Something Good

1. Playing the Odds from Rachel Cole. If this seems confusing when you first read it, I beg you to keep reading it, over and over, until it starts to make sense. It’s such an important shift, revolutionary.

2. Square One from Susan Piver, her message for the Open Heart Project in which she talks about basic goodness, saying it is, “Something real, something gentle, something fierce.”

3. Wisdom from Alexandra Franzen, from her most recent newsletter, “If you can help even just one human being to feel stronger, braver, safer, more connected, more hopeful, more informed, more inspired, or more loved through your words… you have done a great service.”

4. Fuji in a Trash Bag: A non-hiker’s guide on how not to climb a mountain on Medium.

5. Technology hasn’t Changed Us. Things haven’t changed as much as you might think. on Medium.

6. So much wisdom from Pema Chödrön, a list of links to various articles she’s written.

7. These Ladies Stood In Front Of An Interactive Mirror Without Knowing What To Expect. So sweet.

8. Wisdom from Isabel Foxen Duke, “Why would you choose the perception of reality that makes you feel bad, when you could just as easily choose what makes you feel good?”

9. How to Get Unstuck, wisdom from Andrea Scher.

10. What Keeps Me Awake at Night, a list from Laurie Wagner.

11. Wisdom from Don Miguel Ruiz, “Death is not the biggest fear we have. Our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive—the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” (Thanks to Sandra for sharing).

12. Truthbomb #630 from Danielle LaPorte, “Stillness requires courage.” And, Truthbomb #631, “Have a conversation with the aching.”

13. The Path of Pausing, more wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely, of this training to de-escalate aggression, is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay, or, as one student put it more accurately, learning to come back, to return to being present over and over again. The truth is, anyone who’s ever tried meditation learns really quickly that we are almost never fully present. I remember when I was first given meditation instruction. It sounds so simple: Just sit down, get comfortable, and bring light awareness to your breath. When your mind wanders, gently come back and stay present with your breath. I thought, “This will be easy.” Then someone hit a gong to begin and I tried it. What I found was that I wasn’t present with a single breath until they hit the gong again to end the session. I had spent the whole time lost in thought.

Back then I believed this was because of some failing of mine, and that if I stuck with meditation, soon I’d be perfect at it, attending to each and every breath. Maybe occasionally I’d be distracted by something, but mostly I would just stay present. Now it’s about thirty years later. Sometimes my mind is busy. Sometimes it’s still. Sometimes the energy is agitated. Sometimes calm. All kinds of things happen when we meditate—everything from thoughts to shortness of breath to visual images, from physical discomfort to mental distress to peak experiences. All of that happens, and the basic attitude is, “No big deal.” The key point is that, through it all, we train in being open and receptive to whatever arises.

14. You are Imperfect and Needy. I Love That About You. wisdom from Mara Glatzel.

15. Holy wow, this Note from the Universe, “Jill, do you know what’s a 1,000,000 times better than getting to the top the mountain? Getting there, after having been lost.”

16. The Koshas: 5 Layers of Being from Yoga International.

17. Wisdom from Gloria Steinem, “In depression you care about nothing. In sadness you care about everything.” (Thanks for sharing, Susan).

18. Mary Lambert “Secrets” (Stank Remix) // Hits 1 // SiriusXM. “Seriously, guys. I told you I don’t hold anything back.”

19. Street Art Spotter: Dallas Clayton Spreads Good Vibrations Across L.A.

20. The World’s Simplest Learn to Run Program.

21. Wisdom from Rumi, “Oh my friend, all that you see of me is just a shell, and the rest belongs to love.”

22. Wisdom from Lodro Rinzler, “In the Buddhist context, giving up means that you are surrendering everything that is holding you back from experiencing reality in a direct and pure manner.”

23. Shared on Chookoloonks’ This Was a Good Week: Slow & Steady, and My Jam.

24. Sam Pepper Exposed. This makes me so angry, but I’m so happy people like her are making videos like this.

25. Breaking the Pattern of Feeling Unworthy and KEY to Self-Esteem from Kute Blackson.

26. Wisdom from Galway Kinnell, (shared before, but so worth doing so again),

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems–the ones that make you truly who you are–that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person–someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”

27. This Converted Cave in France Cost $1.35. I want to go to there.

28. Wisdom from Buddha, “Three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” (Thanks to Positively Present for sharing).

