Monthly Archives: December 2015

#reverb15: Finishing Up

reverb2015On this last day of the year, it seemed like a good time to wrap up my responses to the Reverb 15 prompts. The Furns are my soundtrack as I write.


Prompt: Of Marshmallows and Trampolines. What small pleasures gave you moments of intense joy in 2015? What more could you cultivate in 2016?

Napping, with the dogs, and specifically with Ringo. It’s only been in the past six months or so that he’s calmed down, grown up enough to settle in to a real cuddle, to actually rest down and sleep. I am realizing that even though my tendency has been to forego the nap, to push through and keep working, my body really needs the extra rest, and my heart and mind don’t mind the break either.

Going on a walk. Because of my foot, I had to really slow down, could hardly walk or get out for almost four months. It was SO hard. I don’t think of myself as super active, but having to stay in and rest made me realize how essential it is for me to get up, get out and move, for both my mental and physical health. Now that I’m better and can start to build up the distance we go, there’s nothing I love more than going for a walk.

Reading. After graduate school when so much was required and I learned new habits like reading six books at a time, my way of reading shifted. And then when I started doing so many extra activities, reading got sort of lost in the shuffle. I still read here and there, but nothing like before. Oddly enough, getting a Kindle was what got me back into reading on the regular. It’s like having an entire library in a single place, one that I can easily take with me anywhere, and turn the light way down so I can read in bed and it doesn’t keep Eric awake.


Prompt: Magic and Beauty. Ancient alchemical texts are things of beauty – filled with allegory and symbolic language; things hidden in plain sight; and plain things promising transformation.  If we were to peek into the book of your year, what might we find?  What magic do you carry that people need to look a bit deeply to see?

I carry the ability to hold space. For people, for celebration and joy, for suffering and sadness, for nourishment, for creativity, for learning, for connection, for rest. I create a container where people feel safe, cared for, comfortable, and at ease. They can relax.


Prompt: Your Purple Crayon. Imagine one such crayon would be bestowed upon you on New Year’s Eve 2015: what would you draw to ensure 2016 had everything you need?

I would draw space (room in my day, schedule, home, heart, time for rest and contemplation and connection), a calendar that included only the most important and meaningful things (no filler, no energy sucking obligations), a map of all the places I’m going to walk and hike, a list of all the books I’m going to read, a picture of the garden we’ll have this summer, another of all the house projects done and us relaxing in a space that makes us happy, and another of our trip to the coast this summer where we’ll spend long days content and in love with all the things.


Prompt: Through The Doorway. Haven’t you ever been caught in a moment, a magnetic swirl of a moment, when you knew – just knew – that something magical was taking place? You might feel as if a portal into Something has opened at your heart to release a sort of energy into your own private universe, telling you, “Remember your magic…” Think of three important portal points – one in the past, the present, and one you hope to have in the future – and join them together into one powerful and personal gateway into 2015. Where will walking through this gateway lead you in this upcoming new year?

The portal in the past was having the awareness at about six years old that I was going to grow up and be a writer. The portal in the present was the retreat I just got back from (Fearlessly Creative, writing and meditation) where I wrote or edited 12,000 words and felt the book I’m writing so real and present that it was like another person in the room with me. The portal in the future, the powerful and personal gateway into 2015, will lead to writing this book. I’m not silly enough to say I’ll finish it this year. I’ve made the mistake of grand announcements like that before, only to disappoint myself. What I can say for sure is that this book is happening, that I’m writing it, and eventually, I’ll finish it.


Prompt: Max Power. So I invite you to consider: where could you (like me) consider turning it up a few notches in the new year?

Presence. Showing up, being fully in the moment, as I am, not shrinking or numbing out. I deny my own power by downplaying it, by diffusing it, and I don’t want to do that anymore.


Prompt: Space for Answers. Today, I invite you to think about the great unknowns in your life right now. Say to yourself this morning: “I am open to the answers finding me”. Then stay alert with as many senses as you can. In what form did the answers find you?

