Monthly Archives: February 2013

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: I thought I had to change, but I don’t. When I first started this life rehab of mine, I imagined becoming an entirely different and new person, completely transformed. I invested in self-help and self-improvement. I took classes, bought books, went on retreats, attended workshops and conferences, joined different communities, made new friends, followed lots of blogs, tried numerous strategies. It was like being on a new diet, but it involved my whole life, my whole self. I was going to work hard and change. Then I realized, I don’t need to change but rather I need to be myself, entirely and exactly. I need to live more deeply into who I really am, my truest self, trusting my innate and fundamental wisdom and compassion and strength.

2. Truth: The answer to every question, every struggle is simply this–relax. This is a truth I’ve been contemplating for some time, and I haven’t been able to stump it. No matter what situation or circumstance I apply it to, it works. It brings with it gentleness, space, awareness, freedom, ease, stillness, wisdom, and breath. When things are hard, relax. When you are confused, relax. When you are struggling, relax. When you are bored, relax. I don’t have to remember anything else, just that.

3. Truth: You can’t rush it. There is no speeding up or pushing or forcing or bullying that will get you there, that will make it happen. It takes the time that it takes. And as Chögyam Trungpa said, “Before we produce anything at all, we have to have a sense of free and open space.” If this feels confusing or difficult, see Truth #2.

One Wish: That we can all see ourselves clearly, love and accept who we really are, and that we can relax and live into that fundamental truth.

Full Snow Moon

From Jamie’s post: “Sometimes we bury our dreams and desires deep within, as though hiding them under layers and layers of snow. Protecting them. Protecting ourselves. Waiting until the time is right for them to grow. Now is the time to tune into your heart, to let your intuition and your dreamboard express and reveal the dreams that are hidden inside. Let the creative process take you below the surface, beneath the layers of safety and protection, guiding you to the innermost dreams sparkling in your soul.”

The Full Snow Moon asks: “What desires lie deep within?”

fullsnowmoon2013

Ganesha, lord of beginnings,
remover of obstacles,
master of intellect and wisdom.
The elephant is a symbol of luck, fortune and protection,
and thought to be a blessing to new projects,
able to clear obstacles from your path.
An elephant represents strength, honor, stability, and patience,
and specifically the power of the feminine,
a guardian and protector.

Move with ease, with grace
and a thirst for knowledge, understanding.
Everything’s in reach.
Your garden, your earth, your heart, your deepest longing.
The art of loving, of living
lies in a fine mingling of letting go
and holding on.

Where the spirit leads the feet will follow.
Down distant paths for unmapped miles.
Transformation, as from a caterpillar to butterfly.
A mandala made of dreams and breath and dirt.
Heads forget but hearts remember.
The art of living, of loving knows no bounds.

Kaun Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion.
She who hears the cries of the world.
She holds a lotus flower, the innate purity of Buddha nature.
She holds a sutra, the enlightened wisdom of the Dharma.
She holds a mala, the vow of the Bodhisattva to save all beings from suffering.
She holds me.

Whole life, whole health.
Community is our heritage–
being with ourselves,
practicing with friends.
Noticing the quintessential nature of things, their origins,
in memory, meditation, emotion, and pure delight.

Sanctuary in practice and place,
space for rest and calm, refuge.
Stay, relax, let go, surrender.
I make a vow, a commitment to dedicate my life
to keeping my heart and mind open,
and to nurturing my compassion
with the longing to ease the suffering of the world.


This video is Deva Premal chanting the Ganesha mantra, intended to remove obstacles. May it make way for a new beginning for all of us, a fresh start in which suffering is eased and love grows in its place.

Something Good

A reminder about why I write this list: When I am feeling bad, I will often ask Eric to “tell me something good.” When I need something to hang on to, to make me feel better, something to show me that it’s not all bad. When I am in that dark hole, way down at the bottom, and the mean things with teeth are down there with me–”tell me something good.”

He’s really good at it, because even when all he can think of is “I love you,” it totally works. I mean, how great is it that the person that you picked and who said “yes” nineteen years ago, and knows you better than anyone, knows all the embarrassing and ugly stuff, continues to love you? He usually is able to give me a whole list when I ask him, followed by a hug and “what can I do for you, how can I make you feel better?”

So on A Thousand Shades of Gray, Monday’s feature is: Something Good. I like the idea of gratitude generating joy, and the opportunity my gratitude has to spread joy when I share the good things, and there are so many good things, and every Monday, I give you a list.

