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.

The Good News Is.

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(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner. The prompt comes from this poem.)

The good news is that you’re alive and you are loved, even in the moments when you feel unlovable. Especially in those moments.

The good news is that you have this body that walked around the lake today with your dog, looking at up at the vast blue sky arching above you like a cathedral.

The good news is that the windows are open and there’s a breeze of fresh air moving all the stagnant energy out of the house.

The good news is that you know how to care for yourself. You slept until ten o’clock this morning for no discernible reason and took it as sign to nurture yourself so you don’t let this crisis throw you into depression. Fresh air. Writing. Yoga. Meditation. Hot tub. Reading. Fresh, healthy food. Lots of water.

The good news is that you how to take care of you.

The good news is that even though this 27 Wildest Days challenge is over, you know how to move forward. You’ve been writing this way for years. Now, you have this structure to help you. Seek out poems that resonate, the vibrate and shimmer, that stir something deep inside of you. Collect poems and fragments of poems to continue using as prompts and just write.

Write for no reason and for all the reasons.

Writ for nobody and for everybody.

Write for you.

For your mind, your heart, your soul, your whole being.

Th good news is that filling these pages, these notebooks with the “breathings of your heart” is your medicine. Many people don’t know what their medicine is. You do. Be grateful. Use it.

The good news is that this practice has given you a structure. It is the skeleton on which to hang your days of sheltering-in-place. It’s a tool that allows you to be present to anything. To nothing. To embrace it all and to release it all..

This practice is a journey. You don’t write for an endpoint. The writing itself is the point. Showing up to the page is the point.

The good news is that you got this. You can do hard things. You can be comfortable being uncomfortable. You can learn to sit with uncertainty. You can lean into loneliness or boredom or anxiety or whatever it is that comes to the door of your life each day.

Do as Rumi says and welcome them all.

The good news is that you have created space for all the guests that arrive. You have set a place at the table for reach an every one, welcoming them in, listening intently to what they have to say, what they have go teach, what they have to offer, what they need from you, why they have showed up.

It’s really quite beautiful what you have done.

The good news is that as this pen runs out of its green ink, another pen is waiting for you. After this notebook is filled, there is another one waiting to be picked up by you. Waiting to be filled with your words, your heart, your fear, your joy and all the guests you welcome into your life, that you welcome onto the page.

The good news is that you are here, still finding beauty in this broken world. Still finding hope. Still showing up.

The good news is that there is still good news.

 

Lower the Damn Bar.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner.)

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Let’s lower the bar.

Do you feel that? That rush of relief, like you stuck a pin in a ballooning and all that striving for perfection just leaked out.

Let’s lower the bar.

Don’t wear make-up every damn day.

Don’t use filters on your photos or on Zoom.

Don’t worry about the softness around your belly. Don’t hate it, love it. It is part of you. An essential part.

Let’s lower the bar on productivity especially during this time. Sure, you are at home. Sure, you have more time because you and your husband are currently not working. But do you know what else you have? A pandemic to live through. Trauma to process. Anxiety to manage. I don’t think you quite understand how much energy it is taking just to keep you going through all of this.

Let go of the word counts and submission quotas and the moving your body to fix or lose something rather than for the sheer joy of moving.

Let go of keeping the house pristine just because you are there.

Let go of all the challenges you see on-line encouraging you to really “make use” of this time.

Let go of the memes reminding you that when Shakespeare was quarantined during the plague he wrote “King Lear,” the implication being: “What are YOU accomplishing during this plague? What great gift to humanity can you offer?”

Let’s lower the fucking bar.

Let your gift be that you stayed present.

That you managed to scribble in your notebook daily  and even shared some writing on your blog in an effort to connect, to let others know that it isn’t just them, that they aren’t alone in what they may be feeling or experiencing.

Let your gift be that you used this time to try to heal and grow and that you failed as often as you succeeded and that’s okay because you tried. You entered the arena. The arena of your wild mind and shadow and projections and fears and you faced them.

Let your gift be that you didn’t succumb to complete inertia and depression and despair. Oh, some days you did and that’s okay. Your gift is that it wasn’t every day.

Let your gift be that you began to peel away layers of perfection, of masks that you wore out there. That you began to allow yourself to be seen. Truly seen. By others. By yourself.

Just lower that bar that you’ve been holding high above you for so long, always reaching for more, for better, for doing, having and being more. For fixing what isn’t even broken. What was never broken to begin with.

