Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Follow Up and Action Alert

Sara over at Inward & Upward has a post today about the Monsanto supported bill, including a link to a really simple, quick form that you can fill out and have sent to your government representatives expressing your concern.

Please ask them to stop these bills.

Actions like those of Monsanto and our government officials represent a deep disregard for the natural order of things on this big, beautiful planet. We must be her voice.

OuterBliss: What Seeds Are You Planting?

Heirloom tomatoes from our yard.

Listening to: It seems like this kind of day.

Bliss: Nowhere to go today, just reading and writing, and later, a date with the front stoop and the warming sun.

This is what the bad guys will tell you (and in this case, believe you me, there are bad guys): Farmers have been crossing seeds and creating hybrids practically since the beginning of farming.


But farmers were crossing seeds looking for that healthiest variety -- not the most sterile or the variety that would give them control over all the farmers in the world.

Corporations like the chemical giant Monsanto are not your friendly farmer. They have commercials claiming they will "feed the world," but do not mistake them for a big batch of Jesi (is that the plural of Jesus? -- ha).

They do not want to teach a man to fish, nor do they want to give a man a fish -- they want to sell that fish. And they want to sell the same fish over and over, year after year.

For a detailed accounting of what is going on, look here or just do your own research. It's well documented. There have been many books written about genetically modified foods; remember, GM foods begin with GM seed.

Right now, there are two bills that are being fast-tracked to make it illegal for you and I to plant heirloom seeds in our own backyards. These bills are both approved of by the administration that so many of us thought would be so different from the previous administration. Both bills are backed by Monsanto. Go here for information and what you can do.

And I must say: how bizarre that while this is being fast-tracked, the White House is putting in an "organic" garden. Is this slight of hand?

Remember what I said before about how it doesn't matter who wins? It only matters what we, as individuals, do on a daily basis in our own lives and this is just one of a million examples.

If you are planting a garden this year, you can help. First of all, research and become knowledgeable about the different types of seed. Second, buy heirloom seed and start seed collections and storage.

Some great suppliers of good seed include Seeds of Change and Scheepers. For flowers, try Brent & Becky's Bulbs and Select Seeds.

Imagine a world where only one company controls all the food supply. Imagine a world in which you can only get red tomatoes!

Monday, March 30, 2009

InnerBliss: Nonviolence Starts Inside You

Ahhhh....evidence of what is to come.

Listening to: How have I not found her before?

Bliss: Marcy is page 30 and 31 in this new, wee, delightful book on creativity and spirituality by this wise blogger.

You know how news shows will occasionally do a piece on some poor man or woman whose OCD is so severe that you can't even walk in the house? Or you can, but there are just these tiny, narrow passageways between stacks of newspapers and books and other objects piled all the way to the ceiling?

That is what my brain can feel like sometimes.

And it happened on Sunday.

You can imagine -- or you don't have to because you feel this way often -- that this is quite uncomfortable.

It feels like my brain will either implode or explode, but regardless, it won't be in one piece if another thing tries to get in...or move from its present location.

My anxiety increases and that leads to feelings of anger.

What is going on, you may be asking?

It is information overload, with a big, heaping spoon full of ego.

I start taking in too much media and I read books filled with too many overwhelming facts about the state of the world and then all it takes is one innocent blog entry or a few words from an innocent bystander and I am over my edge.

Freaking out that I can't save the world or change people or make it all better. (Remember what I said -- big, heaping spoon full of ego.)

This is hard to write about.

This past week, I felt like I got some sort of deeper understanding of all of this, and I am taking my use of time and space and my interactions with people more seriously, being more mindful since I discovered that I am definitely an introvert and lose energy easily.

But I am only in the beginning stages of understanding.

And it hit me that this is all about nonviolence.

Nonviolence really does start with how you treat yourself. Only when you can become peaceful and loving toward yourself can you begin to extend that to the world around you.

When I unconsciously take in too much media? I'm being mean to me.

When I don't give myself enough quiet time to process? Again, mean.

When I don't do the things that keep me centered and able to process? Yep. Ditto.

Think about the ways you are cruel to yourself and then think about how you take that out into the world with you.

What one thing could you work on to bring more peace to you?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

MysticBliss: Merton & Eastern Thought

A sure sign that Easter is very close.

Toward the end of his life (which was cut short in a bizarre accident), Thomas Merton was being more and more influenced by Easter philosophies and traditions. This is no secret; he wrote whole books about what he was learning and how he was synthesizing it with his own Catholic beliefs.

Here's a taste from his book The Inner Experience:

The life of contemplation in action and purity of heart is, then, a life of great simplicity and inner liberty. One is not seeking anything special or demanding any particular satisfaction. One is content with what is. One does what is to be done, and the more concrete it is, the better. One is not worried about the results of what is done. One is content to have good motives and not be too anxious about making mistakes. In this way one can swim with the living stream of life and remain at every moment in contact with God, in the hiddenness and ordinariness of the present moment with its obvious task.

I think this speaks, a bit, to what I wrote about on Friday. This giving of one's self to the work to be done -- day to day, doing the work.

In that work, then, if it is the work we are here to do, we are lost to our "self." Our ego can melt into the action and we can "swim with the living stream."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

BardBliss: Margaret Gibson's Collect

Tulip leaves outlined with red.

by Margaret Gibson

Autumn wind scatters the petals of the cloud tree.

When I let the wind grow within me as well,
shivers off the blue skin of the Sound,

a sharp-shinned hawk rides the billow

beyond the coastal
edge of tupelo, pepperidge, black gum --

three names for one tree
soonest red
in the salt marsh.

What thou lovest well is hidden
nakedly, not withheld.

Prayers are not enough. You must do something.

Friday, March 27, 2009

BlissQuest: Stop Dreaming & Get to Work!

