Something Good

Horsetooth Reservoir, image by Eric

Horsetooth Reservoir, image by Eric

1. Wisdom from Saint Thomas, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (Thanks to Gemma Stone for sharing).

2. Good stuff on Upworthy: A Baby Survives A Situation That Could Have Killed Any Of Us. Now They Call Him ‘Miracle Baby.’ and This Kid’s Scary Personification Of Depression Gives Me Chills.

3. Good stuff from Buzzfeed: This Artist Turns Her 2-Year-Old’s Doodles Into Gorgeous Paintings, and 21 Women Remember Their First Periods…For Better Or For Worse, and If Andy Dwyer Quotes Were Motivational Posters, and If Nick Miller Quotes Were Motivational Posters.

4. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook: Love your neighbor and How not to be overwhelmed.

5. 24 Signs That Life is Amazingly Awesome (Even When It Doesn’t Feel That Way). (Thanks for sharing, Sandi).

6. Anne Lamott on Facebook, “Life or life: This strange situation we find ourselves in, with no clear answers or meaning — well, you know, I mean besides love, or Love; taking care of the poor; and being amazed by beauty.”

7. The 7 Lies That Keep Us From Success from Jonathan Fields.

8. One of my favorite quotes, from Thich Nhat Hanh: “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free.”

9. 23 ways to relax when you’re stressed from Positively Present.

10. Wisdom from Hafiz:

Ever since happiness heard your name,
it has been running through the streets
trying to find you.

11. More wisdom from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Our practice is to find our true home. When we breathe, we breathe in such a way that we can find our true home. When we make a step, we make a step in such a way that we touch our true home with our feet.

12. Good stuff on Bored Panda: 17 Of The Most Unusual Beaches Around The World, and Mesmerizing Paper Art Made From Strips Of Colored Paper by Yulia Brodskaya, and These People Turned Log Piling Into An Art Form.

13. Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili recipe.

14. Anahata Katkin’s Flickr Photostream.

15. The Creamy Kung Foo of Writing True Stories from Laurie Wagner.

16. Why I Think This World Should End from Prince Ea.

16. New Backlit Paper Sculptures by Hari & Deepti on Colossal.

17. Then and now photos: Colorado flood recovery one year later from Colorado Public Radio.

18. You Cannot Hate Yourself Into Change from Jo Anna Rothman.

19. Wisdom from the poet Stonehouse:

I meditate alone in the quiet and dark
where nothing comes to mind
I sweep the steps when the west wind is done
I make a path for the moonlight

20. 5 Questions to Instantly Transform Your Family Relationships from MindValley Academy.

21. Accepting Ourselves…and our true delights from Julia Cameron.

22. 7 Steps to Living a Bill Murray Life, by Bill Murray.

23. The Horrible Awkwardness and Angst of Being a Beginner: In Aikido or at Anything on Huffington Post.

24. Learning How to Draw a Mandala from Jamie Ridler.

25. Good stuff from Be More with Less: 10 Strategies for Absolute Clarity and Identify Your Real Treasures and Finally Let Go.

26. Navigate Your Life: Justine Musk from Jennifer Louden.

27. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

In the morning when you wake up, reflect on the day ahead and aspire to use it to keep a wide-open heart and mind. At the end of the day, before going to sleep, think over what you’ve done. If you fulfilled your aspiration, even once, rejoice in that. If you went against your aspiration, rejoice that you are able to see what you did and are no longer living in ignorance. This way you will be inspired to go forward with increasing clarity, confidence, and compassion.

28. Wisdom from Natalie Goldberg:

[A practice] is something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it…you have an opportunity to meet your own mind, to examine what it does, its plays and shenanigans.

29. Wisdom from Isabel Foxen Duke:

…binge-eating is ALWAYS the result of restriction, and/or judgement of our food choices, and is there anything that triggers you into these feelings and behaviors more than wishing your body was different than it is?

30. Words for the Day :: No. 40 from Lisa Congdon.

31. Mortality as Muse.

32. If I Knew The Way, I Would Take You Home from Rebelle Society.

33. Louis C.K. Exposes My Stupid Brain on McSweeney’s.

34. Shake it off, the song that won’t get out of my head, has inspired some pretty cute tributes.

35. Elizabeth Gilbert Shares Her “Really Weird” Advice About Following Your Passion on Huffington Post.

36. Hey White People: A Kinda Awkward Note to America by #Ferguson Kids.

36. The #1 Secret on How To Engage With a Narcissist on Huffington Post.

37. From Brave Girls Club:

Dear Insightful Girl,

You already know the answers to the questions that are eating away at you. You just have to trust yourself enough to really listen and be brave with your decisions.