Jus lower the damn bar already. Your arms must be so tired. So heavy. Like cement blocks. What a relief to set it down.

Instead of looking up at the unreachable height, you can lower it, lower it all the way down and set it gently on the ground and step over it, looking ahead without a glance  back. You’ve finally released something you never really needed in the first place.

How does it feel?

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

 

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.

A Life in Books.

(Inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner, which is inspired by “I Remember” by Joe Brainard.)

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I remember getting a set of children’s encyclopedias for Christmas one year from my aunt and uncle and being in awe of all the information that was now at my fingertips.

I remember learning the Dewey Decimal system in school then going home and numbering all of my books, creating my own little library.

I remember seeing how much my cousin Kelly read and looking to her to see what books I could look forward to reading: Agatha Christie, Taylor Caldwell.

I remember checking out “Little Women” in third grade from the school library. I was more impressed with the weight and heft of it than actually reading it at that age.

I remember how the library down the hill from us used to be a church and that felt right to me because books are sacred, reading a temple.

I remember packing to leave for art school and finding a library copy of “the Great Gatsby” that I had never returned.

I remember reading a book required for a high school english class about a girl who was sexually assaulted while babysitting and I was afraid to babysit after that.

I remember the first time I bought more than one book at a time. My husband and I were at the mall. We went into a B. Dalton I think and I found several books that I wanted so I bought them all. This snowballed over the years, never allowing me to catch up with my TBR pile.

I remember getting several Nancy Drew books for Christmas one year and I packed them for our trip up-north, grateful to have almost four hours to lose myself in them.

I remember reading Judy Blume and feeling truly seen and heard for the first time.

I remember reading “The New Diary” and how it got me writing.

I remember reading “Writing Down the Bones” on the train out of Philadelphia, unable to put it own, knowing that I was being changed forever.

I remember reading a book at work one day during lunch and my boss commented that I’d run out  of books to read soon and would have to start writing my own.

I remember a high school english teacher writing in my yearbook: “keep up that wonderfully sensitive writing.”

I remember walking into my favorite bookstore in Arizona and one of the booksellers had a book he set aside for me that he thought I’d like.

I remember looking for story collection written by men because I only read women. He gave me a book by Tobias Wolff and opened it to “Bullet in the Brain” and told me to sit down and read it right there. I did. I had no idea what a short  story could be.

I don’t remember learning to read.

I don’t remember that moment when all those random marks and squiggles suddenly made sense, creating  a whole world on a flat page.

I wish I did.

I bet it was magic.

 

The Dance of Allowing.

(This is inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner. )

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Things to do in the belly of social-distancing: Clean. Dust. Mop. Organize. Wash. Dry. Fold. Create space. Create order.

Create lists.

Lists of what to buy at the grocery store. Of things to do once the order is lifted. People you want to see. Places you want to go. Events you want to attend.

Create a list of what you miss: people, events, routines, jobs, money.

Mourn the losses even the ones that seem small or insignificant in the scheme of things.

Things to do in the belly of monotony: write.

Write everyday because it is what you do. You’ve been doing it for over 4 years, though you’ve been writing for decades. Writing everyday is the way you show up to yourself and you need that structure now, more than ever.

Things to do in the belly of uncertainty: breathe.

Breathe when the anxiety begins to tighten your throat. When it feels it may choke you. When it gets too large to be contained. Breathe.

Move. Move your body. Get on your mat. Get outside. Move your breath. Move your energy. Get out of your head where anxiety lives and thrives.

Things to do in the belly of these dark times: hope.

Cultivate hope. Notice signs of spring, of change. The pink blossoms spilling from the bush outside the window by your desk as you write these words. The emerald green of grass. The dandelions peppering the lawn. The musicality of birds returning home.

Things to do in the belly of these challenging times: return home.

To your home. Your body. Your heart.

Return to this moment. Let this moment be home. If your to-do list and planner are currently empty, revel in the white space and let yourself just be instead of always doing.

Come home to yourself. What are you curious about? What can you explore? Play with? Dream about”

Things to do in the belly of loneliness: reach out.

Text. Email. Call. Zoom. FaceTime. Connect.

Breathe. Come back to your breath. Always.

Connect with the loneliness. Ask it questions. Be curious about it.

Does it feel familiar? What does it need? Why did it show up?

Write a letter to loneliness. Write a letter from loneliness to you.

Things to do in the belly of disruption: allow.

