Total Eclipse of the Heart

image by Eric

image by Eric

There was a lunar eclipse this morning. I didn’t even know about it until I woke up and saw there was a message from my brother. He’d texted just to say “hi,” said he was going to try and get up at 4 a.m. to see the eclipse. We couldn’t see much of it here because the sky was hazy, but Eric got a fuzzy picture of it on his run with the dogs.

Today would have been Kelly‘s 42nd birthday. It’s also the anniversary of the day a dear friend lost her son. It’s a tender day of remembering, both the love and the loss. It seems appropriate that for just a little bit this morning, the light went out and everything went dark. It also seems right that after the dark, the sun rose again, just like it always does.

Three Truths and One Wish

image by Eric

image by Eric

1. This is my 1111th blog post on A Thousand Shades of Gray. There’s a particular kind of magic in that number. Some people say that it is “an invitation to open your eyes to the miracles all around that were already there that you weren’t seeing; an invitation to discover the infinite power and wisdom within you that is waiting to be tapped…a general invitation to move toward the inner joy and life fulfillment that’s possible for you.” An invitation to wake up, a reminder that you are inherently wise and compassionate, a request that you pay attention, a sign that you are not alone,

2. God is “whatever lifts your face out of the dirt,” (Elizabeth Gilbert). I find this incredibly comforting, so moving. It doesn’t let me entirely off the hook — it’s still up to me to get up, dust myself off, keep going, but in the moment when I am at my lowest, there is God, lifting my face out of the dirt, keeping me from giving up entirely.

3. I am capable of the deepest despair, but there is something in me that refuses to give up. I’ve never quite understood it, don’t know exactly what it is, but it’s always been there. No matter how hard things get, no matter how much I’ve been hurt, no matter how much I think about finding a way to escape for good, I keep going. It’s something stubborn and determined and certain. It believes that if I can just hang on until tomorrow, hold on for just one more moment or even one more breath, something will shift.

One wish: That when we are at our lowest, we experience the miracle of our face being lifted from the dirt, we know we are inherently wise and compassionate, we remember that we are not alone.

Something Good

1. From Brave Girls Club,

Let it go.
Let it fall.
Let it be.

2. Tattoo Stories on The New Yorker.

3. 11 Ways to Let Go and Feel Less Stress from Marc and Angel Hack Life.

4. 9 Mind-Bending Epiphanies That Turned My World Upside-Down.

4. Wisdom from TKV Desikachar, “The more you teach the more you must practice.”

5. Wisdom from Jane Austen, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”

6. Good stuff from Elephant Journal: The pith teaching of all Buddhadharma, and The 10 Things We’ll Never Tell You in Yoga Teacher Training (But Should), (Thanks for sharing this one, Keri), and How to be Naked in front of Strangers, (Thanks for writing this one, Keri).

7. I Decided to Live My Truth on Rebelle Society.

8. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

It helps to remember that our spiritual practice is not about accomplishing anything—not about winning or losing—but about ceasing to struggle and relaxing as it is. That is what we are doing when we sit down to meditate. That attitude spreads into the rest of our lives.

9. Wisdom from Mara Glatzel,

In order to show up, we must “indulge” in the quiet comfort of restoration.

In order to show up, we must fill our reservoir of strength.

In order to show up, we require: quiet, sleep, touch, love, foods that nourish us, and space to acknowledge our own divinity – the places where we belong in the family of things.

Restoration is not passive. Instead it the a mandatory process of filling the well so that you will have the resources that you need to keep moving, keep desiring, and keep showing up.

10. Time folds like an accordion on A Design So Vast.

11. Wisdom in poetry form from Nayyirah Waheed,

“in our own ways we all break. it is okay to hold your heart outside of your body for days. months. years. at a time. – heal

12. What It’s like to Fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class.

13. Depression and Suicide In Animal Care Professions: What Can We Do? (Thanks for sharing, Sarah).

14. More wisdom from Pema Chödrön, “The life force of the path of fearlessness is genuineness, that is to say, to not be afraid of ourselves.” (Thanks for sharing, Susan).

