Thursday, April 30, 2009

BlissQuest: Starting a Yoga Practice

I have been doing yoga for about 13 years. The very first yoga I did was from pictures in the Deepak Chopra book, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.

I remember we were living in our attic apartment, with windows that had the tops of trees as our main view. It was hot hot hot in the summer, but there was something lovely about it -- very like a tree house or a bird's nest.

I would study a picture and then imitate it, yelling to Marcy, "Does this look right?"

Now there are much better ways to get into yoga.

My first VCR tape was the Erich Schiffmann/Ali McGraw yoga. I still recommend this to people for great asana sequencing and beautiful production values. (Hey! How can it be bad if they use Dead Can Dance in the background?)

I picked that tape, because the cover felt calm! Luckily it worked out.

Over the years, I have tried all sorts of DVD's and read many, many books, and I am now, as you know, a big proponent of Kundalini yoga, especially as taught by Ravi Singh and Ana Brett.

Which leads to my first piece of advice to anyone just starting out with yoga: get used to the idea of a home practice. This is a vital step that a lot of people are missing.

It's fun to go to yoga class. I mean, there is the whole socializing thing, and there's the being part of a group thing, and then there's stopping for a coffee or tea afterwards. It's a culture. You buy a pretty mat bag, get cute clothes, find a teacher who is almost a guru...

But yoga was traditionally for householders and it was done in homes. Not at lavish studios or in health clubs or at gyms.

Think about how small that mat is and you can imagine doing yoga anywhere.

Try a class. It's good to have someone guiding you and working with you if you don't have an already developed sense of how your body works, but try DVD's at home.

This issue reminds me of the American Christian approach to spirituality versus the Muslim world's. They integrate their religion into every aspect of their lives. Every single moment of the day. American Christians tend to save it for Sundays and in one spot.

Be the Muslim when it comes to your yoga and have a voracious appetite.

Do not settle for the first yoga you try. Keep trying different schools of thought, because like with anything, one size does not fit all.

I know there are yogis reading this; what would you suggest to someone new to yoga?

This post is in response to a Skribit suggestion. You can use the widget to the right to make your own suggestions. What would you like to see on Blisschick?

(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Alley Shot, 2009)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SharedBliss: The Original Flying Girl, Rowena Murillo

Flying Girl Off the Path, or
I May Wander but I Am Not Lost

I'm quite sure that, for many of my readers, Rowena hardly needs an introduction.

Her artwork and its themes so clearly capture much of what is going on in the hearts and minds of so many women in the circle of bloggers in which I read and participate. She paints of the struggle to be our truest selves -- and she paints of the beauty that is inherent in that struggle.

There is an honesty and directness to her visual art that shines through in her blog and in the responses to this interview.

You can also find her writing here; her shop is here; she is on twitter; and you could be her fan or her friend on Facebook. Phew...

Also, right now, she is doing a fabulous "inspire me" giveaway to celebrate her 500th post! Go here to participate.

Without further ado...

Describe the Primary Bliss in your life. How did you come to know that this was your bliss?

I’ve decided that I am calling this primary bliss “The Transformative Power of Art.” I’ve only stumbled upon this title recently, but it is what I am talking about.

I come from a not so easy life, but art, writing, reading, poetry and creativity have always been my salvation. It’s not just an escape from a difficult situation, it is also about healing and becoming whole.

I’ve always been an artist, and I have wanted to be a novelist since I was 15, but I was about 16 or 17 when I started to understand the power the written word had to transform the pain of living into light. I wrote in my journals, I cried over novels, I scribbled poem after bleeding poem to channel my fears and hurts and hopes.

I was in my mid twenties when I made the connection that the same thing could be done with art… in a powerful way. I’d always loved to paint and loved beauty and art of all stripes, but somewhere in there, I began to use art to transform experience. And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be all about pain. I think that was my adolescent need. The whole range of human experience can be made richer through creativity. It can release things we’ve been holding on to and help us step into our more powerful selves.

That really became clear to me when I was a teacher in a small inner city High School and I used art and writing in my classrooms. I was watching my students blossom and grow right in front of me. Other aspects of their lives opened up. Behavior calmed. Hope filled their eyes. Understanding.

It wasn’t always the same activity or genre. Different things filled the needs of different kids. Sometimes a lesson in drawing could serve as a springboard for academic success. And you’ve never seen Shakespeare until you’ve seen a breakdancing battle between Othello and Iago. It wasn’t that I taught art in my classes, it was that I allowed them their own interpretations. Allowed them to use their voices. Helped them find their voices. Gave them a feeling of accomplishment. Helped them believe that they could do that. Validated their experiences, feelings, and understanding. Gave them a release. Said YES. Let THEM say yes.

You don’t have to be a teenager to have art help you come to wholeness. I saw many of the same things in a women’s workshop I ran. Grown women confronting old losses and creating new dreams. Believing in themselves. Seeing futures and understanding themselves.

Creativity is about creating the universe you live in. The trees may already exist without you, but your understanding of them, the way you live in and with and around them, that is up to you.

What do you want your life to be in this world? The pen and the brush can help you make it real.

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

Oh, I’m still crafting it.

