Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Choosing not to stay informed

I stopped attending to the news (newspaper, TV) about 30 years ago. I found it too depressing. The only exception I made were a couple of very small town newspapers that reported local events and a lot of good stuff about the town's residents.

My parents watched the news every night; they felt it was really important to stay informed. And so I felt guilty for a while when I stopped knowing what was going on in the world. But now I don't.

I revisit my decision from time to time, but I've yet to change my mind. Here's why. First, a large percentage of the news is meant to frighten us into accepting the untrue and unacceptable and lettingcorporations make money on "fixing" the problem. There is little celebration of all the many beautiful, wonderful, kind, and generous things people do for each other, so we get a very skewed outlook.

Second, if something earth-shattering happens, someone will let me know. I don't need to worry about that.

Third, I don't have enough time left in my life to spend on lies, fabrications, manipulations, and demagogues. I don't want to focus my energy on bad behavior and greed and violence. I want to experience the best of others and to do that in person.

I don't feel I'm in denial about the malfaisance and idiocies of our culture and world; I just don't need to know a lot more about it than I already do. 

What is your relationship with the news?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Another great post from Nick Wilton for all of us creatives

3 Steps to Make Your Dreams Come True

By Nicholas Wilton 

If you have a dream, something you are passionate about achieving in your life, sometimes it can be reassuring to look back a few years. How did you previously accomplish something that is now present in your life that was at one time just a dream? 

I do this all the time. In doing so, I have noticed a pattern of behavior. 

There have always been a series of sequential steps taken. They have been present in every journey I have taken from a dream to reality. 

These steps have become so familiar I finally just had to give them a name. I call it the 
Pattern of Desire. 

Maybe this could be helpful for you too. 

Step One – Begin in any way possible. 

This is the hardest step as it involves some degree of courage. Whatever that thing is you desire, whether it is writing a blog, dramatically improving your Art, learning to sing (that one terrifies me) or even quitting your day job to do whatever that is your more passionate about, you first must just do one thing. 

You must begin. The first steps can be small but they are essential. Do that one thing that moves you a tiny bit closer towards the dream. 

The “Living on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, making Art in the morning and swimming in the warm sea every afternoon” dream (Oh you have that one too?) might possibly start by taking a beginning Italian class at the local community college. Getting your Art in a prestigious gallery might begin by taking a trip to visit and possibly just saying hello. 

It is hard because it is an actionable step. You must DO something. You must be proactive. It is scary because any worthwhile dream carries within it the fact that you have never actually been there before. It is all brand new. And that is scary. 

So make it a small step but simply begin it in any way possible. The pattern will not work if this step is not first taken. The world will never know what truly extraordinary thing you were thinking of bringing to life. You simply must first begin. 

Step 2 – Talk about it 

The repercussions of taking an actionable step towards whatever that desired thing is in your life is significant. Almost immediately the payback comes in some form of exhilaration. Pushing send on that first ever blog post you just wrote, or starting to paint on the biggest painting you have ever tried, gives you the secret sauce you need to maintain momentum. It also is newsworthy. 

I always tell my students that the challenges they are overcoming, getting their work from A to B might not be pretty, it might be hard but it is almost always super interesting for other people to hear about. We all appreciate the Mona Lisa but wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear how Leonardo felt insecure the day he painted it? That he was going to work on that other painting of his neighbor’s dog but since he couldn’t find it in his messy studio he just decided to work on the one of that rather plain looking girl he had started but didn’t feel particularly good about?

So let the thrill of beginning enter your life and share it with those around you. Talk about what it feels like to have your first ever reader comment on something you have written, say you feel happy in Italian or share on Instagram a photo of that started painting that is so big it practically couldn’t fit into your studio. 

It is not boasting. It is generosity because your willingness, your bravery to take a step towards whatever it is you desire in your life inspires everyone around you. Talking about it, sharing it also adds to your momentum. Like a child first learning to ride a 2-wheel bicycle, you are wobbly but OMG! I think I am actually doing this and now the feeling is contagious. This is big news. Make sure all those you care about know about it. Tell them your dream is starting to come true. Because, in fact, it is. 

Step 3 – Teach Someone 

I used to think I had to be the world’s biggest expert to teach. I now see how that thinking was flawed. It really held me back for years from helping people because of course I never could really become the world s biggest expert in anything. It is also not necessary. In fact, all that is needed is that you are simply just a few bends down the road ahead of the person you are teaching. So wherever you are on the road to accomplishing whatever you desire in your life, I assure you there are quite a few people behind you wishing they were where you are right now. 

So help them. 

The act of teaching, offering guidance will not only be super helpful for those around you but equally important to you. There is enormous personal conviction gained by teaching. The universal principles of first giving and then in turn receiving – not to mention the confidence and personal authority that all comes with helping others – is often all the additional tailwind that is needed to hold your course steady to the realization of your true desires. 

