Focus on One Thing

I made some pretty bold moves this weekend, and I’m a lot better off this Sunday night than I was just 48 hours ago. It’s because of some advice that I received last week, on something totally unrelated to what I just discovered.

A little backstory here is necessary. Since the 2016 presidential election, I, like millions of others, have been pretty gripped with the polarizing politics here in the United States. It doesn’t matter what side you are on; it’s been emotionally draining for everyone. Relationships of all kinds have been strained, and I’ve acknowledged several times here and on social media how I have been overwhelmed by it all. It has affected my writing, my art, my love for music, my everything. I’ve been passionate about fighting for what I believe is right, and as a result, so much around me has suffered.

Fast forward to last week, when I turned in my article to my Catholic Review editor. After he had a chance to read it, we had a phone conference about the story. His bottom line: Focus on one thing, and then write about that one thing.

Let me repeat that:

Focus on one thing.

In the context of writing, it is a fairly rigid rule to keep it simple and be direct. It’s good advice that I’ve heard, and shared, over the years. My editor was spot on.

So fast forward five days, and here I am, still struggling with fluctuating polls, vitriolic tweets, hypocritical rants from all sides, and paralyzing gridlock in my newsfeed. I texted a friend of mine that I had lost my love for reading, for listening to music, for going on photo shoots. It was as if I had picked up a handful of crayons and had scribbled relentlessly through my thoughts, scrambling any coherent idea or passion that was possible.

No passion. No focus.

Then, for whatever reason, my editor’s words popped into my head: Focus on one thing.

It would be easy for me to apply this advice by ridding my life of the distractions that are keeping me from my art. Delete the politics, and the focus returns. That would certainly work, at least in the short term.

But when I meditated on my editor’s advice, I realized something a little deeper.

If I focus my energy on my own gifts, and how I can make a change in this world through deliberate acts, then I will no longer be paralyzed by the things I cannot control.

I immediately thought of my mentors, including my patron saint Francis de Sales, and Mother Theresa, Ghandi, and Thich Nhat Hanh. While each of them might have been political, all of them were driven by their gifts of benevolence, peace, and charity. They looked for the common ground and not the things that divide us.

In other words, it’s not enough to delete the politics from our lives. I’m actually suggesting just the opposite. We need to, first and foremost, focus on the one thing that we are best at when it comes to making our communities healthy. Once we do that, everything else will take care of itself.

For me, these acts are done for – and through – God. And if I can offer contributions to my community that improve its overall health and wellness, then we are shielded from the things that are tearing others apart. In fact, it diminishes that contentious hold on us and begins to return us to a higher ground of respect toward all.

So as we navigate our energies through these turbulent times, focus on that one thing that you do well for others, and don’t worry so much about the things you can’t control. I believe that if more of us contribute kindness to others in our own communities, we will begin to feel a shift in our country’s larger energy for the values we believe are essential, not only for today but for our children’s future.

Our actions today are developing their focus for tomorrow; let’s make sure they focus on one thing: benevolence toward all.


Feeling Homeward Bound

homeward lighthouseDid you ever get the feeling that you are living in a foreign place, or trying to live in a place that is not, well, natural for you? Do you ever feel like there are deeper roots in your soul that are not exactly grounded in where you reside presently?

I’m not talking about feeling like life is offering you more, or you are “stuck” in a place that is keeping you from greater things. That’s a different feeling entirely.

I’m talking more about the deeper sense of place that seems to resonate from within, an inexplicable tug or pull whenever you read about, or visit, a location that might have little — if anything at all — to do with your life now or at any time in the past.

Lately, as is the case most every autumn, I have felt that inexplicable pull.

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound.
Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me….

This is not a leave-your-family calling. I don’t need to sell all of my both material possessions and join a tree cult in some mountain range. It is merely a recognition of a presence, a bond with a place that I know nothing about in this lifetime.

As well, I know that this place isn’t probably the first place that’s at the origin of this soul; it’s just the one that I can most immediately identify with.

I know that even writing about such things can be considered a little taboo to some.

Is he talking about reincarnation? Alternate lives? Time travel?

I think I am talking about all of these things and the possibilities that, when the mind is completely open, seem almost ridiculous to ignore.

It’s like all of this is some kind of game, some charade for something that higher powers are being ever-patient in waiting for us to discover how eternal our souls really are.

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
I’ll play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me
In shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony

I need someone to comfort me….

I remember hearing the story about Bridey Murphy. In 1952, Virginia Tighe, through hypnotic regression, chronicled a life in the 1800’s as an 8-year-old child living in Cork, Ireland. Although the story is now largely accepted as something The University of Melbourne’s Malcolm Macmillan called cryptomnesia in his published analysis: “…an imaginative reconstruction based on her contact with Bridie Murphy Corkell [a childhood neighbor in Chicago, IL] and other sources, aided and abetted by the suggestive context of hypnosis,” I cannot help but think — even feel — that there is some place deeper we can each call home, a place we yearn for with little to no understanding.

Yogic studies suggest that such a place is reachable through the two stages of isvara, a surrendering of the individual to the universe. With the mindful and consistent practice of dhyana, or meditation, one may eventually reach samadhi, a “union with the object of meditation.”

This is known as coming home.

I have not mastered the practice of meditation to reach such a state. Even with a disciplined practice of 20 or 30 years, I don’t know if I will ever experience the full joy of “coming home.”

Still, I cannot deny my inner feeling that I am homeward bound to some inexplicable place.

Call it reincarnation, call it woo-woo mumbo jumbo, call it some high-wave alternate-world shit. I don’t really care.

I call that inexplicable place home. Querencia. My wanting-place. And I will keep the channels open in the off-chance that some day, during an especially magical practice of dhyana, I reach samadhi.

And in that precise moment, I will, indeed, finally be in union with my eternal home.