Sunday, March 31, 2013

possibilities adventure


I'm just back from a wonderful visit with my dear father and uncle in Northern California. There's something so special about getting one-on-one time with people who have known and loved you your whole life. And the coast with its spectacular ocean and powerful redwoods was the perfect setting.

The timing for the trip was just right, too. Things seem to be converging these days to help shake me out of a stuck place I've found myself in. I'm starting to see some exciting possibilities and it feels great to think that I, much like the earth around me, am coming back to life.

weathered old friend


Saturday, March 23, 2013

scraping adventure

glass manhole cover

I had the most wonderful time in Asheville this week! I've heard so much about it in the 16 years we've lived here, but we didn't even make it to Knoxville until last year on our heavy metal tour, so it's definitely taken time for us to explore that direction on I-40. Wow! It was a gorgeous drive through the mountains and then Asheville itself is a lovely, funky city full of shops and restaurants. I'll definitely have to go back with my sweetie in the near future.

haywood park ladies apparel

On top of getting to go to Marie Manuchehri's book talk at Malaprop's (the reason for the whirlwind, mid-week trip), I got to have dinner with her and her lovely assistant, Elissa, at Tupelo Honey Cafe. Such fun! Having listened to podcasts of her radio show non-stop on the drive there (it really is the perfect driving companionship) I tried not to come off as the total fan-girl, but I might not have completely succeeded.

happy in asheville

One thing I really noticed on the trip and afterwards, likely because Marie is such an advocate for being in one's whole body and not just in one's head, is how addicted I can be to thinking and planning. At the hotel after her talk I watched myself space out on the internet for a couple of hours, looking at what it would take to become a certified applied poetry facilitator, not even something I really want to do. It was just impulse/action/impulse/action, clicking down the rabbit hole of the web for hours. I did manage to find some great dharma talks by teachers who will be leading retreats at the Southern Dharma Retreat Center in the Smokies this year (now that's something I would really love to do), so that was the background soundtrack to my web wanderings and likely the only way I ever came back into my body and realized I was exhausted and needed to go to bed.

pillow designs

So when I was chatting with Joe Z. this week I told him how addicted I am to thinking and planning, nothing he hasn't heard in our Thursday morning conversations. When he could get a word in edgewise he asked if we'd talked about scraping. I immediately thought about how Marie says to scrape one's consciousness out of one's head and into the second chakra, so I was interested to hear what he had to say about scraping. He's getting ready for a daylong retreat about Celtic spirituality and he'd been reading about how they felt like when we see a shortcoming like this our impulse is to scrape away at it. But to allow healing, we need to see it and then allow the soul to do its work.

Since then when I catch myself scraping through the same old grooves in my mind, worrying about the past, planning for the future, I've started just lifting the needle, like on a record player. It feels so good to be suspended in the air, lifted back into the present moment.

early girl blues

Sunday, March 17, 2013

composing adventure

tiny beautiful flowers

I love Nashville! I love the relative ease and sweetness of my life here. I love not living in the intensity of the coasts. I love visiting the coasts, I really do, but whenever I've been away and my plane starts to descend here, my soul leaps in joy at the sight of trees and HOME. This is the longest I've lived anywhere, by far. And when we moved here I think a lot of people were stumped. But we were absolutely following our hearts. Sometimes we've been as stumped as everyone else by what we're doing here, but I had an experience this weekend that made me want to write a love-letter to my life in this sweet town.

Early last week I was going through my work email when the name Mary Catherine Bateson jumped out at me. THAT Mary Catherine Bateson? I thought, and sure enough, it turns out the author of a life-changing book for me, Composing a Life, was scheduled to speak on Saturday at the Scarritt-Bennett Center, with her friend and fellow anthropologist Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art. Who could resist?

My memory is that my dad turned me and my sister on to Mary Catherine Bateson in the 90s. What a comfort Composing a Life was for two young women at the beginnings of our adult lives, fearing we wouldn't do it right. It was a huge blessing to read life histories of amazing women, histories that didn't necessarily proceed in a straight line, but in which nothing was lost, nothing was a mistake. The women in her book (it turns out Dr. Cole was one of them - the 90s were a long time ago!) lived their lives as works of improvisational art. I may not remember all the details of the book, but that feeling has always stuck with me and as I've created a multi-faceted life of personal meaning and beauty, Dr. Bateson has definitely been one of the heroines in my jewel tree.

So last night I had the incredible pleasure of getting to hear these amazing women talk about friendship, the uniqueness and wonder of each human person, that community can happen anytime and anyplace, that learning is fundamental to being human and you can't over-do learning, and that you can't teach someone you don't love. In fact, if there was one overarching theme to the evening it was just this: love.

What sweetness to go out on a Saturday night and without fighting any crowds sit in a beautiful room, on an almost-spring evening, with windows thrown open and birdsong drifting in on the breeze, surrounded by a racially diverse group of women of all ages, and get to listen to two remarkable women celebrate their friendship and love of humanity.

