Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Microwaves and Convenience

Another blessed, quiet, beautiful morning on my porch. Cool wind blowing the trees, overcast sky with windows of pure blue. Kitty on the rug staring me down, begging for my breakfast. And it's truly a cat's delight...oatmeal with flax and dried cranberries...haha! There is some noise off in the distance that is probably some kind of road construction team. When I first heard it, still in my dreamy morning mind, I imagined that it was a drum circle really rocking out! Oh, the joy that would bring, to wake up to that kind of "noise" on any given day! But, too, there are other sounds that draw me in more deeply than the road construction noises far away. Crickets are singing their songs, and a couple of crows are calling out to each other. Could they still be chasing that hawk, like they were on Sunday? These are the timeless sounds that lure me out of my mind, and into my heart...into the whole wide world, of which I am an inseparable part.

Yesterday I had another crunchy time. It was mid-afternoon. I had enjoyed a luxurious morning, and had finally gotten myself together to leave the house. I needed to take care of a few errands, stop by my friends' house to take care of some housesitting chores, and have some lunch before I made my way to class. Unfortunately I didn't allow myself enough time to take care of all of it. I left my friends' house with ten minutes to spare, hoping to stop by David's Natural Market to get some lunch. Okay, it was nearly 430pm, that's not exactly "lunch" as we define it in this culture. But it was the time when I needed to eat something, and I was hoping to find something good there. Well, I did. The kitchen closed at 4pm, and I found some prepared foods in a case nearby. I went to the "cafe" area of David's in search of a microwave. Nothing. I looked around, curious. Nothing. Finally, I found an employee, and asked her where I could heat up the food. She wasn't sure, and asked an older man, who was sitting at a desk in the front. He gruffly informed me that there was no microwave. Now, in the open kitchen, I had walked by one! I said as much, and asked if someone could just heat up the food for me. Once more, gruffly, he said "we're not supposed to do that. The kitchen is closed and that is that." I was stunned. There was a microwave right there, in a food-prep section. But because of some arbitrary "rules" he was flat-out refusing to render my beans and rice dish edible. Not that it was busy, I was the only customer in sight. Just out of beaurocratic rules...or perhaps he might cite a "health code violation" if I pushed him further. Stunned, I dropped the food on the conveyor belt by the register, and informed them they'd lost this customer.

There are so many pieces of this that are fucked up! That a food market that prepares food and sells that very food would refuse to heat that food for a customer - this is insanity! That "we're not supposed to" is used as an excuse - this is pathetic at best. That some arbitrary bullshit rules actually have some degree of weight in peoples' lives - as opposed to stepping up with some degree of personal responsibility and making the decision that is kind, humane, logical. And stepping beyond this isolated incident - that this is the SECOND time in around a week that I have been given the same answer!! My mind is effectively blown.

But what I'm also hearing beyond this is important to acknowledge too. I have been on the fence about having a microwave for a while now. It sure is fast and convenient when it comes down to eating or not eating at the last minute. I've had friends who absolutely refuse to own a microwave because of the fact that it's using radiation to heat food...and that it destroys the quality of the food. And now, twice in a week, I have been refused access to a microwave in public to heat my food. Irritating, yes. But is it also pointing me to a deeper need?

I have let go of convenience in many parts of my life. I cook for myself much of the time, instead of going out to eat. I take my own bags to the supermarket. I opt for products with no packaging whenever I can, and then factor into my purchases the environmental impact of whatever packaging there is. I almost never buy processed foods in the market, and when I do, I only buy organic. I try to be as economical as possible about driving, and include as many stops as possible in a small area, so to not waste gas driving all over the place. I have been composting my organic waste for more than a year, and will hopefully have something to contribute to the health of the garden once Spring returns. I enjoy making choices that are better for the environment, and also in alignment with my own desire to slow down and enjoy life more. I don't buy cookie dough at the store - I bake my own from scratch, and wow, they are so much better! Has the day come for me to let go of this next "convenience" - to get rid of the microwave?

