Writing

Recently, some unpublished JD Salinger stories were leaked. I love Salinger’s writing. His characters are old friends. When I was in the eleventh grade, I had a very vivid dream that Virginia Woolf and I were shopping for apples in the grocery store. We ran into Franny Glass, who was holding a glass jar of olives. My 21-year-old copy of Catcher in the Rye is duct-taped together.

Knowing that Salinger was very clear about these stories not being ready for publication, I decided against an eager google search. It was hard. I decided to continue the wait for the posthumous release of the rest of his work.

I believe that not all writing has to be shared.

Now that we all have blogs (and even podcasts), it seems everyone is writing. This is great. I love that so many people are writing. I am a believer in sitting down, listening, and letting it all pour out.

I am a believer that everyone has a story and that the process of writing heals.

I believe in questioning the readiness and intention of a piece before hitting “publish.”

In terms of writing something to share, I am a strong believer that there is a step that follows the pouring it all out on the page. I recently taught a writing and yoga workshop with my friend and amazing writer, Elaine Gale. In our workshop, she urged us all to sit down, write a big mess, and then go through the process of cleaning it up.

Make a beautiful mess, clean it up.

I haven’t been posting, but I have been writing a lot. Who have I been writing for? I don’t know. Maybe just for me. Maybe there does not need to be an audience. Sentences have been spilling out of pens and erupting from my tapping fingertips on the keyboard. I have been writing because I can’t help myself. I have been letting out the big, beautiful messes.

I have revitalized my love affair with the craft of writing. I am enjoying the process of writing and then spending a few hours, days or weeks away before going back in to see what happened and what I can learn. I even enjoy looking something over and dragging it into the little trash can on my desktop. I love remembering a piece I wrote as being amazingly witty, discovering it really wasn’t all that great, and then working on it so it lives up to my memory.

I love looking at something I’ve written and wondering how I can support the appropriate words with the best possible grammar.

I am reading to learn from other people’s writing – fascinated not just by the experience being shared in the story, but by how they write the story to life on the page. I listen to interviews with writers, comedians, musicians and other creatives to hear them talk about their life and process. I listen. I learn. I fall in love over and over again with being human and our amazing capacity to create.

I am not a professional writer. I write because it happens. I write because I can’t help myself. I have always written – and I am not, by any means, perfect. Typos and misspellings happen. I actively seek them out in my writing and ask: Where did that happen? Why did that happen? What was I feeling or trying to express at the moment? What can I learn from this? What does a semicolon do, really? And do I really know how to use italics?

Bringing it back to everyone is writing, I admit it: I am one of those people who winces when I see something published (and stay published) with glaring typos – be it a blog, a news story or even a Facebook post. When I see a potentially great story full of incorrect plurals and misspellings, I feel cheated. I feel sad for the story – like the story wasn’t loved enough to be cleaned up before being sent out into the world. As if the person holding the story didn’t love it enough to run spell check or go back after posting to edit.

I equate it to taking my daughter to the park without cleaning her up after breakfast. I could take this beautiful, joyful child out into the world without combing the dried oatmeal out of her hair, wiping the blueberry stains off her face or changing her out of the sticky, crusty clothes…but I won’t. Cleaned up, the sticky mess of breakfast will not be a distraction from her joyful self as she runs to the sandbox with other kids to fill endless Tupperware containers with sand and sticks. Yes, she had to get messy first – but I was able to clean her up. Nourished, happy and healthy, she will be at her best. Her smile is always beautiful, but it is most beautiful when it isn’t surrounded by a crust of old oatmeal she didn’t eat.

That is where I am with writing and why this little blog has been lightly posted upon this year. Let’s run with that metaphor a little further and just say there are some blueberry stains on the pages and I haven’t decided what park to take the kid to today. Out of respect for what is pouring out, I am not hitting publish as often. When a post emerges, it will be posted. I am focusing now on process rather than the product.

We all have stories. (No one, it should be noted, has storie’s or story’s. No one.) We can all write – we all should write, in my opinion. Writing strips us down and shows us who we are. All our bullshit and beauty stare back at us from the page when we sit back and read our work. There we are. How marvelous.

Out of respect for all that is sacred, write! Get it out. Make your mess. Don’t feel compelled to always publish or share.

If you choose to share, clean it up. Out of respect for your voice and your story, share it in its best possible light.

I vow to do the same. Whenever I am ready, I will post again.

(In the meantime, take a yoga class with me, keep an eye out for upcoming workshops at Asha and check me out on Instagram.)

