What am I here for? How do I experience true happiness? Will I ever feel content?
These are well-worn questions for me, and I know I’m not alone with this uncomfortable existential itch. It’s what sells self-help or spirituality books, it’s what motivates me to learn something new, it’s why I get so disappointed with myself when a day flies by and I’m unable to say much happened.
Whenever I begin to go down this dark, seemingly unending hole of questioning and existential angst, I remind myself of a memorable time I experienced contentment. In 2012, I was on disability leave because of a major bicycle accident that left me in pain, fully dependent on others, and dealing with the anxiety of medical bills. Yet, I was also strangely content. After the surgeries were complete and I was off my pain medications, I had a month of regaining my strength by slowly walking to and from physical therapy. I couldn’t move through the streets of San Francisco at my usual LA-driver-turned-walker speed, my atrophied muscles forced me to move slowly. And it was one of the happiest times of my adult life. I was truly present to life around me, able to be grateful for the daily details, and not overwhelmed by the rest. I had space to process and react, not perfectly, but at least not from my name brand anxious state.
And then I went back to work, and slowly I got back to my distracted and anxious speed.
I had (and continue to fall for) this belief that doing a lot gives life satisfying meaning. That my questions or discontentment can be solved with “more”: work, social time, or side projects. I can book a week full of socializing, clients, and projects and not make space for my own spiritual practice of being present and available for the unexpected. And at some point, I get so exhausted that, instead of presence, I numb out on things that ultimately don’t reinvigorate me.
When I brought this cycle to my spiritual director years ago, she encouraged me to cultivate “steady magic”.
Steady magic. Exactly what it sounds like: Steady + Magic. Balancing a grounded rhythm, regularity, framework alongside a big spacious sense of mystery, possibility, and the unknown. Embodying this looks different from person to person, but this is the curiosity I want to explore in this newsletter. What does steady magic look like in the daily details of life? When is it super boring and part of being responsible and when does it get to run wild in a field?
It’s a loose theme, but I like the spaciousness of it.
This monthly newsletter will often contain a reflection, a suggested practice where no money is needed in order to do it, personalized Enneagram prompts, and a short list of recommended articles. Or at least, that’s what I think this will be. Leaving room for the magic.
Suggested Practice: Mantra Desktop Background
What bit of wisdom do you want to hold onto this month? Boil it down to a short phrase or sentence. Mine is Mary Oliver’s (by way of Melissa Graeber) “Things take the time they take”. What’s something visual that will remind you of your mantra? Mine is plants, specifically my impatience with them.
So I went to Unsplash (free images), found an image of plants, downloaded and then uploaded in Canva, and made this simple graphic in Canva (created in Canva’s free mode, using one of the templates the program offers), and set it as my desktop background (see above).
Now this wisdom is there when I open my laptop to write or work: a gentle, beautiful reminder (in word and image) of the way I want to grow.
For this first round I’m repurposing the Enneagram practices paired with songs and snacks that I created for my guest appearance on Astral Projection Radio Hour on BFF.fm, which you can listen to here. The show usually offers Snack-o-scopes, horoscopes with songs and snack pairings, so I did my version, called Snack-o-grams.
Since the New Year’s Day release of her Netflix show, everyone has a hot take on Marie Kondo and her method. While some of the critiques around affluence and minimalism are fair (my sheets do not spark joy but bedding is not cheap!), the method did help me downsize in 2016 when moving from an apartment to a small studio and I appreciate its spiritual undertones (ex: when she tells Stephen Colbert her work addresses the “clutter in our hearts”, the method’s Shinto roots, etc.).
Now the online conversation has turned to tidying up the digital life, here are a few articles I found interesting: Marie Kondo tries to get my digital life in order, How to Do a Data ‘Cleanse’, and this fun Kondo-inspired way to tidy up who you follow on Twitter called Tokimeki Unfollow.
Like this newsletter thing? Thank Melissa Graeber, my writing coach who suggested this to me. You can read her seasonal newsletter here. And I gathered a lot of inspiration from my favorite weekly newsletter: the collected ahp.
If you think of someone who would enjoy this monthly email, please forward it their way. You can subscribe to Steady Magic here. Have feedback? Simply reply to this email! Happy sleepy Sunday.