Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Listening for brilliance and authenticity

One of the commitments we make in the money program is to listen for each other's brilliance and authenticity. Sounds great. Loving and generous. But I've struggled with this until I realized I was stuck in my black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. The commitment doesn't ask me to interpret everything someone says as brilliant or authentic. That would assume a level of perfection that none of us reach. But I can listen for those times when people are brilliant and authentic.

I can stay open to the possibility that something any individual says can be just what I need to hear, can spark an idea in me, can suggest a solution. Or some way that individual or another individual has of being in the world can model something great for me. Maybe I experience their vulnerability, their generosity, their kindness and see how that can speak to me.

This is also one of those many things that I can make hard to practice or easy to shift into. My choice.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ahhhhh!

Let go a little and find a little happiness. 
Let go a lot and find a lot of happiness. 
Let go completely and you will be free. 

Ajahn Chah

Monday, April 28, 2014

Being willing to be in the conversation

Yesterday I had a meeting with my financial adviser. Investing and long-term planning have never been a strength. In many ways, it was easiest when I had a salaried job and the university took care of that, giving us only limited choices. But working on my own, I had to have advice and I found a well-recommended guy and took his advice and never figured out very much. It was a game that didn't interest me; in fact, it pretty much scared me. 

Then in 2007, before the crash, I changed advisers on the advice of a good friend. The new planner suggested I get out of the stock market quickly and I didn't lose anything but I never went back in. Too timid, too conservative, I guess. I trusted the new guy but I didn't know how to talk to him. I didn't know really how to be in charge of my money. So I just nodded and didn't understand no matter what I asked and he replied. 

I realize now that I wasn't in the conversation. I couldn't be in it. There are lots of reasons for that, but when you have a conversation with someone who can't be in it with you, nothing much can happen. I've been on the other side of those kinds of conversations. With somebody who needs to stop drinking and can't yet be in the conversation. Or somebody who's in a bad job or an abusive relationship. They can't yet be in the conversation of moving forward into something new. 

Yesterday I was able to be in the conversation. It's one of the shifts that's happening as a result of being in this money program. Lots of conversations about money and about asking for what you need. I was armed with more information, the right kind, and knew what I needed and wanted. I also knew that Craig could help me get there. So I was able to create an opening for him to do what he does best. It was a powerful experience. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Seeing a new side to my addictive self

Now that I'm off candy again and really working hard to be mindful, I noticed two interesting experiences recently. On Monday I misread my calendar and showed up at my spiritual director's office an hour early. She's too far from my house for it to be feasible to go home and I didn't need a meal so I ended up at Pier 1, just looking around. $87 worth of looking around. Nothing extravagant. Everything useful. Nothing I needed.

This is a very busy work time for me as some of my editing clients are finishing their PhDs and need someone to edit the dissertation. I had cleared most of my calendar to accommodate some long working days. And they were long and intense. And Wednesday after three days of this, I convinced myself at 3:30 pm I needed to go to Whole Foods for a few items. It wasn't until I got there and was checking out with $55 worth of food that I realized I didn't need any of it.

In both cases, I see that I was using shopping as a drug, as a soother, as entertainment. Just like I used alcohol, just like I use sugar.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Another great post from Leo Babauta on change

