Saturday, February 28, 2009

BardBliss: A Poem by Billy Collins

A Pink House at Chautauqua Institute.

I share this poem today because we are at this point in winter -- when the snow starts to get annoying to most of us, when we are just ready for green grass and flowers poking up out of the earth, when we are aching to sit out back in pink chairs with our espresso early in the morning, watching for birds.

Shoveling Snow With Buddha

In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over a mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.

Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.

Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm or slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.

All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside his generous pocket of silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.

After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?

Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck.
and our boots stand dripping by the door.

Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.

Billy Collins

Friday, February 27, 2009

BlissQuest: Calling Your Tribe to You

Yep. This was a healthy breakfast.

Listening to: Annie Lennox names this as her favorite song of songs.

Bliss: Learning a lesson this week instead of six months from now: when I am at home all the time, writing and working on creative projects, it can take me a long time to realize that I am not respecting my own schedule, thinking that because I don't have an office to go to that I am available to everyone whenever they want to see me. Okay. I learned that this week. I am done with that. Let's move on.

(This post is in response to the 8th secret, Partnerships and Alliances, in our 12 Secret Book Club.)

As many of you know, my most important alliance is with my partner, Marcy. I am lucky enough to have found my greatest emotional connection with the same person who is also my greatest creative connection. She would say the same.

I would never be writing what I write or how I write if it weren't for her influence and constant support. She would say that she would never be painting or writing if I hadn't convinced her to try.

A true alliance of souls is happening on a daily basis in our wee and beautiful house.

Daily, we talk to one another about absolutely everything.

Daily, we review with one another where we are and where we want to be.

When we are gestating new ideas, we share the process, bouncing possibilities back and forth, back and forth like one of those small rubber balls that comes with a Jacks set.

As soon as I write anything new, it is handed over to Marcy, who is a perfect balance of nurturer and critic.

On a practical level, Marcy, right now, works at the public library. This is the money that pays our bills. Sure, there is art money, but that is the extra, you know? The library money is the basis for how I can stay at home and concentrate on the art.

Now, here's the really weird part about my relationship with Marcy: we've been in each other's lives since high school and didn't even know it.

I've been watching a bunch of Joseph Campbell lectures lately about Hinduism and yoga and Buddhism and reincarnation and karma. He talks about how, from life time to life time, we will be running into the same set of people, needing something from one another over and over.

And if you look at our little writing group that meets weekly in this house, you can get a glimpse into that.

First of all, Marcy and I went to the same high school and had many of the same friends but did not meet until years later and then, of course, recognized who we were to one another immediately.

I've mentioned before that a writing group is something I said, out loud, that I needed and then it came into my life with ease within about four months.

The group we have now is special. Each of us a vital component; each of us bringing essential skills -- and I don't really mean editing skills.

The most vital role this group plays in our lives is that we are encouraging one another weekly to keep moving forward with dreams that most people think are made of smoke.

Here are the other players, whom I will give nicknames (meant to be lighthearted yet representative of some truth) to protect their daily, real world identities!

Dr. Captain America is the only man in the group and he likes to tease that he needs another guy but I think he secretly loves his singularity. Dr. Captain America is the definition of gregarious and nurturing, but he is also a rockin' editor.

By the way, Dr. Captain America, it turns out, was a Resident in my parents' medical practice, and I remember meeting him briefly years ago. Crazy!

Mother Superior of the Divine Knitting Needles is the newest member of the group. She has already taught me so much about being open and free with your faith. She is radiant with hers and brings warmth to any room she enters. She is tough, tenacious, willing, and honest. (She is NOT a nun!)

It turns out that my ex worked for Mother Superior's husband's company and that she and I met briefly years ago. Again...CRAZY!

Anne of Green Gables is the only member that I did not know before we got together, but considering the rest of the group and me, I am thinking we just haven't hit upon it yet. Now Anne of GG is passionate and feisty and silly and smart and has nothing but beautiful intentions.

I adore each of these people and I am thankful that they are here, on this ride, with me.

I used to envy the whole Hemingway/Fitzgerald etc. thing that happened in Paris in the early part of the 20th century, and I used to think that it couldn't happen here, in Erie, that that was Paris, for goodness' sake.

I was wrong. I have a tribe; I've had one all along...I just had to call out and there it was.

Have you called for your tribe yet? What's holding you back?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

enCouragingBliss: Again, and Again, and Again, and...

St. Peter's Cathedral,
Downtown Erie

Listening to: Today, no music. What are you hearing from outside? I am listening to the sweet sounds of a Cardinal SINGING. A true sign of spring.

Bliss: Last night, our writing group was extra exuberant, even in the face of some recent difficulties in some of our lives. Just crazy with stories and joking and so much laughter. Like a big family dinner. Beautiful.

Yesterday morning, way before a 9:30 meeting for coffee with a former writing student, I made my way through some very bitter air to the cathedral pictured above. I get there early so I have quiet time and so I get the seat I like -- opposite a window depicting "Wisdom."

Once inside and warmed and finished with some reflection and meditation, I looked around and noticed that the rising sun coming through the side stained glass windows was creating confetti on the walls and pillars. Dust motes were lit high in the arched ceiling, a sprinkling of magic above our heads.

Though the priest was old and a bit mumble-y in that large and echoing space, the words I caught meant more to me this year than they ever have, as my mind is open to their graceful meaning rather than occupied looking for a crack in which I might insert an argument.

Lent and what it leads to also means more to me as I am recently more intimately acquainted with our Life's partner, Death.

The thing that struck me most yesterday was the Priest's repeating a few times that this is not a time of guilt and moroseness, no, this call to Lent is a jubilant invitation to change and growth.

We are not to "give something up" so that when we stumble, we can berate ourselves.

