Sunday, August 31, 2008

MysticBliss: From India, Spain, and Germany

A busy bee in our backyard.

Listening to: I knew this little Erie boy could sing but NOT LIKE THIS. Why is he singing pop crap (oh, right, money) when he has these freaking pipes? (After hearing him sing like this, I will gladly brag that, when he is in town, he shops at OUR whole foods cooperative.)

Today's Bliss: Last night, we celebrated a friend's 55th birthday. A birthday we are all so extra grateful for, because it was also kinda his 5th birthday of sorts.

From the Upanishads:

That is perfect -- this is perfect.
What comes from such perfection
truly is perfect.
What remains from perfection
is yet perfect.
May there be peace,
peace, and perfect peace.

From St. Teresa of Avila:

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing frighten you.
All things pass away.
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
She who has God
lacks for nothing.
God alone suffices.

From Goethe:

Knowing is not enough;
we must apply.
Willing is not enough;
we must do...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

BardBliss: Noise

A snapdragon showing persistence
(on our back patio area).

Listening to: He sings so easily...

Today's Bliss: Special attention to the gardens today. The mums are starting to do their thing. The baby kiwis and the apple continue to grow. (Yes, I said "apple," not appleS -- it's the first year this dwarf tree is producing so one is plenty!) There's a lot out there asking to be taken down, but not quite yet, I say. The birdbaths and feeders need to be paid attention to, as it is getting to be time for migratory friends to stop by for sustenance on their way to far off places.


I am drowning
in the commotion
of this small-city life.
I thirst for a deep dark
and the sea,
where life began
in quiet black,
beckons me.

Like a free diver,
with no tank, I would
grab hold of the cable
and pull myself under,
head first,
hand over hand.
The blackening waters,
resisting my penetration,
would push against
my skin, encasing me
in their liquid grip.

Life around me
would fade,
its boundaries
my lungs
my heart

My name said
with love,
an imagined laugh
echoing, pounding from
inside my skull,
and I would pull the rope,
waiting (a second floating
into an eternity) for the balloon
to fill, carrying my
starved cells toward
a moving, dappled
surface of light
through which I would

blinded, gasping,
glad of the air, glad
of the sun,
glad of the touch,
glad even
of the sound,
the noise that is
our togetherness,
the very noise
that drives me to desire
the deep --
the noise of living,
of being,
of rejoicing in our

--christine c. reed

Friday, August 29, 2008

BlissQuest: Slowing Down, Changing Seasons, & Remembering

Waning Corn Moon high in the sky, late in the morning.

Listening to: In this, you can appreciate her voice more than usual.

Today's Bliss: My writing space is cleaner. I was being threatened by mountains of papers! Little bits of paper, large pieces of paper, all covered with ideas and imperatives and imaginings.

The weather is changing -- or at least, it momentarily seems as if it is. Some very fall-like temperatures with wind and gray sky. My joints feel the cool wet, and they creak, as they do at the transition times, those few weeks when summer cannot decide to give over to fall or spring cannot let go of winter.

And maybe this weather is an explanation for my mood.

I am beginning to look forward to the shutting of the windows and doors. The better to hear my own thoughts.

I am beginning to look forward to putting the garden to bed. The easier it will be to rest my own bones.

I am beginning to look forward to the stillness that comes after a foot of snow blankets the earth. The deeper I will be able to enter my heart.

But I wonder why it takes fall and winter for this to be the case?

Why can't I remember all year long that it is in doing things deliberately that I find peace and balance?

Summer makes me frenetic. Like the sun, I become too intense and focused on doing. Like thunder storms, I am all energy and movement.

Then, suddenly (or not), it is September, and I wonder why I feel so out of sorts. I start craving a vacation. A going away and being different.

When really, I need to stay where I am, sit still, and be different right here.

I need to stop doing things out of some sense of obligation. Which is where I end up every summer -- saying yes to every invitation, trying to squeeze in too many people and places and events, taking on too many projects.

I want to feel productive, not rushed. They are so different. I want to have a morning ritual and not have it feel like something I have to check off my To-Do list. The same for yoga and writing in my journal and taking slow walks.

But they all start to feel like obligatory goals because I am trying to pack in too many things for the sake of others, for the sake of being busy during this beautiful weather.

I have a feeling I am not alone in my "Summer Sickness." I have a feeling that a lot of people suffer from this sickness year round. Not being able to differentiate between what matters to them and what doesn't really matter at all.

What are some of the things you are doing and wish you weren't?

What do you put on the back burner that really needs to have its place front and center in your life?

Do you have any daily rituals or tricks or reminders that keep you on the path of your bliss?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

RandomBliss: Being Green No Longer Means Sackcloth

Today we celebrate being green without looking all beige!

Listening to/watching: I love the whimsy and theatricality of couture fashion. Great couture is art, not clothing. It is sculpture, and eventually the lines and ideas of it trickle down to us commoners!

Today's Bliss: The autumn like weather continues, for which I am so thankful. What an amazing summer we have had. Today, I begin to work on a large project proposal so any good energy you can send my way would be appreciated! (Also, cupcakes are always helpful!)

Just a couple of years ago, you could barely find anything made from organic cotton that wasn't beige. Manufacturers had not figured out how to dye without using the more common chemical applications, I guess. Then again, part of me thinks that this beige look was a badge.

A beige-badge signifying what a very serious environmentalist you were -- so serious that you could not wear color because then you might look happy!

No more, thank goodness!

