Thank you, Dani Shapiro.

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Jealousy. Envy. Not pleasant emotions. Personally, I don’t believe the two are interchangeable. To me, jealousy is about what somebody has, something that you want for yourself. Envy feels more inward. When I feel envy it’s because I want to be like that person. I want to have their qualities, not their things.

So, the other morning I realized I envy Dani Shapiro. I admire the hell out of her. I read all of her books. I listen to interviews with her. Every blog she posts feels like she is writing directly into my heart. So when envy came up I knew enough to pause instead of my usual MO when something uncomfortable arises which is to get the hell away from it. (Thank you yoga practice for teaching me to stay.)

Envy is an especially efficient mirror back to yourself if you stay with it. What you learn can act as a compass to your own truth north. I asked myself what I envied exactly.

~ All the books she’s written from memoir to novels to writing about writing

~ the way her days seems to be intimately woven around her writing life

~ she teaches meditation, yoga and writing retreats

~ she teaches in exotic locales like Positano, Italy

Then I ask myself what is exactly that I want in my life.

~ I want to explore different kinds of writing

I am taking notes now on a nonfiction book based on the class I created called Poses, Pens + Inner Peace while I continue to work on my novel and essays and blog posts.

~ I want to spend more portions of my days immersed in writing.

So, after meditating and a brief yoga practice to get all the kinks out my mind and body, I’ve begun taking my breakfast and tea straight to my desk where my first treat of the day is to dip back into Shapiro’s wonderful book on the creative life, “Still Writing.” From there I set a timer for 30 minutes and work on my novel. Then I do some mundane household task then come back to the novel or a blog post or some other piece of writing.

~ I already teach a class that combines yoga, mediation and writing.

It’s something I knew I wanted to do the minute I stepped on my mat. I feel the same energy on my mat that I feel in my writing—an energy that connects to deeper parts of myself. Holding space for a group as they release stories through yoga and writing and share with the class is an honor to me each and every week.

~ I want to expand Poses, Pens + Inner Peace beyond that one Thursday night class.

I envision taking this class as a retreat to different parts of the country, even abroad, bringing groups of women together in a sacred circle to heal, to reclaim parts of themselves they have lost, to celebrate their magnificent light.

So, really this is a thank you to Dani Shapiro. Thank you for living an authentic, beautiful, messy creative life that tugged at something in me and allowed to envision what kind of creative life I want for myself. Thank you for the example of your work ethic that I can admire and emulate to then take the steps to make that vision a reality. Thank you for the honesty of your words that pierce my heart. Thank you for sharing those words with the world.

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Observations on Being Without Power.

 

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Image found via Pinterest.

Our state recently experienced an historic power outage due to winds of up to 60 miles per hour. My house was without power for over 72 hours. Here are a few things I observed.

Of course there is the initial annoyance. No power (and no generator) meant no lights, no heat, no water, no refrigerator. At first, it wasn’t that bad. It almost felt like a reprieve from normal life. But soon, it got old. I went to the bookstore for the afternoon to get warm and charge my phone and laptop. That night, my husband and I drank some wine and played a few games of Cribbage by candlelight. Sweet, fun and a little romantic. But waking up to a really cold house the next morning, the reprieve glow had worn off. I went to the gym to work out and take a shower. My daughter and I tried to find a place to get warm and charge our phones but every place was full. So, we got food to go and went to the yoga studio where I teach. No classes in the middle of the day so we had it to ourselves: warmth, wifi, outlets to charge. All in all, a pretty nice afternoon especially since I wrote over 2000 words on my current WIP.

That night we stayed in hotel where my husband had a business meeting. Perfect timing. Enjoyed a warm bed and a hot tub. Woke up to news that the power was back. Yay! On my way home, my daughter called to say the power was NOT back on. Boo!

I began to notice how easily swayed my mood was by things completely out of my control. I found myself getting incredibly irritated when the DTE app hadn’t updated the repair status and that irritation began to spill out all over the place. It made me wonder how often I let my mood be influenced by things out of my control. How often did I let irritations pile up and feed off each other until I was just miserable to be around for myself and others?