They are the only thing blooming right now,
but we'll take it!!

Listening to: The perfect clarity of this voice.

Bliss: Noticing that the buds on our front willow tree have cracked open, revealing the chartreuse inside. Hearing birds greeting the morning. Feeling the breeze change from icy lake produced to warmer, spring is coming.

(This is the last post as part of the 12 Secrets Book Club. Secret 12 is about setting goals.)

To enjoy freedom, we have to control ourselves.

--Virginia Woolf

Setting goals and following through with them is no secret. Whether you are working on a creative project or something more mundane, to get it done, we all know we have to set goals and follow through. We are all saying "duh."

And yet, I have met wannabe writers who have immense talent and skill, and they expect the writing to be easy, to simply come to them, complete and perfect. They will remain wannabes.

It is the day-to-day work, the one step at a time, the one word at time that gets us to the finished product -- whatever that may be -- and it is this daily work that makes us, officially, Writers...or Painters or Fabric Artists or Whatever It Is You Heart Desires More than Anything Else.

It is the control within the freedom that allows our imaginations to fly.

We can day dream; we can brainstorm; we can fantasize; we can imagine.

We can spend a lifetime in this first step, this space of air and ideas that outsiders think is the permanent resident of the Artistic Type, with looks on our faces that feed into the stereotype of our being "out of it," impractical, ethereal, romantic.

But we will get nowhere.

Someone with a true artistic drive does not want to sit at the curb with the engine running; they want to go somewhere with their work.

It is in the doing that we are true explorers and adventurers of this, mostly, internal space -- a space more vast than, well, Space.

The freedom aspect of art resides in tandem with the control. We need boundaries; we need constraints; we need limits.

Thus, we need goals and steps and plans and outlines. As unromantic as that is.

We can wear big, fluffy sleeved poet's shirts, but we must regularly take the pen to the paper or the fingers to the keyboard or brush to canvas.

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the
creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning
a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on
more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned.
Determination not to give in and the sense of impending
shape keep one at it more than anything.

--Virginia Woolf

Yes, determination and the slightly elusive shape of what is to come keep one at it.

My writing group has come to the end of their part in editing my novel. Now I must roll up my big, white fluffy sleeves and do the rest, alone, in my garret, with my own deadlines. There is no one else, just me and my goals.

Finally, also, just two days ago, a couple of nonfiction books finally coalesced in my head. I have the beginnings of outlines and lists for research sitting on my apple-green desk.

Only by my own willpower will any of this get done.

I am free. But not to create schedules and lists and goals would endanger that freedom.

In what way do you need some control?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

enCouragingBliss: When We Were Six

Crocus from underneath.
(Front yard, spring '09)

Listening to: Okay, remember, I loved this song when I was really, really little... (And oh, my, those jeans!)

Bliss: Marcy was a bit too dizzy (from weather changes) yesterday to go to work so I had her home unexpectedly. YAY. Last night, writing group read the end of my book. Writing that sentence makes my stomach flip.

Think of this as an archaeological dig of some of your earlier memories...

By the time I was six years old, I had already been altered by fear. That little girl with short hair, wearing her favorite plaid jacket to kindergarten was different from the baby she had been born to be.

What does Dr. Phil say to parents? Every time you yell in front of a child, you are changing who they were meant to be.

And so I was changed. But...

But over time, I have, through yoga and writing and talking and crying and yelling and thinking and making lists and remembering, I have managed, I think, to come to an understanding of that little girl.

She was born curious. She was born to laugh easily. She was born with an innate physical response to music. She was born, obviously, brave and wanting to help others.

When I was about six, I had favorite things, I had things I loved to do.

I had this record player (or one very like it). I would lie on the floor and listen to the same song over and over...never getting bored.

I lived on a Naval Base and was told that the water was so deep that even if you could swim, you would drown if you fell in. I would ride my bike along the skinny edge, with the water mere inches away. Deep and so black. I was not afraid.

In school, for a collage art project, I was able to combine two things I loved. I created a colorful piece about the ballerina Anna Pavlova.

I have hit someone in my life only two times. The first time, I was sitting in kindergarten and a little girl would not share a toy with a little boy. I told her she should. She started yelling. I slapped her. The second time, not long after, my friend would not let my sister play along. Justice was a big deal to me. (I've never hit anyone since.)

I was sitting in class and we were being taught basic reading. I was bored. Everyone was too slow. I turned to the class aid and told her I would much rather be at home, playing alone with my new tea set. She laughed. I scowled.

I loved to question, though my mother did not like this about me. I asked her how I knew I was me. She sent me to my room.

I remember sitting outside the kitchen at my Great Aunt's house and just singing whatever words came into my head. When I stopped, my Great Aunt yelled for me to continue. My heart leapt with joy at her request.

That is just a sample, of course, but my life is all right there.

There are so many clues from the beginning about my bliss.

Life experience changes us. We become disconnected from our most basic instincts. People start asking us what we want to be when we grow up.

I wanted to say, "I want to be a singer, dancer, and writer," but the few times I tried, people would do what people do.

I got the message, and I have spent many years lost, trying to find my way back, ever since.

So, that's this week's assignment.

Tell us what you were like when you were about six.

Would that little girl be happy with your life now?

(Remember to Mister Linky or just leave a comment as usual.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SharedBliss: Interview with Graciel Evenstar, Compassion Artist

A fellow Lake Erie girl, Graciel Evenstar

Listening to: Something for Graciel.

Bliss: Though we can't plant yet, we can plan garden beds on paper, see them growing in our mind's eye. These gardens that felt so far away even a month ago, now are possibility itself -- promises made by daffodils and crocus.

Last summer, I headed toward Buffalo for a day trip with a friend. We ended up eating an amazing lunch after walking through the Botanical Gardens, but the real reason we'd gone was Our Lady of Victory, a church consecrated to Mary and filled with thousands (and thousands) of angels.

