Category Archives: Reverb14

Reverb14: Day Seven

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “Victory Laps: What was your biggest accomplishment this year?”

Becoming a certified yoga instructor, completing the training while working fulltime, raising a puppy, and caring for another dog who had a mysterious medical condition we worried might mean we’d have to let him go.

Reberb14 prompt: “Please post your favourite picture of yourself from 2014, self-portrait or otherwise! For bonus points: make montage of the selfies you have posted for the past four years or however long you have been participating in Reverb!”

This is my third year doing Reverb, but the first year I shared two selfies because I couldn’t choose, so here’s my collage of all four. This years (lower right hand corner) is a strange choice because it isn’t the most flattering picture of me, but I feel like it’s the most honest, the one that most accurately represents how I’ve spent the year.

reverbselfiecollage

Reverb14: Day Six

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “Where did you spend your money this year?  Did you save it instead?  What, if anything, would you like to do with your finances this year?”

My word for 2014 was “home,” and part of my intention for the year was to focus on staying home, not traveling, and focusing all my various energies on home, which meant no giving financial support to anything that wasn’t “mine.” The year before, I spent a lot traveling and helping, and I needed to “lie fallow” for a season. We did take a vacation, a month in Oregon with the dogs, and we paid off our credit cards, started saving more. I cut back on a few things so that I was spending less, and I tried to buy less books, but I was only marginally successful with that. There were projects and causes that came up that I wanted so badly to help with, but I mostly resisted. Besides our family vacation, the other loophole I allowed for was that if Susan Piver had a writing and meditation retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center, I could go (I’ll be there at the end of the month).

Next year, the places I’d like to focus on financially are: my health and wellness (whatever supplements, food, or other support I need to feel better), fixing up our home (we need a new roof, but it would be nice to finally update the bathroom, put a deck out back and a porch on the front), continuing to stay out of debt and saving money, maybe a few classes or retreats (Feast with Rachel Cole, for sure), and consulting for my “business” (the teaching and such I’d like to offer — feels weird to call it a business, but as such that’s why I need the help of a good accountant and a lawyer who understands how to legally set such a thing up).


Reverb14 prompt: “Biting back. Despite our usually sunny dispositions and dedication to the practice of ‘assuming positive intent,’ we all occasionally find ourselves having to deal with an incredibly unpleasant individual. While I’m sure you always handle it with the tact and finesse for which you’ve become so well known, I’m going to ask you to step outside yourself for just a moment. Think back to such a situation: if the gloves were off, how you really would have liked to have dealt with them?”

I don’t think I can give the answer this prompt requests. Sure, I have some examples, and when I was deep in those situations, I told the people closest to me what I really wanted to say, but I don’t at all feel comfortable airing that sort of thing here, and don’t feel like it would help.

In thinking about how I might answer this question instead, I remembered something Pema Chödrön shares in the first chapter of her book Taking the Leap.

There was a story that was widely circulated a few days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, that illustrates our dilemma. A Native American grandfather was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. He said it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was understanding and kind. The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, “The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed.”

I feel like answering this prompt directly, telling you what I really wanted to say that one time, sharing what I held back that other time, “taking the gloves off” would be feeding the wrong wolf. Ultimately, the way I handled those situations, with compassion and self-control, at times with silence, was the right thing to do, fed the right wolf, the one who was understanding and kind.

Reverb14: Day Five

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “Letting go: For next year, I’m letting go of…”

I try to respond to the Reverb prompts myself before reading what anyone else said because I want my response to be fresh, unique, original, authentic, even if it ends up magically similar to someone else’s answer. I messed up this time. Someone posted a comment to today’s prompt on the Project Reverb website and said they were letting go of “that which no longer serves me.” That phrase is a mantra of sorts for me, the perfect way to describe why I’ve been shedding old habits, thought patterns, and ways of being. Now that I’ve heard it, I can’t answer this any other way.

For next year, I’m letting go of that which no longer serves me. Everything that is too small, too tight, all that is restricting me, pinching me and making me uncomfortable. I’m letting go of what I’m not using. I’m letting go of what I’m afraid to give up, get rid of, surrender. I’m letting go of poverty mentality. I’m letting go of pushing, shoving, forcing, smashing myself to bits. I’m letting go of thinking I can do everything, do it fast and without the necessary rest and nourishment. I’m letting go of needing to be liked, of thinking it’s an issue of survival. I’m letting go of fitting in. I’m letting go of pretending. I’m letting go of “supposed to” and “have to.” I’m letting go of being afraid of suffering, which is really a fear of dying, of impermanence — (well, that one might take some work, a little more time).