1. Binge Monsters and Chocolate Teapots from Sas Petherick.

2. Complaints and Requests: Two Halves of a Whole on Scoutie Girl, in which Tivi Jones says “Every complaint you have is a request you haven’t made.”

3. The Daily Loving Practice from Jen Louden.

4. “Writer Robert Olen Butler explains that the plot of any story is a yearning meeting a series of obstacles,” (from Your Daily Rock on 37 Days). This makes total sense to me.

5. “Rest does not need to hold hands with guilt. We do not have to pay for rest when the rest is over,” from a little bird told me, Brave Girls Club Daily Truth.

6. Quotes from Karen Salmansohn. “Be so full of love and light that none of what is going on outside of you can hurt you,” and “Let go of what you can’t control. Channel all that energy into living fully in the now.”

7. Bullies Called Him Pork Chop. He Took That Pain With Him And Then Cooked It Into This.

8. “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only robs today of its joy.” ~Leo Buscaglia

9. Journal Your Life: Writing Your Dreams Into Reality, a new ecourse from Susannah Conway. Registration opens tomorrow, and I am predicting it’s going to be an amazing class, (a pretty safe bet, since everything she does is all kinds of awesome). She writes a bit about her own journaling practice in this post.

10. Lost Generation, a poem with a twist.

11. Succulents Galore Etsy store, (link shared on Pugly Pixel, Links Loved). Also on Pugley Pilxel’s list this week, The Ink Nest Etsy store and a recipe for Baked Espresso Glazed Doughnuts and a CSS Patterns Gallery.

12. The Self-Acceptance Project from Sounds Truea FREE 12-week Video Event Series, beginning Monday, March 4, 2013. I probably already mentioned this, but it’s worth saying again, as this includes all the “big names.”

13. Swords into plowshares and hate mail into origami from Rachel Held Evans. Such a great idea.

14. From SF Girl by Bay’s Thoughts for a Friday listproof that people are weird and magic, Japanese floral artist Takaya-Hanayuishi, and beautiful photos by Lisa Warninger and Chelsea Fuss.

15. From Susannah’s Something for the Weekend list: Learn How to Meditate and Finding Vivian Maier, the Official Movie Trailer.

16. Vulnerability is The Path, from the brilliant and compassionate Susan Piver (another great resource for learning to meditate is her Open Heart Project).

17. How to REALLY Find Your True Life’s Purpose… Once and For All! from Kute Blackson, in which he says,

All that’s needed is that you put one step in front of the next as you go boldly in the the direction of your heart. As you trust, then the universe will rise to your support. Your true life’s purpose is then not something you wait to find, but something that you live into. It is the invitation that life gives you to live each moment of each day as love.

18. may you feel connected + seen + adored by Jessica Swift, in which she talks about an amazing retreat she attended (that I envied from afar as I viewed the photos being posted to Instagram and Facebook that weekend by various amazing women), in which she links to a post Kelly Rae Robert’s wrote about how to set up such a retreat. I am predicting that my Courage Camp this summer (you know who you are, ladies) will be such an event.

19. This quote from Julia Cameron, “Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is always ongoing and changing, not something that can be perfected, finished, and set aside.” Amen.

20. What my life looked like before Self Love, a brave and vulnerable post from Dominee at Blessing Manifesting.

21. This quote from Mark Whitwell, (by way of the amazing Jessica Patterson),

To be yourself is very easy; you don’t have to do a thing. No effort is necessary, and you don’t have to exercise your will. But try to be something other than what you are, and you have to do many unnecessary things and struggle a lot. To be yourself requires extraordinary intelligence. You are blessed with that intelligence; nobody need give it to you, and nobody can take it away from you.

22. 30+ of the most beautiful abandoned places and modern ruins i’ve ever seen, from Francesco Mugnai.

23. Sir Nicholas Winton, BBC Programme “That’s Life,” aired in 1988. This video is so sweet, and heartbreaking, and inspiring. Would that we could all do something so good and important with our lives.

24. This quote: “The spiritual life does not remove us from the world but leads us deeper into it.” ~Henri Nouwen

25. Kid President. I shared his A Pep Talk from Kid President to You video already, but here it is again if you missed it.

Here’s a new video, The True Story of Kid President.

And another, which he made for Valentine’s day with two of my favorite singers, sisters Lennon & Maisy, (who are apparently now on TV, on a show called Nashville).

This was Lennon and Maisy’s first video, one of the sweetest, most beautiful things ever.

