Anchoring

March 11, 2011

Since I retired in June, I have felt a bit adrift. There is something to be said for having a reason to shower and dress and show up somewhere. And whether or not you are close to your coworkers, there is also something to be said for being part of work group, having to say “Good morning” to others!

I am beginning to anchor myself now around Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning yoga classes. I am so grateful for my teacher, Paula, who gives generously of her time, expertise, and energy to offer several wonderful and inexpensive classes a week in this community. I am grateful, too, for the discipline of yoga and the many who have passed along the knowledge and techniques over the centuries.

And now, I’ll head out: yoga class, a much-needed haircut, lunch with a friend, then a bit of work in the afternoon. Retirement is sweet! Namaste.


Dreamy Idleness

May 26, 2010

Good ideas must come welling up into you. Wait for them. They come from the dreamy idleness of children. ~Brenda Ueland (If You Want to Write, Graywolf Press, 2007)

This, from the woman who gave us the term “moodling.” See references here and here. Ah, dreamy idleness! I am winding down May’s work and trying to prepare myself for a June of moodling before I go back to work in July. I suspect ideas (maybe good ones, maybe poems) will come as Ueland suggests. But I am resolved to rest in the no-expectations mind state, to be merely receptive.

I feel privileged and grateful to have this space and time; it seems luxurious beyond measure. To breathe and pay attention to the breath. To walk and notice walking. To bask in sunshine and feel breezes and be mindful of my body in yoga. To slow down, for goodness’ sake!

What happens to you in dreamy idleness?


Dear Blog

May 18, 2010

I think that one’s art is a growth inside one. I do not think one can explain growth. It is silent and subtle. One does not keep digging up a plant to see how it grows. ~Emily Carr

Yes, I’ve been busy. Yes, I’ve been tired. Yes, I’ve been adjusting to major life transitions and doing some heartwork. But, dear blog, I’ve also been doing fun things…Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival. The Hike Inn.  Writers’ group meetings. Yoga. And soon I’ll be going to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a weekend. A retirement gift to myself.

So, my poor neglected blog, please forgive my absence. It is not for lack of love for you and my readers. It is just that life has gotten in the way recently. So I hope you have been entertaining yourself while I’ve been away. Perhaps you visited other blogs or checked your statistics or reread some old posts. Because, dear blog, your old posts are almost never time-sensitive!

Here’s to you, dear blog. May you live a long, interesting, regret-free life!


Sitting Apart

April 15, 2010

What I want is to leap out of this personality
And then to sit apart from that leaping—
I’ve lived too long where I can be reached.

~Rumi

These lines seem appropriate for this time in my life. While I haven’t yet sat where I can’t be reached, I know what it is like to leap (however briefly) out of this personality. Today I stood before the hollies at the side of the house that are loud with the extraordinary hum of bees. More bumblebees and fewer honeybees this year, I notice.

Life is full of endings and beginnings at the moment. There is no place very solid to stand. So I will ground myself in yoga, notice what I can as it passes by, and stay as unattached as possible.

Gabrielle Rico said, “The end of one turn of the spiral becomes the beginning of another…we are designed for possibility.” Namaste.


Only Four?

March 31, 2010

Ev Bogue, who blogs at Far Beyond the Stars, has an intriguing post encouraging us to focus on what’s important. Ev’s four priorities are Writing, Yoga, Cooking, and Reading. If I had to list the top four things that I care most about, what would they be? And what would I eliminate? (Ah, there’s the rub–saying no!) Undoubtedly, writing and yoga would also appear in my list.

What would your four priorities be?


Seeing, Doing

January 30, 2010

What you will be is what you do. ~Buddha

Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing? ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today I will do yoga, engage with my husband and my life, enjoy the icy wonderland outside my window, rest, read, and write. I have resolved (again) to be more mindfully present for the unfolding of my days, to practice healthy eating and exercise, to remember that creative efforts sustain and feed me.