15. I Am a Woman Reclaiming Body Trust on Huffington Post.

16. They Were Friends, But She Was In Love. When She Tells The Crowd What He Said, They Go Silent. on Upworthy.

17. Mary Lambert Does One Mic, One Take Version of “So Far Away.”

18. Comparing Grief: A Useless Endeavor.

19. Erin Moon: Walking The Path Back To Life on the Good Life Project.

20. Your Career Homecoming with Laura Simms. I told her yesterday that “I seriously feel a little sad for myself that [my career] is the one place I have my shit figured out. It’s like being too old for the most awesome summer camp ever.”

21. Wisdom from Dallas Clayton,

You are as beautiful now
as when you were a beautiful child
before anyone told you what everything meant
and your beautiful heart could run wild.

22. True Stories Series: Meet Lisa Sadikman from Laurie Wagner.

23. friday’s confession: I’m not here to save you from Tiffany Han.

24. On Liam and Balloons and Staying Open on Momastery.

25. Practicing Nonviolence Toward Self, an important article from Phillip Moffatt, in which he says,

The Trappist monk and spiritual author Thomas Merton once said, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times.”

26. I’m Giving Up on My Son, and I’ve never had a more acute feeling of failure on Medium.

27. 10 Reasons You Don’t Want to Be My Friend Now That I Have Kids on Huffington Post.

28. Meredith Woolnough’s Embroideries Mimic Delicate Forms of Nature on Colossal.

29. Good stuff from Laura Pritchett: The Brutal Truth About Writing About a Father’s Alzheimer’s and Soapbox: Discuss Alzheimer’s disease openly. P.S. Her latest novel, Stars Go Blue, is so good, I read it in a single day.

30. Wisdom from Julia Cameron, “The seeds of our creativity require enough solitude and space to grow unhindered,” and “As creative beings, we need silence.”

31. Skillful Service is Born of a Quiet Heart from Jack Kornfield.

32. Wisdom from Mark Wagner, “Who doesn’t have something for which they need to atone, someone with whom they need to reconcile, something for which they need forgiveness, or someone they need to forgive?”

33. Wisdom from Geneen Roth on Facebook.

34. 17 Mom Confessions about F’ed Up Things Their Kids Have Done on Huffington Post. I get an extra giggle from how many of these involve poop.

35. Other lists of good things worth checking out:

Day of Rest

Sometimes on a Sunday morning, you will find me sitting in front of the TV with a notebook and pen, watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Last week her guest was Alanis Morrisette.

There are certain albums that have come out at just the right time, a moment when I needed a particular kind of motivation or comfort, a way to sing my way through something difficult. I listen over and over, and the music becomes the soundtrack to what I’m experiencing — albums like Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, Tori Amos’s Little Earthquakes, or Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville. Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill was such an album.

Alanis talked a lot with Oprah about healing. As I listened, I realized I don’t even know what that means or exactly how to do it — to heal. I have been hurt, wounded, beat up, broken, but instead of healing, I’ve just kept going, kept moving, stuffed down the pain, numbed it out, self-medicated, figured out ways to work with or around the injury. Especially in the past few years, I’ve just avoided, resisted — kept moving.

Elizabeth Gilbert was on this morning’s episode of Super Soul Sunday. She said at the beginning, “there still is this wide swath of women who never got the memo that their life belongs to them,” that there are so many waiting for permission to live, to be who they are. She talked later about the hero’s journey, one part of which is the battle or the ordeal. Oprah asked Elizabeth what her battle was, and she replied “The real battle for me was the self-abuse, to learn to drop the knife I was holding to my own throat.”

Oh, snap. Do you see it, kind and gentle reader? This is me.

*sigh*

Even though a few years ago my word was “retreat,” there was no rest in it, no peace. Instead it was deep, difficult, spiritual work, and much of the time a struggle. I don’t regret it, don’t regret that I was working so hard and moving so fast, that I’ve continued to do so — there was important stuff to do. But now, there is a real need for rest, for healing, to slow down and process what’s happened, to truly and fully celebrate and grieve, to assimilate all the new information and changes.

Just like at the end of every yoga class there is savasana — a final relaxation pose in which you give your body a chance to assimilate all the movement, the previous poses, to rest and make a gentle transition into what comes next — there needs to be such a pause in our lives. Just like at the end of a work week, there is the sabbath. Just like at the end of every breath, there is a gap between breaths in which we are still. As Jack Kornfield said, “Wise intention and skillful service need to be nourished by periods of quiet and prayer.”