Quote overload

Though I think all writing is really for ourselves, there is some writing that is good for sharing and some writing that is best for a closed notebook. I have articles and blog posts outlined, but the sentences have not been ready. Most of my writing lately has been for myself.

This was sparked about two months ago when I felt overwhelmed with quotes. On my Facebook feed, tagged in Instagram, tweeted and everywhere else. Believe me, I love a good sentence. I’ve been collecting quotes that inspire me since I was a kid the way some people collect cats or plastic tubs that can be reused so they never have to use Tupperware again.

I fell in love with a shirt that said “The Beloved is Everywhere ~Rumi” Since that is what I believe, I googled the quote to find the whole poem. Here is what I found:

 If the Beloved is everywhere, the lover is a veil,
But when living itself becomes the Friend, lovers disappear.
~Rumi

Wow. There is so much more there than I thought I was going to find. However, the nerd in my soul nagged me, “Why did they leave out the “if?”

Soon after that, for whatever reason, I saw a few people posting Machiavelli quotes in the context of yoga. In all honesty, it has been almost twenty years since I read The Prince, but I don’t remember it being a very yogic text. I could be wrong. What I do know is that Machiavellianism is defined as “the employment of cunning and duplicity in statecraft or in general conduct.”

This is the one that brought it to a head:

 ship

Yes, this is great! Love the sea! Be inspired! However, if you want to build a ship, someone is eventually going to have to collect the wood, assign tasks, build the ship and then sail it.

I spent a week stewing about this and the realized what was happening. These little snippets of language were sparking my curiosity and creating conversations. I was researching and searching for the original context, comparing it to the appropriated context and, ultimately, to my own life.

In short, I was learning. I was learning new poems, dusting off philosophical theories and becoming so mindful of what I was willing to quote or put out in the world.

Let the quotes lead your curiosity beyond the surface. Find the contexts. Be open to finding something deeper or that the quote had absolutely nothing to do with what you thought it did.

Be curious and act on that curiosity. And if you’re going to post something on the internets, know what you’re posting.

Look at it this way: George W. Bush said, “I am Mindful.”  and Donald Rumsfeld said “Don’t divide the world into “them” and “us.” Could you imagine those quotes written in cursive on a photo of a person mediating on a mountain?

Responsibility

Why does God let bad things happen?

How many times have we heard, even uttered this question?

There are so many teachings about God not being somewhere remote and far away but right in our hearts. There are teachings that each person we meet is God.

If we acknowledge that there is Divine Love in our hearts, then the question is not why does God let things happen, the question is why do WE let things happen.

I think this is relevant if you believe in a big guy sitting on a throne in the sky, three billion Gods and Goddesses each with many limbs influencing daily life, no God at all, or whatever.

Gun violence. Any violence. Unsafe food. Warzones. Environmental collapse. Weak education systems. You know the rest of the list….

Why do WE let it happen?

Then, most importantly:

What can WE do together to keep it from happening again?

Taken at Yoga Shala Sacramento, edited with Mirrorgram
Taken at Yoga Shala Sacramento, edited with Mirrorgram

Turn Up the Frequency

Turn up the frequency of love

This line from the song “Flavor” has been resonating for a long time in me. Resonating like a gong – Strong and exciting on the first strike, feeling it all the way to my bones as the vibrations change, subtly and strongly, into a deeper resonance.

The day after the last awful shooting, which happened in a movie theatre, I was in a class in South Carolina. The teacher spoke about connection – that all the people who perpetrate these horrific acts of violence have something in common: they are completely separated from their community and, thus, humanity.

I can barely think about the possibility of someone taking away my child or any loved one in an act of violence. I also cannot imagine how someone can start out as a little baby and grow up so damaged, so disconnected from their own humanity, to do something so horrible. That makes me just as sad.

We all have a choice: we can choose fear or we can choose love. When we choose love, it is up to us to turn up that frequency – and it’s not always easy. It’s hard to try to find compassion in moments when it would be easier to just be angry and bitter.

We have to keep lifting each other up. That weird kid in the class? Lift him up. That beautiful child? lift them up. The person you pass on the sidewalk? Lift them up.

Lifting up can be a smile, a call for gun control, getting someone mental health or even looking someone in the eye and saying hello.

So what’s is going to be, America? Fear or love? Are we going to pray to the jealous god who spreads fear or the benevolent god who spreads love?

I’m choosing love and finding that in cases like this, it’s the harder choice.