Once again, I am brought back to the very thing that made me decide to start this blog in the first place - contemplating my life, and the changes that I may need to make in order to live more simply, and also to nurture myself in ways that are missing. Do I really need a microwave? I don't often buy frozen food, and have found a variety of ways to heat leftovers - in pots, in the oven, in the toaster oven, in my steamer. Hmmm...this sounds just about right. Maybe it's time to put the microwave in my basement, right next to the TV. ;)

Fortunately, on my way to class, I did decide to stop and find some food. I stopped in another small health food store - Good Life Market in Severna Park. They always have several crocks of homemade soups, hot and organic, and vegetarian, and ready to go. The owners are Indian, and so very nice. They asked which soup I chose, and told me that the Curried Cauliflower Chickpea is one of their favorites, very satisfying as a whole meal. I left, dinner in hand, feeling like my faith in humanity had been restored. This is a business that I am grateful to support. And the soup, as always, was amazing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cycles of living and dying

It's a cool day, really feels a lot like fall right now. The sky has gone from cloudless and blue to a bit overcast, and as the wind blows the trees - and wind chimes on the porch - a few more leaves are falling to the ground. There is a fragrance of surrender in the air, something sweet and soft, and I feel it in my body, too. I think one of the reasons I love the "between" seasons the most is this feeling of constant change in the air. Winter often feels like it will last forever, cold and dark, keeping me inside. Summer also feels timeless, hot days by the river, I wish they would last forever. But Spring and Fall really speak of the fact that *nothing* lasts forever. Flowers erupt from the ground with a force that is awe-inspiring, bringing life and beauty to land that was recently frozen, barren. And Fall bows in graceful surrender, that none of this brightly burning livingness could return unless there was a time of letting go, of dying and returning to the Earth.

Death and dying have been on my mind recently. In the summer, for sure. But really, death and dying have been on my mind since I was nine. That winter, my grandmother passed, and I began to understand for the first time this strange truth that people are born into this life, and that they eventually leave it, too. This summer, death and dying became real to me in entirely new ways.

In this moment, I am remembering my friend Laura, who passed in August. After a particularly long struggle with cancer, she surrendered, and I got the emails from her family in her final few days. When the day came, I was far, far away, in Peru. And I felt such a mix of things. Grateful that she had come to the end of a long time of suffering. Sorrowful to know that she will not walk this Earth again as she was in this incarnation. Also, sad that it had been so long since I last saw her. I still remember it well. The last time I hugged her and told her how much I love her was in February 2008 - at my graduation from Goddard. In my speech, I shared a quote from Joseph Campbell, and she had loved that quote. She had looked stronger, healthier that day.

Earlier in the summer, I had come into my own encounter with death. In my ceremonies, I had occasionally experienced a powerful death encounter. And in my own life, I have had a couple of close brushes with death, too. But one ceremony this summer really brought me to face death in a whole new way. In that particular ceremony, I was facilitating, and I now realize that I should not have been. Regardless, I found myself deep in the woods, deep in the throes of the journey, and then it began to rain. In the midst of a ceremony, there is no sense of the passing of time. What is happening in any one moment feels like eternity - and that is one of the blessings of the medicine, for sure! But the rain that came in this particular journey was very strong - a cloudburst. We were more than 30 minutes by foot from "civilization," down a rather secluded trail by a river. There were only a couple of people who knew where we were, and there was no cell phone signal. The rain was cold, and I began to panic. I was shivering fiercely, and recalled stories of people foolishly going into nature without enough clothing and shivering intensified, and I feared hypothermia. I panicked, and foolishly decided that we needed to leave the woods. In the most intense part of the ceremony, there we were, walking hand-in-hand through the woods, walking in circles. And the fear rose within me, it threatened to swallow me whole. I knew that my time had come, that death was breathing down my neck, clawing at my throat, pulling me into the ground. I have never felt so clearly that I was going to die. Every rope I reached for - hoping to pull myself to safety - fell to the ground in front of me, frayed and severed...metaphorically speaking. We did eventually make it out of the woods, and I clearly survived the event. But death haunted me for weeks.

In a profound ceremony earlier in the year, I had been asked right-out: are you ready to die? I declared that I absolutely was not! But the way it was shown to me is this - there are two responses to the question, "are you ready to die?" First one, and the one that I clearly faced in the above ceremony, is struggle. Responding in fear, resisting the inevitable. When are we EVER ready to die, really? But when the time comes, the choice isn't really whether to die or not, but how to face death. The other response? Surrender. Not the weak, collapsing, abandoning oneself to death that I had imagined. No, the medicine helped me to redefine surrender - a fully present, wholly conscious process of leaning-in to the thing at hand. Gracefully bowing to death, no resistance. In that particular ceremony, I was shown how to do this. Much harder than it sounds for sure. My ego had often claimed to have no fear of death. But I have learned through experience that the fear is there, and it is very real.

Fall seems like the perfect time to contemplate this kind of thing. Death doesn't always offer a season of preparation, sometimes it comes out of nowhere. But fall is the perfect time to enter into the truth that living and dying are the essence of the cycle of Nature. I am not separate from that cycle, I am intricately woven into it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning, one day at a time

Monday morning...somehow I didn't end up sitting on the porch, writing and eating breakfast. Not sure why, but morning became noon, and it was almost 1pm when I first found some food. Whole wheat toast with butter. Good bread, but eaten in the car on my way to do some shopping. The week did not get off to a good start...