It did not disappoint and only awakened more fully my new found devotion to this feminine image of divinity working so perfectly through humanity.

Shortly after this trip, I happened upon Graciel Evenstar's blog. Her banner caught me immediately. At the time, it was created from one of her collage images and contained a Mary figure along with other symbols and archetypes.

Eventually, she and I ended up emailing. We had much in common, besides both being proud Lake Erie girls and having a devotion to Mary.

So it seems auspicious to me that her interview should, quite unintentionally, land on the Annunciation. The day that marks the moment when Mary said "yes" to a most powerful creative endeavor, "yes" to life, "yes" to all the joy and all the sorrow.

How many of us could have spoken that big of a "yes?"

Like her collages, which contain bits and pieces from many sources, Graciel's wisdom is not confined by strict religious or tradition boundaries. She makes her own way.

Her art (her esty store is here), her life, her words all reflect her honesty and courage, her struggles and her epiphanies.

A bit of Graciel.

When I asked Graciel to do this interview, she said "yes," but then she hit a wall. She was filled with doubt. From an email to me after the interview was completed:

Little did you know how greatly this exercise would challenge me. Thank you for the offer to help me grow. I spent some time reading your other interviews and promptly shut down. I could not see what I had to offer to the mix. I could not see what I had accomplished in comparison to all the other movers and shakers. And once again, comparison turned into my bane. Another of many lessons in how comparison is the cause of all unhappiness.

The process of answering the interview questions was another lesson in extending compassion towards myself.

See? Always learning. Always looking for more ways to open up.

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

My primary bliss is compassion and its expression. I have spent long years learning what that word means and how to apply it to myself. I came to understand if I cannot express compassion towards myself, I have no hope of expressing it to any one else.

Compassion, for me, involves releasing judgment, taking responsibility for myself and my actions, eliminating any thoughts of blame for anything, being open to possibilities that lie outside my comfort zone, recognizing and honoring my instincts, talking to myself in a more supportive, positive manner and letting love be the ruling force in my life.

My quest for compassion led to the desire to share what I have learned and continue to learn. So I stepped to the edge and started to write a blog. 3 years ago, Evenstar Art~ the art of the positive, loving and spiritual life was launched. My life has never been the same. I found, through the act of writing, my voice. I found a deep well of information waiting patiently for a way to be exposed to the light. I found a new way to activate compassion towards myself by giving myself the time and space to write, to express my ideas and honor a talent I did not know I had.

My writing centers itself around giving hope and love and encouragement to any and all who stumble upon my pages. We all need more positive messages in our lives to offset the plague of disparity inflicted on us daily by the mass media. We all need more love and belief in ourselves. My muse has enlisted me to offer up a regular dose of hope. For if we find and activate more daily compassion for ourselves, all will then be right with the world.

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

Simply put, to craft a bliss-filled life through compassion, I have had to sacrifice my attachment to my past. I have had to stop reacting and living from old, worn-out ideas that serve only to keep me small. I have had to sacrifice the idea and practice that my value is less than others. That I don't deserve to be supported. That my only safety lies in staying hidden from the world. It has been a long and difficult process of giving up my smaller, fearful self and allowing a larger and largely unknown self to emerge. Years and baby steps have been required. More is still required.

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

Compassion is a way of life. It has begun to infuse every decision and choice I make. It is a lens I do my level best with which to view my world. I know I am living in compassion when others reflect this state of being back to me. And when some one comments or tells me in person how much the words on my blog have meant to them or changed the way they treat themselves, my state of bliss soars off the charts. Helping others, service to others, is key to living a purposeful life.

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

Walking in the woods. Watching birds. Splashing through a stream. Swooning over flowers. Sitting in silence, listening to the wise murmurs of the Universe. Sipping rose petal tea. Fashioning art and stories through the lens of my digital camera. Holding hands under the stars.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Every morning I ask to be blessed. I ask that everyone I meet be the face of God come to help me, love me, support me, and prosper me. I choose a card from one of my many oracle decks to understand the need and focus of my day. I thank God for just about everything I can think of, including my hot shower. I ask my league of Angels to help me understand, through very clear signs, what is and is not for my highest and best good. I sit in silence often. When schedules concur, I share home cooked meals and meditation with my spiritually oriented friends. When weather cooperates, I go to church in the woods.

What music is your bliss?

I am not one to have music playing all the time. But when I do, it can be classical, Gregorian chant, Renaissance era, bagpipes, Celtic, the Allman Brothers, CSNY, David Grey, Nickelback and my uber-favorite, the Grateful Dead. My favorite tune of all time? Beethoven's Symphony No.9. It rearranges the cells in your body for the better.

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

Many years ago, 3 books became my road map towards love and compassion for myself. Marianne Williamson's A Return To Love, Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life, and James Redfield's The Celestine Prophecy. More recently the books that have greatly impacted me have been, Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, and Greg Mortenson's Three Cups Of Tea.

Three poets have made me swoon like few others can: Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver and the gifted Sufi wise man, Rumi.

Two historical figures have greatly influenced my bliss: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Mary, as in the Queen of Angels.

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

A stressed and worried heart cannot find its bliss. Over extending the self on behalf of others will not facilitate the discovery of bliss. The first order of business to crafting a bliss-filled life is to love yourself. Intensely. To love yourself intensely, you must become aware of where you have been denying yourself some very basic things. Plenty of rest, plenty of hydrating water, time alone, nourishing food, saying no more often to draining requests for your help, to name a few areas. When your body and soul understand and experience your commitment to putting yourself first (thereby being better able to serve others), they will reward you with clear ideas and inspirations on where your true bliss lies. Take exquisite care of yourself and miracles will follow.

