Monday, June 24, 2013

Adjusting your sails

One of the joys of summer is watching the sailboat races.  Yesterday was a relatively calm day, so they didn't leave my viewfinder very quickly and the water was still enough to capture their reflections.

But of course calm weather is more challenging for them; I'm sure the sailors would prefer a good stiff wind.  On the other hand, weather this year in this part of the world tends to be mostly calm -- unlike other parts of the country, which get tornadoes and hurricanes while our sailors sit becalmed. 

So Puget Sound sailors are probably used to maneuvering in light winds, and would find sailing around the islands of Maine quite difficult -- just as we've grown used to living in this mild climate, and now find the temperature extremes of our beloved New England challenging.

But mostly what this picture makes me think of is that old saying I used to have on the wall of my office: "You can't control the wind, but you can adjust your sails."  It's a very Buddhist concept, I think, but applicable in so many facets of life.  It's never really what's happening to us that's the problem, it's how we deal with it  -- and how we deal with it can lead to wonderful new opportunities and experiences.

This is true for the creative process as well as in life: I've begun rereading Shaun McNiff's classic work on creativity, Trust the Process, and he's quite clear about this: "As with birthing, the practice of creation requires a continuous respect for that which takes place autonomously and in its own time.  The creator is a necessary participant, but like childbirth the process is not controlled by the person who serves as the agent of delivery....The results of artistic expression may bring relief, joy, and harmony.  But the process thrives on tension.  Conflict and uncertainty are the forces that carry the artist to new and unfamiliar places."

Painting, I'm finding -- like writing, and performing, and even growing old -- is not for sissies!

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