Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Autonomy. I'm embarrassed to say that "autonomy" is a word that I recognize, but always forget the meaning of. Why is that? Why is the word "autonomy" such a slippery little fish in my mental vocabulary? It's not even that difficult of a word and, well, having an English degree under my belt I often feel obligated to know the meaning of most words under four syllables (ha!)--and so it probably isn't very surprising that next to this week's chapter heading I wrote a note to myself in the margin saying: "Look up this word!"

Just in case there's anyone else out there sharing a similar mental glitch over the word "autonomy," I thought I would share this little bit o' knowledge:

au·ton·o·my {noun}

1.independence or freedom, as of the will or one's actions: the autonomy of the individual.
2.the condition of being autonomous; self-government, or the right of self-government; independence: The rebels demanded autonomy from Spain.
3.a self-governing community.

Or my favorite definition from Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary:
  1. the quality or state of being independent, free, and self-directing
  2. independence from the organism as a whole in the capacity of a part for growth, reactivity, or responsiveness
1623, from Gk. autonomia, noun of quality from autonomos "independent, living by one's own laws," from auto- "self" (comb. form) + nomos "custom, law." Autonomous is recorded from 1800 (from

It's one thing to know the definition of autonomy--but it's another thing entirely, to understand it.

In many ways, Week 5 is about finding our "true north." What are we grateful for? What do we love most? Julia writes that "freedom is disorienting" and that "so much of being sane and happy begins with the doing of things that are sane and happy" (133). Knowing what we are grateful for is what helps us keep our lives in perspective. Knowing what we love, and seeking those things out, can often be the antidote to an otherwise fuglie day. Doing this week's Divining Rods, I have begun to notice that gratitude and love are often made up of the same things and that getting out of the crumb-dumbs often requires little more than partaking in a loving action towards one's self. Why is that sometimes so hard to remember?

For me, going back to the basics means putting on comfortable clothes, taking my wolfie for a walk, and then sitting down with a good cup of coffee and getting to work. But it also means giving my fears a rest and offering myself a chance to just breath (this is the part I am still working on). I feel best when I am writing or creating something that, in some way, authenticates my true and autonomous Self. However, sitting down to write or taking time to paint is only part of it. My whole day (my entire existence) is made up of small actions--each leading up to the next.

One small action that I've started to take towards a more autonomous Self is stopping to do nothing. This is a very hard thing for me to do, but it is something that is having a profoundly positive impact on my attitude and perspective. Every day I walk out in the woods with my dog. It has become a habit. But, recently, I have started to include the habit of stopping to sit on a bench, a bridge, a log, a swing set...and do nothing but quietly observe and breathe. My dog doesn't know what to make of this non-action, but eventually she settles in next to me and we content ourselves with watching the antics of a squirrel or the passing of a cloud. Sometimes I sit there for 10 minutes, sometimes only for 1 or 2 or 3. But, for me, the length of time doesn't matter so much as the act of doing nothing--even if only for a moment.

In Week 5, Julia Cameron includes a quote by The Talmud:
"We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are."

For some reason, these words speak deeply to me. In the end, how I experience the world is largely up to me. In "Focusing on the Positive," Cameron writes that, for her, God lives in the tapping of her typewriter keys or in stacks of snowy white paper or cleaning supplies or the joyous leaps of a young dog. She writes, "God lives in the details, the concrete, the knowable facts of your life" (130). If "God" is a difficult word for you, consider substituting with whatever word does work for you. My point is that uncovering a sense of autonomy means to find ways of locating a sense of independence, enjoying a heightened level of artistic freedom, and benefiting from self-directed growth. I think it's safe to say that becoming autonomous is a process.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said:
"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

Things I've been thinking about this week:
  • What brings you peace?
  • Where does God live for you?
  • What do you love?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • How do you escape the dull-drum fuglies?
  • What part of your life and yourSelf could use a little more compassion?
  • Where does your "true North" point to?

What is your definition of autonomy?

Feel free to share your thoughts.

Peace and happiness to you on this (yes, for real!) SPRING day,


martha said...

Hi Jessie!
You always have so much to say! My life has been a long search for that quiet moment. And alos trying to find comfort in my singularity. Such as it is hahah, surrounded by kids and cats and husbands!! I am so blessed tho to be able to live the way I do, amonsgt people who love me. And allow me to be alone when I need to be alone.Thanks for being there/here!

Leah said...

What brings you peace? Moving water, like a river or ocean. My cats purring or sleeping. Walks in the woods.

Where does God live for you? In quiet moments, while playing in dirt, in the forest.

What do you love? Being alive, animals, laughter, creating, friends and family, books, paper.

What are you grateful for? So much! My health, my loved ones, blogging, art, life, inspiration, beauty every where.

How do you escape the dull-drum fuglies? Bah, I can't always escape them, but a change of scenery often helps, a long walk, playing with art with nothing in mind, funny t.v. shows.

What part of your life and yourSelf could use a little more compassion? Getting started in my new career.

Where does your "true North" point to? creating art

What is your definition of autonomy? Being self-sufficient, able to be alone, able to entertain myself, being independent.

Olivia said...

What a rich post! I like your idea of reading the chapter at the beginning of the week and then doing the Divining Rods throughout the week---I'm going to start doing that.