This is actually how most days go when I'm not being conscious about how I'm living and spending my time. Emails, chores, laundry, dealing with one thing and another, and then, WHAM! I'm cranky because I'm not taking care of myself in a way that feels good and nurturing. Fortunately, the sun did not set on the day before I found some time to honor myself and my needs. I am now sitting on the porch, enjoying the waning golden sunlight. There was some rain this afternoon, and now a bit of mist is lingering in the air, and everything is humid and shiny green. The clouds are sailing by, all shining with late afternoon light. And here I am, writing again.

When I don't take the time to tend to my needs, first and foremost, then my whole day suffers. My attitude suffers. I'm impatient and moody. I'm in a hurry, and don't enjoy what I'm doing. I don't have much tolerance for other people, and tend to make a mess with the things I am doing. I am grateful to have experienced this day, to cultivate my inner observer, to experience the contrast between several days of treating myself well, followed by a day of not taking care of myself in the ways that I would prefer.

And now, I've finished teaching for the day. I've made myself some veggies for dinner, including carrots that were grown in my neighbor's garden. Oh, they are so good! Yum!! And here I am, connecting with the world around me, and connecting inside myself. Listening within and without, and loving the space where these things meet.

Eating well and finding time to sit and connect with myself, and with the Earth, are essential to my well being. Community, too, is essential to my well being. Another need that I am feeling in my body but not meeting on a regular basis right now is walking. Walking in the woods, walking on trails, walking to get exercise, as well as for my own joy. Last night as I was falling asleep, I envisioned myself getting up today and taking a walk along the Trolley Trail, and ending up at the coffee shop. Or even better, of walking the trail in the woods by my house...which I haven't walked on even once since I have been home from Peru. In Peru, I was walking at least a mile or two a day, every day, out of necessity! And I love that. My body loves it. My heart and mind love it. But here, driving driving driving...

Is it possible that I could make the commitment to walk every day? I did that once before. Well, actually, twice before. Once was the Camino. The other was something more simple, here at home. I was having a hard time in the relationship that I was in, and decided to commit to walking at least a mile every day for 40 days. And it was a beautiful gift to myself, to give myself that time each day, to listen to music, to let my mind consider the possibilities, to enjoy the natural world around me. Am I ready to commit to that kind of process again? One part of me offers a resounding yes. Yet another part of me just doesn't want to create a checklist of "to do" things for my life every day. I have always been good at making demands of myself and meeting those demands without hesitation. But the kind of aggressiveness that tends to grow within me as I force myself into that kind of decision isn't something that I want to cultivate. So, for now, I will simply sit with the desire to walk, and see what arises in my life.

I feel something bigger moving in my depths. Something connected to the meaning of my life, and the desire to find deeper meaning. It's not quite ready to surface now, but it is stirring, stirring. I merely want to acknowledge its presence for now. It seems connected to a deep sense of dissatisfaction with daily life, which is all too familiar. Hmm...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In the Flow

It is a beautiful, quiet morning. I am enjoying another morning on my porch, connecting with the world around me. The sky is pretty overcast, but patches of bright blue are promising their clarity in the afternoon. There is a sweet coolness that speaks of fall, and a few more leaves are scattering on the ground. Yesterday it rained pretty solidly through the afternoon and evening, and it was delightful! And now, after the rain, the Magnolia's cones are more rosy, ripening like fruit. Beautiful! The sun just burst through the clouds, and the world is awash in brightness.

I am appreciating just how much this blog is helping me to connect to myself. Just one week ago today, I was hosting a brunch in my house, enjoying the laughter and company of some really great friends...hoping to create more community in my life. Now, after less than a week of blogging, I am finding things shifting and moving more already, and in a direction that is meaningful and fulfilling. What a blessing!

I have been looking for ways to live more green in my daily life for a little more than a year. I attended a workshop at the Well in May 2008 that was super inspiring, providing many ideas of how to live greener everyday. I began composting right away, and eventually made myself a compost bin out of a Rubbermaid trashcan. Ever since, I have been saving my organic waste, and composting it...turning my food scraps in to food for the gardens! I also made a commitment to myself not to buy any more conventional cleansers that contain so many toxic ingredients. It all just ends up in the water, and I don't want to drink that! So, the wonders of essential oils, white vinegar, and natural cleaners have made my house less toxic. The one thing I was really hoping for, too, was a clothesline. I talked to my landlord about it, about how much energy it can save. He wouldn't hear of it. There's just been too much of a stigma created around laundry lines and "white trash"... I don't get it myself! So, since last fall, I have been yearning for a way of doing this without directly going against my landlord's wishes. Yesterday it hit me!