Now organic cotton, hemp, bamboo -- all of it comes in every color imaginable. Even the dreaded white, which has, for a long time now, signified...bleach (insert evil mastermind music here).

There were other badges of honor that enviro types would wear -- or not. God-awful sloganed t-shirts. No leather shoes at a time when finding vegan shoes meant going to the very ugly.

The main rule was not to be too very cute. This indicated an obsession with externals and material goods that was unbecoming to someone who wanted to save the forests and the whales and who drove a car that smelled of french fries.

Like I said -- No more.

Now you can care and be cute all at the same time. Hooray for friendly glitter and dye and hair color and...

First rule for the ChicChick when it comes to buying stuff: Buy the best you can afford so you aren't constantly buying. Yes, you might be wearing the same shoes for longer than one season (gasp!), but if you buy quality, most likely you are also buying classic so it won't matter. You'll always look and feel chic instead of cheap.

Here's my list for dolling up your green life:

First, let's Europe that bike, shall we? No need to look like a jock. For the front, check this out.

For the back of you bike, this holds up to 45 pounds.

And this, so you can be friendly and assertive when you are passing other people.

Something cute to carry your stuff and put inside your baskets.

If you are walking, who wouldn't want to look so very French?

Speaking of vegan, these bags are from Canada -- land of caring, right? I have a bag from them that is easily 4 years old, and it still, to this day, gets commented on every single time I carry it.

Another tip for the ChicChick: When you can, buy handmade and right from an artist. The internet is an amazing thing when it comes to arts and crafts -- allowing all sorts of people to stay home and not drive to jobs they hate. So we should support them -- or each other, whatever the case may be!

My favorite handmade skirts, of course.

A favorite jeweler.

Another jeweler who uses recycled vintage typewriter keys and will make anything you want her to make!

Instead of slathering on potentially poisonous sun block, why not just carry one of these?

Here's something to keep winter cheery (if you live where you get snow).

The final rule I have to offer: have fun. Your whole life is a creative art piece that expresses the unique person you are.

So, do you have any favorite eco-chic finds to share with all the other chicks out there?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Pink Heels' Jennifer Moore

Dreamy...the logo for Pink Heels.

Listening to: An appropriate musical scene (wait for it...2:30 minutes is when it gets most interesting) from my absolutely favorite Audrey Hepburn movie (hers too, it turns out). My favorite scene is actually this one.

Today's Bliss: Wearing pink, of course! Listening to the soundtrack from Monsoon Wedding while I'm at work. Perhaps watching some Audrey this evening.

Okay, you must remember that I was in college from 1987 to 1991. Late eighties, so you can imagine some of the outfits and the size of the hair.

But to this day, I still recall with absolute fondness one pair of shoes I owned. Very high heels. That I wore with faded jeans (remember the year, please). And the shoes were so shiny. Made of pleather, probably. But most importantly, they were a shade of lipsticky pink that was to die for. I felt like a vixen in those shoes. You know what I mean.

Of course, they are probably partially responsible for my lower back problems...but I digress (with a giggle).

So as soon as I saw the name of Jennifer Moore's company, I was taken right in.

Jennifer is a remarkable woman. She is one of those people who went down a path or two before finding where she really wanted to be, so she speaks from a deep well of experience, which matters in her line of work.

Which is helping you to find your line of work. And I mean work with a capital W -- your purpose, your path, your bliss(chick).

Jennifer runs a career and business coaching company, a yoga studio, creates materials for you to do your own coaching, writes a blog, and facilitates workshops.

Where does she get all of that energy? I'm thinking the pink heels have something to do with it -- like Dorothy's ruby red slippers.

Describe the PrimaryBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?

The source of my PrimaryBliss that transcends into everything that I am and do is YOGA! I have learned so much about myself through the practice of yoga and continue to grow as I explore new limitations, boundaries, and moments of zen. It is from my yoga experience that I created Pink Heels™ and the services available through this business. I came to learn about my source of PrimaryBliss after my first yoga class! I knew right then and there, this is IT!!! I am a new woman!What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

The beauty of yoga is that it is FREE!!! You can unroll your mat and practice anywhere, anytime. No sacrifice is needed. However, living my PrimaryBliss and transforming it into my career path required many financial sacrifices. The frequent trips to Europe, lavish dining experiences, and shopping sprees ended the day that I decided to start Pink Heels™. And believe it or not, I am happier without these amenities in my life. I find joy, happiness, and even bliss from experiences and things that have no dollar value.

How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

Pink Heels™ embodies everything that I radiate from my yoga practice: inner peace, balance, and happiness. I share my bliss with every woman that enters Pink Heels™. Many come with specific needs to find their own passion and happiness but others are just seeking change in their life. Through yoga, belly dance, pole dance, career coaching/consulting, and business coaching/consulting, they take away more then they sought to find. In essence, Pink Heels™ helps women find their PrimaryBliss.

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

The next best thing to yoga is meditation, bubble baths, walking barefoot in soft, green grass, laying in a hammock watching the clouds float by, running, enjoying the solitude of the lake, rollerblading, spending time with friends and family, and eating great homemade food.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

The first thing that I do every morning, after letting the dog outside and using the loo myself, is meditate for 10 minutes. Every evening I finish my day with yoga. I also seek out opportunities to expand my understanding of spirituality. I recently finished learning about chakras and have since incorporated them into my yoga practice.

What music is your bliss?

The sounds of the world around me best represent my bliss.

