Journey 7: Off the Beaten Path

Today’s surrender, at first, seemed so small, so insignificant, that I wasn’t going to write about it. But the relatively minor incident has stayed with me all afternoon and evening, returning to me again and again, until I spent time unpacking the experience, to see what was there for me. 

 

I traveled with Greg to a community near Kansas City today, so that he can spend time with a cousin painting house interiors. We enjoyed a quick lunch together and then I headed back to Joplin, driving alone. The weather wasn’t the best, with rain that bordered on wintry mix up near KC, and low visibility, but I knew I was fine. 

I declared the drive home an adventure and I felt total peace as I drove, listening to The Hobbit soundtrack on low volume, taking my time and using caution. 

The temperature grew warmer as I drove south and the rain became intermittent and then stopped completely as I reached Ft. Scott, KS. I had an hour to go and I felt the exhilaration that comes from entering the homestretch. 

  
And then I had a funny thing happen. I was still driving with my iPhone’s map feature on, which includes GPS and Siri’s delightful voice giving me instructions. Even though I was back in familiar territory as I approached Pittsburg, I had left the GPS on because I like the heads up warnings about upcoming turns and the handy little ETA feature. 

Suddenly Siri told me to turn left as I approached an intersection. I knew that wasn’t right. I should go straight, and circle around Pittsburg, before turning east toward Joplin. Siri insisted left and I had to make a decision…go the way I thought…or trust what I was told and go a different route. 

I’m not that familiar with the back roads around Pittsburg. I was currently traveling on a major highway. Straight ahead or left? The known or unknown? 

 

I chose to turn left and go toward the unknown. After all, I am surrendering to the flow of life. I’m open to new experiences. How much more guidance can I ask for than a voice audibly telling me “Turn left”? I traveled down narrow two lane back roads. I saw farms and fields. And very few cars. I knew I was heading in the right general direction. I trusted. 

And yet…I wondered where I was. I wondered why Siri thought this was the best route to take. I wondered if I had mistakenly entered the wrong destination into my phone’s map. I kept going. I kept relaxing and bringing myself back into trust, and into the flow. 

In 15 minutes I turned left again and knew exactly where I was. I had completely bypassed Pittsburg. I was a few miles from the Missouri state line. Thirty minutes later, I was home. 

As I further explored that amusing experience I had these thoughts:

* This is what being in the flow is all about…heading into the unknown with trust that I will be taken exactly where I need to go. 

* I make the decision whether I will heed the guidance I am given, or retain a semblance of control. 

* Adventures often happen off the beaten path. Life lessons certainly do. 

* I don’t have to know the whys, as I surrender to the flow. I’m still not sure why Siri diverted me off of the main route. I’ll never know. I may have avoided an accident. The way Siri took me may have been faster. 

* Life offered me a chance to walk my talk. I want to be faithful, even in the seemingly small matters. 

I’m grateful for the experience of not knowing where I was or where I would end up…and for trusting that as I surrendered, all would be well. I’m glad I turned left.  

  

Surrender 6: Resistance = Fear = Blocked

I had one of those aha moments today, maybe more of an Ooooo, as I was doing my Morning Pages. These three pages of free writing allows thoughts I didn’t even know that I had to flow onto the paper and surprise me.

  
  

This has been a heart opening chapter this week in The Artist’s Way. As Julia discusses having compassion for our inner artist and re-parenting that child who yearns for creative accomplishment, I have felt deep love, acceptance and understanding for that part of me. 

In the section where Julia writes, “In order to work freely on a project, an artist must be at least functionally free of resentment (anger) and resistance (fear)”, I began to have a suspicion about myself. In this year of surrender I am very aware of resistance. Resistance signals to me that I am moving out of Life’s flow. I have not equated resistance with fear before. I was so struck by that realization that I wrote in the margin of my book, something I don’t normally do in any book. 

  
  

I suspected that I might be blocked, as a writer. Yes, The Artist’s Way is designed to bust through those blocks, yet I haven’t felt that I had any. I’ve expanded my creativity so much since I began this 12 week course, learned incredible things about myself, but I didn’t see myself as blocked…until today. 

As I wrote the Morning Pages, I explored the connection between being blocked and resistance (fear). I wrote this quote from my reading in chapter nine this week. 

“Do not call the inability to start laziness. Call it fear.” 



That hit home. June 2015…I met with a literary agent at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference and pitched a book idea. I was strongly encouraged by the agent to proceed with my idea and to submit a query letter and proposal to her. It’s seven months later and I haven’t submitted either, yet. I thought hard about that today, and called my inability to move forward what it is, for the first time. It’s fear.

