Writing as Prayer.

(This is inspired by the Mindful Writing Challenge with Nadia Colburn. The prompt comes from a poem by Mary Oliver. It also came out of a prompt from Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.)

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Writing is prayer. It is my prayer.

My way of paying attention. Paying attention to the stack of books and notebooks teetering next to me in the living while the dog sleeps on the couch, her lip caught in her tiny teeth. Paying attention to the the empty mason jar with just a residue of sweet creamy chai lingering at the bottom. To the sliding glass door that is open to the deck, in letting fresh air, the song of birds and the whine of highway traffic drift in through the mesh screen.

Paying attention is a kind of prayer. I’ve became acutely aware of what I am paying attention to during this time. Some days I only pay attention to the losses: lives, health, jobs, health insurance, events, security.

I pay attention to the grief. To the despair. And that’s okay. They need tending, too.

To pay attention is to tend with my energy. To tend is to pray.

Writing is my prayer. It is sacred. It connects my body, mind and heart. It connects me to wisdom. To something that is greater than myself.

Writing is how I pay attention and prayer is paying attention.

To this moment.

This breath.

To this feeling.

This thought.

Writing is my prayer. My path inward and my path out. Out of confusion, out of my own tiny life and into the larger life that surrounds me.

Writing is a way in. To the center. To the stillness. To the white hot chaos of being human, especially during this time of such upheaval and uncertainty.

Writing is my prayer. Not a child’s prayer of asking for things like a Christmas list, but a way of honoring my life. My body. My time. The people in my life. Life itself. Honoring the fact of my existence.

Each word is a statement of here I am .

I am here.

I exist.

I am.

I.

Am.

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The Grace of Now.

(This was inspired by a prompt I gave to my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class. I read them a poem in savasana by Michael Stone called “Matters.”)

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The only thing is now.

Is here.

In this body just as it is.

In this moment just as it is.

In this world just as it is.

Do I wish things were different?

Yes. Of course.

But I am okay with how they are now because now is the only thing. Now is the only thing we have.

The only thing is grace.

Grace to be seen and to see.

To be heard and to listen deeply.

Grace to love and be loved.

Grace to be and not be.

Grace to hold and be held.

The only thing is the grace of now.

The only thing is the grace of hope. That belief, that trust that no matter how it looks now, how it feels now, how it seems now that it will get better.

Trust that this now is a necessary stepping stone to better.

Th only thing is trust.

Trust when I feel hopeful and when I feel despair.

Trust when I know and when I don’t know.

Trust in now which is the only thing.

Now is the only thing.

The only thing is now.

What a Prayer Can Be.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by this poem from Brad Modlin.)

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Peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. The slices of brown or rose or yellow skin shaved into a bowl nestled in the sink, revealing a white bulb of flesh that fits into the palm of a hand.

Washing dishes can be a form of prayer. Bowls clanking, scraping remnants into the trash, putting forks tines down in the basket, setting the cups in a neat row up top, lining the plates up on the bottom as if standing at attention.

If I sewed, I imagine it would be a form of prayer. Stitching together what has been torn, creating garments to clothe this body of flesh.

Walking can be a form of prayer. I remember when my back went out and it hurt to walk down the stairs in our home. I remember when my best friend had open heart surgery a year ago and how she could barely walk to our neighbor’s mailbox when she came to our home to recover. Walking is such a simple act that moves us from place to place, activity to activity.  I remember walking the streets of Lisbon, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, and Amsterdam with my daughters last year. Walking was one of our main modes of transportation. It was our way of exploring, seeing and connecting with the world which is a form of prayer.

Writing is a form of prayer, for me anyway. I come to the page everyday with the intention of connecting, of diving deeper in to my life, into the moment. it is one of my practices along with yoga and meditation. Anything I practice regularly with intention is a form of prayer. These words spilling onto the page in purple ink, not knowing what comes next but trusting the process is a form of prayer.

Trust is a form of prayer. I am learning that now more than ever. Trust without knowing. Trust without certainty. Trust without guarantees.

Soaking in our hot tub can be a form of prayer. I never bring my phone with me. If I’m alone I just sink into the water, sink into my body, arms floating, letting the water cradle me, being acutely aware of the silky warmth enveloping me, the jets pulsing against my low back or kidneys or that tender spot on the side of the left foot. If I am with family or friends, I am present. We sit it silence or we talk and it feels like communion.