Each time I walked into a room, I hit the light switch. Every. Single. time. It made me realize how ingrained our habits are. It made me wonder what else I do just out of habit, basically on auto-pilot?

As the irritation began to build I realized that I was just waiting to get the power back. Just waiting. Filling time until everything was back to normal That’s what drinking the wine was about the first night. Let’s make this a little less uncomfortable and make the time pass a little easier. I wonder how often I did that, bypassing what was uncomfortable, waiting for things to happen that I want to happen.

As offers to use friends’ refrigerators or freezers to save our food, or their house for warmth or an invitation to sleep in their spare room came in, I found how awkward I felt when offered such gifts. I have no problem at all offering such gifts to others, but receiving is not easy for me. Even when it was my best friend in the whole world. She had me come down to her home for the day where she made me a fresh salad, had bought my favorite tea and crackers. I said, “My gosh you are spoiling me.” She said with a lot of passion that somebody should spoil me, that I deserve it. That I take care of everyone else all the time and the sometimes I needed to be taken care of myself. I heard the words, and I tried to receive them with an open heart but I could feel myself closing up against them. How often do I refuse to ask for help or feel guilty when accepting it?

Finally, being powerless felt like a huge, neon metaphor for how I’ve felt since the election. Certain things are just out of my control no matter how many calls I make, marches I attend, petitions I sign, meetings I go to, postcards I send.

So, with so many things out of my control, what is within my control? Always my response. Always. I chose to get irritated by the power being out. I chose to check the app twenty-five times a days, hoping to see an update. I chose to drink several large glasses of wine to escape the situation in front of me. But I also chose to seek out warmth. To continue my meditation practice even if just for two minutes. I chose to continue showing up to my current WIP, making progress despite what was going around me. Chose to notice when it felt uncomfortable accepting offers of help. I chose to accept the help anyway, learning to get comfortable with it.

Now that the lights are back on, I hope to stay aware of what is in my power, and what is not. To stay awake to my habits instead of sleepwalking through my days. To be grateful for help when it is offered and brave enough to ask when I need it, believing that I am deserving of it. To be grateful for all that I have that I blindly take for granted as I easily flip on a light switch to light up a room or turn on the faucet to receive water or open the refrigerator full of fresh food.

Just like Dorothy, the power is always within us.

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Image found via Pinterest.

 

Moving Through Fear on my Mat.

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I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting my back.

See, I hurt it almost two years ago. Two. Years.

I hurt it so bad that I ended up on my bedroom floor in child’s pose, unable to move and my daughters had to call an ambulance.

It was humiliating.

It was frightening.

I lost faith in my body.

Ever since then, I have been afraid of hurting my back again. I’ve babied it. I’ve taken it easy, doing gentle yoga, and soft, somatic stretches.

But I haven’t really pushed myself.

Once in a while I do, but the moment I feel the least little twinge I back off again.

I haven’t hurt it that bad since then, but I have “tweaked” it and the fear of hurting it like I did the first time lingers.

Then I read an essay by Elizabeth Gilbert in the February issue of “O” magazine where she reflects on a knee injury. How it plagued her for over 13 years ever since her marriage had ended. When she finally got tired of being held back by that pain she asked what it needed She really wanted know. She heard it say it wants to run fast. To move. For her to stop using it as an excuse to hold herself back.

Oh.

Wow.

That’s exactly what I do.

I hold myself back for fear of hurting my back again.

I don’t take  challenging yoga classes.

I’m afraid of saying yes to fun excursions for fear that walking too much or moving in an unexpected way will tweak my back.

But then I realized that the more I baby my back, the weaker it is getting.

The weaker it is getting, the more chance I have of hurting it again.

So, I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting it.

I’ve decided to move it. Use it. Strengthen it.

I’ve started taking yoga classes again. Ones that challenge me. That force me to use muscles I’ve ignored for two years.

