Something Good

Sunrise over the river

Sunrise over the river, image by Eric

1. 4 Things We Learned About Stress Relief in 2019 to Take Into the New Year.

2. The Mindful Kitchen: Recipes and Inspiration to Savor Each Moment and Every Bite, a Lion’s Roar special edition.

3. Ethical Conduct Is the Essence of Dharma Practice from Lion’s Roar. “The Dalai Lama and Thubten Chodron outline three levels of Buddhist ethical codes, how we can follow them, and what it looks like when we miss the mark.”

4. Awakening Fueled by Rage from Lion’s Roar. “As a dharma teacher, says Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, she’s told she shouldn’t feel or express rage. She disagrees and reveals how rage can be ‘life-giving and illuminating’ and help ‘fuel a transformation toward awakening.'”

5. Lydia Davis: Ten of My Recommendations for Good Writing Habits. “Advice for Writers on Editing, Revising, and Taking Notes.”

6. Austin Kleon’s Interview with Crazy Good Turns (podcast).

7. Dealing with Family and Friend Body-Shaming. Also from Dances with Fat, TikTok Thinks That Fatphobia Can Be Solved With More Fatphobia.

8. Review Your Year & Set Intentions for 2020 on Zen Habits.

9. Why We Need Satisfaction to Feel Healthy Around Food. “When you don’t take into account our needs for pleasure and satisfaction in eating, it’s actually a form of deprivation. And we all know what happens when we tell ourselves that we can’t have something.”

10. Lost dog surprises her boy at school and his reaction is priceless. I’m not crying, you’re crying! *sob*

11. Colorado Business Owner Learns How Real Boycotts Are After His Kaepernick Boycott Forces Him To Close Shop. “Perhaps there are more…Colin Kaepernick supporters out there than I realized,” the businessman said. Maybe we don’t just support Colin Kaepernick, but we agree with his protest: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

12. Kindergartner Invites His Entire Class to His Adoption Hearing on The New York Times. “Nearly two dozen kindergartners gave testimonials in a Michigan courtroom about how much they loved the soon-to-be-adopted boy.”

13. Maybe it’s time to consider that Peloton is trolling us all with its advertising. In related news, Ryan Reynolds Perfectly Trolls the Peloton Holiday Commercial in His New Aviation Gin Ad.

14. ‘I Got Tired of Hunting Black and Hispanic People’ on The New York Times. “Multiple police officers in Brooklyn say they were told by a commander that white and Asian people should be left alone.”

15. George Zimmerman SUES Trayvon Martin’s family and Florida prosecutors for $100MILLION, claiming they engineered false evidence in his homicide trial for shooting dead the unarmed black teen in 2012. “The family’s attorney, Ben Crump, is also named as a defendant. He is accused of defamation and attempting to ‘deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights’. Crump responded to the lawsuit on behalf of himself and Martin’s parents in a statement Wednesday. ‘This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,’ he said. ‘He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims. This tale defies all logic, and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.'” In related news, Trayvon Martin’s Family Responds to George Zimmerman’s $100 Million Lawsuit.

16. Homeowner Leaves Snacks For Amazon Delivery Guy And His Reaction Is Too Pure. His happy dance at the end of the video is one of my favorite things right now.

17. Migrant Teen Lay for Hours in His Cell Before He Was Found Dead on The New York Times. “A video shows the boy in severe distress. He was discovered by his cellmate, not immigration officials, as they originally claimed.”

18. This year’s best Christmas commercial, from Hafod Hardware. (video)

19. How cuts to food stamp program could increase ‘poor outcomes’ for the food insecure.

20. “No Choice But To Act”—Pelosi Calls For Articles Of Impeachment Against Donald Trump.

21. Aidy Bryant Goes on Path to Self-Discovery in ‘Shrill’ Season 2 Trailer.

22. #ExpressiveWriting Prompts to Use If You’ve Been Accused of #WhiteFragility #SpiritualBypass or #WhitePrivilege. I’ve shared this before, but it’s always worth a reshare.