When I was in college I had a collapsible drying rack for hand washing. It wasn't very sturdy, and I didn't use it much. Eventually it fell apart, and I tossed it. But yesterday, it hit me that THAT is exactly how I could have a laundry line. So, I went to Target, found one that was good and sturdy, and came home to hang out my first wash. Now, this certainly isn't an answer for days when I might be in a hurry for some particular clothes. And it's not ideal for drying heavy towels and bed linens. Right now, almost 24 hours later, my clothes are still not dry, due to the rain. But in the name of living green and in voluntary simplicity, I've made my choice! Funny how such a small, silly thing can make a person feel so empowered. Haha!!

Last night, I drove to Virginia for my friend J.J.'s birthday gathering. After my epiphany yesterday in my writing, I was rather curious how I would be at a party of people I didn't know. Usually, this has not been my kind of scene...I have felt like a wallflower, watching people, and trying not to be seen. But last night, I had a great time! I ended up seeing several people I had previously met through Nonviolent Communication workshops, and enjoyed those conversations so much. I met several new people too, which was lovely. This whole evening has shown me some real truth about what I was writing about yesterday. Having let go of so much self-consciousness, I can truly show up as I am! And in doing that, I am much freer to just listen to whoever I meet, open to receive what they have to offer the conversation. And what a relief, not to be constantly worried about whether or not they like me, or are judging me for my ideas, or my appearance. What liberation!! Does this truly mark the end of my lifetime of social anxiety, of fear of judgment? When I consider that as a real possibility, everything in me relaxes, and it's the kind of relaxation that goes right to the core of my being.

After a lifetime of feeling that I shouldn't be who I am, that I need to somehow be some other version of myself, and that I will never be accepted the way I really am, I became aware of the feeling in myself that I couldn't relax. Ever. Not really. I remember writing about this in the summer, before I went to Peru. And the miracle of it, seeing how this has shifted within me, without me really even realizing it! I am so grateful for this. The changes that I saw in my life last year after coming home from Peru were so wonderful, I couldn't even believe it. But now, as I am finding the gifts of my work there this time...I am humbled and truly in awe of this Medicine and the deep healing that I have experienced. I just have no words...this is a blessing beyond any I could have ever imagined.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My Theory of Isolation

Yesterday I had a startling realization. I have been a devoted loner for much of my life. I have valued my alone time, and have guarded it pretty fiercely for much of my life. I have spent many a weekend night alone in my house with my cats, wearing my pajamas, relishing the treat of it! Ah, to have no commitments, to have no plans, oh the glory of a night alone at home, relaxing, doing only what I want!

When I was in college, I would regularly be visited by moments of panic while out with friends. Not that there was any uncomfortable situation that would arise, I would be hanging out at a bar or cafe with my nearest and dearest friends, and out of nowhere, I would have the urge to flee. And a good deal of the time, I would! I would bolt with little explanation. Social anxiety? Too much sensory stimulation? Self-esteem issues? All of these were possibilities in my reasoning, but I could never see clearly enough in the moment. I would just give some cursory reason, and bolt.

And yesterday, I had a startling realization, indeed: I am no longer a loner! Here I am, writing daily, talking daily of my deep yearning for community! I *want* to be with other people! What the hell happened to my intense need for solitude? When did this all change? What a surprise!

Right now, I honestly can't recall the feeling inside of myself that used to pull me into spending so much time alone, resisting spending time in the company of my other humans. What I am realizing is beautiful and totally new. The more comfortable I become in my own skin, the more I love and accept myself fully, unconditionally, the less I need to isolate myself to recharge. The less I need to be alone to be who I am. This is amazing!

Could it be that all these years, the reason I was spending so much time alone is that I couldn't be myself around other people? That I was so busy being who I imagined they would want me to be, that I was too busy figuring that out to enjoy myself, and that I would inevitably need a lot of alone time to make up for all that time play-acting? God!! I never really considered myself a phony, pretending to be someone else, maintaining a facade. But maybe I was. I definitely see the ways that I have held back pieces of myself, believing that they were too much to share with the world, that I was too much. And what a drain! To restrain myself from being who I am whenever I am in the company of other human beings!

Now I'm beginning to see the real fruit of my labors in ceremony this summer in Peru. How to truly accept and love myself...not just words, but the real thing. How to live in harmony with my nature as a human being, as a woman, as a spiritual being. Not, as I have so often done in the past, trying to create the version of Angela that is the most perfect, presentable, evolved...whatever. Can I love and accept exactly who I am, no resistance, no hesitation, no compromise, no matter what? Hell, yes! And this, it seems now, is the very secret to living in harmony with my fellow human beings as well. Or at least the *desire* to live in harmony with them.

