“Oh you need to say yes a lot!”
– Naomi Shihab Nye.
An idea can take hold of our lives and not let go, even if we have no clue how to manifest it, even if it seems to disappear for long chunks of time, or an old belief nags us with its whispered No. In the midst of finally listening to the idea and doing something about it, extreme emotions and physical aches can become the norm, and contrary to logic, this idea becomes the very inspiration that gets us up in the morning (often in la madrugada—the dark before the dawn).
Or at least that is what has happened to me over the last year, as old memories and stories jostled against the present as I sat writing The Book of Calm. Two days ago a memory came to me, an inkling of why I would write this book—it was a poem I had written in third grade about a deer standing in a sunny meadow and my wish for world peace. My teacher took my poem and a few others written by classmates to the Boulder Daily Camera, where they were published. That was over half a century ago. The haiku that inspired the illustration above came to me last fall. Life works in mysterious ways.
In the last twelve months, I’ve learned so much about saying Yes, even as my brain and body say No:
• The unknown is a much better friend when embraced, than the opponent it becomes when it is continuously ignored or fought.
• The same goes for asking for help. Reach out! You’ll be amazed at the friends and strangers that flock to your side—especially when assistance is requested in what feels like the darkest hour.
• Take a break so you can continue to do the hard work. When doing daily chores becomes oddly enjoyable, like washing dishes or paying bills, stop working and step into the ordinary, so you will be energized when the insights and fresh perspectives bubble up and want you to listen.
• Be courageous despite the fear, and show up. Sri Ramakrishna wrote, “The winds of grace are always blowing, but we must raise our sail.”
• Have faith in your idea and yourself, and allow people to have faith in you.
Because the truth about embracing the unknown, asking for help, stopping to refuel instead of crashing, being courageous, and welcoming faith is that it can often make a person feel like a rubber band stretched to the breaking point.
I’ve just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for publicity for the book. An extensive online and print publicity campaign is in place to spread the news about The Book of Calm. As I ask for generosity and a trusting belief in the message of this book from the public, in the form of contributions and/or sharing the campaign with friends, I can feel that sense of stretching walking alongside a new sense of excitement.
For with each new step along this road of writing, publication, and now being the book’s head cheerleader, I feel myself evolving—it’s a sense of opening up and saying Yes—even as my old stories nip at my heels. This is where I am right now, accepting of this ongoing process and excited about a book that has taken nine years to write—because of a little poem written long ago, a network of family, friends, experts, and readers like you behind me, and all those hours I’ve sat in my orange chair—listening.
- Illustration by Susan Dorf, from The Book of Calm
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Calming Practice: Stretching Toward Yes!
Feel the energy of an idea, or a project already underway.
Name that energy Yes, No, or Maybe.
Do your best to sense what fears are lurking about.
Close your eyes. Breathe.
Envision an action (or non-action) that will lessen the fear.
Take a small step toward that action.
Tuck this line by poet Naomi Shihab Nye into your memory:
“Oh you need to say yes a lot!