Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reverb 10

I just signed up for this marvelous project to spend December reflecting back on 2010. Here is the story of Reverb 10 and its' founders. Loving the idea of reflecting back at this time of year anyway, I immediately signed up. I'll be posting the questions and my responses daily. I've got some catching up to do, so here's the first few days:

December 1 - One Word.
Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?
(Author: Gwen Bell)

The word that is coming to mind is Celebrate. I became a certified life-cycle celebrant this year, something I'm quite proud of and something that totally suits me. I performed 2 ceremonies for folks and have a couple more lined up for 2011. We celebrated my grandson's first birthday and a couple of weddings. I led several retreats this year which felt marvelously successful in terms of turnout and feedback and good feelings which is a celebration for me. I enjoy focusing on the celebration of life, on what is good. In 2011 I'm going on a week long trip to Puerta Vallarta Mexico and to Italy in the fall, so my word will be adventure.

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it? (Author: Leo Babauta)

Good question for me. I am so focused on writing, as Natalie Goldberg says a 'writing practice' just like a meditation or yoga practice. I want to have that writing practice and be a good writer, express what's in me. Yet instead of doing it, I spend lots of time reading interesting things online, on facebook too long or engaged in what I would characterize as "goofing off". Not making the time for it is the problem and I need to eliminate my self talk that convinces me to do something other than write. It feels like a fitting it in issue but I know I can if I put my mind to it.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors). (Author: Ali Edwards)

The weekend of my birthday in August I signed up for a Saturday writers retreat and stayed the night by myself on the coast in a tiny cottage. Sunday was my 'do what Cindie wants' day and I hiked the coast line. Walking along in solitude on a gorgeous day, a huge turkey vulture suddenly swooped over my head. I didn't realize that was what it was initially but was mesmerized by this bird that was so big it made me think of a dinosaur! I stood there watching it fly right above my head, quietly saying "Wow" over and over. Continuing on my walk I stopped and looked out at the ocean. There in the water were whales, jumping and leaping. I watched them for some time, amazed, not expecting them. I also locked gazes with a beautiful deer and saw multitudes of other birds. It was a moment of unbelievable beauty all around me and I felt so very lucky to be experiencing it all.

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

I think being around my grandson on a regular basis as he grows has reconnected me to wonder. I see the world through his eyes and they are so much broader than my adult eyes. Taking a walk down the sidewalk is cause for wonder every step. He stops when he sees something and says "OH". We pick up leaves, we look at lady bugs, we notice a puddle of water. He invites me to join him in his curiosity, patting the sidewalk "nana", "cmmmon", meaning come on nana, sit here next to me. Destinations are irrelevant. We notice the wind on our face and the train whistle across town and I am filled with wonder and gratitude.

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I'm letting go (still a work in progress) of things being a certain way while at the same time letting go of accepting what is if I am not happy with it. My relationship has been a study for me all year as I wrestle with what is important to me and what I can let go of there. I have let go of things being the way they were with my mom and brother and have formed new relationships with them that are still evolving and changing but are feeling more satisfying. I am letting go of needing to be perfect and have let go of letting what other people do upset me. I am letting go of worry.

What great questions. What a great idea. How would you answer some of these? Please share.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Room of One's Own

I spent several hours yesterday and today creating an art space for myself. This is the before picture. Sweetie and I decided to create my longed for space in the closet of the guest room or what we call Beau's room since he sleeps there when he comes to town. I have been in the midst of examining how I can make my home feel more like home. What do I need to feel at home, and comfortable? One thing I have been missing is both the time and the location to be creative. I have an office with my computer, file cabinet and 5, yes 5 bookcases full of books. It's very cramped and there is barely room for me to do my writing and researching which is what I primarily do there, and no room for art. I wanted and needed some clear space to create an art journal that I want to be a work in progress, to paint, to draw, doodle and collage my ideas. Being a retreat coach leader, I have a LOT of resources, gifts for retreat participants, and other sundry items for retreating that were basically all boxed in this spare room closet along with all of our gift wrap, gift bags and ribbons. Nothing was easily accessible and I didn't have a good space to work.