No, that kind of self-flagellation is no longer encouraged. We know better. Besides, often that kind of activity is merely another ego filler, another way to say "look at me."

Instead, we are to explore who we are, how we are living, how we might live better so that we might someday die well.

Dying well is dying without regret.

If we are alive in this moment, every moment presents us with the opportunity to turn it all around. Every moment is a moment imbued with the possibility of our best selves.

So this week in enCouraging your Bliss, I recommend being forgiving. I recommend allowing for tripping and stumbling. I recommend that when you trip and stumble that you then laugh at yourself in a good natured way and get up and try again.

And then try again.

And then try yet again.

Because that is what this life is. This life is not reaching some pinnacle of perfection and then standing there looking all proud and smug. That is not how we humans are built.

We are frail and ridden with fault lines. We are meant to fail.

Because, like I said to Marcy the other day, "Wow. We learn so much more when we f--k up."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

SharedBliss: Interview with Global Yogi, Sally Brown

Dr. Sally Brown, Yogi &
Children's Advocate

Listening to: A new favorite way to start my mornings.

Bliss: Yesterday I met a friend for juice at the Whole Foods Co-op; I had not seen her for too long, and we talked until I could barely talk anymore. And now this morning, I am meeting a woman I taught creative writing to a couple of years ago for coffee to discuss her...writing. Excellent.

This is one of those interviews that comes from the wonderful and whimsical, twisting and turning connections that can happen when you write a blog.

I first "met" Michael when he wrote to me asking me for advice about starting his own blog. He was a fellow follower of the Kundalini path of yoga. Eventually, through many emails, he told me about a trip he took to India, where he got to study with Gurmukh. Amazing!

We kept writing back and forth now and then. We became "friends" on Facebook. He started nursing school. (Go, Michael!)

And just recently, he told me that the woman who organized his trip to India was a true Blisschick and perhaps I should contact her for an interview.

Dr. Sally Brown found her path and is walking it...all over the world. She combines her love of yoga and her love of travel and she combines them in a way that allows her and many others to help children in far away lands.

She wrote up her answers and sent them to me from Cambodia! Though it is not formatted the same as it usually is, I wanted to keep her answer the way she sent it to me -- one continuous narrative:

I truly believe the two keys to success in life are PASSION AND PERSEVERANCE.

You must find your passion in life regardless what age you are.

I was bedridden for a year in third grade with rheumatic fever when family and friends started sending me postcards from all over the world. I knew at that early age that I wanted to travel the world -- either as a "stewardess" or by joining the Peace Corp. I followed my passion and have since traveled to over 130 countries.

After high school, I pursued my degree in education to become a teacher in the Peace Corp. At the age of 20, I was approached by the senior flight attendant of a local travel club/airline and joined their ranks as a flight attendant. I was blessed to travel most weekends and still pursue my education. Through the years and after two degrees, I went from flight attendant to CEO/President of the travel club. My love of travel has never diminished (I am in Cambodia as I write this).

Even after my two daughters were born, I traveled with them by taking a nanny if need be.
Both have traveled to over 40 countries themselves and have great appreciation for the opportunities they were given.

In 1998, I started a non-profit while still working at the travel club. Ambassadors for Children was formed to offer short-term humanitarian trips and sustainable projects around the world to serve children. My life had been blessed so much that it was time to give back.

Ambassadors for Children is currently in 18 countries across the globe.

I have learned that if you give, you get back so much more.

To make sure I maintain a sense of balance in my life, I went through yoga teacher training. Teaching yoga is one of the most blissful things in my life. I opened a center, Peace through Yoga, in 2003 and gain so much satisfaction in teaching my students the joys of yoga.

Through my yoga practice, I try to meditate once a day. Just being on the mat five or six times a week, however, connects me to a higher source. There are four types of yoga: the physical type that most westerns are aware of. Karma Yoga is the act of service. Jnana Yoga is the act of self study so learning is never ending. Bhakti Yoga is the act of worship, chanting, singing, etc---praising a higher source.

These areas of yoga affect my life in what I read and the music I listen to.
My recommendation to any one on the journey of discovery is the following:

* Find your passion -- professionally or personally
* Persevere -- set goals and stay focused
* Find balance in your life -- physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, and spiritually
* Give back -- This can be with your time as a volunteer or financially. Know that you have that responsibility.
* Have faith -- Once you are on your path, have faith that it is exactly where you are suppose to be. Let go, let God.

I have so many favorite quotes, including Margaret Mead: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

My favorite part of this interview is right toward the end when she reminds us how important it is to have faith, explaining that she means to stay on your path once you are on it.

I think this is something missing today in many of our lives -- a sense of long term commitment. We are so lucky to have so much information available to us, but sometimes it is a handicap. The grass is always greener -- or maybe there is something better than grass -- on the other side of that fence right there.

We try something maybe, if we are lucky, for a year or two, and if we don't see the results that we want, we move onto the next thing.

The Dalai Lama gives us a great visual when he talks about this problem. He says that to get to the top of the mountain, you must choose a path and stick to it, or you will just end up further and further from the top, because in your inability to choose and then stick, you will actually dig a ditch as you walk round and round and round the base.

So, are you walking slowly and steadily toward that top, or are you standing in a ditch?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

OuterBliss: Moon, Mardi Gras, & Mortality

Some of my favorite trees on the planet
(at Chautauqua Institute).

Listening to: Who knew these guys were making new music?

Bliss: Early, classic swing. Great mood inducing stuff. Coffee later with a friend who has been living out of the country. It's Fat Tuesday, so donuts for dinner! (Just kidding...kinda.)

Today is the new moon. The full moon that will come in approximately fourteen days is called the Storm Moon, the Wind Moon, the Crow Moon, or Sleepy Moon by the Chinese.