Posted: 23 Apr 2014 08:27 AM PDT

By Leo Babauta
There are a ton of people who read self-improvement blogs and books, but never put them into action.
They engage in what’s sometimes called “self-improvement porn”.
I’ve done this myself in the past — it was a form of fantasizing about how I was going to make my life better, get my shit together.
But I didn’t take action because:
  • I was too busy right that moment, so I’d bookmark the article for later. Later never comes.
  • I didn’t have time for a new big project, and this change seemed too big.
  • I didn’t really believe I could do it, because whoever was writing was probably more disciplined than I was.
  • I was looking for inspiration, but didn’t have the energy to actually implement.
  • I planned to do it but never actually made the time.
Amazingly, I overcame all of that. I actually started changing my life (back in 2005), one habit at a time. I started the ball rolling, and found success, and kept going after that. I’m still changing habits today, a little step at a time, but looking back on all the changes I’ve made … my life is unrecognizable from when I started.
I figured out how to go from reading about changes, to actually taking action.
What works to create action? Asking myself these questions:
  1. Is there a small action I can take right now? Maybe I can put something on the calendar, email a friend for accountability, write a blog post about it, start writing out an action plan. If there isn’t a small action I can do right now, I might mark it on an Idea List, but in truth it probably won’t be implemented.
  2. Am I willing to commit to this for a month? Maybe I have too much going on in my life, so there’s really no room for a new habit or life change. Again, I can add it to the Idea List, but if I’m not willing to commit for a month (not necessarily now, but in the near future), then this isn’t important enough to me.
  3. If I do this every day, what change will result? If I write every day, perhaps it will build my career and help people. If I exercise, I’ll get healthier and in better shape. If I eat healthy, I’ll get healthier. If I meditate, I’ll be more mindful during the day. Small actions add up to larger results.
  4. Does this have major meaning in my life? Sometimes the larger results (health, mindfulness, career, helping people) are meaningful. Other times maybe not as much, for my life at least. A new change has to pass this test. I’ll often also ask: “Would the change be more meaningful than the things I’m already doing?” If not, I stick to what I’m doing of course.
  5. Does the pain of not doing it outweigh the fear of doing it? Usually we don’t take action because we’re afraid: that we’ll fail, that we won’t be good enough, that we’ll embarrass ourselves. This fear is actual pain, and so we avoid it. But not taking action also can result in pain — letting myself get unhealthier by eating junk food, for example, might make me feel much worse (physically and mentally) than the healthy eating changes I’m afraid of. Often we don’t take action until the answer to this question is clearly yes.
  6. Can I make this a 2- or 5-minute action? Honestly, I don’t have time in my life for something that will take an hour or three each day. I already have a lot in my life. But if I can boil the change down to a small action (at least to start with), then I can find the energy, motivation and time to get started. Once it becomes a habit, I can expand on it if I really like it. An example: I started running just 5 minutes a day, and slowly increased it until I ran a marathon at the end of a year of running.
  7. When will I carve out time? This is a really key question — it’s not enough to say, “I’m going to meditate for 2 minutes a day starting tomorrow!” You have to say when exactly that will happen. The exact time of day isn’t important (6:07 a.m.), but when in your daily routine (“immediately upon waking” or “right after I shower” for example). You have to commit to this time, carve it out, make it happen.
  8. How can I hold myself accountable? This is another huge factor — if I don’t create accountability, I’m probably not committed and it probably won’t last long. Accountability creates the environment for your habit to succeed. Some examples of accountability: commit to a friend, post weekly updates on Facebook or Twitter, blog about it, join a challenge with your family or co-workers, join an accountability team in the Sea Change Program.
  9. Can I give myself early small successes? This helps overcome the “I don’t believe I can do it” problem, along with starting with just 2 or 5 minutes (which makes it so easy you know you can do it). If you give yourself small successes, you’ll feel motivated to continue. If you fail a lot (which happens when people start with 20 or 30 minutes), you’ll get de-motivated. Small successes: reporting to your friend that you did 5 minutes today, checking off your morning run on a social running app, posting your writing to a blog that other people will see.
  10. How will I make sure not to forget? Another key — most people say they’ll do a new habit and then forget most days. Because they haven’t fully committed themselves, or they haven’t found a way to remember. Some possibilities: send yourself a daily reminder, have an alarm or calendar event set up, put a huge note somewhere you won’t forget, put a sticky note on your laptop, have your spouse or roommate remind you each morning, put your running shoes or meditation cushion in your bedroom door so you won’t miss it.
If I can run through all of these questions, I’ll actually take action on a new change that I’ve read about. And it will very likely be a success.
What action will you commit to right now?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Missing piece of the Serenity Prayer (repost 2)

I was emailing recently with a close friend who is also in the program and I mentioned the Serenity Prayer as a way to look at her dilemma (the serenity to accept what she can't change and the courage to change what she can). She wrote back that it's the wisdom to know the difference that is often her dilemma. But somehow that didn't ring true for me. She's a wise woman who most likely does know the difference.