I’ve been taking part this week in Building a Mindful New Year Together. Over the course of six days, today being the last, two teachers per day talked about the six paramitas, translated sometimes as “transcendent actions.” The program is described this way, “In Buddhist thought, the path to a life of joy is built on taking six actions consistently: Generosity; Discipline; Patience; Exertion; Meditation; and Wisdom. Each day of this program will focus on one of those themes. Two different dharma teachers will guide two different meditations.”

I went into this six day study fresh from a conversation I’d had with a friend about striving. It made me start to seriously consider the question(s), “what am I trying to prove, and who am I trying to prove it to?” Something has been driving me this past year, and it wasn’t something that felt good, certainly didn’t feel joyful — (side note: I realized earlier this year that when I lost Dexter, I let my joy go with him). My realization is that I’ve been caught up in trying to prove I’m good, I’m worthy, I’m equal, and there is a very specific set of people I was trying to prove it to, and it felt like I couldn’t stop until I got their approval. I was working myself so hard, it was literally making me sick.

That answer, that I was trying to prove something and needed to stop striving, came to me in the form of the teachings of the Building a Mindful New Year Together program. No matter what the paramita, every teacher touched on the idea that through our practice, we move beyond the need to entertain or distract ourselves, move past striving (which is actually one of the forms of laziness, and thus an obstacle), that we instead stay and get to know ourselves, the way our minds work, and we are then able to relax into who we are as we are, enabling us to get on with the real stuff of life, tapped into our innate wisdom and compassion, into our natural power and joy.


Prompt: Your 2016 Manifesto. Your last challenge for Reverb15 is to write your manifesto for 2016.

No more striving. I don’t have to prove anything. I don’t have to wait for permission and I don’t need approval. The best thing I can do to help, to be of service, to be content is to sit with myself, stay with myself, allow myself to be exactly as I am, trusting in my fundamental goodness. Circling back to the year this all started, I’m going to be a better friend to myself. I’m going to show up, keep my heart open, be present with whatever might arise, without an agenda. When I get distracted or I make a mistake, I will be gentle, let go and come back — to my intention, my practice, my breath. I will allow space, settle in to my inherent wisdom, sink into my innate compassion. My effort will be joyful. Knowing that my authentic presence is the best I have to offer, I will remember what Michael Zavier said,

So,
You want to be tough.
You want to be rebellious.
You want to be a bad ass.

Then show your heart to everyone…

EVERYONE.

Something Good

It's still Christmas on the Poudre River Trail.

It’s still Christmas on the Poudre River Trail. Every year, someone sneaks over and decorates three of the trees along the trail, always the same three trees.

1. SECRET BAD GIRL: A Sexual Trauma Resolution Revolution, a Kickstarter project by Rachael Maddox. “How I broke my long-standing sexual trauma spell and grew vibrant, vital & free. A provocative memoir & wildly wise resolution guide.” The deadline to contribute is 12/30 at 5 pm EST. I’m adding my own contribution because I want to read this book and because Rachael is doing important work here.

2. Is it too little butter, or too much bread? from Seth Godin. Oh boy, do I need less bread.

3. Nepal’s Earthquake Victims Face Cold Winter Without Shelter, Aid. Check in the comment section for ways to help, places to donate that might actually have a chance of getting help directly to the people who need it.

4. “If you have a moral attachment to a way of eating, that’s a disordered behavior”: How dieting culture, fat shaming and food porn shape our lives. “Salon talks with Kelsey Miller, author of ‘Big Girl,’ about unlearning toxic messages around food and weight.”

5. Everyone has “their” song, a hilarious short video that I can’t stop watching.

6. Let’s Give The Gift of a Fresh Start, a project started by Humans of New York. Brandon described it this way,

Earlier this month we profiled eleven Syrian families that were preparing to begin new lives in America. They have escaped a horrible war, and have finally secured a degree of safety and security, but the road will be very tough for them. They will be starting at zero in a new country. In addition to the culture shock, they will face innumerable obstacles, including the need to learn an entirely new language. As they attempt to get their footing, they will be provided with little more than the bare minimum needed to subsist. This holiday season, let’s give them a little breathing room. The amount we raise over the next 48 hours will be divided evenly among the refugee families that were featured on HONY this month. Many of these families left Syria with nothing. For years they’ve been forced to stretch every dollar to provide for basic needs, so direct assistance will go a long way. Many of these families are large so we certainly can’t cover all their financial needs. But we can lighten the load and help ease the anxiety of starting over in a strange land. So please consider taking part in this gift by making a small donation.

