“if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.
Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.”
I haven’t danced till I sweated since my first son was born.
I’ve ordered the book.
I’ve also watched this clip from the Tree of Life; a reading from Alan Watts: Mr Zen (Thank you to Allison Marlowe for sending these things my way). Watching this clip and reading the above quote really shifted something in me (after making me cry).
Watts compares life, rather than to a journey, than to a piece of music. A journey has a destination and it is reaching of that destination which is a mark of the journey’s success or failure.
I think I have lived my life on this metaphor…that life is a journey. Sure I’ve bought into the ‘enjoy the journey’ but I realise how important a sense of destination has been to me.
Watts points out how schooling builds this journey/destination schema into us: primary school leads to junior, then to secondary, then to GCSEs, then A levels, then work or a degree, then promotion, then a house, then a bigger house etc.
We also do this to our relationships; we meet and then there are phases we expect and see as normal; dating, becoming an item, living together, possibly engagement and marriage, kids, happy-ever-after. If a relationship doesn’t make it to the happy-ever-after stage then we see it as a failure.
Then, as Talking Heads said in Once in a life time:
‘whose is the beautiful house, whose is this beautiful wife…. and you might ask yourself, well, how did I get here??’ .
We get to the destination, and look around, and wonder what it was all about.
I did the academic journey; O levels, A levels, degree, MA, MA, PhD.
I did the career journey; teacher, head of year, head of department, local authority consultant, national conferences.
I did the relationship journey; date, move in, engagement, marriage, kids.
But the marriage ended in divorce.
I saw the academic compulsion for what it was; a way of showing myself and the world that I was good enough.
When I had kids I wasn’t prepared to put a career before them so that sense of ‘career’ ended.
So I thought I’d given up on destinations.
But I hadn’t.
I’ve set up websites, written books, run courses…I’m still setting myself things to achieve, places to go.
Then I watched that video and read that quote and saw what I was doing again. I love how playfully Watts points out that the pleasure in music is not the ending, but the all of the notes; all of the notes make up what the piece is. We don’t listen to a piece of music waiting for the ending, we listen to it all, rhythm by rhythm, note by note.
I want to step off the journey to somewhere else, to achieving, to an end, to a success..whatever that is.
I want to live my life more like a piece of music.
So I have stopped doing things because they lead me somewhere.
Instead I am doing things for the sake of doing them. Cutting trees by the river, making an apple pie, crocheting, doing yoga, listening to music, reading fiction, painting pictures. These are things that lead me no where, which earn me no money, no acclaim but which make me happy to do them.
These are the notes of my music.
These are the colours of my life.
Free Ebooks for anyone who needs them (just click on the links)
- How to be LessStressed: From Survive and Strive to Revive and Thrive
- Getting over the End of a Relationship: Relationship Recovery
- Domestic Abuse: how to get support for people living with it
Here are other places you can read my stuff
- Psychologies Magazine LifeLabs
- For teachers and schools: SecEd, Innovate Your School, SchoolWell and Staffrm