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

I love books and could easily give you a long list but in this day and age, the internet is my best source of bliss. My two favorite spots to check out on a weekly basis are: Spiritual Cowgirl The Zen In You

What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

Don’t rush it! Your PrimaryBliss will find you! Live your life and be open to the beauty that surrounds you. And then one day, when you aren’t looking, it will happen!

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

I would like to share the Pink Heels™ yoga quote that I encourage all students to ponder. It has become such a popular quote that we have trademarked it and created shirts. Peace Within ~ Love Between ~ Compassion All Around™ -Jennifer Moore

See? Remarkable. To give up a life of material luxuries to follow your bliss with no guarantees takes courage and openness, both of which Jennifer demonstrates to those who come through the doors of Pink Heels.

I find her epiphany moment illustrative of the power of yoga. I always tell people that yoga is great for the outside but that it will totally change your insides -- whether you want it to or not. That, for me, is the proof in yoga's pudding.

When I started doing yoga, it was purely motivated by a need for less stress and anxiety.

But over time, I noticed that a different and more intense alchemy was taking place. That I was, slowly but surely, becoming my true nature through yoga.

And yoga is totally what allows me to be creative and to write every single day. It fuels me and it prepares the ground so that all my creative impulses can be actualized.

Jennifer was an open conduit, obviously, when she very first stepped on that yoga mat. The larger miracle is that she was willing to take the leap when she heard the call.

How about you?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

EcoBliss: Planetary Bodhisattva -- Taking the Vow Seriously

The girls sitting by the bay.

Listening to: Something new that sounds old again; I can't stop hearing all the influences in this but I like it. Particularly, "New Age."

Today's Bliss: The waning moon sits high above the park in the blue sky. A gray cat sits to my right, in the window, watching birds in the front tree. A day of writing and drinking espresso...

(In the past, I've written about Hinduism and the Environment and even the Catholic church's recent ecologically minded imperatives.)

I know and hang out with a lot of people who would say they "practice Buddhism." Right now, among the crowd who thinks of themselves as intellectual and/or liberal, Buddhism is pretty much the rage if you're going to participate in any sort of organized religious or philosophical system.

I get this. I mean, Buddhism has a lot going for it. I'm particularly fond of Shambhala Buddhism, but I'm much too cafeteria style to sit down at any one specific table -- at least for now.

But yesterday, on my bike ride home along the bay, I was thinking about this group of people, and I was thinking about how many of them have taken a Bodhisattva vow -- a vow to not become enlightened until everyone is enlightened, a vow to be of service to all sentient beings.

"Sentient beings."

And I wonder who this includes for the people who take this vow.

Does it include the trees and the sky and the lake along which I was riding? And if so, how does it concretely affect the day to day of the vow-takers' lives? And if it doesn't concretely affect their day to day, why take the vow to being with?

According to the Gaia Hypothesis (a hypothesis designed by a "legitimate" scientist, by the way), the entire earth and its surrounding atmosphere is just one big organism. We often talk about the trees being our lungs, but this hypothesis really means it. We humans are not separate from the organism but only a small part of it.

A small part that has a big impact.

And yet that impact is not destined to be negative. Which is the point of the Bodhisattva vow, isn't it? That one, mere human being has that kind of power -- to affect all of humanity. And to take it further, to affect all of this planet.

Here is my favorite version of the vow:

May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road;
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall,
And a lamp for those who long for light;
For those who need a resting place, a bed,
For all who need a servant, may I be a slave.

May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,
A word of power, and the supreme remedy.
May I be the trees of miracles,
And for every being, the abundant cow.

Like the great earth and the other elements,
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings,
May I be the ground and vessel of their life.

Thus, for every single thing that lives,
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky,
May I be their sustenance and nourishment
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering

Taking this vow to the next step, to our everyday ecological actions, expands the concept of service to others, which I think many of us limit out of our predominantly Puritan/Protestant context. We think of service to others in this guilt-based way; we think of it as sacrifice of self.

But we can shift that and think of service to others as a joy-based gifting. Living your bliss comes in here: when you are on your own path, you know what gift you have to give. And you do so without expectation and simply because you must.

When teaching or your art or writing or parenting becomes tiring, you keep going because you know it's what you are here to do and that being tired is temporary whereas the fruits of your work are infinite -- perhaps unknowable, but still infinite.

For another example, when we get up the morning and don't feel like being inconvenienced by a bike ride to work and consider driving our cars two miles instead, we can decide on that morning that we are not riding for ourselves but that we are riding for everyone and everything -- for the entirety of the planet.

How could you possibly get in your car then?

Monday, August 25, 2008

InnerBliss: Navel Power Fuels Your Life

Another ChalkWalk piece that seemed to fit with today.

Listening to: First of all, this chick can sing. Second, as if the brass weren't enough, listen to the layered, rich arrangement of this song -- so different from average radio pop.

Today's Bliss: Ahhh, we have survived another summer and the children of the world are off to school. WOOT! Silence and serenity, welcome back.

(If you're new here, the first chakra was written about, as was the second.)

For various reasons, I have always labeled myself as a "quitter." Someone's favorite nickname for me when I was young was "Scarlett O'Hara" and not in a complimentary way but rather to denote my capacity for endless procrastination.

It has taken me into my thirties to realize that all of this has been a destructive -- and blatantly inaccurate -- story.

I am, rather, a determined and focused sort of animal. If anything, my willpower can be frighteningly intense, burning me up from the inside, as metaphorically demonstrated through a horrible ulcer in college -- a time when I held a job, went to school full time, was a Resident Assistant, and ran an organization that I had founded to help the homeless.