Storm and Wind Moon are most appropriate in my part of the world.

Though I have come to love winter (yes, I said that), spring and I still have a thing going. I'm not crazy about spring. I guess because the whole bi-polar thing throws me off -- whether it be in weather or people.

During the spring, I feel my worst. My joints ache from the moisture and the cold. My digestion is precarious at best. I'm more likely to get a headache if I drink a small glass of wine. My whole system is out of whack.

But doesn't that make sense? The whole earth is going through birth pangs in the spring. What a messy, but ultimately, beautiful thing, indeed.

Lent is an acknowledgment of this natural rhythm. Lent says, hey, slow down, take it easy during this potential craziness. Go inside. Spend some time just listening. Planning. Preparing.

But first, let's have a big ol' party! And so today is a new moon and Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Of course, if you were in New Orleans or Rio (we can dream), you'd have been partying for days by now, celebrating Carnival.

Alas, Marcy and I are not in Rio, so we will be feasting on donuts tonight, a fairly traditional fatty food to eat before Lent begins.

What is this all about? This explosion of music and food and decadence? Death, of course.

It is remembering that we are creatures destined to die that gives such a sweetness to life. It is remembering that we will die that makes us want to fully live.

And so tomorrow, we will go to Mass or a service and have ashes placed upon our foreheads.

These bodies are only dust, those ashes say. I am concerned with bigger things, that mark tells others who see it.

For forty days, that is what we are contemplating. We are contemplating the temporary illusion of this flesh sheath. We are contemplating our soul's place in our life. We are contemplating how we should be using our time here.

We are, simultaneously, contemplating our mortality and our eternity. Forty days for that? Seems like a good use of a few weeks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

InnerBliss: 40 Days to Germinate New Habits

The small wooden church at
Chautauqua Institute.

Listening to: Two of my favorite pieces arranged to breath-holding perfection.

Bliss: The sun is shining; the seeds for our vegetable beds are on their way; anticipation is in the air.

This is going to seem obvious, but the other day, I turned to Marcy and said, "Wow, after 40 days -- which is really so short -- we'll be admiring some of the tulips in our yard and hyacinth!"

I know this. I know that at the end of Lent there is Easter, blooming, literally.

But this year, something has been happening to my awareness. It has deepened, and that is in large part due to my attention. I am paying much closer attention to the days preceding the "big holidays," the days building up, the days meant for preparation.

I tried this past Christmas to get more meaning from Advent and then after that, from the 12 Days of Christmas.

This Easter, I am determined to get more from Lent. I have always loved Holy Week, with the foot washing and Good Friday, but I have not been consistent in my approach to Lent.

Lent, a word that comes from an Anglo-Saxon word that means Spring.

Think about that. It can change your whole attitude toward Lent. It is not 40 days of denial and mourning. No, it is 40 days of anticipation, change, germination.

This Wednesday, it's time to plant some seeds.

The main seeds I am planting this Lenten season are in the category of commitment. I am not giving anything up but rather committing to new ways of being.

First, I commit to more positive thinking, especially in terms of how I talk to myself. So much of our self-talk is degrading, is it not? We are never good enough; we are always striving for some unattainable perfections, whether that be about our weight, our prayer life, our jobs, our families. All of it. We want perfection, and when we don't exhibit it, we tell ourselves over and over.

We poison our own minds.

For forty days, I am going to administer the antidote of self-love and forgiveness. This will not be easy, but every time I talk in a mean spirited way to myself, I am determined to notice and adjust, gently.

To help this along, I will be doing a 40 day chakra/emotional cleanse as recommended by Ravi Singh and Ana Brett. It's the So Darshan Chakra Kriya. (Besides those written instructions, this kriya is found on BlissHips.)

See, the 40 day thing is considered efficacious not just in Catholicism but also in Kundalini Yoga. According to that system, in 40 days you can create new habits.

I will also be reading this daily and being more conscious about my prayer and meditation life in general.

As I have said a hundred times in this blog, bliss is a path and each day we must choose to walk it. I am seeing Lent this year as an opportunity to strengthen my hiking muscles.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

MysticBliss: From Rilke's Book of Pilgrimage

Crow guide on walk in park.

From Rainer Marie Rilke's Book of Pilgrimage as contained in Rilke's Book of Hours: Love Poems to God. (It reminds me of Rumi, which makes sense -- all mystics are really saying the same things.)

I am praying again, Awesome One.

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

I've been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half-mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.

I am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.

I am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though someone unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that now I find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart--
oh let them take me now.

Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God--spend them however you want.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

BardBliss: Federico Garcia Lorca

Me at Three

(Published 1919)

Friday, February 20, 2009

BlissQuest: Becoming A Conduit for Divine Creativity

"This way," said one of my guides
during a walk in the park.

Listening to: Something for Connie.

Bliss: A kitten who wakes me in the middle of the night just to be petted. That same kitten finally (ha) having a sleepy day after a few totally crazy, totally "busy" days.

For our 12 Secrets book club this week, the secret is all about paying attention to, listening for your creative guides.

I read this chapter yesterday and have been thinking about it since. And not in that "what an amazing chapter!" way, but rather, in that "what the heck am I going to write?!" way.

And now it finally hits me that if I think about this chapter in reverse, it is about something I have spent a lot of time pondering: the lack of positive female role models for writers.

If you haven't already, watch Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk about creativity. It fits right in with my thinking, especially when she points out that the 20th century is littered with the dead bodies of our most creative souls.

Some of my favorite writers took their own lives in that century, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf to name only two.

Gilbert asserts that much of the death and self-destructive tendencies occur because we simply put too much emphasis on the control an artist has. We give the artist herself too much credit.

