Monthly Archives: December 2011

Resolve

In Colorado, the wind today is fierce, gusting at around 50 miles per hour, knocking down trees and ruining dog walks all over town, even as the sun shines on. I imagine that the wind is the universe blowing away the yuck not invited into 2012, everything we’ve let go, released, and let loose. The wind is clearing out space for something wild and precious to be born.

image by susannah conway

And like the Hopi Elder’s Prophecy says:

“This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.

The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

In other words: if you have been waiting for something to happen, stop waiting and happen. Jump into the river with me, won’t you?

There are a few guiding principles I adopted this year when completing a “review, reflect, and resolve” practice, (a process I have never undergone before, at least not with such care, mindfulness, and intention).

1. I am already whole. I am enough.

  • “The self-assured strength that grows from knowing that we already have what we need makes us gentle, because we are no longer desperate” ~Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
  • “We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake” ~Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living

2. This is not just about New Year’s, this is not limited to a single date or thing: this is my whole life–connected, integrated, embodied, and manifested as complete and enough.

3. Don’t make resolutions, but have resolve and be authentic. This is my life.

2012: Year of the Water Dragon

image by Will Clayton

This will be a year of power and wisdom, but also one of compassion. It will be a year of great possibility, energy, vitality, excitement, unpredictability, exhilaration and intensity. The spirit of the dragon is passionate and brave, generous and fortunate, but must take great care or it can be destructive and dangerous, causing much damage to all involved.

Before class, one of my yoga teachers always asks us to set an intention, something that can focus and guide and center us, through the class and the rest of our day. My resolve and intention for 2012: Retreat is the theme of the year (rest, balance, practice, and transformation), a year in which I will tend to my body, spirit, and heart-mind.
I will do so through:

*Creativity: writing my blog, writing, making art, showing up and being open to what arises, being an expression of kindness and love and wisdom in the present moment, a healing and helpful act, to touch and transform the heart.

*Trust: faith in the worthiness, wholeness, and uniqueness of “me,” practicing and embodying self-love and self-care. Belief that everything is unfolding exactly as it should and I know what to do. “Who you are is infinite; you are a child of The Uni-verse and you have been sent here with a specific gift that is only yours to express. The events that happen, happen to shape us, to mold us and to help us step into who we are supposed to be. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are eternal and a part of a living Uni-verse that supports you. Give us your gift,” (“How to Get Unstuck from Past Trauma” on The Daily Love).

*Health: accept my weak places and parts, my resistance, attachment, and bad habits, (time monsters, shadow comforts, fear, shame, addiction, and self-hate), love what these things have taught me, be grateful, and let go. Ask for help if I need it. Lovingly, gently, kindly connect to my body, embodying attention, awareness, and strength through practice and presence.

My own two feet

My own two feet

I stand here, my two feet planted firmly on the earth, “one foot in the grave and one foot in the shower” (song lyric from “Falling Awake” by Gary Jules), open-hearted and vulnerable, but brave and ready to happen. Jump into the river with me, won’t you?

Good night beautiful year.

Joy Jam

It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for Joy Jam.

What were the 3-5 things that gave you joy this week?

“Good night beautiful day.”

Sweet, sparkly Hanna Marcotti of Hannah’s Harvest has posted this as her Facebook status update a few times this last week, and it makes me smile.

Apple Pie Oatmeal

One serving of oatmeal + one piece of apple pie = so yummy. Best use of holiday leftovers, e v e r.

Cool Hunters “Animal Lovers” Facebook Photo Album

This is a huge dose of cuteness. Here’s just one example:

That is all, because there’s a plumber here right now working on our kitchen sink, pipes, and fixtures, and I’m going to have to write him a pretty big check any time–and yet, I am joyful that he is a great plumber, was here only a few hours after I called this morning, is going to fix the issue, and I have the money to pay him, (even though I’d rather spend it on candy and puppies).

What I’ve Learned on this Vacation


Having time off from my paid work, time at home and away, is such a gift. Sinking in to that space allows me to be wholly mindful in a way that I don’t seem to manage otherwise, and I learn so much from it.

I committed myself this week to doing a whole “Review, Reflect, and Resolve” project, but found myself getting irritated, and tired, and frustrated, and anxious–not at all the experience I’d expected. It was taking too long, wasn’t going as smoothly as I had imagined, and I felt scattered and unfocused–until I realized why: I have been blogging about my “life rehab” here, and this has been an ongoing process of reviewing, reflecting, and resolving my life. I have already taken steps, I am already doing the work, and there’s no need to separate that out as a special, isolated practice because it is, all of it, MY LIFE.

