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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Image found via Pinterest.

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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To Live in this World.

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

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Image found via Pinterest.

To live in this world you must let go of it.

Let go of the memories of what was.

Gathering in public spaces.

Gathering in homes with friends.

Shopping for food without fear.

Sleeping without the anxiety of the world rippling through your drams.

Let go of plans, of what we think or hope normal will look like.

Shaking hands.

Summer concerts.

Art fairs.

Packed movie theaters.

Feeling secure in our jobs whatever they may be.

To live in this world you must be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Comfortable with uncertainty.

Conformable knowing that anything and everything can change in an instant.

Comfortable learning to be alone.

Comfortable learning to be together.

Comfortable with the tenuous quality of life itself.

To live in this world, the one have now, not the one we had or the one we dream of, we must be present.

Present to who we are in this crisis. To who we want be.

Present to fears about money, the anxiety about security, the anger at the lack of leadership.

And also be present to the moments of joy, of gratitude, of grace that slip in through the cracks of all we see as broken. Because perhaps it’s been broken for a reason. Perhaps it’s been broken to let the light in.

To let the light shine on all that wasn’t working in our little lives and in the greater world.

To let the light guide us toward our better angels, calling us into our best selves.

Maybe the brokenness happened so we could all begin to claim our own light, shine our light, share our light, be the light.

To live in this world it is necessary to carry yourself lightly. Carrying only what is necessary.

Step with care.

Soften your impact.

Lighten up the shame. The greed. The fear.

Step into the truth. The truth of who you are.

Drop the masks.

Let yourself be seen.

To live in this world is a gift. Even in this world as it is now. It’s a gift to have this body of flesh and bones and cells made of stardust that allows you to smell the heady scent of lilacs, to see the beauty of a sunset or sunrise, to hear the winds shaking the windows, to taste the exquisite sweetness of a chocolate cake made with your daughter.

It’s a gift to wake up.

It’s a gift to sleep.

It’s all a gift.

Even now.

Especially now.

How Wasteful I Have Been.

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

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Image found via Pinterest.

How wasteful I have been.

On some level I knew this. But, now with so much pared down to the bones, I see it with such clarity.

How I didn’t think twice about running to the grocery store to pick up one or two items that always turned into more instead of making do with what we had.

How I tossed leftovers and rotted fruit and vegetable into the trash on a regular basis.

How I bought piles and piles of books, ignoring the shelves of books that sit unread throughout our house.

How leaving lights or the TV on was just normal.

How wasteful I have been.

Not just with food and things but with time.

My time.

With my one wild and precious life.

My time here in this body. So much of it lost to fear of not being good enough, talented enough, thin enough. Fears that have kept me in the shallow end of  my life. Dipping a toe in as I send out the occasional story or agent query and letting the rejection stop me again.

How wasteful I have been with this one wild and precious life.

If I am learning anything, it is this: If not now, when?

As the number of deaths ratchets up daily,

As I see bodies in mass graves, bodies stored in random hospital rooms, bodies being transported in the back of a pick-up truck,

As I hear stories of couples dying or one dying while the other had only fever and aches,

As I hear of people in their 30’s and 40’s, barely sick with virus, now dying of strokes ,

As I see the unpredictability of the virus, and the sheer scope of grief and loss I am humbled and stricken and find myself looking for meaning anywhere and anyway I can.

If not now, when?

Say the words you need to say even if it is difficult.

Write the story.

Send your words out into the world and let them land with grace or crash and burn. The result is not up to you. Your job is to write them and send them on their way.

How wasteful I have been as I stay small and quiet, not wanting to disrupt anything or cause any waves.

Now, now we are in the midst of a transformational disruption the likes of which most of us have never seen before.

Now I see the world needs disruption.

We’ve wasted too much time stuck in systems that don’t work. Doing the same thing because it’s how we’ve always done it.

Now I see that the world needs us to step up. Needs me to step up. To step into my life as fully and deeply as possible.Needs us all to do that.

No more lingering on the edges. No more wading in the shallows.

Now is the time to dive deep.

To be bold.

To be present.

To do the thing that scares me.

To do feel the fear of rejection and do it anyway.

To feel the fear of how my words may cause disruption and share them anyway.

To speak up.

Speak out.

To stand up.

Stand out.

