May 14, 2013
Kristin & Meredith asked my 52-of-You group to answer James Lipton's famous closing questions ("Inside the Actors Studio"). The questions are straight-forward, yet revealing in an interesting way. My answers are included below. You're warmly welcome to leave your own answers in the comments.
1. What is your favorite word?
Curious (but really, how can I choose just one? there are so many worthy contenders)
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on?
Mark strumming a guitar and singing a song
4. What turns you off?
Judgment and negativity
5. What sound(s) do you love?
Rumbling thunder and the laughter of children
6. What sound do you hate?
The (obnoxiously loud) train whistle at 3am
7. What is your favorite curse word?
Kid-friendly version: F#@! (in this case, it was easy to choose just one)
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
Writer (what luck--I'm out of my profession in just one month)
9. What profession would you not like to do?
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
"You lived life fully, with an open and kind heart."
May 11, 2013
I enjoy a leisurely morning; it's such a pleasant start to the day. On Nevis, leisure was built in. We lingered over breakfast, then I would journal or make poem notes--included below--and Mark would play music. Sometimes we'd simply watch the activity in nature (the view from our front porch was glorious).
Yet back from vacation, mornings are now more rushed, more distracted. What's the difference? Why does this happen? I think of an interesting article I just read in Mindful magazine. Sallie Tisdale wrote about mindfully goofing off. One line really spoke to me: "So much of this busyness feels externally imposed--because I'm forgetting how much of it I've actually chosen" (italics mine). As I move from Nevis into day-to-day life, I see my choices more clearly. I'm choosing to have less leisurely mornings. (Sigh.) I feel such a strong pull into doing and striving now that I'm back from our cozy retreat. Our culture encourages achievement; we are a doing society. But here's the bottom line: I make the choices (from a place of distracted judgment or a place of loving intention). Perhaps some mindful goofing off is in order.
The wind sweeps steadily;
Flute permeates the thick air.
Rain-soaked plants strut vibrant colors:
yellow atop emerald atop chocolate.
Birds supply staccato
under the lilting flute.
The ocean's voice rumbles,
Oddly-shaped clouds slide
across the sky.
Lizards lay in wait.
The scene hums with life.
Yet when the wind stops
the stillness is palpable.
The mourning dove's chorus repeats.
Until the wind returns.
Nelson brought us papaya.
We covered it in lime juice
and spooned out the orange flesh.
Later I thanked him
Nelson knows little English;
yet he understands gratitude.
Next he brought coconuts.
He opened them with two swipes of a machete.
We drank the water and dug out
the gelatinous, white meat.
Nelson asks permission
to rake around our front porch
(nature's litter of orange and purple petals).
After his work, he thanks us.
I return his thanks,
amazed how kindness transcends language.
May 10, 2013
I enjoy the process of making food--cutting vegetables, smelling simmering onions, seeing various colors, tinkering with flavors, and savoring the end product. While away, we luxuriated in the space to cook--something we often miss during the busyness of life. Whatever veggies we found at the local market we threw into soup, frittata, salsa, pasta, fried rice, or pizza. Then we ate on the front porch as the sun set over the ocean.
Tuesday lunch was the only restaurant meal we ate on Nevis. After a stop at the open-air market, we biked to Cafe des Arts, an eclectic cafe run by Liz, a lively British woman. They serve tasty food from a small hut and chickens walk between the tables.
Then Liz stepped out of the serving hut. She wiped her hands on a towel and fell into the chair opposite me. Liz: "Did you see the news last night?" Me: "No, we're on a news freeze while here." Liz: " Oh, there was..." And this is how we heard about the bombings in Boston. She and her friend recounted what they knew. I asked a few questions. It all seemed so far away yet so very close.
On the bike ride home I reflected on our news freeze. What helpful information would I gain from the news? Nothing, it seemed. Nothing actionable; nothing to ease the terrible tragedy. Instead, I sat by the ocean and did loving-kindness meditation: may all beings be safe, may all beings be happy, may all beings be healthy, may all beings live with ease. With each phrase, a wave rolled through. The ocean able to absorb the magnitude and somehow provide perspective.
May 8, 2013
While on Nevis I was unplugged--no email, Internet, TV. I was also away from the daily to-dos of living (e.g., errands, appointments, bills). The magic of this: my days were expansive. So much space to read, write, cook, run, swim, meditate, photograph, take long walks, watch the birds, nap, have silly and philosophical conversations with Mark, gain new insights, and connect deeply with nature.