I’ve decided to say yes to things instead of no for fear it might be uncomfortable.  I ‘m 51, not 91. And even at 91 I want to be saying yes more than no. I want to be like Tao Porchon-Lynch when I’m in my nineties. Hell, I want to have her sprit and vitality now!

Each vinyasa, each lunge, each time I step my foot through between my hands I am moving through that fear. With each breath I am releasing it, making room room for trust, making room for what is happening in my body in this moment not some imaginary moment in my head.

Fear is just a thought.

Fear comes from not being present to this moment where I am fine, where my back is fine.

So, I’m saying yes again to each moment. I’m meditating daily. (104 days in a row so far.) I’m moving, playing, bending, stretching, strengthening and learning to trust my body again.

I’m learning to go toward my fear, befriending it, embracing it.

I’m literally moving through it.

And I’m finding tremendous strength and freedom on the other side.

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#AMonthofFaves2016 ~ Best Changes We Made This Year

To your Day / Life / Routines / Blog / Habits

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I’ve made two big changes this year, both incredibly beneficial (so hopefully that is motivation to keep them going!).

The first is my “Don’t Break the Chain” challenge. I created 365 boxes on a dry erase board and put an “X” on each day that I wrote. I’ve managed to write every day this year. Now, some days it was just morning pages. Other days it was merely one sentence in my WIP. But, the point is, that I wrote something every single day of 2016… so far. Next year, my plan is to make it a little more challenging. Maybe I need to write 500 words on my WIP at least 5 days a week to earn that “X.”

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The second thing I did (and it’s only been since November 9) is meditate every day. Most days it is for at least 15 minutes. 2 days it has been for 5 because the day was so crazy and I just needed to fit it in. I have resisted meditation for years. Even when one of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Natalie Goldberg,  promised that meditation was the secret to writing, I still resisted. But now I am kind of in a groove. I feel like meditation creates space for all of my thoughts, all of my feelings. Nothing is being squashed or pushed aside. Meditation is holding sacred space for all for me. I find myself calmer, less reactive, more mindful, more focused…all great benefits for a writer.

What are some changes you’ve made this years or plan to make next year? I’d love to hear about them.

Check out the challenge here. 

The Masks We Wear.

 

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Image found via Pinterest.

I don’t remember the first time it happened.

But I’m sure I was young when I first donned that mask that would allow me to be accepted, liked, loved.

Maybe when I pretended not to be upset.

Or laughed at a joke that I actually found offensive.

When I said, “Nothing” to the question, “What’s wrong?”

Or when I somebody asked how I was and I said, “Fine” when really I was trembling with sadness, shame or rage on the inside.

We learn at a young age to mold our outsides to be acceptable to those we love most, to those who don’t even know us at all.

I did it just the other day when my best friend of 37 years came over so we could go to dinner and a movie. I’d just gotten home from teaching, the house was a mess because I just didn’t feel like cleaning. But I did this brisk 30-minute clean before she arrived.Why? She is the last person who would judge me for anything much less having a messy house. I was judging me.

And there it is.

I judge myself harshly and then feel compelled to pretend I am other than who I am.

Yoga has helped with this. Not just the poses. We all know that the poses are the very tip of the yoga iceberg. The more I practice, the more I show up to my mat just as I am on any given day and do what I can do on any given day, the more I am peeling away those layers of masks.

Some days I just need Child’s Pose and Savasana. That’s it. I’m done.

Other days I need to sweat and move and build strength.

The biggest revelation is that one day is not better than the other. They are just days. Days when I show up to my mat. And when I show up to my mat, I show up to myself.

No matter what I do when I show up to my practice, whether it’s Child’s Pose or Warrior or Crow, I am shifting energy. Energy that has gotten stagnant and stuck in my body. When I come out of a pose that has gotten to be too much, I am honoring who I am, not trying to prove I am something I’m not. Same when I pass on going deeper into a pose just because the teacher suggests it.

