Wednesday, July 30, 2014

straddling two dimensions

Last Friday and Saturday I had two intense days of personal work with Denny Gregg working to heal up some childhood and young adult wounds. Denny and I worked together for six hours each day though the time felt like no time at all until it was over each day and I left in a daze.

I have done inner child work before, some of it with Denny, and while all of it was good and helpful, this was extraordinarily powerful, perhaps because of the length of the experience and the solo intensity, just the two of us working on my experiences. It may also have been so effective because I was really ready to let these things go, not just curious but totally open to something different, something better.

I don't know what all this means or even how to write about it coherently as most of what happened was deeply emotional but I'm so glad I did it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reminders that I need regularly

zen habits: Living the Simple Life

Posted: 24 Jul 2014 11:20 AM PDT
‘A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.’ ~Henry David Thoreau
By Leo Babauta
For almost 9 years now, I’ve been learning to live a simple life.
A life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, and left with space for what really matters. A life that isn’t constant busy-ness and rushing, but contemplation and creation, connection with people I love and time for nature and activity.
That doesn’t mean I have zero clutter and zero complications: I’m a part of the world, not a secluded monk. I have possessions, electronics, distractions, and occasional busy-ness. I just have reduced it to make space.
Today I’ve been reflecting on this simple life, and thought I’d share some of those reflections.
Some things I’ve learned about living the simple life:
  • Decluttering your home and work space can lead to a less cluttered mind. These visual distractions pull on us in more ways than we realize.
  • A quiet unrushed morning is a thing to treasure. I wake early so that I have some quiet time to read, write, meditate.
  • You can’t have a simple life if you’re unwilling to let go of what you’re used to.
  • Letting go can be difficult, but is easier if you do a one-month challenge. Let go of something for a month and see whether you like it or not.
  • Letting go of cable TV was one of the best things we did early on — no more constant television in my home, no more ads for crappy things we don’t need.
  • Shopping isn’t therapy. It’s a waste of time and money.
  • If you’re filling your life with distractions, its probably because you’re afraid of what life would be like without constant Internet, social media, news, TV, games, snacks.
  • Simple, whole, healthy food is not only much healthier than junk food: it’s a pleasure.
  • You have to make time for what’s important: time with your kids, time with your spouse, time for creating, time for exercise. Push everything else aside to make time.
  • Overcommitting is the biggest sin against simple living most people make. I painfully cut out a huge number of commitments to simplify my life, and I’m glad I did. I do this every year or so because I keep forgetting.
  • I keep my days mostly unstructured and unscheduled so that I have room for the little things that are so important: reading with my child, going for a walk, taking a nap.
  • I have certain activities I do almost every day, though not on a schedule: writing, reading, eating healthy meals, doing a workout or playing with the kids outdoors, processing my email inbox, reading with the kids.
  • It’s easy to fill up our lives because there are so many things that sound amazing. We hear about what others are doing and instantly want to add that to our lives. But it’s harder to remember that by adding so many things to our lives, we are subtracting space. And that space is important.
  • By saying no to things that sound really cool, I’m saying yes to what’s truly important to me.
  • Distractions are both more tempting and more destructive than we realize.
  • It’s tempting to fill in every little minute of the day with productivity or distractions. Don’t. Leave some emptiness.
  • We put too much emphasis on excitement. It’s temporary, and not important.
  • We overemphasize productivity. Focus, priorities and effectiveness are more important. So is a nice walk with a loved one.
  • If you can’t learn to sit in a quiet room alone with no distractions, you won’t be able to simplify.’
  • Buying things doesn’t solve our problems. Neither does food.
  • It’s not how few things we own that matters. It’s whether we make those things count.
  • It’s better to have six books on your shelf that you’re really going to read than a hundred you never get around to.
  • When you travel lightly, you’re freer, less burdened, less tired. This applies to life, not just travel.
  • Your attention is your most valuable possession. Give it as a gift to the people you love most, not a bunch of clowns on the Internet. Give it to the work that matters most, not distractions.
  • Sometimes distractions are nice.
‘Let’s begin by taking a smallish nap or two.’ ~Winnie the Pooh

Friday, July 25, 2014

Taking a big leap of faith

I'm headed out today to do an intensive one-on-one workshop with the magician of the inner child, Denny Gregg. I did two group workshops with Denny years ago and they were immensely helpful. Now I'm ready to let go of more of what's holding me back: old wounds, old anger, old grief, old fear. I don't know what the next three days will bring but I'm willing to see what happens. It's not surprising that I came across this quote on FaceBook today. Wish me luck!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tracking where my time went

Last week, July 20-26, on the advice of my coach from the money program, I kept track of my awake time in 15-minute increments. I thought it would be tedious but I did it every couple of hours and it was simple enough. But I do have to say that I was disappointed in the results.

I was hoping to discover that I was frittering away large amounts of time that I could recoup for the many things on my want-to-do list and that wasn't the case. Yes, I watch 60-90 minutes of TV most nights (a Netflix movie or an episode in a series). And yes some hot afternoons I take a nap and read for an hour. But that's about it for extra time and not at all sure I want to give up those forms of relaxation. .

The truth is that I am very productive already, which is great, but I have way more things I want to do than time in which to do them. Another piece of the paradox is that I want to have a more spacious life, a less scheduled life than I do now and still get a ton of stuff done. An interesting inquiry to be in.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Asking my friends about me

As part of the personal net worth exercise for the money program, we were asked to interview some of our close friends and family about our strengths and weaknesses. It would give us more information about our assets and liabilities of personality or behavior. I asked seven of my close friends to answer the following suggested questions about me.

a. What do you see as my key strengths? as my key weaknesses?
b.  What is most distinguishing or unique about me?
c.  When am I most powerful?
d.  In what situations am I least powerful?
e.  If you could wish one thing for me in the next year, what would it be?

It has been fascinating to get their responses and to consider what they see in me and how that matches up with my experience of me. Of course, the strengths are flattering and the weaknesses are great food for thought (after the initial gulp! of being seen as not perfect). And not surprisingly some of my strengths also get in my way.

It's an exercise I highly recommend. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

What is your personal net worth?

Our assignment this week in the money program is to create a statement of personal net worth. These are personal assets and liabilities in all domains except money (we are separately doing a financial net worth).
It's been a most interesting exercise.

I have a lot of assets: for example, a great apartment that I can afford in a great location with a great close friend as neighbor and it has a covered terrace and a porch swing, I have a solid exercise program, I have loving and affectionate close friends, I have wonderful cats, a reliable, high-mileage car that's paid for and it's red, I have plenty of interesting well-paid work, I have a studio close by that I can afford, I live in a wonderful city and a country with many freedoms. I've been working at the asset list for a couple of days and keep thinking of more things.

Writing the liability list is a different experience. I started with a number of minor physical health difficulties and then moved on to recurrent emotional issues that plague me some or a lot from time to time and that remain obstacles to my extraordinary life. The 12 steps keep me pretty free of unfinished business but I have sorrow around several old friendships that died so I put them down. But I'm having trouble thinking of very much.

I think there are two reasons for this. I have a very blessed life. My liabilities are few but real sticklers, problems I resist solving.