So we brain stormed and collaborated and came up with a fabulous combination of our ideas and styles. Jay is organized, orderly, and I am, well I tend to be a hurricane in motion, a stuffer and a stacker. We visualized a space that would be orderly and organized, everything accessible and would give me freedom of expression in my whirlwind fashion. Ta da! Here is our fabulous result: a totally inexpensive desk ($5) and chair ($2), plus bins for storage of all wrapping paper and my retreat materials on the shelf above the desk, along with storage on the desk for all my colored pens, paints, glue sticks, magazines and art journal!

This is my sweet spot for inspiration and as you can see it has everything I need to feel at home including a refreshing drink (cranberry sparkling water), a painting created by my son years ago, and in the basket a gift from my daughter - a heart that says "world's best mom". Now I feel comforted and supported. I've got a yummy candle, plenty of light and my art journal where I am creating my bucket list and visually documenting my dreams for this next year.

It's important to have our space, important to have space for expression. How are you creating home for yourself? Look for information soon about my upcoming (October 30) fall retreat "Coming Home", a chance to savor fall and explore what makes you feel at home both in your home and within yourself.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

My 16 month old grandson was staying the day with us today. He had tuckered himself out running all over the social hall at church and fell asleep in his car seat on the way home. Jay carefully unfastened the car seat and set him in the easy chair in the living room to continue his nap from his throne. Paternally, Jay laid on the couch, keeping an eye on him as he slept.

My mission during this quiet time, was to create my summer red sauce -- homemade spaghetti sauce. Ripe red tomatoes, bursting at the seams, onion of course, zucchini cut in tiny 1/4 rounds, plus one cut up chicken sausage needed to be readied. I cut and chopped these ingredients, adding some shredded fresh basil and tomato paste, as quietly as I could, all the while waiting for the pot to boil for the spaghetti, then adding the spaghetti, turning the vegetables, stirring, adding, flavor, lid for the pot, pasta done, drain, rinse, so many details to all be orchestrated at once. There was a rhythm to my process though and I felt I flowed through it easily and gently from pan to pan, savoring the smells I was creating. I realized how much work it is to make fresh pasta sauce - and yet, I was so happy doing it, knowing how fresh it would taste, how my baby would wake up and something absolutely wonderful would await him, not to mention how much his grandparents were going to love it. So much effort, dishes dirtied, and yet...and yet, I love to do this. Is it the simplicity of it despite the effort, how delicious fresh vegetables in a simple sauce can taste? Is it something I have created, in a meditative manner, chop, chop, stir, slice, the partners in the dance coming together so easily and beautifully?

I believe it might be both of these things, plus the joy of eating it with those I love, a tradition that will go on and on through the ages. Hand made with love, you just can't buy that.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Zen of Kayaking

I spent half a day kayaking yesterday, a beautiful, sunny clear day, the river quiet. I paddled with 3 other people, not a solitary journey, and yet I felt the joy of a peaceful time with nature. I'm sure I'm not the first person to take note of kayaking as a metaphor for life. Many inspirational bits have been written about going with the flow, not paddling upstream, not rocking the boat, captain of your own ship. The list is endless. There is much about these metaphors that I resonated with, that made me sit up and take notice of the messages.

I am not an expert kayaker by any means. I have been several times but I still struggle with doing it "right". Keeping my boat going straight down the river is sometimes a challenge and a preoccupation for me. Left. Right. Left. Right. Stop going to the left!! Paddle, paddle, turn around, start over. What I learned yesterday was that I was making it too hard. I was struggling too much when I didn't need to. The current didn't require me to make deep plunging swoops with my paddle, working and working, exhausting myself in the effort. It only required that I literally go with the flow -- let my boat float and with ease and gentleness bring it back to center as needed. Wow, there's a message. I work so hard, in everything, only to end up cranky, sore and tired, and not even where I thought I was going.

