Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder put together a program to help business artists plan for 2015 in an unusual way. Quest 2015 consists of a community of people and prompts that are sent out for people to respond to 12 times during the month of December. Part of the community building is through sharing blog posts, so I will be posting more frequently between now and the end of my reflections. After the 12 reflection posts, I’ll be back to my regular, irregular posting schedule.
The fourth prompt for reflection in Quest 2015 comes from Pam Houston.
Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask your self today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?
This question is the easiest of the prompts so far because it is a specific application of a practice that I have been doing for years, a practice that embraces many of the fundamental principles of InterPlay.
Notice, Notice, Notice: Pay attention to what is, with a particular emphasis on your embodied experience of the good things.
Inner Authority: Claim that knowing. What you experience in your body IS true for you. You are the only person who can speak to the truth of your experience.
Body Data, Body Knowledge, Body Wisdom: What you notice about your lived experience in a single moment is a unit of body data. When you collect data over time, you can see patterns and build up a catalog of body knowledge. And, with a library of body knowledge at your disposal, you can exercise body wisdom by making choices that serve your greater good.
In InterPlay, we often talk about body wisdom in relationship to making choices that serve our sense of grace, which we define as the physical experience that is the opposite of stress.
When Pam Houston is talking about heart leaps, I think she is suggesting a slightly more ambitious possibility for life design. She is not talking about ease and flow, two concepts closely related to grace. She is talking about that stretch us into awe and wonder. In many cases, these moments call us to grow in love and connection to the world and this growth is not always easy. In many cases, the things that make our hearts leap create a good kind of stress, eustress as opposed to distress.
For me, the things that make my heart leap are creative breakthroughs, deep connections with friends, laughter and smiles with my children, and the beauty of nature. I can cultivate opportunities for all of these. I can choose to take my free time to connect with people I already have deep relationships with. I can return to the page, editing my fiction, over and over again. I can be present with my children when I am in the room with them. And, I can make sure that my week has many walks in natural settings.
And, most importantly, I can keep noticing my experience and shift what I do if things no longer bring me grace or joy.
According to her bio, Pam Houston is the beloved author of four books including novel Contents May Have Shifted and the interconnected short stories Cowboys Are My Weakness. She is Professor of English at UC Davis, directs the literary nonprofit Writing By Writers, and teaches in The Pacific University low residency MFA program.