The Gateway to Living with Deep Gratitude & Presence.

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Image found via Pinterest.

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oilver

I love these words by Mary Oliver.

They are especially poignant this week as we navigate the loss of one of our cherished yoga students at the studio where I teach.

Whenever death arrives, whether it’s a loved one, a friend, a member of the community or even a celebrity, I find myself taking stock. Turning inward.

Am I living the life I truly want to be living?

Am I appreciating each and every moment?

Do I recognize each breath as the gift that it is?

Do my feet hit the floor in the morning with deep gratitude that I get another day to play in this world?

Do I appreciate and show that appreciation for the people in my life through my words and actions?

Do I enter each encounter as if I might never see that person again? 

Have I left anything unsaid?

It sounds like it might be a morbid way to live. Or it may just be the gateway to living with deep gratitude and presence.

I came across this recently by Bodhipaska:

Life is unpredictable. When you’re with someone, you have no idea if you’ll ever see each other again. Everyone you see today—this may your last encounter. And maybe you should behave as if it was. What last impression, what last words, would you like them to have of you, should either of you die tomorrow? Life is short; be kind.

Adopt as a mantra, “We may never meet again.” Let yourself feel vulnerable and tender. Let yourself feel affection. Let yourself appreciate others’ basic goodness. Let your tendency to focus on the negative fall away, and recognize that you’re surrounded by good people who are struggling to find happiness in a world where true happiness is rare. Let yourself love.

The trouble is, you think you’ll have time to love later, and you might not, so behave as if you don’t have time to waste, and let yourself love: Now.

That puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

Mary Oliver’s words take on a new significance to me now. I used to think they meant I had to find some grand purpose that would change the world for the better.

Now, I think that if I live my life truly appreciating the gift of each breath, each moment, each encounter, living with vulnerability and tenderness, then that is a beautiful way to spend my one wild and precious life.

Am I Really Meant to Publish my Novels?

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I am constantly in awe at the synchronicity of the Universe.

I had this fleeting thought earlier today that maybe I wasn’t meant to publish my novels because of all the rejections I am piling up and because I find it so much easier to write here or on Instagram than to hunker down and work on my novel.

Then I opened up The Journal Compendium and saw this quote from Julia Cameron:

What you really want to do, is what you are really meant to do.

Whoa!!

I felt immediate relief reading those words. This sense of spaciousness. Of potential. Of permission to pursue what I really want even though I haven’t followed the common path, even though I am 54…so many more “even thoughs” are silenced, or at least soothed by these words.

Then I began to Mother myself:

Of course it’s easier to write for your blog or on Instagram. It’s just a moment moving through you. It’s who you are right now. You write it. You release it. You move on.

Writing a novel lives in whole other galaxy. It’s its own entity that requires constant care, attention and nourishment for a very long time. And chances are you will change during that timeframe, so who you were when you began writing it is not who you are at the end.

So, yes, it’s more difficult. It doesn’t mean you aren’t meant to publish your novels. There are readers out there who will deeply resonate with your stories.. You have already heard from them over the years. Your words touch people’s heart. 

There is an agent out there who is the perfect fit for you, who is your ideal reader and will champion you and your books as you both make your way out into the wider world.

Just keep sending your work out. Don’t take the rejections personally.

Just keep writing.

Just keep doing what you are doing.

Believe in yourself like I do, like your friends do, like anyone who has read and resonated with your stories does.

The answer to the title of this blog?

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Image found via Pinterest.

Now, I’m off to work on my novel.

Me & My Body Are a Team.

I planned on going to the gym this morning. I went yesterday and did the express cardio/weights workout. Today was going to be the treadmill and the elliptical.

When it was time to go, I just didn’t want to. Sound familiar?

Usually, that would’ve been that. I would’ve not gone, sat on the couch, mindlessly watched something on Hulu or Netflix, feeling shitty about myself.

But  not today. Today I found this other piece of me rise up. She said:

“That’s okay, Sweetie. You don’t have to go to the gym. What would you like to do instead?”