You know oh-so-much-more than you give yourself credit for. You have a good heart and powerful intuition and you really do know the right way to go, that doesn’t mean it’s always the easiest way to go…but the easiest path never was the most fruitful path, and you are one of the courageous souls who seeks the best fruit.

Trust your gut. It has never led you astray. You can do it — you are a Brave Girl. And you are so loved.

38. Women’s greatest threat isn’t misogyny, it’s counting calories on the Washington Post.

39. A Photographer’s Moving Tribute to the Pine Ridge Reservation on Slate.

An Open Love Letter to Cheryl Strayed

wildcovertammy

image by Tammy Strobel

Cheryl Strayed is a master of the opening line. She doesn’t hesitate, but rather drops you directly into the dead center of the story. In her essay “The Love of My Life,” she starts with “The first time I cheated on my husband, my mother had been dead for exactly one week.” In her piece “Heroin/e” she begins with “When my mother died, I stripped her naked.” Her novel Torch begins simply “She ached.”

Eric first brought home a hardback copy of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild from the “Here & Now” collection at the library a few months after it was released. He loves stories of climbing Mount Everest or sailing around the world alone, so a book about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail seemed like something he’d want to read. But it’s not really a book so much about hiking as it is a story about, as Cheryl says, “learning how to bear the unbearable,” a story about acceptance, her journey from lost to found. Eric really wanted to read about hiking the PCT so lost interest, didn’t finish the book, handing it to me one day saying, “It seems like the kind of book you’d like.”

You see, kind and gentle reader, I love memoir – coming of age stories, stories about finding oneself, narratives about becoming, about coming undone, about catalyst and transformation and salvation, about what it means to be human. These are my favorite kinds of books, the journey from lost to found. And my favorite ones are written by women who aren’t afraid to tell the truth, even when it doesn’t make them look good, who talk candidly and elegantly about the brilliance and the mess. Writers like Anne Lamott, Dani Shapiro, Caroline Knapp, Mary Karr, Laurie Wagner, Christina Rosalie, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

So Wild is exactly the kind of book I’d read, but I hadn’t read it yet. It was too popular. When that happens with a book, I find myself avoiding it. It’s something about being an introvert. When everyone is reading and talking about it, it feels too crowded somehow. I want my experience of it to be private. I want to be alone with it. It’s why it took me years to finally read Eat, Pray, Love. I had to wait until things got quiet.

But Eric had already checked out the book, and the “Here & Now” collection is limited to seven days so I started to read. Once I did, I could barely stand to put it down.

I confess, at first I was irritated by Cheryl’s story. The deeper she dug herself into the hole she was in, the more my discomfort grew. By the time her story got to her decision to have an abortion, I wanted to stop reading. I couldn’t stand to witness it, the self-destruction, the suffering she was generating on top of what she’d already been given. And yet, this was a book that I just couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t help myself. I had to stay with it, had to “keep walking” right along with her until the end, no matter how painful.

Having lost so much to cancer myself made some parts of this book especially difficult to read. Many times I had to pause because I could no longer make out the words through my tears. This is the impact much of her written work has on me. I’ve given away 20+ copies of her book Tiny Beautiful Things in the past few years, always with the warning “don’t read this in public if you are uncomfortable letting people see you cry.”

One night when I was getting toward the end of Wild, I was reading in bed and Eric, who sometimes can’t sleep with the light from my book lamp, asked “can you be almost done?” I did something I never do: I got up and went out into the living room so I could keep reading. I had to finish. The memory is still fresh of being alone in the living room, sitting in the gold chair in the corner wrapped in a blanket, finishing the story, closing the book, and sobbing. That weird and wonderful mix of wishing so hard that none of those awful things ever had to happen to her, to any of us, but also wishing they’d happened to me so I’d have that story to tell.

Cheryl Strayed does not shy away from the truth. She tells the whole story, even the parts that might make her look bad. And yet, she doesn’t add things for the sake of drama. Telling readers about her heroin use isn’t done to shock, or to make the story more exciting, it’s there because it’s essential to the narrative — tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal. And when she’s telling the truth, she does it with an elegance that presents the truth in its full measure, all its brilliance and all its mess. She says things like “Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do,” (in her essay “Heroin/e”). I confess that the library copy of Wild I read was returned with corners of pages bent down, a sign of my need to mark the shiny places.

In the introduction to Tiny Beautiful Things, Steve Almond says, “With great patience, and eloquence, she assures her readers that within the chaos of our shame and disappointment and rage there is meaning, and within that meaning is the possibility of rescue.” He’s talking specifically about what Cheryl did in that particular book, but I’d argue that’s what she does in everything she writes.