Then there is the part where you head the boat down the river, centering yourself. This is the most efficient way to paddle the river, pointing the nose of the boat ahead, keeping centered. Staying centered? Focused on my goal? Where did that come from?

The other wonderful part about kayaking, is how much wild life you can see from the river. Hiking is awesome but being on the trail, I do not experience quite the wonder of birds flying right across my path, egrets and herons standing on the shore, turtles sunning themselves on the rocks, beavers swimming by, then punctuating their visit with a slap of the tail. We were all there on the river, enjoying what the day had to offer, in the quiet stillness.

So what is my 'take-away'? To stay centered on my goals, and to stop trying so hard to make life work. I don't have to figure it out, make it work or become cranky to move myself forward. I need only allow myself to work with what the river offers, gently but firmly, to not only move forward, but be in the moment of the beauty happening all around me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finding Courage

My son has been on a path of discovery. He took a year off from his state job to be in a place of self-exploration. During this time he and I made many treks to Green Gulch Zen Center, some of them for the day, some of them when I was dropping him off or picking him up from spending time there. He was becoming more and more involved with the zen lifestyle of yoga, meditation, organic gardening. As he continued to pursue, open-hearted, he was led to check out another similar place -- Great Vow Monastery in Portland, Oregon, and his meditation practice led him to the decision to complete a 5 day silent 'sit', which means meditating for most of the day, in silence.

This decision was no small matter as he lives in Santa Barbara, a distance of well over 900 miles one way. Did I mention my son is visually impaired and does not drive? He took the train/bus from Santa Barbara to Sacramento, stayed a few days, then was scheduled to take the train the rest of the distance beginning at midnight. That night as I was readying for bed I realized I had a phone message from him. He was already at the train station 2 hours ahead of time, his friend having dropped him off, waiting. He faced a 15 hour ride on the train, alone, all night and into the next day.

I was suddenly overcome with emotion that initially felt like fear and concern for his safety. Although he is 28 years old and very intelligent, I worry about people somehow taking advantage of him, or an something unsavory happening to him due to his visual challenges. There he was, in the station, 2 hours to kill, plus so many ahead. He did not have his computer reader so could not 'read' books on the train. His trip sounded rather horrendous to me, scary, long, boring even. What started to creep into my emotions over and in front of the sadness was amazing respect. I knew what it was taking for him to make this journey, then stay the night in Portland (a town he does not know) in a youth hostel, not to mention the week at the monastery and another 15 hour train ride back to Sacramento. This was really HUGE! And why was he doing it? For himself, for his own journey. By this time I was laying in bed sobbing. I sobbed first from maternal concern, then for my utter Blown Away-ness of what he was doing, and last for me. What courage he was demonstrating, to want to do something for one's self so badly, to have that much determination, I felt humbled that I did not feel I possessed enough of that same quality to do something equally courageous for my self, for something good for me.

And in that moment, I recognized how much more deeply I loved my son for that gift.

Transitioning through changes, rarely easy or comfortable, usually requiring our utmost strength and courage.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Sunday I had a monumental, life-changing experience. I learned something new about myself. I have always known I had a tendency to worry, sometimes worrying to obsession about something - usually something I did or said or something coming up that I would allow to take over my thoughts and brain with the "What if"s until I couldn't think straight. I thought perhaps I was just a worrywort, or it was part of my recovering perfectionism, or I was just a little bit obsessive compulsive.