How many of us "introverts" and "loners" and "sensitive empaths" are merely people like me, who on some unconscious or subconscious level are not able to just be exactly who we are without any pretense, effort, or fear of rejection? I can't speak for anyone but myself. But what I find now is that the things that used to drive me to flee just don't have the same power.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Communion, Mother Earth, and my Fellow Humans

Yesterday's blog really allowed me to hear some needs within myself that were not being met, and I was able to listen to those needs and begin to meet some of them. I spent time on the porch having breakfast with the kitty, and sipping a cup of tea. A much better way to begin the day! And what I noticed during the rest of the day is that no matter what things I "had" to do, I was coming from a place of deeper satisfaction within myself. Being stuck in slow traffic on the way to school wasn't as much of a pain as it might have been otherwise. By beginning my day by honoring my needs, my whole perspective shifted.

So, this morning, I am writing this from the cushions on my porch. There is a slight chill in the air, even though it is almost noon. A few stray leaves are turning yellow on the trees in front of my house. The cones on the Magnolia are still pink and fuzzy, and I am really looking forward to watching them become...well, the thing I found on the streets of DC last winter! I still remember the day, I was walking to a meeting for the Choral Arts teaching artists, and there on the sidewalk was this incredible, bizarre looking "pinecone." I picked it up and carried it with me to the meeting, hoping to find someone who could recognize it. Someone told me it was from a Magnolia, and before that point I'd never really been interested in or aware of those trees.

This season, Magnolia has become one of my beloved friends. Her shiny leaves seem out of place within the realm of foliage that lives in this area...they seem misplaced from the Amazon. And yet here she is! I have peripherally noticed the blooms on the tree in my yard for years, but never really made a connection with them. All I could see were giant white blooms that looked like a wad of crumpled paper. What a tragedy that I never looked closer!! This year, the Magnolia bloomed more than ever before! The blooms were huge and creamy white, with thick, soft petals...which turn brown and leathery when they wither and fall to the ground. The center of the blossom is otherworldly, very sturdy and intricate...these become the cones. But the fragrance, oh!! She leaves me utterly spellbound. One day this past summer, I was laying on the ground beneath her, and periodically, a river of fragrance would sweep was just magnificent!

Taking the time to see, to connect with the world around me, both human and plant and animal and wind and water and earth and sky...this is the richness of life, for me. Remembering "all my relations," as the Native Americans say. And when I do find the time and space to live within this perspective, I feel a deep sense of belonging. A belonging that transcends our constructed human ideas of what it means to belong. The "Garden of Eden" is still right here!! But I have to show up to live within it, to choose it consciously. What I long for, more than ever, is to share this kind of connection with my fellow human beings. Not just occasionally, when the season changes and someone hosts a party, but on a daily basis. Living in connection with "all my relations" in each day. What a beautiful thing it could be, to take the time to sit and be with the Earth, to be with the day/night, to be with the weather...and to be with other humans, too, while doing this! Much of the time...most of the time...I do this alone.

Once more, I am feeling the pull of simplicity. I feel how it is when I'm so busy, doing doing doing doing so much, and how I long for the luxury of porch sitting and watching the wind in the trees. And I feel how difficult it can be to step out of the raging flow of activity and try to claim a few moments of silence and peace. Guilt sometimes emerges, and stressful to get "behind." Sometimes this extends beyond the luxury of porch sitting into basic self-care. I don't have the time to provide myself good, nourishing takes so long on those days, and there is no joy in it. Sleep is not usually a problem for me, but when life is super-hectic, I find that I need to sleep for 9 hours or more in order to restore myself from the intensity of living in such a busy way. And I end up feeling angry and stuck and frustrated all the time, I have no patience, and I really have no feeling of love for myself or for the world. On days like these, I have often felt like driving my car off the road and just abandoning it. Walking away. I am pretty sure I am not the only one...

What a blessing this week has been. I have had very little going on. Students calling out sick, and I, too, was feeling a bit run down early in the week. I have had lots of sleep, and have had the dear, sweet time to begin this blog and connect to my deeper needs and desires.

I had dinner with my friend Liz the other night. Indian food. And one of the things that I have come to appreciate about her is that our conversations are never trivial or shallow. I can be real and open with her, and I can cry, and I can be frustrated, and I can be joyful. I can show up exactly as I am, and that's perfect. What a gift, indeed! While I was waiting for her, I was realizing that I hadn't felt connected to my heart in days...I felt empty and scattered, and there wasn't much joy within me. By the time I left, I felt completely connected to my heart, open and honest and true. I am so grateful for this friendship, it is deeply nourishing, true sisterhood and soul food.

