2 March 2015: Fill and Release

I am so thankful to have learned through my childhood and adult development that when my mind is swirling and full, I can come to the page and write.

And I am thankful when my mind is too full to write, that I have learned to stop and breathe. To listen to one moment and then the next.

To allow the world to rush by as loudly and aggressively as it can.

To allow that loud aggressive world to stay far away outside while inside, I can look into my baby’s eyes and hear the bigness of his laugh.

To fill my cup with his big beautiful giggles and hear my soul song pealing back with his joy.

18 August 2014: Flow and Flow

It has been almost 20 months since my last post. And oh so much has happened in that time. Most notably, I’ve given birth to a perfect little baby who has taken over every area of my life. Of course, the quotidian alterations are to be expected. My days are much more scheduled around meals, baths and naps. What once was the perfect happy hour is now story time. I’m thinking more about my own overall health and emotional wellness now that this little sea monkey is depending on me for every one of his needs.

Even the smaller moments of life seem to be centered on being a parent. I’m reading books on parenting as opposed to those from the NYT Book Review. I can’t remember the last time I listened to a podcast while soaking in the tub. The free time I would have spent knitting and baking has evaporated, and in its place, we have swimming lessons. All of this is nothing if not a welcome change to my world. Of course, I miss my life the way it was, but the way I self-identify has begun to change. I’m okay letting certain parts of my life float away for a little while. I don’t need to be a person who accomplishes everything she has set out to. I don’t need to be person who has homemade muffins for friends every time someone comes over to visit. I don’t need to be someone who wears cute scarves and earrings.

I’m willing to let go of outcomes, certain comforts and appearances. I’m pleased to let my heart overflow in each moment I get to spend with my baby sweetness.

So pleased, in fact, that I’m not at all concerned with what’s happened to my yoga practice. After giving birth, I couldn’t even walk up and down the stairs; a down dog would’ve been completely out of the question. And yet, over the last several months, I have gently been testing the strength and flexibility of my muscles. I’ve been slowly finding out the number poses that I have to retrain my body to accomplish. My body has changed so much since my little one’s birth that I’m still testing my balance both on and off my mat. In doing so, I’m finding a deeper layer to my practice. It’s a new and exciting way to focus my awareness, and while I might only be able to find the time to take one class a week, I am able to emphasize my personal practice in an ever personal way.

My little bit has helped me to have a deeper perspective on what’s really important to me and how those things are different than the activities I merely enjoy. He’s helped me to let go of what isn’t working for me now, and he’s also helping me to work the activities that I do love back into my life. Some of those activities look so much different than they did, but they feel like they’re transforming to match the person I have now become. I recognize their importance to me because I’m making the time for them. They could just as easily have drifted away from me with, say, moving my bed every week to vacuum underneath it. How grateful I am to release that one!

28 January 2013: The Nature of my Knowledge

The other day, I was driving to campus for the beginning of the semester. My first days back are all faculty meetings and syllabus writing. These are not the days of exciting energy when students are refreshed and opened to learning new concepts and creating new ideas. These are the days when my colleagues and I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wish we could be home reading books that deepen our own knowledge. We wish we could slowly contemplate the perfect class, plucking ideas down as we were inspired by them. The first days back for faculty have often, in the past, given me the worst Monday blues of my life. I would even say they made me incredibly cranky.

However, as I was driving in for this semester’s beginning, I was listening to David Newman’s 2010 album ­Love, Peace, Chant. On it, he sings some of my favorite Kirtan tunes, and as the wheels were turning, I couldn’t help but chant along with him. I began to notice the sensation of joy rising in my chest, and instead of thinking about all of the enrollment statistics and new policy debates that might take place on this day, I thought instead about all of the wonderful people I work with.

I became in awe of all of the smart and generous people whom I get to call my colleagues. I was excited to hear their ideas and share my own even if we hadn’t had time to methodically sculpt those ideas into the perfect classes just yet. I felt so confident in that sensation of joy, that I began to feel trust in the process. As I sit at my desk, I can do little more than theorize. I can work through an idea and find its most perfect language, but that doesn’t mean I’ve found its most perfect expression, I need my colleagues and especially my students to verify the class is a good one.

My teacher Michelle Pietrzak-Wegner has been known to say, “If I waited to be a guru before I began to teach, I still would not be teaching.” I agree with her whole-heartedly, and I’ll add that if we waited, there may be something lacking in what we bring to our students. As we wade through the minutia of the ideas, we sometime miss the process that helps us arrive at our final understanding of a lesson.

Today, I am thankful that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge. We are in the inquiry of our thoughts. We can be confident and present enough to claim how exciting it is to be always on the precipice of finding, and we can take this journey with one another.

2 January 2013: The Loop of Utter Implosion

Today, I am thankful for the spiritual education that has taught me to observe the thoughts that enter into my mind. I caught myself feeling utterly afraid of having booked only eleven credits of class for the spring semester. (Normally, I teach fourteen or fifteen.) I became afraid of what that might mean for me financially. I became afraid that it might mean I’m not as secure in my job as I have been in the past or that I’ll have to find a new field of work. Every discrepancy I’ve had with a student in this last semester (though they’ve been few) came rushing into my brain, and I began to question my education, my abilities and even the path I’ve taken in this life.

I immediately sprang to my computer to come up with a plan B. I searched as many Web sites as I could, looking for editorial and writing jobs. I wasn’t being picky in my search: free-lance, part-time, even full-time job placements. I love teaching writing. I feel called to do this work, but my fear of not being able to pay my cell phone bill became so great in that moment, it overtook my love for my work. This, I think, is one of the most profound moments anyone can experience. The moment where fear interrupts and overtakes the ways we ground ourselves in the benefits of love.

Though I love my job so much, I was ready to give it up after just fifteen minutes of anxiety…until it occurred to me that I have just spent the last eight months of my life getting my certification to teach yoga. My plan B has already been put into place. It’s a plan B that still includes working with adult students and incorporates my second deep passion: synthesis of movements in the body. I had even forgotten that I created this plan B so that I could sustain my energy to teach writing more effectively. I have meant for the duality of these teaching modes to complement each other. However, since I’ve been so stuck in my head grading finals, I haven’t actually had a lot of time to practice yoga in the last couple of weeks, let alone look for yoga teaching jobs.

And here is where I am thankful: that the whole time I was spinning out of control, I was watching it happen. My hands were typing keywords into the various search engines, but my mind was listening without moving (or judging). My mind waited for the hiccup in the loop to stop and say “hello, are you paying attention to what you are doing?” And as soon as it did, those fifteen minutes got to be a great scene in my life’s comic theater. Because my spiritual education has led me to meditate, it has provided me with a tool to prevent my brain from utterly imploding (which it is wont to do from time to time).

Instead of finishing up my day by dusting off my editor’s resume, I had the opportunity to write a new resume, one for the yoga teacher I am becoming. Instead of fear and anxiety moving me backward, love and excitement (and the ability to see the punch-line) allowed me to step forward.

So “yay” for all the lessons. “Yay” for committing some of them to memory. “Yay” for the teachers of my past and the teachers of my future (including my students) who have and who will lead me deeper on this path. How lucky to be able to self-observe.

10 December 2012: A Lot Like Home

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a hankering for a condo. I love the area in which I live, but I’m desperate for my own parking space. A friend offered that this hankering might have something to do with all of the changes in my life. She thinks it might be the product of my need for stability in such an unstable time. I think she might be right.

So today, on my way home from yet another stressful and uncertain day, I stopped by the plant nursery. I bought three new plants with an eye toward tending a few new roots. As I sit here typing, I feel high in my own living room, the oxygen is so thick.

As the scent of rosemary and everblooming hoya mingles with my psyche, I realize that I am Spanish moss. I grow where I am and carry my reserves in the pit of my stomach. My stability comes from within.

In this apartment, I can have whatever permanence I want. I love this apartment. I love the glass doors on my kitchen cabinets and the tree full of animal life outside my bedroom window. I love the street I live on, its mix of energy and quiet.  I love how I feel when I enter the front door, like I can let go of the tail-end of the breath I had been hanging onto.

Lately, in my search for a permanent home, I haven’t spent a lot of time appreciating the life I’ve created for myself. I’ve only been thinking about the life I wish I was living. I have been searching for the fork in the road where I went wrong. And I think I’ve finally found it. It was two weeks ago when I started making place=stability. I have done so many adventurous things, and I have always lived according to my own heart. Being THAT person is what grounds me in my life more than any mortaged cement foundation ever could.

I am so thankful to have a beautiful shelter to hold me warmly as the first lasting snowflakes of season settle in their places for the winter. I am thankful I still have the option to dance on the wind.

5 December 2012: My First Night as a Writer

Today, I am thankful for that dark night in my childhood when my own writing became both a mystery and an answer. I am thankful that at a young age, I found such an enigmatic lens with which to view this world. Thirty years later, I am still returning to words to seek the truth of myself and the truth of the world. I am thankful that the word “truth” is just a word to be lived in the moment, and that reality is its own thing that I come nearer to each time I sit down to write.

27 November 2012: The Poetics of Email

I am so thankful for the surprises of poetry in email. I love the stream of consciousness blurt of expression that comes between directions and requests. There are so many moments, in personal emails, when the writer slips out of her communication to me and begins to tap into her true nature.  It is the intimacy of letter writing. The writer can hardly stop from being so inside of herself. The words she uses are drenched in her pronunciation. The pure joy of language catches me off guard between advertisements (and there were many this cyber Monday) and meeting minutes.

I am thankful for another kind of email poetics as well: the well-crafted line that’s been revised, revised and edited only to contain some happy accident of word play (which seems no accident). These messages move me off point and into the approaching storm of my imagination. For a minute, I get to wonder what world these words live in when they come from without me. Eventually, I know I need to respond to my senders’ requests, so I do, putting the poetics aside for a minute until I can formulate a clear, concise response and click “send.”

I always go back, though, and save these quick notes to some special folders, only to lose them as more come in. I can’t keep every lovely bit of language that comes to me through the ether, but that has never stopped me from trying.

And it didn’t stop me today when a perfect stranger sent me a real-life, honest to God poem…in tercets, nonetheless. How beautiful is that? A person took the time, not to write for any gain or functionality, but because the words were so inside of him, he had nothing left to do but let the letters rain onto the page in perfect sans-serif puddles.

And I was lucky enough to witness it.

18 November 2012: A Vehicle for Transformation

Tonight, as I was driving home from work, I navigated around a truck stopped dead in the Lowry Hill tunnel. I thought about how reliable my car has been and for how long it has been that reliable. It’s twelve years old. I know it won’t run much longer. But I have so many memories of sitting behind that wheel that when it’s time for me to give it up, I will be ending a chapter in my life. It is not just a hunk of metal; it has quite literally been my vehicle for transformation. That car has moved me into all of my adult, single girl apartments. It’s taken me to weddings and funerals, job interviews and performances. It has saved me on winter streets, and it has sheltered me when I have needed to gather my thoughts and had nowhere else to turn. It’s taken me north, south and east across this country. Since the first time I slid in behind the wheel, it’s been my ticket to freedom.

I have often taken it for granted, like this morning, when I stumbled out of my apartment, half asleep. I rested my coffee mug on its hood as I juggled my bags into the passenger’s seat. I turned the ignition and was on my way. I was so certain that it would start that it didn’t even occur to me to be grateful. However, tonight I am, and for the next couple of months, I will be even more grateful still. Each day saying a moment of thanks as I pull into my parking spot, remove my key and amble safely into my home.

6 November 2012: Self-expression

Today, I feel grateful to live in a culture where the citizens have not only the right to vote, but the right to say whatever we’d like about the candidates, the ballot issues and the process of voting itself. We have the opportunity to meet, talk to and befriend the people who run our local governments. We eat in the same restaurants and shop in the same grocery stores. We cheer at the same hockey games and attend the same concerts. At any time, we could throw our hats in the ring and work to become one of those lawmakers.

During this election season, I find that it is easy to get bogged down in the negative messages from “the other side.” However, when I can stay focused in the hope I have for my culture and the role I can play in making that hope into a reality, I feel the nervous excitement tingling inside of me. I see a glimpse of the prospects for a future that I look forward to. I let go of my attachment to the results as I’ve imagined them to be, and I allow myself to experience the electric buzz lifting off the ground in my community which, for better or worse, is founded on self-expression.

4 November 2012: Autumn Walk just after Dusk

Today, I am grateful for an autumn walk just after dusk. I am thankful for one last activity to ground me in the present moment, to ground me in my life right now. This is the place where I live. This is the body I am living in. Tomorrow these two things will be a little different. It is a gift to be able to spend time in the place where I am today.

My neighborhood is particularly beautiful with many old street lights that glow pink in the sunset and many old houses. As the sky turns from pink to gray, the lights in my neighbors’ homes come on slowly. One light bulb flicker at a time, illuminating the spaces they will use next.

A few of their children—those who do not tire so easily—are still in their front yards inventing games and laughing with each other breathlessly. They don’t wear coats, though I have my hat pulled down around my ears. They are not thinking about that encroaching evening when white puffs of breath restrict their lungs. They are creating the world where they like to live best. They are spinning out of control, living full-out. They will sleep so well tonight after eating the hot meals being prepared for them.

Their dogs bark more frequently. Since softer light prevents them from relying so much on their eyesight, they are quicker to claim their posts. “I am here,” they reassure. Reminding me that even when I cannot fully see my situation, I am just as safe. The sound of my own voice is a comfort to my uncertain self. I may not know all of what happens in the world, but I know where I’m standing. I know I’m not alone.

While the squirrels and birds have found quiet spots for the evening, the rabbits feel safer in the openings in darkness. They rush flower gardens in search of remaining leaves and petals, quickly tasting the last sweetness before winter.

I luxuriate in the smell of drying maple leaves just before the cold of night erases them. They are not as bright as they used to be. Instead of oranges and reds, they have curled into clay. And more of them crunch beneath my feet than quiver in the wind. The emptiness of branches yields beauty still. The long lines of limbs and branches create an opening for what the weather brings next.

As the mild light retreats further, so does my ambition. I am moving forward, one languid step at a time, closer and closer to the warmth of home.