential. Where they dive so deep down into the light that shines inside of them that there is no chance of every returning. Like a seed that has cracked and formed its first cotyledon, the energy of the universe has found its path in that one living moment. When we find our path, there is no going back.

When we find our path we are given energy, not burned out. When we find our true form, we feed others, inspire others and awaken others. When we serve the God inside of us, the God in our community, the God that lives in every living thing, the God that watches over our loved ones, we expand towards the best representation of ourselves.

I recently read a perception that all bloggers were exhibitionists. I highly disagree. It really depends on the intention and purpose of the writer and whether they are coming from a place of true light (sorry for the flaky word but it really is the right one) or a place of confused narcissism. I personally find this line a thin one but do my best to stay on the better side of it.

Last night I participated in a songwriter’s night with 20 very talented songwriters in Ottawa. The event involves writing a song on a short list of topics and then taking turns on a stage to share these songs with each other. Some friends and family show up, but mostly it is songwriters sharing their work with other songwriters.

Some of the performers are taking the stage for the first time. Yet many of them have released multiple CDs, played at large festivals around the country, received ample media attention for their work and honed a craft over years if not decades with the help of fellow songwriters. They could fill a room on their very own. But instead they were all tucked intimately into this small room together giving it all they had.

The evening lasted just over four hours. There will be another of its kind again tonight with yet another round of similar artists sharing their work. When the invitation came to participate in this event, I recalled a decade ago when I came faithfully year after year to this exquisite evening. I wrote some of my best songs for this night, always fumbling over them as they came to life in front of an audience for the first time. I heard some of the most inspired, genuine music I have ever known on these evenings. There is something about serving the pure art of songwriting that really gets me excited. Last night was no different. A true gift. I felt blessed to be in the same room as this gang. If ever you should be in Ottawa on the night of the Great Canadian Songalong, do find out where it will be held.

I know a lot of artistic types of people who have multiple talents. They paint, sing, write, knit, grow, build, photograph, teach and/or explore. These people sometimes find themselves expanding in too many directions. They also often tell a tale of having found certain aspects of school very difficult. They might have even dropped out or been treated as though they were belligerent or unfocused. Instead I believe these folks had not yet figured out the form that the jumble of energy inside of them was going to take. I was one of these kids. Failed miserably at many subjects in school, while excelling beyond measure at certain others that tapped into those hidden strengths.

It can be confusing when everyone around you is finding a path that is straight and narrow and you’re still looking around wondering what your supposed to do with yourself. It can lead to feeling lost and out of place in high school. But as a forty year old I’m finding this state downright amusing. I used to wonder how I’d lived so many years and still not found what I was meant to do. Now I realize that it was never about the thing I was choosing to do. It was about whether I was willing to nurture the seed bank inside of me. Whether I was ready to give water and heat and eventually light to the energy that lay dormant inside of me.

One bit of advice that I was given last night as the butterflies overtook me before going on stage was to plant my feet firmly on the ground. Apparently you can’t fly away if you can feel your feet under you. I was always a barefoot performer and certainly never able to sing with any kind of high heel on. This must have been why.

Obama describes the day he realized that the seasons changed, that the earth turned, that the darkness and light all played their parts without any particular effort on his part. It seems with this realization he gained permission to go out into the world and serve from the greatest position of power. And I’m not talking about the part where he became President of the United States. In that moment he found the thing that allowed him to effectively put his energy out into the world. All the while remembering how precarious this can be. How easy it would be to let his feet leave the ground.

I have no comment on what kind of President this man is - I'm not a writer with a political slant. What I see here is that a little time spent in the right kind of dormancy seemed to burst this guy into expressing remarkable potential. And no matter who you are, it all starts with a seed, a bed of soil and the recognition of the important role the ground beneath us plays.

We are not meant to move mountains. But we are meant to grow these seeds. Lets not let our fields be full of unwanted weeds finding their way into our space. Lets choose which seeds we will nurture and believe that with a little focus, a little attention in the right direction we can let the most beautiful garden grow.

Where you may be someone who is concerned about taking up too much space. About showing too much of yourself, attracting too much attention, it is time to realize that the world turns with or without you. And it is now time to dive in and give those seeds some light.

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