So what is missing? It takes more than courage to change the things we can. It also takes willingness. Maybe courage implies willingness but maybe they are different. I think of courage as a big burst of something that allows us to do what we don't think we can. We find it in our hearts to shift something. But willingness is the long haul, the choosing over and over and over to be sober, to eat sanely, to not call the abusive lover anymore, to turn off the computer at 6 pm and stay off.

Don't get me wrong. I've no intention of rewriting the Serenity Prayer. It's a lovely and valuable part of the 12 step programs and other religious and spiritual philosophies. But I usually need more than courage to change the things I can. I need willingness too.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reposting 1

Due to a miscommunication with my web guy, a shift happened and some of you didn't get this blog and the next one, so I'm reposting them.

In my money program, many of the activities center around figuring out what we really want in all areas of our life. Saying I want to be healthier or I want to be thinner are fine, but they aren't specific enough to help us make much of a change. In my next round of support for shifting off of sugar, my friend Meredith and I are offering each other email and phone support to make changes. And so I found myself asking her and me what is it that we really want in terms of fitness and nutrition habits and behaviors.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

1. I want to eat four satisfying meals a day that will manage my blood sugar/insulin reactions so that I'm not thinking about hunger and food between meals.
2. I want to be fit and flexible enough to walk five miles without any problems.
3. I want to be able to do three flights of stairs without huffing and puffing.
4. I want all of my belly and organ fat gone.
5. I want to be so relaxed and engaged in my work and other activities that I'm not circling the refrigerator.
6. I want to be fit and flexible enough to easily get up off the floor without assistance.
7. I want to wake up refreshed from sleep every morning.
8. I want to be thin enough to fit in any theater seat.
9. I want to be physiologically calm and peaceful (anxiety be gone!).
10. I want all problems with my psoas and piriformis permanently resolved.

What is it that you really want for your health and well-being?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Meaningful ideas to me

When it’s time to suffer, you should suffer; when it’s time to cry, you should cry. Cry completely. Cry until there are no more tears and then recognize in your exhaustion that you’re alive. The sun still rises and sets. The seasons come and go. Absolutely nothing remains the same and that includes suffering. When the suffering ends wisdom begins to raise the right questions.


—Seido Ray Ronci, “The Examined Life”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April is National Poetry Month

I finished the first draft of my next novel, Vague and Broken Boy, in the last days of March, and because I wanted it to sit a while before I did the second draft, I committed to writing a poem a day for April. Here's the one I wrote yesterday:

We don't have many words for snow here
Oh, we get some all right
We have flurries sometimes in December
Or in January
Even once in a while in March

And every third or fourth year
We have real snow
Steady falling white
That covers the roofs
And the yards
Piles up against the kitchen door
A few inches worth
Enough to stop traffic
In a city with few plows
And a ban on salted roads
And there's a stampede
Of grocery buying
And parents scrambling
For daycare options
Or taking precious personal leave days
To be home
With the snowmen builders
And snowball throwers

But today's snow isn't like that
Although the wind off the mountain
Is chilly and smells of the deep drifts
That it's harbored since December
And although the sky is laden with clouds
It's not the clouds that are
Dropping the dancing white wind passengers
It is the three old trees
That mark the border of
Neighbor and neighbor

For April is not the cruelest month here
But one of the loveliest
And the cherry snowfall
Blankets the yard and the sidewalks
Runs down the gutters
Into splayed-out bouquets
In the flower beds
Blows in and speckles
The red cotton cushions on the terrace
Swirls in when the front door opens
Rides in white against the black
of Tuxedo Nellie's glossy fur

And while the arrival of the cherry snow
Depends on the mildness of the late winter
It comes every year
As dependable as the winter rain
As the reds of Indian summer




Monday, April 21, 2014

Lynne Twist and the Soul of Money

The amazing Lynne Twist, author of the Soul of Money, is one of the teachers of my money program. A global activist, a fundraiser, a philanthropist, she is an amazing teacher and human being. Lynne has given several TED talks and you can experience a bit of her presence here.

