“The moral to be drawn from my experiences seems to be, provided one has an aptitude along any given line, is to take up a hobby and follow it through life. A seemingly unimportant study sometimes brings unexpected results. … I have devoted almost my whole life to the study of a very small part of nature, to a part of it which few people ever give more than a moment’s consideration. Yet with that small part, my life has been made industrious.” -Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley
I came across the above quote in the documentary, Wilson Bentley: Snowflakes in Motion, about the life and work of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley. This reflection made an impression on me; however, I deleted it from my recent “Diversity, Tolerance, and Snowflakes” post after deciding to take it in a more “teacherly” direction. I want to return to it now because I haven’t been able to let it go. It is about the importance of hobbies and doing what you love.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated and completely immersed in a passion of some sort. For at least 12 years earlier in life, it was piano. For a while, it was exercise. Then hospice work. And attachment parenting. And teaching. Now it is photography. At this time, when the teaching profession is being attacked ruthlessly and altered to such an extent that it has become nearly unrecognizable, nature photography is a quest for beauty that gives renewed meaning to my life. I want to learn all I can about it! It is quite literally the lens through which I make sense of the world and experience the oneness and flow of life. It is how I transcend the gravity and absurdity to which no life is immune.
I am so inspired by people who follow their bliss and dive into their interests and passions. I notice how the lives of friends, relatives, and people I’ve never even met take on new meaning and depth when they discover and follow a passion. It can be anything: taking up an instrument, yoga, horseback riding, learning calligraphy, etc., etc., etc. It may or may not evolve into a means for generating income. Diving deeper into photography has without a doubt improved the quality of my life and enhanced my state of consciousness.
My husband is amused by how I cycle through creative preoccupations: being immersed, letting it go, returning. Each is like an old friend – even piano, which is my oldest friend and the one with whom I visit least frequently. However, on those rare occasions when I sit down and play, it is the most amazing feeling. It is like visiting a place where you once lived and where part of your soul remains. It is that way with origami, writing poetry, and painting, as well. They all fit together. And they are all forms in which I can completely lose myself, in a good way. In a sense of flow.
I remember my very first hospice patient, who had an origami crane hanging from a bar above her bed. She explained to me that origami was something she’d always wanted to learn to do but never did. A recent visitor had folded the crane for her, and she loved to look at it. Origami was something I had always wanted to do, too. Several years later, I remembered this conversation when I came across an origami instruction book during my first visit to a craft store and decided it was time to learn. And I’m so glad I did. It’s one less thing to regret not having done at the end of my life.
Next, I want to work on my calligraphy and learn to balance rocks. Seriously.
There is a young man from Boulder, Colorado named Michael Grab, whose gravity-defying work with stone balancing amazes and inspires me. From interviews I have read, it sounds like the seemingly insignificant practice of stone balancing is, for him, a portal to self-transcendence. In addition, it awakens his audience to possibilities they never would have imagined.
See for yourself in this incredible video (and prepare to be amazed):
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Although I am curious about the technical aspect and skills involved in balancing rocks, I am even more interested in his state of consciousness as he works. That’s where the juice is for me. He explains:
“Usually if I begin thinking about anything at the creek, it’ll be in terms of music rather than words. And then still deeper are the most intense pivotal moments of stone balance, or “ZERO POINTS,” where focus is 1000% and I can’t really begin to comprehend where my mind is, or what it’s doing… I LOVE this place of “no-mind” as Eckhart Tolle refers to because it is so mysteriously ecstatic AND unaware of time. Each balance is like a unique journey through a state of no-mind or stillness… There is no way to comprehensively explain the state of mind in words.” (Michael Grab)
This sounds a lot like meditation to me! I often describe origami as a “meditative art” because of what happens to my mind when I am doing it. Kayaking, too.
Amazing outcomes can arise when one is working “in the flow” – when the doer merges so completely with the work that the sense of self falls away. Or when the observer unites so fully with the object of observation that they are no longer separate; duality dissolves.
Follow the call of your soul, your passion, what lights you up. Whether or not it is a means for making a living, it very well could be a vehicle for bringing meaning to your life. Do what you feel called to do without concern for results. Immerse yourself fully in the process of doing what you love, and it might become a means for transcending the frustrations and challenges of life, the egoic self, or even the laws of physics as we think we understand them!
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