No willpower? What was I thinking?

And just because some of us are unsure of where we want to place that willpower -- constantly trying and learning new things -- does not mean that we don't have any. In this culture and at this time of specializing, cog-like humans, the artists and creators and dreamers are often mistaken for the lost and the floundering.

No, when your third chakra is out of whack, there are plenty of signals, and many people we call "productive" and "successful" actually exhibit those symptoms the most.

The third chakra is located at the naval and encompasses the digestive system, the diaphragm, and the adrenals. The color is yellow. The element is fire.

The Sanskrit name for this chakra is "Manipura" and means "lustrous gem." (I love that. Picturing a gem in my belly button!)

Keep in mind that the first three chakras are the base or the the roots of the whole human energy system. The heart chakra will act as the trunk, which connects the roots to the branches which, in turn, allow us to touch the heavens.

So, these first three chakras are of the utmost importance and are in constant need of our attentions and must be nourished on a daily basis. If we do not pay enough attention to the first three chakras -- out of some misplaced belief that the upper chakras are the "important" ones -- well, you'll find yourself eventually crashing into them. Literally. The baggage you ignore will be the baggage that trips you up.

If your third chakra is healthy, you have enough self-esteem, lots of will power, focus, a "fire in your belly," devotion, and stamina. Your energies are purposefully directed and organized. You project strength. You have courage. You can digest whatever is thrown your way.

Here are some questions and ideas to ponder related to this chakra.

Do you find yourself feeling scattered throughout your day? Are you unfocused in your endeavors?

Are you easily led off your path by the needs and desires of other people? Do you always put other people first? Do you respect your own need to do your own thing?

When people ask you how you are, are you always answering "crazy busy?" Do you have a hard time fitting everything you "need" to do into your days?

Are you always embroiled in some personal drama? Is your life like an opera, all high emotions and never any calm?

Do you feel frustrated by your life more often than not? Do you feel angry toward your life?

How important is power and status to you? Are your main goals in life related to gaining recognition?

Are you often choking back your emotions? Do you feel tight and constricted in your belly? Do you have a hard time crying?

Do you have chronic lower back issues? Are you breathing with your belly or with your shoulders?

What is your relationship to food? Do you eat in response to emotions? Have you ever had an eating disorder? Do you have disordered eating patterns?

Do you create rules around food? Or do you allow yourself to eat what your body asks for? Do you see cravings as bad?

How is your ability to follow through with plans? Do you have the necessary stamina to create and finish long term projects?

Yoga poses that can help with increasing and strengthening your third chakra include: stretch pose, spinal twists, alternate leg lifts (on your back), sun salutations, and cobra. For breathing, try sitali breath -- one of my favorites (and I can't curl my tongue!).

(Ravi Singh and Ana Brett also have a wonderful Kundalini yoga DVD for Navel Power.)

Aromas that can aid in third chakra work include lavender, rosemary, and bergamot. And, of course, you can wear tiger's eye or yellow topaz.

Most importantly, though, spend some time with the above questions.

Be clear about your intentions in life so that when you set goals, you can meet them. And above all, make sure to reward yourself when you do accomplish something. Sometimes we skip right to the next goal, forgetting to celebrate!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

MysticBliss: Witnessing Yourself Dissolving

This lotus plant grows in our neighbor's pond.
(Photo courtesy of that neighbor!)

Listening to: A bit of Sufi for Sunday.

Today's Bliss: Morning espresso on the back patio, talking about one of my favorite topics -- the interior of our house and the different things we can do to the walls and the floors. We were looking at a library book, "Hacienda," and dreaming of a trip to Mexico. Oh, to visit here and here.

I'm reading Deepak Chopra's The Way of the Wizard right now, and it's quite captivating, as are most of his books. (My favorite right now being Life After Death.)

Some people see Chopra as spiritualityLite, but I think they are mistaken. He is a talented thinker and poetic writer, able to distill very complicated concepts into understandable bits. This in no way makes him "lite" but quite the opposite. I think the most difficult thing to do in writing or teaching is to take abstract ideas and make them concrete enough to be ingested.

In The Way of the Wizard, you can read the word wizard any way you want -- shaman, yogi, seeker, whatever works for you. Chopra is just working within the story context of Merlin, a wonderful, accessible Western myth.

Right now, I'm just at the beginning of the book, and he is explaining "seeing" or "witnessing."

It isn't easy to explain what witnessing is. In an ordinary waking state, we all see objects, but the witness sees light. It sees itself as one focus of light, the object as another, all in the context of a vast, changing realm of nothing but light.

Light is a metaphor for higher states of being. When someone has a near-death experience and says, "I went into the light," she means that she experienced a finer degree of herself. The light may take on the image of heaven or another world, but to the wizard our ordinary world is also only an image. It too is projected from awareness...

The boundaries we erect to divide heaven from earth, mind for matter, real from unreal are mere conveniences. Having made the boundaries, we can unmake them just as easily...

Every state of being, from the finest and most immaterial to the grossest and most solid, depends on the observer. If we wanted to, we could dissolve the solid page into nothingness, as follows: a page is made of paper, paper is made of molecules, molecules are made of atoms, atoms are bundles of energy at the quantum level, and bundles of energy consist of 99.99999 percent empty space. Since the distance between one atom and the next is quite vast -- proportionally greater than the distance between the earth and the sun -- you can call this page solid only if you are willing to say that the space between us and the sun is solid.