I’ve given up financial security, that’s for sure. I’ve given up having a busy social life, at least for now. I’ve given up New York City… it was just too expensive. I’ve given up teaching in the schools. Mostly, I’ve given up free time. I don’t do much vegging anymore. Even my tv time is double duty. It’s when I paint. Sometimes when I also eat or drink or be semi-sociable. Oh, I’ve given up alone time. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to be an artist. It’s not like it was before I was a mom, but in order to have both dreams… there’s no more wandering the streets of Greenwich Village with my sketchbook and journal. There’s no more sitting in cafĂ© gardens writing or bars flirting. No more weekly excursions to matinees. No more hanging out in parks, drinking white wine and staring at the clouds scooting across the sky. Those are the things I did while following my bliss as a single gal. I miss them sometimes. A lot. But I’m looking for the bliss in this life, right here.

Flying Girl Takes Off, or
Every Roadblock is a Stepping Stone

How does your Primary Bliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

It’s made me calmer and a better mom, I think. There are moments there when I can get really tense and anxious and depressed. Keeping creativity in sight has allowed me to begin to unpack all that weight. Allowing the experimentation that comes with creating helps me to let go of what I think things should look like. Lessons I’ve learned about the creative process have popped up in daily living. Refocusing on a more Zen way of existing, of living in the moment is also something that has helped greatly. These things have allowed me to understand the larger pattern of highs and lows in life. If I can see the motion of this wave, I don’t get so fearful of being pulled under by the tsunami.

And I am really trying to create the vision I have for my life… one that is about this primary bliss of creativity and wholeness. It’s an awful slow path, but I am beginning to see how far I have come and the smaller steps I need to take in order to continue on. I only opened my etsy shop last week, and yet, I can see by the response that I have hit on something that people are open to. Ready for, maybe.

What are some of the activities that also give your self this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track o time?

Reading. Singing. Dancing. Magazines. Watching good shows on TV or good movies. Going for walks just to see and to be. Alone time.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Wha huh? Raising two kids under four has kind of taken away any of my spiritual practices (except for my insistence on being creative every day).

Just getting through the day and remembering to breathe and remembering to feel the sun on my face and remembering the good things is my spiritual practice right now. Breathing has become awful important.

For a while I was writing a list of at least 3 happy things that happened to me every day, and that was really important in helping me rediscover my bliss when I lost it. Lately, I am trying to take fifteen minutes here or there to learn to play the guitar. I’m not good at all, but I’ve always wanted to. And somehow it helps me, now that my other creative outlets seem to have become work, where they used to be my rejuvenation.

But it is true that I need to write and/or paint in order to let my brain out of its confines. In order to understand the world and breathe really deeply. I really need that introspection. Sometimes I don’t have the words, and paint will do. Sometimes I really need the words. But art, writing and creativity in general is definitely my spiritual practice.

Perhaps I should get back into yoga or do an oracle reading once a week or something like that. Those are things that I have done in the past but have given up because I am spending so much time and energy on the things I am focusing on.

Flying Girl and The Dance, or
Pas De Deux
(Concerning the Artist's
Relationship to Her Creativity)

What music is your Bliss?

I have gone so long without music, that I’m afraid I am missing a big part of just living. For some reason, it’s just slipped by the wayside in my daily living. I am woefully ignorant on contemporary music, but I love Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Nina Simone so much. And I love many female singer song writers. Ani Di Franco, Sarah McLachlan, Joni Mitchell is one of my all time favorites. Oh, and the Beatles.

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

This is hard. There are too many. There have been so many over the course of my life, each serving their purpose. Reading in general is one of my blisses, so sometimes it’s a whole genre of novels. Fantasy and Science Fiction got me through adolescence and the ghetto. Then I discovered Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen, John Irving, Tom Robbins, Alice Hoffman, Orson Scott Card, Robin Hobb, and on and on. I can’t even remember all of them and I feel like I’m neglecting authors. Poets, too, have given me bliss. Sharon Olds, William Carlos Williams, Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Marge Piercy. And again others. I may not be a poet like them some day, but poetry has informed both my fiction writing and my painting, and made me better at both.

What advice do you give someone who has not found their primary bliss?

I think that in part my primary bliss is helping others find their primary bliss. When I taught High School, I even had a project that was called “Follow Your Bliss.” No, I lie. It was called Passion Quest. It was a research project and I really just wanted my student to find something they loved and delve into that, whether it was baseball or poetry or entrepreneurship.

My advice now to someone who has not found their primary bliss is to follow the things that fill you with passion, the things that give you that funny feeling in your stomach, the things that make you wonder and want to know more. Follow your curiosity. That’s your road sign. If there is something that you always wanted to try, then give it a shot. If it turns out that thing doesn’t float your boat, consider what was going on. When you discovered playing the guitar bored you, think about if it was really playing the guitar that you wanted? Maybe it was listening to music. Or writing songs. Or singing in a band. Or being a band manager? Or playing the piano.

The one concern with that is that sometimes you need to put some time into something before it really starts to make sense. If you still want to play guitar but your fingers hurt and you can’t quite get those chords to sound right and your back hurts and you think you’ll never become Eric Clapton, you have to let go of the fantasy that it’s easy, and the fear that you can’t do it, and keep at it. Let your little bliss grow and lead you to the bigger bliss. Sometimes we need to nurture our bliss.

Do you have a favorite quote to share?

Right now, I’m choosing this one, because my book opened to it and it gives me shivers.

