Archives for the month of: March, 2016

This morning I am looking ahead in life, just beyond the completion of a major life project that I am at long last preparing to undertake quite seriously. Scary. Verbs. Tons of verbs. Also…a very significant requirement to sort out the tasks from the projects. My way of thinking tells me that any given project is made up of any number of tasks on which completion is dependent. Tasks are easier – do the steps, take the action, follow through on a detail; there are verbs involved, and often not so very many. Do the thing. Done. Projects seem…bigger. So many tasks. So much time. So much timing. The order tasks are completed in may matter for a project. Some are dependent on each other…often not immediately recognizably so.

I’m pretty decent with task management, and doing the verbs on small things – do the thing. Done. I’m pretty strong there. Having a routine eases the impact of having many tasks, and gives an illusion of skillful project management, sometimes this is a very nice thing that provides me a sense of fulfillment and achievement – I get so much done one task at a time, over many tasks! Unfortunately, until I break a large project down to tasks, sorted in an effective order, and begin handling things task by task, I can find myself feeling quite incredibly overwhelmed by the details, or sucked in by a method of organizing the work, and not making real progress toward project completion. Frustrating. It matters to take my time, and to be reminded that incremental progress sometimes feels quite slow, but it does keep things moving forward.

The forest and the trees; perspective matters.

The forest and the trees; perspective matters.

Today, I find myself really committing to two projects that will need to be managed in tandem; they affect each other’s outcomes over time. I got excited about both, then as the magnitude of workload starts to sink in, I feel… afraid. Yeah. Wow. Insecurity speaks up. Excitement and dread feel too similar for this to be effortless; I suspect there will be many opportunities to practice good practices, to breathe, to take care of me, to be patient with myself, to be mindful. Today I am practicing taking steps – and since steps are not quite tasks, but still move each project forward, I’m on my way! Step one – identify the tasks needed to complete each project.

I enjoyed the morning over coffee with  my traveling partner, and talked about shared and individual needs regarding one of these important life projects. I sat down at my desk feeling clear-headed and sure of purpose, a very nice feeling, and begin listing all the tasks involved in the project that I could think of off the top of my  head. It’s a start, and today a start is all I really need – once I have the tasks sorted out, doing them seems an easy (ish) thing. 🙂  Yep. There are still verbs involved. I’m doing some today.

Walking my own path, one step at a time.

Walking my own path, one step at a time.

Today is a good day to do the verbs, step-by-step, task-by-task, moment-by-moment. Today is a good day for a new journey.

Where are you today? Not generally, I mean actually right now, as you read this. Are you here, right now, engaged in this moment? Awake? Aware? Curiously present? It’s just a question about choices, about this limited precious time we each have, about what’s to be done with it.

Simple beauty. Simple moments. Awake, aware, alive.

Simple beauty. Simple moments. Awake, aware, alive.

This morning I sip my coffee, catch up with a friend, and read a chapter further in a book I am about half through so far. The morning began with meditation, and yoga, and proceeded to coffee – that’s all behind me now. Now I am simply here, in this moment, sipping my coffee and enjoying the quiet of morning. I am practicing being present.

As practices go, ‘being present in this moment’ is fairly simple in words, and rather nuanced in practice; the challenge is to be here, without launching a lot of self-directed criticism, becoming frustrated by some detail of housekeeping or task management, becoming distracted by social media, ruminating over past moments until I am emotionally invested in some other moment than this one, or progressing to wildly fantastic daydreaming that might become unnoticed assumptions or expectations lurking in the background of some future moment. I stay in this moment, and when I notice my mind wandering, or sense elements of internal dialogue that amount to ‘self harm’, I begin again. I stay in this moment. The practice resumes.

I sip my coffee. I feel the warmth of the mug, and the smoothness of the simple white porcelain. I taste the brew, the unique subtle bitterness, characteristic and not unpleasant, the robust and subtle flavors of wood smoke, nuts, moss, and chocolate of these particular beans. I hear the subdued noise of traffic on the not-so-distant streets, and the sound of the train on the other side of the park. I hear the many frequencies of my tinnitus, always there when I focus on it; I find myself thinking about setting a reminder to bring earplugs to the concert we’re going to tonight, and pull myself back to this moment, here, now. My fingers are chilly, and I feel a sense of ‘cold’ across my shoulders; the thermostat in the studio doesn’t increase the heat until… I hear the heater click on, as if on cue, and smile, enjoying the orderly sequence of events in this simple quiet moment. I sigh contentedly, feeling my lungs fill, then empty. I breathe. Relax. The rhythm of my fingers on the keyboard reflect the practice in this moment, tap-tap-tap, pause… tap-tap-tap, pause… Feeling it. Writing it. Staying here, now, with this moment.

I’ve been feeling spread a bit thin, more than a little stressed out, and right on the edge of being overwhelmed by life’s details during a busy time; I suck at busy. This morning I recharge, and reset, using this simple practice of being in this moment.I stretch. Breathe. Relax. I observe. I feel. I engage the subtle details all around me by really noticing them: the subtle shine of light bouncing off angles here and there, the temperature of the room changing, the quality of the light as day slowly breaks beyond the window, distant sounds and sounds nearby, the physical sensations of being human, the fleeting come and go of emotions and thoughts passing through my experience. I breathe. Relax. Smile. This is a first-rate moment, right here. 🙂

I feel myself really beginning to let go of the things that are not truly important to me personally, leaving behind only the things that matter most. Urgency that sources with someone else’s agenda is not by default any urgency for me, personally; it’s so easy to forget that, because emotions are powerful drivers of behavior (and cognition). The looming work day immediately feels less stressful, which is helpful; I don’t do my best work when I feel stressed out, unappreciated, or overburdened. I now find myself much more inclined to be eager and enthusiastic about getting through the day skillfully, not taking it so personally, and ready to get on with the evening on the other side. I also find it easier to recognize that it’s time to find something that suits me better, and meets more of my own needs.

I’m no expert on being in the moment, or on mindfulness generally – I practice what seems to work best for me, personally, and study. I try new practices, and keep at the ones that have good results [for me]. There are lots of resources for good mindfulness practices – some of them are listed in my reading list. Today is a good day to be a student. Today is a good day to begin again. Today is a good day for this moment, the one right here, however simple; it’s really the only one. Yes, there are verbs involved – and choices. What will you choose for this moment, today, now?

Journey’s are fraught with obstacles. This one, too. This morning I am feeling a bit ‘stuck for a topic’, not because there is nothing worth writing about, more because there are so many splinters of issues, small things, and bits of background anxiety this morning it’s simply difficult to determine what I can most productively put my attention on, for myself.

The work day yesterday was complete turmoil and not very productive due to a system outage. The transportation to/from my appointment was notably unpleasant with rude people, ludicrously heavy fragrances, loud voices, and emotional content. I spent much of the day in pain, with both a headache, and my arthritis giving me grief. Therapy itself was disruptively powerful, and as efficient as it was effective – thought-provoking? Eye-opening? Forward progress. Incredibly emotionally painful. I arrived home with an aching jaw having spent the ride gritting my teeth and avoiding lashing out at hapless fellow travelers unaware how urgently I needed quiet to get myself back together. Just as the evening began to wind down it was shot through with intense anxiety and… more stress. It wasn’t about me, and no threat to love or family harmony, it was ‘just a thing’, but I wasn’t at all up to it. I held my own, avoided any nasty drama or emotional bullshit, and retired for the evening at more or less the usual time. My sleep was restful enough, but I woke already filled with anxiety. The day begins, lacking in enthusiasm and joy, and filled with lingering stress over so many things…real? Imagined? Mine? Other?

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

“Anxiety” 10″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic 2011

So…now what? From a practical perspective, I address the stressors where doing so can fairly easily be done. I work on ‘letting go’ of what isn’t actually mine and trust that things will work out, rather than borrow additional stress, and worry obsessively over things I can’t ‘fix’. It’s a very difficult practice, as practices go – “let it go” sounds so simple. I struggle with it this morning. I keep practicing. Work related stress I examine with some detail, finding it useful for sorting out what I really want from employment, adjusting my resume to more clearly reflect utility, vision, purpose and personal fit for work I might enjoy more.

I consider how the stillness both highlights the anxiety, and allows it to more easily dissipate. I breathe. Relax. The anxiety comes and goes. I spend some time in quiet reflection. More time meditating would be good this morning… My perspective could use some re-calibration. I would benefit from being more present in this moment, and more easily able to tap into the day-to-day positives, and some measure of gratitude. There are verbs involved.

I allow my anxiety to climb into the front seat long enough to deliver a powerful worst-case scenario. I breathe calmly and let it unfold in my imagination as fearlessly as I am able to allow. Could I cope? Strip it all down to the basics, and most likely outcomes, would I be able to get by? I consider it point by point, allowing myself to recognize that change is, and that even if every possible thing went terribly wrong, I would most likely be okay (for some values of ‘okay’). There really are verbs involved, and how I feel about my experience is something I have a lot of choice in. I remind myself simultaneously how damaging it can be for my ability to feel content, to burden myself with comparisons. I remind myself, too, of how much of what I love and enjoy I could also comfortably do without…even this blog, and the internet connection that makes it possible…well…I wrote using ink, on paper, for so many years, right? I smile, recognizing the differences between ‘want’ and ‘need’ more clearly, and the anxiety recedes for the moment; I am okay. My head is still fairly busy with weird nagging details and subtle stress, but even in my worst case scenarios, contentment is possible – and contentment is powerful.

This is a good morning to fall back on The Four Agreements.

Stick with the basics - it's a great place to start.

Stick with the basics – it’s a great place to start.

I read the brief statements, simple, encompassing, and deeply relevant. I fill up on a sense of adequacy, sufficiency, and self-acceptance, and prepare myself for the day to come. This journey isn’t always an easy one, but it is mine – and that is enough.


It was a generally lovely weekend, and I enjoyed it greatly. The one or two isolated moments of disharmony were too human, and too brief, to make much of and they quickly passed. It was a weekend to connect, to bond, to listen, and a weekend to be very aware of how much I also needed my own attention, if only for a few hours.

Meditation continues to be a key practice supporting my emotional wellness.

Meditation continues to be a key practice supporting my emotional wellness.

This weekend I took time to continue to ‘move in’ and get more settled; I’d only begun that process when my traveling partner unexpectedly landed on my doorstep for an extended stay. I had halted the process of ‘getting all moved in’ without really noticing I had. Providing him with support and care, and seeing to his comfort is also a high priority, and I attended to it immediately – then forgot I still had quite a lot to do for me, as well. One of the many valued opportunities for me in living alone has been learning to take care of myself, and to be more reliably self-sufficient, specifically because I do tend to ‘overlook myself’ in the context of cohabitation with intimate partners. This weekend I attended to a great many more ‘me-centric’ details, and put some effort into continuing to get moved in, myself.

My favored spot to meditate has been in front of the patio door, and living alone it hasn’t been a headache to simply leave my cushion sitting right there; I step around it. Living with my partner, the comfort of ‘having to step around it’ was no longer exclusively about me, and the cushion was somehow ‘in the way’ – funny how perspective changes on such details. Living alone, meditating in the living room  works beautifully. In a shared living space, the living room is now a busy common area, home to the stereo, television, video games, and fireplace – as well as the door to the patio garden, adjacent to kitchen and dining space – and no longer seems a good fit for meditating at some points in the day, there are too many distractions. Choosing to meditate less frequently, or on a schedule, doesn’t work for me, so I put time into rethinking where I meditate during those hours of the day when doing so may conflict with my partner’s activities, and decide to make sure my bedroom is also set up to be a convenient and inspiring place for meditation.

My studio quickly filled with paintings that are not yet hanging, many of which had been stacked in my partner’s bedroom, because it was an empty room when I moved in. Paintings not yet hanging in my own bedroom contributed to the disarray, as well as projects in progress. Painting rails for temporary displays and drying space have not yet been installed. Soon. This weekend I focused on hanging paintings in my bedroom, making that space ‘more my own’. I walk around the apartment quietly with my coffee, smiling at how much got done with weekend, and feeling very much ‘at home’.

This morning felt very natural. I woke a bit ahead of the alarm, not uncommon, and shut it off, choosing a few minutes more time meditating, rather than attempting another 15 minutes of sleep. It was nice that my cushion was already there, and the walls hung with carefully chosen art work on themes that tenderly guide my thinking toward perspective, balance, sufficiency, and mindful awareness. My stiff aching spine benefits from ‘sun salutations’ before I consider myself really ‘up’ for the day. By the time I got to the kitchen to make coffee, I was feeling fairly awake, and ready for the day. I quietly emptied the dishwasher while I waited for the water to heat for my coffee, feeling generally very comfortable, and very much at home. I had been concerned that I would feel less at home here, myself, with my traveling partner moving in. It seems I have learned some things about taking care of me, over the past year. I realize with some astonishment that, in fact, I lived alone for less than a year…

In the not-quite-a-year that I have lived alone, I have learned a lot about the details that matter most (for me) about cohabitation: the intimate friendly presence of a lover so near, the hellos and good-byes, the day-to-day graciousness and shared delight, conversations, planning for the future, shared tales of time apart shared more frequently in greater detail involving less time, the humor, the support, the availability of hugs, shared problem-solving, teamwork, and sure – sex, too, but surprisingly (to me) that isn’t the most singularly important detail…turns out that the most important details are about emotional intimacy, rather than physical intimacy. There remains so much to learn about life, about love, and even about the woman in the mirror. I am eager to share this piece of that journey, and see where it leads. There are a lot of verbs involved…

Sharing the journey? A good opportunity to be love.

Sharing the journey? A good opportunity to be love.

Today is a good day to start a journey. Today is a good day for love.

Happy Easter! Well, or whatever you are celebrating this morning that may or may not be identified in that fashion. As a youngster, I loved Easter – the egg hunt, the hidden (and very fancy) basket of generally wonderful chocolates and confections, the decorated eggs (which were sometimes quite lavish and exotic at our house, as my Mother was willing to blow eggs, and decorate them as fictional characters, and such, and we would often enjoy coloring eggs the evening before hand – a celebration of its own). Many years as an adult, I continued to celebrate the splendor of spring with Easter baskets, Easter eggs, Easter chocolates. It didn’t matter one bit to me that the aspects of the Easter celebration commonly associated with Christian faiths was often so culturally prominent, leaving the heartfelt earthy practical symbols of spring and fertility to wonder if anyone remembered them; I remembered, and celebrated, and that was enough.

Many years into adulthood, sometime well past 40, I gave up celebrating Easter; the celebrations I love most are pretty calorie-rich, costly, and labor intensive, and I had gained a lot of weight over the years. It had become an insincere celebration, too, unshared, solitary, and unhealthy. I couldn’t afford the rich artisan-crafted exotic chocolates I wanted for fancy baskets I yearned for but had no room to store. The hand-crafted ceramic eggs I had made for myself years before remained wrapped up and put away for many years. My enthusiasm for life was muted by prescription drugs intended to dull only my symptoms, but in fact pretty much just shut me down in all but those moments when nothing could. Easter was lost to me, and the feeble stirrings of interest in some years, more than others, didn’t really bring it back.

Set aside but not forgotten.

Set aside and forgotten… for a time.

This morning I woke thinking about Easter. I woke thinking about spring, beginnings, verbs, ancient rites performed by superstitious primates, earnest rituals performed by true believers, and ceramic Easter eggs, carefully put away, that have no calories at all – only loveliness. I woke with a smile. There is no hurting here this morning, beyond the usual morning stiffness and aching of my arthritis. I feel a mild sensation of regret looking out over the park, beyond the tall grasses to the playground; I could have hidden Easter eggs for the children this year. So fun. I might have filled some with jelly beans, others with coins, some with comforting or thought-provoking aphorisms. I didn’t; Easter had been put away for so long I had forgotten it entirely, until this morning, even though sentences using the word had certainly fallen from my lips in recent weeks. How strange.

There is no moment of bitter disappointment or any particular sadness this morning. Actually, I feel rather hopeful, and eager to see Easter coming up on next year’s calendar. I find myself contemplating ‘being true’ to the woman in the mirror, all her facets, all her joys. I realize that ‘authenticity’ and ‘being true’ to oneself have a connection – noun and verb – and as is so often the case, the verbs involved really matter if that elusive noun is to be achieved, lived, and cherished.

A chilly bumble bee, tired and cold and waiting on the warmth of the day.

A chilly bumblebee, tired and cold and waiting for the sun.

Happy Easter. Today is a good day to be true to my vision of the best woman I can be. There are verbs involved, sure, and my results will vary. Every one of life’s Easter eggs is a moment of potential wonder and immense joy. Everyone of life’s moments is a potential Easter egg. 🙂