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Archive for September, 2010

There is a particularly inspiring passage in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done:

“In karate there is an image that’s used to define the position of perfect readiness: “mind like water.” Imagine throwing a pebble into a still pond. How does the water respond? The answer is, totally appropriately to the force and mass of the input; then it returns to calm. It doesn’t overreact or underreact…Anything that causes you to overreact or underreact can control you, and often does. Responding inappropriately to your e-mail, your staff, your projects, your unread magazines, your thoughts about what you need to do, your children, or your boss will lead to less effective results than you’d like. Most people give either more or less attention to things than they deserve, simply because they don’t operate with a “mind like water.– David Allen

What a great idea to aspire to. The ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ of life are both physically and emotionally draining, and in the end, they sap your energy and leave you feeling less capable of handling the issues on your plate. Now imagine if you could handle things that come along on an even keel. Like water.

All of this is easier said than done.  I have spent  much of my life being an inward-exploder. When ‘things’ happen,  my home life gets complicated, my work life gets stressful,  and everything that seemed normal yesterday is way too much to handle today.

So every day, I strive to be more like water. Imagine…If we could all learn to have a ‘mind like water’, think of how much calmer our personal lives and professional lives would be. Think of how much more energy we could devote to what really matters. And think of how happy and productive we could all be.

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In my class discussion last week, a thread was started about how our pets (cats, dogs, etc.) affect our lives, and specifically (in our case) the way we work or write.  I found it interesting to see how many writers have cats. I am one such writer. Many of you who read my blog know I used to have two little muses… recently, that number is down to one. But he is always there. And helpful, of course. Always helpful.

I find it curious that many great inventors, writers, and artists were cat lovers, including:

  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • Mark Twain
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Robert Heinlein

I even learned a new word for those of us with a propensity towards cats: we are Ailurophiles.

ai·lu·ro·phile

-noun
a person who likes cats; cat fancier.

So this all begs the question, what is it about cats? I find cats fascinating. They almost always seem content,  but they never seem to lose their affinity for exploration, sometimes sniffing the same corner of the room that they just checked out a moment ago. They can amuse themselves for hours with something as simple as a toy mouse or a piece of string, and yet, their sophistication knows no bounds when it comes to putting on a look that says “Duh. I knew that”.

Most importantly, my cat is trying to teach me the ability to settle with enough as enough. Jack does not have any inclination towards excess. He is content to explore the house, cuddle on a lap, or look out the window at the world around him. He doesn’t get bored and isn’t always looking for ‘the next thing’. He can just be. For hours. I admire that. As Jules Renard said “ the idea of calm exists in a sitting cat”.

Perhaps it is this trait which leads writers to have cats. I find the best inspiration for my writing come when I just sit and let it be. I look at the page onto which I’m going to compose, and just sit. And wait. And then… I write. When I need to force something, the quality is not the same. But when I can just let it be and let it come… it’s almost like magic.

So, does owning a cat make you a writer? Or if you are a writer, you must have  a cat? I would lean towards the second as I don’t believe it’s possible for us to ‘own’ cats…

“dogs have owners, cats have staff.” ~ Anonymous.

Anyone with a cat knows this to be true. But no matter. We can still have a propensity towards them.

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