There are two ways I could go right now, two possible paths. In one, I throw myself completely into launching my own business — teaching in person and online, writing shorter pieces and books, blogging, facilitating retreats and workshops, mentoring individuals and smaller groups, collaborating, and building community. I know just what it will look like. The next steps are clear. I know exactly what I have to offer and how to do it. I could start right now.

The other path is to take the time to heal, finally. To contemplate what it would mean to do so, what’s required, what I would need to do and what help there is. To gather the books and the support, enlist the help. It would mean sinking deeply into my practices, in the most gentle and loving way. More than anything it would mean slowing down and making space for myself, allowing my natural rhythm and pace, the innate wisdom and compassion already right there to do its thing.

In truth, the path is both, and the work is the same: to drop the knife I’m holding to my own throat. It’s time.

 

 

What I Don’t Want to Talk About

It’s been a tender morning for me. Ringo woke us up around 3 a.m., with that heaving and gagging that every half asleep parent knows will result in the need for a change of bedding. He threw up a wad of grass wrapped around a small rock, probably eaten when he dug a big hole outside at daycare yesterday, (he had help apparently, and they still adore him). I’m struggling right now with issues relating to the dogs, health and training specifically, some of which is Eric and I’s shared struggle (sometimes our struggle with each other) and some of which is mine alone.

Eric took the dogs hiking, so I’ve been by myself all morning, and yet not alone but rather in relationship with so many people, their wisdom and their suffering.

robinwilliamsrollingstonecoverI started my morning reading a recent Rolling Stone article about Robin Williams. In it, Tom Hanks says, “He had wisdom born of all the burns and scars of his life, and he was funny about it.” Revisiting that loss reminded me of another.

perfectpuppyI bought this book in the weeks before we got Ringo, firstly because of the Cattle Dog Lucy who’s the main subject, in so many pictures throughout. Truth be told, this book kind of made me feel like crap about myself, but reinforced what I was learning about the shift in dog training to positive methods, offers good strategies and sound advice.

The author Dr. Sophia Yin committed suicide this week at 48. She was a pioneer of the humane training movement. Both Sophia and Robin were healers in their own fields, her through her vet care and by helping people build good relationships with their pets, him through entertainment and laughter. I’m contemplating this morning how you can do so much good in the world and still suffer so deeply you can’t see a way through it.

After writing my morning pages, I took a shower and sat to meditate. After that, I watched the first video from Susan Piver for her newly launched Open Heart Project Sangha, which was all about basic goodness, what she calls “square one.”

For some reason, as Susan was talking about basic goodness, I remembered scrolling through my Facebook feed and seeing a picture of a cute fuzzy puppy with the caption, “Ready for a cuddle now.” I was shocked, surprised by my reaction, which wasn’t an immediate softening, no sense of “awww, how cute,” but rather a sense of dread, the thought that “one day that sweet fuzzy is going to break someone’s heart into a million pieces.” You know you are in a rough, tender place when the picture of a cute puppy, rather than making you feel warm & fuzzy, comforted and soothed, instead reminds you of loss, grief, and suffering.

Baby Sam

Baby Sam

Susan ended her dharma talk on basic goodness by sharing that she recently asked Tara Brach, “How is it possible to bear walking through this world in an open state?” This is an important question, because as Susan said herself, we all wonder how, “How am I supposed to walk through this world with an open heart when it’s such a crazy world, when it’s so hard and there are so many things that are so friggin’ painful that I feel like I might literally die if they touch me?”

Tara’s answer was simply “sangha.” The simplest definition of sangha is “community.” We can’t do it alone, and having a community, a place to belong where we can be genuinely ourselves, connect with others, find support, be in relationship, and as Susan describes “together and separately…dare to have confidence in basic goodness” is essential to being able to keep our hearts open, to be able to withstand what’s hard and feel the full wonder of what is beautiful.

I’m guilty of isolating myself. Of disconnecting, shutting down, spending too much time in my own head and by myself. Some of this is time I genuinely need to recharge, to rest and restore, but some of it isn’t so healthy. I get confused, think it’s up to me to solve every problem, to control and fix everything, that there is no help. I can easily sink into despair. I’ve had my own thoughts of suicide. I know there are some people who don’t want to believe that, who would reject and dismiss it, and I don’t feel entirely comfortable confessing it, but it’s true.