Fortunately, I’m working through the perfect book to overcome fear and resistance, and to bust through blocks, entrenched or newly recognized. As an assignment, I answered a series of questions around my fears about writing this book. I couldn’t find any resentment (anger) in me as I searched inward. But as I moved to the second part…listing resistance (fears)…I wrote, and wrote. 

On the list appeared statements such as: 


This book won’t be accepted. won’t be accepted. This book will forever change my life. It will be expected that I will only write on this topic. 



It was very liberating, to see those fears in black and white, and see how small they were really, how untrue. I know, now, why I’ve resisted this project, and I know how to deal with fear. I know how to release resistance. I’m ready to move forward. I surrender to writing this book. 

  
  

Surrender 5: Just Around the River Bend

I’m calling it today, my theme song for 2016. I asked during the month of December, “What is my song for next year?” Sometimes, I know before the end of the year…and sometimes I don’t. The song is usually the last component to be added to my theme for the new year. 

 

I love music. When I’m alone in the car or cleaning house or cooking, I have music playing on my iPod or iPhone. Soundtracks are my favorites to listen to. So it’s not surprising that I get my own song each year to accompany my word. 

I came across the mention of a song, Just Around the River Bend, from Disney’s animated  film Pocahontas, while reading an article online. My awareness perked up and I listened to the song on YouTube. I liked the song…yet I wasn’t sure. And what was it with me and songs from animated features? Two years ago my song was Let it Go, from Frozen. 

                      Just Around the River Bend

So I asked for confirmation that this was the perfect song, and delayed claiming it. In this year of surrender, I could allow the right song to come to me, at the right time. 

Two weeks have passed. I haven’t received confirmation in the form of seeing the words River Bend written anywhere. Nor have I seen clips unexpectedly of this older Disney movie. However, today I realized that I am humming and singing this song all the time. I’ve woken up with the song playing in my head. While driving I’ll suddenly realize I’ve been humming it. I can’t get the song out of my mind, after listening to it only once two weeks ago! 

Today I was reminded of a time years ago, when I had asked the Divine what my soul name could be. What name captured who I was becoming, who I was growing into? A word, Mithril, the valuable, strong, silvery substance from Middle-earth, kept popping into my mind. I’d think “That’s odd!” and push it away. I kept asking. I kept hearing the word Mithril. It took three weeks before I made the connection. Ohhh….my soul name is Mithril. 

It only took two weeks to get it this time! Just Around the River Bend is my song. I think I initially passed on it because a few lines of the song don’t quite fit, but the concept does. Pocahontas is choosing between living a safe life…or an adventurous life. I can relate to that. 

 

Here are some of the lyrics:

What I love most about rivers is, You can’t step in the same river twice. The water’s always changing, always flowing. But people, I guess, can’t live like that, We all must pay a price. To be safe, we lose our chance of ever knowing. 

What’s around the river bend. Waiting just around the river bend. 

I look once more just around the river bend, Beyond the shore somewhere past the sea. Don’t know what for, why do all my dreams extend

Just around the river bend, just around the river bend. 

Should I choose the smoothest course, Steady as the beating drum? Is all my dreaming at an end? Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver

Just around the river bend?

This morning I listened again to the song, my heart and mind open, no resistance. At the end, as Pocahontas sang, Or do you still wait for me, Dream Giver, just around the river bend, my eyes filled with tears and my heart began to beat faster. 

Yes. Oh yes, Dream Giver, I hear your call, just around the river bend. I’m listening. Thank you, for giving me this, the perfect song. 

  
 

Surrender 4: Martha Stewart’s  9 Minute One Pan Pasta

Today I surrendered to my desire to cook more at home and try new, healthier recipes. I’d seen this simple one pan pasta dish online and wanted to see if it was really as easy, and as flavorful, as it appeared. Would placing raw ingredients in a pan and boiling for less than 10 minutes really produce a ready to eat meal? I was about to find out!

 

Here’s the recipe:

Martha Stewart’s 9 Minute One Pan Pasta

12 ounces linguine

12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large

1 onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

2 sprigs basil, plus torn leaves for garnish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

4 1/2 cups water

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.

 

This dish was extremely easy to prepare. I love that the recipe uses fresh ingredients such as garlic, tomatoes and basil. I paused to inhale the aroma of the basil. It instantly transported me back to my summer garden.  I confess that I have never sliced fresh garlic before. I enjoy cooking with garlic, however I normally purchase it diced in a jar. I felt more chef-like as I thinly sliced this pungent vegetable. 

