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Song of the day: Wisdom from Cage the Elephant

You may have heard this song on the radio if you drive in your car. That is where I heard it. It is my first close listening to Cage the Elephant. At first the sounds, though original kind of remind me a little of Ratitat and Spoon. Though there is a transcendent quality even with the somber message.

Initially, even though it sounded like it was about a relationship, the upbeat pensive lysics spoke to me. About my life. I knew I had to share this. As I was contemplating my life as my work, our calling as people to be our messy selves, and appreciating the tiniest amount of space I wasn’t sure who it was.

Some of the themes mentioned felt like someone else had let go of relationship, important parts of life, and was ready to do it. I had to do research to figure out who it is.

Aside from the chorus, which is a universally relatable anthem:

“Never had control… I’m ready to let go…”

Other lyrics piqued my curiosity.

“Sun went down over Pompeii…”

…which I assumed was metaphorical or historical was actually written after a trip there as it became clear that a relationship was over.

Sometimes we keep thinking we will get back to something good or easier, resolve something, work things out together. We think we can overcome, make it through, or stick with it…even because we are committed, or we think we should be able to.

Yet we actually need to let go sometimes and move on. And sometimes it is hard. Sometimes it breaks us. And it takes step by step action and pausing and decisions to choose simply make it through… and then all of a sudden… I’m ready to let go.

 

 

 

 

 

If I have learned one thing…

It is to take a moment. Take time. Take as many moments as needed. This is okay.

Yet the title of this post contains a lie. I continue to not learn this, and that is why I am writing about it. I could say I have some experience and learning. This dynamic between wanting clarity, feeling fulfillment, coming to a resolution and needing to take time, to slow down, to give space is not going away.

When I drive the road that is 25 mph then I now enjoy going 25 mph. I have no need to go a little bit over; that is what the other way is for. Yet some drivers seem to think that it is a speed target, not a speed limit. Sometimes it seems like even my 25 mph driving is too slow for the rest of the world, aside from Liv the dog who seems to enjoy the slow road, with no need to hurry up and get somewhere else.

There can even be tax deadlines, business needs, or plans we make that seem to facilitate not taking our time. Yet we still can. Even if there can be consequences to taking time. There are also benefits. More seeing, more peace, more confidence. Or it was simply needed. To pause before acting or deciding.

When we are doing art, or learning, or teaching a child something we take our time. We create a space of presence. Nonjudgment. It’s okay if things don’t work. We can take our time to get it right.

What if we lead our lives like this? As if our life was our art work, and we are learning through, and taking our time.

Part two of this will be…examples in experiments from slowing down.

Why write?

I write to see what is in my awareness, to think about things freely without judgment, to work through hard things, to imagine good things…freewriting and also giving permission to follow particular threads or topics has been a practice off and on since 2010.

Today I have 100 days of writing on 750words.com for at least the second time ever, though I think it has been a few years, and maybe sine 2010. One day in October I did not finish my writing, though since the end of September I have written every day. This is telling. There is something working well with this. Some months earlier in 2018 I only completed some days even though I had some streaks of over a month too. But looking back in 2017, there were many more days that year I did not write at all on the site, though I was keeping a journal. So this yearly perspective is valuable; when some other metrics or life situation parts are less inspiring to see.

Writing is one of the most consistent things in my life. Recently there have been a few days where it was the end of the day and I still had not done my writing, around 8 or even n10 pm. This is rare since I often to it first thing.

Between not having internet, getting sick, and having a dog that decides my daily schedule I asked myself if I wanted to keep it going. I could barely do it sometimes and did so with head pain, tired…on a cellphone hotspot a couple of times.

So many things I have not kept going — work, meditation, yoga, running…sickness, triggers, grief, and injuries all got in the way at times. But I am managing to keep up with writing. Something may happen tomorrow. But if so, it will still be here. It is so important to recognize and celebrate that I can do things, I can do something every day, I can write (even if not totally in complete sentences all the time), and I know this is going to happen, if I make it happen.

Writing has become a refuge. It is a place to be however one is. It takes energy. It can reveal patterns about our lives and the world, or just new ways of seeing. And it can be used as a tool and a gift. It can build neural pathways.

And if today is day 1, then great, do that, and notice how it feels. screen shot 2019-01-12 at 12.43.34 pm

 

Waking up our patterns

Ever think about calling that friend you used to talk to or haven’t seen for a while? There really isn’t a reason you don’t call, you really wonder how they are doing and imagine it would be nice to catch up, but it just doesn’t happen. You live in your routine, and they theirs. You barely wonder if they think about calling you. It is as if a forcefield keeps us from doing something about it. Oh, sometime I should call, but then sort of fall asleep to it or forget about it for a while…kind of like when there is a software update and you just click cancel over and over and are managing an awkward series of tech moves to do your work, but you are now numb because it has become a habit.

