Tag Archives: Reverb15

#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,

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

Then show your heart to everyone…


#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.

#reverb15: Secret Ingredient


Prompt: As you may have gathered, the theme of this year’s Reverb reflective writing challenge is Alchemy. This was my word for 2015 but it has been so rich and evocative that I may just keep it for life. Just the idea of alchemy makes me curious. Like, what if you had to give someone a recipe for how to make a YOU? What major ingredients are required? What method do you recommend? How would your je ne sais quoi be recreated?

I had a reading a few years ago with an intuitive counselor. Kind of like a psychic, I suppose. She told me that when I was born, the experience for me was something like a thermal shock. The best way to describe that is to think about how sometimes when you put a block of ice into a glass of water, it cracks and makes that loud popping sound. It’s because the temperature of the water and the ice cube are so different, and the extreme stress of that difference causes the ice to crack. The object entering the new environment can’t withstand the stress of that difference.

I have thought about that a lot since she said it. That’s not to say I “believe” what she said about me, just that it’s an interesting thing to contemplate. And even if that isn’t exactly what happened, there’s something about it that feels true. Maybe I took a Bodhisattva vow at the very end of my last life, and was surprised when I was born again, shocked by the reality of what I’d promised — to keep coming back, to devote myself to easing suffering until there was none left. Maybe being born at that particular time was too much of a shock — during the Vietnam War, four years after Kennedy was assassinated and only five months before Martin Luther King would meet the same end — not that I know if reincarnation is even real.

What I do know is true is that I’m a highly sensitive person and an introvert. This can make navigating an experience so inherently uncomfortable in a world so full of other beings incredibly difficult. The first part of my life left me very confused. I tried to do things the way I thought I should, but it just didn’t seem to work out. In this next part of my life, I somehow was lucky enough to find practices, (yoga, meditation, writing, and dog), that enabled me to meet confusion and suffering with wisdom and compassion. And while it’s easy to regret the time I spent struggling, the struggle galvanized my understanding, deepened my knowing. Without it, I’d be ignorant of the ways we all struggle, and as such, I wouldn’t be much help.

I suppose the secret ingredient for me is suffering. I don’t mean to say that it was a gift, or that it was somehow my fate or even necessary. What I mean is that I would not be who I am, where I am, if I hadn’t suffered, if I didn’t have to learn how to meet that suffering, to withstand it, to go on, to not give up. I am stronger because of it. I have clarity because of it. I am still here in spite of it.

#reverb15: Alchemy and Serendipity


Prompt: While alchemy is the active process of creating something of value, serendipity is the passive path to finding an unexpected treasure. Looking back through 2015, what did you diligently try to create? What great thing did you just happen to find?

In 2015, I diligently tried to create: space for myself to become this new thing that’s emerging which I’ve already imagined, confidence to teach a regular yoga class, willingness to let my body be what it is, time to rest, healing in my body, momentum for “my business” (it still feels weird to call the work I do outside of CSU a “business”), connections with people doing the kind of work I am as well as those who want to be the recipients of the work I’m doing, and patience for what doesn’t go the way I want it to go.

In 2015, the great thing I just happened to find: ease with teaching, a natural rhythm and genuine approach, a depth of strength and perseverance that I didn’t realize was there.

#reverb15: The Verdict

image from Kat

image from Kat’s post

Prompt: In her seminal book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott offers the observation: “The evidence is in, and you are the verdict.” Regardless of where you live in this crazy beautiful world, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s been a BIG year. Today, I want to acknowledge that you are here and I am here and we are here. We’re just… HERE. That feels like a BIG DEAL. And, that being said, I invite you to reflect on all that this evinces. What are you the verdict of?

I am the verdict of a universe in love, with all of it, and all of me. There is a longing for me, for us, for all of it to stand in the wonder, in awe of all that is. We are the spontaneous arising of wisdom and compassion, of deep knowing, laughing at the same time there are tears streaming down our cheeks. I am ears made for sound (music and screaming), eyes made for sight (beauty and muck), a nose made for smell (fresh baked bread and shit), skin made for touch (a caress or a pinch), and a heart made for love as well as being broken. I feel in particular to be a manifestation of the desire to ease suffering, for the cycle of violence to stop, for love to win. I am the embodiment of an intention to make things right.

#reverb15: Ancestral Healing


Prompt: “As each year progresses, we unknowingly gather many thoughts, beliefs, and patterns to us. In fact, what we are carrying may have been passed down to us from previous generations.

Looking at the thoughts and patterns that may be holding you back from living the life you want, trace back through the generations of your family and see if your beliefs originated generations ago.

In 2016, how can you bring healing to these patterns of thought that are holding you back?”

It’s always difficult to say much about family patterns, because there’s so much I just don’t know or understand. And yet, I can see that there has been a history that may have impacted me. It has manifested for me as methods for coping that can become addictive and dis-ordered, ways of soothing or even masking suffering which ultimately lead to a denial of my truest self.

I also have a cultural history, specifically in terms of what it means to be a woman, a good citizen. This tells me I should be agreeable, quiet, nice, generous, self-sacrificing, and pretty, (which is actually not a single thing but a whole list of things that are constantly shifting and changing with trends and fashion).

What holds me back is a resistance to simply letting myself have what I want, letting myself be who I am. What says I can’t is a whole jumble of fear, mistrust, uncertainty, obligation, and judgements about what is right and wrong that comes together and binds me with “you are not allowed, who do you think you are, you can’t do that, you can’t have that.” I misread my environment, see all kinds of threats and complications and obstacles, and sometimes I just give up.

There’s an avoidance, a resistance I need to burn through. As Rumi said, “love is a fire and I am wood.” Maybe it happens by gently challenging those old beliefs, the misinterpreted limits. Maybe it happens by saying what I mean, having what I want, becoming unapologetically self-centered, and trusting myself.

#reverb15: Replenishment

Prompt: “How can you replenish your (physical, mental, spiritual and/or emotional) resources? What do you need most of all at this moment?”

I know the answer to this, even as I resist it. Step one is to let go of my attachment to external permission or approval. I absolutely need to stop seeking what I need from “out there.” Even if everyone, every single human on the planet, supported and liked and agreed with what I was doing, it wouldn’t be the right reason for doing any of it. I have to trust myself, be myself. I have to stop polling the whole universe for some sort of consensus when I determine what to do next, how to spend my day, how to live my life. I need to stop abandoning myself.

I also need to find a balance between effort and ease, between what I offer and what I receive. Instead of denying myself, restricting and starving, I have to nourish myself too, make sure I am fed in every way that I am hungry. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary, essential. I can have a new bathroom. I’m allowed to buy new towels for said bathroom, even get rid of the old ones. I’m allowed to replace the throw blanket Ringo chewed holes in so I have something nice for myself when I take a nap or watch TV or read a book, things that I am allowed to do and to enjoy. I have the right to care for myself, to feed and to cherish myself. I can trust that choices made from this truth are a manifestation of love, and the world needs more of that, however it can get it.