26. You can slow down. I mean REALLY slow. from Jen Lee.

27. This quote, from Geneen Roth,

I heard this from Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain (I love that book): each morning, do what he calls a “flight check”: remember that 1. You Are Safe. You are not getting bombed, invaded, destroyed. You really are safe, in this moment, now. Number 2. You have Enough. Enough food, enough clothes, enough warmth. And the last one: 3. You are Loved. By a cat or a dog. By your child. By your friend. By your spouse. You are loved and you have love in your life. We usually are reacting unconsciously to old patterns, many of which were about safety, enoughness, and love. We act as if we don’t have them, when, if you check in to the present, we realize we do. And then, it gives us a ground upon which the rest of the day can proceed with a different kind of knowing and relaxation. Try it now. Say those things to yourself. Take them in.

28. What you think about… from Hannah Marcotti.

29. May I Be Happy: A Conversation with Cyndi Lee on Body Image on Curvy Yoga. I love what Cyndi says about how yoga is being “sold” now that it’s gone more mainstream (“as a fitness and de-stressing program”),

We know that barely touches what yoga is really about and has basically nothing to do with the traditional benefits of yoga. But they don’t know how to sell yoga in any other way. And let’s face it, the audience for getting enlightened, or being honest and genuine, or living a life that is based on being connected to everyone and everything or talking about death as a way to appreciate our precious life, this audience is always going to be smaller than the “Let’s Get Fit in 30 days” audience.

30. Because it feels strange to end on an odd number, and because it’s totally something good in my life, my friend Carrie had a baby boy yesterday! Welcome to the world, Vincent. You are a very lucky boy, have an awesome family. (P.S. And just to warn you, I will probably be calling you Vinnie. Don’t tell your mom.)

Day of Rest

I had planned to do a bit of gardening this weekend. I’d noticed last week that some of my irises were starting to send out tiny green shoots, and I hadn’t yet cleaned out remnants of last year’s plants. I was going to clear some space, give Spring some room. Then Winter decided to make a comeback, bring snow for the third time this week, even more than we got before. There would be no gardening today.

There are at least two other blog posts insisting on being written right now. One I already started last night, but I “ran out of gas” and left it unpublished. There’s also an ecourse I’m supposed to be developing, a checkbook that needs balanced and laundry that should be put away. I am getting better and better at doing this, leaving things undone when it’s clear that there is something else I hunger for, letting go of the “shoulds,” focusing more on my experience than on my output, lowering the bar, trusting myself.

Last week was rough. I wasn’t sleeping very well, was worried about both dogs, had this awful feeling of not being able to keep those I love safe, of not being safe, and it wore me down. It was a horrible feeling of anxiety and dread, and I was stuck in it. At night, I would wake up if Dexter got up and worry about him, and after a few nights of that and a nervous system that was completely raw, I resorted to sleeping with earplugs, completely surrendering to sleep which I so desperately needed, trusting that Dexter would be okay and knowing that if I didn’t get some rest, I wouldn’t be able to help him if he wasn’t.

Then finally, there came a day when I didn’t feel so rough. I let myself be touched, moved. I was weepy and open. Watching Ben and Leslie’s wedding on Parks and Recreation, I cried during their vows, (they said “I love you, and I like you”). I asked my friend Pam, who gives me super quick “drive by hugs” at work, to give me a right proper hug because I’d had a tough week. I relaxed as I watched Dexter and Sam cuddled next to each other on the dog bed next to me on the floor, each playing with their own toy, eventually falling into a shared nap.

I relaxed the tight ball in my chest that morning, first when my Sam leaned his head into mine and let out a deep sigh, and later in yoga, taking deep breaths, stretching and sinking into each pose. When my friend Mitch said goodbye to me after yoga class, leaned in and play punched my arm, I let myself feel that he loves me, that people can genuinely love each other and that doesn’t have to be weird. All of the anxiety and awfulness of the past week broke me open, left me raw and vulnerable, and because of that I was able to be present.

So today, when some plans got changed due to the weather, I was fine with it. I love the snow here, and today it allowed me to snuggle up, sink in, slow down, relax. It makes everything quiet, fills it with light. I knew that what I most needed was to read some Pema Chödrön, specifically her new book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. Clearly, I wasn’t wrong about this book, her gentle wisdom was exactly what I needed right now.

My word for this year is Freedom. It is a quality, an experience that I am trying to cultivate in my life. This past week, when I was stuck in a spiral of anxiety and despair, I was not free. I wish for suffering to ease, in myself and in the world, and for love to grow in its place, but instead I trapped myself in my own confusion and grief. In Pema’s book, she says,

But it’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely leg go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom–freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.

