Dan Keusal's e-newsletter
Spring 2019 edition:
"Delight, Enchantment, Wisdom, Awakening"
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I am writing these words one day before the Spring Equinox, so technically it is still winter. But Spring is very much in the air: today's high temperature is flirting with 80 degrees, making it the warmest "winter" day ever recorded in Seattle. Whatever the thermometer reads by the time you are reading this, I hope that the essay and photo in this newsletter help awaken the spirit of spring--with its promise of renewal and new life--in your own heart.
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Reflections: “Delight, Enchantment, Wisdom, Awakening"
I often talk with my clients about “practices”—things they can do to cultivate a deeper, more meaningful relationship with their daily lives.
Among the practices I suggest is to start the day with some form of “meditation”—a word that leaves some clients squirming and uncomfortable. “I don’t know how to meditate” they tell me.
“Can you read?” I ask them.
One of the simplest forms of ‘meditation’ is to sit down, and read and reflect on a short passage from a book.
Sitting itself stills us, and can help quiet and ground us before we head out into the frenetic pace of daily life.
Reading invites something of substance into that still, quiet space—something that has the power to both open up our horizons (which can shrink amidst the stresses of daily life) and call us back to ourselves.
Reflection is our response to that invitation. Reflection creates space for us to see how the words we’ve read resonate with our own experience, leaving us feeling less alone in our journey. It invites new perspectives on places where we’ve felt fearful, anxious, or stuck. It stirs the deepest, long-dormant parts of ourselves, and calls our best selves to take those first, next steps toward life-giving change.
Taking five or ten minutes each morning to sit, read, and reflect can make a profound difference in how we head out into those days, and how we live them.
Here are four books that are well-suited as starting points for this kind of “sit, read, reflect” meditation. Each of them is comprised of short chapters ranging from a few paragraphs to a few pages. In their slightly different styles lies the promise that any given reader will find at least one to be a good fit, as well as the possibility that moving between them will provide soul-nourishing variety.
And each has a key word in its title that, taken together, form an intriguing quartet of possibilities: delight, enchantment, wisdom, awakening.
The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay. In deciding to write about delight each day for a year (starting and ending on his birthday), Gay found that “the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle.” Along the way, this poet brings the perspective of a person of color to topics ranging from pop music to gardening to racism to public space to politics, showing that delight goes hand in hand with substance. The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life, by Thomas Moore. To get a feel for Moore’s unique take on areas of life we might not normally associate with “enchantment,” look at this book’s table of contents (Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature allows one to do this before buying), and read some of the titles he has chosen for these essays: “The Particularity of Place,” “Sex and the Soul,” “Miracles of Sport,” “Furniture Music,” “Mystic Transport,” “The Interiority of Food,” “Everyday Shrines and Tabernacles.” The essays here are slightly longer (8-10 pages) than those in the other three books, but each essay is broken into shorter sections that lend themselves well to daily meditations. Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, by Rachel Naomi Remen. “Everybody has a story,” Remen writes in her Introduction. “Facts bring us knowledge, but stories lead us to wisdom,” she continues, and in her own ease-y and accessible style, Remen does just that. Drawing on her own life, and the lives of her patients (she’s a physician and a counselor), she tells stories that gently reveal the deeper possibilities that lie hidden in plain view in our everyday experiences. In doing so, she invites the reader to see their own story as one worth telling, and worth living. The Book of Awakening, by Mark Nepo. This collection has one entry for each day of the year. Each of these is comprised of an opening quote, a brief reflection by Nepo, and a few questions to help the reader awaken to their own experiences. The beauty of Nepo’s writing lies in the range of his sources (from Buddhist, Christian, and Native American spiritual teachers to the Indiana Jones movies) and in the ways he draws connections that arrive as both unexpected and at the same time familiar.
Read these books with a cup of coffee or tea nearby (I frequently add biscotti). Read them by a window with a view, or outside on a deck, patio, porch, or balcony. Keep a notebook and pen or a cell phone nearby to jot down insights, connections, questions, or possibilities that arise. Over time, the daily practice of doing so may find us with delight, enchantment, wisdom, and awakening as companions on our journeys.
Resources For A Life Of Depth And Meaning:
(photo): "Tulips and Weathered Fence." (Dan Keusal). This is one of the rare photos that I actually shot on film (rather than on a digital camera or cell phone), many years ago. It remains one of my favorites. Click on the photo to view it on my web site, and download a copy for your own enjoyment.