We settle into routines quickly as humans, and so do dogs from what I can tell so this is to be acknowledged and respected. My dog used to potty by the fence between the house in the apartment. But then she moved from the house to my apartment. Recently I had an epiphany, as I would take her out and she would pee, but not do her doggie business there anymore, preferring to run up or down, to a new area and poo. Maybe it was too close to where we live and play now for her to poo there, or just the overall change in routines, but I am glad I started noticing…she changed. She just has these two other spots now that we go to, for the most part. The patterns are strong. The patterns can change.

Sometimes our friends stop coming around or stop calling due to life circumstance, and we are so busy with our lives we don’t even notice. We are in our own patterns so much. Or we may notice how we are in our same habits with friends or coworkers, despite imagining things could be different, and it either feels good or bad, and it is the same arguments or issues or routines, yet it feels like it has inertia. At this point, at least we would be seeing that there is a pattern instead of simply becoming blind or being numb to it.

There is a word for one explanation for this phenomenon of what could be called a status quo — we don’t we just call each other up out of the blue instead of texting, or just check in with each other more. (Though I have to say, this morning I received an unexpected chat message from a colleague I worked with who I have not seen in months and don’t regularly chat. You can bet I thanked him for reaching out and told him it was good to connect. I was pleasantly surprised to see another person moving beyond their patterns to connect.)

As our life situation changes, then let’s hope we can help bend and be awake enough to stay connected, also as others are facing life changes, such moving, career changes, health issues, or other life milestones. These life changes are disruptive to existing habits and support, so they are an opportunity for new patterns and connection. Or even in more day to say examples, going out of our patterns and habitual ways being is an opportunity to further a little connection and kindness at times in what feels like a world where people are mostly so concerned with themselves that we let the door close on each other at the gas station. The secret is that connection serves everyone involved, so it is always a win-win too.

Maybe it is fear or other emotions or uncertainties holding us back from changing our patterns, especially social ones, and that is simply a reality at times.

At the same time, it can be pretty easy to reach out and make a call or check in on someone you’ve been thinking about. Or hold a door. Or write a letter. Or share some food. Or appreciation someone for something.

 

 

Daily focus

What do I want to feel, experience, and create in my day?

What are the priorities?

What one or so thing am I committing to do today?

There are some things that are important, no matter what, such as eating, sleeping, connecting, and everything needed to have a working and sane body. Sometimes this takes more energy than others. Even more important than exercising. What if I have an injury? Even more important than my routine, which has often felt like the only stable thing, is to take time to make sure I also have everything my dog needs, and it isn’t too cold, and plan enough. What if my plans don’t work out, for one reason or another? And what if this happens over and over again to the point of not knowing what is important, trustworthy, or helping v hurting?

For me the answer is intention, and not what intention but intention itself. Many of us do some kind of routine or practice in the morning to center…I do myself, but what about when I can’t go to the yoga class, I cannot get to the trail, or I cannot do my running?

The daily practice and art of imagining your day, and even having an intention can create a magical new cycle, no matter what. An intention is something one can control; many other things are not, even though we often have the illusion that we will be able to do our morning jog, buy that cup of coffee, or have that monthly paycheck indefinitely.

Maybe nothing makes sense and the task of the day is survival. Or to be okay with something. Quiet down, sit, write, walk, or do whatever to listen. Maybe there is a word or a feeling, or a fully our phrase or image.

Intention setting can take a moment of complete despair and something totally unworkable and turn it into something that just is. And take a whole flat, world of canceled plans, and stopped conversations and turn it into a moment of beauty, connection, or even freedom.

So regardless of the form or the specifics, taking time to cultivate intention, even if it is simply to listen will add just the energy that is needed. Anyone can do it, and it doesn’t require special movements or an injury free body. This practice of creating intention and practicing throughout the day supports a focus for the day and the moment that can be as powerful and magical as anything else I have found. Plus it is totally compatible with religious and spiritual practices as far as I can tell.

Being able to have a focus even if for a moment, can change everything. It can even be so small or so survival-based — what matters is just being able to direct our energy somewhere, instead of just being stuck or random.

So whether it is a feeling, a sense, a word, or a full out story, consider the intention. Holding the intention helps us attend to what matters, and safeguards against distraction, busy-ness, and complexity.

And if you aren’t sure what an intention is or where to focus, then consider what feels healthy, whole, and good to you. Work with and observe that for a while.

Resolutions Reframed: Practice or Project?

I can’t stop thinking about resolutions, plans, goals, and purpose. Both the fact that many of my recent plans have not happened and the fact that winter and the new year is here are working on me.

New Years Resolutions don’t work or don’t make sense for many. I think this is because often either there are unrealistic expectations, or even needs, for change, and also because maybe we don’t know why we are doing, and it isn’t clear. We can’t dramatically change ourselves, at least most of us in a day, or even a month, and I think it is important to keep things realistic, and in the context of real life.

