Saturday, December 31, 2011

less adventure


I think I'm starting to catch onto how this "One Little Word" thing works for me - it seems to have become an interesting annual process of digging into what I need, revealing where the blocks are.

In 2010 my word was DELIGHT. Upon review at the end of the year I chose REST for 2011. It would seem that by living with the word "delight" for twelve months I realized, consciously or not, that in order to feel delight I needed to rest. And now, interestingly, after a year of working with rest, I find the word LESS has selected me for 2012.

Seriously. This is not a word I would have imagined choosing, but there is no question that this is the word for the year. Every time I think about it I feel wonderful - light and spacious and grounded and present - so there you go.

And it is very clear to me that if I'm going to rest deeply, I need less. Less worry, less stuff, less in my mind, less in my space. It has become clear to me that I can only love so many things well. I trust the rest of the world to love the many things that aren't mine, or at least not mine for much longer.

As my inspiring friend Lis posted on her blog, less is indeed more! (If you do yourself the favor of checking out her post, please read all the way through the John O'Donohue blessing - that last stanza completely sums up my feeling as we bid 2011 adieu!)

Happy New Year, all you dear souls! May 2012 offer you all your heart needs.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

light adventure

winter light

"Make of yourself a light." ~Buddha
"You are the light of the world." ~Jesus

During this winter solstice week I've been thinking a lot about light. I'm intrigued by the seasons and how they bring invitations for us to participate in the natural world. For instance, fall seems to be a time to savor the bounty of the activity of spring and summer and to start turning inward and let the outworn go.

It just occurred to me this week that the various winter holidays, with their emphasis on light, are a perfect invitation for us to experience the natural movement of bringing light. What if we look at the holidays as an opportunity not only to celebrate the return of light to the world, but also to join in? What if we look at this as a time to bring our light to the world? What if the food we make and the gifts we give and the company we keep are reflections of our light?

Whoever you are and however you're celebrating the winter holidays, your light is beautiful. Let it shine.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

renew adventure

This past week brought a welcome rush of energy and forward motion on several work projects. It also meant I was very much in my head all week. This weekend I've tried to get back into my body and the world around me. So I'm avoiding too many words and too much time on the computer. I thought I'd share some recent images instead. Enjoy! And take good care of yourself this week as we head into the holidays.

elegant puddle



Sunday, December 11, 2011

dark adventure


I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
Which shall be the darkness of God.

~T. S. Eliot

This has not, historically, been my favorite time of year. I get really worried about ice and snow. I've been known to go into a manic frenzy of gift making, trying to ensure everything is Holiday Perfect. But as I share in this guest post on lovely Steph's blog, Creative Living Experiment, I think I'm starting to make my peace with the shorter days of December. I'm so honored to have been included in this series of reflections on the Solstice!

This week, as I was catching up on my Sun magazine reading (up to November, folks!), I had one of those perfect-thing-at-the-perfect-time moments reading an interview with Michael Meade. Holy moly! It totally knocked me out:

"When I was growing up, I liked big questions: What is life all about? Why are we here? Eventually I learned that the key question involves the meaning seeded within each individual life.

"Almost all cultures have the notion that there is a judgement when we die. Some kind of accounting has to be made of one's life. I believe God - and to me 'God' is just shorthand for the ineffable divine presence - has only one question for us at the end: 'Did you become yourself?' We have a seeded self that begins to germinate at birth. Our true goal in life is to become that self.

"There's an African proverb: 'When death finds you, may it find you alive.' Alive means living your own damn life, not the life that your parents wanted, or the life some cultural group or political party wanted, but the life that your own soul wants to live. That's the way to evaluate whether you are an authentic person or not."

Yes, yes, YES!!! Now we're talking. And the amazing thing is that when you read this, don't you know exactly what self he's talking about? Isn't this incredibly liberating? Perhaps you're already living that life, and if so, hooray for you - keep going. But for the rest of us who secretly know who we are, but still look to the outside world for approval and encouragement and thus are constantly thrown off the path, doesn't this just feel like the best manifesto ever? I can't tell you how inspired I am to live my own damn life:) Hell yeah! Now this, my friend, this is the God who is waiting for me in the dark.