This is where I’m at, what I’m working with. At times, it’s incredibly uncomfortable and I don’t think I’ll be able to stand it for another moment, but then the next moment comes, and I’m able to start again. Rest in this sense means trusting that “this too shall pass,” that nothing is permanent, and that’s okay. Rest means allowing what is to be as it is, rather than rushing to change it or escape it. Rest even means taking the Bodhisattva vow, which as Pema describes is “a commitment to dedicate our lives to keeping our hearts and minds open and to nurturing our compassion with the longing to ease the suffering of the world.” I am filled with this longing, along with gratitude for the wise and compassionate help that is available to me as I continue to try.

Gratitude Friday

This post started as a mashup of The Little Bliss List and Joy Jam, and as such is meant to celebrate: the little things that brought me hope and happiness this week, the sweet stuff of life, those small gifts that brought me joy this week. By sharing them, I not only make public my gratitude, but maybe also help you notice your own good stuff and send some positive energy out into the world.

1. Dexter and Sam curled up next to me in bed. All of us together, safe, warm, sleeping (well, except for me who is awake to notice the moment).

2. Food, satisfying and good. Grapefruit juice and avocados. Meatloaf with lots of ketchup. Biscuits and strawberry rhubarb jam from Lucile’s. Roasted brussel sprouts.

3. Small kindnesses, moments of beauty. The way the light hit the snow and made it sparkle, seeing someone’s glove fall out of their pocket and being able to return it to them, Dexter feeling enough better that he wants to play again, Sam pressing his head against mine and sighing his warm breath into my neck, friends sending me silly videos or posting cute pictures on my Facebook wall, love notes from Eric, kind comments and gratitude.

4. Things that could have been worse, but weren’t. I am especially grateful this week for talented and compassionate veterinary staff.

5. A supportive spouse, who helps me remove the cactus spines from Sam’s leg, gives Dexter the shot he needs twice a week, who convinces me to go to my paid work office for just a little bit so I can get out of the house and on my own even though I don’t really feel up to it, who feeds me so well and lets me rest, who tries his best to understand when I seem to be (am?) losing my mind.

Bonus Joy: Another week with Dexter, even though it was an especially rough one. I took him to see his regular vet this week, because when Dexter was diagnosed in August, he was given the standard prognosis of 95 days–that was six months ago. She took a good look at Dexter and conceded that considering how well he’s been doing, and the absence of any sort of facial deformity or other changes, there’s a good chance that his tumor is slow growing, and some dogs with those tumors live anywhere from 6-24 months beyond their initial diagnosis, even without treatment, (although, she did caution that some of the dogs that make it to 24 months are in really bad shape and should have been let go sooner). Maybe I’ll get to have a ten year old dog after all.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Being highly sensitive is both a blessing and a curse. I was born completely porous, raw and naked and open wide. I had no defense, no barrier between myself and the world, myself and others. What you felt, I felt, and I felt it deeply. For years, I wore heavy armor (invisible yes, but heavy and hard nonetheless) and masks, cocooned myself, padded my body with extra weight, distracted with smoke and mirrors, hid myself away, anything I could to do to protect myself.

What I didn’t understand yet is that this sensitivity, this keen emotion, acute intuition, deep knowing, this tenderness was something that others spent their lives trying to achieve, that there were many ancient practices to teach one to be so openhearted, so present, spacious and awake. I had what others wanted, what they worked so hard to experience. I have slowly allowed my gentle self to peek out, have been working with being vulnerable and brave, keeping my heart open, but it’s so hard sometimes–the beauty and the brutality, the tenderness and the terror can be so overwhelming.

2. Truth: “You should put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help someone else with theirs.” I was chanting this silently last night as I tried to fall asleep. My worrying about Dexter wasn’t letting me rest, mind or body, and I was exhausted. That phrase was the thing that kept coming back to me, the only thing that was helping. No “he’s fine” or “everything’s going to be okay” or general allowing or accepting of reality or releasing of attachment would work, but the awareness that I needed to take care of myself or I wouldn’t be of any help to him did.

