Tag Archives: Robert Bly

Six Lessons of Persistence and Ritual from William Stafford

Do it daily Let delight guide you Lower your standards Keep it short No preparing is wasted Let your ritual inspire others I’ve recently written about William Stafford’s ritual of writing a poem every early morning. And I’ve covered most of the above lessons – except for two parts. First ‘keep it short’ – Your ritual will usually only work if it’s short. Stafford didn’t try to write Paradise Lost every morning. Most of those poems are short. And blessedly so. They’re a treat to take in, not an indigestible meal. I read Stafford – I don’t read Milton. Sorry Milton, but it’s the truth. I love short poems – it’s why I have a Pocket Poems section in my newsletter. I write long posts and short posts in this blog. People usually respond more to the short ones. Keep it short. Lastly, let your ritual inspire others. I’m a big fan of Robert Bly’s poetry. One of my favorite books of his is called Morning Poems. Guess who he was emulating? They’re all fairly short and there’s an element of sweetness, tenderness and whimsy that to me most likely showed up due to the early hour of writing. You connect with purpose when you let others know about how you persist with your passion and they get inspired. What can Bill Stafford’s six lessons teach you in your quest to persist and on your 40 Days to Change for Good ?

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Feeling the fall? Here’s a Pocket Poem by Rilke for you

Autumn is a time of falling, and often the literal descent of the leaves and the sun, flowers and plants accompanies our own descent – into a feeling of sadness, loneliness, aloneness. This makes sense – if nature is descending, so will we – we are after all a part of nature. Yet, it’s a hard feeling to trust…to trust among other things that there is beauty, wisdom and relief in the falling, in the long exhale. Connecting this feeling with purpose,  with a quiet, calm, wise part of you that you carry with you at all times, helps you trust the descent. The breath can also help you get there. Here’s a Pocket Poem by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly that I have often returned to seasonally over the past decade or two – it’s a good one. I especially love the imagery of each leaf falling as if it were motioning, “no”. Autumn By Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly) The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up, as if orchards were dying high in space. Each leaf falls as if it were motioning “no.” And tonight the heavy earth is falling away from all other stars in the loneliness. We’re all falling. This hand here is falling. And look at the other one. It’s in them all. And yet there is Someone, whose hands infinitely calm, holding up all this falling.

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15 Books in the Bank Vault – J.D. Salinger, Passion and Work for Its Own Sake

“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of your work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working…Work done with anxiety about results is far inferior to work done without such anxiety, in the calm of self-surrender.” -Bhagavad Gita (found in J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey) 1965 was the last year that J.D. Salinger published anything. He died in January at age 91. However, in the last 45 years he continued writing. Joyce Maynard, who had a year-long relationship with him in 1972, said that he wrote a few hours every morning. She also said that at that point he had two completed novels. More recently, friends and neighbors that visited the house tell of a bank vault in there with all of his writing. Jerry Burt, a neighbor said, “He told me there were about 15 or 16 books finished but that he didn’t know if they would be published.” In a 1974 interview with The New York Times, he explained, “There is a marvelous peace in not publishing … I like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure.” Margaret Salinger, his daughter, describes in her memoir his filing system for his unpublished manuscripts: “A red mark meant, if I die before I finish my work, publish this ‘as is,’ blue meant publish but edit first, and so on.” This is a great example of passion at work. The quote from Franny And Zooey that started off this post sums up a key part of passion. The work is done for the sake of itself, not for the results, not for the external reward. As a writer and a musician, I know of this challenge – to put something out in the world and not know how and where it’s going to be received – who it touches and who it doesn’t. But that’s not my job, as much as I may dally there. My job, and your job if you’re living your passion, is to do a form of what Salinger did – do our work, our passion, for its own sake. He obviously had the financial luxury to not publish – but the main point is – he never stopped writing – he just wrote presumably because it was his passion, his craft, his life’s work. And even though he said he wrote for himself – he kept all those manuscripts This may be helpful the next time you’re not recognized by your boss, customer, teacher, spouse for the good work you did. It’s hard when this happens, and the power of purpose only happens when you’re aware you’re touching other people’s lives. But your primary reward in the land of passion is in the work itself, getting lost in it, absorbed fully with all of your senses. Robert Bly told me once that you need to give things away in order to remember this passion. He told of taking the only copy of a poem he had written and putting it in a pine tree deep in the woods where no one human would ever see it. And he said, “it has to be a good poem.” Now that’s a way to reconnect with passion! Whenever I find myself lost in how some project is going to turn out, I know I’ve left the land of passion. And work without passion is a painful place. Then I know it’s time for me to find the passion again in what I’m doing today. Where does your passion lie in what you do every day? How can you redirect yourself so the work itself becomes the reward?

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