29. Shared on Susannah’s Something for the Weekend list: Mary Oliver on the Magic of Punctuation and a Reading of Her Soul-Stretching Poem “Seven White Butterflies” and Lena Dunham gives great advice.

30. Shared on Susannah’s Something for the Weekend list last week: 10 of the best first date questions…possibly ever (Alexandra Franzen is the queen of prompts), and Lisa Congdon on Creative Evolution (Episode 3 of Tiffany Han’s new podcast, “Raise Your Hand. Say Yes.”), and Thai Chicken Chopped Kale Salad recipe.

31. Wisdom from Nayyirah Waheed,

the becoming | wing
be easy.
take your time.
you are coming
home
to yourself.

32. Wisdom from Clementine Paddleford, “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” (Thanks to Amanda for sharing).

33. A Sweet List of Things to Remember on Rebelle Society.

34. How Neil Gaiman Stays Creative In An Age Of Constant Distraction.

35. “You Don’t Get What You Wish For; You Get What You Believe,” wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook.

36. Freedom in 704 Square Feet. *swoon*

37. Mod Kitchen Furniture DIY from This (sorta) Old Life. I love this kitchen, the space and the light.

Day of Rest

This morning, Eric and Sam and Ringo and I hiked some of the North Lone Pine Trail. Eric had been bringing home such amazing pictures of the aspen trees turning color from his recent hikes, saying the other day “they look like they are plugged in, they are so bright,” I wanted to see for myself.

On the trail itself, there wasn’t much color, at least not the gold I was hoping for. In fact I only really saw this one tree, and it wasn’t even an aspen.

But I did see a moose! This is kind of a big deal for me. Eric has seen lots as he’s hiked over the years. The road to North Lone Pine Trail, Dead Man’s Road, is where he saw a mom and two babies just last year. I have been looking for a moose for years, expect to see one every time I go to Shambhala Mountain Center, but it’s only sort of happened once. We were up near Red Feather Lakes and in the distance on the side of a hill, I saw what I thought was a huge horse and just seconds before it was out of sight, I realized it was a moose — which felt like it didn’t really count as seeing one.

As we were driving up this morning, Eric said “look for moose because this is where I saw the mom and babies, although that was in spring.” I started looking, and not even five minutes later, there it was! Eating breakfast in what was essentially the backyard of someone’s camping spot. Eric started cracking up laughing because as soon as I saw it, I yelled, “A moose! I saw a fucking moose! Right there, right there!”

The fact that all four of us went on the hike is yet another sign that Ringo is growing up. On Friday at daycare, he went his first whole day without a single timeout, (he can get a bit pushy when someone isn’t paying attention to him, grabbing other dogs’ collars or barking).

The weather today was unexpected. When we pulled into the trailhead parking lot, it was sunny and nice. Just a few minutes into our hike, I realized I’d left my sunglasses in the car, and Eric was so sure I’d need them, we went back. Almost immediately clouds started rolling in and we ended up hiking in fog that made it seem like we were back on the Oregon Coast.

The view when we first arrived.

The view when we first arrived.

The same view when we got back to our car after our hike.

The same view when we got back to our car after our hike.

One of my favorite things about hiking is the opportunity for contemplation. It’s so quiet and peaceful, spacious inside and out. At one point today I started noticing how even though the trail is wide and there are many possible paths, various ways to go, many options for where to place your feet, there’s always one that is clearly the best. As I scan the ground, I can see the line I’ll take, it stands out against all the other possibilities. I feel like this is true about my life as well, that as I walk my path the right way to go is clear.

Hiking with Eric and the dogs also allows for conversation and connection. Eric and I talked about plans for the future, a few things we were struggling with, and how happy we both are right now, how satisfied we are with our life together. Eric said at one point, “if I lived my life over 10 more times, I couldn’t find a way to be happier than I am right now.”

At another point on the trail, when I was struggling to keep going but remembering how I’d done three hours of yoga the day before, Eric mentioned how my strength was yoga and his was hiking, and said, “What you practice is what you get good at.” So right.

Along the trail, someone had built a fairy house, a tiny log cabin next to Killpecker Creek.

Someone had also built a shrine on a tree stump. Somehow we hiked right past it on the way in, but noticed it on the way out. Eric asked if I had anything to leave, but all I had was a spare battery for my camera, dog treats and poop bags.

On the way back to town, we met up with a cattle drive. I told Eric, “you know you live in Colorado when you see a moose and a cattle drive on the same morning.” The Cattle Dog mix riding on the back of the horse with his person was just about one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Do you see how he’s smiling?