Ring the bell that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
-Leonard Cohen

Yep. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, to add to that, except to say, thank you to Rowena, and to let her know that much of her story matches my own. It's nice to find another girl flying after we've had such a hard time even getting off the ground.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

OuterBliss: Small Things

Let's start with a few things that do not constitute OuterBliss as I write this:

1. 90 degrees in APRIL. No commentary about climate change here, but it's just wrong. I live in the Northernmost part of Pennsylvania. Canada is closer to me than the nearest U.S. city! I am on the edge of a GIANT body of freshwater. This is not our weather. Please take it back, whomever it does belong to, I beg you.

2. Wonky internet connections, even though, being cable, it usually acts like a perfect gentleman.

3. The sound of a pollution spewing lawn mower that can barely keep April. (See number 1.)

4. How the heat and humidity apparently liquefy my brain and how this shouldn't actually be happening until JULY. (See number 1.)

Okay. You get the idea. PissedChick is present and Petty, as per her usual.

But that does not mean that BlissChick is not also hanging out and for example, enjoying the fact that we can can sit outside in the morning and sip our espresso and do some early-for-us, non-scarf-involving birdwatching.

I am also appreciating the glow of the Forsythia -- sans snow!

But the main thing on my mind right now that I am feeling very OuterBlissed about: My Gluten Free Diet!

Yep. Bet you didn't see that one coming.

As many of you know, for my 100 Day Vow*, I am eating gluten free, knowing full well how much better, how much more AWAKE I feel without gluten.

(*You could still take a 100 Day Vow. Just go here to participate, and then let us know!)

Though I feel so much more alive and full of energy when I'm off gluten, I usually don't last past about six weeks. Which is not anywhere near 100 Days. (duh.)

So when I was inspired to create the 100 Day Vow opportunity for others by Lisa at Nerdy Renegade, I immediately knew what I would be doing. (There was much pouting about bread and cookies and bread and pasta and bread and bread...but other than that, I knew.)

Today is day number eleven for me, and I feel so fantastic that I don't even miss bread. Well, not totally, which leads me to...

The greatest, most awesome, biggest OuterBliss of all is that we have found pre-made, gluten free pizza crusts that just rock!

Yes, I am a simple girl and pizza is all it takes to make me happy. And now I have it.

You see, it's pizza -- that evil temptress -- that always makes me fall of the Wagon, but now!? Now Pizza can ride on the Wagon with me!

If only there existed a fully French, fully buttered, gluten-free croissant. oh-la-la. I think I better just count my blessings.

How about all of you? How are those 100 Day Vows going? Has anyone knew joined our ranks?

(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Double Narcissus, Backyard, 2009)

Monday, April 27, 2009

SharedBliss: My Writing for Pennsylvania

Last week, something exciting happened. I got an email from a woman representing Pennsylvania's travel and tourism blog, The Savvy Grouse; she wanted to know if I would be interested in writing for them on a regular basis -- as a representative of this beautiful part of the state.

Well, of course! I hope to post once a week, and my first contribution can be found here.

Cool. And savvy!

InnerBliss: 5 Rules for the First Hour of Your Day

I came across a new blog recently that is comprised of writings from a different author every day. It's called 5 Rules for Life. I thought about submitting, but I realized I wanted to get more specific with my 5 Rules.

I've written, very early on, about how important the first moments of your day are in terms of what you listen to, watch, and read. I asked, specifically, how you create your morning?

Do you jump out of bed and get right to it, creating a feeling of being rushed from the very first minute? Do you turn on the news and start your day with anxiety and fear? Do you get right into your car and begin with aggression?

These are all quite violent ways to start your day, and it's no wonder that we end our days feeling drained, exhausted, attacked, and flattened. It's no wonder that all we can do is sit like zombies in front of the TV and shovel food into our mouths.

What would a nonviolent day begin like? How could we start our days to create more personal and therefore communal peace...and bliss?

Taking my evening salt bath a couple of nights ago, I came up with my 5 Rules for the First Hour of Your Day.

Rule Number One: Do Not Rush Out of Your Bed

When you awaken, whether it be by sunlight or the necessity of an alarm clock, lie still. Just breathe. Perhaps stretch like a baby. Breathe deeply into your lower abdomen and down into your wiggling toes. Breathe deeply to oxygenate your awakening brain.

Breathe in the idea of the day.

Start to envision what you want to look like as you go through your day. Do not think about the details of what you will be doing -- just envision your peaceful, relaxed, and happy self. And envision staying that way no matter what.

Rule Number Two: Treat Your Bathroom Time as the Ablution It is

As you make your way to the bathroom, think about the miracle that is running, indoor, clean water. Be thankful.

As you go through your routine, be thankful that your body functions as well as it does. Be thankful that you walked into the bathroom on your own, that you can do this all for yourself.

As you wash your body in the shower or just your face at the sink, wash away any leftover anxiety or negative emotions from the previous day or from your dreams. See this as a cleansing and a preparation.

You are fresh and new every single morning!

Rule Number Three: Connect to Your Body...Slowly

This only takes ten minutes. Or you could take an hour. Whatever you need or whatever you are capable of. Do not judge.

Start moving. T'ai chi first thing is amazing. Restorative Yoga is the way I now begin.

Or take a walk outdoors. No matter the weather. Observe the natural world. Notice whatever is happening on each day during each season. Connect to your body and to the world. Connecting to both is the same thing, really.