7. Give Me Five, a hilarious cat video.

8. Watch the stars of ‘Downton Abbey’ play a hilarious game of Cards Against Humanity.

9. A DIY mindfulness jar. I love this.

10. What yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley has to say on body image is brilliant.

11. Your Brain on Restriction. This is SO important, and I wish I’d written it.

12. 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest Gallery. Amazing images.

13. Why you should always buy the men’s version of almost anything. Grrrr….

14. A wild sea otter chose to give birth at an aquarium and everyone’s hearts are melting, including mine.

15. If Gyms Were Honest, from Dances with Fat. Reason #111 I want to start my own gym, and when I do, this will be my mission statement.

16. Wisdom from Pema Chödrön,

Limitations can be acknowledged without exaggerating or succumbing to them. When we’re confident that our mind is workable, our failings don’t seem like such a big deal. They’re as temporary as clouds, and in no way diminish the skylike nature of our mind. With this kind of confidence in our limitless potential, the mightiest challenges won’t cause us to lose heart.

17. Pema Chödrön & k.d. lang talk Buddhism, creativity, and “gapaciousness” on Lion’s Roar.

18. Buddhism A-Z: 10 Buddhist books everyone should have, a great list from Lion’s Roar.

19. The Heart of Generosity by Gina Sharpe on Lion’s Roar.

20. Rare bird discovered at Gardens on Spring Creek during Christmas Bird Count. I love everything about this — it’s local, it’s a rare bird, and there is such a thing as a “Christmas Bird Count.”

21. Parents Tell Stepparents What They Really Think, the sweetest video from Soul Pancake.

22. My 4-year-old was told not to say, ‘Happy holidays.’ Here’s how I responded. Word, Dad.

23. 10 Reasons Not to Focus on Your Weight in the New Year, from Be Nourished. SO important. Again, I wish I’d written it.

24. The 15 Best Books of 2015, a list from Brain Pickings. “Rewarding reflections on time, love, loss, courage, creativity, and other transformations of the heart.”

25. SAVE MY ARTWORK a gofundme campaign from Sabrina Ward Harrison, one of my favorite artists, who is in danger of losing a storage unit full of original work, which would be a loss for all of us.

Day of Rest

Lory State Park, image by Eric

Lory State Park, image by Eric

Rested, we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it, rested we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way. In rest we reestablish the goals that make us more generous, more courageous, more of an invitation, someone we want to remember, and someone others would want to remember too.

‘Rest’ From Consolations:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
© David Whyte & Many Rivers Press 2015

#reverb15: Catching Up

reverb2015Reverb15 is actually over. The prompts are still pulling at me though, so here’s a collection of some I responded to today, with links to the full prompts. Maybe I’ll respond to the the rest later, maybe not.

Day 11: Of Atoms and Stories. The prompt here was “What stories touched you this year? Which stories of your own are you glad you shared?”

Like Kat, I loved what Brandon did this year with HONY. I was touched especially by stories of the refugees, shared by him and elsewhere, people putting themselves in boats and leaving everything without any guarantee about what would happen to them when they landed (if they were lucky enough to make it), willing to risk their very lives because the life they were leaving was so so bad.

Also, the earthquake and devastation in Nepal, and all the good people tried to do to help.

And all the deaths by guns.

I was touched by all the suffering, but also the good that came as a response to it, how willing people are to help, how determined so many of us still are to continue to choose love in the face of fear and hurt and brutality.

Similarly, the stories of my own I’m glad I shared are of my own struggles, my own suffering, and the goodness that remains, that continues and even thrives despite it. Most recently, I shared a story while on retreat about what it’s like to be a disordered eater, and rather than being met with confusion or resistance, my readers understood it, even if it hadn’t been their own experience.