Reverb14 prompt: “What is the sound of your own voice?”

Sometimes soft, sometimes fierce. Sometimes it’s too loud and people tell me to keep it down, to be quiet, to shut up. Sometimes it’s not even words. It comes from so deep inside of me that when I hear it echoed back to me from a recording, I don’t recognize it. From far away it can sound a little like a flock of birds or a swarm of bees or a single wolf howling. Sometimes I speak in a language I made up that no one else understands. Sometimes my voice sounds like a whistle that only dogs can hear. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m singing or talking or crying. When it says “I’m sorry” it sounds like sticks breaking. When it says “I love you” it sounds like ocean waves. The sound of my breath, my heartbeat is the same.

Reverb14: Day Four

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “Do Over: Hindsight is the one thing we never benefit from in the present.  Is there one moment you wish that you could do-over?”

I never know how to answer any sort of question about regret or what I might have done differently. It makes me think of science fiction stories where someone travels back in time and unwittingly wreaks havoc on the future, causes all sorts of chaos through what were seemingly minor changes. There are always dire warnings, horrible consequences involved in such a narrative when someone tampers with the way things already happened because there is no way to predict or comprehend how every little action will add up, how one change will ripple out and touch everything else.

Do I wish Eric and I wouldn’t have had that first fight at the beginning of our vacation this summer? Sure, it sucked, but it led to some really important conversations for us, a deepening of understanding and love. Do I wish I wouldn’t have chosen to work with that difficult person, that I would have trusted the red flags I noticed at the very beginning and said “no”? Sure, but that experience showed me I can be compassionate at the same time I’m setting boundaries. Do I wish I would have just bought the plane ticket when I first checked and it was affordable and surprised Sherry on her birthday? Sure, but I didn’t and what use is there in continuing to wish I had?

I have no way of knowing how one change, one do-over would impact the rest of my experience. I can’t second guess every choice after seeing its outcome. Life is way too complicated to understand how each detail and decision shifts the trajectory of my experience. I can’t wish to do anything over because every single breath led to where I am now, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

Reverb14 Prompt: “We are all lightning rods, conduits for that which the Universe wants born into this world. What energies did you channel this year?”

I channeled compassion, bewilderment, gentleness, generosity, confusion, wisdom, self-awareness, being centered in practice, not knowing what to do, sadness, anger, anxiety, joy, grief, and love.

Reverb14: Day Three

reverb14withtextProject Reverb prompt: “Coulda woulda shoulda: What didn’t you do this year because you were too scared, afraid, unsure?  Are you going to do it next year?  Or maybe you don’t want to anymore?”

I didn’t always tell the truth because I was too scared.

I didn’t love myself completely because I was too afraid.

I wasn’t “all the way true to the call of my brilliant heartbecause I was unsure.

I didn’t always let myself rest or grieve because I was too scared, too afraid, too unsure.

I didn’t let go of old habits of numbing out because I was too scared.

I wasn’t always present, sometimes didn’t show up because I was too afraid.

I didn’t surrender, let go, give up because I was unsure.

I’m going to next year, all of it. I’m going to be my own soft place to land. I won’t abandon myself, and if I do, I will be gentle, forgiving, have a sense of curiosity and humor about it.

Reverb14 prompt: “Loving what is: It’s all too easy to put off loving where we are until everything is perfect. What can you love about where you are now?”

I love that I’m still figuring it all out. I love that I’m confused. I love that I’m distracted, bewildered. I love how sweet and loving I can be, how gentle. I love how generous I am, even though it’s hard for me to receive. I love how tender, raw, and brokenhearted I sometimes feel. I love being able to laugh. I love my friends, so smart and kind and funny. I love my body and all that it enables me to do, how it allows the mess and the brilliance that is me to be embodied. I love that Eric and I still have to negotiate our relationship, that after all this time we still don’t have it perfect or right. I love Ringo’s exuberance. I love Sam’s laziness. I love how they balance each other out. I love knowing what I’m doing, being certain, but also not knowing. I love my practice — writing, meditation, yoga, and dog. I love what I’ve been able to accomplish and all the opportunity and possibility still available to me. I love reverbing. I love blogging. I love you.

Reverb14: Day Two

reverb14withtextReverb14 Prompt: “What unfinished projects from 2014 are you willing to release now? (Regret not required.)”

The unfinished project from 2014 I am willing to release now: Me. Even as I’ve been living more consciously, rehabbing my life, becoming a better friend to myself, I continued to treat myself as a self-improvement project. I worked diligently to become a better person — healthier, wealthier, wiser, kinder, smarter, more sane, more fit, more skilled, better educated, better rested.