23. 11-Year-Old Who Looks Up To Misty Copeland Is The New York City Ballet’s First-Ever Black Nutcracker Lead.

24. Dementia in Senior Dogs.

25. Support Maggie’s 200 Hour YTT Fundraiser.

26. Launching the Bhumisparsha Sangha fundraiser.

27. Border Patrol threw away migrants’ belongings. A janitor saved and photographed them.

28. NPR’s Favorite Books of 2019.

29. How To Leave Toxic Diet Culture Behind And Pursue Actual Health with Ragen Chastain. (podcast)

30. Body Kindness Podcast. “I believe we all have an enormous power to change diet culture – one voice at a time. In this podcast I talk to people from all walks of life about their journey to a better wellbeing. From food to family to sex, you never know what will come up in an episode.”

31. Toward an Applicable Theory of Just Not. “The power that so many of us have to change the deeply fucked systems we’re part of by abstaining from them — a more active and dangerous prospect than the language makes it sound — is immense, and it is terrifying. It is harder to do than is possible to explicate here; it is the most honest work there is.”

32. Lovers in Auschwitz, Reunited 72 Years Later. He Had One Question. on The New York Times. “Was she the reason he was alive today?”

33. My So-Karen Life on The New York Times. “I know Karens are hard. As a member of Gen X, I grew up surrounded by them.”

34. Instagram is broken. It also broke us. “Influencers and regular users are reckoning with what Instagram has done to them. Now Instagram wants us to love it again.”

35. Why White-Collar Workers Spend All Day at the Office. “The web may be our garden of boundless leisure, but it is also a global workplace without limits. And in the open office of the internet, more Americans are not only engaged in overwork but also convinced that it is necessary to love their labor, above all else.”

36. The False Promise of Morning Routines. “Why everyone’s mornings seem more productive than yours.”

37. Home For Christmas | Official Trailer | Netflix. (video) I finished watching this last night, and except for a bit of a letdown in the final moments, it was SO good. It reminded me a bit of Rita and Hjørdis, which you can also stream on Netflix and were also SO good.

38. Writing doesn’t always have to be exciting. Ordinary is good too. fro Melissa Toler.

39. When I Discovered My Town Is Where Immigrant Families Are Separated. “A Texas journalist’s investigation revealed the worst and best of America—including the Angry Tías from the community who are providing help.”

40. The Stunning Astronomical Beadwork of Native Artist Margaret Nazon.

41. Maureen Corrigan’s Favorite Books Of 2019: Here Are 10 Unputdownable Reads.

42. Hiking Wheelchair Opens Up Outdoor Lifestyle To People With Serious Disabilities.

Gratitude Friday

1. Morning walks. With the snow and ice, in places these have been pretty risky, and I’ve been rerouting to cleared sidewalks instead of getting to go by the river. Even so, they are still one of my favorite things.

2. Christmas lights. One bonus of being up and out before the sun is we get to really see all the lights. Today there was a yard that has a whole row of pine trees along their back fence that they’d strung full of white twinkle lights. So pretty. We’ll probably get our tree this weekend and I’m looking forward to sitting in the living room with nothing but the lights of the tree.

Our tree from last year. Merry everything, happy always.

3. Writing with friends. Writing is typically solitary, and as an introvert I love that, but it’s nice to have the company sometimes too.

4. I don’t have a job. The holiday season with Eric being on break is making me appreciate it even more. I will work more eventually, but for now it’s nice to have the time, the space, the quiet, the calm.

Ringo likes to lie right next to the vent under the kitchen sink and steal all the heat

5. My tiny family. It was really nice to have Eric home last week. I’m looking forward to having him home even more over winter break, getting to do some more fun stuff together. Ringo has been doing really good with his vet visits he’s had lately, and Sam is as sweet as ever, turns 10 years old this week, (as a rescue, we’ve had to guess at his exact birthday, choose December 10th). I think both dogs are enjoying having me home more, even though most of the time they are just napping.

