We Belong to Each Other.

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Sacred celebration* is essential, especially amidst the ruins.

Yes, there is pain.

Yes, there is grief.

Yes, there is rage and despair.

But look around. Who is there with you? Who is helping you keep your head above water? Who is treading water next to you, far from the safety of shore, out in the deep end of life?

The deep end is where life gets juicy. The shallow end is known. It is comfortable. But when you push off and wade or dive or plunge into the deep end, that’s when you grow. That’s when you become who you are meant to be.

And when you look around, eyes wide open you’ll see that you belong to everyone and everyone belongs to you.

We belong to each other.

We belong to the earth.

We belong to our ancestors.

We belong.

We are each other.

Our hearts belong to each other.

So, the sacred celebration happens each time we recognize this essential truth.

I hold you in my heart.

You hold me in yours.

And I am grateful.

* Inspired by the prayer written by Thomas Banyacya Sr.

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Books Read in May + June.

May + June Books

“This Messy Magnificent Life” by Geneen Roth

From the beginning, I was always more anxious than the average bear.

Once again, Roth dives deep into the brilliant muck of her own life and struggles to offer us a blueprint on how to do the same for ourselves. 

Yes, she talks explores women and body image but it goes so much deeper than that. She shares stories from her own life and those fo her students, guiding us out of the gotta-get-more mentality and into the peace of being enough in our messy, magnificent lives.

A sentence I underlined (and starred):

I’ve tried versions of not fixing myself before, but always with the secret hope that not fixing myself would fix me.

“You Think It, I’ll Say It” stories by Curtis Sittenfeld

Nell andHenry always said that they would wait until marriage was legal for everyone in America, and now this is the case—it’s August 2015—but earlier in the week Henry eloped with his graduate student Bridget.

That’s a hell of a first sentence! So much packed into it and it drops us right into the heart of who this couple tried to be and who they actually are now.

Each story seems to explore that edge between the image projected versus what is really going on inside whether it’s a woman fanatazising the downfall of an old friend who had become a lifestyle guru to a woman on her honeymoon who runs into a nemesis from high school.

Sittendfeld weaves in the poetics of the times but as background, also like white noise that adds texture to the stories, to the characters who will stay with you long after you put the book down.

A sentence I love:

Being in touch with her offered a cushioning to my days, an antidote to the tedium and indignity of being a person, the lack of accountability of my adulthood; it gave me stamina with Bonnie and willpower with Therese.

“The Rules of Inheritance” a memoir by Claire Bidwell Smith

My father’s voice is tinny through the phone line. I am in the booth at the bottom of the stairs in Howland dorm. It is my freshman year of college.

A student loaned me her copy before class one day. I started reading it as the rest of my students gathered and before class even started I already had tears in my eyes. 

This memoir is one of the most honest explorations of grief that I have ever read.

At fourteen, both of her parents are diagnosed with cancer within months of each other. By the time she is in her twenties, both of them have died.

The book is structured within the framework of the five stages of grief. She also moves through time in a very fluid way that I imagine mimics grief itself.

She made the deliberate decision not to use quotation marks throughout and it works. It is a constant reminder that these are memories. The lack of punctuated conversations reminds us over and over that they are gone.

Her sentences are stunning.

The story is powerful.

It wasn’t my book but if it was, I probably would’ve underlined something on every single page.

Some sentences I loved: 

“We kiss for the first time, there in the kitchen, and Ill always remember it for many reasons. One of them is because, for the first time in a long time nothing about the kiss serves to fill a void.”

“We agreed that I would move my things out this week. We parted ways at the door and there was a wildness between us, something frightening and alive, fluttering like a bird.”

“She turns her head to me now and runs a hand down my cheek. I’ve adored being your mother, Claire. Sometimes I think it’s the only thing I did right with my life.

She is crying now. I can tell by the way her voice has gone tighter. I still can’t bring myself to look at her.

We’ll get through. Okay, sweetie? I promise.