For a girl who wasn’t raised in any religion, I find prayer everywhere. Prayer isn’t asking for things like I believed as a child. Imagining God as Santa only living in Heaven instead of the North Pole.

Prayer is listening.

Prayer is paying exquisite attention to every detail of life from peeling potatoes to resting in a hot tub to writing these words.

Anything can be a form of prayer.

Everything can be.

If only we let it.

What the Living Do.

(This is inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner.  And in my mind I am addressing this to any future grandchildren I may or may not have.)

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Image found via Pinterest.

This is what the living do.

They wake up without an alarm and lay in bed dazed as the facts of this new life begin to be stitched together yet again.

Still sheltering in place.

Still wearing masks to go out in public.

Still unemployed.

Still worried about money.

Still watching the number of cases and deaths continue to climb until it is barely fathomable anymore.

This is what the living do. They step onto their mat every single morning, creating this space of sanctuary for a brief time, moving , breathing, being, then praying and meditating.

They eat toast with natural peanut butter and jelly, topped with bananas slices placed across each piece of bread in a diagonal. They sip a cold soy chair  from a mason jar, through a metal or glass straw, trying to do many small things that could possibly make a big impact so that you will have a home here on earth.

Oh, how I hope that is true.

I hope that this pandemic that has brought us to our knees has also opened our eyes to the impact we’ve had on this planet, to the impact our disappearance has also had.

This is what the living do. They keep the house clean. Not just the germs and the virus. But the clutter. Bringing in cleanliness and orderliness. Some days require hours of work, others just a half hour to complete one chore. The order is essential. It brings some semblance of comfort in all of the disorder we are immersed in.

This is what the living do. They reach for a notebook and pen and try to make sense of it all, try to discover what it is they think and feel about what is happening, trying to leave some trace of what it is like for them to be living during this time.

The living also disappear. Into endless TV shows. Into the vortex of social media. Finger sliding sliding sliding, tapping tapping tapping, images and words scrolling fast, scrolling past in a blur like the guardrails on the highway back when we took drives for fun, not just out of necessity.

This is what the living do. They get outside to feel the sun, to breathe in the fresh air. To walk and bike and play with dogs. They wave to neighbors. They feel slightly less alone.

I hope you are able to read these words. Nothing is certain right now. Nobody knows how long this lockdown in each state, in each country will last. If any of us are immune. If there will be a vaccine created in time to make a difference. What the economy will look like. Nobody knows what the fall and winter will bring but we are bracing for the worst.

But can it be worse than this? Worse that was is already happening?

I don’t want you to think it is all terrible. Because the living also create masks at home to give to family, friends and the community.

The create sidewalk messages of hope out of chalk.

They create parades of cars to drive past houses to celebrate birthdays.

The check in on each other.

The have dinner and game nights over Zoom.

They slow dow. They bake. Sew. Garden. Read. Write. Paint. Dance. Sing. Play games.

They reach out and show up.

I want you to know that people are beautiful.

That life is beautiful even amidst the ugliness. It is beautiful because it pares everything and everyone down to the essential. And the essential thing is love.

This is what the living do.

They love.

We Forgot that it’s All Temporary.

(Inspired from prompt by Amber Rae.)

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Image found via Pinterest.

From my inner wisdom:

This time is painful yet temporary. Just like all moments. Moments of joy are joyful yet temporary. Moments of loss are sad yet temporary.

It feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you. From under the world. All the systems you have relied on are being tested from government to healthcare to eduction to capitalism. It’s all a mess, I know.  But a temporary mess.

This is the powerful part of transformation. The uncertainty. The chaos. The not knowing. Your yoga, meditation and writing practices have all been helping to prepare you for this. Use them. Use them daily. Deepen them and allow them to deepen you.

Even on days when you don’t feel like it (especially on those days) show up anyway. Just briefly. One child’s pose. One minute of meditation. One sentence in your journal. It makes all the difference.

Use this time to reflect on what’s been working and what has not. Leave behind what has not. Why continue to carry what you don’t need?

Ask yourself: What truly matters? Then use the answer as a guiding light. Move toward that.

Stay vigilant, yet soft.

Be cautious, but not obsessed.

Have a structure for your days but allow for some freedom within it.

Take time to connect with others and give yourself time alone.

