September 22, 2012

Classified Ad

Seeking a job where
I work fewer hours (30?);
am less connected to a computer;
am more connected to people,
in small groups or one-on-one;
I do not have to sell;
I have freedom to create (in multiple mediums);
I need not critically judge others.

Seeking a job where
creativity and authenticity are valued;
where reflection and mindfulness are encouraged;
where community is cultivated.

Areas of expertise:
learning, teaching, and statistics.
Areas in which I have solid knowledge: 
writing, wellness, self-reflection,
meditation, and photography.
Values held deeply in my heart:
compassion, kindness, empathy, and gratitude.

Any and all suggestions considered.

September 19, 2012


Last week I wrote about my back-to-school slow down. It was a lovely and mindful first day of classes. And then my old habits kicked in. My habits of not pausing during the day, pressing on with a project even when I feel tired, expecting too much production from myself. These habits reappeared so quickly. New academic year, same habits.

Sometimes I tell myself the story that it's the students, my colleagues, or the Lawrence community that creates my busyness and urgency. I was mindful enough last week to notice this story is untrue. Who creates this busyness and urgency? I do. It's my ego working overtime; my inner-critic knows the new school year provides opportunity to sneak in unnoticed. Then I start believing the stories: this project must be finished right now, if I don't have every detail ready for class it will be a disaster, I must respond to all these emails right now.

Sneaky ego. It got me again. But then I noticed. And this week I've made some changes. Slowed my pace; let the feeling of urgency pass; set more realistic expectations; experienced and enjoyed my time in the classroom. Ultimately, this life path is inner-work and self-reflection. I'm the one who creates my own suffering, yet I'm also the one who creates my own happiness, peace, and contentment. The externals are just that: external. They are things over which I have no control. (She says, while still desperately wanting some control.) So who is ultimately the boss of me? Me. If I need some rest, kindness, reassurance, love, or wisdom, I only need look into my own eyes and heart:

September 13, 2012

Separation & Connection

Two nights ago I watched the movie, "A Separation." I found it complex, real, beautifully shot, skillfully acted, and thought provoking. The plot slowly revealed the complicated nature of relationships and of society; and the separation we humans use as a habituated response to difficult emotions. This separation was revealed in the acting, but also in the cinematography and sound: closed doors, windows, doorways, silence, barriers. All the ways in which we distance ourselves from others and from ourselves. As a coping mechanism, we separate ourselves from others--either on purpose or because we just don't know how to connect in that moment (especially if we feel fear, sadness, hurt, or shame). Interestingly, we also distance ourselves from our own inner-self, from our authentic-ness. 

I ached when watching the movie. There were many opportunities when connection might be made; when it seemed the complexities shared by the characters would bridge the separation--it would just take someone being vulnerable. But that's sometimes a too-large bridge to gap. (Big sigh.)

A few weeks ago I watched the movie, "I am." This was also a thought-provoking film. While examining our human habit of separation, the film dove into other realms of deep-down human nature: empathy, compassion, and interconnection. These stories made my heart sing (rather than the ache I felt during "A Separation"). The reality is that life is complicated. Being human means we have habituated reactions that are not always skillful or healthful. Yet being human also means we have a core of goodness--we only need access that goodness regularly. If we open our hearts, listen to ourselves and others, show vulnerability, feel compassion and gratitude, and lead with our authentic inner-voice (not the inner-critic), then the world becomes larger, happier, and more peaceful.

Be-brave challenge to us all: the next time we want to erect a barrier, instead choose to open (even just a little) and connect.

September 11, 2012

Back-to-School Slow Down

What's your reaction when you hear the phrase "back to school"? My mind quickly fills with certain words: excitement, busyness, anew, planning, learning, bustle. At Lawrence, the students bring a wonderful energy to campus. They're excited to reconnect with friends and get back in the classroom, and I appreciate their enthusiasm. But if I ride that excitement too far, then my daily life becomes too busy, too urgent, too much. 