My prayers have been constant. They go something like this:

Beloved, please help me keep walking a path of love – it is so hard and I need your help. Help us all through this dark period as we struggle to move as a global community towards the light on the other side of this grief and confusion. That light seems so dim sometimes, just a teeny spark so far away, and we need help to stay focused. Dear Friend, please comfort all who are experiencing unspeakable loss and shock. Beloved, please help us all see those who are disconnected from the love that is at the core of our humanity and help us lift them up. Help us all shine our light and comfort those who are hurting and heal those who are so damaged. Let me be an instrument of peace, a transmitter of love. Help me see that peace and love reflected in every single person I meet.

here is another version of kids singing the song – Oh. My. Goodness. Sweetness overload……….

Happy International Day of Peace or Why I Got Tears When I Saw the Space Shuttle

I was making the daily route around the park with my daughter this morning. She was sleeping and I was listening to Arvo Part. A woman came running out of her house laughing, clapping, and shouting, “Look up! Look up! It’s here!”

I looked up at the treeline and saw a low-flying plane holding space shuttle Endeavour.  It was so close! There was no time to get the camera or the phone. I will just have to hold the image in my mind. Everyone in the park started to clap and smile.

As I continued my walk, thinking about the amazing thing I had just witnessed, I realized I was getting emotional. Tears were coming to my eyes.

Before space exploration, a majority of the world’s scientists were focused on the science of warfare (or so Carl Sagan said in the first episode of Cosmos…been watching that lately.) Think about that – our amazing human minds focused and driven to come up with different ways for us to annihilate one another. Space exploration opened a door. We, as a species, were able to shift our imagination and efforts to the Universe. It allowed us to not only acknowledge but witness that we are part of something bigger – we are part of something so much bigger than our wars and daily conflicts.

I can only imagine what a relief it must have been for those first scientists who were able to really work on going into space. What a relief and inspiration to work on something that was not designed for killing or separating us on the planet. How liberating to be given the opportunity to make a dream like that come true.

So that shuttle, to me, on International Peace Day ended up being a symbol of our potential as human beings. Our potential to humbly, joyfully ask questions and appreciate the voyage on the way to the answers. The amazing potential we hold to both destroy and create. The amazing potential we have to inspire each other.

I mean, really think about it: We can send people into outer space. There is a machine on Mars right now taking photographs.

Human beings, we are amazing creatures. Let’s keep our feet on the ground as we keep our eyes to the sky. Let’s put down our arms and keep making magical things together.

Elevate

Our alarm clock seemed to have a mind of its own last week. For some reason, it woke us up two days in a row to a local commercial a.m. radio station. It was not the most pleasant wake-up and, honestly, put the alarm in alarm clock.

That alarm clock incident was the first time I had really heard political ads outside of a news report about political ads. (Also, I live in California – we don’t have the ad saturation like the battleground states.)  Oh my goodness. I knew that this political cycle was going to get nasty. I knew that it was going to be heated. When I take a step back and really think about it, I am stunned at how we allow our public airwaves to be filled with such negativity and dishonesty.

It was a great reminder to me of how this is EVERYWHERE right now. It’s on our radio, internet news, Facebook feeds (de-friended/hid anyone recently?), website comment sections, print media, television, etc. It has become way too acceptable to call other people idiots.

The most important thing we need this political season, just like all political seasons, is an informed voting population that actually gets out to vote. Let’s just keep our snarky comments to ourselves and turn the volume down during commercials. Let’s commit to getting educated, getting registered and making  informed decisions at the ballot box. Let’s commit to take back our public voice and get special interest money out of the process.

There is a Buddhist teaching about Right Speech. I like this simple explanation from The Big View

Positively phrased, this [Right Speech] means to tell the truth, to speak friendly, warm, and gently and to talk only when necessary.

In my life, during this election cycle, I am trying to find compassion and understanding for those who see the world differently from me. I am trying so hard, and often failing, to be respectful when I talk. Here’s the key: I am acknowledging when I fail and promising to try to do better next time.

Here is my campaign season promise:

  • I promise to do my best to elevate every conversation I have.
  • I promise to notice and acknowledge when I am wrong and/or uneducated on an issue.
  • I promise not to participate in discussions or advance any speech/platform that includes hate, discrimination, willing ignorance, or name-calling. I promise to identify this activity and respectfully communicate that I find it unproductive and harmful.  In my personal life, I will de-friend, un-follow or whatever else is necessary to keep this promise.
  • I promise to respectfully offer and receive educated contributions during political/social discourse.
  • I promise to respect the rights of others to hold opinions different from mine.