Feel gratitude and grief.

You can hold both at once.

It’s easy to slide into the blame and anger game. Use that anger for action. Don’t let it simmer inside of you. Allow it to motivate you.

The world is changing.

You are changing. Life as you knew has changed.

It’s an amazing opportunity.

It would be so easy to cling to old ways, old values. To cling to what is familiar.

Be bold. Let go of the familiar and allow yourself to float into the unknown. Create new ways of being in the world, new ways of showing up in the world.

Be bold in your desires. In claiming them.

Because seriously: If not now, then when?

Do it now.

Feel it now.

Say it now.

Take action now.

Write now.

Breathe now.

Dream now.

Act now.

Speak now.

The biggest lesson is that now is all we have. It’s all we’ve ever had.

We just allowed ourselves to forget that essential truth. Now, we are all being called to remember.

The Gateway to Living with Deep Gratitude & Presence.

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“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.

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.

Enough with Not Enough.

I am always looking for topics to inspire my writing and specifically topics that ask me to inquire deeper into my own writing life. When I came across the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by the Positive Writer, I knew I had to explore it.

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Enough. It is a word that has haunted me for years. 

There is an entire advertising and marketing industry designed to make us feel like we don’t have enough, don’t do enough and aren’t (fill-in-the-blank) enough. Thin. Strong. Curvy. Blonde. Rich. Spiritual. 

I have especially felt this tug of not-enoughness in my writing. See, I didn’t go the traditional route, which I used to consider a hindrance but eventually came to see as a strength. I earned an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Illustration right out of high school. No general education courses. No literature classes. Just art.

I worked as a graphic designer for years which allowed me to eventually ease into a freelance career so that I could stay home and raise our two daughters. 

Along the way, I kept up with my own voracious reading and sporadic journaling. At some point I stumbled across a book called “The New Diary” by Tristine Rainier. It opened up a new way of journal writing that was more spontaneous, deeper and even (gasp) fun. I began filling up blank pages with my words.

The next turning point came when I discovered “Writing Down the Bones.” Just the title gave me goosebumps. I picked it up, stroking the image of ink spilling across the cover, already aware on some level that my life was about to change.

I began filling notebooks with what Natalie Goldberg called writing practice. Practice made it easier to approach. I wasn’t “writing.” I was practicing. I continued to practice and read. A lot. My work colleagues were used to seeing me with my nose in a book at lunch, usually a different book every couple of days. A friend finally commented that at this pace I’d soon run out of books to read and would have to start writing my own. Hmmmm… the seed was planted.

Once we were settled in Arizona, writing found me over and over again. I was fortunate enough to attend a week-ling retreat in New Mexico with Natalie Goldberg where I filled 3 notebooks in 7 days. I also discovered a fantastic program through the Phoenix YMCA called “Writer’s Voice.” They offered a “MothersWrite” class. It was a free, ten-week writing class that provided childcare. It was a lifesaver. A sanity saver. It allowed me to keep connected to that tenuous creative part of myself at a time when I felt stretched thin with the demands of motherhood. They also offered various creative writing classes as well as Master-level workshops that required you to submit work in order to be admitted. It took a long time for me to take the step of submitting my work but when I did I was accepted and attended an intense ten-week workshop with Elizabeth Evans and later, a second one with Simon Ortiz. Later I audited a fiction writing class with Melissa Pritchard at ASU. I always felt slightly out of place in these academic since I was usually the only one without any kind of four-year degree backing me up.

Over the years, I’ve considered going back to school to get that degree. Or maybe attend a low residency MFA program that would waive the Bachelor’s Degree. They’re out there. I’ve looked. But with two girls to help put through college, I really couldn’t justify the expense. It’s not like I want to teach at the college level. I want to write. Realistically, all I need is a pen, paper and if I’m lucky, a computer, all of which I have. I’m more envious of the experience of the MFA rather than the physical piece of paper. I salivate at the thought of immersing myself in writing for two years– eating, breathing, talking, dreaming books and writing. But really, my life can’t hold that right now. What it can hold is this: a writing group; occasional workshops; lots and lots of books; and lots and lots of writing.

Yoga has also played an essential role in my writing. As soon as I began to practice yoga, I saw the connection between the two. Both require me to show up, to meet myself where I am and to be present. I now teach 7 yoga classes a week including one I created that combines writing and yoga called “Poses, Pens + Inner Peace.”