Now, this is new to me. Me being nice to me. I was a little stunned at first. But then I looked outside and saw that it was sunny.

“I think I’d like to go for a walk. Get some fresh air.”

“Perfect! Let’s go for a walk.”

And that is what I did.

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What I am doing here is learning is how to cultivate a new kind of relationship with my body. One that isn’t founded on judgement and criticism and punishment. One with a new vibe. We are a team, me and my body. And teammates don’t shame or belittle each other.

I got her and she’s got me. (Thank you to Jennifer Pastiloff for this!)

I am done feeling bad about my body.

I am also done feeling ashamed that I am not on the current love-my-body-as-it-is bandwagon.

Both are heavy.

The truth is, I feel better when I am taking care of my body and that allows her to take care of me. And I know that extra weight weighs me down. I have more aches, less energy.

But I am SO done with tracking food or calories. SO done with exercise as punishment for what I ate. No thanks.

So, now what? Now I start a conversation with my body throughout each and every day about what she needs. What would be nourishing? What would feel good? What is draining?

Then I listen to her.

This new way of connecting with my body feels strong yet tender.

It feels nourishing.

It feels like love.

(By the way, this new, sweet voice sounds a lot like Amie McNeebecause I find her voice so soothing and because I learned how to access this part of me from her.)

Books Read in January 2020.

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“Quit Like a Woman- The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol” by Holly Whitaker.

People are often shocked when I tell them that addiction was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Pretty sure I bought this the day it was released. Whitaker is the founder and CEO of the tempest (formerly Hip Sobriety) both of which I remember coming across  when I was first dipping my toe into this sober world. 

I love how she she shares her own story and journey but also sets out to research the culture of alcohol that we are immersed in. She explores the difference between seeing alcohol as a drug versus only seeing alcoholism as a disease. How advertising tries to convince (successfully!) that we need alcohol to have fun or be social or happy.

I am still not drinking and I don’t know if the will ever be something that changes or if I will ever forget that I am not drinking and just be. It’s all still pretty new. So I find these books to remind me why I am doing this. To remind me I am not alone in this struggle. And that the struggle is totally worth it.

A sentence I love that really flipped my perspective on alcohol:

I imagine our grandchildren will one day be shocked by the idea that there was once a point in time when we drank ethanol at almost every occasion and boasted of hangovers and drunken antics, the same way I’m always shocked to see pictures of my aunts and uncles smoking indoors at family parties in the seventies.

“Heart Talk- Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life” by Cleo Wade

Self-care is how we fuel our self-love so that we are able to share our love with everyone around us.

Cleo Wade has become an essential part of my self-care/self-love arsenal. Her words are a balm to my soul. Her books feel like a reminder from the wisest parts of myself, looking out for me, reminding me who I truly am.

A line I love:

We take care of ourselves by asking what our needs are.

“American Housewife” stories by Helen Ellis

Inspired by Beyoncé, I stallion-walk to the toaster.

I love when I pull a book off my TBR shelf and it is amazing. So funny and sharp and just the right amount of whacky. I laughed out loud many times as I read.

One story is told purely through email exchanges between two women and while i could feel the tension building, I did not see the ending coming and it was fantastic. 

These stories shine a light into the crevices of womanhood.

The first line of a story that made me laugh out loud:

“Is this too dressy?”is Southern Lady code for: I look fabulous and it would be in your best interest to tell me so.

“You Are a Badass at Making Money- Master the mindset of Wealth” by Jen Sincero

If you’r ready to make more money, you can.

I finally finished this book! I took a break for awhile. I did all the exercises and learned a lot. And I still struggle with the concept. Even that first line kind of rubs me the wrong way. So, if I’m not making a lot a money, it means I’m not ready? 

I get it. I have money issues. I am bringing them to light. I am trying.

I love her voice. It’s no-nonsense yet engaging. She makes anything seem possible. 

A friend is hosting a group to work though the book, chapter by chapter. I think I might do that. There’s always more to learn, right?

This sentence is I why I kept reading and did all the exercises:

“…you have the ability to heal it, transform it, and become such awesome pals with money that you wake up one day too find yourself standing in the middle of the life you’ve always wanted to live.”