I am yearning deeply for this quality of connection in my life. But what I realize is that I don't experience it very often. I don't know a lot of people who are willing and able to go there with me. I feel like much of the time, when I let myself go there in conversation, people don't know how to receive it. Some get uncomfortable ...these conversations end up not lasting very long. Some people just try to distract from the depth, lighten it up, change the subject. Some people don't know how to be in this kind of connection at all, having never felt fully free to show up exactly as they are. Some people talk endlessly, always talking about something or other, never allowing the conversation any space to breathe or settle. And then, there's the advice givers...

I am fully able to admit and see that I have been an advice giver for much of my life. I am a "helper." I hate to see people stuck or unhappy, and I have little tolerance for people who complain constantly about this or that. For some people, life is always full of drama and problems, and I have had a very hard time sitting idly and watching people live in misery day after day, unwilling or unable to change that situation. It is always easier to see solutions to *someone else's* problems! But I am finding that unsolicited advice is rarely welcome. It often comes with the best of intentions, for sure. But it also comes with a lot of assumptions. Twice this week, in fact, I received unsoliticited advice from two different friends, both of whom are "helpers" and dear, sweet beings...and both times, I could feel an edge of something hard to describe...

My community has formed a "wisdom circle." And once a month for the last six months, we have met to have deep, heartfelt conversations. One of the "rules" of our meetings is that there is absolutely no advice giving in response to what a person offers. There is also another "rule" that states each person must only speak using "I/me/my" instead of the easy slip into "you" or "we," which also carry tremendous assumptions. So deeply entrenched is the tendency to offer advice, to help others clarify their situation, or to make them feel better. And what I've noticed in these six months is that there is a tremendous sense of freedom and acceptance that comes with speaking from the heart without receiving any response! It is far easier to say exactly what's alive in the moment without fearing the judgement of others, or worrying about how stupid I must sound, or whatever. It is a powerful thing, to have space held for me, no matter what I say. And it is equally powerful to hold space for others, without having to worry about having a "proper" response. And in that space of silence, I have felt such a deep sense of connection to the others...I am so grateful for this! How prickly it feels, then, to return to conversations with people who offer their advice without any sense of this alternative...

Is it so much to ask for? All I want is to live in harmony and deep communion with Mother Earth, and all my relations. To experience deep connection and community with my fellow human beings, centered in the heart, rich and simple. To show up every day, to offer my gifts to the Earth, to accept the gifts offered in return. To live honestly and authentically, and to care for others while accepting their care in return. Is that really so much? I think not. But it will take conscious effort. I am willing. I am also very much aware that I cannot do this alone...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creating the Day

This morning, I awoke and began my day as I begin most days: up, bathroom, internet. Usually, I find myself greeting the world for a new day online before I make it out into the world around me. This has been true for a long time, and it has also felt not-quite-right for a long time too. What would the day feel like if I didn't make this desk and this computer my first greeting to the world?

I remember someone talking about consciously creating the day from the film, "What the Bleep do We Know?" It always sounded like a good thing, but I must admit, I've never really given it a chance. Sure, there are some days that are so very full that I have no option but to follow through with the plans that I have made. But other days, days like today, I wake up and have no particular plan for many hours...these are the days that could use some consciously creating. Otherwise, I may just spend the first hour of my new day checking emails and seeing what's up on facebook...

I feel like one of the reasons I've NOT chosen to begin my day with intention is out of resistance. Not to the idea, in particular, but to the thought of having to make a commitment to what my day will hold. There are so many days when things are asked of me, time commitments, engagements, the need to get certain things accomplished. And so often, on days that have few commitments, I just want to leave it open, to let it all be as it will be. And I hear a need for freedom beneath that desire. And yet, I don't often find more freedom. I often find myself in my house, online. This is not contributing to my joy, for the most is merely a habit. One that is coming up for consideration at this moment.

So, instead of getting up and greeting my day in a way that nurtures me, and helps to cultivate the way I want to live, I get up and go to the computer. I often delay breakfast in order to take care of the things that must be attended online. Sometimes breakfast becomes lunch, and sometimes I end up being so rushed that I don't have time to eat anything really good at all. All because I didn't consciously choose to go and have a bowl of fruit or something. (Fortunately, even taking the time to write this has made me more aware! I have just prepared myself a bowl of fruit.) But, I usually have fruit, and if enough days pass when I'm not consciously choosing to eat that fruit, it spoils! Double waste. Wasting my time, not taking care of myself, and wasting the fruit, and the money I spent to purchase it... This is definitely NOT the way I want to live.