Yoga has been about learning to trust myself. Trust my body. Trust what I feel. Trust what I need. Trust what I believe. Trust in the Universe.

And when I deeply trust who I am, there’s no need to wear a mask.

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The Art of Belonging.

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You belong.

Those two words are plastered all over the gym I recently joined. I see them on every piece of equipment. They swim up at me through a haze of sweat and heavy breath as I push through the cardio cycle of the treadmill or elliptical or bike. I know it’s a marketing ploy. It’s their hook. Everybody is welcome there, not just lunks.

But still.

There’s something about those two little words that tug at me.

You belong.

Doesn’t the root of most unhappiness come down to a feeling of not belonging? We feel different. Outside. Other. And we try to hide the shame of being different behind wine, cigarettes, food shopping, social media, drugs, TV. Whatever will momentarily numb the discomfort of not belonging.

You belong.

I do?

It’s a question the whispers at the edge of my consciousness, tinged with hope rather than disdain.

I belong.

My yoga practice helps me feel like I belong in my body.

Meditation helps me feel I belong in this moment, just as I am.

Writing helps me feel I belong to the world within and around me as I struggle with words and stories that reveal what I care most about at any given moment.

So, as I climb imaginary hills and bike imaginary distances, I appreciate seeing the words “You belong” gazing up at me, a simple yet powerful reminder that I belong in this body, in this moment, with heart thumping and sweat dripping, breathing hard and fast in this one body that belongs to me and me to it.

 

You Belong ~ Kim Haas

You belong in this skin with its freckles and lines and scars.

You belong in this body—the body you are in now, not when you are ten pounds lighter or the one from ten years ago but this body right now in all its glorious imperfect beauty.

You belong in this life with the family you were born into whether it is fractured or whole, nurturing or absent. You chose them for a reason, so you belong.

You belong wherever you stand at any given moment on this earth.

You belong to this family of humans, all desperate to belong, to find their place out in the world when the real belonging takes place deep inside each of us.

You belong to the Universe of stardust and moonlight.

To the ebb and flow of the tides.

To brother crow and sister snake.

You don’t have to prove you belong. The fact that you are here is the proof.

You, dear one, belong here, now, just as you are.

 

The Beauty of Seasons.

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Found via Pinterest.

It’s September 1. Windows are open, A/C is off (for now). I hear the rustle of leaves as some begin making their descent back into the earth. Facebook is filled with photos of kids going back to school. The wide open space of summer is winding down as we get ready to begin the turning inward that fall and winter bring.

Fall is my favorite. I like it more than January 1 for clean slates and hunkering down to create and accomplish the life I dream of having. No matter how old I get, I will always ride this back-to-school energy. I stock up on notebooks and pens. This year, I bought an awesome new planner (undated) that I am starting to use today. If I was going to create my own planner this would be it. It’s the perfect balance of goal setting and dreaming, of intentions and accountability.

After getting our girls back up to school, I went through and cleared out the house. Threw away over-stuffed files, old clothes. Went through the junk drawers, the fridge and freezer. Everything has a home in my home now and my life is so much easier.

As part of stepping lightly into a more structured routine, I signed up for an on-line writing course that starts on Monday. I am finishing up revisions to my novel-in-stories and revising my agent query letter (which seems to be harder to write than the novel!) My other WIP is waiting patiently in the wings, ready for me to dive back into that world.

I have my yoga and meditation practice to both ground and uplift me—two things I desperately need in this heated political climate.

When I lived in Arizona, I loved the weather, the blue skies, the palm trees, having a beautiful in-ground pool in our backyard oasis. But. Once I moved back to the midwest, I realized how much I missed the change off seasons. I missed it on every level—physically, mentally, emotionally and energetically. The changing of the seasons stirs something within me, something primal and deeply rooted. They mimic the ebb and flow of my energy, my creativity. There’s the whole cycle-of-life that mirrors our physical selves as well as our emotional selves. I naturally tend to look outward at spring and revel in the warmth and wide open days of summer, then I naturally yearn to start retreating in the fall, stoking the home fires of my creativity, of my soul as we head into winter where the cycle begins all over again.

