December 31, 2015

Guiding Word for 2016

Winter is a natural time for reflection. The days become slightly longer and the calendar turns. I ask myself: What did I learn in 2015 and how can I move forward? To me, resolutions feel rigid. They feel like black-and-white solutions in a gray world. I try to move from intention. How do I want to live my moments, my days? What word or words can guide my actions? In practice, I must do the work, but it helps to have a guiding intention, expressed in a single word.

My previous words: trust, choice, allow, possibility. Each word was an umbrella for the year. None of these words told me what to do. They served as reminders of what was most important to me. Looking back, I see how they led me through a career change. I did the hard work, but reminders are helpful. Because I make mistakes; I forget and then I remember.

This year I choose "love." My creative work is most alive when it comes from love. My teaching is most effective when it comes from love. My connectionswith myself and othersare most genuine when they come from love.

If a word-of-the-year intrigues you, try this guided reflection (there's no way to get it wrong):

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

December 29, 2015

The Intentional Break

This year, Mark and I celebrated winter solstice in a new way: unplugged from work, electricity, phones, and clocks. We only made exceptions for heat, stove, and fridge. Otherwise, we experienced the day as is. The weather was gray and misty, yet I saw subtle changes in light. Without electricity, a peaceful feeling—free of noise and unnatural light—filled our house. It was a reflective day for both of us. Our actions were intentional; our conversations relaxed; our senses awake.

The quiet and calm were made more obvious when I re-entered “normal” life. There’s excess, bustle, and separation in daily life. But there’s also choice. A pause is powerful. A purposeful break from technology and busyness has a big impact. The break could last an entire day or a few minutes. It's the intention that matters. (As I finished that sentence, the bell on my computer rang. At the hourly chime, I step away and take 3 deep breaths.)  These intentional breaksfrom screens, to-dos, and distractionallow for connection with ourselves and with others. Pieced together, these pauses create a more mindful day.
Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

December 11, 2015

Navigating Social Media

This American Life did a show on "Status Update." In the first act we hear high school girls discuss, in a dramatic way, the process of posting Instagram selfies. It's easy to dismiss this as immature high school behavior, but it rings true for anyone. These girls want to be "relevant." They want to be seen and heard, liked and admired. Social media is the platform, for high-school girls or middle-aged men.

When I post to Facebook or Flickr, I think carefully about my words. And I match these words with a photograph. Sometimes the image speaks, sometimes the words resonate. My intention is this: spread beauty, kindness, and wisdom; be real and true.

Still, I relate to the high school girls—how they monitor comments and likes. I don't want to crave that external validation. But it happens. Some days I post and let go. Other days I monitor. Because there's an addictive component to social media. David Foster Wallace said, "There's part of you that wants to do it over and over to get the food pellets of praise. It's one more way this stuff is toxic." Those food pellets of praiselikes, views, favorites, "great post"either disappoint us (too few) or fuel us (plenty, but we want more next time). For others, it's not the pellets of praise that are addictive; instead it's the constant need to know what's happeningthe fear of missing out. 

All of this can be toxic. It can also be meaningful: I connect with long-distance friends or new collaborators; I share hard truths and invite stories from others; I set an intention and step away when I'm off course. The toxicity comes from unconscious action. Living in habitual reaction doesn't feel good. It might feel comfortable—what we're used to—but it's not wholesome. It separates us from others and from ourselves. 

Sometimes social media connects us; sometimes it isolates us. If we stay in touch with our direct experience, we notice the difference. (Pause for three full breaths; notice the feelings.) And from this place of understanding, we make more conscious, filling, and alive choices.

Guided Meditations|Everyday Mindfulness|Photography|Facebook Page

December 6, 2015

Different Views

I'm fascinated by perception. People leave a conversation or an event with radically different perceptions. Our mental filters--clear or cloudy--impact how we see.

It's important that I remember these differences; honor these differences. When I don't, I'm shocked or offended unnecessarily. Both shock and offense make an assumption: my view is the truth (your view is wrong). This assumption constricts my mind and separates me from others. If my filter is clear, I might experience surprise or hurt, but not shock and offense. I see most clearly when I'm connected to myself and others; I see most clearly when my heart is open.

These photographs are the same yet different. Same dormant plant in a roadside ditch at sunset. Different point of view; different color, different feeling. Just as I shift my camera angle, I can shift my internal view. A slight change in perspective allows a wider understanding. Because there's not one right way to view the world. There are many interesting, varied, and beautiful ways to see.