If all of this rings your bell the same way it does mine, you might also enjoy these videos: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Plus you get some Very Dramatic Music.

[Also, I just watched an amazing John O'Donohue video from Sounds True right along these lines. Can't help but share!]

Other good things rocking my December world have been this incredible episode of This American Life (continuing the theme of the listening adventure), which really basically cracked me open in the best possible way. Also, super excited to have received the first crate of our local Community Supported Art program. It includes five amazing pieces of artwork by local artists, including (delightfully enough) my totally fabulous dentist's son!

community supported art - 1st share

Sunday, December 4, 2011

listening adventure


I love listening to people talk about things they're passionate about. And some of the best conversations I've heard lately have been on "Insights at the Edge," Sounds True's weekly podcasts with Tami Simon. I especially enjoyed "Difficult Times and Liberation" with Jack Kornfield and "Coleman Barks: Rumi, Grace, and Human Friendship". They're such good company and especially welcome in the car. Perhaps you might enjoy checking them out?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

thankful adventure

finch and friend

These days I'm dazzled by the power of gratitude. It seems like the only appropriate response to so much of my life. Every time I hear about or see all of the suffering in this world and I find myself scrambling internally to justify why it isn't happening to me, I've started just being grateful. It's crazy how lucky I am. And that includes your visiting me here. Thank you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

fire adventure

on fire

As a librarian, I've been in on the whole ebook debate for years. For a while we all just tried to pretend it wasn't happening, but then our library started offering ebooks and we had to try to help our patrons use them. I was able to keep out of the fray for a good long while. People would ask me what I thought of ereaders and I'd say that I could definitely see the appeal, especially for folks who travel a lot, but at the time I didn't feel that I needed one.

Also I oversee a fine press collection at work and hang out with book arts folks. I think other people who know this about me thought I'd be outraged by the whole ebook development. But to me all of these things are tools, really. And I will out myself here and say that I am really not attached to books as objects so much. OK, to be really honest I'm just not a fan of old books. I enjoy a beautifully designed book as much as the next guy, but I'm not a big history person. Old does not mean good in my book necessarily. It is just as likely to mean musty. I guess I'm really a better Buddhist than librarian. Let's just say I have a deep respect for impermanence. So, while I love owning some books that are like dear friends, I'm not just a print books=good kind of person.

And I'm a former Merlin owner and devotee. Oh, the hours I spent pushing those little red lights! So I totally get the appeal of shiny handheld devices.

Anyway, fast forward 30 some-odd years from my Merlin days and now I'm responsible for actually helping our patrons use these various devices to read ebooks. And in not using these myself, it has started feeling like giving directions to someone on Mars: "Do you see a crater? They mention a crater..." I'm pretty used to just blocking out mention of new gadgets in popular culture. I don't have an iPhone or an iPad. I'm really all about trying to simplify my life and these didn't seem to fit that plan. But then in a staff meeting someone described the new Kindle Fire (brace yourself for more ereader questions after the holidays) as "the poor man's iPad".

Well, that sounded pretty great to me! I'd actually been wanting to read a book by Leo Babauta that came out last month but only as an ebook. It hadn't seemed at all appealing to download it to my laptop, so in the back of my mind I'd already been thinking of getting a really scaled-down Kindle, but hearing that the new Fire could access the web made me do a little more research. It was when I heard that there was a Netflix app that I knew I had to make my move.

So I'm a proud new Fire owner and thus far I'm completely delighted. My expectations were pretty low - just wanted to be able to answer patron questions better, read books from the library, and stream movies, so everything else I discover I can do makes me dance in joy. And I've been doing a lot of dancing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

breathing adventure

free green tomatoes

Amazon did me a huge favor this week by recommending that I might enjoy Priscilla Warner's completely delightful memoir, Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life. Holy moly! Does that not sound like it was written especially for me? Memoir, year-long, breathing, and calm. And it has been as good company as I'd expected.