Radical idea: what if I slow down as everything else ratchets up? What if I bring mindfulness to the first day of school? Stay present, pause, listen, look, and take breaks. What do I notice? How does my experience shift? These questions set my intention for yesterday--the first day of classes.
Slow-down musings from the first day of school:

  • Nature is oblivious to the first day of classes. The morning light glows, chipmunks and squirrels seek food, birds chirp and tweet, and fall blooms deepen in color. The rhythms of the natural world don't change according to the academic schedule. I find comfort and grounding in nature--it provides a bigger perspective (and gets me out of the "me" story).
  • Sunshine on my face gives me a burst of energy, always.
  • At 8:37am, the campus is peaceful and quiet. Interesting contrast to the bustle my mind associates with back to school. Inside the class buildings, rooms are filled with attentive students. 
  • My relationship to the computer is complicated. It's a vital tool for me as I prepare my courses, yet it's also a pathway to an unfocused, multi-tasking, doing-things-too-quickly mode. If I'm not mindful, I attempt too many things too quickly, which leads to irritation and movement away from my work intention: my students. 
  • If I pause more, listen more, and let students fully ask questions or explain situations, then the entire experience feels more authentic and much less urgent.
  • When I purposefully slow down, I'm more present in the classroom and less exhausted outside the classroom. (This result is not surprising, but often I know these things in my mind, but I don't actually put them into practice. It takes repeated experiential learning for me to form a new habit--even if I already know the habit is positive.)
  • At the end of my school day I attend Pilates at the Rec Center. Typically I arrive in a rushed state of mind. But yesterday was different. I allowed more space and a few breaks; I let student laughter (during the butt-squeezing exercise) wash over me like a balm.
  • On my bike ride home, I slowed to smile at a little girl playing in her yard. She smiled back; her face softly lit by the rays of sunset. That brief moment was a lovely snapshot of my entire day.

September 5, 2012

Doorways & Transitions

I participate in a weekly photography group (thank you, Bella!). This week's theme is doorways; I'm intrigued and fascinated by doorways. Doors and windows have lovely lines, textures, and reflections. They're visually interesting. As a photographer and a viewer, I'm drawn to them. But it's not just the visual--it's something deeper. Doors can represent choices, freedom, adventure, new views; alternatively, they can represent blockage or confinement. It depends on how you view the door.

Reaction to transition can be the same: excitement or dread. So doors and transitions are on my mind. Personally, I'm transitioning from summer-mode to fall-mode. This involves not only a movement in natural seasons, but a movement in the pace of my life. A new academic year begins and my daily schedule is packed; this in stark contrast to the flexibility in my summer days.

Often I face this transition with some dread. The dread story goes like this: I have no choices or freedom; the fun ends; how can I maintain the life I've so authentically crafted while being so busy? I must resign myself to the daily grind and give up all creativity. But this is just a story in my head--really, it's not true. (See my previous posts on doubt stories and unhappiness stories.) 

What's really true? My schedule does change, but I always have choices. The transition requires endurance and initially I'm quite tired, which is a lovely reminder to take good care of myself. Each school year is another doorway of opportunity--in fact, many doorways. Places where I can try new things, experiment, create, and connect. This flips the switch from dread to excitement. Yet how quickly the dread story forms in my mind--each year I work with it. (Interestingly, I also work with the summer's-here-so-now-life-is-perfect story at each academic year end. The reaction is excitement, but the "story" is that life is now wrapped up and everything is perfect. Nope. Difficulty still happens in summer.)

As with all of life, mindfulness helps. My simple intention for this week: be very mindful of the transition--all parts of the transition. What doorways are actually open when my story perceives them as closed?

September 4, 2012

11 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Eleven things you might not know about me (in no particular order):

1. I do an impressive Wicked-Witch-of-the-West laugh.
2. I love to dance in my living room.
3. I'm very spiritual, but I don't believe in God.
4. Mark and I are happily and purposefully child-free.
5. I tend to over-explain myself. 
(For example, after writing #3 and #4, I want to tell you that I don't believe in God, but I believe in kindness, compassion, tolerance, awareness, and acceptance; also, I love my nieces and nephews beyond words, and I enjoy other people's children--it's lovely to be a free-roving mentor to children.)
6. I'm still close to my 3 best friends from middle and high school.
7. I thoroughly enjoy gatherings of 4-8 people; I dislike large parties.
8. I went to college (Indiana University) on a volleyball scholarship.
9. I've been a strict ovo-lacto vegetarian for 23 years, yet bacon still smells good to me.
10. I enjoy word puzzles; my favorite: the New York Times acrostic.
11. We do not have TV reception, but we binge-watch three series via DVD: Dexter, Downton Abbey, and Sherlock.

September 2, 2012


Fearlessly I wrote poems.
Thrown-together words flowed from my pen.
Poem after poem.

Eventually the process slowed.
For inspiration, I drank
the words of others.
I read poem after poem--
rhythm, detail, wholeness.
The gorgeousness of a single word.

How could I compose another poem?
Now that I know what I know.