When I stop long enough to see clearly, I know what is right for me to do. Avoidance behaviors, comforting time-killers (for me, playing computer games, eating sweets, and other non-nutritive activities) are the way we keep from seeing clearly. After all, if we can hide what is needed from our conscious mind, we feel free from responsibility. I think this is true in both personal and social action. How can I change the world if my own house is not in order?


Routine

August 24, 2009

That is the crux of what makes habits difficult to change: They are not so much a function of your attitudes, preferences, and beliefs, but instead they tend to be cued pretty directly by the environment you are in. ~Wendy Wood, cognitive psychologist at Duke University, in Rabiya S. Tuma’s “How to Take Control of Your Habits,” Yoga+ Joyful Living, Jan-Feb. 2008.

Taking control of habits is a recurring theme for me (Challenge to Myself), so I am always alert to new ways to think about establishing better habits, particularly around eating and exercise.

This weekend I was traveling, and so found myself eating out, choosing junk food, not exercising, and sleeping too much when I got home. This occurs more often than I would like, and I have said for a while now that I need to establish more of a routine so that I don’t find myself having to make decisions on the fly when I am tired, hungry, stressed, or otherwise vulnerable.

Habits are useful ways of preserving energy. Tuma writes, “Investigators have found that constant vigilance or attention to our goals, and the need to repeatedly inhibit ingrained responses to the cues around us, can be exhausting.”

Tactics that work to build new habits, according to Tuma, include changing the context (I’ve stopped driving by the DQ on my way home!), keeping goals realistic, and paying attention. Creating a new situation (for example, exercising regularly with a friend) and linking two activities together can also help. “After you brush your teeth, head straight for the meditation cushion. After a few weeks of this, the very act of brushing your teeth will prime you for sitting.”

Now I understand better why I have been craving more routine in my life. It is exhausting having to make conscious choices too much of the time. I have started attending yoga twice a week on my way home from work, so that is definitely a start. I think I will make a list of a few more healthy habits I can build in, using some of the tactics recommended in this article.

How do you stay on track with healthy habits?


Happy Wise

March 8, 2009

Be happy. It’s one way of being wise. ~Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Thanks to Pat Wagner for this quote and the lovely photo of her bathtub full of catnip that accompanies it on her post card. In times of depression, of course, the exhortation to be happy can be a mockery. But I like the implication that for most of us, most of the time, if we have a few tools and techniques at our disposal, happiness is a choice, and a wise one.

This must be true, if we take into account the many who are in suffering and need much greater than our own, but are still able to maintain this state. Consider this quote: “Don’t be concerned about being disloyal to your pain by being joyous.” ~Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Here are some of the ways I encourage myself to be happy:
practice yoga
go outdoors, especially in the sunshine
pet my cat
make love
learn something new
keep a gratitude journal
share with others in a variety of ways
visit with close friends
blog
keep track of the good things I do for myself each day
read
write poetry
make a donation to a cause I believe in
meditate
draw
organize and simplify
crochet or knit
smile

What are the ways you practice being happy?


The Heart’s Door

January 2, 2009

A basket full of bread sits on your head; yet you go from door to door begging for crusts. Attend to your own head. Knock on your heart’s door. ~Rumi

Today I want to swaddle my heart, protecting it from harm, and feel it beating through my whole body. But I also want to crack open the door and peek inside, get just a glimpse to help me on my way. Fear of opening that door has existed long past its usefulness!

The truth is, things have been leaking out for years…I just wasn’t sure where they were coming from. Perhaps that’s a gift of middle age, the capacity to become reacquainted with your own desires and passions, to claim them as your own.

My often-neglected passions include creative expression (but isn’t this true for everyone?), balance (think yoga, solitude vs. relationship, work-life balance), and learning. What would you find behind your heart’s door?


New Year’s Challenges

December 29, 2008

If I leave my writing for one day, it leaves me for three. ~Madeleine L’Engle

The creative process is a process of surrender, not control. ~Julia Cameron

Despite Julia Cameron’s words, I have decided to participate in the somewhat controlled Creative Every Day Challenge for 2009. Within this very loose framework (the creator gives full permission to participate stress-free–that is, however and whenever you like), I hope to enter that process of creative surrender more often in the coming year.

