Evidence of a Life.

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

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What can anyone give you greater than now?

The tick tick tick of the clock above the fireplace. The clock I bought at the art fair in Ann Arbor that is more than a clock, it is a piece of art, a piece of the artist who created it. And now I wonder when the next art fair will be. When will we again have that time and space for artists and artisans to gather and offer their heart and vision to us.

What can anyone give you greater than now?

One dog curled up in the corner of the couch. Her head resting on paws, body curled into a comma.

What can anyone give you greater than now?

The sound and feel of the pen gliding its scratchy dance across the page. Sinking deeply into this moment. This moment where time slows down, or is it me? Have I slowed down? My pace. My breath. My mind. My movements. I have slowed down and am finally beginning to learn to dance effortlessly with the moment, the one right in front of me, around me, within me.

What can anyone give you greater than now?

The now of the distant traffic whining down the highway. The now of birds beginning to struggle free of winter. The now of the smell of coffee which I love but do not enjoy the taste of or the way it speeds up my brain. The now of a soft jaw after a night of clenching it through vivid dreams that fall away with the sun as my whole being attempts to process what is happening. The now of the mason jar with only a half inch left of cool, creamy soy chai that I made at home because home is where I am allowed to be.

What can anyone give you greater than now?

With each word, each breath, each noticing, I slide deeper into the now. This now. And this one. And now this one. It’s a gentle yet stark reminder that now is all we truly have so why not inhabit it completely?

The now of the dusty blue blanket thrown across my legs. The weight of the lap desk against my thighs.

The now of warmth flushing through my body, starting at my crown, sliding down into my face and neck, chest, arms and belly. I push up the sleeves of my sweatshirt stained with odd pink-ish patches where the disinfectant I use daily splattered onto me. Remembering to clean everything we touch: door knobs, cabinets, light switches, phones, TV remotes.

What can anyone give you greater than now?

The answer? Nothing. Sometimes the now is filled with emptiness. Boredom. Anger. Anxiety. The now feels heavy. Claustrophobic.

Other times the now feels light and spacious, filled with joy, gratitude, acceptance.

But usually the now feels ordinary. It lies deeply in the middle of those two extremes. And that is why it often gets overlooked. I mean, who cares about the sound of the pen against the paper or the near empty chai next to me?

I do.

When I remember to be here now, I care deeply.

It’s where I find beauty in the ordinary. And deep gratitude.

It’s where I discover evidence of a life, my life, in the ordinary details of a day.

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

By: William Stafford

 

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.

Connection is Medicine.

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Image found via Pinterest.

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.)

Birthday Reflection #4: All I Don’t Know.

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Photo from my walk this morning.

So much of growing older for me is getting comfortable with not knowing.

I don’t know when or how loss will shake the very foundation of my life. But I do know that it will come, as it comes to all of us.

I don’t know how I will respond to that inevitable loss and grief but I do know that I have the tools and the most amazing support system to get me through anything that comes my way.

I don’t know how my body and mind will age in spite of all the care I give to both. I do know that I feel immense gratitude for this body that allows me to experience the world and this mind that allows me to process and wonder and dream.

I don’t know when or if I will have a drink again. I do know that I feel my best when I don’t drink.

I don’t know if I will be published. I do know that I continue to write something every single day and even if I knew that I would never be published, I would continue to write.

I don’t know where life will take my daughters. I do know that we have given them deep roots so that may fly.

I may not know what is around the next bend in my day or life but I do know that I try to live my life in this moment which I know is the only moment that truly exists.

 

Coming Back.

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I just meditated for 10 minutes.

It’s not very long but I’ve been showing up for only 1-5 minutes recently so that is double. And any meditation is better than no meditation.

I sat. And sat. And sat. And finally checked my phone thinking that I had turned the ringer off because it had to be 10 minutes by now.

Wrong.

It had been less than 6.

I almost quit.

I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. My wind was being whipped all over the place.

Then I heard the phrase “Come back.”

Come back.

Comeback.

It was gentle, yet firm.

Compassionate, not judging.

So, I came back. I came back to my breath. To the sounds of traffic and birds. To the feeling of the sun on my neck. To the feeling of the mat against my feet. To the thoughts that continued to spin inside my head.

I spend so much time berating and judging myself for wandering off the path of a goal I set for myself whether it is to eat more vegetable or drink less wine or consume less social media. That Inner Judge doesn’t lead me back but tosses me into a spiral of shame.

What if I use “come back” as a gentle reminder instead of shaming myself?

As a way to guide myself back to the present.

Back to myself.

And what if I remember that this straying and guiding myself back is part of the journey? The process? The dance? And not proof of my failure?

How would that change not only my meditation practice but my life?

 

Seeking vs. Being.

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Image found via Pinterest.

I am a seeker.

Sometimes that’s a good thing as I seek to heal and grow, to write and publish, to connect and teach.

Sometimes it’s not so good as I forget to live my life in the moment instead of always seeking to improve it.

As I get ready to embark on this 16-day European adventure with my daughters, I have been wondering what my intention is in taking this trip. It’s a way to spend time with my daughters before they venture out in to their own lives with their own families. It’s a way to push my homebody-self out of my comfort zone. It’s a way to connect with a broader world.

But I know myself. I have always had this habit of waiting for the next thing. The next season, the next year, the next milestone waiting for me. I remember being at Greenfield Village as a kid and I just wanted to get to the next exhibit, then I just wanted to get home, rarely allowing myself to be in the moment.

My yoga practice has taught me how to be in the moment, and how to notice when I have yanked myself out of it. I learn to be present with my breath, with the depth of a pose, with my thoughts or with the emotions that rise up while I am on my mat. My practice on the mat has become the same off the mat: learning to meet myself where I am and life where it is now.

So, part of my intention with this trip is to balance the seeking with the being. I want to be in the moment whether the moment is a delayed flight or a stunning sunset, getting lost in a foreign city or sipping a delicious glass of wine, traveling from country to country or sitting on the beach.

I want to embrace it all instead of wishing and waiting for the next thing.

I want to be in each moment rather than seeking the next one.

 

Listening to my Body.

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Image found via Pinterest.

My low back hurts.

It’s not completely out but it is definitely talking to me.

I’ve felt it coming for a few days. There was that twinge going up into forearm plank Sunday morning. There was the moment when I almost fell off  a bike during a 14-mile ride later that same day and twisted kind of funny. There was the day my dog almost yanked me off my feet chasing a squirrel on our walk. Then there was moving our daughter out of her apartment yesterday. First I felt a little tweak lifting something  heavy onto the trailer and I was at an odd angle. When I really felt it was when I leaned down in the car to pick up a piece of paper.

That’s all it finally took, a stupid, small move but like I said, it had been building up.

So, no I’m not flat on my back. I can move, walk, (hopefully) drive, do some gentle yoga. I know how to care for my back.

When I ask my body what this is telling me this is what I hear: Less doing, more being.

That makes total sense. I feel like each time I get to this point it is because of exactly this. I get so caught up in doing: doing the laundry the minute it begins to pile up in the hamper, cleaning the house every day, logging more miles walking and biking, teaching and subbing and more teaching and subbing as I save money for our trip to Europe, writing and blogging every day.

So much doing, doing, doing.

So little just being.

So for now, if you need me I’ll be here, just being.

Being present.

Being still.

Being here.