And yet, the underlying assumption to all this effort was fundamentally flawed: something is wrong with me. It required that I judge myself against experts, other people’s success, unreasonable cultural expectations, a version of myself that was perfect — a rubric that had nothing to do with self-compassion or friendship.

I thought my approach had changed so much, but really I just shifted from bullying myself for not being enough to smashing myself to bits trying to be better, more. Fundamentally it was the same old, same old.

My life rehab started with the simple wish to “be a better friend to myself.” Not to be a better person, not to become successful or accomplish things and make stuff, but to practice maitri — loving compassion towards the self. I am not a project.

Project Reverb prompt: “Gorgeous: When did you feel beautiful this year? Why?”

When I was practicing and teaching yoga. You’d think I’d be the most self-conscious and judgmental in those moments, since I can be so uncomfortable with how I look and critical of my body, and yet those are the times I feel the most authentic, powerful, appealing, generous, open. There’s something so lovely about a person who shows up just as they are, offers everything that they have even with the cracks and flaws, isn’t afraid of who they are.

When I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and lovingly allowed myself to rest. There’s something really sweet, beautiful about the offering of friendship, the tenderness and gentleness I’ve been able to show myself. In those moments, I can look terrible, so wrecked, but there’s something soft there that almost glows.

Reverb14: Day One

reverb14withtextThis is my third year doing Reverb. It’s a great way to reflect on the year that’s coming to a close, to contemplate what I’ve learned and experienced, and to begin to consider where I’d like to focus my time, energy, and effort in the new year. This year, I’ll be responding to prompts from Project Reverb and Reverb14, hosted by my soul sister Kat McNally.

Project Reverb Prompt: Where did you start 2014?

To respond to this prompt, I got out my journal, read the entry from 1-1-14, found myself literally where I started the year. I wrote that I felt sure a big shift was happening in my life. We were getting a new puppy and I was starting yoga teacher training, so for sure a change was coming. Sam was sick and we still didn’t know why.

I had spent the day before decluttering my office, a big project I’d committed to complete over the winter break, to start the new year with an environment that represented more accurately the practice I was doing there, to claim the space. “I couldn’t get rid of some things — letters from Chris [my brother] and mom, the sweater Grandma knit, the collection of nicknacks I’d always imagined in our mountain cabin that now could go in our beach house [the dreamed of second home], love notes from Eric, dog collars and puppy teeth, Little D [Dexter’s favorite toy], old picture prints and negatives, so many books.” Some things I still couldn’t let go of, but other things were easy to let go, “a box of my writing from graduate school, some even older writing, all bad, me trying but not knowing my own voice, spending more time selecting font for the titles.”

I had gone to my favorite yoga teacher Sarada’s New Years Eve class the night before. “We wrote on a piece of paper what we wanted to let go of and what we wanted to invite, and they would burn it later in a ceremonial fire. “I wrote I wanted to let go of anxiety, fear of suffering … I invited love and joy, ease.”

Reverb14 Prompt: What can you say right now with certainty?

I contemplated this prompt for a long time, because part of me wants to answer that there is nothing I know for sure. And yet, the more I thought about it, I could admit there were somethings I was certain about.

  • I want to be here, want to keep trying.
  • I am a writer — this is my path, who I am, who I always have been.
  • Starting is easier than I thought. I imagined all these obstacles, but all you really have to do is take one tiny step.
  • Transformation is harder than I thought. It takes a lot of time and effort, especially when you are working with habits and ways of being that are old, sticky and deep.
  • Becoming myself and being my own best friend is my most important work.
  • I am not in control. I assume I am responsible, that whatever is happening is my fault and I need to fix it, but that’s not always true.
  • Impermanence is real, change is constant. Learning to be okay with that brutal truth is crucial.
  • Numbing out doesn’t work.
  • Only I can save myself, but thankfully there’s lots of help and support available to me.
  • The more you practice being open, the more your heart breaks.
  • I generate my own suffering.
  • There’s a path that offers a way out of that suffering.
  • I can trust myself.
  • I am embodied boundlessness.
  • Living against cultural norms and expectation is difficult and at times painful.
  • You can’t save others, you can only love them.
  • I love to read almost more than I love to write.
  • You never stop missing someone you loved and lost. Never ever ever.
  • Laughter really is the best medicine.
  • I am allowed to rest, to feel what I feel.
  • I don’t need to apologize for or be afraid of who I am.