Committed…or Nah?

Commitment header

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Commitment. That is my theme for my yoga classes this week. Got it from The Power Path. I love that it falls in September which is the time of year I commit to my routine, structure and goals again as we head into the last quarter of the year.

I know I am committed to writing. How do I know this? Because of the actions that back it up:

~ I show up to the page severy single day.

~ I post here.

~ It’s why I read so many books.

~ It’s why I take classes and workshops with writers I admire.

~It’s why I create the time and money to honor this commitment

While I am committed to writing, I can see that I am not committed to publishing. How can I see that? By my lack of consistent action. My submission process is spotty at best. I started off the year on a roll. But as the year has progressed and the rejections have stated to appear, my enthusiasm has waned. But I have to remember it is part of the process. So many great writers and books were rejected at first.

So, how can I commit to publishing in the same way I commit to writing? What has worked for writing that I can apply? 

Frist, I show up every day to write. It doesn’t matter if I know what I am going to write, or what I work on. It could be Morning Pages, my blog, my current WIP, exercises from “You are a Badass at Making Money,” or from the on-line class I am taking with Bryonie Wise, “Human is What We Are.”

It doesn’t matter what or how much I write. It only matters that I show up. 

Second, I keep track of those days on a chart in my office. Keeping track keeps me motivated.

These are the two main things I do. Show up and track.

So, every day I need to either submit something or research where to submit.

I will make a chart or find an app and keep track of the days. I think 5 out of 7 is a good goal for this.

Commitment takes action. Action pushes through fear. Obviously, there is something about publishing that scares me. Hmmm…can’t imagine what. Putting my heart and soul out into the world to be judged. Sounds easy-peasy…

But I am going to try and harness this commitment energy. If something is important to me and I say that this is, then I have to act on it. Every single day. Forward momentum is my friend. Stagntation is not.

Onward!

Goethe

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Acknowledging Ms. Rule-Maker.

Ms. Rule-Maker.JPG

Today I felt like a slug.

I took one nighttime sinus pill last night to help with a lingering headache and the effects seem to weigh me down. I laid on the couch until it felt like I was melting into it.

Finally, I hauled myself off of it and into the shower. Got myself dressed. Came to the bookstore. Ordered a chai (hoping the caffeine would help jumpstart me out of this energetic stupor) then began to write my morning pages (even though it was two o’clock in the afternoon.)

One of the first things to come out was this so-called rule that if I had to go to the bookstore to write rather than sit in the perfectly lovely writing space I created at home, then I wasn’t a real writer.

Wait, what?

I recently unearthed a bunch of rules I have absorbed over the years about food. It was a long list.

So, I decided to do the same with this. What other rules were lurking around?

I should have a degree to be a real writer.

I should have a book published to be a real writer.

I should write a certain amount of words or for a certain length of time on my current WIP to be a real writer. (The amounts are always totally unrealistic.)

I should work on my WIP and not the ten other kinds of writing I may do on any given day.

I picture this rule-maker as an older woman, dressed in black, with a tight severe bun, pacing around, slapping a ruler against her palm.Once I have a visual it is easier to remember that her job is create rules. She thinks she is helping me. Just like it is my mind’s job to churn out thoughts. My job isn’t to stop either one. My job is to observe and then move on.

Meditating doesn’t mean not thinking. That happen when we die. Meditation is about observing the thoughts, becoming intimate with the mind while not getting swept away by the current.

Same with Ms. Rule-Maker. Once I acknowledge her, I can give her a brief nod that says, “Thank you for your input, I’ll keep that in mind” then go on my way.

That is exactly what I did today. And I managed to get everything on my writing agenda done:

Morning Pages 

Writing Practice

Read and do exercises from “You Are a Badass at Making Money”

Work on WIP

New rule: Writing anywhere, on anything for any length of time makes me a writer.

 

 

Don’t Be Tossed Away.

Don't Be Tossed Away

“Don’t be tossed away by your monkey mind. You say you want to do something—“I really want to be a writer”—then that little voice comes along, “but I might not make enough money as a writer.” “Oh, okay, then I won’t write.” That’s being tossed away. These little voices are constantly going to be nagging us. If you make a decision to do something, you do it. Don’t be tossed away. But part of not being tossed away is understanding your mind, not believing it so much when it comes up with all these objections and then loads you with all these insecurities and reasons not to do something.”               ~ Natalie Goldberg

 

This is one of the first lessons I learned from Natalie Goldberg when I read her books then studied with her. But it is only recently that I feel I have really absorbed that lesson. It is only recently that I feel that I live that lesson.

I rarely allow myself to be tossed away now that I have decided to show up daily to my writing, to my mind through meditation. She is right. We must become intimate with the way our minds work and see monkey mind for what it is.