What? What does she mean by this, you may be asking. Too much credit? Isn't the credit all due to the artist?

I think she's right. I think it's healthier to think of the artist as a conduit but not the actual source of the energy. This can create a healthy mystical approach to our art and creativity. We just have to be prepared to receive, but we are not the actual generator of the gift.

When we are having a dry spell, it's not totally our fault. The muse -- or whatever you choose to call it -- is just busy with someone else at the moment.

This does not exonerate us, though. Our most important role becomes Showing Up & Being Ready. We still have to go to the easel, to the typewriter, to the clay...we still have to do the work. And it behooves us to do the work every single day so that when the Muse is ready to gift us, we are there to receive.

And we are gracious recipients, having honed our craft.

As a person who believes in mystery, who does not want every single part of her creativity dissected and "understood," who wants art and creativity to be seen in the same light as enlightenment, as this person, this idea works for me.

And suddenly the idea of "Guide" is no longer limited to human form.

I can light a candle and call upon my angels.

I can smudge my creative space and ask help from the ancestors.

I can sit in meditation and wait upon the Divine.

Suddenly, my art is my religion. My creativity is my path. My whole life is one sacred message to and from the gods.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

enCouragingBliss: Calling All Airheads (and by that, I mean ME!)

Lilly is just flabbergasted by my
forgetfulness. Thank goodness for such
smart cats and a rabbit!

Oh, MY! If I had not been visiting this beautiful blog, I would not have remembered that Thursdays are now enCouragingBliss days! Thank you, Carla!

What kind of Blisschick am I!? (Don't worry...I am just teasing myself.)

If you haven't gotten involved yet in enCouragingBliss, you can read here and here to get the idea.

Last week my goal was to work on one small part of the most damaging of stories that I tell myself, and that story is that I am lazy. I decided to try to do less and see how that feels. Now, Marcy got a crazy bad flu during this past week, so doing less actually became a necessity as we needed to slow way down and take care of the ailing artist.

I realized that I am fine with doing less, with paying attention to the essential, when I have some noble, external reason to do so. The challenge, for me, then is to learn to prioritize like this just because.

Just because I am worth it.

Just because my creativity is worth it.

Just because my life is worth it.

So, as we move toward the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday only next week, my enCouragingBliss challenge is to settle into quiet.

How are other people doing with their promises to themselves?

I want to say yes, to Jennifer, we will gladly call you out! We believe in tough love in these parts! :)

Both Tess and Joy made promises that were centered around food. I think promises like this are so important. We have to start in the concrete now if we want to make soul-altering changes.

A lot of people mentioned yoga and being present in the now, including cutting back on activities in order to fine tune and focus their precious energy.

When you consider the fact that in the Northern hemisphere, we are getting very near to spring, this idea of conserving energy is essential. Soon, we will be called upon, like the earth herself, to put out a lot of energy.

The sun will shine earlier and later, creating longer days during which we are enticed to do more. The air will be warm and will call us to the outdoors and more physical activity.

Before we know it, we will be caught in what can be the crazies of summer.

Distractions of all sorts will loom large and shiny. Distractions that can easily take us from our center.

What could you be doing for yourself right now to prepare?

RandomBliss: Why I Won't Be Finishing Kathleen Norris' New Book

A friend I made during a recent
walk through our park.

Listening to: This Mexican actress turned singer/songwriter.

Bliss: Having found the most amazing editing help in the most unexpected place -- a physician (and the only boy) in my writing group (and I am winking at him right here). Truly. I don't think I could do the cutting work that I need to do without his excellent eye.

This week, as you know, I've been thinking a lot about the idea of consuming and how it extends way beyond what food and water we put into our bodies, but includes music, movies, television, news, books, Internet, blogs...everything in that category of "media."

(This idea is not new, of course, it's just much on my mind right now.)

Yesterday, I was spending the day doing some reading. Reading is vital to my health and well-being. It has been since I was very young, when I would escape into the safe world of books when it felt like my own world was anything but.

My own creative life also very much depends upon replenishing my own well with the words of wisdom of others.

One of my favorite writers is Kathleen Norris. I have read just about everything she has written. I think she is a big reason why I have been able to find my way back to Catholicism. She helped me to see that I was limiting myself by seeing "Christian" only as all those nasty, ignorant people who hate in the name of Christ.

She especially helped me to see the bible as poetry. I've always thought that I could read it as metaphor, but she helped me to actually do so.

When her new book, Acedia, came out, I could, therefore, barely wait to get my mitts on it. I put myself on the holds list at the library and waited and waited. When I finally got it, I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters; it was so full of things to think about. Alas, it was due back to the library, so I put myself back on the holds list.

This time around, I got much more immersed in it and was able to start plowing my way through. This brings us to yesterday.

My mood was horrible. I just felt down and didn't know why. I had been feeling pretty fantastic the day before. I told myself it was February. A lot of people right now are writing about having the February blahs; that must be it, I said out loud.

Around two o'clock in the afternoon, I realized it wasn't February's fault. (Poor, little February -- always getting such a bad rap.)

It was Kathleen Norris' book!

I know it seems funny to say that a book on acedia was making me feel depressed. The concept of acedia is still interesting to me and I think that Norris is right in asserting that thinking about acedia and about how the desert fathers dealt with it could go a long way in helping us in contemporary times to deal with much of our own emotional baggage.

It wasn't the theoretical stuff that was getting me; it was Norris' own story, or more accurately, the story of her husband's illnesses (both mental and physical) and his eventual death, which I did not, could not, get to.

Right now, I know enough sick people in my own real, day to day life.

And though it may have been cathartic for Norris to write this book, it was anything but for me to read it.

So I did something I rarely do. I put that book back on the shelf. I said good bye. I let myself not finish it.