I may not have mentioned here how much breath is with me these days. My good buddy, Jon Bernie, has been my constant companion in my car for the past several weeks - love his podcasts. And one day I realized that I listen over and over and over to his good instruction on getting grounded in one's body. And I totally acknowledge that this is something I really need. And yet, I'm so much like the person in Pema Chodron's description of someone who gets a prescription from the doctor and shows it to everyone and puts it up on the wall and never actually takes the medicine.

So lately, when I remember (oh ignorance, why do you plague me so!) I'll take a few minutes to just feel my breath being breathed. I'll just feel my natural breath in my body, not forcing or manipulating any of it, just being with it exactly as it happens. And it's crazy how the colors around me get brighter, how calm and connected I feel, just by doing this super simple thing. And the even crazier thing is how I'll either forget or tell myself I don't have time to do it. Seriously. It takes 30 seconds.

I'm thinking setting a year-long goal like Priscilla Warner did might be a really practical support for sticking with this practice a little better. Of course, her book deal might have done something as well... And I'm exploring signing on a companion for my spiritual journey. I'm just realizing how much I drift. That or become my own personal jailer. Too loose or too tight, that's me. And so I often dissociate and kind of wake up a week later unmoored and amnesiac about what might help, with no memory of where I might have left my spiritual toolbox.

Anyway, Priscilla Warner and I have been traveling similar paths and have similar toolboxes, although hers seems to be getting more use. But that's just inspiring to me.

light and leaves

Saturday, November 5, 2011

gentle adventure


A Gentle Proposal

Go gently into the streets to protest the war.
Go gently into discussions with your neighbor
about the price of oil and human life.
Go gently into your own kitchens and living rooms.
into your schools and workplaces.
Go gently into your houses of worship.
into your hospitals and prisons.
Go gently into your opinions of world leaders.
And go gently, ever so gently, into your own mind.
Otherwise, what have you really accomplished?
If you go with aggression, you may win the battle
but you won’t stop the war—for aggression is war.
All wars are lost as soon as they’re begun.
So go gently into the very thick and heat of battle.
Go gently, and even if your cause does not prevail,
there will be more peace, in the world, than before.

~Joe Zarantonello

The planets finally aligned correctly and I was able to spend a lovely day with the delightful poet and teacher, Joe Zarantonello, as we explored the Lord's Prayer in its original Aramaic. Truly food for the soul. And this poem from his book, Green Bamboo, seemed very appropriate. Yes, there's a lot in this world to be challenged and changed, but there's also so much anger. I don't know about you, but I can certainly use this encouragement.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

ease adventure

fall colors

One of the many nice things about having a lovely, long vacation is that it shakes up one's routines. And I am a woman of routines. Maybe it's part of being an INFJ, but I'm constantly trying to come up with a perfect daily routine that will take all the stress out of my life and hopefully set me up for major spiritual awakening.

What this meant before my trip was that I was constantly racing against the clock to try to fit in 20 minutes of centering prayer (which is only half of the recommended practice) and about 15-20 minutes of writing 750 words in the little bit of spare time I have. But a funny thing happened while we were in New York. The centering prayer fell completely away, immediately. And then one night after we got home from a lovely day of exploring the city and having a delicious dinner with friends, I just didn't turn on the computer. I realized the next morning that this meant I'd broken a 130+ day streak of 750 words. (For those of you in the know, look for my name on the Wall of Shame for the October Challenge. And soak it up.)

In the past this probably would have put me into a cycle of shame and regret. Instead I had a good laugh and felt a weight lift off me. What has been coming into the space left by these practices is a gentle, easy just being with myself. Instead of racing through my life to pack all of it in, I'm feeling like there's more space just to attend to these different aspects of my life, and by not feeling under stress to do it I'm enjoying it all more. I'm paying a lot more attention to how things feel and judging it all less. It all kind of has become very beautiful and sort of delicious, just by seeing it as it is and having the time and space to be with it in a more realistic and less perfectionistic way.

