August 31, 2012

Getting out of my Story

Last weekend, Mark and I camped at Hartman Creek State Park with the wonderful people of the Green Apple Folk Music Society. It was 24 hours of trees, music, crickets, connection, quiet, reading, song sharing, bugs, friendship, stars, and happiness. Yet by early afternoon on Saturday, I entered a mild crankiness that quickly fed into a juicy, unpleasant story. The process went something like this: I've read enough for the moment, what now? It's really, really hot. I need something different, but it's too hot for a bike ride. I'll go sit with Mark and friends. Actually, I don't really want to talk with anyone. What I really want is to go home. In fact, I can't wait to get out of this place. It's hot; there's bugs; there's too many people around.

Boom! I went from peaceful and happy, enjoying the moment, to a huge story that was all about me and my unhappiness. Truly, this happened within a 10-minute period. While stewing in my mind, an offer came to go for a swim at a nearby lake. This was a lake about which I'd heard great things from multiple people. And it seemed just what I needed--a get-away from the heat and an opportunity to move my body. Yet I initially resisted. Part of my story was that I wanted to stay unhappy. So I quietly stewed a bit longer. (Luckily, it takes the group a while to mobilize, so I had processing time). I sat in the muck, but then I realized it was muck. I noticed--yay! These are times to celebrate: when I notice the story and take a risk to leave it.

At the last minute, I grabbed my swimsuit and caught a ride to the lake. Even that action lifted my mood. And then the experience itself blew my mind. The lake is surrounded by beautiful, thin pine trees. It's deep, spring-fed, and incredibly cool in temperature. It's large enough to really move your body and deeply connect with nature. It was fabulous. I was back in the moment. I was connected with my authentic self and with nature. I was out of my story. 

I share this experience as a way to remember it in my bones. To remember all parts (the yucky story, the risk, the return to myself), so I can access them viscerally when I'm in the next story. Because that story will come. In fact, many have come and gone since our camping trip. This is my nature as a human being. But I more fully realize the choices I have when working with my stories. And I'll always remember my refreshing lake swim.

August 24, 2012


Yesterday I wrote about doubt. And, not surprisingly, I had a huge doubt attack after sharing so personally. This is the wily way in which doubt works. The antidote to doubt is trust--trust in myself, in my basic goodness, and in the truth of the present moment. Trust that I am okay, just as I am (without any doing, achieving, accomplishing, changing). When I'm mindful, I'm in touch with my kind heart, and I trust. When I'm not mindful, I inhabit fear and doubt and then more busyness. My therapist once said to me, "Joy, everything you need is already inside of you." This is a mantra I've repeated weekly, if not daily. In fact, her statement is true. I'm already okay, enough, strong, lovable, wise, capable--these are things in which I can trust deeply (yet pesky doubt still sneaks in). Each day is another step on the trust path.

Wednesday evening, as Mark and I relaxed in the backyard, I asked him to write the word "TRUST" on my chest with a black Sharpie. All my wonderful hubby asked was, "does it matter what font I use?" I said "no." And then I smiled, as this was all part of the trust exercise. After he emblazoned me with trust, I let it seep in. And I took many self-portraits in order to fully remember and embrace the moment:

August 23, 2012


I am fully in touch with doubt. I greet it every day. Sometimes I recognize it for what it is; other times I believe the mean-spirited stories. Doubt is one of 5 mind energies that, according to Buddhist philosophy, hinder our clear seeing--hinder our ability to see the truth of the moment. And doubt is the muddiest, murkiest, hardest-to-catch hindrance. Why? Because it arrives wrapped in some story. It sneaks onto the old tapes that play over and over in our heads. Tapes we believe perhaps less and less, yet can still grab us--can still make us doubt ourselves.

Here are some doubt stories with which I've recently worked:

You are having far too much fun this summer; eating and drinking too much; probably gaining weight; far too much happiness to be healthy; you're probably really damaging yourself in some deep way.

You are not busy enough. You need to do more. In fact, you're not at all ready for the new school year. You'll walk in the classroom and be a complete failure.

You are sharing far too much of yourself and your feelings; making yourself so vulnerable is embarrassing; people probably laugh at you and your silly endeavors.

First note: These stories are all unkind. Even if they aren't overly mean, there's an underlying sense of judgment. For me that's a tell-tale sign of doubt. Second note: These stories are all untrue--no truth. This is precisely the way doubt hinders clear seeing. (But they can be so easy for me the believe, especially when I'm vulnerable or tired or tender. They can become my reality for minutes or hours or days.) Third note: I will work with doubt for my entire life. There will never be a time when these doubt stories don't creep into my consciousness. And that's okay; it's human nature. But I recognize the stories just a bit sooner and sometimes I can even smile at the new ways doubt has seeped into my head--smile and think, yay, I noticed.

I used to send myself a snail-mail card any time I prepared a batch of cards for loved ones. It was a practice of loving-kindness for myself. Yet I never put my return-address stamp on these letters, because I feared what the mail carrier might think. (She's sending a letter to herself?) This is definitely a doubt story, as it makes me a huge player in the world (really, the mail carrier doesn't think about me at all; or if he does, I have no control over his thoughts) and it makes me second guess myself (not including my return-address stamp dampens the open loving-kindness practice).

I restored my sending-a-card-to-myself practice just recently. And that's when the doubt story of the return-address stamp hit me. Why wouldn't I use the stamp, just like I do for all the other cards I send? So I did it! And two days later, I had a genuine, no-excuses, filled-with-loving-words, sent-from-myself card in my mailbox:

August 14, 2012

A Correspondence Between Friends

Sometimes in July
the rhythm slows.
Busyness bested
by thick heat.
Lazy summer days return--
disruptive, though secretly embraced.
Porch-swing conversations
reveal an acute, though camouflaged,
need for dormancy;
need for reflection.
The heat's imposed stillness
but a temporary balm.



Sometimes in July,
We dream of winter
Imagining the thrill
Of snow so deep
Stranded we sleep, 
Curled beside the fire
Bright with dormant
Reflections, the stillness of
The frozen night
Bested by those acute
Secrets, camouflaged by
Silent conversation.