How wasteful I have been trying to blend in my whole life. To take up as little space as possible. Not wanting to be seen as:

Selfish

Arrogant

A bitch.

How wasteful to camouflage my gifts, my voice, my life.

Now I know better.

I didn’t know before.

Now that I know better, I can do better.

I can be better.

We all can.

Because, if not now, then when?

A Doorway to Thanks.

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Image found via Pinterest.

Who knew that a tiny virus could wreak such havoc around the world and actually become a doorway into thanks? I certainly didn’t know that.

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When it first came on my radar, I still of it as “their” problem. It was over there, not here. Then it came here. Then it shut down our yoga studio and I lost my paycheck. Then it shut down my husband’s job and we lost his paycheck. Then our daughter moved home. Then our other daughter became an essential worker and was forced to take her temperature daily and wear a mask to work. Then the grocery stores were empty of essential items like flour and eggs. Then we started wearing masks whenever we ventured out.

Then deaths began being reported. Doubling daily.

At first I was numb.

It all happened so fast. It went from there to here in an instant it seemed.

Our plans went from solid to nothing in an instant.

I couldn’t read. Could only write a little in my journal as I tried to process it all.

I watched way to much news. Consumed way too much social media.

I cleaned the house daily because it was something I could control.

I exercised 2-3 times a day for the same reason.

Now that we’re coming up on over a month of sheltering in place, I am beginning to see gratitude seeping into the nooks and crannies of my life. I am able to feel it daily, moment by moment, seeing how little I actually need.

I see there I was a lot I wanted. Also a lot I want to avoid. Spending money on books, clothes, meals out provided an escape.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to not escape. To feel bored. Sad. Angry. Anxious.

I’m grateful for all that I have that have been taking for granted for so long: my health, family, friends, community. The ability to flick a switch and have power. To turn a faucet and have clean, drinkable water.

I am grateful to have a home that feels like  a sanctuary. A refuge. A safe place to land within the chaos.

I am grateful for my husband. For all he is doing to take care of us. For being my safe place to land. For being my home.

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I grateful to be learning to hold opposing feelings at once.

Contentment and sadness.

Relief and anxiety.

Curiosity and fear.

Grief and gratitude.

And everything in between.

 

The Gateway to Living with Deep Gratitude & Presence.

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Image found via Pinterest.

“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.

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 7

Week 7 ~ Recovering a Sense of Connection

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  1. I did my Morning Pages every day this week. Some days felt like trying to get water from a stone, other times, the words just gushed onto the page resembling the draft of an essay or poem. What I’m trying to two with these pages is immerse myself in the process of them rather than the product and hopefully that ripples out to the rest of my life and creative pursuits.
  2. My Artist’s Date was going to see “Blank Panther.” I’ve been a fan of going to the movies alone for a long time. When my daughters were little, that was my mommy time-out. My husband would come home, take one look at me and gently suggest that I get dressed and go see a movie. It always worked. I’d come back refreshed. This movie not only left me refreshed but incredibly inspired and I will definitely be seeing it again. It was a visual feast and the story was profoundly moving.
  3. I am not usually aware of synchronicity but the more I notice them as I work through this process, the more they appear. Three things happened this week. First, I woke up one morning after a poor night’s sleep and my mind was immediately on and racing. I lay there, trying to just observe it and be amused other than frustrated. When  I open the book I am working with, “108 Days of Transformation,” the theme for that day was watching the mind. Second, I posted a photo of a book I was reading, “Buets” by Maggie Nelson and there was a particular student I wanted to make sure I recommended it to. When  I went back to tag her, I saw that she had already commented that she loved the book! Third, I became obsessed with a quote I saw online and was using it as a theme in my yoga classes. I was trying to find the source of the quote by Mary Oliver. I thought it was from her book “Devotions” (it wasn’t) and was browsing the shelf for it. No luck. There was a tiny volume tucked away and I almost didn’t crouch down to check it out but then I did. It wasn’t the book I was looking for but it was the book the Universe wanted me to have. It was called “Devotions” but by Patti Smith, not Mary Oliver. I gasped when i saw the title. Then I opened the first page and knew I had to buy it. It felt like the Universe had dropped a trail of breadcrumbs for me to follow to find that book.
  4. I completed some of the tasks. The one I enjoyed the most was the collage. I even inspired me to use the scraps to create a page in my art journal that I haven’t picked up in over a year. The women in my group posted their collages and it was a beautiful explosion of images revealing their hearts and souls. I swear that I would’ve been able to tell who created which collage because each seemed to beautifully reflect its creator.
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Collage task sitting in the alter in my yoga room.

