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Awareness

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail speaks to an essential truth: everything, all life, is interconnected. Everything affects everything else.

The examples are everywhere.
We know this in the body: when I have pain in my knee, it impacts my whole body.
We know this in our relationships: one angry member of the family impacts everybody.
We know this in on the Earth: the extinction of a species sends a ripple of change through an entire eco-system.
We know this in our society. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

To honor the work and life of Martin Luther King, expand your perspective. Notice with deep awareness how everything affects everything else.

And if you could use a little additional inspiration in these days of darkness and tumult, I recommend either reading or better yet, listening, to Dr. King’s Love Your Enemies sermon from November 17, 1957. This is a reminder I need every day.

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My word for 2019 is CLEAR. As part of that, I have discovered the work of Stephanie Bennett Vogt through her class on The DailyOM called A Year To Clear which is based on her book of the same name. I am loving it. I am looking at the spaces around me (and in me) with different eyes and am slowly letting go of what I don’t need and doesn’t help me move toward the purposeful life of creative connection that I envision.

Part of the reason that her work resonates with me is, well ahem, it is exactly the way I talk about movement and health and creativity.

One thing she says:

Awareness changes everything.

Yep. I couldn’t agree with that more. The more I pay attention, the more I invest in being fully with whatever is happening, the more my experience is transformed.

She also says:

Clearing raises awareness.
Clearing releases attachments.
Clearing reveals a spacious part that’s been there all along.

I would add that not only spaciousness is revealed but other things that may have been hiding in the weeds of my days and my stuffed-to-overflowing t-shirt drawer. Things like healing and compassion, creativity and relaxation, possibilities and joy.

So turn on awareness. Practice awareness and get curious about what you find. Let’s change everything.

In this season, it can be easy to get caught up in the things, the activities, the expectations. I know I get focused on what am I going to give, cook, do? Who will we see, what are the plans, what will I wear and do I have everything? But the truth is, this season — and this life — is about our ability to show up. It’s about our presence.

Take some time every day, especially in this week, to drop into the sensations of your body, to notice with your full attention whatever is happening. Make the choice — especially when things feel familiar and are full of memory — to really smell the spices, to taste the cookie, to hear the laughter, to see the faces, to hold the hands. Make the courageous choice to really BE with the people you are with — including yourself.

Presence is the real gift.


ONE WORD 2018 & 2019

As the year comes to its end, it’s a great time to find One Word for 2019. For the past many years, instead of making a resolution, I’ve been choosing one word to guide me through the year. I often think think think about it for a while and then when I stop and ask myself how I want to FEEL in the coming year, the word finds me.

These are the words I’ve lived with for the past several years:

2011 – OPEN

2012 – RELEASE

2013 – SPACIOUS

2014 — WORTHY

2015 — FREEDOM

2016 – heARTful

2017 – AWAKE

2018 – HEALING

Living with one word for a year is a simple way of creating a year-long focus to guide and inspire choices. Now is a great time to open your attention to the word you might like to be with for 2019. And if you had a word for 2018, now is a great time to reconnect with it.

NOTE: Due to unexpected travel for a family funeral, we never did get to dancing this focus. Don’t worry, we’ll come back to it.

Ponder this for a moment.

Nature and experience show us that everything is connected. Nothing exists in isolation. The body, mind, and emotions are the same: utterly and inextricably interconnected.

Not long ago, I was running late to teach class and I was all up in my head about what I was teaching and how I really needed to stop rushing around and how I wished my low back would feel better than it did. As I slid through the employee breakroom to clock in, there was a basket I’d never seen before with an Alice In Wonderland sign on it:

Inspirational Words ~ Take One.

So I did.

It said, “Your body hears everything your mind says.”

Of course. I know this and I forget. My body is always doing its best for me. Like a loyal and kind friend, it is always doing whatever it can to support me. And it believes me. It believes everything I say.

So if my mind says, “I don’t like the way you look” or “my stupid old low back” or “I hate my knees/thighs/skin” my body hears it all.

If I say out loud, “I’m not angry” when my body knows full-well that I am, what can result but confusion?

If I think, “everybody moves better than I do” or “I am the oldest/fattest/most injured person here” or “nobody is suffering the way I am” or “nobody is as crazy as I am,” my body believes the illusion of disconnection.

The practice is to pay attention to what my mind says and ask is that something I want to say to a loyal, supportive friend who unconditionally loves and believes me?

In Heart of the Matter, Don Henley wrote “the more I know, the less I understand.”

In Say Hey, Michael Franti sings “the more I see, the less I know.”