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

"God speaks to each of us
as He makes us,
then walks with us silently
out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond
your recall.
Go the limits of
your longing.
Embody me."

Rainer Maria Rilke

Go the limits of your longing...That is so beautiful. That could easily be a new mantra for most of us, don't you think?

Add to that Graciel's amazingly worded advice to "take exquisite care of yourself," and we have all we need -- a map to follow to the YES awaiting our courage.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OuterBliss: Calling All Introverts to Come Out!

I'd rather stay at home and make
something from scratch than go out.

Listening to: From when he was so much younger.

Bliss: Going to the library yesterday just to see some people and coming home with one, excellent and helpful book.

When I was young, I loved to read. I didn't read books so much as I ate them. One after another. And there was nothing better in my eyes than a summer day accompanied by a fresh stack to work my way through with no interruptions.

But if my mother were around, she had different ideas.

"Go outside and play -- like a normal kid!"

But I was happy with my alone time. I was happy with reading, sitting by a window and sketching or painting, or just day dreaming.

As I got a little older, my chosen physical activities reflected this. I enjoyed tennis -- but never doubles. I danced, and though you may be in a line of dancers, it is just you and the steps and the music and the mirror.

I went to college as a theatre major, but quickly realized that I was uncomfortable with other theatre majors -- they were too invasive of my personal space and seemed to have no boundaries of their own. Finally, I became a literature major and I could get back to my reading where I belonged.

But all those years of being told -- in various ways by various sources -- that I was not "normal" because I liked my alone time took their toll.

By the time I was in my 20's, I was confused about my very nature, and talk about creative blocks! Not knowing who you really are -- that is the block of all blocks.

Little by little, I've been figuring it out. When I talk about bliss being a path, this is what I mean: making a concerted effort every day to live your truth.

Yoga, journaling, good friends, an amazing partner -- all of these things have helped, and then just yesterday, I picked up a book that was another piece of my puzzle.

For a while now, I have felt like one of the main things "wrong" with me is how tired people make me feel. It's confusing to go out with some friends and have a good time and then feel just exhausted by it. That's not normal, right?

It is if you're an introvert. Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie A. Helgoe is teaching me so much and I am only a short way into the book.

We have many misperceptions of what it is to be an introvert, and segments of the medical population have managed to pathologize personality traits that we don't deem social enough in this very extroverted culture.

But here's the thing: Helgoe asserts that just over 50% of us are introverts who have worked their whole lives to pass as extroverts.

The anti-anxiety medications lining so many people's bags and cupboards start to make more sense, don't they?

Being an introvert has nothing to do with your social skills. An extrovert can be a loud mouthed ass, for example.

Being an introvert has to do with where you get your energy. Introverts get their energy sucked not by people but by the interactions with people. Extroverts receive energy from interactions.

Introverts have serious internal lives, are interested in ideas and imagination, and they need time alone to be able to process.

With the help of this book, I will now embrace what I call my "hermit" self and stop castigating myself for not being something else. I'll keep you posted on what I learn.

How about you? Are you one of the closeted introverts out there?

Monday, March 23, 2009

InnerBliss: No More Starving & No More Stuffing

A yummy, all homemade, all organic tortilla dinner.

Listening to: This great voice (and the great trumpet).

Bliss: It may still be quite chilly here but we are so happy for the sun. And in the last couple of weeks, the gulls have been back, flying over our house a few times a day, en masse, and making gull sounds. I can't imagine not living near water, not hearing the sound of water birds.

You are what you eat.

What happens to our bodies when we feel hungry and see that as something to overcome? What happens when we turn a bodily function into The Enemy?

I have written about being put on my first diet around age three, and "dieting" for me was a normal state from that day on, but it was in my second year of college that my disordered eating got to its worst point.

Have you ever felt righteous and superior for being able to make it through the hunger? I'm thinking most women can say "yes" to that.

All these hungry women running around in a society of plenty. Picture it. How much time and energy we spend on talking ourselves out of food or into different food or calculating the extra time we would need on the treadmill if we ate this or that.

Picture all those women. Can you see the anger emanating from them? Look in their purses...do you see the bottles of anti-depressants and the anti-anxiety meds and the gums to chew and the appetite suppressants?

"Of course, she uses skim; look how thin she is."

I was in the cafeteria, putting skim milk on my small bowl of cereal when I heard this from right behind me, and as I walked away, I stood up tall and proud. But then I immediately thought of the next five or ten pounds I should really lose.

I would eat -- tiny, tiny amounts of food, just enough so I wouldn't pass out -- and then I would scurry back to my room and run in place, furiously, for twenty minutes or half hour and do leg lifts and sit ups. I would do this every time I ate anything.

I thought about food. I dreamed of food. I wanted food.

I ached for food. I hungered for food.

But I did not give in.

This Hunger Beast has been my constant companion in life. And I vacillate between being its best friend and its worst enemy. I starve or I stuff.

No more. As I recently said: to live our bliss we must be fully present in our physical bodies. (Check out the reader responses to that post and add your own via the Mister Linky.)

To be fully present in our bodies, we must nourish them. For everyone, this will look different. For some of us vegetarianism will be perfect, while others will need to eat meat. No more rules and no more judging others for their choices.

So here is My Eating Manifesto:

1. First and above all else, there are no rules. I will eat what my body wants. Cravings are messages about need and sometimes our soul needs a cookie and our blood cells need a burger.

2. Along with that, as I said, no more judging other people's food choices. Every body is different. Period. We can make good choices -- organic produce and grass fed cattle -- but no one choice is morally superior to any another.

3. I promise to never again Starve Myself. Never. Not for one minute. I will not count calories. I will not avoid any one food group. I will not follow any "type" diets. I will not follow fads. I will not forgo the pleasure of eating because it may allow me to wear slightly smaller jeans.