Bonus joy: clementines, getting most of my Christmas shopping done, getting all the laundry washed and dried and folded and put away in a single day, good TV (I recently watched Westside on Netflix, “A cross between a reality show and large-scale music video, the series follows a group of young musicians trying to hit it big in Hollywood”), good books (I’m finally reading Night Circus), good music (listening to Summer Walker’s Over It this morning), sitting in the sauna (which is going to be closed next week – *sob*), sticking up for myself and getting support, yoga, meditation, writing, sleeping in, clean sheets, a warm shower, sitting under my heating pad, getting my office mostly in order, candy, coffee with hot cocoa (I’ve heard it called “cowboy coffee”), cuddling, taking a nap.


Thoughts on Practice

My meditation shrine

My meditation shrine

I realized the other day that when cultivating a new practice, an essential thing to remember is to not make it a big deal. What I mean is sometimes your rules and restrictions about what you think your practice is supposed to be are based on what you know about long time, serious practitioners, and a whole set of internalized “shoulds.” In this way, rather than easing into things, you make it a big deal and set the bar too high.

For example, with meditation, you might feel like you have to have the “right” meditation tools (cushions, shrine, timers, etc.) and that at the start you should be meditating for long sessions. These intentions in the beginning end up becoming obstacles rather than support. You wait until you can afford the “right” tools, spend hours researching and talking about the practice and the tools but not actually doing anything, or you sit for one session of half an hour one day and immediately the next day are too busy and can’t manage sitting for that long so you skip it altogether.

I could write a whole book about cultivating a practice. In fact, I probably will. What I’m thinking about today in particular is how we get in our own way when we want to start, turn it into a big deal that ends up tanking the whole thing, AND how after we establish our practice, there is a natural shift to taking it seriously, which can look a whole lot like “making it a big deal.” What I mean is while it’s good in the beginning to not worry about the specifics or put too much pressure on getting it “right,” once you are committed, it’s good to honor what you are doing in a different way.

Once a practice is in place and you’ve found your own reasons to continue, taking it seriously makes a difference. For example, when you first begin a yoga asana practice, you can do so without a mat or props or any sort of in-person interaction with a class or a teacher. There are plenty of really good free videos online, and a belt from a bathrobe makes a perfectly good yoga strap. And yet, if you’ve been practicing regularly and intend to continue, it makes sense to invest in some props and maybe even find a community in the form of a studio or specific teacher, to research the different kinds of yoga asana and regularly practice the one that resonates most with you.

So to start, don’t make it a big deal. Then when it becomes a big deal, honor it as such. And know that no matter what, it is your practice and what “honoring” it looks like is specific to you, your experience and intentions and goals — and no one else can tell you what that is. Only you know, and you can trust yourself.

#DecemberReflections2019: Coffee

Day One Prompt: Through the window. I haven’t been a regular coffee drinker for at least five years, maybe longer. I’ve gone on and off it many times over the years, always quitting because I dislike being addicted to the caffeine. Eric is always sending me articles about the health benefits, telling me I should start again. On Saturday, I saw yet another article, this time about the benefits of coffee and chocolate. Sunday morning I decided to start again, not committing to anything long term, just to try again and see how I feel. One thing I do know, there’s nothing like the high from that first cup.

Remember how on Sunday I started an experiment drinking coffee again? As predicted, as the caffeine hit, my brain was on fire, so many ideas, such clarity and energy. Later, my belly was burning and churning, and that night I slept terrible, both things I could trace back to my morning coffee. So on Monday I took a break. I was going to wait a few days to try again, but my yoga class got canceled this morning and the closer the 9:15 am aqua aerobics class got, the less I wanted to leave the house (introversion + hsp + complex ptsd + s.a.d. + burnout = mild agoraphobia). So I decided to stay home, try another cup of coffee, and see how the day goes.