There are so many ways that I could spend the first hour of my day, practices that do nourish me...and it's been a long time since I really engaged in any of them on a regular basis. I used to do "morning pages" writing, a practice of journalling from "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. I also used to practice yoga at home. At one point, I was beginning each day with meditation...and the weather is still nice, so I could be doing this on my porch. And then, there's taking a walk... This is the point where I often hit many options, which one will I decide...I end up deciding on none of them consciously, and ending up right here in front of the computer once more.

When I'm in Peru, I go to the internet cafe in order to get online. There is virtually no personal internet service there, and for S/2 an hour, I am able to go and either plug in my own computer, or just use one of theirs. This makes using the internet a special daily event. And my usual usage was about 30 minutes. What a treat, to see who has been in touch, or to take care of things that need attending. But because of the way things are there, I don't have the option to get online throughout the day every day...maybe this is a real gift. My time is free for other things.

I am feeling that part of a solution would be to simply choose ONE of the above nourishing things to begin each day. Some days it will surely be clear. Other days, maybe I can just randomly choose one. I think it probably doesn't matter so much which way I choose to begin the day, only that I consciously choose something that is in alignment with the way that I want to live. I may not be able to choose every thing that must occur in every day. But I can choose something. I just need to consciously choose it.

And if I begin to consciously choose to begin my day with something that nurtures me, I will be much more likely to keep choosing those kinds of things when I have the options later in the day. There is so much frazzledness around me...people always in a hurry, never having the time to take care of themselves, never having time for things that they would enjoy...only doing what they have to do. And while my life tends to be much more chill than that most of the time, if I am not consciously creating another way, I will get caught up in the ambient madness of a culture in a hurry.

What I am feeling beneath this idea is a real sense of peace, the little voice inside of me says, "oh, really, could we do this??" This way of living is a small change, but it is a change made in the name of self-care, of self-love. I have a collage on my wall right not that has a quote: "Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong." Yes, it sure will.

I have been feeling caught up in a culture that makes no sense to me. And I have been feeling a resistance to it all. But I am beyond aware of the idea, "what you resist persists." I haven't been able to see an alternative to it, other than allowing it to swallow me whole, which makes me want to run away as fast as possible! But in this moment, I am seeing the seed of another option: don't worry about the rest of the world, just take care of yourself in the way that feels the most nourishing and joyful. If I choose to follow my own needs, the culture won't necessarily create so many problems in my daily life, not directly... It's worth a try, for sure. Otherwise, I will continue to feel unhappy, and complain, and still not be living any closer to the way that feels right.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Voluntary Simplicity

Last week was so full. Within the first half of the week, I made the trek to Washington three times, for working - rehearsal, concert, meeting. Then twice during the week, I made the trek to Annapolis/Arnold for massage school. Finally, at the end of the week, two more treks out to Dickerson for Keith and Sarah's wedding rehearsal and ceremony. All good stuff, and all incredibly draining. Each of these drives were an hour each way. That's about fourteen hours in the car in the course of seven days.

I have chosen each of these things that takes me out onto the roads, in spite of the truth that I really don't enjoy driving around very much. While I say I would love to live without a vehicle, I drive as much as I ever have. In some sense, I am working a significant amount just to pay for the car! Gas, oil, repairs...these things really add up, so far as expenses go. But way beyond money, using a car this much also delivers a significant impact on the environment. I know that it is harmful to my own mental health, and to the health of the planet, and yet it continues.

In Pisac, almost no one has a car. People walk everywhere. When they need to get across the town while carrying stuff, there's taxis and motos. When they need to get into the valley or to Cusco, there's the bus or a collectivo taxi. I love this way of life! Every time I go to Pisac, I end up walking at least a mile a day. I never, ever miss driving. My body loves the exercise...and it's much better than the "exercise" walks I take here at home...there, I usually have a purpose, a destination...I need to go food shopping or meet up with someone. Not that I don't ever take a joy-walk there, because I sure do. But there's something about it...walking is transportation there, as well as soul food - the Andes mountains!

But here I am, back in my little town. Driving my car. I haven't taken a walk for days...probably more than a week. Why is that? Busy busy busy. Even my life - which is far more chill than many people's lives - is too busy for a walk to town every day. Or is it?

The idea that has been feeding my soul a lot in the last week is voluntary simplicity. Choosing to live in a way that is simple and sustainable. Choosing to let go of the life that may be convenient and extravagant and easy, and for the sake of financial, emotional/mental/spiritual, and environmental wellness. I'm in love with this idea. I'm reading a great book, "The Circle of Simplicity," which really looks at the ways that our culture feeds the consumerism and excess...not new information, just a confirmation of what I see around me, what I feel ready to let go of.