I stirred the pot frequently as the contents bubbled. A delicious aroma filled the kitchen that made me hope that the dish tasted as good as it smelled. Nine minutes later, I tested a piece of linguine and it was perfectly al dente. 

There’s no need to drain the pasta. The broth boils down to create a wonderful sauce. And the verdict? Amazing! I added the grated Parmesan cheese and a bit more salt and pepper, foregoing additional olive oil. The pasta was rich with flavor and perfectly seasoned. It is spicy! One could cut the red pepper flakes (crushed red pepper) to 1/4 teaspoon for a milder flavor. 

And the next best part about this recipe? There’s only one pan to clean up. I’ll definitely make this again. I give it two thumbs up!

  

Surrender 3: Gifts from the River

Today was Artist Date day, as set out by the book that I’m working through, The Artist’s Way. After a two week break over Christmas, I was excited to get back to this weekly practice. In keeping with my desire to surrender to life, I decided to go where I felt drawn this afternoon. And I felt drawn to walk along the river, specifically Shoal Creek. 

 

I have not seen the river since last weekend’s massive flood. I was surprised to find low water bridge still closed, due to two uprooted trees caught on the structure. Everywhere I looked, there were signs of how powerful the river is when it overflows its banks. 
 

 

Trees were down along the river. Picnic tables were clogged with debris, and empty concrete pads were stark reminders that tables had been swept away, in spite of being bolted down. Empty freshwater mussel shells covered the ground near the walking trail, along with river rocks deposited by the tumbling waters. 

   

The air was chilly and the sunshine welcome  as I slowly strolled along the river, thinking. The river did not intend destruction as it overflowed its banks. It was simply being what it was. The overflow happened because the river became full, filled beyond what it could contain. As I studied the churning water, still at an elevated level, I thought about how that happens to us too. We get full…of joy, of love, of anger, of fear…until we can’t contain it anymore either, and it overflows, spilling out. Sometimes the force of our emotions overtakes everyone around us. It reminded me that what’s in our heart is revealed and comes tumbling out when we are flooded with challenges. I want to overflow with peace, love and joy and leave evidence of these in my wake. 

 

My inner creative child asserted herself. Enough with the reflections. When I left the house, I grabbed a canvas tote to serve as a makeshift possible bag. As a child, I loved to walk along the creek in Noel and pick up treasures…interesting rocks, pretty leaves, sturdy sticks. Back then I had boxes of nature collections. I thought it would be fun to scavenge items today as I walked Shoal Creek. I looked past the devastation and began to notice the beauty around me. There was a tree wearing a woven garland. And little pools of water appeared in unexpected places. 

  

With the delight of a child, I picked up several rocks, a shell, and a piece of bark with grayish green lichen growing on it. Just as I was about to start the return trek to the car, I spied something interesting down near the river, at the base of a tree. The adult in me was willing to leave it there. The artistic child wanted it! 

Carefully I made my way down to the tree and inspected my find before I picked it up. Made of metal, the object was heavy and slightly rusty.  I didn’t know what it was, but my imagination immediately raced with what I could do with this treasure. 

 

  
Back home I happily cleaned up my little collection.  The piece of metal reminds me of a sign, a marker. I wrote 2016 on it with a white sharpie. Interestingly, the next chapter in The Artist’s Way, which teaches about having compassion for my inner child, suggests selecting a totem to place in my creative space. A totem is an object, imbued with spiritual meaning…an emblem or symbol that serves as a reminder. I have my totem, my reminder, of all the promises 2016 holds. The river gave it to me. 
  

Surrender 2: Experiencing Resistance

On the second day of my Year of Surrender I encountered resistance. That didn’t take long to pop up! And yet I am so grateful for both the experience and the awareness to realize what I was doing. 

All parties involved have given me permission to share this story. Are you comfortable? Good, then I’ll begin this short but crucial tale of surrender vs resistance. 

  
Last night, after viewing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, our little group consisting of me, Linda, Roy, and Greg went to dinner at the buffet style restaurant, Golden Corral. Roy surprised me by very graciously picking up the tab for all four of us. I appreciated his kindness and Greg and I offered to pay for dinner Saturday evening. That’s fair, right? And responding to generosity by being generous in return.  

Except that I woke up this morning with a thought. First thoughts are interesting as they are often the result of my subconscious working through the night on an issue or uncovering a deeper truth.  

The thought was, “What if Linda and Roy pick Red Lobster as the restaurant for tonight?” 