http://www.lynnetwist.com/video-gallery/

I also highly recommend the Soul of Money if you're interested in moving from being run by scarcity to being engaged in sufficiency.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Robert Lustig's Fat Chance is a powerful book

A friend recently sent me some nutrition information that included a reference to Dr. Robert Lustig's 2012 book Fat Chance. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist (hormone expert) at St. Jude's Children's hospital and his specialty has been dealing with obese infants and children. Fat Chance is about the global obesity pandemic, where he thinks it is coming from, and what we can do as individuals and society's about it. This not a weight loss book although he makes some suggestions and discusses common diets. It's about eating for health. As he says, you're probably not going to lose your butt fat (subcutaneous fat) but it won't kill you. Belly fat and fat in your organs is what will kill you and that you can lose.

Lustig is frank, funny, and philosophical. He cites a ton of research but in an accessible way. And a recap of his suggestions can be found here: http://www.chewfo.com/diets/fat-chance-by-robert-h-lustig-md-2012-what-to-eat-and-foods-to-avoid-food-list/

This is the first book that has ever explained to me the physiology of why I overeat and why I'm still hungry after a big meal. If you struggle with weight and healthy eating, you might want to give it a read.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fun with Money: A Guest Post

By Margaret Marcuson

Every year I do something for Lent, the 40 days in preparation for Easter. I’ve given up chocolate, coffee and genre fiction (the biggest sacrifice so far). Other years I’ve added practices. Last year I did something fun every day for Lent and put it on Facebook. People are still talking about it a year later.

I’m also taking the money course with Jill this year. As Lent approached, I was clear I wanted to do a practice related to money. What to do? I thought, I could have fun with money every day. That would be a great way to lighten myself up. In fact, the point of Lent is not simply to grimly give things up, but to find greater freedom. My aim is to be freer in relation to money.

So I’ve had fun in a variety of ways through these days:

  • ·         given money to charity.
  • ·         received gifts of money.
  • ·         gave my father a birthday gift that cost me $5.50, two thrift store frames that I put two pictures of my late mother in. (He was thrilled.)
  • ·         finished my taxes earlier than I have in ten years, while listening to movie music.
  • ·         made a cash flow statement with fun pictures added to it.
  • ·         surprised each of my kids by giving them some money.
  • ·         bought myself some great colored pencils.
  • ·         signed up for a workshop that previously I would have thought was too expensive.


One of my goals for the money workshop is to love everything to do with money: making it, spending it, managing it, giving it, saving it. I’m a lot closer than I was a few weeks ago.  You can love dealing with money without loving money itself.

I believe money needs to be secondary not primary in life. It’s a tool, a means to an end. Most of us take it far too seriously. Practicing fun with money has helped me step away from my anxious attachment to it and toward greater joy in my dealings with money.


@Marcuson 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Being alert to life

Starting to wake up is a lot like giving up an addiction. You’re going to go through withdrawal symptoms, weaning yourself from this addiction to habitual, small-minded patterns of perception. You could say enlightenment is no more addiction. You’re just fully awake, fully on the spot, without having to hide out.


—Pema Chödrön, No Right, No Wrong

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in the saddle, er, back on the wagon

I'm not sure why these metaphors all seem related to cowboys, since those old-time cowboys didn't have a Plaid Pantry down the street or a Fred Meyer with 2 for $1 binge-able treats. But I'm confessing that I'm kicking the sugar habit again and am fully back on my food plan.

I have never relapsed with alcohol- for which I'm grateful and for which I don't claim all the credit but I have relapsed on sugar a number of times. Some people find relapse shameful. I don't. I think going back to our anesthetics of choice is among the most natural things in the world for us addicts. But I do find it boring.

What, after all, can I tell you? I was in Trader Joe's in mid-January and the caramels that they sell for Christmas were suddenly on the shelf right above the frozen mango.  I put two boxes in my cart, looked at them, put them back, looked at them again,and bought four. And then I was off and running. The only thing at all different in these three months, and I don't know if it's any kind of a victory, is that when I would run out of treats, I didn't always go and buy more right away. Sometimes a day or two would pass and I'd think I was free of it without having to decide but then there'd be a dessert offered or I'd see something I wanted and I'd buy a dozen.