On Sunday morning I woke up as I do on many a morning when my brain fears it has nothing to do and that I won't need it any more if it doesn't start doing something. I was thinking about my upcoming trip to New Jersey. In my still partly asleep state, I was going over all kinds of 'what if's. I have traveled around the world a bit - to Europe, to Hawaii, to the east coast. But everytime, I was with at least one other person. I have actually traveled alone as well, but generally it was a quick one stop flight somewhere on the west coast. Something about traveling to the 'other' coast, changing planes in Atlanta, arriving at a huge airport at 10:30 pm, then reversing the cycle and doing it all on the way home got me filled with fear. I am also taking a day to be a tourist in New York City which was starting to feel overwhelming.

Add to this all the things I have going on in my life -- newsletters to finish and get out, packing to do (oh my gosh what can I bring on the plane? Can I bring a Kashi bar in my purse? Can I bring hair product? Will there be a terrorist sitting next to me? Sorry, brain taking over again.), my office looked like a hurricane had done it's damage and I was feeling completely out of control.

Jay and I talked about some of these fears and I had a bit of a gameplan for tackling them as we drove to church. However, on the drive, I noticed I was experiencing severe anxiety that I felt so deeply in my body that I thought I would explode. I literally felt in pain on many levels.

A guest speaker awaited us that morning -- a radio talk show host and author named Jeff Bell talking about the concepts in his new book - When in Doubt, Make Belief . Well yes, I thought I might be a little OCD like I'm sometimes a little ADD but seriously? No. I don't wash my hands all day or check and re-check things. But I do obsess in my head and here's the key: I obsess to where it impacts my life. Everything he said hit home for me. I had lived the thoughts and feelings he described. At the end I felt like I could burst into tears. What an amazing thing to happen right when I needed it most.

I picked up his book and talked with him following the service (a genuinely very nice man). What struck me most about his talk and my reaction to it was not that I had a label to slap on myself, but that I had some tools for transforming my thoughts when they start to make me nuts. I don't want to feel so much anxiety and turmoil about things to the point of agony. What I saw for myself was that my oldest child, perfectionist, doubting self was really good at creating life being black or white and when it got gray and vague my mind tried to create some polarity in order to soothe me. Jeff said the best ways to deal with the thoughts (and this is outside of actually getting some psychologic help) is to remember your purpose and to be of service. That felt very positive to me.

What I know about myself is I can handle overwhelm better if I create a list. Ridding my head of all my 'to do's and onto paper where I can check them off is so helpful. I don't know if I need therapy. I do know I enjoyed the insights I got about myself and where my thoughts can take me. Now I'm going to read his book and focus on what I can do to better understand and love me in spite of my brain!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Creativity Time

This I know about myself -- I need creativity time every day. I need sensory pleasure every day. I need fun time every day. I need outside time everyday. Sounds like a lot of needs huh? But, each of these needs can be quite simple to fulfill. It really only takes a little taste of these things for me to feel happy and get my need tank topped off.

Today, for example, I made muffins. I know, so small. I love to look at cookbooks and recipes and blogs about food. I love different foods, different tastes and focusing on organic, wholesome but oh so tasty food. So last night I found a very interesting sounding recipe for Lucia muffins. They have saffron and golden raisins and almonds and sounded just interesting and different enough to ignite my creative spark. I went shopping following dinner with my BFF -- off to Trader Joe's we went in search of semi-exotic ingredients my kitchen did not possess, such as saffron and buttermilk. I felt excited thinking of my morning with my honey and making homemade muffins. You have to understand that generally breakfast 7 days a week for me is oatmeal with a variety of fruit and yogurt. Honey makes himself his own granola with oatmeal or peanut butter toast. So this felt like a special and fun Saturday morning 'Occasion'! Why shouldn't Saturday morning, or any morning feel like an Occasion?

They were glorious - golden/orange from the saffron, not too sweet, almost like cornbread in texture, the golden raisins giving them a hint of sweet deliciousness. What a small simple pleasure. We added fresh squeezed orange juice from our tree, sliced bananas and strawberries and the meal was a culinary experience for a king and queen.

Creative energy in the kitchen - great start to my Saturday. Now off to fulfill my need for the great outdoors. What do you need?