What is your definition of autonomy? Knowing my truth and being able to stand in it.

What brings you peace?Being alone, being in Hawaii, reading, writing, creating, looking up at the tall trees in the forest and hearing them move.

Where does God live for you? Somewhere inside of me and in my brother (as in, everyone is my brother).

What do you love? Being alone, being in Hawaii, reading, writing, creating, looking up at the tall trees in the forest and hearing them move---all the things that bring me peace---PLUS labyrinths, good food and wine, good movies, good friends and family, my husband, my house, and books.

What are you grateful for? So much! Spirit, all the things that bring me peace, all the things I love. I'd like to learn to be grateful for everything, as I do believe that everything is a benevolent life lesson, but I'm not there yet :)

How do you escape the dull-drum fuglies? Usually getting extra sleep or being alone. Menopausal hormones. But honestly, I usually can't escape them, so I just weather them. This too shall pass.

What part of your life and your Self could use a little more compassion? Impatience, still trying to do things perfectly, although technically I'm a "recovering perfectionist". I keep falling off the wagon. I'd like to be kinder and gentler to myself.

Where does your "true North" point to?Spirit, Hawaii, writing.

Great exercise!

Elizabeth said...

A fantastic post Jessie and so bang on cue! I am going to consider, re-read it, consider some more and then get back to you. Brilliant girl! e

acumamakiki said...

Thank you for this lovely exercise - i plan to answer these questions these weekends, all good ones. That quote from the Talmud? I've used it for my self portrait next week, it's a beautiful one.

tammy vitale said...

The post is so much better than what I'm getting for the book, I'm tempted to toss the book and work through the posts. Starting with this one. Lovely. Perfect. Thought-provoking.

Thank you!

Riggwelter said...

I so agree about the Talmud quote, the one thing I remind myself every day regarding the children is to try and see thing from their point of view instead and it often works.

a fantastic post Jessie...

autonomy? uhh...independance and to have direction,

Mousie said...

I've been reading and reading your pages and all the other blogs...I started working on Finding water, may I join your group?if it's not too late...I already started talking about it in my "village"...hope you don't mind...
see you I'll come back...
my blog is called "Plumpiemousie"

Mousie said...

I hadn't read all the post March 13 saying you close your list..(a bit difficult sometimes to follow all that beautiful English language!!!)quite understand here I go starting week 2, I'll come back to visit you all, that's quite nice,
have a nice week-end ladies!
Mousie from France

Anonymous said...

I arrived here through Kelly's/Kiki's post. Hope I am not intruding.
Autonomy: being separate from...fully independent...not dependent on anyone or anything else for my being/happiness/existance. Whole within my SELF.An autonomous being.

Jessie said...

hi anonymous and mousie and anyone else who has stopped by for a visit! i just wanted to let you know that anyone is welcome to leave comments and be a part of Finding Water. as posted several days ago, we won't be adding more people to the blogroll, but please know that you are very WELCOME here! :)


gel(emerald eyes) said...

Marvelous post, Jessie.
Inspired by Cameron, I've also been actively working on "doing nothing" more often. It's hard, for me, too. Good for you, to use your daily walk w/Wolfie as a reminder to just be, to do nothing.

Bohemian Mom said...

Fabulous post!
Here's my definition of autonomy!

marie said...

What brings peace? the outdoors, the sun, and a sanctuary that always involves water, especially rivers

God lives in my heart if I but sit still and listen

My loves: my children, my dearest husband in every way, life!, people, music and books

Grateful for: God blessing me in so many ways.

Escaping the fuglies: By going outside for walks by myself or getting up early in the morning and writing; reading a good book or being creative.

What part of your life deserves compassion? my clutter, because it drives me crazy... I appear unorganized, but mostly I’m confused and scared.

My true north...being myself at all times

Autonomy? knowing who I am and acting on that even when it goes against the "norm."

Laura said...

I took the moment to reread our entry on week 5 and I have to comment about the woods and the moments of nothingness. They are the best for me. It puts me in the now of the day, listening to the birds and then closing my eyes and allow the whole of my senses to kick in. to the power of not doing for brief moments. be well enjoy. And to gratitude, I have to say it came a time for me that was re newing and full filling. Thanks for your entries.

Laura said...

Thanks Jessie for the defintion of the word antonomy. I posted that on my blog, small portion that is. Because I feel that is what I'm feeling because of this week 5.
thanks sweetie!

Anonymous said...

we offer world of warcraft gold and flyff power leveling and archlord money and 2moons power leveling or2moons dil go world of warcraft power leveling to cheap aoc gold what world of warcraft gold come hear cd keys go toSro Gold or archlord money and archlord power leveling

Costa Rica Cheap Land for Sale said...

These articles are fantastic; the information you show us is interesting for everybody and is really good written. It’s just great!! Do you want to know something more? Read it...: Great investment opportunity in Costa Rica

Pierce said...

viagra online
buy viagra
generic viagra

lots in Costa Rica said...

Hello I want to congratulate to them by its site of the Web of the excellent looks like entertained and very good very to me it elaborated. I invite them to that they explore a little on my Web site. Lots in Costa Rica Costa Rica Cheap Land for Sale