Rule Number Four: Watch What You Put in Your Brain via Your Ears and Eyes

Ideally, start your day -- this first hour -- with as little modern and technological input as possible.

Do not get right on the computer. Do not turn on the news -- radio or television. Do not unfold the newspaper.

Instead, listen to the birds outside. Listen to soothing music. Listen to some chant. Read some poetry or something else you find equally inspirational.

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably everyday
for lack
of what is found there.

--William Carlos Williams

Rule Number Five: Gratitude

Perhaps the most important rule: Say "Thank You" and "Yes" before you begin the main part of your day

Thank you for all the gifts and lessons and matter what they are.

Yes to life. Yes to breath. Yes to it all.

Five Rules for the last hour of your day? Just reverse and repeat.

(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Narcissus, Backyard, 2009)

Friday, April 24, 2009

enCouragingBliss: Building Your Happy Place

At the very beginning of April, for enCouragingBliss, we did an exercise about Returning to Your Own Personal Garden of Eden.

Time to revisit that and have a little fun with it. (Especially because I feel like we've gotten really serious and heavy in these enCouragingBliss prompts as of late.)

What made me think of this...

The other evening, Marcy and I were lazing about as we do in the evenings, and I was talking to her about my healer appointment and how I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all this "trying to get better" stuff. I was having a hard time focusing the "better" and was stuck on the "trying."

So, in her wisdomosity, Marcy said to me, "Where is your Happy Place?"

What? Besides this house we live in? This life we have?

I knew what she meant, and she meant my internal, go-there-to-calm-myself place.

Marcy's Happy Place, of course (bet you could guess), is a room FULL of bunnies. They are all romping and she is on the floor with them and they are jumping on her and playing and giving her little rabbit nuzzles. You know, strange...but wonderful!

She asked me to think back to my Garden of Eden prompt. (Yes, I can be slow...even when I come up with the stuff!)

I told her a bit about it.

Then she announced that I was to, the very next day, make a collage that represents my Happy Place!

Again...WHAT? I have never made a collage in my life! I panicked but I acquiesced. (That is the way things go in this house.)

Halfway through scouring for images on the internet, it hit me that I could make my collage in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Super easy and no need for cutting up paper.

So, that is your assignment for this week, if you should accept it, and I am hoping you will.

Create a collage that represents your happy place; share it with us. We might see something you don't.

Marcy, for example, noticed right away that I am in need of a small nook to crawl into:

Remember, you can either Mister Linky to your own blog post about this, or, if you don't blog, just leave a comment about your process and what happened, what you learned.


(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Lilly Sleeping, April 2009)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

BlissBlissBliss: Hearing a Poet Read His Work in Person

Li-Young Lee awaiting his time at the podium.
(LOVE that topknot!)

Erie may be a small city, but we still get our share of wonderful and having the opportunity to listen to a poet of Li-Young Lee's caliber read his work aloud was one of those moments when you are just thankful.

Thankful to have known he was coming.

Thankful to be able to get there.

Thankful to be breathing in the same space in which he is speaking.

Marcy and I went, along with writing group's Anne of Green Gables and the library's Miss Kitten (as we love to call her).

Toward the end, a stanza from his poem Virtues of the Boring Husband (from his most recent collection) really struck me:

Then, to surrender any sense of an I
is to feel our true condition, a You
before God, and to be seen.

I got it! This is the beauty of poetry. All the reading and studying of mysticism and so succinctly he puts all the theories about oneness and ego and surrender and emptiness into three short lines.

Poets and mystics and prophets. What would we be without them?

BlissQuest: What Does Gossip Do to Our Energy?

Today's topic was submitted by a reader through Skribit*: How does gossiping affect our energy? How do we go about not gossiping?

*Remember: You can submit a question or topic submission through the Skribit widget to the right. Or you can vote on topics already suggested. Go ahead...I dare you. (That daring thing seems to work for a lot of you!)

This is a sensitive topic, especially, I think, for women, who are often made to feel that any talking they do at all is gossiping.

Deborah Tannen, in the classic sociolinguistic work You Just Don't Understand, points out some interesting male and female differences in terms of bonding and communication. (I don't own the book anymore so I cannot directly quote, but I highly recommend this work. It came out a year before Men are From Mars...)

Men bond and communicate predominately through actions, through doing. They play football together. They build something. (Remember, there are always exceptions to all "rules;" we are just looking at the "average.")

If you think about where we come from, this makes sense. Men were the hunters. They couldn't sit around chatting while they waited for their prey!

Women bond and communicate predominately, of course, through shared storytelling.

This, too, makes sense. Women were back at the village, taking care of the children (and eventually becoming the first farmers). Chatting made the work more pleasant.

Fast forward to the present: Men and women define the concept of gossiping totally differently. As said before, many women are made to feel that any talking they do at all that is not "productive" is "gossip."

Not so.

Gossip is all about intent. Gossip is malicious and destructive and mean. It is meant to build you up while bringing someone else down.

Gossip is not simply the sharing of stories or information.

For example, you and a friend may have a mutual friend whom you both know is having a hard time. Discussing this in a way that is about displaying compassion is not gossip.

This is a sensitive issue to me as a writer. Everything I do could be construed as gossip!

But I am inquisitive about human nature. I am always trying to understand human motivation. So I look for hints to the larger story. I am always gathering for a deeper and broader understanding of how it is we work on the emotional and spiritual level. This is the stuff of my writing -- both fiction and otherwise.