A hard truth: fear still accompanied me. Daily I worked with the inner-voice that said I was unworthy; that I should be doing and accomplishing more. (If only unplugging from that voice was as easy as shutting down a computer.) But fear will always walk beside me. And the more I understand it, see beneath it, and tend to my needs the less power fear has (and the more strongly I grow into myself). Being away from distractions meant I had regular space to work with fear and shame. It didn't overwhelm me; it's just part of being human. As are joy, contentment, wonder, gratitude, and connection--all of which I experienced daily on Nevis.
Upon my return from unplugged land, I've tried to stay curious--mindful to the multitude of ways in which I get swept back into the busyness. It feels groundless. How do I reconcile my life on Nevis with my life in Appleton? Yesterday I got hooked--completely hooked. I felt such a strong pull to process ALL my photos; to cross that off my to-do list; to receive external strokes for my work. (This is the unchecked fear of unworthiness.) The good news: I noticed. And I smiled. Because this is how life works--we have periods of mindfulness and periods lost in trance; some moments we're completely present and others we're completely distracted. As I walk my path, I have more moments spent fully present with my experience--yay for that.
It's good to be back. Being plugged in allows for distraction, but more importantly it allows for connection. I look forward to reconnecting with people (while staying connected to myself).
March 28, 2013
I'll be away from my blog for 5 weeks (see unplugged sabbatical). Yet this is a space to which you can return, investigate, share, and learn. While I'm away, I invite you to ponder and experiment with the following prompts. And please share your experiences. Comment and comment again (and reply to the comments of others). Or if that feels too uncomfortable, email me your experiences. (I will happily read them upon my return in 5 weeks.) I want us to feel connected during my sabbatical. I want to hear about your experiences; I want you to have a safe space to share.
1. Take a risk
To risk is to be vulnerable; to risk is to be brave. What risk has been calling to you? Something that's mildly scary, yet for which you feel ready? Is it having a particular conversation? Or showing your creative work to another person? Or letting your voice be heard? Or asking for help? Whatever the risk--small or big--take it. And tell me about it. How did it feel (before, during, and after)? Perhaps more importantly, did the sky fall? (No, it never does.) That is, it's important to notice and internalize that you took a risk and ultimately you're okay (this is a valuable felt memory to which you can return in the future). Do you recognize your okay-ness, even after taking the risk (even if there was failure)?
2. Try a recipe at 101 cookbooks
Heidi Swanson is a talented artist--both in the kitchen and behind the camera. Her recipes are interesting and tasty. Try one of her recipes and let me know what you think. Is it a keeper? Was it too much work? Did you enjoy the process of making food? What were the flavors in the food? What was new or interesting? Did you share the food with others?
3. Dig around in my blog
Spend some time with my blog--read old posts, view the photographs, consider the format. What is inviting about my blog? What is potentially off-putting? Are there certain posts you like or dislike? Why? Is there a topic (or series of topics) on which you'd like me to write? Would you suggest a different format (additions, deletions, changes)? I'd love your thoughtful and honest feedback.
4. Write someone a letter and send it via postal mail
I'm in love with postal mail. When I decorate and hand write a card, my heart opens and I feel connected to the addressee. When I receive a letter in the mail, my heart soars. A snail-mail letter can make my day. Think of someone you want to contact--someone to whom you're grateful or you love or you've fallen out of touch. Then write your thoughts and feelings on a card (or even a piece of notebook paper). It needn't be elegant, just write. And then put that letter in the postal mail. (How do you feel as you slip the letter into the mailbox?)
For some of us, it's difficult to try something new, because we put ourselves in a vulnerable position--we might not excel or we might (egads) make mistakes. (I know this position well.) But that vulnerability (scariness + exhilaration) is a juicy place to learn about ourselves and have some fun in the process. What new experience do you want to try? Dancing? Traveling? Attending an event with a new group of people? Taking a class that's out of your comfort zone? Blogging? Eating a new-to-you cuisine? Whatever strikes your fancy, try it. Just dive in. Then tell me about the experience--before, during, and after.
6. Bare a new part of your soul (to a safe person)
We all hold places of ourselves private--the soft spots that feel too tender to share. Yet holding on (in solitude) to an intense emotion can be a burden--a burden felt with all our being. Often we feel better by speaking the words, by sharing with another. If you feel safe with a friend, mentor, or family member, share a new piece of yourself. Start small if it feels scary. But share. How do you feel afterward?