“To Love and Let Go- A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Gratitude” by Rachel Brathen

It came out of nowhere.

I knew the basic story of Yoga Girl. I listen to her podcasts. I subscribed to her yoga community for a while. But I had no idea the depth of her losses and what she has overcome.

Her book is a generous gift as she shares her whole self within its pages. 

It covers death and loss and grief and love and motherhood and family and just everything the creates a life. That first line sums it up. Most things come out of nowhere. We are all going to be or have been walloped by life and loss. Brathen shows us not only how to move on but how she healed at a deep level and thrived.

A sentence that made me teary:

He room said to her: “You can trust me. Let me be your mom again.”

Learning to Honor my Desires.

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I was browsing in the bookstore yesterday (shocking news, I know!) when I came across this journal. When I read the words on the cover, I got a little teary. I picked it up and looked inside and saw a few more quotes within the blank pages that really resonated.

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I put it down.

I picked it up.

I put it back down.

I picked it back up.

This went on for maybe three minutes.

I don’t need a journal. I don’t need to spend thirteen dollars on one when I can use a notebook that costs less than a buck.

But I couldn’t help myself, I kept picking it up, drawn to the words, drawn to the blank pages, to all the potential held in those blank pages. I felt like the words were speaking directly to my soul.

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Reader, I bought myself that journal.

Moral: Honor what I am drawn to, trust I am worthy, celebrate and own my desires.

F*ck Being Average.

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I’ve always considered myself a fairly average person.

I was a good student all through school and even made it into the Honor Society in high school but I wasn’t at the top of the class. I was average smart.

At the end of art school, I won Best Overall Portfolio and was stunned. I think others were as well. There was another student who illustrated the textures of fabric so convincingly that you wanted to touch them. We all assumed she would win. But I did. Did I take that to mean that I was finally above average?

Nope. I told myself it was a fluke. I didn’t allow myself to enjoy or embrace the win.

That average feeling has carried over into other aspects of my life. Average graphic designer. Average writer. Average body. Average life.

Not the worst, not the best.

When I saw the phrase “fuck mediocrity” today as part of my journal prompts, I thought I had no strong feelings about it either way. I felt meh about it. But as I started writing, I realized I have some very strong feelings about it. It is a rallying cry to rebel against norms. At first glance, I would say that is not me at all. If anything, I am an extreme rule follower and always have been.

I’ve always been a follower, not a leader. Always wanted to blend in, not stand out.

But when I look back on many of my life choices, I see that I did not follow the average path.

Instead of getting a liberal arts education at a 4-year university, I chose to get an Associate’s degree in Fashion Illustration at a for-profit art school in Center City Philadelphia, graduating two years earlier than most of my high school classmates did.

I was a stay-at-home mom while raising our daughters when that was not the most common choice. We had to make some sacrifices to make it work but we did it. And seeing what amazing women our daughters are, it was totally worth it. I did some freelance graphic design work over the years, but my main job was being a mom.

Another way that I strayed from the pack, is that I don’t consider my self Christian. I believe in God, in the Universe, in a Higher Self, in Divine Goodness. I believe Jesus was a man we can learn from. But I don’t go to church. I’ve explored many over the years, from trailing friends to theirs as a kid to dedicating our babies in a Unitarian Universalist church. But I am just not comfortable within organized religion. I chose what felt right tot me and trusted that. I try to live a good life, being kind, healing myself and letting all of that ripple out into the world around me.

Being a writer is not a common vocational choice. And being a writer without Bachelor’s degree much less the lauded MFA is extremely uncommon. But I haven’t let that stop me. It may have slowed me down. Kept me from taking my writing seriously  for awhile but I hung in there. I have studied with so many amazing writers over the years, I read constantly, write every day. I have basically been living my own self-designed MFA program. Now I have a novel-in-stories that I am submitting to agents, finishing up another draft fo a novel, and have a YA fantasy trilogy and memoir waiting in the wings.