The lesson here, then, is to always be checking in with your own intentions.

I was just watching a Dalai Lama lecture about nonviolence, and he points out something very important: Nonviolence is all about intention.

Someone's actions, for example, from the outside might look completely peaceful, but if you could see inside, you would see that they were doing whatever they were doing for manipulative reasons, to get something for themselves, etc. This is violence because they have ill intentions toward the other person. Perhaps they want control of the relationship. You get the idea.

This takes the practice of nonviolence to a more intense level, doesn't it? (Emphasis on "Practice.")

It means being completely aware of ourselves and our motivations when sharing information with other people.

This is a lifelong practice!

But it's worth working on and not just for the person about whom you may be gossiping. Mostly, this is about you. Whatever you are putting out into the world is what you will get.

Also, since we are all One (according to just about every major spiritual tradition on the planet!), you are hurting yourself whenever you hurt anyone else in any way.

From another perspective, Kundalini theory would say that gossip is about an imbalance of the throat chakra.

Perhaps you are gossiping because you are having a hard time expressing your own truth? Perhaps there is something you are unwilling to share about yourself and so take out your frustrations on others? Or maybe there is some way you are stifling your own creativity?

Or you are around a negative person and you are allowing yourself to get caught up in their negative energy -- which would indicate the need for some serious boundary work!

Think about these things when you feel like you are speaking in a way that lacks integrity.

Also, do not confuse gossiping with talking about difficult matters. Having a balanced throat chakra means you are able to confront the hard stuff, too. Not everything in life is pretty and rosey, and when we act like it is or expect it to be, again, we lack honesty.

Singing, chanting, and humming are great ways to balance this chakra.

If you leave an interaction and have a sour taste in your mouth, this is a red flag. Spend some time writing in your journal. Think about how and why it happened. And then move on. You'll do better next time!

Have you ever been affected negatively by someone else's or your own gossip? How did it feel? How did you handle it after the fact?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SharedBliss: Scotland's Mary Gordon, Creativity Guru

Preparing for this interview, I got completely lost looking at photos of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Mary Gordon teaches creativity classes based on the principles of The Artist's Way in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, but it was Edinburgh that captured my heart in the photos.

We live about thirty minutes from Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a small, state university based town in which, every year, there are the Highland Games, including bag pipe competitions. The Scots in that area take their Scottish heritage very seriously.

Now I see why. Off subject here, but I must visit this place some day. (Which will be happy news to my Scots-Irish partner!)

It is no wonder, though, that a Creativity Guru like Mary Gordon would, inadvertently, awaken a longing for beauty and adventure in my heart. She has been doing this for a long time and has, apparently, mastered the skill of long distance inspiration, like a true guru, I suppose. (smile)

You can find Mary's blog, A Creative Voyage, here. You can read a bit more about her here. You can read about classes here. And you can also sign up on those pages to get email newsletters, in which you would be alerted to information regarding upcoming classes.

I think it might just be worth a trip to Edinburgh!

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

Taking photographs. It came surprisingly. I had taken one b&w class when a teenager and produced some great images but never went back to it. I got sucked into filmmaking instead.

I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME about 6 years ago and didn’t have any energy for making films or engaging with the politics around making films. I had seen discussion about Lomo cameras on the internet. I was staying with a friend in London and one day walked to the centre of the city and passed a Lomography Shop. I was drawn in and ended up buying a camera from a very brisk Austrian woman who explained how to listen for the second click when taking photographs in low light.

Then I was away. I took masses of photographs with the lomo slowly learning through trial and error about light. I love getting films back from the printers – it's like Christmas every day! I love being able to do something portable which I just naturally integrate into my day. I’ve now moved onto a holga camera, which uses medium format film and gives a totally different quality.

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

Well this bliss hasn’t cost me anything except processing! As I said above because I integrate it seamlessly into my life its not a matter of choice and sacrifice, which my filmmaking career has been. Choosing bliss is something we have to keep on doing – I don’t think it’s a one off thing.

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

I think I need to remind myself of what I love and that I should take that same love to everything I do. In a roundabout way, everything I do I would like to have the same love/bliss in it.

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

Reading, walking, sitting outside on my bench with my cat, talking to friends. I only discover this later when I see my phone bill !

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

Journalling and walking (As any true student of Julia Cameron! inserts Blisschick.)

What music is your bliss?


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

How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson, Writing for your life by Deena Metzenger, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, the film maker Derek Jarman, the work of Robyn Posin

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

Allow yourself to explore, do not fill your life so there is no space to allow it to enter.

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

Do more things badly!

Another way to say that, of course, is "Get out there and take some risks!"

The interesting part of Mary's story here is that it took illness for her to say "no" to a profession that was sapping her life-energy and then say "yes" to a buried, life-long passion. That is certainly an excellent example of seeing the opportunity in what could be chaos -- a life altering event rather than a life destroying one.

I love, also, that she reminds us to leave space between. This is the place, for me, from which poetry springs, and the type of photography Mary engages in seems to need the same fertile ground.

Where in your life could you make more space? Where has it become necessary?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Pledge for Earth Day

I found this on the blog, Musings of a Discerning Woman, and it pretty much made my day.

It is so fitting that the Catholic Church has created a pledge to the Earth and her poor in honor of St. Francis.

(There's a great video on the front page that is an example of the best of Catholic social/justice teachings.)

Here's the explanation (pink highlights are mine, of course!):

All across our country, Catholics are taking the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor and joining the Catholic Climate Covenant. The St. Francis Pledge is a promise and a commitment by Catholic individuals, families, parishes, organizations and institutions to live our faith by protecting God’s Creation and advocating on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change. To join the Covenant, you commit to act on each of the five elements of the St. Francis Pledge.

I/We Pledge to:

  • PRAY and reflect on the duty to care for God’s Creation and protect the poor and vulnerable.
  • LEARN about and educate others on the causes and moral dimensions of climate change.
  • ASSESS how we-as individuals and in our families, parishes and other affiliations-contribute to climate change by our own energy use, consumption, waste, etc.
  • ACT to change our choices and behaviors to reduce the ways we contribute to climate change.
  • ADVOCATE for Catholic principles and priorities in climate change discussions and decisions, especially as they impact those who are poor and vulnerable.
Yep. Made. My. Day.

Please. Consider taking the pledge. The website will have daily tips -- simple steps we can all take to make a difference.

OuterBliss: Namaste to My Mother Earth

There are days when I think, why, oh, why even try? It's hard. We are already too far gone. Not enough people are contributing to the solutions...

(This would be the alter ego known as WhineChick.)

Then I walk outside and walk around this house.

I notice that there are tiny little buds on our hardy Kiwi plants. I notice that purple and green asparagus are poking up out of the soil and that one warm day is probably all it will take to give us enough for an appetizer (broiled with olive oil is truly the only way to eat fresh asparagus).

I notice, too, that we have a lot of birds in this small yard and our share of rabbits. (We love rabbits in this house, as you may know.)

I notice that our four year old apple tree is doing well, and I imagine that this year we will get more than just one piece of fruit.

I notice that my heart feels calmer, more at peace; I notice that my heart swells with love for this tiny piece of land that is ours, that we continue to tenderly cultivate, that we plant our dreams within.

I cry easily at the thought of ever leaving it and so we most likely never will.

Sitting in the back yard, I can sense that big Lake, that beautiful Lake that is only 2 miles North of me. I look above and see gulls. The sound of gulls -- how would I ever live without it?

Being outside, sitting outside, weeding, staring, dreaming...I know exactly why we live like we do and I know for certain that there is nothing more worthwhile than living in a way that fosters a deeper relationship between me and this planet I call home.

I know that there is nothing more worthwhile than living in a way that shows my utter respect for this Earth that is my Mother.

I bow down to her and to all the life she supports every time...

...I walk or ride my bike.

...every Spring that we decide one more year without a car. (We'll be up to 8 this July.)

...every time I buy local and organic produce or organic and local meats.

...every time I learn one more bird's real name, one more tree's real name, one more iota of anything about this specific place.

...every day during the summer when I clip or cut or pull our dinner from our own ground.

...every visit to a store when I decide: No, I do not need this.

...and every minute when I walk upon her and notice her and not just use her.

Not just one day a year.

Namaste to, as Hildegarde would say, all this Verdant Greening.

May we all try to be more deserving of this gift.

For more information regarding our car-free lifestyle, please click on the Go Green! button in the right-hand column.

Bliss: All of it.

(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Pink Impression Tulip, Front Yart, 2009)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blisschick 1 Year Birthday Giveaway Winners!

There were so many wonderful answers to the Birthday Giveaway question, and we had about 40 people respond so we drew names randomly and have three winners!

Zoe the Rabbit was our official Vanna White; in the above photo, you can see her stepping up to the bowl. (Mostly, we think she wondered why there was paper where her salad should be. Poor Rabbit.)

So, here are the three winners of Moleskine journals, along with their answers to the question, What three things would help you to follow the path of your Bliss in bigger and more fulfilling ways?

Leah, from Creative Every Day:

1. dialoguing with my inner critic
2. daily movement
3. de-cluttering

ha! They all start with "d"! The three d's for me. :-)

Merc, from Finding Jimmy Macinko:

3 things I need to get closer to my bliss:
1. my migraine disease to become bearable (the right combo of drugs and physical therapy and fairy dust)
2. now that winter is finally over, to go outside and walk in the sun with my dog and baby girl. The new season will flush the depression out of my system.
3. flourless chocolate cake. at least once a month. my own little cake. :)

Brien, from Mapthinking (I could not access his profile to see if he has a blog):

1. To make time to just be. Remaining perpetually busy does not allow one to make personal breakthroughs.

2. To bless others.

3. My first Manuscript done and ready for agents and editors scrutiny by the end of July. (I'll admit this is ambitious)

If all of you could please email me a mailing address at pinkyogi at gmail dot com, I could get these in the mail this week!

Congratulations! I wish I could send one to everyone of you.

One of my favorite answers, by the way, came from Linda Sama from Linda's Yoga Journey. If anyone out there can help her to manifest this work, please do so. It is important stuff:

1. to open a center where I could offer yoga, meditation, acupuncture and other holistic modalities to low income people, where they would pay what they could afford.

2. to open a dharma center for troubled youth (like gang bangers, kids just out of juvi, etc.)

3. get funding for a yoga therapy program at the domestic violence shelter where I teach yoga and meditation.

InnerBliss: Fortunate Enough to Question or "Biology as Destiny"

In Buddhism, it is said that if you are born human, it is very fortunate. If you are born in circumstances that present you with the opportunity to study the Dharma, it is more fortunate. If you are born into circumstances in which the Dharma is presented to you, studying and living the Dharma becomes your obligation.*

(*Now, no matter what faith tradition or spiritual path you follow, you can insert that into this story.)

It's a story about personal responsibility, but I think it's also a story about how much biology can be destiny, whether we like to admit this or not.

A personal example: Sometimes, when I am on the city bus or out and about walking among the masses of quietly desperate souls, it hits me anew how "the poor will always be with us."

The spiritually and intellectually poor are what I am really struck by, what saddens me, what makes me think, "God! We really ARE just screwed!" I teeter on the edge of communal despair, a place I refuse to stay but which seems a logical reaction sometimes.

Just this past weekend, Marcy and I took a walk to a little corner store to get her something carbonated for her tummy. At the cash register, there were two people who had that look. Do you know what I'm talking about? That look in their eyes that is sorta blank? The one that shows you instantly that these are not what we would call "learners?"

The woman was handed her GIANT COKE and the man was handed one bag filled with sugared foods and then the cashier handed him his 2 liter diet pop without a bag, assuming the man could just carry that. He couldn't. He asked for another bag. Plastic bags, of course.

And it hit me. This is what we are up against.

I know a lot of people who can talk the talk. They talk about how awful conservatives are for not caring about the environment. They talk about how wonderful they are because they do. Then they get in their cars and drive under a mile to buy organic food.

I know a lot of people who know better.

I know a lot of people, otherwise, who have been born human and into circumstances where they have the education, the literacy, the exposure to the spiritual paths. And on top of all of those fortunate things coming together, they also claim to be doing just that -- studying and walking certain paths.

But their actions..oh, their actions.

And then there are the people I saw in the small store. They have been born human, but that is where their good fortune seems to stop. They have not had the education; they do not have the literacy levels.

They do not know any better. If you tried to explain "better" to them, it would be too foreign. No light bulb would turn on.

There was a study done that showed that it takes an IQ of 125 to be able to have and then manifest creative ideas.

Yes, I know, there are all sorts of problems with the IQ test. Put those aside and see this information for what it is: a statistical correlation between some sort of intellectual capacity and the capacity to create better lives.

Biology is Destiny.**

(**Keep in mind that only 10% of the population has an IQ over 120.)

Those people at the small store have every excuse for not understanding how their every action impacts them, their community, and the world.

The other people -- the people with the Biology and all the fortunate circumstances -- I still wonder to this day what their excuses are.

If you are questioning, if you are trying each day to figure out how to do it better, count your blessings, because they are numerous.

Bliss: My top braces are coming off today. If you want to see a final picture of them, go here.

(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Forsythia, Backyard, 2009)

Friday, April 17, 2009

enCouragingBliss: A 100 Day Vow -- I Double Dare You!

It has been interesting reading the answers to the question for the Moleskine Giveaway. (There's still plenty of time to get your name in the drawing; you can post answers until Sunday 7 PM, New York time.)

The question, of course, is what 3 things would help you to follow the path of you bliss in bigger and more fulfilling ways?

So much of what comes up for people in this listing has to do with health -- of the mind/body sort.

We've had some discussions about our bodies recently on Blisschick, and there has been one enCouragingBliss when you were asked to really face and transform some bodily demons.

In that challenge, I start by asserting that in order to fully live your bliss, you must first be fully situated within the vehicle that is your body.

So, this week, in response to that post and in response to what seems to be a theme in our current needs, I have a extra big challenge.

This is inspired by Lisa over at Nerdy Renegade, who is right now riding the wave that is intense grief. She committed in a comment to 100 days straight of yoga. No days missed. Period.

Here's the Challenge:

Pick ONE thing.

Maybe it's ten minutes of quiet before you leave the house or get on the computer or talk to another person.

Maybe it's yoga every day -- or t'ai chi or running or whatever it is that is prayer in motion for you.

Maybe it's that you won't eat any sugar. Mine is NO GLUTEN. Not any. I have gone for over a month, but that's the longest I have made it. And that is ridiculous because I am like a new person when there is no gluten in my diet.

Pick the thing that you know you should be doing or not doing but you've been avoiding it because it's something you're really attached to (or unattached to).

Pick something super hard. Come on. This is a challenge. Find those edges and ride them for 100 days!

You can leave a comment or you can Mister Linky and write a post about what you've selected, why, and how you will keep track of yourself.

That last part is really important. We must be held accountable when trying scary, difficult things. I will periodically post a check-up within these enCouragingBliss Fridays.

If you start today, you'll be done Saturday, July 25th.

Remember, I won't post all weekend, which leaves this at the top of the fold for three days. Three days for you to make a decision and take the vow.

Do it!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BlissQuest: The Dangers of a Daily Yoga Practice

For the first time on Blisschick, today I will be writing about a topic suggested and then voted for on Skribit.

Remember, you can easily suggest topics by writing them into the little box at the bottom of the Skribit widget over in the right hand column -- go ahead, check it out! It's also totally easy to vote, so don't be shy.

Today's question: How important is a daily yoga practice, really? (This question has received the most votes to date.)

How many of us have not whined about this at some point? It's so hard to practice yoga every day and wouldn't just a few days a week cover us, make us healthier and happier?