Yoga has helped me cultivate a relationship with my mind. With my whole self, not just the shiny parts. It has helped me see beyond the veil of not-enoughness to the deep truth that I am more than enough exactly as I am.

As of today, I have filled dozens upon dozens of notebooks. I have written many short stories and even had a few published. I have a novel-in-stories that is complete and looking for an agent. I am deep into the third draft of another novel. Then there is the YA fantasy trilogy simmering as well as a memoir based on my journey with yoga and writing.

At the age of 54, “enough” has a totally different connotation. It is no longer a word I use to judge and bludgeon myself with. It has become a word that fills me with hope. With a sense of ease and grace.

I write every day. Some days I write more than others. And it is enough.

I show up to the blank page. And it is enough.

I read as much as I can. And it is enough.

I submit my novel and stories and essays. And it is enough.

I have created a life that not only makes space for writing but truly nurtures it. And that is more than enough.

#NaNoWriMo2019~Day 1

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I am using this year to finally finish the draft of my current novel. I think this will be the third. But it has changed so much that it almost feels like the first draft again.

First session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes and go.

I realize that I often edit as I go and that is why it is taking oh so long. Now, I am placing notes to move a scene or blanks to fill in later so I can just keep going.

After the 30 minutes, I got up and did the dishes, folded a load of laundry, made the bed then went up to my yoga room for a few sun salutations. Now, I’m back at my desk and ready for round 2.

Second session: Set Freedom for 30 minutes. 

Started a new scene. Bringing back in an old character. Trusting that even time spent staring out the window and wondering is time well spent. 

Bundled up and took a 45-minute walk through the neighborhood while listening to IMG_1035an interview with Dani Shapiro and Gabrielle Bernstein on the Beautiful Writers Podcast.

Session 3: Set Freedom for 30 minutes.

I notice that part of my process involves writing my way backward into a scene. I’ll start in the character’s head then realize I need to ground them in a body and in a place then that usually sends me into a flashback that I then realize is not actually a flashback but part of the current story.

Got a shower and got dressed for the rest of my day.

Plan for tomorrow:

Pick up with current scene.

Be at desk by 8 AM. (I was going to say by 7 but I just saw that an event tonight will keep me out until 11:00.) At least one session but more likely, two, then it’s off to a 90-minute yoga class at 10:00.

Connection is Medicine.

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Medicine.

Medicine used to equal a cure or a fix or something to ease symptoms of pain.

It used to be so simple. I could take a pill and I would be better. I never questioned what better meant or looked like or felt like.

Usually it meant that the pain or discomfort would go away. But I never questioned where it went. Even more curious, I never questioned where it came from.

I used to think that medicine only came in the form of pills or surgery.

Now I am learning that anything that brings me back into awareness, back into balance is medicine.

Yoga.

Meditating.

Breathing.

Walking.

Moving.

Writing.

Sex.

Crying.

Laughter.

Deep conversations with friends.

Random encounters with strangers.

It is all medicine.

Connection is medicine.

We now know that social isolation can be as detrimental to our health as smoking cigarettes. Forming these deep bonds of love and friendship weave a tapestry of support through our lives.

Finding ways to connect is essential, and not only with others.

We need to connect with our bodies in a loving, compassionate way.

Connect with our hearts. What are we feeling? What do we need?

We need to connect with the Earth, our home.

We need to connect with that which is larger than ourselves. Something that allows us to feel a purpose for being here, in this body, at this time.

Purpose of Being, not Doing.

Who or what do we turn to when despair slugs through our veins? When sadness permeates our bones?

Feeling like we are merely here to do things then die is not medicine.

It is why I write, why I draw cards for guidance. Why I go outside in nature. Why I eat whole, fresh foods. Why I have lovingly built a tribe of amazing women.

It’s why I have stopped drinking. Drinking broke or frayed my ability to connect. It changed how I thought, changed who I was and so any connections I thought I was making were based on a lie.

So, now I know. Connection is medicine.

We are surrounded by opportunities to connect or isolate.

Connect or separate.

It’s all medicine.

Every word.

Every thought.

Every belief.

Every action.

Every choice.

We can ask if this choice will heal or harm. Then move toward the healing.

(Thank you to Bryonie Wise for the inspiration.)