My first act in the CED challenge will be to create a list on this blog of as many possible creative activities I can think of that I might like to try this year. I hope you’ll add your creative ideas to the list when it’s posted in early January.

In addition, I’ve signed up for The Power of Less New Year’s Challenge at Zen Habits. This requires a pledge to practice something, anything, but only one thing, 10 minutes a day for 30 days. I figure surely I can work in 10 minutes of yoga every single day during January. Don’tcha think?

So rather than resolutions for the new year, I am giving myself two challenges. No one has asked, but I’ll confess to having fallen off the strength training wagon I committed to here. It seems like a great program, but it’s just not right for me, I discovered. So I am going to call that not failure, but learning!

Will you set challenges for yourself in 2009?


Senior

October 26, 2008

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~Satchel Paige

Today I turned 55. Officially senior by many definitions. I’ve always welcomed getting older, because it has brought equanimity and a better understanding of myself and others. But somehow this birthday makes me feel as though time is running out. For one thing, I still don’t have a consistent exercise and meditation practice after decades of trying. If not now, when?

When I contemplate Satchel Paige’s profound question, I’m concerned that I would feel older than I am in years! Yikes!!! Maybe it’s just been a hard year, or maybe my bad habits are just catching up with me. I want to think of 55 as my health watershed, to get younger by taking better care of myself.

So I am promising myself during the upcoming year to do these ten things:
1. slow down and pay attention
2. remember to take deep breaths
3. remain curious
4. practice gratitude
5. observe my experiences rather than trying to control or judge them
6. minimize sugar, alcohol and bad fats in my diet
7. do yoga as much as I can
8. get outside more
9. notice what feeds me, find flow
10. be gentle with myself

Learning has always been important to me also, and I believe it’s an age-busting practice. I didn’t list it, because it is already so much a part of me that I would have to try NOT to learn!

What are the things that make you younger?


Just Do It

September 15, 2008

The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives. ~Annie Dillard

After two days of moping around the house and playing computer games, I am sick of myself! Today I will practice yoga, mindfulness meditation, and writing. I am trying to come up with a sign for my office with the sentiment, “Just Do It!” only using different words, so I am not reminded of an advertising slogan. I endlessly read about my passions–mindfulness, soulwork, writing, exercise, simplifying, poetry, yoga, creativity, meditation–rather than practicing them! It is (past) time to move from learning to doing, from watching to engaging.

Here it is appropriate to recall the famous lines that were probably from a translation of Faust by John Anster (more here), but were attributed to Goethe by Scottish mountaineer W. H. Murray, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

How do you move from intention to action? Hey, send me your suggestions for wording for my sign…


Renewal

August 30, 2008

The wave always returns and always returns as a different wave. ~Marina Tsvetaeva

Jekyll Island, 2007

These words are from the Russian poet’s essay on lyric poetry. According to Tsvetaeva, renewal is the “pivot of lyricism.” Edward Hirsch writes about this idea here, and I love what he says about poetry causing us to “deepen our breathing, our mindfulness to being, our spiritual alertness.” Geez, no wonder I love poetry!

There’s something lovely and hopeful about this line. I’m reminded of new mornings that bring a fresh perspective, rain that clears the air. Today, I have practiced an old yoga routine, one that my body remembers from long ago–so long ago, in fact, that I practiced to a Richard Hittleman LP (that’s long-playing 33rpm record, for those who aren’t sure!). A returning wave, but a different one as well, rolling through this 54-year-old body.

Earlier today, I worked on my journal project. I am culling things I want to keep from old journals and destroying the rest. Things I want to keep are generally quotations (are you surprised?), ideas about writing, poems, titles of book I’ve read, and major events of my life. I am almost caught up to the present and can certainly say that renewal has been a theme. Although these journals may read over time like the same old same old (and are often quite boring!), I can see from a longer perspective and condensed view that each time I wrote about a returning wave, it was also a new wave. 

What does renewal mean to you?