Day 12: The Alchemy of Fear. The prompt was “Can you think of an instance in the past year where you have been successful at making fear useful? What fears do you hold about the year ahead? And how could you use the energy of those fears in a different way?”

My fear this past year has centered around my health. I had three significant boughts of illness and/or injury and each time I was terrified the situation had the potential to become chronic or long term, to fundamentally change the quality of my life. I feared they were markers of age, of a body that was faltering, and that I would need to significantly alter the way I lived because of it. I used this fear to reevaluate how I was caring for myself and how I was living, to find appropriate support, and to educate myself about how to do better. I learned to be gentler, but also to take back my own power, to be fierce in a particularly compassionate way.

My fears about the year ahead are the same ones that linger now – that I want so much, have so many plans, and I will try to do them all, that I will burn out again, that I won’t pace myself. I could turn this same energy towards becoming a master at pacing myself, at taking care of myself, and cultivating a life that is small, but deep and wide, on getting really clear about what is most important and clearing away the rest.

Day 13: Shake It Off! The prompt was, “What are you going to shake off with fierceness before you enter the new year?”

Okay, a theme is forming in my answers, which is the secret reason I love reverbing so much – it helps me to see the truth, the ways in which I’ve been fooling myself and the ways that I’ve evolved beyond habitual patterns. It clears away the clutter and gets right to the point.

What I’m going to shake off with fierceness, maybe not before the new year but certainly soon-ish, is the notion that I’m not good enough, that I’m not doing enough, that I have to earn the right to be here. I don’t have to prove anything. I have enough. I am enough. I can relax, sink into that sense of contentment and confidence.

Day 16: Transformation. The prompt was, “Tell us about transformation.”

The primary transformation I’ve made, am making, is to honor my body – what it wants, what it needs, what feels good to it, what drains it. It begins with allowing it to be, whatever that looks like. No more smashing myself to bits, starving and stuffing myself because I don’t measure up to some external standard, rushing around even though I’m exhausted and need to rest because I’m trying to prove something. What is interesting about transformation is that like a caterpillar turning to a butterfly, the transformation from one manifestation to another requires a complete melting of everything into a soup of nothing, eventually reconstructing as something beautiful with wings, tender and fragile but possessing the power of flight.

What I Learned from Remodeling a Bathroom

PicMonkey Collage1. A designer is essential. I never would have thought this before working with one, probably would have judged it as an unnecessary extravagance, something that only people with a lot of money do. However, now that I’ve worked with a really good one, felt the ease and comfort of the process and seen the final results, I would absolutely do it again. We didn’t use a designer for our kitchen because it was an unplanned project all around, (what we thought would be a small repair to the floor under the dishwasher caused by a leak turned into “surprise, your whole subfloor is rotten and in order to fix it we have to gut your kitchen”). Because we could barely afford the remodel, which was really more like a really expensive repair, and were doing everything by ourselves, we choose the cheapest, most bland and basic materials. It looks fine, but it looks like an apartment, is no one’s idea of a dream kitchen. Our bathroom, in stark contrast, is the nicest thing I’ve ever had. Our designer’s ability to translate what we liked into a manageable set of choices, any of which would have turned out beautifully, made the whole project so much easier. We had access to her discounts so were able to buy nicer materials than we would have on our own, and she was able to connect us with a really good contractor. If it weren’t for her, we’d still be standing in the tile aisle at Home Depot, crying because we didn’t know what to do.

2. Just as important as skillful, the people you work with should be good. What “good” means is probably different for everyone. For me it means that they were nice to us, friendly, had a good sense of humor, were good to our dogs, respectful of our space and our time. The crew that worked on our house brought a roll of carpet to put down where they’d be walking, always cleaned up after themselves, apologized for being late, asked permission to use the other bathroom or get water from the kitchen sink or wash their hands, let us know what was going on, who’d be working on what and when they’d be there, asked for clarification to be sure they were doing exactly what we wanted, and always asked if it was okay if they needed to stay late. We could text our contractor any time with questions, and even though he was supervising the work rather than doing much of it, he was always around, checking in and making sure things were going okay. He even showed up on the final day to do some of the tiny things, like hanging mirrors and such, because they’d run a day over and his guys were on another job. Again in contrast, the primary people on our kitchen job were great, but the subcontractors were jerks, made me so uncomfortable, and didn’t always do good work, and the only time I saw our contractor was the first day when he gave us the estimate and the last day when we wrote him a check.