For once, I chose my heart over my mind.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SharedBliss: Blisscals Creator Lorraine Faehndrich

Lorraine and her daughter, Chloe

Listening to: Something so happyhappy!

Bliss: It's only my first full week away from my part time library job, and I am feeling a rhythm about my day already. Excellent!

I'm pretty sure it was Diane of the Everything Yoga Blog who introduced me to Blisscals. She had a gift idea list some time in December, if I'm not mistaken.

As someone who is surrounded by little pieces of paper; as someone who likes to print out quotes and hang them around as reminders; as someone who has at least two notebooks that are exclusively for noting inspiring this person, the whole idea behind Blisscals made sense to me immediately.

Words and phrases that are static clinged so that they can be moved!? Excellent.

Because one of the problems with paper is that it curls, and it needs to be taped or pinned, and eventually I just stop "seeing" it because it becomes such a normal part of my home landscape.

But static cling Blisscals? I could put them on my bathroom mirror and a window that I often look out...and then I could switch them around and kinda surprise myself.

The creator of Blisscals, Lorraine, is a huge proponent of the law of attraction and you can see how her work and those beliefs go together perfectly. For her store, go here and for a bit of her approach to life, go here.

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

There are so many things in my life that feel absolutely blissful to me! My PrimaryBliss is connecting to my higher self, Source energy, and the part of me that knows that all is well, that I live in an abundant universe of infinite love, that I am love, and that I can be, do, and have anything. I am completely worthy and totally cared for at all times. When I am connected this way everything I do feels blissful!

When I became a mother I sought to create an environment of love, acceptance, freedom, and joy for my daughter. My parenting coach told me I had to first find my own connection with source rather than depending on people and circumstances to feel good. That was a radical idea for me at the time but I knew that he was right! He recommended the book “Ask And It Is Given” by Jerry and Esther Hicks. It changed my life, teaching me that the basis of my universe is well being, the purpose of my life is freedom and joy, and my emotions serve as my guides to manifest my desires. As a result, I created a rich, abundant, and blissful life for my daughter and myself.

It is so exhilarating for me to recognize how my thoughts make me feel, consciously choose better feeling thoughts and deliberately live my life as the amazing, unlimited being that I am. That is how my company Creating Bliss came to be. Its mission is to help people connect to their SOURCE and feel absolutely blissful by thinking thoughts that feel good!

Blisscals Decals trigger an internal shift from ego and fear-based thinking – which most of us do habitually - to Source and abundant thinking. I am really excited about sending these positive thoughts out into the world!

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

I have not made any sacrifices, besides choosing moment by moment to let go of negative thoughts, worry and fear when they arise. I commit daily to trust in my well being and abundance, and align my thoughts with this. I create my life by imagining what I want and only act when inspiration and joy surface rather than focusing on what I “should” do.

For example, Blisscals Decals came while meditating on the essence of the work I want to do in the world. I defined the qualities I wanted in my work and meditated on it, asking for ideas that would bring more joy into my life and into the lives of others. I continue to meditate on these qualities and do the next thing that feels good. Instead of a “To Do” list I have a list of delicious possibilities!

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

My PrimaryBliss naturally radiates outward when I pay attention to my feelings and choose to feel as good as I can in every moment. Thus, I think uplifting thoughts and focus on what I am creating. If my relationship with myself is good, and my connection with source is strong, it spills into all other areas of my life. Bliss affects everyone around me. All of my actions are easier and completed with joy.

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

I feel blissful when I am connecting with my joyful daughter whether playing games, reading, laughing or snuggling up to watch Gilmore Girls. I adore walking in the woods or along the ocean, petting a purring kitty in my lap (we have four!), hiking by the nearby waterfalls, dancing, meditating and doing yoga, and traveling to other countries (most recently Mexico). I am also inspired by uplifting conversations, reading books that open up new possibilities, going beyond what I thought was possible for me, and spending time with my sister goddesses!

When appreciating, I feel blissful. When loving myself or someone else, I feel blissful. I feel blissful when I imagine what I want to create and trust it is already done. I love conjuring greater possibilities for myself and others!

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

I get up early everyday to take time to raise my vibration and set my intentions for the day. This involves meditating and journaling about what I choose to create, short and long-term. I check in with my thoughts and feelings about what is happening in my life. When I sense resistance, worry, or fear, I experiment with my related thoughts and feelings until I feel better about the issue. For instance, this morning I was not feeling excited about making calls to packaging companies. When I looked at this, I saw I was holding a subtle thought that I wouldn't find what I was looking for and the phone calls would be difficult. Realizing this, I quickly turned it around, which went something like ”I am going to connect with the perfect packaging company that does beautiful, reliable, and efficient work. Our connection will be mutually beneficial and uplifting.” Once I heard that, I was eager to make the calls.

Because I take time to align my energy, I attract what I want and my actions are easy and joyful. This is the same principle that allows Blisscals Decals to work as tools for creating the life you want. They replace other negative thoughts and align our energy to manifest our desires.

When I first started using my emotions as guidance five years ago, I noticed when I felt fear or despair and worked with that. It is uncommon for me to feel fear and despair now, and when I do, I quickly notice it and turn it around. I now practice noticing subtler feelings like worry, hesitation and any emotion less than bliss because it is an opportunity to make awesome changes in my energetic vibration.

What music is your bliss?

I love all kinds of uplifting music! Recently I've been listening to Abba inspired by watching the movie Mama Mia. And, I keep listening to “Love Is In the Air” by Milk and Sugar, “You're Beautiful” by James Blunt, and “Love Generation” by Bob Sinclair. All positive vibration raising tunes!