Healthy Habits Redux

August 25, 2008

Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do. ~Confucius

I had such good intentions of practicing healthy habits, losing weight, getting fitter, in my post of May 17. Things have not worked out the way I envisioned them then, but today I am again eating well, doing yoga, meditating, and loving what is. For I know that these practices are a series of choices, moment by moment. I am starting a tiny journal (a Moleskine Cahier to be exact) to record my motivation, resistance, and success. I can’t imagine what life would be like for me without the ability to chart, to write, to record!

On another topic entirely, our Night-Blooming Cereus bloomed last night! I always feel like I am witnessing a miracle when that happens. There are more buds, and I hope to take a picture tonight for tomorrow’s blog entry. Meanwhile, here’s another blog devoted entirely to this extraordinary member of the cactus family, including some beautiful digital photos by Professor Robert Fovell.


Health

July 27, 2008

Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. ~B. K. S. Iyengar

If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself. ~Leon Eldred

When I was very young (no older than 5, I’m sure), I spent one afternoon learning to ride a bicycle–under conditions that were hardly ideal. At that time, I didn’t have a bike of my own, so I learned on a 26″ model that belonged to my older sister. Luckily, I was a long-legged kid, so I could (just barely) reach the pedals. But I had no access to pavement, only a grassy slope on which to practice. Over and over, I fell, I got up, I walked to the top of the gentle hill, got back on, and tried again. I wanted to ride that bicycle more than I wanted anything that day.

An alarming thing happened at Pilates class last Thursday. I began sweating and shaking, turned pale as a ghost, and thought I would either throw up or faint, I wasn’t sure which. I know blood sugar dips, since I have had to pay attention to those for many years, and it wasn’t that. I attributed it to overdoing when I was depleted already, possible mild dehydration, and forgetting I was out of shape and no longer 18 years old. But the more disturbing thing was that it happened again Friday night, when I awoke from sleep in that condition. I am feeling much sturdier today, but am resolved to see my doctor.

There is a rash of health-related problems in my family at the moment. Stroke, dementia, and pancreatic cancer, to name a few. And it makes sense that illness in those close to us (and especially those close to our own age) can make us feel vulnerable and anxious about our own well-being. It feels impossible to separate the effects of the mental state, the worry about health, from those of the physical condition itself.

I have practiced healthy living only sporadically at best, and it is not for lack of information. I know what eating plan works for me, what things I should avoid (sugar, alcohol, the high-fat foods I love so much), what exercise I enjoy and am most likely to stick with (yoga), and what helps in controlling stress (mindfulness, connection to others). Yet I have fallen down on this grassy slope over and over, and I have to think it is because of some inability to fully commit, to want health more than anything. Though what could be more important in this life than what opens the gates of the soul?


Graces

June 15, 2008

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.  ~Vita Sackville-West

Life has been slipping by these past few days, with work-related travel, oppressive heat, visiting relatives who are not well, and general malaise. But I’m told there is at least one person who misses these blog entries when I don’t do them (besides me). So Janice, this one’s for us!

I’m behind in reading my Shambala Sun issues, so I took a half-finished copy with me on my recent trip to south Georgia. I was struck once again by how much I enjoy that magazine! I’m not sure I even consider myself a Buddhist, (although it’s probably the organized system for which I feel the most affinity), but there are always authors and articles within the Sun that inspire and teach me. So it is one thing I am grateful for today.

Another is the steadfast love of my husband waiting to greet me from my travels. There is language that enriches my life immeasurably. True friends who teach me something about the impact of my presence on earth and who want only the best for me. Yoga that helps me focus my attention on my body. Music, always music, that has the magical ability to lift my spirits and my spirit. Of course there are too many things to list here; these are just a few that grace my life.

What comes to mind when you consider life’s blessings? How does it change from day to day, month to month, year to year?


Healthy Habits

May 17, 2008

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.  ~F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the weekend of the public declaration of my recommitment to taking good care of myself. Starting over. Again. I have just returned from a public library directors’ meeting, where I ate a pecan-studded brownie chock full of chocolate chips the size of Manhattan. Not to mention the wine, lasagna, key lime pie, and other assorted deadly comestibles I consumed during the trip. And of course no exercise beyond bending my elbow to eat all this great stuff.