I finally look up at her and nod the tiniest nod. She turns on her side, pulling me into her like a comma, and we lie like that for a long time.”

“If We Had Known” a novel by Elise Juska

It was an unseasonably hot late summer day in Maine when Maggie’s daughter read about the shooting.

A mass shooting at a local mall rocks a small college town. It reads like a common national headline. Juska takes us behind the headlines, into the stories of the people left behind. Those that survived, those that knew the shooter, those that wonder if they could’ve—or should’ve—done something to prevent the tragedy. 

Maggie is a professor and divorced mom getting ready to send her only child off to college when the shooting happens. Through the internet and social media speculations run rampant , linking the shooter to an essay he wrote for Maggie in a class she had him in years earlier. Did she miss something in his writing, something dark that hinted at the crime he would later commit?

The novel explores these questions as well as the territory of this mother-daughter relationship in such gripping prose that it was hard to put down and hard to forget once I finally did put it down.

A sentence I love:

Her head hurt on contact, a small flowering of pain in her temple.

“Her” a memoir by Christa Parravani

I used be an identical twin. I was Cara Parravani’s twin.

Those first two sentences are at the heart of this exquisite memoir. After an act of brutality sends her twin down a dark path of depression and drugs, leading to her early death, Christa is left behind to try and remember who she is without her twin. To try and remember how she even is able to exist without her counterpart to balance out her existence in the world.

It is a haunting story that moves beyond  loss and grief, diving deep into the complicated heart of being an identical twin and how they can both lose and find themselves in each other. 

A passage I love:

All of our stories and hurts were now mine alone. I’d grown so used to stories being shared that without Cara it was as if neither of our lives had ever happened. With her death, my history had been erased.

“Silence in the Age of Noise” by Erling Kagge

Whenever I am unable to walk, climb or sail away from the world, I have learned to shut it out.

I finished this beautiful book in less than twelve hours. I started it before I went to bed then finished it upon waking. It opened me up to the possibility of cultivating silence within my life, not letting all the constant noise of the world in. Each page has plenty of white space for my eyes to rest and photos throughout that float in the center of the page, providing yet another resting space for my mind.

Kagge is a Norwegian explorer who has completed the Three Poles Challenge on foot—the North Pole, the South Pole, and the summit of Mount Everest. Using those experiences he then travels inward to explore the realm of silence in our lives. The book is filled with grace and wisdom and after closing the final page I found myself seeking out more moments of silence, becoming more aware of the noise I invite in on a daily basis.

A sentence I love:

Silence is about rediscovering, through pausing, the things that bring us joy.

“Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home” a memoir by Natalie Goldberg

I travel all the way to Kitada, Japan, to Taizoin Temple, near the Sea of Japan, to find the ashes of my Zen teacher, Katagiri Roshi.

Those of you who have been following my blog will no doubt know of my special connection to Natalie Goldberg. I’ve often written about how her book, “Writing Down the Bones” first set me on this writing path. How the first time I gave myself persuasion to be a writer was when I attended her week-long retreat in Taos, New Mexico.

I have read every single book she has written at least once, often more than once. When I saw that she had a new memoir out I immediate checked my local bookstore, saw that they had it in stock, got in my car and bought it. Once again, I finished it in less than twelve hours. 

Since I have read all of her books, i noticed that this particular one seemed to emerge from a deeper, richer place. It comes from her years of writing practice, of Zen practice, of painting practice and this time, from her practice of being with her illness. Being in a body that has cancer. Being within a medical system that she fights against. Being in a relationship where they are both fighting cancer.

It’s a memoir that explores the practice of living. Of being present to all of it not just the shiny pieces we share on social media. It reminded me of the beauty and necessity of writing practice. The practice of relating to my world, to my self, my body, my mind word by word, moment by moment.