P.S. to my earlier coffee post: I had not one but three eating disorders for 30+ years before I even realized it. Once I did, I went to therapy, read a lot on the subject, and worked with Rachel Cole. This morning as I was meditating I realized a shadow reason for why I decided to try drinking coffee again. My EDs hope the coffee will act as an appetite suppressant, that I’ll eat less and lose some weight. I’m better than I used to be, but “recovered” isn’t a goal I have or something I’ll ever be. That’s okay. My EDs are a coping mechanism I developed to calm myself, process the chaos, control my experience, and keep myself safe. They are a part of me. I don’t need them to go away to be healing and well.

For the month of December, I’m taking part in December Reflections, hosted by Susannah Conway. I’m posting daily on Instagram, but when those posts turn into something “more” (like this one did), I’ll share here too.

Something Good

Image by Eric

1. 21 Day Meditation Challenge Winter 2020. “A 21-Day Immersion in Wisdom, Compassion, and Community” hosted by Susan Piver.

2. The attention crisis is real from Seth Godin.

3. How To Stop Ruining The Holidays For Fat Friends and Family from Dances with Fat.

4. Introversion Is Not A Character Flaw, So Stop Treating It As One.

5. Hula Is More Than a Dance—It’s the ‘Heartbeat’ of the Hawaiian People, a short National Geographic film.

6. Is it okay to deface books for art? from Austin Kleon.

7. Here’s What Each Introverted Myers-Briggs Type Really Wants In Life. This is scarily accurate for me: “Because what an INFJ really wants in life is for their ideas to matter. They want to make a difference [in the lives of individual people], but they want it to change how things work — the cause, not just the symptom.”

8. The Oracle of Black Friday, a recent newsletter from Meghan Genge in which she includes this awesome set of contemplations:

Answer these questions before you buy anything:

  1. What – beyond the obvious – does this thing promise me?
  2. What does that mean I actually want more of in my own life?
  3. What do I feel when I think about owning this/ having this/ embodying this?
  4. So what does that mean I want to feel more of in my life?
  5. What can I do right now to help create more of what I want to feel/ have more of in my life?

9. Buddhism by the Numbers from Lion’s Roar. “Buddhism is full of lists and numbers. Find explanations of some of the most important of these, how they connect, and why they’re important.” I love this SO much.

10. Knives Out Trailer #1 (2019) | Movieclips Trailers. Eric and I saw this yesterday, and it was really good. In related news, Review: ‘Knives Out,’ A Classic Comic Mystery Of Uncommon Sharpness.

11. The Art of Activism: Hard Conversations Book Club 2020. It only costs $5 and if you go to the sign up page, you get the reading list for free. “I am going into my 17th year of running book clubs about diversity and inclusion issues, including the Hard Conversations Book Club which meets monthly by teleconference. I would love to have you join us for the New Year. It’s only $5 a year to join and you will be challenged by the books chosen for the year in ways you might not have imagined yet. Reading in community deepens everyone’s understanding.”

12. In ‘Children Of Virtue And Vengeance,’ Magic Has Returned. Now What?

13. A Single Dose Of Ketamine Might Help Heavy Drinkers, Study Finds.

14. ‘63 Up’ Review: Time Keeps on Slippin’, Slippin’, Slippin’ on The New York Times. “Michael Apted revisits the people who have grown up, and grown older, in this long-running, landmark documentary series.”

15. Witness in Hard Rock Hotel Collapse Is Deported on The New York Times. “A construction worker who became a witness in a federal safety investigation into lapses at the New Orleans construction site was deported to his native Honduras.”

16. 6 Ways My Parents Unintentionally Taught Me Disordered Eating.

17. ‘Holiday Rush’ Trailer: New Netflix Holiday Film Features A Black Cast.

18. [SPOILER] Let’s Talk About The Ending Of ‘Queen & Slim’: An Artful Wound With No Medicine [REVIEW].