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

My parenting coach, Scott Noelle, had a really positive impact on my life and parenting. Jerry and Esther Hicks have greatly influenced me. I love Mama Gena and her School of the Woman Arts books. She is a Pleasure Revolutionary and committed to helping women live their desires! I recently enjoyed, The One Command by Asara Lovejoy. Byron Katie's book, I Need Your Love - Is that True, and Florence Scovel's, The Game of Life for Women continue to be very inspiring for me. Other authors who influenced my life are Jean Liedloff, John Holt, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, and Dr. Christiane Northrup.

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

I advise people to pay attention to what makes them feel good and do a lot more of it. Whether it is petting your cat, reading an inspiring book, going out dancing, or doing yoga, make pleasure a priority in your life. You will start feeling great and attracting what you love into your life. And, put up some Blisscals. Their sayings and designs remind you of who you really are and change your thoughts to ones that uplift and empower you. They really work to raise your vibration and help you create more bliss in your life!

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

I’ve used my ten favorite sayings on Blisscals Decals such as:

No Biggie
All Is Well
Living Deliciously
And Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After is my favorite since it reminds me that it is possible for me to live happily ever after, and that I already am!

Okay, wow! Now that you're done reading that, go back and read it again. This interview is packed from top to bottom. I have to say, I think we could all read this every day for the next month and keep getting more out of it.

Lorraine's blissful wisdom is contagious! What was your favorite part of her wisdom sharing?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

OuterBliss: What to do with Early Spring Fever?

A wren usually makes a nest in this birdhouse.

Listening to: A little something lively for upcoming Mardi Gras.

Bliss: Eating a homemade muffin filled with blueberries from the fever which we handpicked last summer. Little bursts of sunshine in your mouth!

We've had a lot of snow this winter. I mean, a LOT. We are inching (literally) our way up the top ten snowfalls chart. Since it's only mid-February and we can easily get snow well into April, there's a good chance that we'll make it to the number one spot.

So having spring fever right now is probably ill timed.

I should wait at least a month or two.

But we've finally gotten a thaw. We haven't seen grass since early November and now there is green; I've had to wear my yak trax (no slipping things on the bottoms of boots) every time I leave the house until about a week ago when I could see the cement of the sidewalks.

So what's a northern girl to do when the weather is such a tease?

For one, take advantage and take more walks.

But my favorite thing right now are those seed catalogs. And with them come visions of me and my partner sitting out back sipping espresso in the early morning, waiting to see what birds will visit, lazily walking about the yard deadheading, grabbing a weed here and there.

Yes, I am trying to stay present; we are still deep in winter, but a girl can dream, can't she?

Right now, I am dreaming of all the different lettuces that we can grow for the rabbit and the beans and the peas and the tomatoes and the squash and the chard and the strawberries...and oh, the asparagus, which comes so early, a clarion call to the rest of the garden.

And I am dreaming of all those lilies that I added last late fall. I can't even remember what I put in, but there were so many of them.

As the earth shows very beginning signs of awakening, I can feel the same happening to me and to my creativity. I feel the pull of poetry. Spring and poetry seasons. So, along with the asparagus and the lilies, I hope to find poems dangling from tree limbs and poking up through dark soil.

What about you? What do you hope to find waking within you with the waking of the earth?

Monday, February 16, 2009

InnerBliss: Protecting Myself from (Media) Viruses

The evening sky a couple of nights ago.
(A lucky shot, I think.)

Listening to: french pop. (New to me.)

Bliss: Finding your college roommate on Facebook. Reconnecting to people who felt "lost." Communicating with people you've known since you were in third grade -- both very cool and a bit embarrassing! :)

Marcy has had the flu. I have (successfully -- knock on wood) been fighting off her flu, so I've been extra sleepy, a bit drained. Subsequently, we've been watching more TV than is usual for us -- far more -- and this past weekend, we both got to the point where we were just downright bored with ourselves.

And so I come to blogging this morning with a sluggish brain, a brain void of ideas. This rarely has happened since I have started blogging and I've been grateful for the constant flow of material.

As I sit here and think about it, the TV we've been watching is not up to the usual caliber that we demand of our media, and it leads me to think about what Thich Nhat Hanh says about ingestion and how it's not only important to eat the right foods but to "eat" the right everything.

He is specifically talking about ingesting too much violence.

But this weekend after watching (a-hem) a couple of Gossip Girls for the first time, I'm starting to expand my own ideas of violence in media.

Sure the music and the fashion of Gossip Girl is enough to keep this sparkle-loving crow wanting more, but the content is disturbing, and not just in that oh-my-god-these-people-are-supposed-to-be-17? sort of way.

The thing that struck me was the cruelty.

And the vacuous nature of that cruelty. (By vacuous I mean there really is no reason for the cruelty and there is no sense of consequences or responsibility.)

Much of what we normally watch -- sci-fi type stuff -- leaves me feeling inspired. It gives me ideas, makes me think about the larger questions of life and the meaning of being human.

Shows like Gossip Girl just make me feel sad. And tired.

It wasn't just the flu bug making me nap after all.

Nope, it was the virus that is the degradation of humanity that occurs hourly on television. And it comes in all sorts of pretty packaging.

No more. I quit. From now on, I'm with Thich -- watching what I eat, what I put into this sensitive and tender system.

What are some things in your life that are mindlessly draining you?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

MysticBliss: Winter Prayer

Original Painting by Marcy, available here.
Hildegarde quote on painting:
"the air, blowing everywhere,
serves all creatures."

As I walked through the snow to my chiropractor appointment on Friday, I was so focused on not slipping and just "making it there," that I lost sight of the beauty around me.

This can happen even when you don't own a car, even when you walk and bike almost everywhere. You lose sight, or more accurately, your sight becomes very narrow.

About halfway up the hill and through the slushy snow, I stopped.

