She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

-- Marge Piercy

Effort + Less: Two Words for 2013

The following is a scene from a typical F2 meeting, which generally take place on the phone in between other conversations of great import, typically regarding food (usually chocolate); make-up, hair or skin care products; and/or our favorite recent Pinterest finds.

Alizabeth: I have an idea for our site.

Michele: Of course you do.  What is it?

Alizabeth: I think we should [revise this, revisit that, reformat the other...or some combination thereof].

Michele:  Okay.  But why?  What's wrong with the way it is?

Alizabeth: Well, nothing's wrong with the way it do have a point.

It was against the backdrop of several of these exchanges within a very short time that I wondered out loud what my word for 2013 might be.  And Michele, in her inimitable, quick-witted, dry-humored, matter-of-fact way said: "I'll give you a word:  CHILL."

"Very funny," said I.  "Thanks, but no thanks...I'll go find my own word."

As it turned out, she was on to something.


In the days that followed, similar messages showed up again and again, expanding my awareness of all the ways I simply can't leave well enough alone, can't simply enjoy what is without evaluating how to make it better.

Take, for example, my relationship with God.  I'm constantly trying on new methods of prayer and, as a result, have discovered many wonderful, powerful practices stemming from various traditions.  This is one of the hallmarks of my own unique way of knowing God, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

The down-side is that sometimes, especially when I'm feeling distant from God, I get overwhelmed with choices and suffocated by the mistaken notion that there's some "right" way to pray.  I get stuck in an expectation that I'll feel better  -- more connected, more inspired, happier -- if only I try hard enough.

So at what point does all the seeking and striving and grasping and trying get in the way of what's already there, already available?  At what point does it become its own insidious and very justifiable form of resistance?  At what point does the practice becomes the objective, rather than a means to an end?

It's a fine line on a slippery all the trying, ease and joy and inspiration can be slowly edged out by judgment and "shoulds" and attempts to fix what isn't broken.

Christine Valters Paintner shared an excerpt from this Hafiz poem in a recent newsletter:

A Cushion for Your Head

Just sit there right now
Don't do a thing
Just rest.

For your separation from God,
from love,

Is the hardest work
In this

Let me bring you trays of food
And something
That you like to

You can use my soft words
As a cushion
For your

Words like "don't do a thing" and "just rest" do not sit well with me.  They challenge me because I'm not very good at not doing.  But if Hafiz is right and the separation is the work -- the hard part -- then it follows that connection can be (dare I say?) effortless.

Effort.  Less.  Effort less: my two words for 2013.

I'm a little worried that "not doing" might be my un-doing.  And yet...

I can feel the truth of it.  And inside that truth there's peace.  There's rest.  There's a sense of ease that comes from allowing what is.  I recognize that "ease" is very different from "easy."  I may or may not feel better, but by showing up and being willing to not fix, to embrace stillness despite the discomfort, I can hear when God speaks.

There will always be plenty to do, I'm sure, but my prayer for this year is to learn to let the doing come more from a place of listening, from a place of fullness and inspiration.

Effort less.


Or in the words of Rilke: Everywhere joy in relation and nowhere grasping; world in abundance and earth enough.

Exprayeriment #26 -- What's the Word?

Exprayeriment #25 -- Revealing the Way