19. It’s a Terrible Day in the Neighborhood, and That’s O.K. on The New York Times. “Fred Rogers’s belief that we should validate emotions, not suppress them, is wisdom for all ages.”

20. The Modern Life of Origami, an Art as Old as Paper on The New York Times. “Precision is key, whether folding a humble crane or an interlocking modular structure. So is enthusiasm.”

21. 30 Best Podcasts Of 2019 You Need To Listen To Before The Year Is Through.

22. The Horrible History of Thanksgiving on The New York Times.

23. This dog has been keeping a secret, and it’s the cutest thing you’ll discover today! (video)

24. 2-Year-Old Girl Falls In Love With Sick Shelter Pittie. (video)

25. As a Native American Comedian, I wasn’t mad at the SNL Thanksgiving Sketch, I was just disappointed.

26. 5 Things T.I. Got Wrong in His ‘Red Table Talk’ Conversation With Jada Pinkett Smith.

27. Scientists Are Baffled By An 18,000-Year-Old ‘Wolf-Dog’ Puppy Found Frozen In Siberia.

28. People Are Sharing The Best Things They Learned In Therapy So That Everyone Could Get Some Free Therapy In 30 Helpful Tweets.

29. Beware of the feel-good news story. “Begging for sick days and walking 20 miles to work are not tales of inspiration. They are societal failures.”

30. The 1619 Project to Become Multi-Book Series. “The extensive project that marked the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia will be expanded into several books, including a graphic novel.”

31. This college football player took the field with his dogs on Senior Night after losing both of his parents. (video)

32. The best books of 2019 – picked by the year’s best writers.

33. ‘Pilates-changed-my-life’ stories are annoying… but it did.

Accessible vs. Easy

I watched a Great Big Story video last night, Posing for Inner Peace: The Yogi Practicing Body Acceptance, in which Dana Falsetti talks about her yoga practice. There was one thing she said about teaching that stayed with me because it bothered me. It’s not what she said exactly or what I think she meant because I’ve followed her for a long time and know her backstory and I don’t think she meant to say anything negative — yet it might be easily interpreted that way.

In the video, she said, “I travel all over the world teaching body positive workshops. So, I don’t necessarily teach in a way that is about modifying or making the practice easier for anybody based on age or size or anything like that. It’s more about teaching in a way that makes everyone feel really included and really comfortable.” I think she meant to say that her focus is on inclusion and comfort, making her students feel a certain way rather than focusing on the mechanics of the practice. I also infer that she wants to be sure that one doesn’t see the fat (or illness, injury, or age) on her body or those of her students and make assumptions about their ability to practice, about how strong or flexible or capable they might be. Maybe she also wants her students to retain authority over their own practice, their own experience, and believes that taking the focus off modifications, variations, and props supports that.

And yet, as a teacher who DOES focus on the mechanics of the practice, on helping students find the appropriate modifications, the best variations, and the most helpful props, what she said bothers me. It seems to imply (even though I’m pretty sure that’s not what she meant) that “easy” is bad, that modifications don’t need to be taught, that student’s don’t need the teacher’s help in finding what is comfortable, or that making modifications or choosing variations or using props mean your practice isn’t challenging, that by doing any of these things you are taking the easy way out, (see Allison Ray Jeraci’s Instagram account to see one example of how “easy” poses are with modifications and props).

“So, I don’t necessarily teach in a way that is about modifying or making the practice easier for anybody based on age or size or anything like that.” It isn’t about making someone’s practice “easier,” but rather making yoga asana practice accessible. And maybe the statement only bothers me because I’m an accessibility geek when it comes to yoga asana practice, about people moving their bodies in general. Movement matters, for everyone, and as someone who facilitates movement experiences, I feel like it’s my responsibility and my JOY to figure out ways my students can move in ways that feel good, that allow them to meet their goals. When I teach, I want to help them find those ways, to provide them with whatever support, options, and tools I can.