By writing this, I'm definitely setting myself up for a major swing in the other direction. And that's fine, actually. I'm seeing that I always learn something from the hard times, too. I'm learning to welcome it all. Part of that has been noticing how much I try to dance as fast as I can to keep things good, to feel happy. I can feel like a roach under a glass, spinning faster and faster trapped in trying to keep it a certain way. And I've noticed that part of that is a desire to feel like I deserve it. I'm doing the work so I deserve the goodies.

But in being with that feeling, I've realized what I'm secretly avoiding while doing that dance of worthiness: just feeling grateful. By trying to do it all myself, I'm avoiding the vulnerability of just relaxing and feeling grateful. So I'm exploring a bit of surrender and ease. I'm enjoying attending to my life in a more present way, especially fixing warm and nourishing food as the weather allows for more time in the kitchen. And I'm surrendering to feeling grateful for all of the lovely gifts I receive every day, from the amazing people I'm so blessed to have in my life to the gorgeous display of fall color in my physical world. There is so much to be grateful for.

A line from that Czesław Miłosz poem, "Late Ripeness," I explored this summer has been a regular companion lately:

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part
of the gift we received for our long journey.

I think it is pride that's kept me from using that gift, but I've taken off the wrapping and I'm so grateful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

city adventure

Just back from an amazing week in Oz (aka New York City). Man, do I love that town. And the visit was truly full of magic.

gaby restaurant

new york public library


marimekko lights

top of the rock 3

new guinea sculptures

happy sweetie

joan mitchell detail

circle line 3

statue of liberty

chelsea graffiti

nick cave soundsuits

high line

chrysler building farewell

A huge thank you to the travel gods and all the dear souls who made our time there so special!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

kinship adventure

Photo from Buck Brannaman's website

"I've started horses since I was twelve years old and have been bit, kicked, bucked off and run over. I've tried every physical means to contain my horse in an effort to keep from getting myself killed.

"I started to realize that things would come much easier for me once I learned why a horse does what he does. The method works well for me because of the kinship that develops between horse and rider."

~Buck Brannaman

I know, first no movie recommendations, and now I can't stop, but I watched Buck this morning and was blown away by his pragmatic, compassionate wisdom. For me, it was a major lesson in the care and keeping of one's soul. May you be attentive and gentle with your own this week.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

inspiration adventure

Temple Grandin

Opening Our Eyes

Dhamma Brothers

It's been a while since I've recommended any movies, but here are some recent highlights. They inspired me, they humbled me, they cracked me wide open.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

summer adventure

sweet faces

Amazing how this beautiful planet keeps spinning and before you know it another season is here. So I thought I'd like to look back at this summer and take stock of what I learned from her:

*I'm a contemplative mutt, a happy contemplative mutt

*Steaming farm fresh eggs is the way to go, although I'm still finetuning the timing

*Just because my work was really mellow in July didn't mean August wouldn't come along and basically kick me in the side of my head

*I really want to learn Spanish, even if it would make sense to learn Italian or brush up on my French for the traveling we may be doing

*On a related note, I could listen to this song every day

*When shooting off That's Your Problem fireworks, pay attention to the label and make sure they're well secured

*It may be time to take an ecourse hiatus

*Watching tree frogs eating moths on the window of our back door while I'm eating dinner is pretty much paradise

What did you learn this summer?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

calm adventure

good advice

A sweet friend gave me this wonderful mug recently and I love drinking my Rooibus tea out of it. It's such a welcome message every morning, as I can feel myself getting revved up about my day. I'm so grateful to be reminded that #1 I'm not living in war-time Britian, despite the level of fight or flight might be feeling, and #2 keeping calm is a really wise option. Carry on, my dear friends! And have a great week.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

safari adventure

We had such a fun time at the Nashville Zoo's Sunset Safari this week, having been very generously gifted the tickets. Wandering around a zoo at dusk, eating delicious samples of amazing food, and having sort of surreal experiences like this - we can't wait to go back next year!