 

 

Gratitude Friday

The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck: Strength

All the courage you need can be found in the muscle known as the heart. ~The Wild Unknown Tarot Deck, Strength

1. Teaching yoga. I taught my second “real” class this morning. I don’t get nearly as nervous as I used to get when I first started teaching writing at CSU. The difference tells me a lot about how I’ve changed. I’m more comfortable in my body and with who I am and what I know, more confident in the way Susan Piver defines it, “the willingness to be as ridiculous, luminous, intelligent, and kind as you really are, without embarrassment.”

2. Good friends, who make me feel safe and comfortable, who encourage and inspire me, but challenge me too. And who, most importantly, make me laugh.

3. Puppies, sweet tiny cute little bundles of fur and teeth that aren’t my responsibility.

4. Practicing yoga on my back patio, under the blue sky, surrounded by trees and the sound of recess at the elementary school just around the corner, with Ringo and Sam “helping.”

5. Fall in Colorado, crisp and clear and oh so pretty.

ericaspens

image by Eric

Bonus Joy: A new season of TV that makes me laugh, (The Mindy Project, Modern Family, and New Girl).

An Evening With Cheryl Strayed

chloewildcardWhen we first entered the room for the reception before Cheryl Strayed’s main talk, there were only five other people in the room, four women and HER. There she was at one of the little cocktail tables talking and laughing with a small group of women, one of whom is a new professor in my department, a poet, thus doubling the number of women in that small space who intimidated me. My friend and I were nervous to meet Cheryl, so we took our free drink tickets and went back out to the bar, to give ourselves a little time to process this new information — that we really and truly were going to get to meet her, talk with her directly — and to allow time for more people to show up.

When we went back in, there were a few more people, but there never were more than about 15. The tickets that included the reception were twice as much and there was a book signing after, so I think most people decided that would be good enough.

Someone in our small reception asked if Cheryl could sign our books now, rather than later, and she agreed. I felt a bit awkward about it, couldn’t get over my caretaker instincts, wanting her to be able to simply relax and chat before her big event, but got in the short line anyway.

Here’s where I tell you part of the reason I’m nervous to meet people I admire: As much as I love someone’s work, their online presence, their persona, and whatever else I know about them, that doesn’t always translate to real life. I have been heartbroken in the past to meet someone whose work was so beautiful, so powerful, only to find out that in person they are a real jerk.

This was not the case with Cheryl Strayed. She is more genuine, more vibrant and friendly in person than I could have hoped. I was so nervous when it was my turn, but she smiled and held out her hand, said “Hi, I’m Cheryl.” It wasn’t that she thought I wouldn’t know, but rather a true offering of connection, grounded and kind — genuine.

I took her hand and told her “I’m Jill, I wrote the Open Love Letter.” She said “oh!,” her smile got bigger, and she reached out and hugged me, thanking me again for what I’d wrote. As she signed my books, she told me how sweet it was. I explained that I’d been fussing for days about what I was going to say to her if I got to meet her and finally gave up and wrote the post. At one point she touched my arm. I confess, I was so freaked out that I’m not entirely sure what all I said or exactly what else she said, I just know that it was wonderful.

cheryltouchsignedwild

meandcherylstrayed

what I look like when I’m stupid happy

Happily, Cheryl is coming to CSU in April, so I didn’t feel like I had to fit everything I ever wanted to say to her or ask all into this one event, and when it was time for her to leave our smaller group, I could easily let that moment go, no regrets and no attachment.

The Lincoln Center seats almost 1200, but there weren’t nearly that many there, so the KUNC director came out after most everyone had settled in and invited those further away from the stage to fill in down front. It was so sweet to see how excited people who’d been way back were to get to sit up close, and it made for a much more intimate, cozy event, more like we were sitting around someone’s living room than a large concert hall.

One of the first things Cheryl said was, “I love when people gather together in a room and listen to an author talk about books — especially when that author is me.” Throughout the night, Cheryl kept saying that she was telling us things she hadn’t before, much more than she’d revealed at other events, and with a smile swore us to secrecy. She also said at one point that “If I had known that many people would read the book, [Wild], I wouldn’t have written half that shit.” Cheryl Strayed is one of the best sorts of people — smart and funny and compassionate and honest and humble, even after they are met with success.