Modifications, variations, and props don’t make yoga asana practice “easier,” they make it more accessible. They facilitate a student’s experience, allow them to meet their body, heart and mind (physical and energetic) exactly where it is on any given day. It cultivates a deep awareness of what they need and what they have to give. It allows them to meet themselves and others from a place of stability and compassion. It allows them to let go of external and internalized expectations about what yoga asana practice or the shape of their body is “supposed to” look like.

Practice can allow a state of being that Tara Brach calls radical compassion. One of the ways she talks about practicing this is R.A.I.N., which stands for:

  • Recognize what’s happening
  • Allow life to be just as it is
  • Investigate with a gentle, curious attention
  • Nurture with loving presence

And anyone who’s ever attempted that, on the mat or off, knows that it’s anything but easy.


#NaBloPoMo: 30 Days

Postcard from my dearest Mikalina, sitting on my newly clean writing desk

Today is the final day of NaBloPoMo. 30 straight days of posting something every day, (except that one day I missed). It was good for me to write this much. I’d been trying to get back here more regularly since I quit my job in May, but it just wasn’t happening. So much wasn’t happening because I’m burnt out.

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, you begin to lose the interest and motivation that led you to take on a certain role in the first place.

Burnout reduces productivity and saps your energy, leaving you feeling increasingly helpless, hopeless, cynical, and resentful. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give, (read this full article: Burnout Prevention and Treatment).

The article that I pulled that quote from suggests burnout can be caused by work, lifestyle, or personality traits. When I read the specific characteristics on those three lists, consider the three possibilities, every single item on every list fits the way I was operating up until I quit my CSU job.

Just last night, I was curious and looked up the Facebook page for my department (I’d unfollowed because it isn’t good for me to see it in my feed all the time) and I was reminded it’s the 80th anniversary of its formation, which means lots of extra work for the communications coordinator right now. I realized if I’d stayed and been the one to do all that work, I never would have made it. I felt so relieved in that moment, so grateful I’d been able to make that choice for myself.

And I’m realizing that no matter how aware I am of what I’m experiencing or how much I do to take care of myself, it’s going to take longer to heal than I want. I’ve said before I had big plans to get a bunch of house stuff done over the summer, then when fall came, I expected to dive right in to my new career as a Contemplative Practice Guide. I have ideas and completely fleshed out plans of what that’s going to look like and what I’m going to offer, just need to put in some work on the back end of things (such as creating a mailing list and a new website and choosing an online payment method, researching venues for in person classes and workshops).

I adjusted my expectations recently to expect to start full speed at the first of the year. After just this short holiday week, having spent a lot of time working on cleaning and sorting my home office, and looking ahead to Eric being home for an extended period for winter break and needing to do some preparation for Christmas, I’m realizing that maybe the first of the year isn’t realistic either. I even suggested to my friend Mikalina yesterday that maybe I’ll take the full year off, May 2019 – May 2020, before I’m really ready to start.

And that’s okay. Things take the time they take, and in a situation where you are healing your heart, mind, and body, cultivating a new resilience, there’s no reason or sense in rushing it. In the meantime, I’ll keep showing up here when I can. Next month, starting tomorrow, I’m beginning one of my favorite yearly traditions, December Reflections hosted by Susannah Conway.

The idea is simply to take a photograph (and share it if you wish) every day in December while reflecting back over the year. I’ve provided a list of daily prompts with a mix of things to photograph — for example: through the window, floral, home — and things to ponder. The ponder prompts are an extra invitation to pause for a moment and consider some of your favourite bits of 2019. Share your treasured photos from the year alongside your thoughts. Dig further into the prompts privately in your journal. You may feel moved to create paintings or collages or poems. December Reflections started as a photo project but feel free to take it in any direction that calls to you!

As always, I’m so grateful that you continue to show up here, kind and gentle reader. Knowing that you are “out there” is such a comfort, such an inspiration. Thank you, thank you, thank you. ❤