Having had a week of warm temperatures, the snow had just about completely melted, but this morning, I awoke to fresh snow, and standing outside on my way somewhere "important," I paused and noticed that everything looked clean again, everything had been blanketed.

The snow was still falling but slowly and lightly.

It was quiet where I stood and the only thing I heard was my own breath.

Then a bird in a nearby bush, branches thick with berries.

Quiet. As if I were standing in the middle of the woods, the middle of some prairie, but in reality, I was in the middle of our small city.

In this same spot in summer, I will be assailed by the sounds of many cars and the screams of children. But under this blanket of white, I can catch a moment or two when there is no sound but my own.

And this is why I have come to love winter.

From Caitlin Matthews:

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom's golden thread.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

BardBliss: Aphrodite for Valentine's Day

Mara L. Pratt, Myths of Old Greece
(New York: Educational Publishing Company, 1896)

A poem to Aphrodite by Sappho, translated by Anne Carson:

Deathless Aphrodite of the spangled mind,
child of Zeus, who twists lures, I beg you
do not break with hard pains,
O lady, my heart

but come here if ever before
you caught my voice far off
and listening left your father's
golden house and came,

yoking your car. And fine birds brought you,
quick sparrows over the black earth
whipping their wings down the sky
through midair --

they arrived. But you, O blessed one,
smiled in your deathless face
and asked what (now again) I have suffered and why
(now again) I am calling out

and what I want to happen most of all
in my crazy heart. Whom should I persuade (now again)
to lead you back into her love? Who, O
Sappho, is wronging you?

For is she flees, soon she will pursue.
If she refuses gifts, rather will she give them.
If she does not love, soon she will love
even unwilling.

Come to me now; loose me from hard
care and all my heart longs
to accomplish, accomplish. You
be my ally.

Friday, February 13, 2009

BlissQuest: The Only Sabotage is Self Sabotage

My poor, underused Olivetti Valentine (1969).

Listening to: Some diva for all our divas!

Bliss: Emma over at Treehouse JukeBox updated her Etsy store and all the proceeds are going to help a family with unexpected medical bills. If you can help her to help them, many karma points would be awaiting you, I'm sure! :)

This post is in response to secret six in our 12 Secret's book club.

(NOTE: I may seem to be making fun here, but remember that my primary target is ME.)

Wednesday was my last day at the library. From Wednesday afternoon forward, my time is my own. I am home to work on my and my partner's creative projects.


Yesterday -- one day, 24 small hours after my last day at the library -- I had a mild freak out.

Every ugly, doubtful, cruel diva that comprises my own internal opera got on stage and sang as loud as she could. Which is loud. All my divas have giant lungs.

And why did this happen? Because of what Marianne Williamson says:

Our deepest fear is not that we
are inadequate. Our deep fear
is that we are powerful
beyond measure.

Yep, that's me -- full of fear about my own power. And now I am committed; I'm done for; I have no more excuses left. I have the time, the space, the tools...the music, the comfortable know -- that list of "stuff" that we think will make us more creative? I have that list and each item has a little check next to it.

So what was going on, really, during that freak out? Here's what I think...

We do yoga or we go to a church to pray or we sit on a mat and meditate or we do all of those things. We read books like The Secret and You Can Heal Your Life. We watch movies like What the Bleep Do We Know.

And we claim to believe.

We claim to believe that our worlds, our lives, our experiences are all our own creations; we claim to believe that all of life is energy and we are energy and our thoughts are energy; we claim to believe that we hold the power.

But we certainly don’t act that way, do we?

Instead, most of us, much of the time, spend our days handing over our power to just about anything outside of us, so that we don’t have to take responsibility.

We hand over our power to the weather and tell ourselves that we feel badly because of the clouds. (I did this one for so many years, until I realized that whether or not it was true, it wasn't getting me anywhere.)

We hand over our power to governments and tell ourselves that the world is in such a state because of the actions of one man. (As if we are not culpable for wars based in overuse of resource.)

We hand over our power to just the right (wrong) person who will say just the right (wrong) things to us about our new, still in diapers creative project, and we stand back and watch while they, like some demon mythical cats, sit on those projects' chests until they are out of breath.

We hand over our power to the past, to the voices in our heads, to the voices outside our heads, to the smallest minded people we can find, to bad teachers, to the cultural critics, to our ideas of who and what we should be.

And then we stand back, and we point to all of these things and label them saboteurs.

But we should only and always be standing in front of a mirror when we point because there is only and always one saboteur -- ourselves.

If you don’t believe me, fine, but then stop it with the yoga and the meditation and the books and the movies; stop it with all the posing. I mean, really, what is the point?

We may as well just sit on the couch, grab the chips, and watch TV until our minds are mush like everyone else's.

Or we can start acting in ways that match our stated beliefs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

enCouragingBliss: One Small ReWrite

A little reminder of what is to come:
A butterfly garden at the bottom
of our yard.

Listening to: A new favorite group. The girl in green and the girl in the black striped t-shirt are a couple, and they are actually the Ditty Bops.

Bliss: Our house is still standing and did not blow away overnight! (The winds here were crazy!) My first day today of my brand new, all-the-time-at-home-doing-our-own-stuff schedule officially starts today.

Last week, I announced my intention to create a space here on Thursdays for people to come and share their own intentions for the following week or to share a difficulty they are having or to ask for help.

A space of enCouragingBliss. A place where we can help one another grow -- whether it be creatively or spiritually.

My first goal was to do yoga every single day, no matter what else was going on. And telling you, making this commitment out loud, in "public" really did help. I missed one day, but I could have easily missed more with all that was going on.

Instead, when I felt tempted to not do anything toward my goal, I thought of you, and I got up and went to my mat.