And yet, it’s good to be clear and mindful, about who you are, what you value, where your particular strengths are, what you have to offer, how you can help, and what you want your life to look like. And when you are connected directly to that, when you absolutely embody who you are and what you value, there’s no need to make any other special statement about it. Instead you simply sink into it and rest–it’s where you live. As Leo Babauta suggested in his post “Quashing the Self-Improvement Urge,” we can let go of goals and projects and improvement, and “instead…be happy with ourselves,” what he calls a “revolution of contentment.”

I didn’t completely abandon my review, reflect, and resolve, but I have reframed it. I am putting pages into the 2012 weekly planner Eric got me to be able to carry a physical reminder with me, of who I am and what I value and what I hope to manifest. I am so excited for the possibility and transformation of the new year, and think this “book” I am making will remind and inspire me when I need it. What I’ve learned while being on vacation is that to approach a year of “retreat,” I need to remember the qualities of retreat I hope to manifest: practice, balance, rest, and transformation.

I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend my body: eat, shower, sleep, exercise, meditate, do yoga, walk with the dogs, spend time with Eric.

I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend to my spirit: meditate, do yoga, walk with my dogs, study and read, be creative, write.

I’ve been reminded that I need to make time to tend my heart: served most effectively when there is balance in the way I tend the other two, because in that way/those ways, I am generating and manifesting love and kindness towards myself, but I’m also practicing keeping my heart open, being mindful, vulnerable, present, and brave. I am able to connect my core values (kindness, bravery, silliness, creativity, curiosity, and presence) directly to my actions.

You might wonder where “mind” is on my list of things to tend. I have come to understand that concept (through my study and practice of Buddhist principles) that the brain is an organ of the body, so would be part of what you are referring to when you talk of that physical collective. The “mind” or consciousness is centered with, and directly connected to the heart. Together, they join wisdom (mind) and compassion (heart) in a single, central location. This space is our fundamental nature, our basic goodness–who we “really” are, underneath, before, and beyond anything else. So when I referred to “heart” earlier, I meant heart-mind.

For my year of Retreat, my resolve is to sink into my practices, know and manifest my core values, be open-hearted and brave, have faith in a sacred alignment between what I want and what I have to offer, be mindful of my middle path (the pause and the gap, balance and freedom), rest and restore and rehab. Transformation is one element that has special meaning to me, as I realized the other day that every butterfly is first a pupa in a cocoon–fat, soft, round, vulnerable, and completely still. You simply cannot transform and grow wings without that time in stasis, and therefore, you must retreat if you are looking to transform. Yes, I might feel a bit sad or even embarrassed by my blobby, fat, slow self while the rest of the world is happily crawling around chewing on stuff, or floating in the sky on their beautiful wings, but I have to remember I am exactly where I should be, things are unfolding just as they should. It is right, true, and completely natural.

Just like savasana pose in yoga, this quiet and stillness and surrender is necessary to integrate the body and mind with the practice, to assimilate and process the practice into an embodied whole.  In the same way, off the mat, deep change needs a balance of deep rest and contemplation to allow our innate wisdom to work, for integration to happen.

In between inhalation and exhalation,
In between joy and pain,
In between remembering and forgetting,
In between who we think we are and reality,
There is a pause.
Seek refuge there.
~Goswami Kriyananda

Wishcasting Wednesday

from Jamie's post

Today’s Wishcasting Wednesday question from Jamie Ridler is: “What is your wish for the New Year?”

I am spending this week doing my own “Review, Reflect, and Resolve,” cobbling together pieces and parts of various annual review and resolutions strategies, worksheets, and practices from around the web. I am adding pages to the front and back of my new 2012 Weekly Planner to formally record the process, and to have something I can keep with me throughout next year, as a reminder and an inspiration. There are lots of personal wishes there, just for me and my life, made solid by the mindful and measured way I’ve put them together, and through my resolve. So my wish for the New Year isn’t a personal one, although it is for me as well.

This New Year, I wish for all of us a letting go and leaving behind of the habits, emotions, expectations, fear, self-hate, stories, grudges, hurts, attachments, addictions, misery, grief, suffering, thoughts, memories, and even the hopes that no longer serve us. We will let them know that they are not invited into 2012.

We will release them and be free.

Picture by Erik Sagen

This is my wish for the New Year, for freedom and a fresh start, for all of us.

