Light, Shade, and Play-dough

A blank page and a promise. It’s all I’ve got right now. Staring back at me, the blank page, and the promise I have yet to keep. 

I can simultaneously say I miss writing and that I would rather not have this pressure. What is it about this pursuit that is so fulfilling and yet so damning at the same time? I don’t feel this way about yoga, meditation, reading, or even working out. I’m not saying it’s always easy to convince myself of their value when I’d rather be in bed, but it’s a different struggle. 

And the fact that I can even associate the word struggle here makes me question my actual desire to do it. I know it feeds me once I let go, or dig in, or do whatever it is that gets me to the other side. But the longer I go without making it there, the food seems less necessary, perhaps inedible.. or possibly even poisonous. 

I know myself well enough to see through the layers of thick nonsense and hindering thoughts, my bullshit meter is highly effective at this point, so the idea of its unimportance slinks away like a defeated animal – or perhaps one who simply isn’t intruded upon. 

I’m pretty good at taking action in my life. Hell, I would say my entire life is a product of such actions. Struggling to act despite knowing better drives me nuts. And leaves me staring at blank pages – or more often than not – avoiding the page altogether. 

I’m on my second venture of escaping the reality of my Canadian environment – winter. It’s part of my ideal lifestyle and another example of the action I take. It’s amazingly healing to be here, even when there are no obvious wounds to tend to. I’ve grown a lot and felt a lot through my last few years on this planet. I notice a difference between myself this year and that of the girl here last year. It’s a kind of reality I could quickly dismiss, knowing it cannot always be, but it is for the moment. And if my will and determination have anything to do with it – it will continue to be so at least a month every year. I refuse the idea of seeing this as a vacation. I do not let thoughts of “real life” make this into something fake. I know in my bones that this is part of my way of life – and however temporary in the grand scheme, it is still a reality to soak up in its entirety. 

Light and shade. The concept we usually know of as good and bad, but milder and smoother to touch. I like this concept, the way of seeing everything for the positives and negatives, without taking much hold on those labels. Light and shade. Everything is both, nothing is simple. Acknowledging and accepting both sides of the tree is far better than joyous – it’s real. And real is beautiful when you let yourself watch. 

Even sunny paradise has its shade. Bug bites, cold showers, and empty beds. I struggled to hold this for awhile. I rejected the ideas of there being down sides to here, and when I wasn’t rejecting them I was convinced that their existence meant that this was the wrong choice. Even on the plane ride here I kept shutting out thoughts; convinced that if I leaned into how much I miss his embrace, I’d be left with no will to go where I was headed. 

We often try to calculate the light and shade to determine whether we are making the right choices. The pressure we put on ourselves to figure out the impossibilities of the future – the eventual total sum of light versus shade, and which one will overcome the other – and therefore which decision was right and wrong. We cannot know. And the idea that the calculation is even an accurate one is flawed, and keeps us counting. 

We need to go beyond. See the light and shade, and don’t keep score. The light and shade are not directives, they aren’t observed to be evaluated or labeled or tallied. They just are. It’s the simple matter of being. All things, all experiences, and people – light and shade. And the light and shade they emit changes. But there is always light and shade. It isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it simply is. 

I forgot how much easier it is to get words down typing versus scribbling (I cannot call what I do by hand writing). It allows for a flow, a space uninhibited by the judgment that lies between thought and pen on paper. Perhaps its why this feeds me more. 

I’ve been spending my time indulged in books since I arrived – having the space to go within the pages and within myself is a huge part of the reason this place is my paradise. To spark both, I read “the space within” by Michael Neill. It offers many insights into life and our human experience, so much so that I read it twice (and took notes). Highly recommend.

One idea that sticks with me is that Thought is pure creative potential, a creative energy (like play dough), and that our thoughts themselves are simply whatever is formed out of the play dough. We live in a world of thought, our reality is shaped by our thoughts, including our feelings (as our feelings are a reaction to our thoughts). The idea is that our thoughts are simply forms in play dough, that they are not “reality”, and that there is always more play dough ready and waiting to be formed into something new. 

I imagine being a kid, sitting at the table and watching as my Mom stirs the ingredients of her homemade play dough recipe. I wait as she kneads it into a massive blob, and then dumps it out onto the covered table before me. It smells of tartar and is still warm to the touch. A blob of infinite possibilities. 

I spend hours making different shapes and things, not worrying about the appearance of my creations. I create, then squish them and roll them back into nothing. Ready for their next form. 

As an adult, whenever the chance of playing with play dough arises (which it does in my profession), I stick to what I know – balls, snakes, and worms (which yes, are just snakes with a different name). I get caught up in my habitual thinking, even when it comes to judging my play dough skills. Getting caught up creating the same thoughts over and over looks a lot like a big pile of snakes, worms, and balls.

The infinite possibilities that used to be a given, are now very defined and limiting. So much so that even looking at a blob of untouched play dough still results in the same ideas coming to mind of which of my three things I will try to make first. I’m missing the whole point – the truth that play dough (much like the energy behind Thought) can be shaped into anything.

“Thought creates our world, and then says “I didn’t do it”” –

David Bohm

We don’t have to get caught up worrying about the forms that are created (our thoughts); they are no more powerful than the miss-shaped blob with ears I’m passing off as a dog. If our thoughts are simply creations, as innocent and harmless as shapes in play dough, it doesn’t matter if those thoughts are scary monsters or teddy bears. A thought about all the horrible things that could happen has no more power in it than a thought about ice cream.

It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been thinking a certain way; there’s always a fresh batch of play dough ready to be shaped into something new. Whereas unrecognized thought demands our attention and fills our consciousness; when we can see our thoughts as thoughts, we remember the infinite possibilities, and we can stop seeing our current thought-formed-reality as the only option. 

“We live in a world of thought, but we think we live in a world of external experience. The mind is not a camera, it is a projector.”

Michael Neill

I like the idea of playing with the play dough and seeing what I can create. I can see how this analogy could easily be taken as a call to try to control which thoughts get created, but that isn’t the point here. Yes, we can create certain thoughts, but thoughts also just happen, and trying to control which ones appear usually leads to an increase in the ones we don’t want. It’s like shrieking when a kid shows you their play dough snake, and then asking them to stop making them. Well, you can be assured there will be lots of rolling going on. Instead of wanting to have our hands in everything that gets created, we can play with the blob in our hands and not worry about what is happening with the rest. 

We can approach all our thoughts with a playfulness, knowing they aren’t to be taken seriously. It’s just a play dough snake, after-all.