4. On the flip side, I will never again Stuff Myself. I will not emotionally eat. I will pay attention to my stomach when it is telling me that I am full. I will not fit in that last piece of pizza just because. I will not eat when I am upset. I will not eat because I am bored.

5. I will think of Thich Nhat Hanh and chew slowly and eat slowly. I will eat mindfully. I will, once again, make dinner a candle lit affair, a special time of the day.

6. I will only eat real, whole food. (I'm already pretty good at this.)

7. I will eat things that I love to eat and not eat things just because I am told they will lengthen my life. Food is not a chore and food is not medicine.

8. I will not simply eat to live but I will, as my French teacher would say, live to eat.

What would you add to an Eating Manifesto?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

MysticBliss: Merton on the Faith of Childhood

Eventually, these will grow
into these, my favorites.

At writing group this past week, we all ended up talking about matters of faith. Of course, in the same evening, we also talked about Martinis, our favorite parts of Austin Powers, and various bodily functions.

But it was the faith discussion that went on the longest.

So when this Merton quote came into my inbox, I thought it was fitting:

How many people are there in the world of today who have "lost their faith" along with the vain hopes and illusions of their childhood? What they called "faith" was just one among all the other illusions. They placed all their hope in a certain sense of spiritual peace, of comfort, of interior equilibrium, of self-respect. Then when they began to struggle with the real difficulties and burdens of mature life, when they became aware of their own weakness, they lost their peace, they let go of their precious self-respect, and it became impossible for them to "believe." That is to say it became impossible for them to comfort themselves, to reassure themselves, with the images and concepts they found reassuring in childhood.

Place no hope in the feeling of assurance, of spiritual comfort. You may well have to get along without this. Place no hope in the inspirational preachers of Christian sunshine, who are able to pick you up and set you back on your feet and make you feel good for three or four days-until you fold up and collapse into despair.

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

During our discussion, Mother Theresa came up -- a woman who dedicated her life to her faith and who for the last few decades never felt internal reassurance of that faith. Otherwise, she spent decades wandering around the dry and arid desert, but she believed anyway.

It makes me think of my own ego needs to go to a Mass and have it all be "good." I can't stand ignorant priests, for example. But the priest is just supposed to be a conduit and how dare I allow such a surface thing to get in the way of what is supposed to be a much more mystical experience.

Christ never said he died to ensure my comfort.

Spiritual growth is most often painful, when we are really working at it. We typically, being human (and a bit lazy), grow only in reaction to trial.

And this is what Thomas Merton is talking about.

How many of us, as soon as we became uncomfortable, simply left Christianity* for more exotic pastures? Pastures that had no "baggage" and therefore seemed "better."

(*Or whatever tradition you were raised in; this is not a phenomenon exclusive to people raised in Christianity.)

Perhaps if we spent as much time digging into our own faith traditions as we do digging into others', we would discover buried treasure -- treasure that had been there all along but we were too young to know how to read the map.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

BardBliss: Federico Garcia Lorca

Crocuses next door (not
at the tree killer's house!)

I saw a preview for this. I'm not sure this is a movie I really want to see; I know how it ends.

Gacela of the Dark Death
by Federico Garcia Lorca

I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
I want to get far away from the busyness of the cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

I don't want them to tell me again how the corpse keeps all its blood,
how the decaying mouth goes on begging for water.
I'd rather not hear about the torture sessions the grass arranges for
nor about how the moon does all its work before dawn
with its snakelike nose.

I want to sleep for half a second,
a second, a minute, a century,
but I want everyone to know that I am still alive,
that I have a golden manger inside my lips,
that I am the little friend of the west wind,
that I am the elephantine shadow of my own tears.

When it's dawn just throw some sort of cloth over me
because I know dawn will toss fistfuls of ants at me,
and pour a little hard water over my shoes
so that the scorpion claws of the dawn will slip off.

Because I want to sleep the sleep of the apples,
and learn a mournful song that will clean all earth away from me,
because I want to live with that shadowy child
who longed to cut his heart open far out at sea.

Friday, March 20, 2009

BlissQuest: Butterflies on Crack!

Good butterflies on my Namiki pen.

Listening to: I was looking for something else, but I had to post this -- too funny. And not really in that good way.

Bliss: My Easter present came and I was allowed to open it! It is so delicate and small. I love it! (I've never been disappointed in anything from Satya.)

(This post is part of the 12 Secrets Book Club, Secret 11: Subtracting Serenity Stealers)

For the first time since we started working with this book, I scribbled all over this chapter. It's rather surprising to me, because there is so much overlap in the book -- so why this chapter?

Probably because it spoke to something that I am just starting to recognize and was actively dealing with the day I read it.

My Butterflies on Crack is what I have decided to call this phenomenon.

When I am feeling like this, serenity has been shown the door and I find it almost impossible to calm down, much less focus and get some work done.

Let me try to describe the feeling: It is a high level of anxiety. It does feel very similar to butterflies, but times a thousand, and so it is more of a pervasive, sick feeling. It makes me jittery and a bit out of breath.

Does this happen to anyone else?

I think that I used to feel like this on a regular basis, so the fact that it now feels odd is a good thing. It is much more rare.

And, obviously, it is a message from my body that something is very off.

Here is where the work comes in: recognizing that I am feeling this way, I must then figure out why? What am I needing that I am not getting? What have I been ignoring?

I'm pretty sure it's always the same few things: I am spending too much time running errands, meeting people for coffee, doing busy work; I am, therefore, spending too little time doing my real, creative work; my minutes spent doing yoga have dropped to too few a day; I am avoiding creative work that my mind and body very much want me to do; I am reading too much negativity which makes me angry which stops me in my tracks.

Each of these things is my own fault. Each of them can only be avoided or mended by me. It is totally my responsibility.

Recognizing that, the first thing to do is apply some emergency medicine: lots of yoga, some time with my journal, a long walk, deep breathing.