Part of me deeply regrets that I resisted meditating for SO long. At the retreat with Goldberg, she basically said it is the one true secret to writing and that while she din’t make it mandatory, she highly encouraged us to show up to the early morning meditation before the activities began for the day.

I blew off the meditation. I slept instead.

And as I write that, I realize I mean it literally ( I slept in) and figuratively. I slept through much of my life, allowing monkey mind to be in charge. Believing the stories it churned out and boy, did it churn out some doozies.

Those stories tossed me away.

Tossed me away from the page.

From the stories I yearned to tell..

From my goals.

From my dreams.

Now, I am not staying that I no longer have that voice taunting me, trying to derail me. Nope. Not at all. But now that I write every damn day, now that I meditate every damn day, I no longer care so much what money mind has to say.

I no longer wait for the perfect circumstances or the perfect beam of inspiration or the perfect feeling that that will propel me effortlessly to my desk or meditation cushion. If I waited for that, I’d be waiting forever. There’s always a reason not to write, always a reason not to meditate.

Instead I show up no matter what.

Being tossed away is no longer a thing I need to constantly fight against.

I just show up.

 

 

 

No Place to Hide.

 

No Place to Hide

I like to keep track of things. Things I do and for how long.

Currently I am keeping track of how many days in a row I have not had a drink. (68) I track how many days in a row I have meditated. (426) And I keep track of how many days in a row I have written something. (1,337)

And what does this add up to? That is such a left-brain, ego-based question. Because the things we do must add up to something. To some goal, some achievement. Right?

Why can’t the achievement be in the doing. Or in the case of drinking, in the not doing?

These things may not have added up to something but they have certainly added to the quality of my life.

I am more present. I feel things more, which is challenging. There was a reason that I often poured one, two or three glasses of wine on a random night. I didn’t want to feel those pesky, uncomfortable feelings.

Meditating helps me to see how those feelings and thoughts just come and go. I know it will change so I can sit with it for now.

Writing helps me to process all those feelings. I get them out of the dark, knotted twisty space of my head, onto the page and into the light of day where they lose much of their power.

Doing things everyday, like writing, builds momentum. This is huge for me. I can become so easily stuck. Stuck in my head, stuck in this tendency to overthink every single thing and end up immobilized on the couch binge-watching Netflix. But writing something every day, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant is not insignificant at all. It builds momentum and the muscle of showing up.

Showing up when I am happy and inspired.

Showing up when I am sad and thoroughly uninspired.

Showing up when I know what happens next in my story.

Showing up when I have no idea at all what happens next.

Showing up after all these years. It’s obviously not for monetary reasons. Sure, that would be nice and I haven’t given up on that. But what keeps me coming back to the page again and again is this desire and habit to be there for the stories that want to be told. To be there for the deepest parts of my self that want to remain hidden but also want to be seen and heard.

There is nowhere to hide on the page. It’s like I tell my students, no matter what prompt I provide, whatever you need to write will find its way out.

I see now that each of these daily practices are spaces where I can no longer hide. I can’t hide from myself, my desires, my fears.

These daily practices allow me to see myself with clarity and compassion. And I can then turn that that clarity and compassion back out into the world around me.

 

Lessons Gifted.

Let go and trust

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So, I hurt my back at our yoga retreat this past weekend. Like really hurt it. Laying in the fetal position, crying, scared, panicked about how I would get myself home the next day with a 90-minute drive ahead of me, panicked about how I would even be able to get myself off of my mat and back into the house.

The whole trauma of that summer 4 years years ago came rushing into my mind and into my body.

Let me just say, if your back is going to go out, then having it happen at a yoga retreat— surrounded by people who love and support you and can offer massage, Reiki, and an OT who can help you move in the least painful way possible— is the way to do it.

A few lessons that this experience gifted me with:

  1. Bee’s breath works, folks. Like seriously. I apparently went into mild shock as my body trembled uncontrollably (not a pleasant feeling when your back is hurting.) I couldn’t take a deep soothing breath or even make a sound to stimulate the vagus nerve. Then I remembered Bee’s Breath. As soon as I did that the trembling lessened. When I stopped it started again but a little less intense. I just kept up with that breath until all that energy was released. I believe it was the story of the trauma from the first time it happened needing to be released from my mind and my body.
  2. Be careful and intentional for what you put out into the Universe. The first night we had a fire ceremony and I burned the desire to release the old story/beleif that I can’t be loved and accepted exactly as I am. Well. The Universe said okay, let’s do this. As soon as my back went out, I had to love and accept myself in this vulnerable state. I then had to accept the love and support from those around me exactly as I was: crying, hurt, vulnerable, scared, anxious. There was no mask to hide behind. It was just me, raw and there exactly as I was.
  3. Be careful what you ask for. Recently, I declared that I wanted to be more courageous, vulnerable and authentic in my life. Well, this demanded that I be all three things at once. So…thank you, Universe???
  4. I had to ask for what I wanted. But first I had to figure out what that was. Finally I asked myself if I could wave a magic wand and have anything I wanted happen, what would it be? I wanted to wake up in my own bed. Once I got clear on that and was brave enough to ask for it, so many wonderful people stepped up in amazing ways to make that happen.
  5. Don’t ignore messages I get from my writing. I had a nagging sinus headache all that day. In my writing it came out that the headache was actually unexpressed sorrow. I thought, “Huh, that’s interesting,” and went on my merry way. A few hours later, I am sobbing in the fetal position on my mat, then in my bed, and I have cried at some point every day since then, crying, writing and releasing all of that sorrow.
  6. Surrender. It’s message I need to learn over and over and over again. To surrender to what is, not what I think it should be. Surrender to the moment as it is, not as I want it or expect it to be. Surrender to the needs and desires of my body instead of pushing it. Surrender into grace. Surrender into fear. Surrender into sorrow. Surrender into joy. Surrender into anxiety. Surrender into acceptance. Surrender into what is. Surrender.

(Update: I am in so much less pain and so much more mobile than I expected! I was crying to my doctor that I don’t understand why this keeps happening when I am doing everything right. She gently reminded me that this hadn’t happened in over a year and the reason I am in not in much worse condition is because I have been doing everything right. Get yourself a doctor like mine.)

 

Why Not Just Moderate my Drinking?

No Alcohol

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I have a confession.

I lied in my last post.

I lied when I said this:

I am still not sure that never drinking again is even my goal.

It is my goal. I don’t want to drink anymore.

So, why abstain forever instead of moderate and allow myself to drink occasionally?

Well, for me, that just doesn’t work. I’ve tried. Many, many times.

I set myself drinking rules or guidelines:

  • only drink on weekends
  • only after 5:00
  • no more than two glasses of wine in one night…okay maybe three
  • only drink when I am out but not at home or only drink at home but don’t order over-priced drinks when I am out

It starts off fine. I abide my my rules. I even measure the amount of wine to match a serving which is 5 measly ounces.

But then it starts to shift. See, I’m fine I tell myself. I can drink what I want when I want. I’m a grown-ass woman and drinking is one of the perks of being an adult. It’s my off-switch. What’s wrong with that? Everybody drinks.

Soon, I am back to my old habits of drinking during the week, drinking at restaurants, drinking to take the edge off a crappy day, drinking to take the edge off a crappy world, drinking to celebrate, drinking to commiserate. Drinking, drinking, drinking.

Here’s the thing for me. If I am asking myself the question: Should I moderate my drinking? I m already pretty far down that slippery slope. If I am asking the question, the answer is definitely yes.

It takes so much energy to moderate. I have to think about it so much. Should I drink tonight? How much? Do I choose a restaurant that offers alcohol or not? Should I have another glass? Am I drinking enough water in between so I don’t wake up feeling hungover?

The headspace moderation takes up is tremendous and I’d much rather use all of that energy to just quit all together.

I had a writing teacher who talked about having a “yes writing day” or a “no writing day.” Choose one or the other and own it. Be okay with it. He said that those maybe days will kill you.

It’s true. It’s why I now write everyday. It’s no longer a decision that has to be made.

Same with drinking. If everyday is a no drinking day then I no longer have to waste my precious energy deciding whether to drink or not.

The decision has already been made.

The Heart of the World.

heart of the world

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I read to slip into other worlds. To escape the world I am living in. While writing is solitary and it isolates me, it doesn’t allow me to escape the world. I don’t escape my life. If anything, writing slams me smack into my life. It slips into the crevices ands corners, hiding in the shadows that I’ve overlooked, taking me deeper into what I think, feel, believe at any given moment. 

Meditation, yoga and writing all allow me to slip deeper into myself, rather than away from myself. In each practice, I meet myself exactly where I am. I sit on my meditation cushion, set a timer and just observe my thoughts, observe my breath. Some days it is easier than others but it is never easy. I step on my mat and meet my body where it is that day. Rather than just moving through the poses, I try to drop deeper, connecting with my breath and my mind. Writing brings all of these together. It’s a practice I’ve been showing up for for over 30 years when I first picked up “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. I began filling notebooks with timed writings, not expecting them to lead me to a destination such as a story or a published book, for once just being content on the journey.