Cheryl Strayed is coming to Fort Collins on Thursday, and I’m going to see her. In preparation, I’ve been on a Cheryl Strayed bender these past few days — rereading her essays, watching videos, surfing her website, finally reading her novel, and considering what I might say to her if I get to speak to her directly that won’t make me sound like either a total idiot or a creepy stalker. If we were sitting down over a cup of coffee, it would be so much easier. I’d ask if she was an introvert or an extrovert, how she’s been coping with being away from her family and traveling so much, what was it like to meet Oprah, if she goes to the beach often and if so where exactly does she go, does she know where Waldport is, has she ever heard of Sublimity, why did she move to Oregon, how does she like it, does her family still own the 40 acres of land she grew up on, does she have pets, what are some of her favorite books or authors, what’s she working on next, and after telling this particular story in so many different forms does she feel like she’s fully processed it, is she done with it, what is her writing practice, her process like, aren’t marionberries wonderful, what do you love, what’s hardest for you, where does your struggle live now…all things that would make so much more sense in the context of a longer, more relaxed conversation.

So instead, I write her this open love letter. I’ll email her the link, but have no expectation that she’ll see it, come read it. And that’s totally okay. In the end, I suppose all I need to say to her if I ever get the chance, in order to tell her everything, is simply: Thank you for telling the truth, for making a map, shining a light where it’s dark. It helps me cultivate the courage to tell my truth, my story. I adore you.

Gratitude Friday

dudesatlory1. Colorado Fall, my favorite season, time for all the hiking — although I could live without all the rain we’ve been having.

fallground2. Practice — mediation, yoga, writing, and dog. Specifically this morning I was thinking of Susan Piver and her Open Heart Project. I can’t wait to see her again in December, in person not just on the screen of my phone.

3. New thyroid medication, which seems to finally be lifting the horrible fatigue, brain fog I’ve been living with for almost three years now.

4. Down blankets. It’s been cold and they are so cozy.

5. Pop music, specifically Taylor Swift’s new song, my new anthem, “Shake It Off,” which I can’t stop listening to.

Bonus Joy: Laughing with Eric, the last peaches and watermelons of the season, quiet, how much Sam and Ringo like each other.
playingwithsofttoys

Something Good

littleganesh1. The Wild Call of Selfishness from Mara Glatzel, which says,

All of the good that you will do on this planet – all of the relationships you will build, work you will create, and lives that you will impact – relies squarely on how well you take care of yourself and how much space you allow yourself in your own life.

Also from Mara, In Service to Your Big Dream.

2. Weekend Treats are back on Visible and Real.

3. Note from the Universe, “Hey, Jill, what if, instead of waiting for everything to be perfect, we start living your dreams this week, to any degree we can?”

4. Thailand’s White Temple Looks Like It Came Down From Heaven from Bored Panda.

5. Wisdom from Geneen Roth,

The purpose of healing is not to be forever happy; that is impossible. The purpose of healing is to be awake. And to live while you are alive instead of dying while you are alive. Healing is about being broken and whole at the same time. Healing is about opening our hearts, not closing them. It is about softening the places in us that won’t let love in. Healing is a process.

6. Good stuff from Viral Nova: Barefoot Street Performer Stuns The Audience With Her Soulful Voice, and Japanese Artist Delivers Beautiful Paper Works Of Art, and These 31 Google Street View Pictures Are Hilarious, and Tiny Houses That Are Cooler Than Mansions.

7. Wisdom from Jessica Patterson,

Through kindness, strength arises. Not force, control, defense, manipulation, or intimidation. Those strategies keep us disconnected, tense, and ultimately far more breakable. Whether you’re talking hamstrings or heart strings, the real power is in being kind. And real kindness requires you show up open and receptive to what is (vs what you want).

8. Good stuff from Upworthy: Some People Came Out With A Cool New Kind Of Poster. When You Hang It, People Cry From Happiness. and This Might Be Jon Stewart’s Best Rant Ever. Because Ferguson.

9. “Wild”: Telluride Review. I can’t wait to see this movie.

10. 3 Things I Know About Becoming a Writer on Be More With Less. Word.

11. 7 Discipline-Mastering Practices and How to Breathe on Zen Habits.

12. The 4-Year-Old’s Workday on McSweeney’s.

13. Support Jes Baker Creating World Change. I really want to see this work, for many reasons.

14. Good stuff from Elephant Journal: Your Problems Are Blessings (really, do the exercise she suggests — it’s powerful), and Why One Life Hack Can Change Everything, and The interview Moment that changed Oprah’s Life (and mine).

