Trusting the Tao

Trusting the Tao

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The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

From Steven Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching

The words above have been a very real, very practical lesson for me recently.

We’re getting ready for another great Adelaide Fringe, and I’m writing a new show with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues called Still Stuffed. Its a brand new show, with all new stand up comedy and songs, following on from the great success we had last year.

The songs are fine, they’re all written and being arranged right now. All new stand up – that’s another story. I don’t know how other writers operate but I cannot just sit at a computer and write funny – especially when the funny is for spoken delivery.

For me, that means it has to come from spoken origins. And its not a linear process either. Ideas, or phrases or sentences pop up, that generate further ideas that progress out from that original trigger like the ripples on a pond. The most important thing then is the idea, and the next important things are the words that convey that idea. The words can be swapped around like the idea trying on different outfits, but as long as the idea is intact and still inhabits my mind in its original form, there’s that leeway to play with. And then after a few days of musing (or weeks) it gets commited to screen via the keyboard. The words, if you’re not careful, have a way of pegging the idea down like the guy ropes of a flyaway tent. Done properly they neatly package and deliver the idea concisely, precisely and with punch. Done badly they bog it down and kill it. So you can see where I’m starting from.

So, all of this is to say that you cannot force the process. At the same time you have a deadline called ‘opening night’ looming ahead that tends to focus the mind and has the capacity to instill panic. So, what to do?

Me, I have learned to pick up my copy of the Tao Te Ching to remind myself to chill out and that all will be fine. That calms me enough to trust again that what I need will be delivered as long as I do my part in the process. And when I do, its a kind of self fulfilling prophecy, the ideas flow more freely, the mind is more open to receiving new ideas, not tense with panic, and things start to shake up in good time. And I have to say, things are coming together very nicely re the stand up, much better than I anticipated, actually. Adelaide Fringe 2012, I cannot wait for opening night!

If you’re in the vicinity you should pop down and see our show at The Maid, which also has some great comedy shows not featuring us. Our senior Stuffed Mum, Kehau, runs the venue with an aim to helping new comics put on their first Fringe shows without going into bankruptcy to do it. She and her husband Glynn work their butts off to make sure this happens so they deserve support for that alone, I reckon.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are please support your local artists, take part in your local culture and entertainment, and most of all, have fun!

Have a great week!

Maggie 🙂

NB: When looking for the correct stanzas to illustrate my point about trusting the flow in the writing process, I went to the internet version of the translation and blindly clicked on a chapter number. It turned out to be precisely the best chapter to describe what I was trying to say. Bravo Tao!

Looks Like a Bomb Hit it!

Hey all!
Holiday Monday here which means its busier than normal day. What with some work this morning, haircutting of son’s giant afro, quick catch up with pal and then what may be a long meeting with Adelaide Theatre Guide colleagues, the actually most exciting thing is the formal launch of my new website! I say my ‘new’ website – it’s also my only personal website.
We do have the Three Stuffed Mums website which is http://www.threestuffedmums.com and I have to say there are some exciting things shaping up for the Mums in 2012. And now there is my website at http://www.maggiewood.com.au which brings together all my skills for hire under the one ‘shopfront’.
Have a look and I’d welcome feedback and comments.
Rushing off now to tidy house that looks like a bomb hit it!
Have a great week!

Fire and Attitude

Hellooooo! I’m back in blogland! Its been a while but its been such a busy while that even if my body had been still enought to write then my mind wouldn’t have been.

Its been a whirl of overseas visitors, comedy, work, more comedy and good friends (like a venn diagram, a lot of these groups overlap into each other).

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany, a bit of an arse kicking (self administered) and I’m shaping up a bit sharper in a whole lot of ways than I was before. All is good.

First off, update on the nightmares. There have been no more. There was one dream post-blog and post lovely emails and phone calls from concerned loved ones.

In the dream I didn’t shout or rant or anything, I just quietly explained that that particular fear mechanism was no longer useful and it should take its leave. And it did. end of. Lovely. Thanks for all your messages on that, I really felt loved.

Next, doing Three Stuffed Mums got me back into standup and now I seem to have a voracious appetite for writing and performing again. Haud me back!Currently have gigs booked for May, June and July, either with the mums or solo, so going not too bad so far.