Once my girls were in school and Pre-K, I used my precious alone time to go to the Starbucks around the corner from the school to write. I didn’t call myself a writer. I just wrote. Sitting there with my soy chai latte and pumpkin scone I picked up a pen, opened my notebook and let the words spill out of me. Being a stay-at-home mom, I had a lot of pent up words.

I began to use writing as a way of untangling the knot of thoughts in my head. Stories that were guiding my actions—and reactions—but that were rarely based in reality. Once I found yoga, I learned that those stories have a word: samskara. Things that happened in the past that we don’t process and they get stuck in the body as energy. 

No matter what I write—fiction, memoir, personal essays or a blog post—there is no hiding from the world, from myself. Everything I write reveals my obsessions, reveals a piece of me that I may have been avoiding or was completely unaware of. Natalie Goldberg says, “Wild Mind isn’t just your mind; it’s the whole world moving through you.”

Reading allows me to go into other worlds; writing takes me straight into the messy, pulsing heart of the world.

Owning my Dream.

I REALLY REALLY WANT

My jaw has been clenched a lot lately.

Usually I write it off as stress. But in my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class last night, I wrote this:

I wonder what I’m trying to hold back by clamping my  mouth shut.

Wow! Such a tiny yet huge shift in perspective. So, today in my Morning Pages I explored that question. I was stunned by what I discovered:

What else? I don’t say how badly I want to be published. I focus on how much I love the process and even if I never published another word I would still write. And that is true. But this is also true:

I REALLY REALLY REALLY WANT TO HAVE MY BOOKS PUBLISHED.

There I said it. I declared it. I owned it. It’s scary because now I can fail by not getting published. It was safer the other way, just dipping my toe into publishing here and there but focusing more on the process. I could hang out in that limbo forever. 

But that is not what I want.

And I am uncomfortable with wants. I’ve usually focused more on needs. Wants felt self-indulgent. Frivolous. Dangerous. Because then not getting what I want feels like a failure. Feels like I am a failure.

No wonder I’ve stayed away from wanting this, from declaring I want this.

But no longer. I want this and I am willing to work my ass off to make it happen.

What dream have you been afraid to own? What goal have you kept your enthusiasm tepid about in case it revealed how badly you truly want it to happen? Share it in the comments.

Want it badly enough to declare it to the Universe.

Onward!

 

 

Onward!

happy Birthday to Me!

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I don’t know what this coming years holds and I am learning to get comfortable with that.

I don’t know if I will drink alcohol or not. I don’t know if I will make peace with drinking or not drinking or not.

I don’t know if I will finally say “Fuck it” to all the diets and food rules and truly mean it or if I will still be stuck on this crazy rollercoaster of restricting and judging and trying to find peace instead of actually finding it.

I don’t know if I will find an agent or be published or land that writing residency.

What I do know is that I will keep showing up to all of those areas and all the nooks and crannies of my life.

I do know that I will let myself down, feel ashamed and guilty when I do and then I will find the compassion to pick myself back up and continue onward.

I do know that writing every day has become so intricately woven into who I am that I will continue to write under all circumstances—a lesson from Natalie Goldberg that I have finally absorbed deep into my bones.

I do know that showing up is non-negotiable.

Showing up to my relationships.

Showing up to my writing.

Showing up to my creativity.

Showing up to my body.

Showing up to my yoga practice, and teaching practice and students.

Showing up up my meditation practice.

Showing up to my Self.

I do know that not knowing and continuing on is part of this human experience.

So, I may not know what this 55th cycle around the sun has in store but I do know that I plan to dive deep into the juicy, messy, perfectly imperfect, beautifully rich and complicated heart of this life I am so grateful to be living.

Onward!

Birthday Reflection #5: Energy Over Age.

Birthday reflection #5

I love this quote from this amazing woman!

Age not energy dictates the quality of my life.

After our 16-day trip through Europe, my daughter pointed out that I probably couldn’t have done this five or six years ago, which coincides perfectly with when I committed to a yoga practice.

Since then, my practice has helped me to heal from and come back stronger than ever after hurting my low back. It has given me strength in my body but also in my mind and spirit.

Before yoga, when I would be away from home, I’d often find myself having anxiety attacks in the middle of the night. I was worried about that on our trip. I had one, but barely. I think it was mostly due to sheer exhaustion by that point but I slept a solid 10 hours , took it easy the next day, kept up with my writing, meditation and yoga and was fine.

My energy comes from within.

It comes from living my yoga off the mat, practicing all eight limbs.

It comes from taking care of my body and listening to it.

It comes from stoking the light within me and using it to help others find their own light.

It comes from being true to myself.

It comes from, as Liz Gilbert says, embracing the glorious mess that I am.

glorious mess