My Butterflies on Crack are really the signal that My Hermit is being rained upon, pelted by, buried under the Noise of Busy.

And though people think of me as social, I am really a Hermit in need of so much quiet, so much calm, so much routine -- enough of those things, anyway, to get and keep those Butterflies in Rehab and on a good 12-step!

How about you: What is your essential creative nature and how do you throw it out of alignment? What is your preferred drug of choice? What does your rehab look like?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Help Answer a Reader's Question!

My favorite striped crocus,
our front yard.

From week to week, I get a number of private emails from readers. These are always a thrill to me. They tend to go into more detail than comments on posts, and there is, of course, an intimacy to the ensuing conversation.

But I have never thought to ask a reader if I could use her email as a starting point for a blog post. Until now.

I will post the pertinent parts of this email (having already gotten her enthusiastic permission), and I will answer it a bit, but the really fun part is to have you, the other readers out there, answer her too!

To mark this special day, I have also, on the sidebar, just added Skribit. This is a great tool where you, the readers -- the other blisschicks our there! -- can suggest topics for discussion here on Blisschick.

I love the idea that the readers would have, could have more control over what Blisschick is and could be. So don't be shy!

Carolyn from Montreal (oh, I would love to go there!) wrote:

I am a soon to be 21 year old, college junior, who enjoys reading your writing. Thank you for BlissChick, I hope to one day be able to inspire as you do. (Words like this humble me, Carolyn. Thank YOU!)

I have a question that you may or may not be able to answer, but I would wholeheartedly appreciate your feedback anyhow. I wonder if finding bliss is something that happens after you have lived longer than I have. You see, I've always known that I was different from others close to my age. I love thinking about life and love and energies and reasons for things and deeper meanings, and I've always been open to discussing such topics, where my peers would sometimes be skeptical or negative about them. I am looking for my own bliss and since you've been 21 and you've lived to be how ever old you are in human years, I was wondering how ticks of the clock and candles on the cake help or hinder finding your bliss. Am I doomed to question my bliss for another decade or two... or am I capable of finding my bliss right now? Thank you.

Here is a part of my answer to Carolyn and I'm sure she would love to hear from others out there too!

I'm no expert. I struggle with this stuff every day. I think I make that obvious on my site. But it's the struggle that counts and it's a struggle that is worth it, because, really, ignorance is NOT bliss.

I think that age can enhance our sense of our bliss, but I don't think it's a necessary ingredient. I am 40, and due to many life circumstances, it took me until I was into my 30's to really get a handle on things. But then part of me ALWAYS KNEW what I needed -- I just didn't have the courage.

Courage, though, is not age related. And courage is the main ingredient in a bliss filled life. And it sounds to me like you have courage in excess.

Another example of age not being important: I know plenty of people in their 50's, 60's, even 70's who have no idea what their real, true, bliss life would look like because they have been and remain stuck and afraid. I mean, look around, this is really the majority of our society, is it not? People afraid to question and explore?

But you already love the questioning and I think that is the second important ingredient. Courage and then curiosity.

It seems to me that you know your bliss, Carolyn, and I am thinking you just need to grab it. Do not settle for an average life. Do not settle for an easy life. Do not settle. Do what is in your heart -- NO MATTER WHAT! It will save you sadness and grief if you start living this way NOW. Do not wait. Do not think there will be some perfect time in your life to get on with it.

What would all of you wise blisschicks out there like to tell Carolyn?

enCouragingBliss: Our Bodies as Healthy Vehicles

For information on participating in
enCouragingBliss, please go here.

Listening to: I thought this singer would be appropriate today, and then lo and behold, people are complaining about her looks in the comments!

Bliss: Ah, my new contacts. I'm still going to give them a couple of days... AND at the end of this month, I will be fitted for my top retainer! Three weeks after that, my top braces come off! My 40 year old teenage self will soon be out of here!!

To stay on this week's unintentional topic...

In order to fully know and live our bliss, we must first be solidly situated within our physical bodies.

It is through our physical bodies that we, of course, have this spiritual and creative experience called life, so it makes sense that to fulfill purpose, we must start with the concrete.

We must have healthy, happy bodies so that we are not immersed in pain body, so that we might be able to clearly hear and decipher our instincts, which come to us through these bodies.

To be happy with our physical bodies means that they can be the vehicle but not the message itself. We would no longer waste time and energy on self-judgment (or other judgment), diets, too much exercise, too much shopping, and on and on.

Being happy within our own personal temples, we could get on with the real work.

But that is a big sentence, is it not? To be happy within our own temples. (Our bodies really are holy, our hearts know this and whisper it to us even when we are feeling so disconnected.)

Whether it be through too many destructive cultural messages or a parent paying too close attention to what we eat, most (American) women come of age with damaged self-perceptions. Or we even, quite simply, hate ourselves. (oh, and how that hate rules us...)

To begin mending this, I thought we could try a body story exercise this week to enCourageBliss.

Courage is a vital component to this work, especially this week, I think.

So take a deep breath, and do not be afraid.

We are all here, grasping the edges of the net into which I will ask you to jump.

Set up an area just like you would for some private meditation time. Make sure you won't be interrupted. Make sure you feel safe.

First, take a moment and list all of your body parts. Start at the top or bottom and work your way down, creating a column.

Second, without much concerted effort or thought, read each word aloud, breathe, and write down the first things that come to mind in the next column. Write as much as you need to.

Do not let anything stop you.

Remember, you are a Warrior.

It is very important that you do this next step right away. Do not let the garbage that has floated to the surface drag you down. Time for some cleaning.

Third, in the next column, write down the beautiful truth about your parts. Be honest. Be loving. Be kind. If you must, imagine you are doing this for a friend, someone whom you wish to build up and support.