Another way I’ve bucked the norm is that even though my husband and I both come from divorce, we have been married for 32 years! We’ve worked hard and as we slide into the permanently empty nest and his retirement is on the horizon, we find that not only do we still love each other, we still like each other.

I did my 200-YTT just as my girls were getting ready to leave for college. That is a very common occurrence these days. But I created my own space within our community by combining yoga with writing. The class faltered for a couple of years. I even let it go for a year or two but then I kept being drawn back to it. I really believed that there was a place for it. So, I rebranded it, got a slot on the schedule and tried again. It struggled but I kept showing up with my passion for these two practices that changed my life even if there was only one student. My trust and perseverance paid off and now I consider that class a bedrock of our community. Five used to be the maximum number of students who showed up, now that is usually the minimum. And I see the growth and healing and support and light generated each and every week. It has exceeded what I imagined it could be.

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who plays it safe, doesn’t take risks but looking back I see that isn’t true at all. At pivotal moments I followed my heart and gut, stepping off the beaten path and onto my own, creating a life that is far above average, far beyond mediocre.

Creating a life far richer and vibrant than I ever dreamed.

 

I Say I Don’t Diet, but…

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Image found via Pinterest.

I say I don’t diet anymore. But deep down, I still do.

I may say I am just trying to eat healthy. Have more energy. Balance my body. But deep down what I m really hoping for is to lose weight.

I may say I am making peace with my body just as it is but a part of me is still hoping the weight will melt off and I will just land at this “perfect” number and all will be well.

I may say that I am just listening to my body and eating intuitively but, really I want my intuitive eating to result in weight loss.

I recently learned a lot about Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga. I went into it thinking I am interested in this thousand year-old practice that aligns with my yoga practice and I just want to feel good in my body.

But, really, I want to lose weight.

How much? I don’t know. I’ve stopped stepping on a scale because I hate feeling like a stupid number is dictating my mood for the rest of the day.

This week has really triggered me. I hate following rules around food, even if they are ultimately good for me.

I really hated tracking food which I did with Spark People and even though it worked it made me so irritable and annoyed and obsessed with every morsel that went in my mouth. So I stopped.

But.

Part of me still kind of, sort of gauges what amount of calories I am putting in my mouth at any given time.

Part of me still tries to do this intermittent fasting thing that is so popular right now. And it becomes a game to see how long I can go without eating which seems like a slippery slope to an eating disorder to me.

I mean, just eat when I am fucking hungry.

So, with Ayurveda, I am finding myself obsessed once again with food rules. Eat this but not with that. Don’t eat this. Eat at this time of day but not at this time of day. Don’t drink water with meals, Sip hot water. No fruit with other foods.

I am just so entangled in the societal conditioning of what a woman’s body should look like and I can’t seem to untangle myself from it. It’s been with me since I can remember. Since a guy yelled out the car window when I was in sixth grade and I felt good about myself cuz some random perv thought a 12-year-old deserved to be cat-called. Since some high school asshat called me Thunder Thighs in my cheerleading uniform and I felt ashamed of my body.

I mean, commenting on a person’s body in any way is just so intrusive. I have stopped commenting on people’s weight loss. (If you’ve lost weight and I haven’t said anything, this is why.) I mean, it is none of my business what you do to your body. I wouldn’t comment if you gained weight, why should I assert my opinion if you lost some?

So, I am just putting this out there, (feeling incredibly vulnerable doing so) in case others are dealing with the same thing. Which I am pretty sure is a majority of women if you go by the size of the diet industry and the section of diet books at the bookstore.

I am putting it out there without any real solutions. It’s still an on-going process for me. I remember thinking that by the time I hit 50 I wanted to be done with this body image/food thing. Done, done done.

Ha!

I am 54 and still dealing with it.

But I think being aware of it is half the battle. Just like in meditation, the goal isn’t to not think, it’s not to be controlled by thoughts.

With this, I just don’t want my every waking thought to be about food and my body. So, I am using affirmations (which I normally stay away from) to help begin to rewire my brain. Create some new neural pathways.

Thanks to Amie McNee I am learning to soothe and mother myself on the page when these feelings take over. It is helping.