Play with this idea today.

Sit outside and sense the energy around you. Feel it playing on your skin. Imagine your skin dissolving into light and joining the light coming from the sun -- or the moon or the stars.

I find this exercise especially compelling in the water, as I have written about before.

Try it. Then write about it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

BardBliss: Shadow Dancing

A glad from the yard.

Listening to: How could I resist a song titled after one of my favorite books?

Today's Bliss Formula: It was supposed to be HOT, but it's not -- thank you, Weather. It seems like a good day for chasing poems with butterfly nets.

Shadow Dancing

In our attic bedroom, door
shut, hoping my absence
was not noted,
with quietly whispering
music and just enough
light to leave my shadow
on the wall,
I would dance.

As I watched myself move,
I imagined crawling into the wall,
and disappearing; I imagined
no longer being
able to hear my life but through
some transubstantiation
going from solid

to image and idea and
gliding softly
through and down
the outside of the house
to the moonlit earth beyond
the train tracks
beyond the city limits to
a field filled with

dew tipped grasses and finally
coming to float as a reflection
of the night sky on
a breeze rippled
pond, the water my skin
and the air my voice.

In the bright of daylight,
I would find a tree and sway
underneath her in the shape
of her leaves and branches

and as the sun set
I would grow long and
thin until I had stretched myself
to a high, jagged, cliffed coast
off of which I could

propel myself toward
the tip of the crescent
moon and lay back,
spooning until she became
fat and full and
I could melt
into the features
of that distant face.

When I grew tired
of even this shadow self
I imagined resting
forever on the dark side,
free from the heat
of my previous life.

--christine c. reed

Friday, August 22, 2008

BlissQuest: Get Off Your Mat!

Outdoor art at the ChalkWalk at this year's Celebrate Erie.

Listening to: Something very new -- and loving the combo of strings and a bit of punkish drum.

Today's Bliss Formula: I'm a bit stuck in my mouth today -- yesterday, they put the largest, thickest wire that they have on my top braces and it feels like my teeth are trying to fall out and take my brain with them. So my bliss today is the existence of Advil!

If you've done Gaiam yoga videos, you've probably been impressed with the settings. Rodney Yee is often in Hawaii, doing yoga right next to the ocean. Patricia Walden does yoga in the desert. Gurmukh does it in some Indian inspired, rain forest looking environment.

Enough eye candy to distract you from the yoga itself, really.

I'm not complaining there. I love these settings. I love the sound of the ocean in the middle of winter in the middle of my yoga space.

For the summer solstice this year, I recommended one way to celebrate was to take your yoga outside. Greet the rising sun with sun salutations. As they were meant to be done.

And this week's interview was with an eco-yogi who teaches people about the connection between doing yoga and caring for the earth.

In that interview I mused about the lack of yoga teachers doing what Milissa is doing. The mat itself is supposed to be viewed as a metaphor for the rest of your life. And it should also be seen as a metaphor for your place on this planet -- literally. How you behave on this mat, the values you bring to it...those should be the behaviors and values you take away from it.

When you step off the mat, you are stepping into life on this troubled planet. What do you do about it?

I think a good place to start with all of this would be to get off that mat by doing yoga outside. If you are on a beach or in a park, you don't even need a mat between you and the ground. Sand and grass will hold your feet in place, hold you stable, during all your poses.

Think about that -- sand and grass will hold you stable.

Doing sitting meditation at the roots of a large tree will root you even deeper. Or stand next to the tree and do tree pose and let her roots help you feel your own strength.

If you are in a city, listen beyond the noise of cars and people to the ever present sounds of nature. Yoga outside can teach you to hear differently, which can help get you out of an attachment to "crazy-busy."

If you feel too conspicuous doing yoga outside by yourself, perhaps get a small group of friends to do it. And don't be surprised when people ask to join in! This is really the power of yoga to foster community.

Of course, you don't have to be doing formal asana to be doing yoga outdoors. Yoga is a practice and we should, really, be practicing 24/7. If the whole world is your mat, every step you take is yoga. Yoga is in every step, to paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh.

This is easier said than done: the belief system embedded in yoga is difficult and challenging.

Are we challenging ourselves enough or are we getting too comfortable on our mats just like we are often too comfortable in our material lives?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

RandomBliss: Novels for Aspiring Writers to Read

Holly GoLightly (my bike, #2) out and about.

Listening to: Feeling a bit blue? Listen to some of this! (No mood can withstand some Motown!)

Today's Bliss Formula: Every time I go to the orthodontist to get my rubber bands changed, I am one month closer to getting my braces OFF. I am over the halfway point. YAY!

Starting my new very part time job at the library has just been one more excuse on my lists of excuses for not dusting off my novel and getting down in the dirt with my last, and most difficult, revision.

I mean, I had a new job to learn, right? And I am blogging, for goodness sake, doesn't that count for something!?

In the meantime, my head swims with new ideas, and I just write little notes to myself for "later." When will later come?

Sooner than I thought. Thanks to a member of my old writing group, who just won't stop asking if the writing group could start up again.

Thank Seshat* for him!

(*Egyptian goddess of writing and poetry.)

I try and try to put him off, but alas, he is more persistent than my lazy writing self would like him to be. That procrastinating writing self that would be happy (though pretending not to be) if he would just let it go.

So I emailed a couple of others, and low and behold, I have the minimum number of aspiring novelists agreeing to weekly meetings. And these are all committed and hardworking people.