I didn't go off my food plan, not much. Dairy and gluten have unpleasant side effects for me. And after most of a year, I've lost the taste for them, but not for sugar. Of course not. But I don't want this compulsion and I know the only way to break it is to break it and keep breaking it and keep breaking it until its path in my brain fades away. So here goes again. Yeehaw!

Monday, April 14, 2014

An interesting notion

You get up where you fall down. You don’t get up somewhere else. It’s where you fall down that you establish your practice.


—Ryokan Steve Weintraub, "Umbrella Man" 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Courting the unpredictable

One of the promises the workshop leaders have made to us participants is that we will see unpredictable results: unpredictable ideas, solutions, happenings. And we did some exercises designed to get us to think things we hadn't thought before, say things we hadn't said before, want things we hadn't wanted before.

Because I'd agreed to be all in at the workshop, I put my skepticism aside and looked to see what might happen. I began to listen differently to the ideas other people were saying. Not that I wanted their ideas, although there were some good ones, but I could bounce off those ideas. Soon I was furiously taking notes to review later as food for thought.

My real breakthrough came on the third evening when our homework was to want a whole bunch of things we'd not expressed wanting before. I gave myself lots of time to think and pace around my small room (and out on to the porch to commune with the stars in the clear April night). Here are a few surprising things I came up with:

I want to charge a lot for my art.
I want regular emotional outbursts.
I want to go through coach training.
I want someone to watch over me.
I want one or more of my paintings in an art museum.
I want a 20-year lease on my apartment at my current rent.

It was a fun and interesting exercise to really stretch, to really find new ways. Sure, these are aligned with my other wants but I'd never expressed them this way before. It's a cool idea!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

100% responsible

If you've read my memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, you may remember a story about how I changed my relationship with my dad by becoming 100% responsible for having a great relationship with him. The key to this idea is the 100%. I wasn't expecting him to meet me half-way. I wasn't expecting him to put in any effort at all. If he did, that was great, but I didn't expect him to. It worked and over the next 3 years, we had such a deep and loving connection, far better than I could ever have hoped for.

I've written in here before about the idea of being "all in" to whatever you're doing, coming into things wholeheartedly (or not at all), and we were reminded in the weekend workshop about that idea and given an opportunity to commit to our own transformations and the transformation of the world on a scale of 1-11. We weren't allowed to give it a lot of thought, just put down what struck us as right. I put a 9 down; it included a commitment to some things that are going to be a big stretch for me: deep intimacy, vibrant health, for example, but I could see how I could do those. I didn't put down an 11 because I couldn't see how to reach thousands of people through my work. I was okay with that.

But the next morning during our meditation, I suddenly saw two things. I had a clear idea of a way I could reach thousands of people and I saw that one thing that really holds me back is needing to know "how" before I can commit to an idea. I'm ready to give up that limitation and willing to be 100% responsible for my own transformation.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Relationship workshop in Portland April 27

In January for the past three years, I've had the joy of a week in Florida with my friend Karen Casey, perhaps the best known writer of 12-step books for women. Karen is a dynamic teacher and an inspiring writer and I've learned a lot from teaching with her.

This month she is finally coming to Portland to teach a relationships workshop her with me. Karen will be focusing on relationships with others, a continuing thread in her writing, and I'll be focusing on the relationship with self. I'm very excited to be part of this project.

Based in the 12 Steps, the interactive workshop is open to all women. Sunday April 27, 1-6 pm at Tabor Space. $70. Preregistration required: jill@jillkellyauthor.com

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When talking about your feelings is no longer helpful

It's funny how quickly I decide whether I like someone or not. Over the weekend I met 70 people and made some new friends quickly, grew to like others enormously, and never warmed to some. One of the fellows had seemed very nice during his contributions to the webinars we've been attending and I'd looked forward to meeting him. But once I met him, once I listened to him share with the group the same things he'd been sharing for weeks, once I ate a meal with him and he shared the same issues, the same concerns, the same stories, I could see that he was in a rut.