Yes, I do love Nashville and all the wonderful experiences it brings to my improvised life!


Witness some of Mary Catherine Bateson's magic for yourself by watching her TedXWomen talk here and her Legacy of Wisdom talk here. And I really can't recommend her book Composing a Life enough. You might also enjoy her most recent book Composing a Further Life, which I'm definitely going to need to check out!

mrs butterworth's forsythia

Saturday, March 9, 2013

fun vs duty adventure

1 hour what?

(Let's just say I didn't take this because it made me think of the Vietnamese dish...)

It hit me this afternoon that I'd lost my sense of fun. Not for long, thank goodness, but long enough to be approaching things I'd been finding fun with a sense of duty. Like all my wonderful woo woo adventures - I was finding myself feeling like I needed to find some "hard evidence" that they were "working". Well, that's really enough to take all the joy out of it. Right now doing them simply because I love to and they delight me is evidence enough that they're of benefit. That really is my truth. As Ana Forrest writes in her amazing Fierce Medicine:

No wonder we have so much difficulty discerning our heart's desire; we have to cut through a lot of well-intentioned yet stupid teaching to find out what it is. But if we learn to follow our heart's desire and can get through the initial blowback, if we're taught to follow our Spirit's calling, how could that not be a tremendous gift to our family and community? Yes, sometimes following our heart's desire leads us into some crazy-ass places, but that's just part of it.

Somehow my sweetie must have caught the vibe of fun, too, because when I got home from work/errands today, he had Elvis on the stereo - that's just the quintessential fun music to me! Hope you're finding something that delights your heart these days. Maybe meerkats?

curious meerkat

Sunday, March 3, 2013

lightness adventure

bad neighborhood

This is one of those times that could spin my mind into a bad neighborhood. The stars lined up to provide a very full weekend for a woman who likes a lot of freedom and space and silence and time alone. In other words, no hikes and only one semi-lazy morning for Lizzy. However, the fullness is pretty awesome: a fabulous Enneagram workshop with my dear Joe Z., a completely surprising and delightful talk by Yann Martel, and this afternoon a beautiful anime movie event.

I know myself and what my mind usually spins at times like this: it feels heavy and constricting and I get resentful. But you know, that's really no fun at all. So the feeling I've been encouraging about this weekend is that it is like a beautiful light cloak. I have no idea where this image came from, but I can completely picture some kind of almost Victorian, velvet, forest green cloak being tossed over my shoulders. It feels so light on my skin and does a beautiful job of keeping me warm. So when my sweet mind starts to spin the martyr story, I just feel the cloak. Seriously people, woo woo woman in action. But you know, it seems to be doing the job. I'm working on carrying that lightness into how I'm approaching my time at home this weekend, and so much of that is how I'm thinking about it, or not thinking about it. When I notice my sweet left hemisphere getting going I've been trying to let it do what it wants and focus instead on feeling my feet on the ground and my breath being breathed. Back in the body. And listening to the silence that's in every moment, no matter how loud the environment (inner or outer) might be. Light.

In addition to the mental chatter, another unpleasant coping mechanism I've used in the past on weekends like this is to kind of hunker down, tense up, and keep the experience out. I might work an author event, but I wouldn't listen to it. I might even go up to my desk and work on another project and then come back down to work the booksigning line. But while I'm working on lightness, these days I'm also working on receiving. So yesterday I really opened myself to the experiences and took them in, really engaged. And now I'm digesting them.

So as Regis Philbin would say, here's "what I took away from it all": I got a lot of Enneagram insight yesterday and met some great people, including a lovely woman who runs the Heart Center retreat facility on the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Smoky Mountains. She even has a natural healing and wellness program coming up in April that I'm really excited to learn about. It looks like an amazing place and she struck me as someone I'd love to spend more time with.

I mostly signed up to help with Yann Martel's talk because I knew it would be a big event and didn't know how much help the organizers would have. I read The Life of Pi years ago and was so turned off by the non-animal version of the story I decided that I hated the book. I don't really remember much about it, but I do remember feeling somehow tricked as a reader by the second story twist. Give me that magical realism any day, but don't throw reality at me at the end! So I really hadn't expected much from the talk, but I do love flirting with all the kids and old people while they're waiting to have their books signed. Seriously, somehow I feel most myself and in love with humanity working a booksigning line. Go figure. But I was immediately drawn in by the authentic, intelligent quality of his talk. I loved what he said about how "spiritual thinking augments a life". My heart had been opened being with Joe and the Enneagram crowd and then this talk just poured wonder and possibility right into my soul. Let's just say it was a very good day. Oh, and my sweetie requested take-out pizza for dinner! Icing on the cake.

I hope your weekend is light, delightful, inspiring, or whatever your soul needs right now.

light cloak