3. Having a good sense of your own style and needs is important. For example, we needed a detachable hand held shower head because we give our dogs baths in that bathroom, which also meant we couldn’t have a super deep tub because the sides needed to be short enough that they could jump in and out. Even though it wasn’t super clear, I was able to give our designer a pretty good description of our style, which really helped her narrow down our choices. I told her,

I’d describe our style as cottage/cabin. We love Asian things (more Japanese than Chinese), bamboo, wood blinds, wood floors (although we don’t want to have them in this bathroom), seagrass baskets, plants, thrift store finds, old quilts, piles of books, collections of sea shells and rocks. Clean and rustic? If we could, we’d live in a beach cottage or mountain cabin or old farmhouse year round, so a space that’s relaxing, natural, and not too fussy, comfortable, lived in but loved. And yet, we also love the style of a 60’s ranch house, and Danish Modern. Here’s a link to a few color palette’s we like, are a lot of the colors we’ve already used in our house: http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/succulent-hues36, http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/color-reflect, http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/cut-tones5, http://design-seeds.com/home/entry/succulent-hues37

4. You don’t have to agree to anything you don’t want. You can have a slightly shorter cabinet made even though it’s shorter than the standard if you just happen to be slightly shorter than the standard yourself. You don’t have to have granite countertops, or any other type of stone or tile. You don’t have to have the typical extra towel holder by the second sink next to the door if you are so annoyed by that sort of thing that you ripped the last one out of the wall. And if they find a live phone line in the wall, you don’t have to let them connect it to an outlet in your office if you don’t want one. And you don’t have to pick one of the light fixtures your designer suggested if there’s another one you like even better.

5. Not everything will go as planned. Anyone who has ever done any kind of remodeling will be able to tell you this. You just don’t know what they’ll find when they rip down the drywall, and you can’t predict what other sort of hiccups there might be with materials or schedules or even weather. Whatever it is, it will work out in the end, so roll with it.

6. There will be lots of questions. You will be asked lots of questions and you will be asking lots of questions. Thank goodness for texting and a contractor who is quick to respond.

7. A lot of artists have day jobs. I thought it was super cute how the main guy was always singing to himself on the job, and then I found out he’s a songwriter, is in a band. And our designer teaches design as her main gig, but could easily spend all her time making lived spaces beautiful.

8. Opt for the upgrade, it will be worth it over time. We were able to get really beautiful tile, and a gorgeous cabinet and sinks, and really nice hardware, all of which we might not have selected on our own, but which makes such a difference.

9. I’m not good at giving myself nice things. There’s a really struggle there, not that I don’t think I deserve it but more like I think everyone does too and if other people can’t or don’t have nice things, I feel selfish or greedy giving it to myself. So instead I have things I don’t love or that don’t work for me, and feel a different kind of bad.

10. Giving yourself a beautiful space ripples out. Suddenly you want to make the rest of your space nicer, clean it up and make it equally beautiful. But it’s more than just the physical space. For me, it impacted how I treat myself. I gave myself something nice, and it makes me see all the other ways I’m not taking care of myself, not treating myself so well, and I want to do better.

11. The cost, the effort and the expense, will be worth it. It really is that simple. As with most good things, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.

12. Having people in my house was harder than I thought. Even though they were good people and they were getting lots of good work done, it was really hard. I’m an introvert and an HSP, so all the human contact and the noise was a lot to process. And on many days, they were here around 8-9 am and didn’t leave until 5-6 pm, and there just wasn’t enough time to completely decompress from it before someone was back again. I was actually glad for the few times someone was going to be late or we had a day where someone only worked half a day. It made the whole project take longer, but it was nice to have that space. I think the dogs did better with the chaos than I did.