I felt for him. I did. I've been in some big emotional ruts. Struggled with the same problem for years. But I've learned that sharing a problem and actively seeking a solution are not the same as telling the story again and again. His repetition of his story to anyone who would listen had a deadness to it that made it impossible for me to connect with him. And it took me a while to figure out why not for it was clear that he was in pain about it.

And then after I watched some other people share at the microphone and experienced the aliveness of their story, I realized that when we expose our pain for the first time or two, we are standing in an opening for solution, for resolution. We crack our hearts open and are available for healing. But when we just return again and again to the same crack in the heart, we're keeping the wound going, not healing. We're seeking sympathy not solution.

A sponsor years ago would ask me, before I told her my tale of woe, how many others I had already shared this with. If I sit one or two, she would listen. If I said three, she'd say I'd told it enough and needed to move on. A good reminder.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

What I like about you is...

Among the many powerful exercises at the weekend workshop was a partner activity in which one person tells another person for 90 seconds some of the things they like about the other person. The other person just listens. No comments, no disclaimers, no "aw shucks." When the speaker can't find a detail to mention, they say "what I like about you is everything." And they keep repeating that until they get unstuck. At the end, the listener says, "Thank you. I know." Then they trade roles: speaker and listener.

This simple exercise was so transformative. The few couples or pairs of friends in our group did it with each other, but others worked with a stranger and somehow almost everything that occurred to them to say was right on the money.

I'd done this before but I hadn't noticed so clearly how it completely shifted the energy in the room to one of joy and appreciation.

The exercise can be done over the phone but it's lovely to do in person. It's great to do with spouses and children and grandchildren and friends and coworkers and bosses and acquaintances. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The tree of how's: an organizational system

Over the weekend I got reintroduced to an organizational system that I use from time to time. It involves 3x5 cards and can be used to manage a project. You write each item (outcome, aspect, way) on a card and then lay them out in a way that outlines it for you. Here's one I did.

Desired outcome:  Vibrant Health

Aspects: Nutrition, Better Sleep, More Flexibility, Steady Peace of Mind, Extraordinary Physical Fitness

Ways to get there:

Nutrition: Get off sugar again, find a new food buddy, call J.B. for info, do a big dose of probiotics, get a snack schedule for maintaining blood sugar, take chromium supplements, get back on my coach's schedule, realign my eating with the food plan, reduce oils in my diet, do everything that my coach suggests

Sleep: Don't eat after 7, no screens (tv or computer) after 8:30, have the window open whenever weather permits, get some more comfortable pajamas, feed the cats right before I go to bed

Flexibility: stretch after walking, stretch the last 10 minutes of each gym session, stretch in bed each morning, get over how I feel about yoga, ask EB about a few sessions or take a class from her, do my PT exercises at least 3 times a week

Peace of Mind: Meditate before dinner, journal to write down and empty out the day before bed, join a meditation group, do inspirational reading once a day, listen to soft music, petting meditation, sit on my porch swing any time of day

Fitness: Find a cardio coach that can help with my anxiety issues, alternate intensity with duration, do something every day, figure out zumba, walk before one meal a day, figure out a comprehensive weight-lifting plan, do different things at the gym, ask Alex (age 24) about some great new music for the treadmill, set a goal.

With the card system, you can add new how's any time to another card in the stack and you can brainstorm with friends or buddies and write a card for each of their ideas.

Later, I'll be sharing some other outlines I created. I'd love to hear some of yours.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Just back from an intense and amazing weekend

in Marin County on my money program. I'll be sharing a lot about it as I process the three days of information and transformation. This morning I wrote this poem about the natural end of the experience.