If you need more out of new year’s resolutions and goal setting, try this.

A key question for me is am I working on developing a practice or a project? And always think a little about why, either one, but that is another post.

A practice is something many people do for the sake of the practice and deepening it, and it could be anything from walking, music or other art, writing, breathwork, or mindfulness — some of my practices, and there isn’t a goal or “success”, or measurement of progress in the same sense of working to achieve something. The success is in the doing.

A project is something that is an outcome and has an endpoint so it can be clearly measured. It can be anything to achieve, including practices, more purposeful goals, or subtler focused outcomes, but it does have an outcome. For example, in my writing practice, I may be working on a project of a novel or a goal of 50,000 words within a month.

Contrast the writing project with a writing practice, where I may write as early in the day as possible to clear the mind and set intentions or freewrite, or may write in other forms, still desiring consistency or some kind of “progress” but it is more about the act and intention than anything more.

Other examples could be that I am doing fitness for mental health as a practice, which leaves open lots of options for what I can do to get my heart rate up, compared to working toward something more as a goal or project, such as completing a yoga class, or being able to run for 20 minutes a day, which is not more or less valuable than focusing on a practice.

There is a whole conversation about what to choose, what to focus on, and what sized habit to choose when you’re working through something whether initiated internally or seemingly by other forces. It is important to get some help with that if you can but any effort and intention will go a long way to holding space for yourself and contributing to the world.

So choose, practice, or project.

Get to know about why or the purpose, how or what values, principles, and what, or what it is you are doing, and from there the more granular actions will come. The entire act of working on your practice or project, as well as tracking it will change.

Tips for working on practices or projects. 

  • Write down the outcome, or if there is a daily focus, at a minimum, if you don’t have another practice for working through personal projects, like Getting Things Done and the Natural Planning Model.
    • You can put this on a post-it where you will see it, or a project list, or a white board.
  • Share it with someone, whether it is a friend, coach, yoga buddy, coworker, running group, or the internet.
  • Plan and put it on your calendar.
    • Think about when and how much, and schedule what you can for the next week or month. Set a timer. Make an appointment.
  • Set up a document or install app to track it, depending on your tracking desires such as project actions or practice consistency.
    • You can use a spreadsheet, or different apps, like coach.me if you don’t already have a way you like. Put a sticker on your whiteboard when you make your progress if nothing else!
  • Reflect on about how it is going and adjust activities and time.
    • You can schedule this in too, as part of your regular time, and or add some special time each week or near the end of the month.
  • Notice how you feel having done each of these things, and celebrate or feel something good.

 

Bless you … and Good Riddance 2018

This is a random and rambling post that I hope to develop into something more accessible and useful. 

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I haven’t made them for as long as I can remember, and often suffer through the holidays to an extent, though I do take time to reflect, gather, and imagine. This year I think letting go has been just as powerful as anything, and it is in this spirit that I say, thank you and goodbye to 2018. In fact, good riddance! 🙂

Good riddance isn’t a very appreciative phrase. Would a positive person, in fact, a yogi say that?! Let me explain.

This year has been so unbelievably hard in ways that I just still can’t even talk about that it feels good to be reverently irreverant. Some people, some experiences, or some years…need to just go ahead and be on their way. While it is true appreciation, care, and kindness are how I want to be, it is also true that I must be honest. I think we all need rituals, routines, customs, traditions, however we think about them, that we make our own, and also the ability to be honest. I want to both move on and start anew AND this is life continuing. Life goes on, as the song says.

The darkness of winter evokes a reflective time, the increasing light seems to bring energy, and the time is magical, with all the energy surrounding the holidays. In the US Christmas is ubiquitous and the spirit of giving, kindness, and rituals can support our lives even if we aren’t practicing those religions or customs. Even when I feel troubled, I can’t help but feel more generous and present when I am out and about around people in the spirit so to speak.

The threshold of the year-end can bring excitement for some and anticipation, or maybe even grief and awareness of loss or uncertainty for others. Life isn’t just one thing or another. Neither are people. Sometimes it is a mix. There is pain and there is joy. I will stop short of saying life is suffering, but it would be “spiritual bypass” or pretending to only share about or acknowledge the less than happy parts of life.

The more we acknowledge and can share in our full selves, the more that may actually just bring about a change in and of itself, without having to sign up for a new diet, or succumb to new year, new you programs, or just feel the pressure and stress of “needing to get somewhere” which I feel, at times in my most evolved and compassionate relationships. Some variations could be: what do you have to be sad about? Be more positive. You can control your mind.

Bear with me for a moment while I explain. A friend shared a list of questions with me when I asked how they reflect on the year. There were some questions to help complete the current year and add energy or imagine the year ahead.