13. Nothing will ever be perfect. I know people who will nitpick every little thing, demanding things be made absolutely perfect, believing that standard is even possible. I learned during this project to love the tiny imperfections — the place where something isn’t exactly straight, or the spot where there’s a scratch or ding, or the slightly off-centered element. I love the reminder that imperfection, impermanence is our natural state, and am grateful for the awareness that it’s beautiful anyway.

 

 

Gratitude Friday

Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, Shambhala Mountain Center

Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, Shambhala Mountain Center

1. Fearlessly Creative Writing and Meditation Retreat with Susan Piver at Shambhala Mountain Center. This is the fourth time I’ve gone on retreat with Susan, and this was the best one ever. I wrote a lot, got to share some of it, spent time with Susan, and made a few new friends. I love that place so much.

2. Christmas!!! It is a bittersweet season for me, signaling the end of another year and reminding me that I live really really far away from the people I love the most. It’s lonely and sad, but also really sweet and beautiful. This song does the best at capturing the mood for me.

3. Good food. I tried two new recipes this year, and they both turned out really good: Awesome Sausage, Apple and Cranberry Stuffing and a biscuit breakfast bake (sort of like this recipe, but the one I followed called for 10 eggs and I used homemade cayenne biscuits). They both turned out really yummy.

stuffing02 stuffing4. Christmas cookies. I made these so many years for a cookie exchange that I got tired of them. However this year I found myself craving them, so made some. I promised I’d share the recipe, so here’s that:

400 degrees for 5-6 minutes (at high altitude, they need to cook a few minutes longer)
Makes 4-6 dozen, depending on size

1 1/2 cups butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 T. milk
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
3 3/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt

Cream first three ingredients together before adding the rest. Refrigerate complete mix overnight. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick, cut and bake. Frost when completely cooled with icing made from powdered sugar and water (I used 1/2 lemon juice for the liquid to make the icing for an extra zing of lemon).

christmascookies

They aren’t pretty, but they sure do taste good

5. Presents, which I’m about to go open with Eric.

6. But most of all, my tiny family. I wouldn’t be here without them.

tinysnowfamily ringosnow samsnow02Bonus joy: radio stations playing all Christmas music all the time, revisiting old Christmas favorites (we watched Die Hard and Home Alone, and today I’m going to watch Elf and Scrooged), heat when it’s cold outside, our fireplace DVD, twinkle lights, clean water, our new bathroom, the ability to buy a new washing machine or cellphone or even car if we need too without having to worry, texts from people who love or are thinking about me and just want to tell me, wool socks, the smell of pine trees, fresh snow.

Three Truths and One Wish

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, Shambhala Mountain Center

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, Shambhala Mountain Center

1. Even though I haven’t been publishing as much of it here, I’ve been writing a lot. Last weekend I was at a writing and meditation retreat led by Susan Piver, and while I was there, I wrote and edited 12,000 words, (I was working on my book, which you may have heard me mention here before). I have so much to say, so much to tell you, kind and gentle reader, but right now so much of it is landing in that other container.

2. I understand now that as I writer, I need to live everything twice. I haven’t fully processed anything, don’t truly understand, and most certainly can’t let it go until I’ve written about it. Because of this, there are some very painful things I’ve lived in the past seven years that I’m not done with yet.

3. The theme for me recently seems to be “letting go.” I was reminded of it this morning as I went through my email. There was a message from Sherry at Simply Celebrate, a new blog post she’d written, {Permission Slip} Let it go!, in which she says, “I hereby grant you permission to stop doing things — especially things you really don’t want to do or are too tired to do — and allow yourself to simply enjoy the people you love.” And then a post from my friend Kat, who shares about making a brave transition in her writing life, It’s Time to Go. She was prompted by a painful experience, but is using it as motivation to take her power back. And a Daily Truth email from Brave Girls Club which reminds that it’s not only okay to let go, but necessary.

One wish: That we let go of whatever no longer serves us, that we process and understand that which we still carry with us and finally are able to let it go too, that we sink into a season of quiet and rest (even if just for a few days) in which we allow ourselves to enjoy those we love, and may we remember to include ourselves in that love.