3. Truth: I can’t control everything, and perfection is impossible. I know this, deep down know it, and yet I keep acting as if it’s not true. I keep Dexter home from hiking, thinking I can keep him safe, and he hurts himself chasing after a squirrel in our backyard. I feed my dogs the best possible food, provide the best health care, give them tons of exercise and affection, take better care of them sometimes than I do myself, and still two of them have been diagnosed with fatal cancers. I obsess about Dexter’s physical therapy and medications and various appointments, thinking I can fix him, keep him safe, when no matter what I do, he will eventually die, as all mortal things do. I try to be so careful and prepared and diligent and alert, but bad things still happen. Things break, feelings get hurt, mistakes are made. I am not always responsible, and even when I am, I am forgivable, still loveable. I am trying to do as Karen Salmansoh suggests and, “Let go of what you can’t control. Channel all that energy into living fully in the now.”

One Wish: That we can approach our experience, our struggle and suffering, with great gentleness and a loving presence. That when we despair, are afraid and sad, we can experience some ease, remember our innate strength, have confidence and find comfort in our fundamental wisdom and compassion. And as Hafiz says, “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in the darkness, the astonishing light of your own being.”

Something Good

1. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out: Poetry for Visionary Thinking. I have brilliant friends. This is the sort of thing they do when they follow their dreams, when they heed the call of their longing.

2. 3-year-old recites poem, “Litany” by Billy Collins. This kind of thing is an argument for reincarnation, divine nature, or something just as as brilliant and mysterious. Here’s a follow up story on NPR, Love Of Words Brings Child, Poet Together.

3. 17 Essays by Female Writers That Everyone Should Read on Flavorwire. I am working on it.

4. The question underneath every other question, another powerful post by Andrea Scher on Superhero Life.

5. More on what self-care, self-compassion looks like: Looking with Love by Alana Sheeren and Unraveling by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt.

6. Zen Pencils: Timothy Leary, “You aren’t like them.”

7. This quote, “Little by little, one travels far,” J.R.R. Tolkien. And similarly, “Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time,” Shunryu Suzuki.

8. One of my favorite quotes from William Gibson, “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”

9. And this one, “If you subdue the hatred within, you will discover that there is not a single enemy left outside,” Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

10. C the G TV. Catherine Just only started the project last week, but already so many good interviews.

11. This is always a good reminder, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it,” ~Rumi. This too, “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” ~Rumi.

12. 14 Days of Self-Love post by Rachel Cole. This project, hosted by Vivienne McMaster is all kinds of good stuff, good people.

13. Open, Generous, and Connected by Seth Godin. Yes, please.

14. The Willard Asylum Suitcases on Lisa Congdon’s blog. Heartbreaking, fascinating, and slightly creepy.

15. Free ebook: Living from the Heart: Volume 1 from Louise Gale, and many other brilliant souls.

16. A Leap of Faith from Sas Petherick. “I feel like I have gone from playing ping-pong with my bare hands, to using a smart red paddle.”

17. Want More Love In Your Life? by Thomas Dunleavy on Your Heart Makes a Difference.

18. Swap True for Original from Jennifer Louden.

19. More than one thing from the brilliant Alexandra Franzen, 5 ways to write a blow-your-mind manifesto and Want folks to act / click / share / buy now? Screw the sales pitch. Write a Love Letter.

20. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others…(BE Your OWN Love Valentine) from Kute Blackson. “To succeed at being somebody that you are not (but think you need to be) is still a failure.  But to love who you are and courageously be that fully is a life well lived.”

21. 5 Reasons to Simplify Your Life from The Spacious Life.

22. “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.” ~Buddha

23. “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.” ~Carl Sagan

24. Oana Befort’s beautiful blog.

25. Safe & Sound Taylor Swift (ft.The Civil Wars) – Brittni Paiva ukulele cover. Beautiful music, beautiful instrument.

26. My beautiful, brilliant friend Jessica Patterson said this week, “whatever reminds you that you are whole, perfect, and holy…start there,” (to which I responded “stay there”).

27. “Our ‘originality’ is nothing more than our unique response to everyone we ever wanted to imitate or seduce.” ~Susie Bright

28. “Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.” ~Herman Hesse

29. your daily rock : live mindfully, on 37 Days which begins with this brilliant quote, “Mindfulness meditation doesn’t change life. Life remains as fragile and unpredictable as ever. Meditation changes the heart’s capacity to accept life as it is.” ~Sylvia Boorstein

30. 15 Easy Ways to Beat Anxiety Now on Greatist, (originally shared by Positively Present Picks). I wish I would have more successfully applied some of this the past few days.

31. A Pebble for Your Pocket on A Design So Vast. Such a beautiful post, which Lindsey ends with the question “what is there to do but to keep my eyes open, to take a deep breath, to love this life of mine, in all its flawed, real, glittering beauty?”