I wonder how this worked for those of you who left comments (and this is just a sampling):

I wonder, for example, if Sydney managed to sit with her journal every day?

I wonder if Rowena managed to work on her novel for one half hour every day? Caroline was supposed to also work on a book.

A few of you committed to daily yoga. One person committed to daily music (YAY!).

Last week, I also wrote about the importance of keeping our weekly goals small so that we aren't overwhelmed and feeding into old stories of "failure" or "quitting" or whatever your old story is that keeps you stuck.

We are here to help one another construct new stories.

So for this coming week, let's work on story. What is an old story that is no longer working for you and what can you do -- what small step could you take -- that would help you to rewrite that story?

One of my oldest and most damaging story of all is that I am lazy.

To counteract this story, I'm going to do something that might at first seem counter-intuitive. I'm going to do less.

That's right: to teach myself that my "lazy" story is false, I am going to focus on doing fewer things. I'm going to not run around like a chicken with my head cut off. I'm going to take the time to breathe in between tasks. I'm going to take the time to read -- really read, deeply read. I'm going to listen to music -- and just listen to music.

How about you? What old, destructive story are you willing to unravel and re-tell?

Two Awards to Pass Along

Gypsy from Creative Soul Explosion
was kind enough to pass this Art Award to me.


Bohemian Mom sent along this triple award.
So Cool!

When people think of me for these, it really makes me feel like I'm doing something right! So, thank you both.

I thought instead of listing "winners" for each award, I would just link to some blogs that I have found recently and am enjoying:

Welcome to the Confessional
: This blogger from Ann Arbor is so totally funny; she even has and writes about her "minions."

The Humble Yogini: Besides yoga, this blogger writes about her sincere efforts to live more sustainably.

The Laughing Yogini: A blogger from near my neck of the woods, who -- obviously, doesn't take herself too seriously.

Suzi Blu: I'm a bit late, I think, to Suzi, but I love her honesty and her love of Shane from the L Word. :)

A Clear Path to Happy: Kavindra has been commenting on this blog for some time, and since our book club started, she seems to have really hit her stride on her own blog.

The Chic & Green Blog: For a lot of fun, visit here.

And what kind of partner would I be if I didn't point you here -- the BEST ART BLOG EVER! (I may be a bit biased...)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SharedBliss: Photographer Sharon Montrose

Baby Deer

Listening to: Something for this weekend from someone whom Sharon loves.

Bliss: Oh, this weather! But above all, today is my last day at the "berry." Now, there are many, many people whom I adore at the library and I will miss seeing them twice a week, BUT I will see them outside the library and also...I still need books (!) so I will see them there (I just won't have to sit in a windowless office thinking of all the things I need to get done at home).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Etsy is a most wonderful thing. The treasures! The simply marvelous, unique treasures one can find within minutes of browsing about.

One evening, Marcy was in her rabbit's room, when she yelled for me to come and take a look at something very close to perfection.

It was the animal photography of Sharon Montrose. Her Etsy store is one of those from which you would like to order every single thing.

But it turns out that Sharon also aims her flawlessly clear eyes at humans. And that she writes a witty blog. And that she has written some books, including this one, which looks beyond amusing.

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

I would say the PrimaryBliss of my life is creative inspiration. For me, everything comes from and is related to creativity. I've always been creative and felt the need to create, whether it was drawing, playing make believe as a child, or running "my office" when I was eight years old. I found photography when I was sixteen and I haven't looked back since.

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

I've worked so hard and I'm grateful for everything. But along the way, I'd say the biggest sacrifice I've made was the security of a regular job and the comfort of steady paychecks. AT this point though, I can't imagine life any other way!


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

Again, I love creativity in all outlets: from design in my home; beautiful meals; visiting museums; reading a great book; walking my dogs; or "playing Play-Doh" with my three year old cousin.

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

Friends. My dogs. Video games. A good book.


What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

I don't consider myself a spiritual person, but I have come to believe in energy in the last couple of years. By that I mean, feeling fulfilled, happy, confident, and comfortable in one's life and with the person you are. Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer), says that energy is nature's first language, and I've found that to be true–I've learned so much from my dogs!

As far as a spiritual practice, again, I'm reluctant to call myself spiritual, but I love sitting on my deck and feeling the sun wash over me. Resting like that is restorative and has become an integral part of my process. Since I'm self-employed I need to remind myself to stop working!

What music is your bliss?

I have a range of music that I would consider my bliss–from Bob Marley to Rush, Chet Baker to James Taylor, Ben Folds to Ella.

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

Right now I'm reading a biography about William Randolph Hearst that I can't seem to put down! It's called The Chief, and details how he became one of the most prolific business men of all time and, arguably, the world's best collector of art. I love Sally Mann, Wally Lamb, Geddy Lee, my dogs (Simon, Avery, and Squeak), and my husband.

Sheep, Profile

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

Listen to your heart and what makes you happy. If you find yourself gravitating to one activity, and it feels right, go with it. And mostly, believe in yourself and what you create.

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

My Grandpa Harry who always reminded me to "take it easy, take it light."

I think that quote by Sharon's Grandpa Harry has got to be some of the best advice ever given to us in one of these interviews. It's deceptively simple -- like Sharon's photography, I would say -- and yet, it is the be all and end all when it comes to how to approach life if we want to be happy and fulfilled.

And Sharon's reminder to step back from our work, to relax and rejuvenate, is a spiritual practice in and of itself; it's mindfulness without all the lingo. She's right: we have to be extra vigilant when we work for ourselves and when we do what we love. It's easy to stay busy and to justify it by pointing out that we are "on our paths."

But we all need to be quiet, be still, be empty, or we'll never be in a state in which we can receive new ideas and inspirations.