15. My Facebook Friend Lived a Good Life and Then Died Too Soon on New York Observer.

16. Comic Strip of Alan Watts’ Lecture: “What If Money Was No Object?” (thanks for sharing the link, Sandi).

17. Reboot of Die Trying: One Man’s Year of Digital Detox from Outside Online.

18. Good stuff from Treehugger: Romantic tiny forest home built in 6 weeks for $4,000 and What would our homes look like if designed around how we use them?

19. The Most Amazing Stone Walls You Will See Today on Twisted Sifter.

20. Sit a Spell on SouleMama.

21. What no one wants to say about Ferguson!, a very Buddhist perspective on recent events.

22. A Life of Balance: Turn Off The News from Jack Kornfield.

23. This Is What It’s Like To Be An Unarmed Black Man In America from Funny or Die on Huffington Post.

24. This College Student Will Carry Around Her Dorm Mattress Until Her Alleged Rapist Is Punished.

25. Good stuff from MindBodyGreen: How To Do Downward Dog (Cute Infographic!) and 30 Amazing Photos That Will Make You Wish You Were At Burning Man 2014.

26. Why You Might Be Asking the Wrong Question About Suicide from Todd Mitchell.

27. Navigate Your Life: Karen Walrond from Jennifer Louden.

28. How Can Men Help Prevent Sexual Assault? on The New York Times.

29. “The List Of Rules For Women” By Jay Smooth Gets Everything Right on Huffington Post.

30. IKEA’s 2015 Catalog Launch Is the Perfect Spoof of iPad Ads.

31. On wholeness & loving ourselves realistically from Susannah Conway.

32. White Trash Buddhist: Do you have to break the bank to break into the upper middle way? A Kentucky native shows us what practice looks like on minimum wage on Tricycle.

33. What This Puppy Does After Noticing The Old Dog Having A Nightmare Is ADORABLE! And At 0:42…OMG!

34. The place I want to get back to from Judy Clement Wall.

35. Shared on Chookooloonks’ this was a good week list: Naterade : Being good to each other is so important, guys, and The Myth of Effortless, and Jennifer Orkin Lewis on Lisa Congdon’s blog.

36. force creates fear, fear destroys trust… from Pia Jane Bijkerk.

37. I wrote an article no one wanted from Paul Jarvis, (thanks for sharing the link, Laura).

38. Abandon hope on Painted Path.

39. Us/Them from Dallas Clayton.

40. We Must Move Into Love from Sandi Amorim.

41. Good stuff from Austin Kleon: Notes to self and What your days look like.

42. 23 Dog Thoughts That Will Change Your Outlook On Everyday Dog Life.

43. I went to the mountains and remembered why we have kids on Renegade Mothering.

44. 50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person on Flavorwire.

45. Where good things happen from Christina Rosalie. *sigh*

Day of Rest

Today is a strange blend of grief and joy, sadness and celebration. I am graduating from yoga teacher training this afternoon along with 10 of my friends. We’ve spent nine months studying together, and while I feel so content, happy to be done, to finally become a certified teacher, so lucky to have spent this time falling in love with my fellow students and teachers and deeper in love with yoga, it comes with heartache because it is also an ending.

At the same time as our graduation ceremony, they are holding Ann’s memorial. As I’ve said before, Ann fought cancer so hard and for so long, but it finally got to be too much. She’s one of the strongest, toughest, and yet softest people I’ve ever met. She’s the reason I kept practicing yoga, showed up to class at 6:30 am three times a week for years. Even if I was too busy or tired or the weather was bad or I didn’t feel like it, I went because I knew I’d get to see Ann. She made me laugh, made me try harder. And now she’s gone. I’m teaching my first yoga classes and she won’t be there. And because my graduation is scheduled for the same time as her service, I’m going to miss saying a formal good-bye, sharing my grief with others who loved her — and yet, I know that she would understand.

Life is just this, staying open to whatever arises and knowing when it’s time to let go, a mix of grief and joy, sadness and celebration. As the always wise Pema Chödrön says, “The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” May we make room for all of it, let it be what it is and let it go when it’s time. May we make our way towards a healing space today.

Gratitude Friday

image by Eric

image by Eric

1. Teaching my first “real” yoga class. Eight of my friends agreed to come and help me practice for my final. I’m so glad that my first experience teaching a full class was with students who are wise, kind, and have a good sense of humor — and who love me.

2. Unpacking and organizing my new office. I didn’t do much, because I still am working on things that needed to be done yesterday, but it was enough to make the space feel better, not so much like an empty dorm room or storage closet.