P.S. Right after I published this post, I checked my email and there was this image from gapingvoid.com. The artist, Hugh MacLeod (one of my favorites), explains that “So much human suffering is tied to hanging on to things; material, emotional, or otherwise…If you’re unhappy, nine times out of ten it’s because you’re clinging onto something…Nine times out of ten, happiness and letting go are synonymous.” So, I suppose that means the secret wish under the wish is for our shared happiness in the New Year.

art by Hugh MacLeod

Three Truths and One Wish

I’m not sure why exactly, but these posts are the hardest to write out of all the regular features. I wake up every Tuesday morning having no idea what I’m going to write about, and by the time I start to work on the post, I’ve typically written and then rejected at least 2-3 ideas. But it always works out, something always comes to me and it’s “right.” This is further evidence that much of art is about showing up and being open to what happens.

1. Truth: There is a middle path, a middle way. This is another one of those concepts that is from Buddhism, but one doesn’t have to be Buddhist to see the wisdom in it. The middle path, the middle way is balance, evenness, equanimity, calm, clarity, wisdom, insight, ease, natural, and organic–it is freedom.

It is not too loose, not too tight. It is not extremes or fundamentalism. It is between the extremes of addiction to indulgence in sense-pleasures and addiction to self-mortification, between attachment and aversion to pleasure and pain, between self-indulgence and self-denial, between hedonism and asceticism. The middle way, the middle path is neither overindulging in the pleasure of the world or rejecting it’s goodness. It’s the “but this one is just right” moment that Goldilocks discovers again and again in the story of The Three Bears.

2. Truth: Every person has their own middle, and must discover it for themselves. “Everyone practices in order to find out for him- or herself personally how to be balanced, how to be not too tight and not too loose. No one else can tell you. You just have to find out for yourself,” (Pema Chödrön).

For example, I push to get more done, make improvements, keep working, harder, faster, better–but this is too tight. I burn out from this way of being, and I slip into sickness, exhaustion, numbness, laziness, and depression–and this is too loose. I have to learn what balance is, where the middle way is for me. No one else can tell me. I have to find out for myself.

We can’t use other people’s measures, external criteria for what is enough, for who we should be and what we should do. We don’t need to look outside ourselves for validation, acceptance, permission, and love. We can get still and quiet, practice and pray and meditate and listen, learn to love ourselves, to settle in to our middle.

3. Truth: The middle is not a fixed location. Where my middle path is today might shift tomorrow, or even in the next moment. It will shift with time and circumstance. Age, physical ability, knowledge, skill, practice, and understanding will all move the middle. We need to maintain mindfulness, be aware of the shifts, the twists and turns, the change in weather and speed and slope and strength, and we need to adjust our exertion and rest and route when necessary.

One Wish: That you may find your middle path, and through continued mindfulness and ease, remain on it. I wish for all of us that we find our middle, where we don’t feel the need to grasp or hold on to or reject or run away from the reality of our experience. I wish that we all, on our middle path, move through our lives fully present and able to work with whatever arises, skillfully and compassionately. May we all be free.

Something Good.

Holy wow, do I have a list for you today!

Cupcakes.

I call these “grown up cupcakes”: dark chocolate with buttercream frosting. I added peppermint chips on top because it was Christmas. Every time I make these, I think of the zenhabits.net post that Leo Babauta wrote, “The Quiet Theory of Influence,” in which he says “Imagine owning a muffin shop. If the muffins are commonplace, you’ll have to advertise and do some ‘guerilla marketing’ to get customers. But if your muffins make people roll their eyes in ecstasy, they will tell the world of your deliciousness, and the world will pound on your muffin-scented door.” Or in this case, cupcake-scented.

Review, Reflect, and Resolve: Being Able to Start Again

Today, I am starting this process. My plan is to go through all the practices and worksheets I mentioned the other day, and distill them into a list that works, specifically for me.  At first, because it’s just how/who I am, I thought I would do all of them: “do all the reviews!” Then I thought maybe I could pick a few of my favorites, but finally decided I like the magic and possibility of reading through them all and selecting the questions and strategies that stood out, spoke to me, sparkled. Some things I know I’ll be doing is reviewing my journals from this past year (skimming, there’s just too much to actually read), coming up with a reading list for 2012, and personalizing the day planner Eric got me for Christmas, in which he wrote “Jill’s guide to the best year ever!”

Great Presents.

For the past few years, my nieces have sent me the cutest mugs.  Here’s this year’s offering:

Eric made me two terrariums. My grandma kept African Violets, and when I did my releasing ceremony on the Winter Solstice, towards the end of the burn, there was part of the fire that was the exact color of the one Eric gave me. I’d never seen fire burn that color.

And Eric really liked the book I made him, “The Story of Us.” He said it reminded him of Post Secret or Found Magazine, two of our favorite projects. Most of it is too personal to post about, but here’s one of the Blackout Poems I “wrote” that I am especially proud of, “Beyond the Horizon.”

belonging
a sense of being rooted
a memory profound, sacred
within space that is desire
a living source of the present.