Writing this is helping.

Being honest is helping.

I hope this helps you in some way if you need it.

 

 

Opposite of Stuck.

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I can’t tell you how often I have felt stuck over the last few decades.

I have so many books with the words “stuck” or “unstuck” in the title.

Stuck in my body.

Stuck in judging my body.

Stuck in believing I am not worthy.

Not enough.

Stuck in the rut of zero motivation.

Stuck in fear.

You name it, I have probably been stuck in it.

I’ve been clearing out bookshelves lately as my husband gets ready for his annual pilgrimage to Arizona, hauling books to one of my favorite bookstores to trade in for me. When I come across some of those titles now I feel…nothing. Not angst. Not shame. Mostly gratitude that I had them when I needed them and gratitude that I no longer need them.

I no longer feel stuck. 

And I owe that to my two main practices: writing and yoga. 

They both allow me to flow which is the opposite of stuck. 

I flow in my body on my mat and, hopefully, off my mat as well. 

I meditate and allow the thoughts to flow  past. Well, not always, but it’s a process. It’s a practice.

I still struggle with societal conditioning on how my body should look but I am no longer stuck in that morass. The minute I notice it happening, it’s a win for me.

I flow on the page. Again, not always. But those words and thoughts and stories and beliefs find their way out of my head and onto the page where they are no longer stuck.

These practices keep me grounded in the present. I can see now how I was often stuck in the past or projecting into the future. 

I didn’t start yoga or writing to unstuck myself. Or maybe I did. Maybe a part of me, that wise self knew exactly what she was doing.

All I know is that even if I do feel stuck these says, it is a passing thing. I notice it, feel it, and am able to move through it.

And for that I am oh so grateful.

Books Read in December.

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“Now You Love Me” fiction by Liesel Litzenberger

After I saw the man who could bend spoons with his eyes, everything just fell into place.

When I picked this book off of my TBR shelf, I had no idea that it was set in Michigan, nor that it seems to be a novel-in-stories. I live in Michigan and am drawn to that genre, so much so that I wrote one myself, so I was immediately smitten.

Nine-year-old Annie tells the story of her sweet yet odd family consisting of herself, her younger brother Gus and their beautiful mother, Paige. Her father is gone and Annie knows he is not coming back. Her mother is trying hard to keep them emotionally afloat but she struggles with that herself. When she starts dating Shepherd, Annie isn’t sure if it’s the best tithing or the worst thing for her mother and their family.

The relationships are tangled as families are. Each story stands on its own but they each work together to reveal the arc of a family and a young girl trying to find their footing in a complicated world.

A sentence I underlined:

Seeing our house like that, from the outside and in secret, felt like a mistake, like opening a door and accidentally catching someone changing their clothes.

“Where to Begin” by Cleo Wade

This is for you. And me. And us. We are the builders who are building a world that has never been built before. 

As soon as I read this I knew I had to read this book. Because it feels so true. The world is shifting. We are building a new world and it is experiencing tremendous growing pains that often leave me wanting to dive under the covers and hide indefinitely.

But Cleo Wade offers wisdom, insights and truths that make me want to go back out into the world and be the difference I want to see.

I say it’s must read for these times.

A sentence I underlined:

 We just have to be brave enough to care.

“Tell Me More-Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say” by Kelly Corrigan

There was no real reason for it to fall apart that morning. And in fact, it didn’t. I did. 

Some things are hard to say. We all know this. It’s why we don’t say them. Corrigan explores the 12 things she finds hardest to say and gives us all permission to find the courage to say them in our own lives. She shares pieces of her life with us as well pieces of her heart.

A sentence I underlined:

Maybe being wrong is not the same as being bad, I thought, not a sign that your insides were rotten.

“Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

Wildlife and Wild Women are both endangered species.

This book, this book, this book! I don’t even know where to begin.

I bought it when it first came out in 1992. I was 27. I tried to read it. I wanted to read it. but I kept putting it down.

I picked it up again in my 30’s. Same thing. Then again in my 40’s. And sometime around there I must’ve decided the book just wasn’t for me and I got rid of it.