After reading the final sentence, I lay the book on my heart, resting my hand on the cover and I could feel my heartbeat reverberate up through the pages, through the words, tears filled my eyes and I silently thanked Natalie over and over, for setting me on this writing path, for giving me the tools to connect with my wild mind, heart + life, for always showing us the way through her own writing straight into the white hot messy center of our living and dying.

A sentence I love:

But I came in direct contact with the groundless disaster—I could not hold on to my old life; I could not manage or form a new life. 

 

The Practice of Curiosity.

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I wonder…

Those two small yet powerful words help me to break through creative blocks, fear and stagnation.

I often forget them when I am in the midst any of those those three things or some combination of them.

But when I remember, they are the key that sets me free.

When faced with an impending empty nest I found myself thinking, ” I wonder if I should take Yoga Teacher Training.”

My class, “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace” came into being when I wondered how writing and yoga intersected and wondered how they could nourish each other.

When I hit a block in my work-in-progress, any “I wonder’ will get the pen moving. What is written may not stay in but that is not the point of curiosity. The point is to generate some movement.

Fear equals stagnation.

Stagnation begets stagnation.

Curiosity is light. It doesn’t come in hot demanding that I change and DO something, fix it, fix everything now.

No, curiosity invites me to sit down and play.

No pressure to fix something.

No pressure to fix everything with my next action.

It just asks me to wonder.

To ask what if.

And that gentle invitation is all I need to step out of fear, out of stagnation and back into the cycle of creative energy.

Curiosity only does one thing

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A Letter from Risk.

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I am not here to take over your life.

I am not here to destroy our life.

I am here  to dance with you into the deep heart of your life.

Each risk you take is a success, no matter the end result.

Each risk expands your heart, expands your mind, expands your life.

Dance with me rather than standing at odds.

Dancing is fluid. It is playful. It invites curiosity and wonder.

Don’t bring such a heaviness to me. 

Let me be light.

Let me light your path.

A path of possibilities.

Let my light bring clarity .

Let that clarity be your light, the light that you shine out into the world.

 

Tools of Illumination.

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I heard Dani Shapiro on a podcast this morning and she said that writing is a tool for illumination.

Yes.

Exactly.

And so is yoga which is why they work so well together. One illuminates the other.

Yoga shines a light into the dark, heavy corners of my body where I’ve stored rage and shame and grief. I move and breathe and unlock those old emotions, those old stories, releasing them.

Writing shines a light into my heart, into my psyche. I write my way into what matters, into what I am thinking or feeling on any given day at any given moment.

Through yoga and writing my path forward is illuminated.

I am illuminated and able to shine my light out into the world.

What Happens Next.

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Although I am still showing up to write every day, lately I have been stuck on one particular chapter.

Sure, I still open my laptop, read what I have and manage to squeeze out a few more sentences. But when I close the laptop I still have no idea what happens next so I have no idea where to start the next day.

But the next days arrives and I open my work-in-progress and eke out a sentence or two. I close it, satisfied that I am living up to my goal of writing something each day, disappointed that it feels like such a lame, extremely low bar effort.

This went on for a couple of weeks.

Then today, I take myself to the bookstore, snag my favorite table by the window, get my venti iced soy chai, open my laptop, pop in my earplugs, and set Freedom for a ninety- minute session and start to write.

Reader, by the end of the session, I finished that chapter. And I am set up perfectly for the next chapter.

I am stuck in the messy, bogged down middle of my novel. I can’t imagine it ever being done. But I show up each day anyway. Each word, no matter how few or how lame they may seem, leads me forward.

And that is why I continue to show up, day after day, even when—no, especially when— I have no idea what happens next.  Because showing up daily has taught me to trust that eventually I will write my way into exactly what happens next.

 

 

Surrounding Myself with Inspiration.

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The Celtic Goddess Boann is the most recent addition to my writing space. She is the Goddess of Inspiration and Creativity.

