There Are No Machines in the Lost-Forest; If You Become a Machine, Read Self-Manual

It’s late. My feet hurt from standing for hours in the shop. I have wanted to write another entry since my last one, but time seems to be at once abundant and shrinking. Time is suspended in the Zen shop. The music repeats mantras or other such relaxing music; the incense sends me to a state of suspension almost, crawling on a ground somewhere vibrant and giving. But I stand, or glide, or walk for hours at a time and when I get home, I’m somehow drained.

I look around my room when I get home, keep myself consciously away from the computer (as the time-death-trap of the interwebs lies within) and grope book after book, trying to decide which one I’ll lick in the bath, albeit briefly. There are other obligations to attend to, and then my meditation. But to be honest, all I want to do is read and write. And I can’t.

As I was meditating before my bath, I kept finding myself resisting stillness. I wanted to do something. Always do something. But I was also very aware that, in fact, I had been “doing things all day” in a state of automatic control. In this way, I’ve been lost. Attending to costumers, yes, but in a sort of daze, as I imagine any job might induce.

So, I fought the urge to “do” and tried to just be still. Breathed.

Suddenly, a piece of Shannon came into view, then another, and another, until an almost-full-image rested in front of my nose. Not yet. she wasn’t there quite yet, but there’s hope.

Can you help me pick out a statue for my husband? One woman asked me today.

Sure, I said. What are you looking for?

Something for good luck. Something to make him feel protected. He’s in a coma.

Oh, I said. Well, here are our “Good Luck” statues.

To feel protected. I kept thinking about that after she left. I thought about how, so often, I spend most of my waking moments “in a coma”–just wandering around, attending to fleeting thoughts and never paying attention.

And in the non-attention, it seems interesting, and fitting, she would thing of asking for protection. When we are not on our guard, when we are vulnerable, we need a sort of protection, right?

So, if our coma is simply the day-in-day-out haze, what exactly could we need protection from? Maybe our own being-lost. Maybe the thoughts which can creep in while we are in a haze, not awake.

When I think of someone in a coma, I see people surrounding them. Doctors, nurses, from time to time, but also loved ones.

Tonight, as I sat in the quiet and tried to get back into my body, I had the image of my Other self, sitting there next to me, waiting. Or maybe watching. Or perhaps just going about her business while I struggled to find my way home.

When a writer can’t write, people always say, Oh, but you’re writing in your head all the time, even though you might not know it! I hear this all the time. That, and: Oh, but you need time to gather. You have to refill the well, etc. And, most writers (or artists or creative people of any genre) will usually feel this is a small consolation. As people who thrive on creating, it’s hard to feel through the times we are not-creating, and trust that the flow will come back.

And the same panic sets in for me when I feel like I’ve lived the majority of the day in a sort of haze. You know, the thoughts: Where has the day gone? Or the week, or month for that matter?!

But as I was sitting still tonight, the image of the Other me in the corner came to mind, and I thought “I hope she’s writing something.” And then I immediately thought, No, that’s so very wrong.

Because our Higher Selves, our spirit, or whatever you would like to call it, is not interested in how much we produce, or how often we get the job done. They are concerned with protecting us. With loving us. With waiting for us to wake up. Smile. Feel powerful again.

I’ve been reading this over and over again the last couple days, from Aldous Huxley:

“Here we may remark in passing that mechanization is incompatible with inspiration. The artisan could do and often did do a thoroughly bad job. But if he cared for his art and was ready to make himself docile to inspiration, he could and sometimes did do a job so good that it seemed ‘as though of supernatural execution.'”

He goes on to say the advantages of mechanization is that every gain is full-proof, but that every gain has to be paid for.

For some reason, when I read that particular line, I thought to myself, Oh, I know what that means! I thought back on a time when I would do ANYTHING just to have an end product, a good poem. I’d deny myself sunshine, walks, relaxation, anything, in order to “keep working.” But this does nothing to help, in the end. It’s with anything in life, really. If we focus on one thing, and one end product, we become, in a way, as if in a coma, with blinders on, oblivious to not only the world around us, but our own Self.

Protection, she said.

Mostly from ourselves.

How often do we take a step back and allow ourselves to relax, to observe, to enjoy and celebrate?

It’s like we’re so caught up in getting to the end-point, real or imagined, or so caught up in BEING LOST (as we perceive it) that we are running around like mad, full of anxiety and worry that we forget to stop. Breathe. Love. Look around.

So how do we wake up from our comas? How do we get back to stillness, to being kind to ourselves? To not just wanting the end product, expecting our minds, bodies, to act like machines?

Do you think the loved one of someone in a coma cares about whether work at the office is getting done?

Do you think our Higher Selves care about our petty projects?

Well, people often pray or meditate or do other various activities like taking a long walk. And these are all wonderful. Sometimes, I like to write to myself, AS THOUGH I am already my highest potential self. Or maybe a mother figure to myself, I don’t know. But here’s something I wrote last night:


Be proud of yourself, but humble, knowing it’s all given to you, not earned. Be happy and grateful. Know you are loved and cherished. Accept grace, and let the light in to comfort you. Be kind to yourself. Appreciate the day and all your dreams, which lay dormant in you, waiting for the sun to awaken the soil–but don’t rush the harvest. Take care to walk steady, sleep soundly, speak slowly. Be the oak in your own garden. Let your mind be free of any chains of discontent or worry. And if they sink into the garden, be gracious, pick the worms up gently, let them be worms, but send them on their way. Don’t hoard them under any stones. Their home is not permanent–though they may till your soil–and let them–they will and should when you ask–be kind but diligent. Know your worth. Ask orange trees to grow, and other joys. Be still, but let dance be a table on which your heart celebrates. Know–in every moment, the highest you is shining, always–honor her!

So, I guess in a way, this is my protection, or loved one, higher self, speaking to me. Some people find this in a lover or their parents, and it is all gathered from our fellow friends and people we care about, but I believe we have it inside of us, as well.

I think my next blog will expand on the idea of being gracious or kind to our worms–our worries, fears, anxieties. Like they say in the guidebooks–fear is a useful tool when used well, especially when lost in the woods. But it can also turn into our own worst enemy. And the lost-forest is beautiful, really, and there’s nothing to fear. We don’t want to create any enemies in such an isolated place–notably, our minds.

I hope something is useful in here for you, that perhaps there’s a bit of red string to place in your bag as you wander your lost-forest. Red string is very handy for marking one’s place as well as reminding others that there’s another along the path. But there’s no end-point for any of us, so dance!

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2 Responses to There Are No Machines in the Lost-Forest; If You Become a Machine, Read Self-Manual

  1. Pingback: My Chapbook: MANAQUEST « Little Wordlings

  2. Floyd says:

    As always, Shannon, you leave me stunned. . .what a great thing to wake up to this morning. . .I know writing this had to be time consuming. . .but, as you are well aware, you are finding timeless truths in your writing. . .and self-therapy I have never once felt cheated reading any of your writing. And that, my friend, is the highest compliment I can pay a writer. Write on!


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