In gratitude

Green is brilliant
In the north of California
In early April
When long-prayed-for rains
Have come at last
And painted the pastures
And hillsides with a young palette
So intense that surely even
The grazing animals must see it

Or perhaps the cattle, the horses, the deer
Smell the green
On the cool air that ruffles
Each blade
Or on the breeze that
Quivers the oak leaves
Quickens the blood

I stand beneath the blue dome
Each particle of sunshine
Each rise and roll of hill
Splayed out before me
Like a banquet
And something quickens in me too

High up enough to wrap my sight
Around a tiny bit of
Her amazing circumference
I fall in love again
With the beauty of my world
And the brilliant green
Of the north of California
In early April

Jill Kelly

April 7, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 11th Step

I went to one of my regular meetings yesterday. The reading was from the 11th Step and it was a birthday celebration for a woman who has been sober 25 years. And as I listened to her share her experience with the 11th Step (Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power), I was thankful again for the original creation of AA's program as a set of suggestions rather than rules.

As an anxious addict, sitting still for long periods isn't easy for me. So I practice walking meditation in my neighborhood and writing meditation with daily journaling where I empty my mind onto paper, and petting meditation with Nellie and Frannie and Mr. Sam and Evie. I calm them, they calm me.

And prayer too is my own version. I see painting as prayer, poetry writing as prayer, conversations with loved ones as prayer, time spent on the beach or in the woods as prayer, and being in AA meetings too.

So wise those original writers of AA!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Something I'm sitting with

From Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche:

If we can allow some space within our awareness and rest there, we can respect our troubling thoughts and emotions, allow them to come, and let them go. Our lives may be complicated on the outside, but we remain simple, easy, and open on the inside.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Angle for bigger outcomes

Part of the default future for me is playing it safe. I make a good living from editing and I could go on doing that for the rest of my life, if my brain holds up. It's pretty interesting and I'm really good at it. My clients are generally very happy with the work I do, and I perform a valuable service as their written work is important to them, whether it's a doctoral dissertation or a novel or a web site. In the face of so much published bad writing, I'm happy to help be part of a trend for better written documents.

So there's nothing wrong with my life as it is. But I want to angle for bigger outcomes. If this is my one chance at an embodied life in this beautiful and amazing world, then I want to spend the rest of it creating interesting characters and wonderful poems and beautiful paintings.

If you were going to angle for something bigger, what would it be?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Stepping out of the default future

I've been rereading some of the materials from a course I took from Dr. Eric Maisel, a long-time teacher of mine, and he talked about the almost inevitable and chronic anxiety of creatives. If we don't start out that way, we end up that way because acting on your creativity, whatever the medium, is anxiety-producing.

Painting and writing, dancing, singing, performing, sculpting--unless you play it incredibly safe, you will be anxious because you won't know if your work is good or going to sell or be well received. Chances are you'll get some yeses and some nos and that will make you anxious too. Creating challenges for yourself and meeting those challenges to the best of your ability is hard work, with no predictable outcome.

My main goal in the money program is to create a new future for myself where painting and writing are much bigger parts of my life, really at the center of it, not on the fringes, and that is making me very anxious. But I don't want the default future: editing, painting now and then, taking an occasional writing retreat. I want to live the rest of my life as a creative, full-time, big time!


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A reader's reply to asking for what we want

My friend Lily Gael sent me this after reading the recent post on what we want. I loved it so much I got her permission to share it with you:


  • I want courage to stay in the dirt and the leafs and seeds and harvest-times with conviction to pass right by the shiny soulless things that still call to me from the corner of my eyes from the marketplaces.
  • I want Rest in the knowledge that I am firmly on My soul path. 
  • I want openness to continued surprise and awe-inspiration events in both my days and nights.  
  • I want a ready-compassion for my naturally waning daily action-orientated energy supply. 
  • I want Love of my body and natural whole food meal-plan (not just an infatuation!). 
  • I want wisdom to keep on dancing; praying and listening from my feet on up.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

I love this viewpoint

Through art, a painter can make the ordinary come alive. As Zen students, we try to bring this kind of relevance into each moment of our lives, into this one moment that contains all moments. In this way, we allow the ordinary to enliven us. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes not, but the work itself goes on. Persistence is one of the major virtues in both the artist and the unenlightened.


—Gary Thorp, "The Dust Beyond the Cushion"