Judith Shaw writes, “In the same way that flowing waters clear debris in its path, Boann clears your mind of mental debris and negativity. She helps open your soul to receive divine inspiration. Call on Boann when seeking your own creative voice, an open door to spiritual insight and our connection to source.”

I love that!

My writing space cloaks me in inspiration from the colors (poppy and robin’s egg blue) to all of the books lining my shelves, from artwork and quotes to the view out the window.

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I’ve created a writing nest, a writing cocoon. I finally prefer to write here than out  in public. I light a candle (something sweet in the winter and fall, a fresh scent in spring and summer), sit at my desk that is nestled between two bookshelves with a view into our front yard, pop in earplugs, open a notebook or laptop and dive in.

The objects, words and images that surround me in this space were chosen specifically because they spoke to me. They challenge me to show up daily, to find my voice, to connect with my source.

 

Restaurants: Please Offer more than Salad and Fries for Vegans.

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Dear Restaurants,

How hard is it to put at least one vegan option on your menu?

But it can’t be the sad, vegan, last option of a salad and fries.

Or a salmon salad without the salmon and you still charge me the same price.

I mean, you all jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon when only one percent of our population has legit celiac disease.

The are 3.2 percent of Americans who are vegan. There’s a need there.

There’s a market share to be had.

There are restaurants I no longer frequent because there are no options for me.

You don’t have to go as far as Ale Mary’s and provide an entire vegan option menu but, wow, that’d be great! I’m happy that the martini bar I love to go to in the summer to sit on their patio now offers a Beyond Burger.

All I’m asking is that you be a tad more inclusive.

It’s good for our health.

It’s good for the environment.

It’ll be good for your business.

 

Notebook Love.

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I love notebooks/journals.

I keep so many going at once:

  • one for morning pages
  • one for each WIP which is currently 3
  • one for writing practice
  • one for writing books I am working with like “The Writer’s Portable Mentor”
  • one for the Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach since I also write along with my students
  • one for yoga workshops
  • one for capturing themes & ideas for yoga classes I teach
  • a mini-notebook that fits in my purse

I figure the more opportunities I offer myself to write, the greater the possibility that I will actually write.

And it appears to be working.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up into your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” ~ Jack London

Embrace your Fury.

I woke up to this video shared by my sister this morning.

I watched, nodding the whole time. I also felt this sensation rising up my spine, snaking its way through my belly.

Tracee Ellis Ross named it for me. It was fury.

This seemingly innocuous incident of a friend of hers being physically moved out of the way by a complete stranger sparked the talk. I read some of the comments, many from men mansplaining how we, as women, shouldn’t be offended by this. That if he was physically moved by another guy he’d just suck it up and move on.

I am furious at men who think they have the right to literally move a woman out of their way rather than saying, “excuse me.”

I am furious that he treated her like she was merely an inconvenient object in his way.

I am furious that we hear stories over and over and over again through #metoo and #timesup of men putting their hands on women like its their right, for assaulting, molesting and raping women.

I am furious that we have a president who proudly declared he grabbed women by the pussy.

I am furious that yet another school shooting has occurred and the young, entitled white male targeted a girl who rejected him.

I am furious at the men who try to humiliate and shut down women who dare to raise their voices in real life and and on-line.

This seemingly innocuous anecdote of Ross’s friend being moved is at the heart of my fury. That so many (please note: I am not saying ALL) men feel it is their right to keep women “in place.”

In a place where we are not in the way.

In a place where we don’t cause any ripples.

In a place that is convenient for men.

In a place where we stay quiet and smile.

That place doesn’t exist. Not anymore. We are tearing it down by sharing our stories, naming the men who assaulted us, claiming our power.

Like Ross says,

“…the innocuous makes space for the horrific.”

Let’s continue to dismantle that place women have been boxed into for so long.

Dismantle it each time we speak up.

Each time we stand in our truth.

Each time we don’t swallow our fury and smile.

Each time we embrace the wisdom of that fury that courses through us.

Let the fury awaken us.

when women wake mountains move

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