It does of course take time. It might take years. However, knowing that you are on a reliable course, that there is a worn path ahead of you, makes the journey far more doable. If the journey is familiar, it will be palatable. The path can be enjoyable and even exhilarating. If it is, there is a strong likelihood you will remain upon it. And of course if you do, then that desire that once was only a dream, might just possibly come true.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A report on my spaciousness project

For years, I've created an overarching intention for the new 12 months as I move closer to how I want to be in my life. 2017 has been the year of spaciousness and peace of mind, and oh, what a difference having those filters on my choices and decisions has made.

I've mostly used the spaciousness filter on my schedule and my to-do list. I've lowered my expectations as to what I can get done in a day or a week. I've shifted to seeing my task list as possibilities rather than expectations. I do what I can with a big margin in between for moving around, stretching, taking care of little odds and ends, connecting with friends and family, resting and reading.

The peace of mind filter has trained me to pause before making decisions. Will eating this increase my peace of mind? Will accepting this invitation mean an experience that will be peaceful and satisfying? What will happen to my peace of mind if I take on one more paid project this week? Is there good space for it or am I wanting to say yes out of scarcity, which never leads to peace of mind?

I plan to continue to practice these filters into 2018 as they are a huge gift in my life.

What might a spaciousness/peace of mind filter do for you?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A great way to get two minutes of serenity a day

My niece Lisa Simmons has spent her professional life as a chemical engineer cleaning up toxic waste sites, challenging and interesting work for sure, but not always the most rewarding. Over the last several years, she's been turning her creativity towards quieter things and has developed a wonderful video program called Live Serenity. It's a subscription service and each week day she posts a new 2-minute video of a gorgeous natural location, usually with natural sounds, and reminds us to breathe and be here now. You can watch them as many times as you like and they will run as a loop as well.

I liked it so much I got a subscription for two friends  for Christmas. While this is clearly a plug for Lisa's project, I also want to acknowledge her for creating something that contributes to peace and well-being in the world, a gift we need more and more of.

Check it out at

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding a new way to frame my possibilities for the next year

Last week I had a great call with my life coach. I had felt stuck in creating my annual list of possibilities. There were two reasons for this. One, I had had an immensely rich year in 2017 and it was going to be hard to come up with ideas. But more importantly, I had realized in late November that I wanted to take a whole different tack on 2018 and that I wanted a year where self-improvement wasn't the focus.

We began to talk about what I wanted for next year (not what I thought I should want) and five categories began to form:
  • What I want to learn
  • What I want to practice
  • What I want to complete/end/let go of
  • What I want to create
  • What I want to experience/enjoy
These questions are proving a really interesting way to organize my possibilities for the coming year.

What might be on your list? 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hibernation as a sacred practice

In this northern latitude where I live, December and January are very dark months. The days are short, for evening starts about 4 pm. And because we are a rainy climate, it's often gray adding to the low light of winter. A rabbi friend who lived for many years in Los Angeles was complaining to me about the gloom here, and I mentioned to him my thoughts on hibernation as a spiritual practice.

This is a time of year to slow down, to be inside, to go inside our homes and ourselves. A time for rest and reflection. Nature's energy is low this time of year, all the plants recuperating from the growth season and gathering its energy for the next spring. We can do the same. It's a time to create a rest practice, to read and contemplate. To dream up new ideas but not to put those ideas into practice, not yet.

While I still walk most days between the rain storms and love to gather with friends, I also crave more solitude in this season. I love the candles, the lamp light, the warmth of the interior. I am grateful for it.

What's your favorite form of hibernation?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sitting in the light of death and change

A woman I was once very close to died suddenly last month. She had survived breast cancer 25 years ago and melanoma some years later and was cancer-free. Then she went from a couple of months of not feeling well to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and liver failure in a couple of weeks. She chose not to do a chemo that would only give her a few weeks at best and died surrounded by her family at home. She was beloved by many, including me. Although we had had an irreconcilable falling out about six years ago, I never stopped loving her or valuing what our friendship had brought into my life.

Her passing has seemed very significant to me. My parents are both gone, but their deaths were in the natural order of things. And I have not yet had a lot of close friends die although a woman I was close to in college died several years ago and a man I dated died as well. I miss them both. But they were not part of my psyche in the same way that Jayna was. It's not because we went our separate ways. I have no regrets about that and I know in my heart that we forgave each other and were complete. Rather, two other things have been on my mind.

First, Jayna lived a very full life. By that, I don't mean busyness, although she was active both socially and politically. I mean that she experienced life in a full way, in a pay-attention way. She wanted her life to matter and it did.

Second, the time to live a full life is now, right now, in this moment. Not next week, not when we've got it all figured out or lost enough weight or found the right partner. Now. 11:15 on a Sunday morning. Noticing the gorgeous orange leaves on my cherry tree lover out the window. Petting Frannie who's keeping me company by lying on my notes. Feeling the warmth of the heater on this late fall day when the sunshine is intriguing but cold. Being grateful to be in this life. Now.