In honor of he who shall not be named (or we could call him -- lovingly -- Mr. PainInMyAss), I thought I would share a list of novels/novelists that, when I am teaching creative writing, I encourage writers to read.

1. Anything by Barbara Kingsolver. She is one of our greatest living writers, to be sure. The Poisonwood Bible, in particular, is a masterpiece of narrative voice. Pigs in Heaven is one of the most emotional books I've ever read.

2. Anything by Joanne Harris. This woman is a perfect illustration of writing from all the senses. Her books could be the very definition of sensual. I love especially Blackberry Wine.

3. White Oleander by Janet Fitch.

4. Even if you don't think you like him because of high school, read Ernest Hemingway. Pay attention to how he accomplishes so much with so little. One of his very last novels, The Garden of Eden, is very strange and wonderful and could completely change your mind about him.

5. Wintering by Kate Moses. When I read this book, I didn't know if I could ever read anything again. It still has to be the best new book I've read in a decade. Moses took ten years to research and write this novelization of the last six months of Sylvia Plath's life. But do not mistake it for some sick re-visioning -- it could easily be about any woman going through a difficult time and struggling to create great art.

6. Don't think you like science fiction? I was there once. Please read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Science fiction may seem that it is about aliens and first contacts, but really, it is about our place in a specific context; it is about theology and philosophy and all those giant existential questions. Science fiction is where the important issues are explored. Science fiction is BIG and expansive.

7. Neil Gaiman. I love Neverwhere, but American Gods is worth reading, too. Mr. Neil is writing across all genres and writing personal stories that are also mythological.

8. Have you not read Mrs. Dalloway!? One of the best and most important novels EVER. Virginia Woolf changed everything with this book. If you tried before, try again. And from personal experience, Mrs. Dalloway should be read some water...when you're alone.

9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I put off reading this book. I was being stubborn. Now it's a book I'll read a few times.

10. Reread The Great Gatsby. First of all, you'll be amazed to read this at a different age than most of use first read it -- 17? It has a lot more depth than a 17 year old can notice. Further, it is still 100% relevant. But admire how beautiful every sentence is. Admire the art of F. Scott Fitzgerald. My favorite scene: when Nick meets Jordan for the first time, she is sitting with Daisy on a small couch in a hallway. The breeze....oh, just read it!

11. White Apples by Jonathan Carroll. This was the first book I read -- a few years ago this happened -- that when I was reading it and when I was done, I was jealous that I hadn't written it. I wanted to have written this book. I've never had that feeling before.

12. Smila's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg. A Danish writer of immense skill and talent, Peter also recently wrote The Quiet Girl.

A list like this is truly impossible to write, but these are some of my favorites right at this moment, right off the top of my head.

Challenging yourself as a reader is so important to your writer self. So push your edges and read things you wouldn't normally read. I am a bit of a snob (that's what a graduate degree in literature does to you), so my challenge is to occasionally read something really, super popular. Most of the time, these books completely fulfill my expectations of their mediocrity, but once in a while, I am pleasantly surprised.

I know there are quite a few aspiring novelists/memoirists who read blisschick, so what would you recommend?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Eco-Yogi Milissa Link

The very handsome Dewey with his EarthMama.

Listening to: Some good ol' punk (thanks, Milissa!).

Today's Bliss Formula: No driving a car today! Just my lovely bike, Miss Holly GoLightly. Only one short trip in a car is all it takes to remind me of one of the many, many reasons why I love being car free: not confining my body in that metal box. Ouch.

When I started writing this blog, it was mostly about getting myself writing. Sure, I knew I wanted to have a focus and not just randomly share the tiny minutiae of my life, but I had no idea that the blog would do more for me than get me writing every morning.

I had no idea, for example, that I would constantly be meeting the most amazing people. And that it would just happen spontaneously. Because they maybe like something I write. Or because I find them and just go up (figuratively speaking) and introduce myself.

There's nothing "virtual" about this place, as I've said before and as I continue to learn.

Milissa Link was one of those lucky, serendipitous finds.

I remember thinking that her combination of ecological awareness and yoga was such a natural fit. I remember wondering why more yoga teachers aren't being blatant about this fit in their teachings.

But then, Milissa stands out. Her studio in Minneapolis is named Tree of Life Yoga. And she takes this name seriously. She teaches retreats and workshops to open people's senses to the seasons and to help them reconnect, literally, to the earth.

And she lives this. She is walking her talk. She is a blisschick, through and through.

Describe the PrimaryBliss of your life. How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?

PrimaryBliss, for me, is communing with trees and plants. Though I need to have an attitude of quiet receptivity to experience the spirit essence of plants, this state is active and choiceful. “Being” becomes a verb, something very purposeful, instead of the default for doing. Since we worship action and material creation in this culture, I’ve gone from letting this be a guilty pleasure to believing it’s a radical act. One that everyone’s hungry for and capable of. So I like to encourage others to play in nature—even if it’s done indoors through yoga postures where the body is consciously supported by the earth or through visualization in meditation or art. Sharing what I find in my own contemplative time in nature is part of the PrimaryBliss too, so there’s a feedback loop that perpetuates the bliss.

