January 21, 2015

Contradictions


I read an interview in a magazine. "I don't meditate. It just doesn't work for me," quickly followed by "I don't understand when someone says, 'I don't do yoga, I'm not flexible.'" The interviewee accepts his own unwillingness to meditate yet judges another's resistance to yoga. A contradiction. 

I smiled when I read this. We all hold contradictions inside us. I judge myself far more harshly than I judge others. I practice the Buddhist precepts yet I drink wine, regularly. I don't want fame yet I daydream of having a book published. I'm a pacifist yet I'm often at war with myself, or at war with the present moment. 

We're human. We're complicated paradoxes. We needn't be shocked by these contradictions. They're in everybody in every form we can imagine. But neither should we ignore the contradictions. They hold wisdom. They show us where we're stuck; where we're blind or resistant or ignorant. Paradox is a rich place for growth. But bring these tools: curiosity, gentleness, tolerance, honesty, and kindness. See what shifts; see what grows.


January 16, 2015

Everyday Mindfulness: Red Lights


Daily life can feel hectic. We cram our schedules full, leaving no space for surprises and interruptions, both of which we can depend on regularly. This feeds our irritation and separates us from joy. Yet it's possible to make breathing room in the tightest of schedules. Momentary pauses abound. 

Red lights and stop signs are beacons of stillness. It takes this subtle shift: I'm stopped from moving forward (argh!); I'm allowed to pause and be, to relax for a few breaths. This practice has buoyed me. I now welcome red lights. I don't look in my purse or at my phone or obsess in my mind, I bring my awareness back to my breath and my body. I rest at the red light.

I also do this as a pedestrian. When crossing a busy street, I must wait for traffic. I wait and breathe deeply. Or I repeat loving-kindness phrases to myself: may I be safe, may I be happy, may I live with ease. Whatever the practice, it creates a break in the busyness. It gives me access to the present moment. It moves me toward both stillness and aliveness.

December 31, 2014

End-of-Year Musings


Some end-of-year musings haphazardly arranged in a paragraph:

If I use the word never or always, it's best to step away and meditate. Though unnecessary (and a bit excessive), an outdoor hot tub is helpful during Wisconsin winters. There's a fuzzy line between unhealthy obsession and the making of really good art. I feel better when I follow the seasonal rhythmsApples make a good snack. There are unlimited ways to see anew--to see something fresh in people, places, situations, and life. When I feel I must keep pushing or doing, that's exactly the time to be still. Having someone's full attention is rare and meaningful. Natural light is fascinating, especially as it changes. There's a relationship between my irritation level and time spent on the computer. I make choices in every moment of my life--a life for which I am deeply grateful.

December 16, 2014

Perception


Last May, I hung an exhibit in an interactive gallery. I asked viewers to caption four of my self-portraits and caption themselves in the mirror. I'm curious about perception. How two people can experience the same moment in completely different ways.

Look at the image above. How do you caption the emotion? Some answers from the May show: sadness, leaning in, doubt, fear, anticipation, relief, concentration, humility, depression, defeat, solace, grief, joy, contemplation.

A single image, yet varied perceptions. Defeat and solace; grief and joy; fear and relief.


Into every encounter, we carry a filter. Sometimes that filter is clear, but often it's cloudy--clouded by our expectations and our history. We think someone is unkind when she's actually distracted. We assume someone is happy when he's actually in pain. We perceive chaos where there's magic or tension where there's beautiful honesty. It's difficult to see clearly.

And it's helpful to know our perceptions are not reality. They are not the truth. When we're mindful, we open ourselves and remove these filters. We understand there are many views of the same situation. We might not like it. We might really want our particular view. But that's not how life is. There's freedom in letting go. 

This holiday season, can you see someone in a new way? Can you remove an old, muddy filter? Can you view a situation differently? Can you see yourself as beautiful?

December 12, 2014

New Grooves


I like routine. I find comfort in my morning meditation, Friday yoga class, nightly hot tub, and Saturday farmer's market. Routine is soothing. And it's also rut-making. Mark likes to try new things and he easily goes with the flow. I often resist. Yet the resistance sends a veiled message: don't assume, try something new, just show up.

When I take a fresh path, even the slightest veer, it's always worthwhile. My experience changes and my mood shifts. Sometimes I resist the entire time, yet I emerge differently. I see life in a new way. Old ruts can indeed become new grooves.

December 10, 2014

Slow Down


The season is winter. Animals hibernate, conserving their energy. Plants go dormant, covered in snow. Darkness sits on the earth, asking it to sleep. There's a beautiful stillness in winter; a place for restoration. Yet we humans create bustle and doing. We actually choose the busyness--parties, shopping, gifting, scheduling.  

Mark and I did errands on Saturday and saw an interesting juxtaposition: holiday music declared "the most wonderful time of the year" while people with tense, tired faces pushed and rushed. We receive cards in the mail that contain no message, no intimacy. It's as if cards, gifts, and holiday cheer are on the very long to-do list. 

Remember: this is the season of hibernation. We can choose quiet and rest. We can slow down. I want to do less and appreciate more; to make deeper connections with fewer people; to minimize gifts and expand love; to work from my heart, not external pressure; and to listen to nature, as it gracefully rests.

November 18, 2014

How Do You Want to be Remembered?


Before dad's heart surgery, we had interesting conversations about death. Funerals, obituaries, and end-of-life care. I knew dad would survive the surgery, but it was a prompt for honest discussion of death. Thought-provoking ideas for anyone, at any time.

One of the questions I asked him: after you die, how do you hope friends and family remember you? I like this question, for all of us. How do I want to be remembered? It's helpful to ponder and feel my answer, and articulate it in detail. Then compare this answer to how I'm living life right now. Are my daily actions aligned with how I hope to be remembered? If not, what changes can I make?

We all pretend death is far in the future. A future we hope never comes. Yet being curious about death allows us to fully live life; to live life according to what we most value; to live life true to ourselves.