As she was healing from breast cancer, I wrote to a friend that I felt like I really became an adult when I stopped knowing what the hell is going on.

The longer I’m on the planet, the more I feel the mystery of everything. My mind has no way of grappling with the deep, dark mysteries that are all around me. All I can really do is stay present and dance with whatever unfolds.

There is no figuring out the mystery. There is only Mystery Dancing.

 

The timing of Thanksgiving — at the precipice of the darkest and coldest days of the year — turns out to be a helpful thing.

Just when the speed of life picks up and the weather closes in, we have the chance to pause and frame it all in the context of gratitude.

Our focus this week was inspired by a recent post by James Clear, one of my favorite bloggers. In it, he suggests that by changing one word, we can shift from being stressed to thankful, from harried to happy. Changing “I have to” to “I get to,” changes everything. It’s a wonderful, perspective-changing post and I hope you’ll read it.

These days, what with building a business as an author and artist, and my husband building us a house and the holidays building in intensity, the list of things I want to accomplish every day is long. Sometimes when I look at everything that is asking for my attention, my head spins…and sometimes I get crabby and resentful.

Recently, I’ve created a practice around my To Do List ~ espeicially when it’s got me feeling a little wobbly in the knees and tight in the heart. I practice looking at each item on the list in one of three ways: Self-Care, Service or Both.

I’m finding that at least one of the categories works for everything. When I’m carving out time for my yoga practice, I remind myself that getting on my mat is an act of self-care. When I’m cleaning the cat box and filling her food bowl, I think of it as an act of service. When I’m planning healthy, whole-food, plant-based meals, I remind myself that the time and effort it takes is an act of self-care for me, and service to anyone I’m feeding.

My favorite scenario is when I find a way for whativer I’m doing to be BOTH self-care and service. This morning, for example, when cleaning out the cat box, I squatted down in such a way as to stretch my hips and low back. Suddenly * BOOM *- the chore which I was doing in service to the Buddha cat ALSO became an act of self-care.

We all have full and busy lives and this season tends to pick up speed, momentum… and stress. See if changing your language from “I have to” to “I get to” changes how your To Do List feels. And while you’re at it, you can experiment with making everything on that list an act of self-care, service…or both.

Thank you, dear reader! I’m grateful for you. Happy Thanksgiving. 


At various times in the past week, my art room spilled from my office into the living room and occasionally onto the kitchen table. I’ve had watercolors drying on one table with pens and pencils scattered around on the floor and paper, notes, and quotes interspersed in all of it. At any given time, there were at least two pairs of glasses in the mix, a couple of rulers, scissors, and some glue.

After art-ing for a while, I take some time to go through what I’ve made and decide which pieces I might use and how. But then I pop up from my art bubble, survey the mess with uneasiness. Even if I know I’m going to make art again in the not-too-distant future, I’ll clean it all up and put everything away.

It’s the process of creating — whether it’s in an art studio, a kitchen, on a construction site, or in a relationship. We messy things up, get out all the tools, the paint, the ladders and then we chop, draw, sauté, talk. Then, we pause and evaluate where we are and clear things up before creating some more.

I know builders who leave the site a jumble of scraps and tools and sawdust throughout a project. I know artists whose studios are in a constant state of disarray. I’ve had times in my life when relationships resided permanently in tangle of unresolved conversations and issues. I’ve heard it said that it’s all a work in progress so why put everything away if you’re just going to get it out again tomorrow?

But when I do that, I can’t find what I’m looking for, I forget what I’m doing, and I get easily distracted from what’s important. Art gets damaged or lost. Time and energy and food gets wasted. People don’t feel heard or seen.

I know people with woodworking shops that are so meticulously organized that they rarely use them. I’ve seen gleaming kitchens of granite and steel that never have sauce on the counter or a pile of pots in the sink. I’ve known relationships that stay neat and tidy and polite and don’t get much below the surface.

When I over-focus on the tidy, creativity and exploration rarely happen. I stay in safer waters, where growth and possibility (and awkward feelings) don’t come into play.

For me, the best is a mix of the messy and the clean. In order to be more centered, clear, creative and adventurous, I have to messy it up, then clean it up, then do it again. Play around. Experiment. Muck about. Then clean it up. From there I can figure out where all my tools are, what the next step might be, and what I needfor the next round of creating.

It’s a cycle of chaos and order, over and over again that moves us forward and keeps us growing. It’s the back and forth from mess to clean that keeps us from getting mired in the clutter or hamstrung by the neatness.

Whatever you’re doing, messy it up, then clean it up, then do it again.

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