7. Declare a dream
We are wired to protect ourselves from harm. In times of real threat, this is helpful. But for the bulk of our experiences, this is limiting. We hesitate in declaring dreams, protecting ourselves in advance against failure. But there's no contract to sign; there's no promise that the dream will become a reality. Dreams are meant to be shared--to be declared in big ways. What are your dreams? Please tell me, I want to know.
8. Tell me about a book you've recently read (or a movie you've seen)
I love reading books and watching movies. I love words and visuals. What book recently caught your attention and why? Was the story intriguing? Was the writing vivid? Were the characters particularly real? And what movie recently sparked your interest? Story? Acting? Cinematography? Tell me all the rich details.
9. Write a six-word memoir
These six-word memoirs are fun. The limited word count simplifies the process. Yet each word matters. And the memoirs can be touching, funny, crass, refined, soul-baring--whatever fits your mood; because you can write many of these memoirs. It's an interesting activity and the memoirs are fun to share. (Drink coffee or wine with close friends while you write six-word memoirs--I guarantee there will be laughter and deep connection.)
10. Take a walk outside (right now)
As technology evolves, we spend more time inside on gadgets and less time outside in the fresh air. So--right now--stop reading my blog and take a walk outside. What does the air feel and smell like? What sounds do you hear? What colors and textures do you see? What does it feel like to fully inhabit your body and connect with nature?
March 25, 2013
I'm a space filler. Coming off the long hours of an academic term, it's hard for my doing-self to slow. My ego (doing-self) is uncomfortable when idle. If I'm not mindful, then my day is crammed with new things (e.g., errands, new--not necessarily well thought out--projects, list making, plans, extra correspondence). These are all efforts to prove my worth--who am I if I'm not doing or achieving? I'm always curious about the new tasks in which I place my self-worth. When I'm mindful, when I make space to just be, then I know my self-worth is inherent. It exists, always. I am always worthy, just by being me; there's no doing that changes my self-worth. But ego is wily and often circumvents my true intentions, though I'm onto ego: I recognize its machinations more quickly and when I do, I immediately pause, breathe, or meditate.
While on Nevis we don't check email, watch TV, read news, travel in a car, dine at restaurants, or surf the Internet. What do we do? Read books, cook food, take long walks, commune with the ocean, sit in silence, have deep conversation, experience the moment, do yoga, run along the beach, play scrabble, take photographs, play music, ride bikes to the market, listen to the wind, watch the hummingbirds, write, take naps, look at the stars, create, and just be. We experience life through all our senses, no distractions. Does ego still add commentary? Of course, daily commentary. But it's much easier to turn the volume dial to low or mute.
So, friends, I'll be away from this blog for a while. (Although, in some sense, I'll take you all to Nevis with me--in my heart and my experiences.) Check back later in the week--I have some ideas for you to ponder and experiment with while I'm gone.
March 19, 2013
Who is the real me? It's the me that's living life right now, in this moment. Most days, it's the me you experience. It's my calm, my excitement, my love, my fear, my play, my insecurities, my sharing, my curiosity. I've been asking my best friends what they think my "one thing" is--an exercise to help me (vaguely) focus my next chapter. My friend Steph said it's my realness. I took that comment into my heart. To be real is one of the biggest compliments I can receive. Honestly, I don't always feel real. Sometimes I feel distracted or unworthy or uptight. But I suppose owning that is part of being real.
Today I went into the office. I'm gradually clearing out; filling the recycling bin each time it's emptied. On this day I decided to have some fun with my office cleaning:
As I reflect on my time at Lawrence, I honor all my experiences. I remember the multitude of occurrences in my office: interesting questions, aha moments, tears of anxiety, giddy laughter, soul sharing, deep breaths, and lots of learning--from both me and my students. Leaving this job is a loss. But it's also a huge gain. Because the real me is completely at peace:
My friend Kristin gave me a wall hanging with the following quote (source unknown): "Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart." Sometimes I wonder if people have an incorrect impression of me--that I'm put together, zen-like, balanced, and constantly happy. Indeed, the real me is happy, contented, and kind, but I can also be cranky, judgmental, and frantic. That all said, I typically have calm in my heart. I trust in my kind heart. I return there regularly.
So who is the real me? The me that will look you in the eyes, regardless of the circumstances, and give you my full attention and my open heart: