Monday, September 29, 2014

Staying aligned with your intention

Blogger Quinn McDonald wrote recently of her practice of choosing a word to consider during the year. To keep herself engaged with that word and its ideas, she sits down and writes the word into her daily calendar on every few pages. When I read this, I had one of those "wow, why didn't I think of that" moments.

Each year I choose an intention to live by and I'm pretty good about staying aligned with it for a few months. First, because it's new and kind of exciting. Second, because I talk about it a lot with friends in those early months. But then time moves on and I'm not in that same excited space and other ideas and commitments intervene.

So I love the idea of writing this into my calendar every couple of weeks to check in with myself.

If you’re not really what you stand for, then the things that matter the most are always going to be at the mercy of the things that matter the least.

- Cheri Maples, "She's Got the Beat"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A great quote

  • Only in the oasis of silence can we drink deeply from the inner cup of wisdom.--Sue Patton Thoele
By the way, check out for a lot of great food for thought

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Embodying "It's not too late"

In my recent newsletter, I wrote about seeing Crosby, Stills, and Nash on stage and being thrilled by their continuing creativity into their 70s. When you go to a three-hour conference and hear new music by elderly guys, you know it's not too late to do those things you want to do. 

Sure, you may not have enough time to become a concert pianist or a black belt in karate, but who knows? Maybe you do. You can at least get started and see where it takes you. I started painting well into my 50s and seriously writing even later than that. And I'm nowhere near stopping.

I'm a part of the first year of the Baby Boomers (born in 1946) and I know we are doing old differently than our parents did and way differently than our grandparents did. We're retiring later, we're retiring slowly, and some of us aren't retiring at all. 

And many of us are starting new projects, developing new skills, getting revved up for this next part of life. How can you embody "it's not too late" for those around you?  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Poem from the Japanese Garden workshop

Last Tuesday I taught a workshop at the Japanese Garden called "In Praise of Small Things." One of the activities was to explore the garden for a while and notice 10 small things and make 3 notes about each one. Then, when the participants returned to the pavilion, I asked them to pick one of those things and write a recipe for it.

Here's one I wrote:

Koi Kuchen

1 cup each copper, gold, and white  
A large pond, not too cold
6 1/2 rays of sunshine, fairly thick
1 or more deep shadows
Assorted scales and muscles

Mix the scales and muscles well. Add the colors. Be careful not to overmix them. Patches are best. Shape into slim bodies, blunted snouts, and flexible tales. Drop one at time into the pond. Intermingle the sun rays and deep shadow. Allow to thrive.

Serving portion: 20 minutes of meditation each morning

Sunday, September 21, 2014

168 is all we get

There are 168 hours in any week. 

If I...

Deduct sleep: 105 hours left
Deduct maintenance and meals: 77 hours left
Deduct paid work: 47 hours left
Deduct reading and TV: 37 hours left
Deduct writing: 30 hours left
Deduct time with friends: 23 hours left
Deduct futzing and miscellaneous: 10 hours left
Deduct painting: 5 hours left
Deduct spiritual practice: 0 hours left

An interesting way to look at where time goes. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Recognizing sufficiency

In the money program I've been participating in since February, we talk a lot about living from sufficiency rather than scarcity. Money has a whole different effect on us when we believe there's enough, however much that is, instead of always thinking we need more. And of course, this has great importance for those of us who are addicts because we always think we don't have enough of whatever it is and that we should stockpile more.

So I've been looking for ways to register sufficiency and satisfaction, working to become conscious of moments when I feel content, happy with the way things are in that moment. And I've developed a mantra that is really helpful for me. When I find one of those moments, I say to myself (or out loud sometimes), This is enough. Right here. Right now. 

Recent sufficiency moments: Holding Evie, listening to her purr, and rocking in the rocking chair. Talking with friends over dinner last night. Lying in bed listening to the crickets of Marin County out the window and feeling the cool breeze wash over me after a very hot day. Eating an extraordinarily delicious black plum. Hearing a woman I don't know well say how glad she is to be getting to know me. Feeling love for my best friend. Walking on the beach with my sister.