At one point, Cheryl talked about how when she was six years old, when she learned to read, she felt called to be a writer. Even telling you that now, kind and gentle reader, makes my chest and throat tighten and tears well up in my eyes. This is my story too, and yet, here we are only a year apart in age and she’s so much further ahead, so much more successful, maybe more than I’ll ever be. The thing blooming in my chest sometimes threatens to tear its way out like the creature from Alien. There’s such grief that comes up for me about how silent I’ve been, how stuck, all the times I abandoned myself, smashed myself to bits, how much there still is left for me to do, how deep and fierce my longing. She also said at one point that “most of us who want to be writers resist writing,” and as silly as that seems, I’ve lived the truth of that.

signedtiny

And yet hearing Cheryl talk about her life as a writer, listening to her tell her story and talk about her perspective on memoir, gave me so much hope, was so inspiring. She spoke about how the power of literature is to “build a bridge between my experience and yours, the human experience,” and that it took so long to write about hiking the PCT Trail because she first had to figure out what her story might mean to a reader, to figure out how to tell a story that was bigger than just her own personal experience, and that when she did, “I was writing about you from my vantage point, telling you a story about you too.”

Cheryl also talked about suffering, which she defined as resisting what is true, saying that “to surrender and accept what is true is a radical thing.” This is just where I am at this moment in my life, in the thick of suffering because I still resist what is true. I know what comes next is to surrender and accept it. I gave Cheryl a card that night, with a feather Ringo had found on our morning walk and a poem, a set of lines that I am just now realizing are for me too.

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
~Rilke

Three Truths and One Wish

sunflowerpath1. We all want the same thing: to find happiness and avoid suffering. We are the same, connected by this shared intention. An awareness of this fundamental fact has the potential to generate compassion, cultivate wisdom, foster connection and relationship.

2. Life is suffering. This isn’t just my own belief — it is the first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, “life is suffering,” which is defined more specifically as old age, sickness, and death. These are the things we can’t avoid because they simply are the nature of being human. If we are lucky, we grow old, and even if we don’t get that old we all age, continuing to get older with each passing day. We will get sick, even if we are relatively healthy and strong. And we all eventually die.

3. We generate unnecessary suffering, for ourselves and others. This goes beyond the suffering that we cannot avoid (aging, sickness, death) into a whole other territory of our own creation. In our efforts to seek happiness and bypass suffering, we can get confused. We resist change, we deny impermanence is real, we struggle against all kinds of perceived obstacles, we try to avoid discomfort, we reject what is happening, we freak out and run away, we hide, we numb out, we blame others for our problems, we are aggressive, even violent, we chase after what we think might make us happy, attempting to capture and imprison it.

One wish: May we work to ease suffering, in ourselves and in the world. May we seek out the ways we are generating suffering and root them out, transform the old patterns and habitual ways of being that make things more difficult and dark. May we remember who we are, fundamentally compassionate and wise. May we have the courage to dispel confusion, in ourselves and others. May we find it in ourselves to truly forgive, to open our hearts, be fully present and deeply loving.

 

Something Good

ericaspens05

image by Eric

1. Stop Fighting Food by Isabel Foxen Duke.

2. Unfiltered thoughts on a Sunday morning from Paul Jarvis.

3. Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project, because this, Who would you be without that thought?, and especially this, On 9/11…and 9/12.

4. 22 Harsh Truths that Will Jolt You Awake from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

5. Truthbomb #628 from Danielle LaPorte, “Blessing. Curse. It’s your call.”

6. 5 Tips for Butchering Your Life (So You Can Finally Live) on Elephant Journal.

7. IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Wrote An Article About Marriage, And All Anyone Noticed Is That I’m Fat on xojane.

8. Good stuff from Huffington Post: And So There Must Come an End, and A Dog’s Advice to Humans in Photos, and 15 Incredibly Talented Tattoo Artists You Should Follow On Instagram Right Now.

9. Yoga Journal’s “Body Issue” Rebranding: Encouraging, Disturbing, Contradictory by Carol Horton.

10. Funny stuff from McSweeney’s: A Generic College Paper, and So You Want to Get Into an MFA Program: A Decision Tree, and From The Complete Guide to the Care and Training of the Writer in Your Life.

11. Janine’s Story of Hope and Healing. Sometimes, we need a ritual, a ceremony to mark the letting go.

12. 20 Free Essays & Stories by David Sedaris: A Sampling of His Inimitable Humor from Open Culture.