Monday, September 5, 2011

simple adventure


These days I'm enjoying keeping things simple and being in the moment. Instead of obsessing over things, as I'm inclined to do, or trying to pack in too many activities, I've been exploring creating a list of things that really need to be addressed and then working through them, one at a time, just doing what I'm doing and then when that's done, doing the next thing that needs to be done. It's been a helpful way to eliminate time wasters and to put more energy and creativity into the essential things. And essential for me includes exercise, contemplative practice, moments of beauty, 750 Words, simple, delicious meals, and loving the amazing people in my life. Slowing down and living simply feels just right these days.

If anyone wants to join me in my simple adventure, Leo Babauta's mnmlist and zenhabits blogs provide practical tips and inspiring encouragement.

Hope you're all enjoying a lovely Monday, wherever you are!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

zoo adventure

zoo welcome

We had such a good time at the Nashville Zoo last February, we've been longing to go back and become members ever since. This morning seemed like the perfect time. We were there right after it opened and enjoyed some lively time with the animals in the cool morning. I felt blessed with some lovely connections, from feeding the beautiful lorikeets with their sweet little clingy feet to a powerful moment with a peaceful giraffe (my mom might remember her as Htebazile).

giraffe connection




clouded leopard

little critter

Saturday, August 20, 2011

sweet adventure

bee paradise

Learning this week to balance my compulsive drive to keep gobbling down poems with my desire to savor and keep the process fun. So in this spirit I'm just going to share one verse from a current favorite: "Last night, as I was sleeping" by Antonio Machado:

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - blessed illusion! -
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old bitterness.

Although I will say that if you want to read the full poem, it pretty much knocks one's socks off. Have a beautiful week!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

poem adventure

garden wanderings 5

Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.

One after another my former lives were departing,
like ships, together with their sorrow.

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas
assigned to my brush came closer,
ready now to be described better than they were before...

So after my post last week an amazing poem dropped into my lap, "Late Ripeness" by Czeslaw Milosz. Oh, it has been fabulous company! Learning a poem like this is such a pleasure. It feels good in one's mouth and throat to speak such beautiful words and I love how the various meanings of the poem unfold as one gets to know it better. Eventually, there's a fabulous point of union where you feel both like you're in the poem and it's in you. And here's the craziest part - other than the cost of printing it off, it's free! While driving I would recite it out loud, adding a few words at a time. While waiting for the bus I would recite it in my head, testing myself on new sections. This has provided hours of entertainment, a workout for my brain, and deep nourishment for my soul. I was a little stumped on how to read a line in the last stanza and when I found this video I felt like I was in heaven. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

poetry adventure


Lately I've been catching up on a rather amazing backlog of my favorite magazine, The Sun. As you know, for some reason for the past year I've craved memoirs of women going through soul searching times. And now the tide is turning again. I've been able to catch up on a lot of issues, still have plenty more to go, but I'm getting there. It was a delight recently to read the interview in the December, 2010 issue: "Written on the Bones: Kim Rosen on Reclaiming the Ancient Power of Poetry" by Alison Luterman (one of my favorite writers for The Sun).

As often happens with The Sun, this article spoke directly to my soul. I have a profound respect for the power of poetry. At times I've memorized poems that have been great friends to me when I've been in despair. And then when life speeds up again I find I'm moving too fast to give poetry the time and space it needs and it falls off my radar. Just in the same way that losing my sense of humor is a danger sign for me, I really would be well served to notice if I'm able to slow down enough to enjoy a good poem. And, thankfully, these days I am.

This conversation between Kim Rosen and Alison Luterman focuses on the power of reading poetry and learning poems by heart. While they touch on the power of writing poetry, they're really talking about the appreciation and enjoyment of making great poems part of one's life. It inspired me to check out Rosen's book, Saved by a Poem, and wander the anthology section of the library's poetry collection.