My favorite is something like my greatest lesson of the year. Here is what I wrote: To have compassion for myself and others. What made sense in one moment may not in the next, and that is okay and has to be figured out and accepted within ourselves. It requires patience and multi-lifetime view.

Given this big personal learning, then I expect I will be carrying it into the year, though I don’t know how yet. This is okay! I tend to take my goals seriously and feel bad when they aren’t perfectly up to my unrealistic standards, so I like to be gentle about getting to dichotomous or fixed with my commitments to myself, which is really all a new years resolution or any other agreement is — a commitment to yourself.

If you’re a Getting Things Done enthusiast like me, maybe you don’t need help or thoughts with how to reconcile the fact that we have an entire life, not just a year, and how to make progress on a daily basis while still honoring your life purpose. (!)

Here are a few of my thoughts on how to use this time of year for the benefit whether

How to end your year?

If you don’t already have something you do spend time thinking about what was surprising, good, and hard. Honor yourself in some way. Take time to write, talk to a friend, pray, or meditate. This is a powerful practice. It helps to let go of the year and clear space for new energy to flow.

What felt good about the year?

What am I most proud of?

What do I need to do to complete this year?

For those not already following a routine around this or making tour own, I highly recommend reviewing your calendar or project /to do list so you can revisit and note what you accomplished. Surviving and even progressing through another year is no small feat! Give yourself some credit.

How to make your intention, goal, or vision even more powerful, or NOT make a new year resolution.
  1. Make it accessible and concrete if you are trying to change something about the way you think or act. If you want to write a book, but aren’t currently writing, then maybe try writing every day for a week, or writing in a notebook before bed. Right size the change so it has the effect you want. In fact, think of what you know you can do. If you aren’t 100% confident you can do that, I suggest making the action smaller. Instead of running 3 miles a day, make a habit of putting on your running shoes or getting your heart rate up if you aren’t currently moving.
  2. Focus your energies on priorities in your life since we can’t work on everything all the time. Do you have a special event coming up that you want to be sure and make happen this year? Is your health or finance needing attention? Or do you just need to keep going with your family, work, and activities, and if you could just keep doing that, then you’d feel good? This is why priorities are important. Especially for self-development junkies or yogis then the tendency is to either do too much or be too big. It’s great to dream big or have visions, such as being a kind person. Or always be friendly to people when they are stressed. Or maybe you want to eat right, exercise, be nicer, more spiritual, volunteer more, etc. That might be a lot for a single year, or maybe some deeper reflection would reveal the focus is service, and that would be good enough. Time is precious. The real point of fitness isn’t usually to just look good or be impressive, though if so it is okay. For me the point of life is to live our calling, to contribute to the world. So it is within that sense that I want to make changes or focus on things. An intention, goal, or vision is an excellent way to bring together your purpose in life and how you spend your time on a daily basis, at least it has been for me.
  3. Tell people somehow, whether it is on your blog, a friend, at church, or someone from your yoga class. There are apps, spreadsheets, meet up groups, yoga communities, or friends who you can tell your dreams, fears, goals, or non resolution. There is a power in putting it out to others, both in terms of aligning action to the intention or purpose, and also to let the world respond. You never know. You may get or give support, help, or realize you can do even more by putting it out to the world to some degree. You may have more accountability, clarity, or creativity around it. Or if you’re using an app to track your progress, say connecting with someone about their day, then you can learn how you’re doing and how to adjust.

Last year I was holding three visions and I think it may take me some time to figure out where to focus next, though in the meantime I have my daily practices. It took me all of January to figure out what to focus on, and then it changed, but it was good. It was hard.

Thank you, and goodbye 2018! I know my opinion of you may change in time, as time tends to do with our version of history. I am sure I will never forget you, and I am truly grateful to be alive.

More importantly than the year, if you’re reading this, if you’ve been there for me, if you are there now, then thank YOU. Most of us have overcome a lot to get to this moment. Bless you for getting this far. We did it! Go us!

In my experience, as people, especially modern, busy ones, who think we are so important, or who think we know who we are, we need to let go and pause to really be able to see. While we are running full speed ahead focused on the finish line, we aren’t noticing what others are doing, how it is going for them, and how our broader life is unfolding, to illustrate. But we need the confidence and the space to be able to make that finish line the focus, so to speak.

Do yourself a favor and spend however much time you like pausing and reflecting, and ideally somehow connecting with someone else about it.

Even if you aren’t sure what to do with what you find, much less how you want the year to play out, then the time spent with yourself will be rewarded. Then try it again soon.

It’s really the people that make my world, mirrors of hope, of courage, of love. Please just keep mirroring. Every one needs mirrors so we can be who we really are, not just who we think we are. May I also be that for you.

May we all be safe, at peace, content, and well in our moments.