13. Navigate Your Life: Sarah Selecky from Jennifer Louden. Such a great series.

14. Be stubborn from Sarah Selecky.

15. Words for the Day :: No. 41 from Lisa Congdon.

16. True Stories Series: Meet Andrea Scher from Laurie Wagner.

17. Postcards for Ants: A 365-Day Miniature Painting Project by Lorraine Loots on Colossal.

18. Wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook: Integrity, and Your Fear is Boring.

19. Good stuff on Bored Panda: Writer Creates “Color Thesaurus” To Help You Correctly Name Any Color Imaginable, and Illustrator Creates Doodles That Interact With Their Surroundings, and Dog Owner Creates Fun Illustrations With His Bull Terrier.

20. The Mind and the Heart from Jack Kornfield.

21. Wisdom from Paolo Coelho,

Have courage. Open your heart, and listen to what your dreams tell you. Follow those dreams, because only a person who is not ashamed can manifest the glory of God. There is no sin but the lack of love. Have courage, be capable of loving, even if love appears to be a treacherous and terrible thing. Be happy in love. Be joyful in victory. Follow the dictates of your heart. Meet obligations in life. But obligations never prevented anyone from following their dreams.

22. It’s Like They Know Us: “Relax on your pristine white couch and enjoy these realistic depictions of motherhood.”

23. Good stuff on Be More With Less: Declutter and Downsize to Create a Life with Room for What Matters Most and What to Consider When Sharing Your Life on the Internet.

24. Good stuff on MindBodyGreen: Vegan Coconut Bliss Balls That Will Wow Your Taste Buds, and An Open Letter To Anyone Thinking About Trying Yoga, and Is Your Heart Chakra Blocked? Here’s How To Open It.

25. Here’s What Happens When You Give Play-Doh To A Bunch Of Adults on BuzzFeed.

26. Singing together: Lifting one another up on Visible and Real.

27. Watch As A Straight Man Tears Up At The Answers To His Question: Is Being Gay A Choice?

28. Alan Watts discusses Nothing. (Thanks for sharing, Mark).

29. A NYC Bartender’s Powerful Open Letter To The Hedge Funder Who Allegedly Grabbed Her Ass.

30. Control, Letting Go, and Finding Ease from Ishita Gupta.

31. Raise your hand. Say yes. (the podcast is here!) from Tiffany Han.

32. Good stuff on Create as Folk: A Heartbreaking Simple Truth (and what to do about it) and Purpose Profile: Super Love Tees.

33. To the humans wondering why I’m always late on Renegade Mothering.

34. Life, Legacy and the Final Episode of GLP TV???

35. Buddha Statue Brings Peace to Oakland Neighborhood.

36. 25 Famous Women on Childlessness.

37. Two elements of an apology from Seth Godin.

38. 7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose from Mark Manson.

39. The Magic of Mandalas Blog Hop from Andrea Schroeder.

40. Fall Equinox Brings Kali and the Burning of the Old Self on Rebelle Society.

41. Dancers Follow A 2-Year-Old’s Dance Routine. (Thanks for sharing, Susan).

42. The happiest baby wombat in the world.

43. Wisdom from Mary Oliver,

The Writer’s Almanac once asked me, “What does loving the world mean to you?” Loving the world means giving it attention, which draws one to devotion, which means one is concerned with its condition, how it is being treated. I still believe that’s true.

44. Wisdom from Rilke,

This is what the things can teach us:
to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.

45. Wisdom from Anita Krizzan,

When you just sit in silence
the wind blows through you,
the sun shines in you
and you realise you are not your body,
you are everything.

46. Almost there from Kat McNally.

47. Everything is changing for us (& how it could change for you too) on Writing Our Way Home.

48. Why Absolutely Nothing is Wrong With Your Highly Sensitive Personality on Medium.

49. Wisdom from Erica Jong, “The trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk more.” (Shared by Positively Present).

50. How To Love Yourself (and sometimes other people) – Podcast Episode No. 50, a dharma talk by Lodro Rinzler.

Day of Rest

I woke up tired this morning. I’ve had a lot going on lately, had really weird dreams last night. Some pretty big stuff has happened and needs to be processed. Once again, I’d planned to write a post about meeting Cheryl Strayed, even wrote the first part while I worked on my morning pages, but it’s just not going to happen today.

I noticed this sign on our walk with the dogs this morning, next to a small grove of trees just starting to turn gold, in the same spot we’d seen two mama deer and their babies a few minutes before — a reminder to slow down.