Remember, even if you are 100% convinced that your arms are "too fat," they still work, do they not? They still reach for your child or hug your spouse or allow you to plant those bulbs or pick up that pen.

Be grateful. Be willing to accept yourself.

The fourth step, then, is ongoing.

Everyday, for a week or a month or a year or however long it takes, use some meditation time to review these wonderful things.

And please, so that we all might support each other, come back here and use Mister Linky to link back to a post or two or three about this experience and what you learn.

Or...just share some of your thoughts and insights in the comments.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SharedBliss: Ana Brett Responds

A bit of Sedum peeking out.

Listening to: This music mesmerizes me.

Bliss: I want to thank Grace for a kindness she extended to me on Monday! Again, this miraculous "virtual" town square proves itself so much more.

Disordered eating and body image are hot topics to be sure. I don't know if there is a woman out there without a story -- certainly, there is no American woman out there without a story!

Add yoga and hair color to the mix and the topic apparently becomes volatile.

Last week, on Monday, I posted a review of the new Kundalini Yoga DVDs just released by Ana Brett and Ravi Singh. This review got some reaction that I wasn't expecting but that also did not surprise me.

So I wrote a follow up piece about body image on Tuesday that got even more reaction.

Besides the comments on the blog, I had a couple of "closed" conversations via email.

I decided to write to Ana herself and ask her to comment. I knew she would have some wise insight, and I knew she would understand that this conversation is not about her but about us and our reactions. She is a mirror for us so that we might face some really ugly monsters.

And in case you weren't around from the beginning, when this blog first started, she said yes to an interview, having no idea who I was. She is one of the most open and kind people, and I think she is one of those rare birds that walks her talk.

Here is what she sent to me (and I've inserted my own comments in smaller, pink font):

Perceptions: Like most women, I've put a lot of thought into the issues raised here, and I know they resonate with every woman at a very deep level. For a long time I have wanted to address them through our teaching, etc., and maybe forge some small inroads, but I have always shied away from the subject because it is an issue as multilayered as an onion and therefore, almost overwhelming. Secondly, I feared speaking out on body image issues because I would most likely get responses like "well its easy for her to say - she's thin!"

This is so sad to me and made even sadder because we all know what Ana says is true. No one would hear her, because looking at her, they already assume they know her!

In truth, I feel that my body is a product of my discipline and focus and not just a result of "good genes." In finding what is possible with my own body, I hope I can show others what is possible for them.

On starting a discussion: I really thank Christine for starting this discussion because by being open and sharing our honest feelings on these issues, my hope is that maybe we can initiate some real change and much needed sisterhood!

Amen to that!

I want to start by addressing a couple of things that were mentioned about my personal appearance to find a way into the discussion.

Small Shorts: I wear small outfits for the practical reason that they look better, and neater on my body type than full length pants in which I tend to look scrawny if they are fitted, or sloppy in if they are baggy.

I also want to present the yoga precisely so people can see each pose clearly and I don't want excess fabric distorting the lines of my body. I have studied ballet for much of my life and we had to wear pink tights so every muscle of the leg could be delineated and seen by teachers. I also studied Iyengar Yoga for 2 years where we were asked to wear small shorts for the same reason. Please note, that in our workshops where I can correct hands on, I do wear long pants and fuller top.

I highlight the Iyengar information, because I know a lot of yogis out there respect that school of yoga.

The Hair: Just to clarify: I was born blond. I really liked the black and the contrast with my light skin, but it was time for a change and I never dreamed it would strike such a nerve! I received many, many negative emails. Even yesterday I received a letter so full of hate regarding my hair from someone who started the email by saying how much she loved the yoga!

We posted some of the negative feedback in our last email newsletter and got almost 100 responses about my hair (thanks to all of you who offered support and kind words of wisdom), but not one person mentioned the meditation of the month! :o

Now this is utterly astonishing to me. I can imagine asking Ana "why blond?" because like I mentioned, even I (overly sensitive brunette with white hair person that I am), even I wondered this. But to pour HATE into it?!?

I was first in the "public eye," after I had made the change to brunette. If everyone had known me as a blonde originally, I wonder if there would have been so much negativity if I decided to go black? There is definitely a "blonde" thing going on. There are so many stereotypes involving "blondes." I want to assure everyone that I had just as much fun with black hair as I do with blond! I still am careful to use all natural shampoos and conditioners, and I still believe beauty comes from doing beautiful things, like yoga, meditation and sharing all of those things: uplifting others and helping them to be beautiful too.

Ana had just as much fun as a brunette because Ana is a happy and healthy person. This statement really struck me. It is the core of this whole issue.

Bottom line, One of my joys in life is to experiment with different looks. I live in NYC, and by local standards, my look is very tame. The person who helped me transition to blond was also shocked by the negative responses. She told me she has many yoga clients who dye their hair all wild shades from red to platinum blond and black and stripes and they have tattoo's and piercings as well. She said "You're so mild!

Body Image: Sometimes I really miss the days when I was age 12 and younger and would just put on a two piece swimsuit and run down to the beach without some overriding preoccupation, like boys and bulging body parts! That was bliss! I never want to lose that feeling of comfort and joy in my body and my hope is to inspire other women to feel the same way. The problem with constantly measuring ourselves against an impossible ideal is that if we don't feel good about ourselves the way we are now, we are never going to be satisfied with where we are, and who we are, later!

EXACTLY! This is the downward spiral of body dysmorphic disorders, eating disorders, and obsession with exercise -- no matter where you go, there you are, still hating yourself, because the issue is an INTERNAL one.

Thought: It's so weird that in our culture all of women's bodies are sexualized when really only about 2% of our body parts are actually used for sex! Abdomens are sexy. Thighs are sexy. Breasts are sexy. Those same parts are used for digesting, feeding, walking, running and sitting. It's not all about sex!