Although I have started over many times in this attempt to take better care of myself, I now believe I can succeed in sustaining this effort. I have a better understanding of the reasons I indulge, I have more resources than ever to draw on, and I know firsthand the benefits of being fit. In addition, I understand–with my whole being, not just my brain–that health and fitness (like life) is the result of a series of moment-by-moment choices.

So, in order to hold myself accountable, I have set some goals. By the next public library directors’ meeting in September (seems as good a target as any), I will have lost 15 pounds, will be practicing yoga and meditation, and will be habitually exercising (at least 4 times a week).

How do you maintain healthy habits? Let’s support each other!


Free Time

February 24, 2008

…the Chinese pictograph for busyness is “heart killing.” ~from Sue Monk Kidd’s Firstlight

Whenever we have a little free time, most of us seek some form of amusement. We pick up a serious book, a novel, or a magazine. If we are in America, we turn on the radio or the television, or we indulge in incessant talk. There is a constant demand to be amused, to be entertained, to be taken away from ourselves….Very few of us ever walk in the fields and the woods, not talking or singing songs, but just walking quietly and observing things about us and within ourselves.  ~J. Krishnamurti

Today I celebrate space, free time. In addition to my work, which includes a lot of travel and a 3-hour commute 3 days a week, I am taking two post-Master’s classes this semester. So it is rare these days to have hours without busyness and obligations, but today I have virtually nothing I have to do. No “heart-killing” for me today.

I find that order, space, and free time are helpful in stimulating my creative impulses. So I will first tidy my office and then surround myself with the tools of creativity: paper and pencil, my favorite books, art supplies, and other familiar playthings. Even the computer is a tool for creative work if I refuse to be seduced by stumbling upon new Web sites, playing computer Scrabble or checking e-mail.

Later, I may “walk in the fields and woods…observing things.”  Or practice yoga and mindfulness meditation. How do you use free time?

P. S. This is a quote that belongs with my previous post on the ineffable creative process:  Art criticism is to the artist as ornithology is to the birds. ~Barnett Newman


The Beauty We Love

February 20, 2008

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened.
Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

~Rumi

What a beautiful last line. It almost makes up for Rumi’s dissing of reading! 😉 And just look at that first line that describes the human condition–not one that’s special (“like every other day”) nor one that is unique to us as individuals (“we wake up”). The question Rumi begs here, of course, is “What is the beauty you love?” This poem is one answer for me.

Only in midlife have I begun to understand that this is the right question, much less to consider the answers to the question. As a child, I don’t remember having dreams about what I would be when I grew up. It didn’t occur to me to aspire to anything in particular, even though I came from a solidly middle-class household that valued education and achievement. Possibly this was true for many girls, whose socially acceptable options typically consisted of teacher, nurse, wife and mother. Most certainly, though, the question in my family would have had more to do with accomplishment as measured by society than with the beauty I loved. 

So…what is the beauty I love? Poetry, words, music, textural arts (fiber, glass, multimedia), laughter, yoga, living spaces with feng shui, human connection, singing. What is the beauty you love?


Commitment

September 17, 2007

Until one is committed, there is always hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:  the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sort of things occur to help that would never otherwise have occurred.  ~Goethe

Using this blog software, I can find the blogs of others who post on the same topics (assign the same tags).  Yesterday, I was browsing the entries on mindfulness, and came across the idea of a 30-day yoga challenge for reestablishing practice.  I had forgotten this idea, but was exposed to it long ago, when I practiced yoga faithfully. 

I remember that when I practiced every day for at least 2 weeks, I would feel hooked and would miss the practice when I had to skip.  So I have issued myself a 30-day yoga challenge.  Now I am waiting to see what Providence has in store. 

Anyone care to join me in 30 days of the practice of your choice–or to be my accountability partner?  Two down, 28 to go!