Acknowledge and allow all that has been disrupted: careers, jobs, retirements, bank accounts. Routines. Celebrations. Milestones. Health. Life. Death. Mourning.

In the face of disruption what do you choose to do?

I choose to feel angry, sad, disappointed, relieved, grateful, anxious. Whatever comes up, I give it space.

That is what I am learning to do in the midst of all of this: allow.

Lots and lots of allowing.

Allowing rest and activity.

Allowing making plans and making no plans.

Having goals and no goals.

Sleeping in and waking early.

Going to bed early and going to bed late.

Eating fruits and veggies and eating chocolate cake for breakfast.

Allowing space to do, to be, to dream.

Allowing myself to meet myself where I am at any given moment, over and over again, as often as needed for as long as needed.

Surrendering to the beautiful and awkward dance of allowing.

Prompt inspired by this poem

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It’s Okay to Be Tired.

(This is inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner. )

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Image found via Pinterest.

My quiet center doesn’t feel quiet or centered today.

It feels loud, vague and off-center.

Lets face it. It’s me. I feel off. Out of focus. Tired.

Tired of the news. The lies. The gaslighting. The gross incompetence and greed.

Tired of not knowing. Tired having my routine and the security as I knew it to be pulled out from under me and now being left to sift through the debris, building a new kind of routine and life with what is left.

I’m tired of trying to be inspiring. Trying to find the light, the hope, the lesson, the message.

I’m tired of seeing the calendar notices pop up on my phone reminding me when I would usually teach, not knowing when I will teach yoga in person again.

I’m tired of trying to always to do my best and stick to a routine and healing rhythm when today I barely have the strength to hold this pen.

I’m just tired.

Tired of seeing family and friends only through screens.

Tried of trying to do the right things like meditate and and yoga and write and walk and move and yet still feeling shitty.

Tired of not trusting that this will all work out. Tired of worrying about money and bills and insurance.

Tired of clenching my jaw until it aches.

Tired of cleaning the house and wiping down all the most touched surfaces. Tired of all the cooking, all the dishes, all the laundry. Tired of the grocery store not having what we need.

Tired of worrying that a cough or sneeze or lethargy is not just allergies but the virus.

Tired of being tired of all of it.

Tired of feeling guilty because we are better off than so many.

Tired of writing about how tired I am when I haven’t done enough to make me tired.

I think I need to rest. Just let it all be for now. Don’t try to change or fix or heal or inspire. Just make some lunch. Watch some TV. Maybe take the dogs for a walk. Soak in the hot tub.

This is a trauma we are all experiencing. Trauma is exhausting. It’s okay to do nothing.

I don’t have to find clarity.

I don’t have to be present.

I’m allowed to check out.

I’m allowed to not know.

I’m allowed to be tired.

So, for now, I’m to let myself be tired.

I’m going to just let myself be.

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Do What Water Does.

(This is inspired by the  27 Wildest Days writing challenge by Laurie Wagner.  )

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Image found via Pinterest.

Do what water does. Find your way back to your true source. Meander, flow, gyrate, ripple, flood, turn to stagnant muck, rush over jagged rocks, carve those stones into a pathway, your pathway back to source.

Do what water does and flow. Just flow where the current takes you. Where the moment takes you.

Flow toward the unknown, trusting in the journey itself.

Flow beneath the surface of ice and snow. Beneath the harsh heat and sunlight.

Do what water does and change forms as needed: water, ice, steam. Be who and what you need to be whenever you need to.

Do what water does. Be an oasis. Cool, calm, inviting. A refuge within a world in peril.

Do what water does. Seek you source. Seek where you began. Seek all those spaces where you were born again. Seek to remember what you forgot as you journeyed from puddles to ponds, swaps to seas, raindrops to rivers.

Take your time and return to that remembering.

Remembering why you are here.

To awaken. To heal. To love.

Remember what you are doing.

Awakening. Healing. Loving.

Remember that you are all and all is you.

Remember what has been forgotten.

Do what water does and allow yourself to be churned so that what is unnecessary settles to the bottom.

Do what water does.

Flow.

Be still.

Be choppy.

Be churning.

Be calm.

Do what water does. Be still on the surface while beneath the surface is a whole world teeming with life and dreams.

Do what water does. It is what it is.

Be who you are.

Be strong. Be weak.

Be brave. Be afraid.

Be happy. Be sad.

Be distracted. Be here.

Be lost. Be found.

Just be.