I’ve got a website being built and getting myself organised to be able to offer all of my out of office hours skills for market. More anon.

Then, we had a visit from the wonderful Brenda and Pip, extended family members who are out here on hols from UK. Had a great time taking them round the Adelaide Hills and to a comedy show. They loved both. Also got to see them a couple of times at family gatherings which was great – they’re fantastic company and I’ll miss them. They’ve now departed for some time in Melbourne before heading back to blighty.

One fantastic surprise was an email from a very old pal (not that she’s very old, but that we’ve known each other since forever) who informed me that she’d be in town in a few days, all the way from Scotland. We had two great days to catch up and talk incessantly. It was so brilliant. I hadn’t seen Roona in nearly 20 years (or it seems like that) but when we met in town it was like nothing had changed and we just picked up where we left off, filling in all the details of the time in between then and now.

Seeing her was another episode in a series I seem to be having now of meeting people who remind me of parts of myself I’d forgotten. I think its probably a symptom of moving countries and fitting into your new one, then dissolving a marriage, then losing my dad – all things that in their own ways severed connections with who I used to be and also those parts of me that lie in hibernation.

Seeing Roona and seeing my bestie Linda in the UK last year woke up parts of that, just like seeing the lovely Janey Godley here during Fringe and speaking with her recalled to me with such clarity the fantastic heritage we have as Glasgow women. Its a proud, strong heritage and I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered that part of me.

It also reminded me of all these great women I have in my life right now who aren’t afraid to speak up, wherever they’re from and the great respect I have for them – thinking here straight away of people like my cousin Kathleen who’s so strong and yet so full of compassion for the young people she works with, and her mum (who in some ways is my other mum) June.

Memories too of my mum Meg McGinty, who could be a fearsome opponent in full flight. I’ve seen taxi drivers, government officials and some of my cocky young male teachers tremble in her presence. I hope I’ve got even just a wee bit of that fire and attitude. Seems to me its the right recipe for growing old disgracefully.

Have a fantastic Easter!

M

An Intriguing Challenge

It’s been a massive week in some respects, not least in the realisation that I need to remember more frequently to count my blessings and that what I want is actually where I am.

It sounds simple but if you’ve spent the best part of your life trying to get to somewhere better, the autopilot kicks in and the impulse is to relentlessly move forward despite the terrain about you being your desired destination.

So, a new challenge for me – learn how to stop and enjoy what you’ve been striving for when you realise you got there – and its an intriguing challenge.

It seems to mirror my main philosophical/spiritual guide, the Tao Te Ching in its focus on the small, the familiar, and in the eyes of the world the very tame, aspects and issues of our lives to become our real teachers. And yet it isn’t small – the contrast between momentum and control, mirrored in the practice of tai chi is subtle, yet profound.

Swinging kinetic movement is fun and gives at least the appearance of change and progress. Small, controlled and smooth movement appears to be unchanging, too slow for our modern tastes, stasis. But in these small slow movements new universes unfold.

I observe the movement of my hand as it waves across my field of vision. Its slow smooth action allows me to see the wrinkles and lines in my skin, observe the muscles containing their movement to my will, the colour and pigmentation, lines of blood vessels, calloused and smooth spots.

And so it is with life. The slowing down is allowing me to observe in closer quarters the beauty, both temporal and spiritual, that I may have missed in all of my activity.

This slowing of the pace, I do believe I like it.

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In some ways connected with the above thoughts, this week I performed what I intend to be my last standup comedy gig. It was a spot to help entertain some of the 500 volunteers who provide such necessary services to people in the community where I work. It was a privilege to be there and a good one on which to step down.
Comedy has given a lot to me over the past eight years – not least some great friends – and taught me much. I don’t know what happens from here, just that it seems like the right time to close that particular door, so thankyou to everyone who’s helped me, performed with me, and come to see me. Its been a lot of fun.

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If you’re interested in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu there’s a great translation by Stephen Mitchell at:
http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html
Its my favourite translation and a copy of it sits on my desk at work for quick reference.

Have a great week, everyone!