This is a story about stones and rocks. We all have stories about stones and rocks, whether we're aware of it or not. Remember standing ankle deep in cold water trying, unsuccessfully, to make stones skip across the surface? Or what about the pet rock you had as a kid? Remember how you would carry it in your pocket, rubbing your thumb soothingly against its nubbly surface? Then there are those stones that are so special we wreathe them in gold so they may sparkle against our skin.
The stones and rocks in this story may not glitter quite as prettily as these, but they are still valuable in their own ways. Although humble, each offers us the chance to experience the world a little differently.
Let's start with the stones.
Some years ago, a woman called Satya Robyn discovered a secret. It was the sort of secret that you want to tell everybody about the moment you learn it. What Satya found is that through the simple act of paying conscious attention to at least one thing every day and writing a brief description of it, she began to appreciate the world both around and within her more. She calls these pieces of writing small stones and she encourages everybody to give them a try.
Small stones are simple and descriptive. They capture a moment in words. Here are three of Satya's small stones:
carrying the flame from candle to candle
trailing sketched echoes of light
upside down, my shirt waves its arms at the grass
a patch of blue
hemmed in by clouds
I could dive into it...
Finding your small stones
Small stones are a little like poetry, but they can be written in sentences too. There are no real rules about their form. Nor do you need to be a writer in order to make them. You just need to pay attention. For Satya, the moment of awareness matters more than its polished expression. She offers this advice for finding your own small stones:
1. Keep your eyes, nose, mouth, fingers, ears and your mind open.
2. Notice something.
3. Write it down.
It is really as easy as that.
You don't have to look far to find something worth noticing, and the more you practice, the more you will see. Like Satya, you might even find delight in the details you observe. In doing so, you may engage more joyfully with the world. You can begin building your own collection of small stones.
Now to the rocks.
Another woman who found another secret of the sort that needs to be told is Patti Digh. She shares her secret through a website called 37 Days. Patti named her website this because 37 days is the length of time her stepfather lived from the day he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The experience of caring for him until his death made Patti realise with face-slapping clarity how brief our lives really are. Since then, she has dedicated herself to writing her stories and to reminding us all to pay more attention to our lives.
Every day on her website, Patti places a daily rock. This is quite literally a picture of a rock. Yet each of these rocks has been carefully painted and carries a brief message. These messages encourage us to 'dance more', 'create surprise', 'turn the page' and 'get lost more often'. Sometimes they bear a single word: 'contribute', 'surrender', 'bend', 'explore'. These messages may seem simple, even simplistic. But they are also evocative. It's bit like what happens when you drop a rock into a pond. First there is a splash. Then the ripples start spilling.
Meditating on the message
Patti suggests that her readers take two minutes to ponder the daily rock message. That may sound easy, but it can be trickier than you think. For instance, what can be made of the phrase 'all is well' if you feel that all is not well in your world? The advice on another rock is to 'build a bridge'. But a bridge leading where, or to whom?
Like the small stones which invite conscious consideration of the situations we find ourselves in, these daily rocks prompt us to focus our attention on our thoughts and actions. They nudge us toward being more mindful and perhaps also more gentle. As the words on one rock advise, 'Be kind, be kind, be kind.'
Your own stones and rocks
It may be that the idea of writing a small stone or meditating on a rock message will not appeal to everybody. But each of these acts remind us that our lives are made up of ordinary moments. They hint that if we learn to respect and really experience such moments, they may become something more extraordinary.
Perhaps one way to think of these small stones and daily rocks is as a kind of stepping stone. Each may be, if only briefly, a place to rest your foot before you take the next step. Then the next. And the next. And the next, keeping your eyes and your mind always open.
Daily examples of small stones can be found on Satya's website 'a small stone', as well as on the 'handful of stones' e-zine. More information about writing small stones can be found at http://www.writingourwayhome.com/?page_id=26.
For daily rocks, visit Patti at http://www.37days.com/dailyrock.