  

Anyone who know my sister knows that’s one of her favorite places to eat. But it’s not my favorite or Greg’s. And it’s a more expensive restaurant than Golden Corral, yet I did offer to pay. My thoughts began to spin out a story about something that had not even happened yet. 

And that’s when I noticed it. This dragging sensation, as if my symbolic canoe was barely scraping over submerged rocks. I was creating resistance with my thoughts, weighing myself down with concern over where we would eat. I had just exited the flow of life and was paddling upstream, in shallow water riffling over boulders. 

  
I am extremely thankful that my awareness kicked in. I physically and energetically felt the subtle effect of my resistance, and immediately released my line of thinking. How ridiculous it was anyway. If Linda chose Red Lobster, so be it. I’d try something different from their extensive menu and Greg would too. The cost wasn’t an issue. I wanted to focus instead on being present with people who are dear to me. Where we ate, and what I ate, didn’t matter at all. 

The drag my resistance had created dropped away. I was back in the flow, traveling light and free. 

And where did we eat? Not at Red Lobster. Roy selected Texas Roadhouse and we had a great meal together, laughing and chatting as we dined. I had smothered chicken and it was delicious. 

 

I’m glad I had the opportunity to experience resistance today. Doing so taught me that any time I feel myself struggling…lost in the past or creating stories about a future that hasn’t happened yet…I am taking myself out of the flow of life. I have figuratively picked up my oar and I’m paddling upstream or toward shore. I don’t want to do either. 

My first lesson this year came early. When navigating the river of life, watch out for drag, which indicates I’m experiencing resistance. Who is creating the resistance? I am. And knowing that, I can correct it, let go, and head downstream again, fully engaged, and in the flow. 

  

Surrender 1: A New Year and a New Adventure Begins

Today as I enter into a new year, I am embarking on a new adventure! I completed my Year of Journeys ready to take what I learned in 2015 and go further. As I shared in yesterday’s blog post, one of the most significant aha’s I had last year was the awareness that I am invited to go on adventures, and as I accept those invitations, I am guided in my journey by the Divine. Through signs, synchronicities, my intuition and the unfolding of life itself, I am led. 

  
As I approached the end of 2015, the word surrender began to surface repeatedly for me. I am given a new word for each new year, one that defines what’s to come. Surrender was shown to be 2016’s theme, by way of repetition and synchronicity. 

I looked up the word. It doesn’t just mean to give up. It is defined as giving over to another, yielding to a higher authority or power. I always research the origin of my chosen word. Surrender is a combination of two words. Sur, which comes from Latin, means “over and above”. Render, originating from the Latin reddere, means “causing to be or to make”. Surrender then literally means “over and above causing to be” or “over and above making it happen”. 

That’s what I desire for 2016. I want to be over and above making things happen. I want to allow what is, to be. In surrendering, I am relinquishing control of my life. In reality, I can’t control anything anyway except my reactions to what happens. I am allowing life to unfold, as it will. I am an active participant in my own life, however I am open to what is brought to me and to where I am led. 

 

The symbol I was given for 2016 was the river. What a perfect visual of life. I lived in McDonald County for nine years, near Elk River. I have floated and canoed down that river many times and I can relate to the experience of being in the flow. 

When I am flowing with the water I am moving forward with little effort. As I stay in the current I am taken exactly where I need to go. I can attempt to paddle upstream, against the flow, which uses enormous amounts of energy and wears me out. I can paddle out of the flow and move to shore. The water will continue to roll past me.  I can camp out on the edge of the river for as long as I’d like, becoming an observer of the river, of life, without participating in it. I choose to remain in the flow. 

   
I’m excited to see what the Divine has for me this year, and what adventures the flow of life will take me to. I’m laying the paddle to my canoe at my feet, and surrendering to the river, to life, to what’s just around the next bend. It’s an unknown journey. In the past two years I’ve set up many of my firsts and journeys in advance. This year, I’ll be exploring new territory, mapping out new regions, in my world and within my heart and soul, without knowing in advance what that will look like. Curiosity will continue to serve as a guide and trust is my companion. 

This morning I experienced in a small way the promise of what’s to come. On this first day of a brand new year, I wrote my three pages of free writing. It happened that I had filled up my previous notebook yesterday. And so I began this day with a fresh notebook, full of clean blank pages. The timing was remarkable. How symbolic of the journey ahead because I didn’t arrange to start the new year in a new notebook. It happened. It arranged itself. And I had the awareness to recognize the significance. 

I am canoeing down this river called Life, eyes and heart wide open, taking in every detail, learning to navigate well, appreciating the beauty along the way, ever surrendering to the relentless flow of water. The journey, the surrender, is fresh and new each day.