I’ve already seen a few leaves tinged red at the edges. The sun is setting earlier. And I am ready for the change of seasons. The change of energy and focus. How about you?

 

Choosing to Embrace Silence.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I’ve never been good at being alone.

Never been comfortable with silence. Which explains why I resisted meditation for so long. Even when one of my favorite writers/teachers highly recommended it for writers, coming just shy of touting it as the magic key, I still refused to sit with myself in silence.

When I first went away to art school, I arrived before my roommate. I had the apartment to myself for almost a week and I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t have a TV. This was well before personal computers, much less iPhones. I didn’t have a stereo. I think I did have a cassette player with earphones. And books. And myself.

Those few days were excruciating. I remember sitting on the couch in view of the apartment across from me where I saw other students, hoping, praying they would notice me, take pity on me and invite me over.

They didn’t.

When I was a young mother, I craved time alone, even if just in the bathroom. When I was lucky enough to get any time to myself, I almost always squandered much of it in front of the TV. Or I’d call family or friends and talk to them. Anything to fill up the silence. Anything to avoid being alone with myself.

Now, my daughters are both away at college. This week my husband is out of town so it just me and the dog and cat. And the silence.

As I sit in my cozy reading/writing nook in the living room I hear the tapping of these keys, the gurgling hum of the washing, the clock ticking over the mantel and the muted thrum of highway traffic. That’s it. No TV or radio or music to fill the silence.

No barriers between me and myself.

I no longer resist silence or being alone. I embrace it.

What changed? Me. I don’t know when exactly it happened but it’s been since I started practicing yoga, since I finished my YTT. Yoga has allowed me to dive deep and figure out who I am, how I feel and to, you know, actually feel those feelings.

I think I was afraid of feeling too much so I avoided being alone, avoided creating space where feelings could surface.

I am no longer uncomfortable being alone. It no longer feels lonely. It wasn’t because I didn’t like myself. I didn’t know myself. And I am not always comfortable with being alone or with silence. Sometimes I still get that feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. Of wanting to fill in the gaps of silence that press on me.

The difference now is that I allow myself to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable.

And that is something that has definitely emerged from my yoga practice. I find my edge in poses that aren’t comfortable but I stay there, I breathe, I feel my body, I note my resistance and choose to stay.

Staying there when I want to flee is where the growth happens. It’s like a muscle that I push to its limit and it grows stronger. That space of hanging in past resistance helps in my writing as well.

So, as I find myself sitting in the utter quiet of my home, I note the butterflies in my belly, I note my shallow breath and the urge to turn the TV on. But I don’t.

I choose to embrace the silence.

And in embracing the silence I am embracing myself , exactly who I am in this moment. I wish eighteen-year-old me had known this. But she was young. She didn’t know or appreciate the beauty of all of who she was.

That’s okay. We know now.

 

 

The Art of Seeing Myself Clearly.

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As part of an on-line program, Spring Equinox 30 Days Back to You, I did a full two-hour vipassana meditation this morning. It is a practice of seeing ourselves clearly, of staying present to exactly what is happening in the moment, gradually purifying the mind and getting rid of attachments which are the root of suffering.

Where to start? At the beginning I suppose.

First up was the question of where to do it. I thought I should do it in my yoga room. Then this morning I decided I would sit in my nook in the living room. It didn’t look like I pictured it “should” in my mind—me sitting on my mat, in my yoga room, spine straight. But I decided I needed to make it as doable as possible. This chair is comfortable, it is cozy, I had the house to myself so I wouldn’t be interrupted. It made me wonder how often I tend to sabotage myself before I even begin by not making what I want to do as doable or accessible as possible.

Lately, I’ve been meditating and practicing self-reiki in bed as soon as I wake up. I used to think I “should” be doing it on my mat, after I practice. But this works for me. I wake up and before I do anything else, I do some reiki. I am still in that soft space after just waking, this keeps me there then it leads me straight into a sweet meditative space.

