Book Review: Making a Life by Melanie Falick

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives” ~ Annie Dillard

This famous quote by Dillard from her brilliant book, The Writing Life, is the quietest yet most insistent of clarion calls: give small attention to the largest of questions about how to make the most of our lives. She goes on:

“There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?”

In Making A LifeMelanie Falick takes us on a worldwide journey to experience the creative ways in which people are crafting good lives for themselves and others. Through interviews with potters, weavers, printmakers, quilters and many more, Falick powerfully illustrates a universal truth – that we humans have forever been making things with our hands. Continue reading “Book Review: Making a Life by Melanie Falick”

It Is What It Is

 

Copyright tonibernhard.com
Copyright tonibernhard.com

Welcome to the start of another week.  What kind of plans do you have in store?  Are you able to embrace the thought of dealing with whatever comes your way?  Raring to go, full of joy for being alive and in the moment?

Or are you anxious about the days ahead? Stressed? Fearful?

The spiritual teacher Byron Katie says “You can argue with the way things are.   You’ll lose but only 100% of the time”.

It can be hard to accept what is in front of us with equanimity and a peaceful mind.  It is a simple concept, but not an easy one.  Yet we can get there in a split second.  We control our thoughts, not the other way round.  We can decide what to think about any event or situation.  We can choose acceptance over resistance.

To use a relatively trivial-sounding example, I have a residual fear of engaging with e-mails, as a result of a devastating experience at work a few years ago.  These days, I lead a blessed and happy life.  But when it comes to thinking about my in-box, I am consumed with anxiety about what might lurk there.  So I put off opening my mailbox for as long as possible.

Eventually, given the way the world works these days, I have to draw on those famous words by Susan Jeffers and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.  Having taken a deep breath and opened my messages, what do I find?  A long list, not of horrors after all, but of stress-free items which I can handle perfectly well.  Once I can see the true content of my in-box, only then do I recognise that it is the muscle-memory of past times which has been controlling my thoughts and therefore my emotions, not the logic behind what is most likely to exist when I switch on the computer.

I am using the practice of acceptance to help me overcome this fear.  By taking a moment to recognise my present reality, and by relaxing into it, as Pema Chödrön puts it, I can engage with this aspect of my life with a calm, still presence, regardless of what shows up.

I hope this approach might also be useful for you, if and when you find yourself dealing with difficult or unexpected events.

There is no path to peace.  Peace is the path.

~ Mahatma Gandhi