Then I hit my 50’s and out of the blue I knew I had to read it. 

But I had gotten rid of it. So I bought another copy. I dipped in and out of it then I decided to make it the winter read for the book club I facilitate at the yoga studio I teach at.

Once I really committed to reading it, something deep within me stirred.

After each chapter I thought, “Well, the book is worth it for this chapter alone.” Then I’d get to the next one and the next one and think the same thing. 

I underlined, starred, circled so many things on so many pages.

It just deeply deeply resonated with me.

But I wasn’t ready for it when I first bought it at 27.

At 54 I was ready.

More than ready.

The first thing I underlined on the first page:

It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our own inner wild nature fades. 

Tossing Away my Usual Approach to the New Year.

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I can feel the rumblings. Can you?

The rumblings of discontent, of excitement, of potential.

Not only is a new year upon us but a new decade!

I need to be ready for this. I need to have plan. I need to set goals, make resolutions, create intentions.

I need to map out steps to reach those goals.

I need to have a vision of who I want to be and what I want my life to look like.

Don’t I?

I was all ready to jump on this bandwagon yet again. I set my Core Desired Feelings because that is what seems to work for me. I created a screensaver to remind me daily of how I want to feel and to see if my actions align with those feelings.

Then.

Then Liz Gilbert popped up my Instagram feed one night. It was the middle of the night in India for her and she had jet lag and she had a message she wanted to share with us:

“You don’t have to have a new year’s resolution. And this new year doesn’t have to have even more pressure and anxiety than normal because it’s a new decade. You don’t have to have a new decade resolution. You are not required to justify your existence on earth through constant improvement. You are not a Fortune 500 company. You don’t have to show increasing profits. You don’t have to earn your right to be here by putting yourself to higher and higher standards. You just get to be here. You belong here. You are loved on earth. And January 1st can be a day like any other where you sleep in and maybe do a little bit more of nothing.”

This changed everything for me.

What freedom.

What joy.

I felt this huge sigh of relief just ripple through me.

I don’t have to create plan?

I don’t have to decide now how I want to feel for the next 365 days? For the next 10 years?

I don’t have to try so hard?

I don’t have to prove anything?

I don’t have to improve/fix/alter myself?

I can just be.

That’s allowed?

I am realizing the problem with my approach to the clean slate, fresh start to the new year is deeply flawed. It implies that  I need to toss away huge swaths of myself. A clean slate implies erasing pieces of who I am, who I was. And I am no longer willing to do that.

I am no longer willing to erase who I am even when—especially when— those versions contain the times I failed or let myself or others down. Instead of throwing them away, I want to love them. Accept them. Embrace them. Integrate them into who I am. Tossing them away just perpetuates the cycle that only the perfect versions of myself are welcome and that is a cycle I am ready to break for good.

All of me is welcome here.

So, after this awakening (thank you so much Liz Gilbert! You are an angel!) I tossed away my original plan for the new year:

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This image suddenly seemed too dark and heavy for what I want. It was putting a lot of pressure on myself. This doesn’t mean I can’t incorporate feelings of depth, desire and daring into my life the next year, the next decade. It just means they are not going to be the center around which I revolve.

Instead, I created this, completely inspired my Liz Gilbert’s midnight pep talk:

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I just feel a exquisite lightness when I look at this. I love the words. I love the image of the ocean, reminding me that ebb and flow is a natural, essential part of life.

I am not tossing away finding clarity for the year and decade ahead. Instead I am choosing to just be. Clarity in just being.

I am choosing to remember I am loved just as I am.

God/Universe/Goddess/Higher Self already knows this.

It feels like this is the forgotten treasure I have been searching for my whole life. It is something we know before we are born then it is hidden away once we arrive here on earth. It is our purpose to remember.

I remember now.

And I am sure I will forget at times.

But for now, for now I remember.

And I am oh so grateful.

How about you? How are you approaching this new year/new decade? There is not right or wrong way. this is just what is speaking to me right now. And I am choosing to trust it. Share in the comments or link your own blog if you’d like to share your thoughts. I’d love to hear!