What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

I try to keep my lifestyle as simple as possible. I made a decision not to have children so that there’s lots of time for solitude and contemplation. My husband and I got a puppy when I turned forty, feeling that nurturing a dog would fit our lifestyle better than taking on decades of 24/7/365 parenting. Our dog, Dewey, has gotten me out into the woods more than I would have if I’d gotten caught up in career and family. In sun, rain, sleet or snow we walk together at least twice a day. Being a city dweller, I’ve learned to find natural and wild spaces on the banks of the Mississippi River near our home. Dewey and I encountered a coyote walking up a ravine, just miles from the international airport and interstate freeways, on a snowy day last winter when most everyone else in the neighborhood seemed to be indoors cleaning up wrapping paper from the Christmas morning frenzy. It was a real gift for me.

How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

I teach earth-centered yoga and mindfulness meditation and give bodywork sessions through my healing arts practice Tree of Life Yoga. All of my teaching and therapeutic work starts with feeling support from the earth and honors all beings that dwell here. My daily communion with the elements and nature spirits feeds my work and makes it fun, inspiring, and easy for the most part.

Photo by Milissa (or by Dewey -- I'm not sure).

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

I love writing creative nonfiction. I wrote a memoir, Dog Ma, which I hope to have published in 2009. I’m currently working on an essay collection entitled Biophilia. The title piece is about the trees that befriended me on the small urban island where I lived for seven years. I’m trying to open up more time for writing and want it to become part of my profession. I’d like the bliss that creating with words brings me to have a ripple effect, reminding people that this chance we all get to be here on earth—though full of challenges—is our opportunity to grow in consciousness. We’re all here, I believe, whether we know it or not, to embody spirit. And to enjoy that.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Mindful walking with Dewey every morning and afternoon. I’ve moved away from the formal practices of japa (mantra recitation) and meditation that I devoted myself to for the last few decades. I now try to be awake, mindful, and compassionate throughout my day. That time in nature just after I wake—even if it’s walking across the baseball diamond in an urban park—is the foundation. I love to go on retreat whenever I get a chance. My favorite places are on the north shore of Lake Superior and near the Boundary Waters. If I go solo, I practice silence, do walking meditation, and sometimes write.

What music is your bliss?

My husband Brien is a huge music lover, and one of our indulgences is having lots of CDs. While we’re making dinner we shimmy to Al Green, Jimmy Cliff, Carbon Silicon, Orchestra Baobob. Dewey likes to cut in, and I lift him up and get a glimpse of Clio, the big old oak tree that watches over our house, out the window. Bliss!

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

There are too many to name. The first book I read on my own at seven was Charlotte’s Web. I cried when Charlotte died, and I felt like my life had begun once I’d become a reader. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time, but that cross-species interaction that I understood as a child, in an imaginative way, has now come into form in the intimacy I share with the trees. Many of the elms and oaks where I live have told me their names. The bond with our nine-year old terrier is also a bit like the one between the little pig and the spider in that first read. (Though Dewey doesn’t talk—yet!) I love Thoreau and Whitman for their celebration of life in the body; their practice of Right Relationship with earth. All of Pema Chodron’s books and Sharon Salzberg’s teachings on meditation have taught me about cultivating self-compassion through the hardships that arise. I get shivers from Mary Oliver’s poems. Also, those of Rumi and Hafiz.

What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

Take time for yourself. Like a new friend you want to get to know take yourself on play dates. Then notice if you feel any different than you do during your workaday life. What is the juice, the flavor, the spice that’s missing? Practice being you and prepare to be a bliss magnet. Others will feel it and be inspired too. And I’m not saying that this path is always easy and joyful. Part of living a bliss-filled life, I believe, is letting yourself in on the pain, the hurt, the loss and disappointment that come with being a human being. And loving yourself for it. Then look around and realize that everyone who lives suffers and everyone is capable of joy. The trees teach me—with their limbs sawed off to accommodate power lines and nails hammered into them to put up lost dog posters—not to take the hardships so personally. It’s a gift just to be here in any form. Why not make the best of it, find what you love and express that to others?

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

“The miracle is not to walk on thin air or water but to walk on earth.” Thich Nhat Hanh

After this interview, when Milissa's book is published, I'm sure we'll all be some of the first in line to read it.

Milissa's emphasis on the action of being, the "choicefulness" of life, the openness to all experience, and her love of earth and tree and sea and sky, inspires much introspection in me. How about you?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

EcoBliss: When Being Lazy is Good for the Planet

A little bit of lazy in the garden
can create a lot of lush.

Listening to: It's like they are dancing flowers.

Today's Bliss Formula: Though I have to be in a car today (remember how I hate this?), it is for good reason: to drive a friend to an appointment that may lead to her increased health. Now that would be some bliss!

I used to be one of those people who would weed and weed and weed. I liked there to be so much space between plants that you could easily see how hard I had worked on that weeding! I liked the look of the piles and piles of mulch that I had spent hours spreading. I edged every time we mowed the lawn.

Totally anal, you know?

But I have grown a lot as a gardener and now I can even say that my laziness is totally good for the planet and its inhabitants.

Right now if you walked into my back yard, you might notice that the persons who tend this yard aren't anal ... at all.

When I sit and have a glass of wine with frog in the evening, I have to resist getting up and chopping things down. Though, as time goes by, my resistance takes a whole lot less effort.

I stare at the dead and dying cornflowers and think how I could neaten those up at the very least. But then the next day, as frog exits the house to pick the rabbit her fresh organic daily salad, I hear her yelp with glee, and she runs in to tell me that at least ten goldfinches rose up out of the cornflowers when she opened the door.

You see, those beautiful goldfinches are seed eaters and all those dead heads are like a gourmet buffet to their little beaks. Who could possibly take those down? The goldfinches would then just move on to some other lucky person's yard!