What would your personal net worth list look like?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Poem from life

Insectuous Relationships

I have a no-kill policy
I help spiders outside
and the beautiful moths
if the cats don't get them first
Even flies--if they're near the door
I'll usher them out
So when I go
to the land of 10,000 mosquitoes
and yellow jackets
to the rural outdoors, in other words,
it's tough to keep
the same live and let live spirit
with this summer's bumper crop of biters
It's as if I have a target
on the back of my leg
or left shoulder blade
or my third knuckle
I don't mind giving a little blood
Other creatures need to eat too
It's the return gift of venom
that's so unpleasant
Add to that the high-pitched scream
of the hungry shes
On vacation, I averaged two
to three new bites a day
And home I came with swollen legs
and feet with red welts the sauce of saucers

And then there was the yellow fellow
who followed me into my room
after a walk down the road
riding in my hair
I heard the buzzing
Shook my head
He stung my neck
I brushed him off
He stung my hand
I killed him
in a fury of pain and surprise
It all took less than 10 seconds
from encounter to death

I didn't agonize over it
But it got me thinking
about pain and fury
and impulse when the weapon
is a gun and not a paperback
The provocateur is human
and not a yellow jacket

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Understanding where it goes

Today is my first day of a week of tracking where my times goes in 15-minute increments. I'm doing the record keeping in my creative journal and just listing a thumbnail sketch of what I do every 15 minutes. Today turned out to be much cooler than anticipated (thanks to the Goddess for some heat relief), so I ended up doing things outside (dead-heading plants, sweeping the terrace and porches, household chores, some work, reading on the swing with at least one cat always beside me.

I've been asking my coach about time management techniques and he suggested this activity. "It's tedious," he said, "but very valuable. You'll see where time is leaking away and you'll see if you're using your time wisely and just trying to do too much."

I was headed out for vacation the last time I talked to him so I agreed to do it this week. If I'd thought of it yesterday, I could have started then but no matter. I've kept track today and will see how the week goes. If you decide to do this too, let me know what you discover.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Staying out of dread

I have little to no equanimity when it comes to hot weather. I tolerated the summers of rural Virginia and western Pennsylvania with air conditioning and learning to move much more slowly but my body responds to high heat with a kind of general malaise (headache, nausea, lethargy) that is most unpleasant. So I was happy to move back to Portland where there are few wretchedly hot spells in a summer and most of them come in late August when the days are shorter. I don't have air conditioning in my apartment though the last few years have been much easier in the heat we do get because my new landlord immediately put in good windows and insulation so that I can keep whatever cool I've got going.

For the last 10 days I've been on Whidbey Island north of Seattle and the weather has been idyllic. It was cloudy with a bit of showers the first few days and then mid- to upper 70s with low 50s at night. It stays cooler not only because of the breezes off Puget Sound but also because it is heavily forested and the shade and oxygen made a big difference. So I've escaped the first part of the current Portland heat wave but I am heading home tomorrow for the brunt of it.

Trying very hard to stay in the now of this coolness, this comfort, and deal with the heat when I get there. Hard to do for a comfort junkie.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Poem from my life

Yesterday I lost it
The magic thread
That connects me to this sacred place
Nor could I find
The bonds of love
That hold me in
The circle of women
Who come here with me
And I went spinning
Out, then down
My manuscript
A folly of failure
With nothing to offer me
Commitment and determination
Like the last of the water
In the bowl of Buddha
Where the robins bathe
I was not cast out
Of the Garden
The lilies and lavender
And sweet herbs with their
Green and purple scents
Still wafting in the warm air
The hummingbirds still at play
In the crimson poppies
But I wandered adrift
Untethered by purpose
Or enthusiasm
These steady companions had vanished
As if sucked from my soul
By some force unseen in the night
I did not try to understand
To call in Mind and Reason
Instead I floated listless
And let the sadness
of loss and disconnection cradle me
Hoping that the thread,
The lifeline
Would find its way back to me

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Food for thought

You have journeyed for many days unable to speak. You know words but have had no voice.

One day you discover you are able to speak.

What do you say?

