Staying on Course

Photo credit: Wikipedia..

I was walking my dog by the river when a white egret that had stood motionless perched on a rock launched itself into the air with a flap of its wings. As my gaze followed the magnificent bird’s trajectory across the vast expanse of blue sky a sudden gust of wind came from nowhere buffeting the egret mid-flight, sending it into a momentary flutter of wings and feet as it fought to recover its momentum and remain airborne.

I was taken with how quickly and gracefully this beautiful bird managed to come back to center and right its course – if I had but blinked or shifted my gaze for a moment its flight path would have seemed an unbroken line across the sky.

Back on course with a minimum of fuss, the egret continued on its way. The path it traced was purposeful and full of conviction – it knew its destination and was headed straight for it. There was no way it was going to let a ‘little thing’ like an adverse air current knock it off course, let alone distract it from its goal.

I admired its purposeful determination all the more because it’s something that can, at times, seem lacking in my own life.

It’s not that I don’t have a overriding ’flight plan.’ Embracing the idea of myself as conscious creator of my own life I have decided that this year, besides teaching, my focuses are to write, to pot, and to continue to expand and evolve.

So the trajectory of my path, in my mind at least, is clearly mapped out and defined.

And yet… I often find myself knocked off centre and blown off course, going in directions that are so far from being connected to my flight plan that they don’t even show up on the map.

And what does it take to knock me so far off course? A simple ‘gust of wind.”

I’m not even talking about the big ones like doctor’s diagnoses, unemployment notices, relationship breakups, deaths of loved ones and other such unpredictable events that blow into our lives to change their course.

Ninety-nine per cent of the time the ‘gusts’ of wind that pull me off centre are nothing more than the paraphernalia of daily life – meals that need to be cooked; phone calls that need to be made; classes that take too long to be prepared; an unexpected encounter with a neighbour while walking my dog that turns a ‘short walk’ into a two hour break from my day. Lunches with friends; a trip to the post office; a function here and there; obligations that feel like they need to be met. Conversations I let linger a little too long; mails and short mails waiting for me to respond; a ‘quick look’ on Facebook that takes up the best part of an hour; the myriad host of other unanticipated things that creep into my day…

I know that these things, although they can feel like interruptions – especially when too many of them come at once – are the things that make up a life.

I know that they are part and parcel of my trajectory even though they aren’t written into my flight plan – are, in fact, ‘my path.’

I know that I want to be fully present with the people and situations around me; and that at times that will mean putting aside my own flight plan so that I can give my full attention to what is happening right here, right now.

But sometimes it feels like the ‘distractions’ take over the day. I find myself spending more time on them than on the things I have decided are important to me; committed to put my focus on.

And once I’ve been distracted away from my flight plan I find it hard to get back on course. Before I know it yet another day has gotten away from me… with zero time spent at the pottery wheel or weaving threads of thought into meaningful sentences.

As to the third element of my year’s flight plan – my desire to expand and evolve – I’m of the opinion that these are things that will occur anyway, regardless of whether I try to make them happen or not. Doesn’t everything we encounter in our life present us with the opportunity to grow, evolve and expand; including the daily paraphernalia? So with regards to this destination at least, I’m content to set my intention to expand and evolve in the ways that are for my greatest and highest good and leave it in the hands of my higher self to guide the process.

But the pottery and the writing are a bit different. They are not an inevitable part of life that will naturally occur whether I put my attention on them or not.

The only way they are going to happen is if I make them happen.

And in order to do that I need to stop being quite so flimsily moored, letting myself being carried hither and thither on whatever air currents happen to be blowing my way.

Instead of letting the day and the situations that arise in it control me and my use of time, I’d like to be able to stamp my mark on the day so that I can successfully carve my own flight path through it – one that feels true to me and is in alignment with my destination.

I wonder if this is part of the problem – could it be that I don’t have a detailed enough picture in my mind of my destination? That I don’t quite believe enough in my ability to get there? And that without this ‘homing device’ it is harder for me to bring my words and actions into alignment with it?

It’s also true that although I have a relatively good idea of my overall flight path, I haven’t really been mapping out the points along the way. I’m not in the habit of setting myself concrete goals for each day. It’s more like I decide that tomorrow I’m going to take the day and focus on pottery, and of course I have an idea in mind of what it is I want to make. But as to how many of those I’m going to have made and by what time, that I leave up to fate…

And of course when you don’t have clear coordinates for your day, it’s far easier for the things that come up to take over and distract you from your purpose.

The creative part of myself protests at the idea of strict scheduling and goals, along the lines of a blog post written by lunch time and five cups made before afternoon classes. It knows that creative projects take the time they do and you can’t rush them, you need to allow them the time they take. (All the more so when you’re still very much in the process of learning, as I happen to be).

But it feels like there is a need for me to have greater self-discipline and to consistently carve out the time in the day for me to do these things I have committed to put my focus on.

(While at the same time being mindful to watch for the ego playing its tricks and mind games… trying to tell me that these are things I have to do, to turn them from a joy into a chore…).

It feels like it’s a case of turning off the computer and phone when I sit down to pot or write. Limiting distractions outside of myself; refusing to give them the power to control and dictate my time by not letting them into my sacred space. And, in so doing, taking back my sovereignty over my day.

Not to mention the need to get the better of my self-sabotage tactics – learning to see through the distractions I create for myself and mastering them, instead of letting them master me…

Another part of it is learning how to say no graciously to the things that I know in my heart aren’t in alignment with what I really want to be doing – the things that feel like they’re pulling me away from my mapped out route, delaying my arrival at my destination.

And even this idea of there being a destination that I need to get to, when I get too caught up in that that doesn’t serve me either. It makes me separate from where I want to be, and bleeds the joy out of the doing in its focus on outcome not process.

I believe what the sages say – that the key to happiness and fulfillment is found in our state of being, not in our achievements, or even in the things that we spend our days doing.

When I succeed in protecting my time in this way and use it in alignment with my goals, that in and of itself feels good. It’s a joyful quality of being that arises because I’m being true to myself. When I’m in that place the joy is in the process, and how much I manage to  quantitatively achieve takes on less importance.

As long as I am making my promise to myself my priority, I am content to accept that sometimes the words and the pots will flow, and at other times they will stumble over themselves and slow to a trickle – I am content to let them take the time they will.

What matters is that I’m honouring my commitment to myself, using my time in the way I have promised myself I will.

When I do this, I’m in alignment with my deepest, most sacred self.

And it is this that feels good.

It is when we don’t do the things we have promised ourselves we will – letting ourselves be knocked off centre and pulled off course – that we fall out of alignment with our truth, and the feelings of being disjointed and separated from self arise.

So as I watched the egret counteract the wind and right its course in a moment, I knew that this is how I want to be in the world. To model myself on this beautiful white bird, bringing myself back to centre quickly and easily whatever gusts of wind may blow themselves into my day; with a clear picture of my destination in mind, so that my footprints trace a trajectory straight for it; streamlined and focused, offering no resistance – external or internal – to my chosen route.

When I can do this I’m at peace, embodying the grace and the conviction of this magnificent white bird, as the silence within the depths of my being tells me I’m right on course.