There I found an amazing series of books, which I'm just diving into, but so far would highly recommend: Roger Housen's Ten Poems series. I believe there are five books in this series so far: Ten Poems to Change Your Life, Ten Poems to Open Your Heart, Ten Poems to Set You Free, Ten Poems to Last a Lifetime, and Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again and Again. Right now I'm reading Ten Poems to Open Your Heart (who's surprised?) and I love the format. He's selected ten excellent poems and after the text of each one he includes a beautiful exploration, not a scholarly essay. He looks at the themes in really human ways, often bringing in examples from his own (fairly messy) life. This is good, soulful stuff. If you've been wanting to explore poetry, but have been put off by dry study of the classics in school, I would encourage you to visit your local library and check out one of the Ten Poems series and try it again.

Have a beautiful week!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

summer learning adventure

brighter learning

I thought this might be a nice time to let you know how all my summer e-courses have been going. Well, they've all been wonderful! And I've signed up for more, which I'll be sharing with you. But let's start at the beginning...

So, the Fear Cleanse, which is coming to a close this week. I'd signed up for this class mainly because I really liked the women leading it when I listened to their free call about the class. And I still do! Gabrielle Bernstein and Christine Arylo are fun and inspiring women who are willing to share their own struggles and stories. They don't shy away from the truth and have a lot of wisdom to share. This class was especially wonderful for me around really valuing my body. I've shared with you my anxiety around visits to the doctor. Perfect timing! I got to work with one of my biggest fears right in the middle of this class - a routine, annual doctor visit that has the potential to elevate my blood pressure for weeks in advance, in anticipation of the dreaded cuff! So that morning I sat down and really opened up to what my fear was in that moment and realized that the biggest problem around these visits is that I totally abandon my body. I am not my body's advocate at all. I totally dissociate. I'd taken my blood pressure that morning and knew that it was really good. I told my body that I was't going to pay any attention to the numbers we got at the office, that I wasn't going to add that on top of the already existing stress. I felt so much love for my body and the really good job it does for me all the time. I wasn't going to let this dear friend down. I was just going to stay in as much of a loving space as I could and not give into the panic and fear. So, I went to the doctor and the cuff went on. I could feel myself start to panic and come out of that peaceful and accepting place. And then the little mantra we've been given for the class popped into my mind. I could still feel my heart pounding, but I had this supportive statement to say and I just stayed with that. And my numbers were great! So, not to say that will happen everytime, but I'm so grateful for this tool and this insight. Two thumbs up for the Fear Cleanse!

feeling reflective at the doctor's office

To say that my life has been transformed by my Centering Prayer class really would not be an exaggeration. I am in awe of what a perfect journey it has been and continues to be. Let's just say that this has been exactly the right thing at the right time and so many pieces seem to have fallen into place.

love this view

And then there are my wonderful photography classes, the Slice of Life Project and Superhero Photo, which started on the same day and run the same number of weeks. Why two photography classes, you might ask? Well, I'd already signed up for the Slice of Life Project when wonderful Andrea Scher announced her plans for a class and I love her and all of the classes I've taken with her, so this was an easy Yes. And I haven't regretted it at all. Darrah and Andrea have really similar, kind teaching styles and the classes are both about having fun with your camera and seeing the beauty all around you. I can use as much support as I can get in this area, so twice is nice! Here are photos that I took as a result of their encouragement that I wouldn't have taken otherwise:


crepe myrtle carpet

prayer ritual

meeting cancelled

school flowers

So I think that's everything I'd shared with you. Since I last updated you on my classes I've also signed up for a Welcoming Prayer online class, which works in conjunction with Centering Prayer, and is also rocking my world, joined the Goddess Circle and am just starting the Goddess Haven e-course, and am looking forward to the SouLodge beginning on August 8. So much goodness out there, people! And I'm just saying Yes, Yes, Yes! Hope you all have a wonderful week!