Sex Sells: But of course on a more surface layer of that onion, it is all about sex. Sex drives our society. We are sexual creatures, and we all use our sexuality consciously or unconsciously. Advertising is almost all about sex! When our DVD covers were shot, I was going for strong, confident, and healthy. Those are the attributes I aspire to and wish to inspire in other women. Some people, I guess, look at the covers and just see overt shameless sexuality. And yes, I can see where, especially the Kundalini Yoga for Energy & Super Radiance cover could be considered "sexy" and mainstream. But is that so bad? Mainstream is where many of the people who need yoga most are at. Honestly, we're not so much concerned with how people come to Kundalini Yoga as we are that they do the yoga and raise their awareness.

So obviously, this is an important issue, and one that needs to be discussed! It's also important that we as women keep the discussion going. When anyone has a strong reaction to something, it's often less about what they are reacting to and more a reflection of themselves, though admittedly it is a cultural issue as well and one that won't change without raising awareness with discussions such as this one.

Last Thought (for now):
It takes just as much energy to feel less than, than "all that!" Rather than wasting precious energy being threatened by someone shining, wouldn't it feel great to be inspired to shine as well, and to understand that by empowering other women to shine brightly we empower ourselves to shine brightly too.

I have nothing to add to that!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

OuterBliss: Routine Matters

A corner of my new apple green desk/work table.
Rosie is staring with disdain from the window seat,
and the rabbit, Miss Zoe, is on the laptop.

Listening to: Ahhhh...

Bliss: Yesterday, I actually sat on the front stoop, soaking in the sun, reading and writing in my journal, with a beautiful black and white cat staring at me from inside a front window. It was warm enough to make my brain just slightly and pleasantly mushy.

For much of my lifetime, I have suffered from pretty horrible nightmares. Upon waking, they may or may not be remembered, but the emotion is still present and can permeate my day.

Much like migraine brain, I have felt that my nightmares have stolen time from me.

After a night of nightmares, I am exhausted, because I'm not really sleeping, and I am sad.

For both migraine brain and nightmares, I have found that routine is one of my most efficacious weapons.

But I struggle with routine -- pretty much like I struggle with anything that is good for me. (Do any of you suffer from this affliction?!)

When Marcy and I decided I would quit the library and focus exclusively on all our writing and art projects, this was one of my greatest fears: that I would take too long to find my groove, that I would flounder with routine.

NOT SO! (yay)

Last week, I realized that I had gotten pretty far in defeating this particular daemon. I have created a late afternoon yoga routine that I feel so committed to that it is no longer questioned. It is officially a habit.

Then, about two days ago, Marcy brought up the idea that maybe -- just maybe -- I could begin my day with breath and chant work rather than by running to my computer with sleep still on my brain. (Like some obsessed NUT.)

I resisted. But I also knew she was right. (damn)

I started yesterday and it has completely altered my perception of my day and of my own ability to create my day.

I know that, like the late afternoon yoga, I will not stray from this. That it is simply right (for me).

And once I got this little part of the puzzle, the rest of the puzzle fell right into place.

Be clear: I have worked on creating a routine driven day for myself for many, many years. This did not happen overnight, though it seems like it did.

When you meet the right routine, it all fits -- like a student finding a teacher, a yogi finding a guru.

What one, small commitment could you make that would change your days?

Monday, March 16, 2009

InnerBliss: Does Enlightenment Mean I'll Never Be Pissed?

The first in our backyard.

Listening to: One of my favorite of all Indian singers.

Bliss: This glorious weather. Having empty space -- empty space! -- on bookshelves. A new routine of starting my day with breath and chant.

This past weekend was a real mix of good and...not so good.

Marcy and I got so much done -- that spring cleaning sort of fever has struck and our creative spaces were yearning for our attention. We also had our share of fun, going out for local beer with friends and hearing live music, watching DVDs of Star Trek Enterprise Season 2, and taking walks and eating good food and petting our fur friends.

Really typical stuff for us.

But not so typical was watching our new(ish) neighbor's boyfriend cut down a perfectly healthy and mature tree in her backyard for no reason, except that I think he hates all vegetation. On top of that, he cut without thinking and almost ripped the electricity line off the back of our house and the neighbor's behind us.

Our houses shook with such force. It was a bit frightening and a lot alarming.

There is more going on with this neighbor that has to do with their inability to understand respectful boundaries.

So this was the straw -- you know, that one that breaks the poor camel's back?

Marcy went out back to talk to him and out front to talk to her. Neither of them would speak back, and she ended up having a door slammed in her sweet face when she was being perfectly polite and just asking for a bit of consideration.

Later that night, I was lying in bed thinking about all of this, and a question came to me:

"Oh, God, is this what Christ meant by the whole love everyone thing? The whole anger is just like murder?"

This confuses me, and I think it probably gets confusing for a lot of us.

Gandhi said you can't be nonviolent until you understand the violence of your own heart in a real way, meaning you actually feel the urge to hurt someone. But then what? What happens once you understand the violence of your own heart?

What happens when you decide to take a vow of nonviolence?

I know, I know... Learning curve, blah blah blah.

I sound like a smart ass there, and I don't mean to. I just get frustrated with all of this.

I believe, in my heart, that peace is possible, but if I can't even not get mad at a neighbor for cutting down a tree, how can I expect entire nations, large governments to be able to negotiate water ways or treaties of any kind?

We are not going to pursue any kind of "revenge" with this neighbor. We've watched other neighbors take each other to court and the anxiety and the stress are not worth it to us.

No, we will do what we do: simply see this as an opportunity to beautify our yard even more with a new fence, a tree, some evergreens.

Perhaps that is the point after all: to get mad and then get over it before it escalates.

Perhaps that is the essence of forgiveness -- the letting go. What do you think?