From Peg Edera's lovely Journey Cards (

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Poem from life


Remnants of her younger self
Lingered in bathroom drawers
Eye polish, liner, blusher
Nail polish, perfume
Silver jewelry rolled into a special bag
That kept the tarnish from taking over

She'd stopped using it all years before
She was beautiful or she wasn't
And she could no longer see
How embellishments would
Make any difference

She was aging well
Thanks to her mother's gift
Of good skin
A good hairdresser
And the extra pounds that kept
Her face plumped up
She didn't stay fat
To look younger
But it was a nice side effect

She'd made a conscious choice
To let go of makeup
But she didn't know why or when
She'd given up wearing
All the lovely jewelry
Too fussy perhaps
A complication rather than an adornment
She needed things simpler now

Yet she couldn't bring herself
To toss out the makeup
Or give away the jewelry

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ten ideas a day

Since I read the article on practicing generating ideas so it becomes an easily accessible skill, I've been making a list of 10 ideas on something as part of my morning writing routing. It's very fun. Here are a couple of my lists:

10 classes I could take

  1. Portuguese
  2. Flower arranging
  3. Bread making
  4. Life drawing
  5. Color and design
  6. Encaustic painting
  7. Poetry revision
  8. Horse back riding
  9. Weight training
  10. Swimming
10 ways to become famous

  1. Write a porn best-seller
  2. Shoot someone famous
  3. Be a mass murderer or serial killer
  4. Get elected to major office and then post nude photos of myself online
  5. Marry someone famous and have lots of public problems
  6. Get kidnapped in some spectacular way (faked would be best)
  7. Embezzle from a big corporation
  8. Win the lottery and do something unusual with the money
  9. Do very weird art for a documentary
  10. Stalk a celebrity

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The ongoing declutter project

Early in June, I started a decluttering project, 30 items in 30 days. I did 20 items that first day and 10 items about a week later. Good for me. Of course. But I also knew that I was doing a candy ass job. I wasn't making any hard choices and I was hanging on to way too much stuff. So now I'm going room to room and looking at everything in the room, emptying drawers and cupboards. Taking a kind of inventory of what I have and what I need and what I want.

I started in the bathroom because that felt pretty benign. Not too much in there I'm attached to. Then over the weekend I moved to the bedroom and I got a bit more radical. I had agreed with myself to get rid of 12 pieces of unworn clothing. Having a set number to reduce by is really helpful for me. I can always get rid of more than that but I want to reach that goal. And I did. Then I made another decision.

I took everything out of my closet. I put back only those clothes that fit and that I enjoy wearing. The great too-smalls got folded up and put in a trunk. The rest went in a bag to give away. My closet has about half the clothes in it, it did before. I no longer have to look at the size of something to see if I can wear it. If it's there, it fits. I don't know why this didn't occur to me before.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Poem from life

Getting along with my ailing getalong

Like Walter Brennan,
an actor in a silly TV show
from the 1950s
I now have a hitch in my getalong.
Like most American women
of my generation
I learned a circumspect walk
No free and loose swinging
of the hips for us
We learned to walk tight
Freezing the pelvis
to enhance our modesty
It didn't save us from
construction worker catcalls
or sailors' whistles
And it has given me
hip muscles that are now
a literal pain the butt
I never meant to be a tight ass
To have gluteals like concrete
I just didn't want to be a floozy
Now I wish I'd been more floozy
As a loose woman
I'd have had hips
That would be serving me better now

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Original thoughts are back!

On Saturday on the treadmill, I had two original thoughts. One pertained to the revision of the novel I plan to work on at writing retreat this next month. The other was a title for a novel I want to write. Why is this cause for celebration?

For over a week, I had remained partly under the influence of the tooth-extraction drugs. After 48 hours I wasn't fuzzy headed any more and I could everything I needed to do. But mostly I was just reacting, I wasn't generating. I experienced this difference about six weeks after I got sober in 1989. I was driving my car and I dreamed up something new to do in the classroom. And I realized I hadn't been creating much of anything for an awfully long time.

So Saturday when the title came to me (Your Lover After Me) and the idea of how to explain the detective's illogical choice in Broken Boy, I knew I was my old self again. Welcome back to me!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014