My life rehab started with the simple wish to “be a better friend to myself.” Not to be a better person, not to become successful or accomplish things and make stuff, but to practice maitri — loving compassion towards the self. I have a strong sense that right now that means two things: to accept help, to seek out connection and community, and to be gentle with myself.

kitchenbasicgoodnessI started to practice this open gentleness right after I finished Susan’s video. I went into the kitchen to make myself some French Toast. When I reached for the bowl, I noticed the greenness of the green, the way the light reflected off the smooth edges, how much it reminded me of jade. Then, the plate with its branch and buds, how it is square and round at the same time. Both of them sitting side by side on the countertop I chose over ten years ago because it reminds me of rice paper. I got out the bread, dense and whole and heavy with seeds. When I was done cooking my toast, I scrambled the remaining eggs to give to the dogs later and washed the pan. I noticed, let things touch me, was softened by the wholehearted effort I put towards nourishing myself.

It’s a start.

The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ~Pema Chödrön

Gratitude Friday

Fog on the North Lone Pine Trail

Fog on the North Lone Pine Trail

1. Hiking with Eric and the dogs. I wrote a whole blog post about it later that same day. One thing I forgot to say then was at one point I asked Eric how far we’d gone, (he has an app on his phone that tracks your distance), and he said “3.14 miles.” I responded, “Pie!” It took him a second to get it, especially since at first he thought I’d said “Why?”

2. Teaching yoga. I subbed for my class at the gym again this morning, the class where normally I’m in the back corner of the room. It feels really good to teach, but I’m also very aware that I’ve had a very big year and I am in need of some downtime to really process all the changes, just like at the end of every yoga class there is savasana, a final relaxation pose in which you give your body a chance to assimilate all the movement, the previous poses, to rest and make a gentle transition into what comes next. I need that too.

3. Training with Ringo. We had our last session of “Smart Dog One” last night, and have a three week break before starting the next class. I really really really didn’t want to go last night, wanted to stay home on the couch, but I’m glad I did. Working with him in that setting, getting to ask lots of questions and try new stuff, helps me to feel like I can do this thing, have a full strength Cattle Dog and do right by him, while doing what’s right for me too. He’s entering that phase right now that all dogs do where he’s growing up, testing me, seeing what he can get away with, and that can be frustrating, but it’s also clear that he really loves to train, to work together.

4. How Eric makes me laugh. And how so often it isn’t because he’s trying necessarily. For example, there’s a recipe in my family for a casserole that we jokingly call “funeral casserole” because when there’s a potluck after a funeral, someone always brings it. Eric said to me the other night, “what’s this called again, Coffin Pie?” When I told him it was Funeral Casserole, we both were bent over laughing. To have moments like that together is best thing.

5. Parents who are still alive and still married to each other. My mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary is today. 50 years! Eric and I have a few more days before we reach 21, and I know how hard it can be. I’m really grateful that they are still around, still together. I hope they make each other laugh today.

Dad, being a Christmas Ham

Dad, being a Christmas Ham

Bonus Joy: pie and good conversation and laughter with Mary, Chelsey coming to my yoga class, a thumbs up from Mitch after this morning’s yoga class, orange flavored San Pellegrino, down blankets, breakfast burritos from La Luz, blue sky and golden leaves, mostly healthy dogs, doggy playcare, TV shows that make me laugh.

Three Truths and One Wish

crossthatbridge1. Sometimes I forget to leave room for myself. I am so busy attending to what others need and want, I forget about my own requirements and desires. I am so worried about what I should do, have to do, need to do, that I lose sight of my own hungers, my need for rest and nourishment. Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in this regard is both my superpower and my kryptonite.

2. Chronic undercaring catches up with me. Eventually I burn out, wear down, crash, wreck myself, and am forced to slow down and take care of myself because I just can’t push anymore. Once I finally begin the work of healing, there is such a lack — I’ve gone beyond hunger to starving, beyond tired to complete exhaustion.

3. I can’t figure out how to do both, to give but also receive, to be generous with others but also with self. I work and serve and help, put all my effort towards easing suffering where I find it, and I do so full force until I just can’t go anymore. Then is when I finally submit to attending to myself beyond the bare minimum.

One Wish: That this suffering may ease, wherever it exists. May my innate wisdom and compassion guide me to a way of being both of service to the world and of benefit to myself.