3. Fall, my favorite Colorado season. Although, what is up with all the rain, CO?

4. Obstacles that present the opportunity to practice. The cats and squirrels who hang out in our yard and antagonize the dogs, the delivery trucks with squeaky brakes who do the same, the interns who make mistakes I get to fix, the people who judge me even though they know nothing about my circumstances, the ones who get in my way, the others who don’t consider how they might help, those of us who continue on in our confusion generating suffering — etc.

5. Quiet, stillness. I’ve needed it this week to balance the speed, the rage, the noise, the overwhelm.

playersBonus Joy: My tiny family, my soft place to land.

Something Good


1. Wisdom from Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche,

Compassion is the spontaneous wisdom of the heart. It’s always with us. It always has been and always will be. When it arises in us, we’ve simply learned to see how strong and safe we really are.

2. Forgive yourself, and Turning passion on its head, from Seth Godin.

3. Note from the Universe,

When you understand, Jill, that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.

4. Good stuff on Medium: The Price of Modern Life Is Depression And Loneliness?, and The Micro-Dwellings of Hong Kong, and Navigating By the Stars, and Seat 21A: A window seat reminder of humanity.

5. Heroes (Vocal Mix) by Cazzette.

6. Call Me Cupcake. Warning, this blog will make you swoon with 14 kinds of hunger.

7. Effective marketing for introverts from Paul Jarvis.

8. Of curtains and climate change and compromise on This (Sorta) Old Life. If everyone made choices so thoughtfully, so compassionately, we’d come much closer to easing suffering, in ourselves and in the world.

9. Bridging the gap from Life is Limitless. I’ve been following Caroline’s journey for a long time, since back when she quit her job, sold all her things, and started traveling. I am so loving the things she’s creating right now.

10. Hello, Wonderful with Mara Glatzel. I just got my first email this morning — so good. And there’s still time to sign up, 12 days of love notes. Even if you don’t sign up, you really should subscribe to her newsletter, because this: In Celebration of Your Quiet Revolutions and this: In Full Bloom.

11. You do not have to be good on Writing Our Way Home.

12. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön. She’s talking about meditation here, but I think it applies to all types of practice.

We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.

13. Why I’m Done With Dreaming Big on Create as Folk. Amen, Laura.

14. Yoga, Meditation in Action, a podcast interview with Seane Corn at OnBeing, (thanks for sharing this, Tammy). “Breathe, and everything changes.”

15. Wisdom from Shanti, “At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” (Thanks for sharing, Dani).

16. Why We Tell Stories from Laurie Wagner. This, “The biggest boogy man was always you.” Oh how I adore her…

17. Good stuff from Viral Nova: Puppy Approves Of Her Soon-To-Be Baby Sister and This Loving Couple Built The Home Of Their Dreams…And Ours.

18. I Quit Eating Only Salad or Eating Only Cake — Because I am Worthy, Loved & Beautiful on Rebelle Society.

19. Why BMI Is a Big Fat Scam on Mother Jones.

20. On the Private Heart from Dani Shapiro.

21. “Authentic” versus “Cool.” (Thanks to Mary Anne for sharing).

22. Redeemed, Amitava Kumar interviews Cheryl Strayed.

23. Wisdom from Geneen Roth on Facebook,

Words like should, shouldn’t, right, wrong, good, bad, they don’t work. They don’t work, because that’s not enough of a heart inspiration. Because, unless you know what you want, you will flip and flop from one to the other.

So ask yourself: What do you want? Who do you want to be? What matters to do? And move towards. In order to truly change, it takes moving towards, not moving away, because moving away is not good enough.

24. On loving an addict.

25. Wisdom from Cassandra Clare. (thanks to Pixie Campbell for sharing).

Whatever you are physically…male or female, strong or weak, ill or healthy — all those things matter less than what your heart contains. If you have the soul of a warrior, you are a warrior. All those other things, they are the glass that contains the lamp, but YOU are the light inside.

26. It’s a mitzvah for others to help, a voice memo from Andrea Scher.

27. This Rescued Elephant Playing with Ribbon is the Best Thing You’ll See Today on Twisted Sifter.

28. 9 Rules Every Yoga Teacher Should Follow on Elephant Journal.

29. Tiny Home in the Woods. I want to go to there.

30. The hours become like a dream, the days like liquid one swelling towards the next from Christina Rosalie, truly one of my favorite writers.

31. 11 Ways to Solve Rape Better than Nail Polish.

32. 20 Vivid Hummingbird Close-ups Reveal Their Incredible Beauty on Bored Panda.

33. Fig Tart with Goat Cheese and Pistachios. Holy yum.

34. Zen garden kitty, on Reddit.

35. Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass. This song gets stuck in my head.