And remember, dear friends:

someecards.com -

Say yes to knowledge.

Say yes to respectful discourse.

RISE THE KNOWLEDGE RISE!


(I know I’ve posted this song a billion times – it is just so right-on and relevant, had to post again.)

Cracks

Hundreds of years ago, there was a booming civilization. Elaborate temples were constructed, almost every inch of them engraved with all manner of things – people, gods, flowers, designs.

Every now and then, a bird would fly over and – ahem – make a deposit on these carefully constructed stone buildings.

The civilization changed. The people left the temples. In the cracks of these carefully constructed buildings, the seeds left behind by the birds germinated and grew into trees.

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Now these stone temples are in a symbiotic relationship with the trees. The trees hold the temples together, the temples support the trees’ root systems. As the temples have been pushed apart, chance allows for bits of carvings that were once part of elaborate canvases in stone to become tiny found objects. A pair of hands or smile in the rubble. The trees glow – they are regarded as holy as the temples.

All of this happened because a seed, planted in a crack, was able to grow and create something. Did the people who carefully constructed the stone walls think, “Someday, we’ll let trees grow in the cracks of this wall.” ? Doubtful.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as it feels that the seeds planted (both on purpose and in what felt like the emotional equivalent of a bird s#*&ing on my head) in between the things I so carefully constructed are germinating. Yes, there is pain (both physical and emotional) where the metaphorical cracks seem to be growing bigger, but that pain is also excitement when I stand back and realize that the germination is growth. One day, I will look back and see that, like those temples, this life has grown into something I would never have imagined.

It’s those in-between places that life happens. The examples are all around. The trees in the temple. Something as simply obvious as when a drive to a destination can be more important than the destination. How you get in and out of a pose more important than “landing it.”

Allow yourself to come apart at the seams. Plant positive seeds of intention. Trust that, even when it feels like you’re getting s#$% on, each moment and interaction is an opportunity for growth. Pay attention to the cracks, those in-between places. Marvel at the beauty of what can grow.

Be patient.

Be grateful.

Gratitude: First World Problems

First World Problems.

It started last year as something I would often say in conversation when complaining about something or, to be honest, talking about someone else complaining about something.

“Yeah, you know, serious first world problems. What are we going to do?”

A lot of this has been influenced by leaving the first world and realizing how fortunate I am.

I’ve spent a lot of time at my non-yoga-teaching job over the past 8 1/2 years hearing, solving, and reporting these types of problems. (I have often referred to this job as “interpreter of rationalities.”) Working with the general public in a theatre, you wouldn’t (or maybe you would) believe the “problems” that come up. It’s been a long practice in patience and compassion to be present with adults who absolutely lose their s***t over things like not having fresh cream for coffee, hating the ink used to print a program (not dark enough – clearly it is a dark grey, not a true black), having to wait to go inside the hall due to being late, etc.

Applying the old yoga adage, “I see you, I see myself,” I started reflecting this back on me and seeing where my silly “problems” are coming up.

Over the past months, I’ve been making an extra effort to turn my first world problems around into moments of gratitude. Here are some examples:

  • In the car: parking lots, traffic, distances, people parking on my street etc. (Gratitude: I live where I live, I have a car that is paid for and running, I have these places to go….)
  • Opening up the pantry and refrigerator and declaring, “There’s nothing I want to eat!” (Gratitude: I have food and a choice of what to eat. I can go out and pick something up from a restaurant…)
  • When I was uncomfortable and pregnant (Gratitude: Being pregnant without complications…), looking at photos of us in Thailand and wondering when I’ll wear a bathing suit like that again and when, oh when, will I get to travel? (Gratitude: I have traveled and been able to sit on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with my favorite person in the world who always reminds me to cut it out while telling me he thinks I’m beautiful…)
  • Supplementing the feeding of my baby with formula. (Gratitude: I don’t have to be there every single time she’s hungry – freedom! There is an alternative to safely help us keep up with her appetite when I can’t feed her enough….)
  • When I really want to take a shower and the water doesn’t get hot quickly enough. (Gratitude: I have running water…hot water is a bonus….)
  • Deciphering health insurance and coordinating maternity leave. (Gratitude: I have health insurance. I have great health insurance. I can take months off from my FT job to be a mom.)
  • When Netflix Watch Instantly is glitchy – the video and audio don’t match up or it just freezes (Gratitude: Do I really have to spell this one out?)

You get the idea. So where are your first world problems? How can you turn a perspective of lacking into a reminder of abundance?