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Page from my art journal.

The Artist’s Way ~ Week 6

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Week 6 ~ Recovering a Sense of Abundance

Abundance…the one subject I am always eager to explore and the one I dread. Like many of us (especially artists) I have a complicated relationship with money. One that I am working on.

  1. The counting reminded me of how I’ve been counting calories. It’s how I’ve lost 31 pounds since the end of September. And it makes sense. Money and food are both energy. When I lose track of either one (calories in or money spent) that’s when I get into trouble. I think I will keep counting what I spend. I keep track online and categorize each expenditure but writing it down in a little notebook as I spend it makes me feel more accountable.
  2. I’ve written my Morning Pages every day, just not every morning. I’ve noticed there’s a perfect window to write them and it is definitely in the morning. Wen I wait until the mid-afternoon my brain is foggy, my attention diffuse. When I wait until late at night I’m just too tired to focus.
  3. For my Artist’s Date I went to Earth Lore and treated myself to a few little luxuries that really nurture my creative and spiritual self: some teas,  a beautiful deck of cards, a book on creativity and yoga (two of my favorite things!) and some incense. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but found exactly what  needed. 27972595_10212577978179185_7783535907238460880_n
  4. Noticed a couple of instances of synchronicity this week: my sister posted the poem, “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver and I had been reading it at the end of my yoga classes all week. A student brought in a stone with the word “trust” painted on it and I had already planned on using trust as one of our writing prompts for the class that night. While giving Reiki to a friend the title of my memoir came to me along with the structure. What a gift!

Onward!

Day 2 of 30-Day Creativity Challenge

Today was a 12-hour day at college orientation for my youngest daughter after a meager three hours of sleep.

But, a challenge is a challenge. So, I picked up my phone and found something to photograph, played with it in Photoshop, found a quote that resonated with me as well as the image and…voila!

Day 2

#createonceadayfor30days

Her Days.

Photo: Patty via Flickr

Photo: Patty via Flickr

Day 2 of the Write Yourself Alive Challenge.

Narrate a day in your life as the main character of an autobiographical novel.

She is getting used to the silent days. So much silence, it is like another presence, sharing space with her. What she wouldn’t have given for that peace and quiet when her kids were little and the only quiet time she had was in the shower or while she slept. But even then, even in those moments, the quiet was punctured by this underlying waiting, this awareness of others in the house, others who could need her at any moment.

She lived her life on guard.

Now, for the most part of most days, she is in the house alone. When her husband travels, the only time she hears her own voice is when she talks to her dog. She lavishes her with language, as much for the dog and for herself.

She tells herself that all that silence feeds her writing. And it does, When she lets it. Some days though she hides from it. Dodging the silence all day long by calling people, mindless meandering across the internet, binge watching a show on Hulu, pouring the glass of wine a little earlier than normal. Those days, the silence feels like a call to a duel, a duel she has no energy to engage in.

Other days, she embraces the silence, the solitude. She starts the day with meditation, that thing she has resisted for so many years but now feels familiar. Not always comfortable but definitely familiar. A candle glows on her altar, the sweet sugary scent reminding her of a bakery first thing in the morning. Then she goes to her desk and opens a notebook to fill three pages with the ramblings of her mind, no product in mind, just pure process of connecting pen to paper, heart to mind. Then it’s over to the computer where she dismantles the internet through Freedom for 45 minutes and manages to eek out at least 500 words on her novel.

Those days are good days. Those days she gives her writing and silence the attention and priority they deserve.

She’s learning to have compassion for all of her days. Trying not to label them as good or bad. Trying not to label herself as good or bad. Learning there are days when she is present and days when she is not.

And they are just days.

Her precious days.

Then she remembers the Annie Dillard quote:

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

Her life has been made up and is made up of days, some loud and crowded and pulsing with other’s needs and some quiet and subdued and just aching for her to look at her own needs. But they are all her days making up her life, a life that she tries to rise up and meet every single morning the best she can, honoring the ebb and flow of moods, energy, attention, awareness.

Honoring her self.

Honoring her wild and precious days.

Honoring her one wild and precious life.