Do I live in process?

Anne Wilson Schaef talks about living in process in a number of her daily meditations. She has extended her meditational thoughts into a book with the same title. 

“It is the way of doing, not what is done. It is the tone of voice, not what is said. It is living life in three dimensions, from the inside, instead of trying to control it from the outside. It is a living, moving, evolving energy … a shift in our perception of reality … the interconnectedness of all things in the nonlinear motion of the universe. It is deeper than thought, more concrete than concept, more fluid than facts”.

Amazon UK blurb for “Living in Process: Basic Truths for Living the Path of the Soul”

I’ve read other people talk about life as process too (for example Julia Cameron). It is a way of doing, not what is done … If you know anything about me, you will know this got me thinking, do I live in process? Do I have a way of doing?

Schaef talks of being in tune with events as they unfold in a universe that is always changing; being open to all that life has to offer; encountering life as it happens rather than attempting to control it and keep it static. She mentions that by participating fully in the process of our lives, just by living, we can cultivate conscious creativity. Knowing that creativity is an important part of my own life and routines, I reflected on the process of my own creativity. Is it conscious?

It used to be unconscious but it’s not that way anymore. I’ve been examining my photography style, voice, and processes for a while now and obviously, I’ve written about process before in connection with my photography and art practices. For me, it’s the process that counts, not the result. Part of the process is about losing myself in the moment and slowing life down; to remind myself that I’m not here to produce fine art or art with a capital “A” but to pay attention to my relationship with myself, my art and my creativity. More recently, as I’ve engaged in the process of sending out weekly newsletters to a mailing list, I’ve had to take a step back and examine my writing process, so that I can share it with others. A book doesn’t just write itself. So, I am already paying attention to the process from a creative perspective. 

I come back to my initial question about if I live in the process. Is it just another way to talk about being present, living in the now, rather than living for the end result, whatever that may be? In a presentation at the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, Taplow Manor in July 2010English author, Gay Watson said that in Buddhism the focus is on process and the use of attention to “reveal the construction of our worlds and our selves” which is fairly uncommon in our Western culture where we tend to focus more on doing and the end result. Living in the process is about participating and engaging with the smaller moments that make up a life. Anne Lamott calls this living “stitch by stitch” and urges us to look beyond the big picture so we don’t miss the stitching, even if that stitching is crude and working itself loose. 

How to stay focused on the stitches of my life?

I must remember that I already have my daily routines and practices to keep me focused on the stitches of my life and anchored in the present. I write my Morning Pages, take a daily photograph for Instagram, do something from my “Feel Good List”, a list that reflects the small things that I do often that bring me joy, make me feel better when I need an energy boost or to find some balance in the hectic pace of life. I even have an A to Z version that I wrote as a blog post a while ago. 

Living life as art

These practices support my body, mind and spirit. 

I look at this as living my life as art. Each day must have some element of creation and inspiration in it, that have personal meaning for me. That means making creativity into a daily habit in every aspect of my life. Not just in the “big” things for me which I consider creative like writing and taking photos, but in the small things: in how I dress, in how I cook, lay the table, decorate my home, arrange flowers, in my handwriting, the way I present a blog post, in the words I choose when I’m communicating with others. Using my voice to express myself in all these varied ways. And the only way to do this is to pay attention to my days – to make the minutes, hours and days count for something – to witness my life. 

Some of these practices I have been doing for years, some are more recent additions to my routines. All these things add to the richness of my life that until recently I was not aware of.

I. Was. Not. Aware. I was wishing my life away for an intangible tomorrow, always chasing the result, the product, when all along I already had some tools and principles that could help me to live in process. Over the last year or so, I have become much more aware of each moment than I used to be. Mind you, there’s still tonnes of room for improvement – 30 years of living in the future don’t just fall away that easily.

I used to live for the big picture, whereas now I try my best to pay attention to the stitches that make up the tapestry of my life. In exercising my choices, I’m more careful about selecting the threads that add colour and vibrancy. I think I understand what it means to live in process – for now.

However, I have not yet read Schaef’s book. I have it downloaded on my Kindle. I’m sure I will have more insights once I’m finished!

Have you read any of Schaef’s work?
Is this something that interests you or not?

Books referred to in this post:

  • The Artists Way – Julia Cameron
  • Meditations for women who do too much – Anne Wilson Schaef
  • Living in Process: Basic Truths for Living the Path of the Soul – Anne Wilson Schaef

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