What for you is enough, right here, right now?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Office support


Saturday, September 13, 2014

A good thought

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” ― Karen Lamb

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Poem from life

My Faithful Fans

Yesterday morning
I turned off the fans
the ginormous standing soldier
at the front door
the white box that
tries to keep the kitchen cool
the little hefty Vornado in the office
that follows me around the room
like a puppy
My bedroom has two
so I have breeze from two directions
on those nights it's too hot outside
to open the windows
I appreciate my fans
and their faithful service
but I've grown weary
of their clamoring attention
the constant chatter
the noise so white as to blind my ears
I don't hear the phone ring
or the lovely purring of Nellie
from across the room
They've saved me, they have
they've made my apartment bearable
but like too many guests
they've outstayed their welcome
They've made my home
an unfriendly place
I'm ready to have the quiet again
the quiet that comes with the cool of fall

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Considering our legacy

In our money group webinar last week, we talked about our legacy. Of course, there's the money you leave behind if you have it (or property or stock or whatever wealth you have accumulated that you don't need for yourself). But we spent more of the time talking about the other legacies we leave behind.

Some of that may be good works. Perhaps we volunteer for an organization or work for a good cause with donations of time and money.

Our children, if we have them, and their children are also a legacy, and if you have been a compassionate and conscientious parent, either when they were young or when you yourself came into maturity, that is a wonderful gift to the world.

And we spent time talking about the legacy of ourselves. Who we are in the world and how we are in the world. On average, we interact with about a thousand people a year in mostly casual ways. How will they remember you? Kind soul? Drama queen? Needy and pushy? Giving and compassionate? I hadn't really thought before about how my daily mood could impact my legacy.

Later in the afternoon I went to the bank and there was a guy with Street Roots to sell (a Portland newspaper put out by the homeless) and I didn't want one and usually I just nod in my shy way and get back in my car. But today I said no thanks and then asked how he was. And he said his brother had had a heart attack and he was worried. And I gave him my sympathy and said I'd say a prayer for his brother Jerry. And when I got in the car, I did. It significantly changed my day.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The value of doing 100

Last weekend, I finished two of my creativity goals for the year: draft 100 poems and write 100 prompts (10 minutes of fictional writing on a give word or phrase). I've done this once before although not in the same year. I find it a very good practice.

The prompts are good for my fiction writing. I practice description, dialog, scene openings. Not consciously of course, they just sort of occur. I'll get into a piece and it's a conversation or I'm describing why an object--a mug, a book, a sofa--is in a room. And because coming up with an idea is part of the 10 minutes, I just go with whatever idea occurs to me. And the more often I do this, the easier it is for me to imagine stories and characters and settings.

The poems are a bit of a different experience. I keep a list of ideas in my creativity journal or I'll sit and think about some possibilities and write down a bunch and then I'll pick one. I spend more time on the poems, sometimes as much as a half hour, but I don't make it into a big deal.

I don't do any editing on the poems or the prompts. These are drafts. I'm committed to drafting them only. They don't have to be good. In fact, many of them aren't. But if as Malcolm Gladwell says, it takes 10,000 hours to get good at something, I'm putting in some of my time on my craft.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Poem from life

Tired Days of Summer

The light is changing
thickening in the mornings now
The breeze carries a touch of fall
Just a hint
Maybe it's the tired exhalation
of the trees
the sap slowing
the greening finished for the year
Like them
I am waiting for summer to be over
The string of sunny days
Has grown monotonous
to this winter baby
who likes it cool and cloudy
who loves coziness
Nothing's fresh now
the petunias leggy
one last bloom on each long stalk
the lushness of my neighbor's garden
now a tangle of the moribund
It is not a bad time, this ending,
this ritual
And if I see it as rest, as quiet
before the turning of autumn
I can still my impatience and
do my own exhalations

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Report on the 31-day challenge

I am a bit past half-way on the 31-day challenge I created for myself. I decided not to wait until September but just to get started and I'm liking it a lot. Checking things off the list satisfies the productive person in me and doing one a day is helping me with my larger goal of not working so hard and pacing myself.

While it is a to-do list, it is not in the least overwhelming because it's just 15-20 minutes a day and I feel no need to take on more than that. Only one project took more than 20 minutes (25) and I let that be okay because the next day I could do one I knew would take no more than 10 minutes and I did just that.

I mostly do these in the later afternoon, often as a break from the computer, and I like that there are so many different kinds of things to choose from. I also find myself thinking about things that aren't yet on the list, so I've started a second list. Basically, I'm just going through my house drawer by shelf by drawer, many of them places I put off sorting through. Feels great!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Something to consider

"The way to find your own North Star is not to think or feel your way forward but to dissolve the thoughts and feeling that make you miserable.  You don't have to learn your destiny--you already know it; you just have to unlearn the thoughts that blind you to what you know."    –Martha Beck