When I first read that I was going to have to meditate for two hours by first reaction was,”NO FUCKING WAY!”

But I was also intrigued.

I thought it would be so hard, so tedious. I thought it would be painful physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

But I also thought it could really interesting.

I went into it without expectations. I deliberately didn’t read about others’ experience with it before I experienced it myself.

I got my cozy blanket, a glass of water, lit a candle, put my phone on airplane mode so I wouldn’t be disturbed, set the timer and just did it.

At first it was loud in my head. It felt like “Inside Out” in there. I had the rebel dressed in black muttering, “This is bullshit.”

There was one wringing her hands worried that we weren’t doing this right at all.

Another desperately taking notes so we could write about this afterward.

Another patrolling with a ruler in her hand, enumerating all the ways this was an utter waste of time.

The first time I checked the timer only 15 minutes had passed.

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I shared the space with my dog, Izzy. She slept on the couch then at some point got up and moved to the recliner closer to me. I thought, her whole life is a vipassana meditation. She is always just in the moment, doing what she is doing. I tried to be more like her.

I was acutely aware of my body and the shapes it made. The places where my body connected with the chair, that line or veil between the two seeming to dissipate.

I was hyper aware of my face and neck.

I heard the clock above the mantel ticking away, the hum of the refrigerator, the creaks and groans of the house, distant traffic, a siren.

Odd images would flash behind my eyes. It felt like I was watching a movie.

It felt like that limbo between wakefulness and sleep though I never teetered over the edge into sleep.

The next time I looked I had 37 minutes left.

Then only six.

Then the timer dinged and I came back.

And it felt like coming back.

From where, I’m not sure. A journey of some sort. A deep inner journey.

I don’t remember a lot of the details. I am stunned that two hours went by.

I am surprised that it wasn’t more of a struggle. I’m surprised that I was able to just allow my mind to go where it went and didn’t engage with it. I felt like an observer. A curious, compassionate observer.

I stopped struggling to remember everything that I experienced and just allowed myself to experience it.

Just allowed myself to be.

Just allowed myself to see my Self more clearly.

The Necessity of Structure.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I just played with my first haiku since high school.

As part of the Write Yourself Alive challenge, I am trying to do the prompts that, well, challenge me.

Poetry challenges me.

Structured poetry challenges me even more.

But here’s what I learned. Or, maybe, it’s something I remembered.

Structure is essential to creativity.

It seems counterintuitive, I know. Creativity is free flowing,exactly the opposite of structured.

But nothing gets done without a structure.

All those pages I have filled over the years would have just stayed pages of free-writing, or practice unless I came up with a structure to contain them whether it was a story, novel, essay, blog post or even just a Facebook post.

We need to structure our time or nothing gets written or created. Nothing gets finished. Nothing gets submitted or shared with the world.

My yoga mat is a type of structure. My practice is a container for my attention. I have this one hour on my mat to connect with my body, my mind, with this moment. Without the structure of a practice I would completely lose that connection.

A recipe is a structure for a meal.

The tools you choose to create are the structure for the next piece or art whether its paper, scissors and glue or paint and canvas.

A pattern gives structure to a dress, otherwise it stays a lump of material.

Goals give structure to our dreams otherwise they stay dreams.

Where do you need more structure in your life? Feel free to share in the comments!

Oh, and here’s the Haiku Series I wrote:

Just Us

The days of just us
in our own little cocoon
of freedom and love.

Then fertility
crept in with charts and hormones
leaving us afloat.

Let go of that dream.
Immersed myself in college
then the line appears.

And two became three.
Three easily became four
Perfect square of love.

Small and big moments
Wove us together as one
Fights, fun, tears and joys.

Then college takes one
Creating a triangle
Leaving a true gap.

Then the other leaves.
Two there and two here alone.
Learning to embrace

The silence and space.
Standing face to face once more
Just the two of us.