The same is true of the asparagus that are now going to seed, standing tall like some bizarre fern forest near our lily beds. I love watching the various finches and sparrows try to teeter on the "branches" and eat the little seed pods that dangle below.

And we have stopped eating the very tiniest of the strawberries that are now coming in. For this fact, the wren and the rabbits are grateful -- I'm sure of it.

We also let our grass grow a little longer than most of the neighbors. Not too long; I'm not talking code violation here.

But long enough, that a bit of drought doesn't leave us brown and crunchy in one day like it does everyone else. Long enough, that the dandelions can grow for our rabbit, who thinks of them as seasonal candy. Long enough, that the thyme we planted throughout the lawn can spread and release its scent as you walk barefoot through it. Long enough, that it's interesting to the ground foraging, bug eating flickers that have the most intensely yellow under-wings you have ever seen.

Now that I don't try to make our yard look like something out of a magazine, it looks even more like something out of a magazine than ever. It is lusty, as a garden should be, and it's a little wild, as the animals and birds crave it to be.

I am proud of this little piece of wildness that we have cultivated in this small city, and as we plant another tree this year and start putting in a small pond, I am already dreaming of all the new friends we will make.

Monday, August 18, 2008

InnerBliss: Is Creativity Flowing Into Your Life?

By Marcy Hall.
Rumi quote on the painting:
I look in your inmost self and see
the universe not yet created.

Listening to: Some fire music.

Today's Bliss Formula: No new Snow White skirt to wear to the library today, which seems to be the opposite of bliss, but then there is that excuse to get yet another creation by Hannah, which is exactly the same as bliss! (I'm pretty decided on the red apple pickin' skirt, but who knows?!) A wonderful weekend, including time at the water, so I feel ready for a busy week.

Last Monday, we started a discussion about the chakras, beginning, of course, with the first chakra, or the "root." So now, onward and upward -- literally.

The second chakra is located about two inches below your navel and includes the reproductive organs. The color associated with this chakra is orange and the element is water.

Now, a lot of people think of this chakra purely as the "sex" chakra, but there is so much more to it than that! The Sanskrit name of this chakra gives you a huge hint as to its greater importance (not that sex isn't important!): "Dwelling Place of the Self."

First, to get the sex part out of the way -- if you are blocked in this second chakra, you can either end up being oversexed or a complete prude. One or the other. You see evidence of second chakra blockages big time in American culture, as evidenced most strongly and obviously in our advertising and entertainment industries. Can we say "overcompensation?!"

Then again, this great land was overrun by Puritans and their awfully ugly and all-skin-concealing outfits. No wonder they burned "witches" -- what else was there to do in the face of all that freaking repression?!

But, like I said, this chakra is about much more. This is where your sense of "personal style," as Ravi and Ana put it, comes from. And I love this. It's important to feel like the unique individual you are. (See my recent conversion to funky and whimsical clothing!)

And above "personal style," there is your all-important creativity.

I believe that is why we are put here -- to be happy, yes, but specifically through being creative. And we each, if we look hard enough, have a unique way to be creative.

For some people, it might mean coming up with a brand new way to do payroll accounts. This totally floats their boats! For some people, it means collecting rocks off of the beach and turning them into jewelry. For other people, it means being a different kind of parent than their parents were to them.

There are as many ways to be creative as there are humans on this planet.

The room in which I am writing this is painted orange. This color is invigorating both of the mind and the body -- perfect for waking up your creative brain. So that is one thing you can do to work with this chakra -- work with its color.

And since its element is water, another way to work with it is to go and spend time with a body of water. A creek will do. An ocean is awesome. A Great Lake is great. Sit with the water, listen to it, and then make sure to directly interact with it. Get wet!

You can also do a water ritual at home. Take your time in the herb section of your Whole Foods or an herb shop, if you are lucky. See what pulls you in. Take the herbs home and crush them and then boil them on the stove for at least twenty minutes before putting them in your tub. Add sea salt -- always good for a cleansing if that is what you are intending.

In terms of yoga, grounding pelvic exercises are great for this area. Sit cross legged and slowly move your spine in a big circle. Lunges with long deep breathing are also good, as are back bends and hip openers of all sorts. But do what is comfortable; if you have issues surrounding sex, some poses may bring up difficult emotions.

Here are some questions that could be used over the next week in your journal to explore your relationship to your second chakra:

1. How do you feel about sex? Do you think you have a healthy sex life? If not, how does it need to change? Have you experienced any sexual traumas in your life? If so, have you sought appropriate help to work through these experiences? Start here if you need some help in this area.

2. Do you feel creative every day?

3. Do you think you are as creative as you are capable? Are you holding back your creativity? Why?

4. Do you spend more time fantasizing about things you will do than actually doing those things?

5. Are you stuck in the planning stages of creative projects -- always making lists or buying supplies or waiting for the perfect time or space in which to work?

6. Do you eat to avoid emotions? Ever?

7. Do you push your emotions down, willing them away, determined to put on a good face no matter how you actually feel?

8. Do you envy the successes of other people or are you confident that there is enough to go around?

9. Is acquisition of material goods your primary motivational force?

10. Is each day an obstacle or do you awaken feeling energized by the possibility of healthy challenge and stimulation?

11. Do you have an overriding sense of purpose and vitality? Or you are spending most of your time in apathy and ennui?

Remember, wear what makes you feel wonderful, do what makes you feel wonderful, and spend some time shining like the sun!