We live
one to another,
the memory of a horizon that is not closed off.

New Music: Parachute Youth, “Can’t Get Better Than This.”

I plan to listen once, and then I find myself hitting “replay” ten times.

Cool Sites Whose Mission is to Find and Share the Cool Stuff.

Here’s just two of them:

The Cool Hunter,” (where I first saw the above video). On their “about us” page, they explain that their site “celebrates creativity in all of its modern manifestations…what’s cool, thoughtful, innovative and original.”

Kirtsy“: This site’s “about” statement says “Kirtsy is just like that friend who always finds the best stuff. Only better…art, design, products, pins, photos, and projects…curated by some of the most interesting people online.”

100 Ways

100 Ways to Live a Better Life” and “100 Ways to Screw Up Your Life.” Which list looks more like your life?

Deva Cards

This originally came to me from Susannah Conway’s most recent “Something for the Weekend” post, (in fact, lots of things from my “Something Good” posts come from her–she’s amazing). Hiro Boga shares these cards on her website. I tried it, because I love divination: picking a random line from a sacred text, tarot readings, throwing I-Ching coins, dream interpretation, Q-Cards qcasting, or any such oracle through which the universe might send me a message.

So, I typed my intention, “I intend to rest and restore,” shuffled the cards, and got the word “Transformation.”

I had to think a bit about what that might mean for me, and then it came to me, like a lighting bolt: my guiding word for the next year is “retreat.” I was feeling a bit sad the other day, thinking about words other people had selected, things like “brave,” “leap,” “shine,” “manifest,” “adventure,” and even “conquer.” I wanted to have an exciting word too.  Retreat? That’s boring, dull.

But, transformation? This word reminded me why “retreat” is exactly the right word. Every butterfly is first a pupa in a cocoon–fat, soft, round, vulnerable, and completely still. You simply cannot transform and grow wings without that time in stasis, and therefore, you must retreat if you are looking to transform. Yes, I might feel a bit sad or even embarrassed by my blobby, fat, slow self while the rest of the world is happily crawling around chewing on stuff, or floating in the sky on their beautiful wings, but I have to remember I am exactly where I should be, things are unfolding just as they should. It is right, true, and completely natural.

Just like savasana pose in yoga, this quiet and stillness and surrender is necessary to integrate the body and mind with the practice, to assimilate and process the practice into an embodied whole.  In the same way, off the mat, deep change needs a balance of deep rest and contemplation to allow our innate wisdom to work, for integration to happen.

Shit Girls Say

I might be offended by these, if I weren’t laughing so hard.

The Universe Says “Yes,” Again.

Chris Guillebeau, author of “The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World” and organizer the World Domination Summit (which I get to attend this year), mentioned one of my posts in his most recent blog post, “2011 Annual Review: Looking Forward.” Needless to say, my blog has gotten a lot of extra hits today. I write this blog for other reasons, but it’s still nice to be noticed sometimes–really nice.

  • Okay, your turn: tell us something good.

Day of Rest, and a Celebration.

On this day of rest and celebration (Happy Birthday, Jesus!), I’d like to share a few videos that embody the joy of this dayfor me, at least (hint: books and music are essential).

This first one I kept catching myself thinking “oh, that’s my favorite one,” but then there’d be another equally beautiful snowflake, and I’d think “oh, no–that one’s my favorite!” I had no idea who Chronicle Books was before I watched the video, but apparently, they are “an independent publisher located in San Francisco, we have an award-winning history of innovation in both subject matter and format for our distinctive books and gifts” and their mission statement is “inspired by the enduring magic and importance of books, our objective is to create and distribute exceptional publishing that is instantly recognizable for its spirit, creativity, and value.” The enduring magic and importance of books?! I totally love them, and I love this video and the message at the end. (Don’t forget after you hit play to click on the snowflake in the lower right hand corner of the toolbar to make it snow).


And then, three videos from one of my favorite musicians, Danielle of Danielle Ate the Sandwich. If you don’t already know why I love her so much, read the post I wrote after seeing her live for the first time. And then, enjoy these videos: her silliness, her beautiful voice, and the big heart of her tiny ukelele.



Now, it’s time for me to give Eric his “heartmade” Christmas gift. Yesterday, after many hours, six glue sticks, and much assembly, I finished it, and decided to call it “heartmade” instead of “handmade” because I poured my whole little heart into it. I hope he likes it, and if not, he at least can see from it how much I love and appreciate him.
I can hear the crackling fire coming from our Happy Holiday Hearth DVD, so I’d better get out there.

A wish for you this day:
Peace in the struggle to find peace.
Comfort on the way to comfort.