One particularly interesting idea that the author discusses is the way that our culture encourages competition...the polar opposite of community. While a sense of community may develop around some, for example...there is always a sense of us vs. them. But our culture has a really hard time with community based around the idea of just sharing our common humanity, our everydayness, our lives. That's what I want more than anything. Community that requires no special belief, nor any special interest to gather people. Just living together out of love of togetherness. As simple as it sounds, and as utopian-hippie-commune as the idea may be, it is surely one of the most difficult choices to make. To choose to enter into the difficulties of living with other people, with all that arises...not the norm in this culture that often builds 8-bedroom McMansions for a family of four. Why, here I am, only one person, living in a 3-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms...

I don't have any clear answers. But what I do know is that the more I live in a way that is true to my soul, the more I "fall into the heart," and the more that I feel the barriers between myself and the world around me falling away, the more I know that community and simplicity are of profound importance in the way of life I want to create.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First day of Fall

The first day of fall, the autumnal equinox 2009. Time of shifting, of changing, of surrender. The season of harvesting what is ripe, of gathering the goods of a season's sunlight, and of going inside. I have usually declared fall my favorite season, and that still seems fitting to me today. There is some un-nameable quality that comes with the first chill in the air, a quality of longing, of bittersweet, of the sweetness of letting go. I love this time.

Creating this blog came to me just moments ago, completely spontaneous. Several friends of mine have decided in the past few years to track their lives for one year. One friend kept a blog, another is journalling her year in photographs. I have never felt particularly inclined, before now, to keep a daily live-journal style blog...but tonight something came over me, and I decided to indulge it. Here we are.

I am entering this fall season with great reflection. When we entered fall last year, I had just returned from a truly transformative trip to Peru. I had spent 2 1/2 months living in Pisac, participating in ceremony, and the dark, difficult stuff in my life had all been stirred up, shaken well, and much of it purged. I entered last fall with the clarity that my life needed to change in some major external ways to align with the inner changes that had come in Peru.

The biggest change that came was following the inner guidance that was leading me in a new path in terms of "right livelihood" and work. I did an aromatherapy training course with my dear friend Amy, and that was just incredible! I also decided to finish my Reiki training so that I could teach Reiki to others. The biggest piece was deciding to go to massage school. And now, I am a little more than two months from finishing that!

And too, I returned to Peru for most of the month of August this year. Not nearly long enough, but plenty powerful nonetheless. I can see how the changes that needed to come in my life following last year's journey were very much in the realm of healing my worldly life: relationships to others, relationship with work, relationship with myself. But this year's journey has brought much more subtle layers of work, in realms that are difficult to articulate, but no less powerful.

Part of what has been challenging me since I returned from Peru this year is not at all new: the cultural chasm between here and there. I long for community in my bones, I long to live in my heart all the time, I long to live as simply as I can. And that is so difficult to do in the midst of a culture that lives in isolated suburbs, that honors the mind above all else, and values nothing more than excessive consumption under the label "abundance." I have been feeling like a fish out of water. Or worse, a fish in toxic water, who knows she's in toxic water, and can't seem to find a way out of the fishbowl.

One of the most powerful messages I had in ceremony in Peru this year was about how I sometimes feel stuck, totally powerless. And I have seen that emerge since I have returned home...but I have seen it for what it is, with full consciousness. And I see the ways that I WANT something to be different, but when I feel powerless, I don't realize that I can CREATE something in the direction of what I'm wanting...

My dear friend Aleksandra has posted the following on her facebook page:

"if you want to know your past look at your present moment, if you want to know your future, look at what you are doing now"

When I read this tonight for about the hundredth time, I decided to create this blog. To track my own process. In order to look more at what I am doing now to more consciously create my future. I know what I struggle with, what makes me crazy, what makes me feel like I have no place in the very culture I was born into. I also know that what I resist will persist. So, I foresee this blog being a couple things. I see it being a process of holding myself accountable for my very own desires...for seeing how the present moment shows up based on the tendencies of my past, and to stand in a place of powerfulness in this present moment, to create a future that is moving in the direction of my desires. I also see this blog as an experiment in total authenticity and honesty...I am not writing for you, but you may read if you wish. I do this all the time on paper, but tend to write for others when I know it will potentially be "seen." This blog isn't meant to be entertaining or witty, nor will I censor or edit. Finally, I see this blog as an interesting way of following my own life for one year...with some regularity I hope.

I want to write a bit about the name I chose for the blog, but that will need to wait for another day. Enough for now.

Lokah samastha sukino bhavantu.


Inside a hostel in Cusco, Peru