Radical, Out-There, Edgy Suggestion

LETTER to my God(dess) Daughter – September, 2007

Radical, Out-There, Edgy Suggestion — “Practice Entertainment Austerity” – A Letter

September, 2007

My Dearest Darling God(dess) Daughter –

This letter continues with the theme we started a couple of months ago, on creating the time in which to know yourself. In July, my letter to you focused on the pragmatics of daily and weekly “life organization.” August’s topic (still to be completed) presented and embellished a suggestion from Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) . Julia recommends to her workshop participants, during one week of a multi-week workshop course, that they do not read a single thing (that is not absolutely necessary for their job) for a whole, solid week. (And naturally, the thought extends to the more obvious time-absorbers, such as TV.)

Naturally, this suggestion provokes howls of outrage from the participants.

But Julia is not alone in making such an extreme, outrageous suggestion. Tim Ferriss (The Four-Hour Workweek) suggests the same — for the entire duration of time in which you should read, absorb, and put into practice the principles he offers in his book.

Radical? You bet! But this is the strategy that top athletes, actors, and others use when they want to harness and focus the full power of their internal resources.

Most of the time, I practice some form of “entertainment austerity.” It helps me to both know myself, and to be at my most creative. And yes, there are times when I am more or less aligned with this. But of all the practices that I have found, and can recommend to you, this is the most effective. It helps with both increasing productivity and/or creativity (outer world), and for creating the time and space in which to know yourself (inner world).

You will, of course, know your own “time-traps.” These range from newspapers to novels, from telephone to TV. The internet can be particularly insidious, offering little “newsy” articles with each logon. Even casual conversations — if you recognize that they are just absorbing your time, and not really either “relationship-building” or “useful information sharing,” can be a way of distracting your attention.

The critical point with this entire exercise is to realize that your most valuable resource — more so than money — is your attention. Not even just your time, but your attention. This is what you jealously need to hoard for a little while, because it can get dribbled away faster than a pocketfull of twenties when you’re at the mall.

So what will you do with this time?

Journaling would be a good first step. (Reference Julia C., and The Artist’s Way, once again.) Get into the habit of taking your journal notebook with you wherever you go, and catching the “odd moments.” Once you have that down, see if you can’t create “found time” from what you save from your “entertainment austerity” campaign. (Think of your journal as your piggybank, and writing into your journal as depositing daily small change into this bank. Over time, it adds up!)

Yoga / stretch / unwinding is another good time-use. And this doesn’t always need to be a “formal” yoga session, but catch some of the “downtime” that you would normally use to indulge in relaxation-entertainment, and turn that into a quiet, private, get-in-touch-with-your-body time.

You know that, if you’re trying to either develop yourself as a performing dance artist, or if you want dance to be your “integration pathway” for mind/body/psyche evolution, you need both greater body awareness and also release of body tension. Dance sessions — for both choreography and practice — are important. But underlying this, you need to let your body express itself more naturally, fluidly, and easily. This means that you need some time, one-on-one, alone with your body. No teacher, and no “cognitive agenda.” Just time with your body, “listening in.”

A couple of paragraphs earlier, I mentioned unwinding . This is not just a generic, catch-all term, synonymous with sitting on the couch, drinking a glass of wine, and chatting with your friend. No, this is much more specific; it is a set of body and inner-awareness techniques. One of the easiest ways to get started is to wear comfortable clothing (maybe socks, but no shoes), get on the floor, and start stretching.

After a bit, just letting your stretch evolve the way your body suggests to you, you’ll start to realize that your body is leading the way — not your “head-sense” of what you should be doing to stretch your body.

As you relax into your body and quiet your mind, a different kind of intelligence will start to emerge. This “body intelligence” or “body awareness” will naturally and gently lead you into positions that progressively stretch out and release the “tight zones.”

After a little time with this, you will begin to realize that these “tight zones” are not just physical tightness, or stress from your job or work environment, but that they reflect “emotional stuff.” Let the feelings come up, notice that certain feelings are connected with certain tight or “held” sensations in your body.

Just getting to this stage is a very big step. I won’t suggest any more to you in this letter — but do know that this is one threshold to a self-awareness pathway, and there are evolutions you can make from here.

Back to our original theme, though, of what to do with your “found time” that you get by practicing “entertainment abstinance.”

I recommend getting started on Christmas. (This assumes that you’re reading this letter in early autumn, where Christmas is still several months off.) Make your Christmas card list(s). Find some leftover cards from last year, or stock up early for this year, and start putting in the shortest of messages and writing addresses. (Or if you are terribly on-top-of-things, get your computer database organized and updated.)

Make up your “naughty or nice” list, and start thinking about who gets what. If you harbor any fantasies, whatsoever, about handmaking Christmas gifts or cards this year, get them done now — in the all-too-brief time-warp between Labor Day and Veteran’s Day. By Thanksgiving, it’s too late. The holiday season is in full swirl, and you will be pressed just to keep up — if you are participating at all.

Alternatively, do your semi-annual wardrobe review. Start cleaning and putting away your summer things, identifying what you can make work for “late-summer- transitioning-to-early-autumn,” and take a look at your fall / winter wardrobe.

What do you need? What really has to be replaced or upgraded? What has to be mended? (Another opportunity for meditation, if you are so inclined. Otherwise, find a dry cleaner with a good alterations lady, or see if you have a friend who will barter mending / alterations for something you want to offer.)

Final suggestion — take a Saturday morning, go to a flea market, thrift store, or series of garage / estate sales. (The latter options are especially predominant in fall.) Get stuff that you like, that works for you, but needs either clean-up, fix-up, painting, or mending. On the way home, or very early on Sunday, stop by the hardware store or crafts store and get what you need. Spend the rest of the day on your fix-up project.

Who knows? You could wind up with deeper insights (a scary proposition), a more relaxed and in-tune body, a “together” fall wardrobe (amazing thought), or a cooler, neater, more fun and charming place in which to live!

Bon vivant, darling! – Alay’nya