I still struggle with this myself. This Blisschick is not PerfectChick, that's for sure! In the past, I could go through really dry times with yoga, barely doing it a couple of days a week, sometimes not doing it at all.

But I ended up paying for this. I didn't feel as good in my body. My emotional and spiritual health suffered the most.

Why? Because the practice of yoga is really about prayerful awareness. It is about fine tuning the instrument that is your body so that you might hear and receive messages from the universe, the divine, your own intuitions, the Muse...

Anyone who practices can obtain
success in yoga but not one who is lazy.
Constant practice alone is the secret of success.


Constant -- there is that word again.

How annoying it can be that success in anything is all about the day-to-day hard work!

And at the same time, how utterly liberating. Yes, liberating.

It is quite liberating, I think, to know that how my life turns out is all in my own hands. It is liberating to know that I can make choices each day, each hour that will directly impact the quality of my physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental experience.

This is what daily yoga is all about, and this is why it is imperative.

If yoga is one of the tools you use to walk your bliss path, then it must be tended to every day, because yoga is all about the cumulative effects.

Two weeks into a daily Kundalini yoga practice and I feel more optimistic. A few more weeks and I am more compassionate. A few more weeks and I have a centered and peaceful feeling no matter what is happening around me.

I love to tell people this: Yoga works whether you believe in it or not.

It will change you from the inside out, whether that is what you want or not.

It will change how you view your life and what you want from life, whether you want it to or not.

In that way, take heed -- yoga is dangerous and not to be taken lightly.

Yoga is a danger to your smallness.

Yoga is a danger to your anger.

Yoga is a danger to your laziness and your procrastination and your excuse-making and your feeling of disconnect from the rest of the world.

Yoga is a danger to the old you, the outmoded you, the you stuck in the past, the you that wastes away dreaming of the future. Yoga is about the present and it is a danger to anything but mindfulness.

I'm here, too, to tell you that there is no excuse big enough -- not even that one we all love to hide behind: We're too busy.

Too busy to meet the ultimate you?

Too busy for ten or twenty minutes a day to tap your own depths and the expansiveness of life?

If you were to do yoga every day for two weeks and then two weeks more and then two weeks more, what part of you do you think would be most endangered?

Reminder: Go to this post and join in on the discussion to win Moleskine journals!

Bliss: Finding the right kind of yoga for my spiritual and physical needs. Integrating yoga into my daily life after years of struggling to do so. Sticking with the struggle even when it felt futile.

(Photo Credit: Christine Reed, Narcissus bud, front yard, 2009)

SharedBliss: The Lemonade Award

Thank you to my lovely fellow-Great-Lakes girl Jamie, of Starshyne Productions and THE blogging girl's favorite bookclub, for giving me the lemonade award!

A Lemonade Award is given to bloggers who show a positive attitude, gratitude, and a willingness to share their ideas, support and online friendship. In other words, people who make lemonade when they get lemons!

Here are the rules for the award:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 7 blogs that show great Gratitude and/or Attitude.
3. Be sure to list and link your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know they have received this award by leaving a comment on their blog.

So here are the women to whom I would like to pass this award:

Lori-Lyn at The Dream Life for excellent writing on top of much wisdom!

Connie at DirtyFootprints, who has decided -- for good reasons -- to stop blogging, but whose archives are worth your time and effort! Thank you, Connie, for being you!

MotherHenna for the depth of her commitment to her journey!

Janaki at The Humble Yogini for her authenticity and her willingness to be open about the struggle of the path.

Tinkerbell at her Tea Party, because she lets it all hang out -- in that good way. No pity party here, just the hard work of emotional and spiritual health.

Kayce at Diamonds in the Sky with Lucy for her integrity and her bravery.

Sister Susan at Musings of a Discerning Woman, because this is what I am talking about when I say we need a new way. Religious who are concerned with justice and peace issues are beacons of hope about where we should and could be.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Blisschick Birthday Giveaway!

To further celebrate the one year birthday of Blisschick, I am going to giveaway Moleskine journals to some lucky readers! YAY!

My favorite Moleskine is the unlined, heavy artist paper journals. So that's what you'll get!

To enter, just leave a comment answering the following question:

What three things would help you to follow the path of your Bliss in bigger and more fulfilling ways?

Go ahead! Play along.

I'll keep taking comments for the drawing until the end of this coming weekend.

SharedBliss: Blisschick is One! is one year old today.

This is the 398th post! Phew. Perhaps I really do need a vacation!

Looking back, it took almost two weeks before I started a daily music section. This was the first thing I shared.

I started blogging and did so every day so that I might develop stronger discipline in my writing life. I wanted to be more committed on a daily basis to my creativity.

I had no idea how much I would learn, how much blogging is an entity in and of itself, how many amazing and deep connections I would make.

Does it sound like I am giving up blogging? I'm not, yet this is a time for some changes.

First, I am stubborn, so even though I knew that seven-days-a-week blogging was stealing me from other, important creative work, I kept it up, determined to reach my year mark without missing a day.

Goal accomplished!

So the first change is that I will blog Monday through Friday. I'm not saying that I will never post on weekends, but I need more time to germinate and nurture on-paper writing, including poetry, two nonfiction book proposals, and my novel -- oh, my novel.

Second, it may seem unbelievable and silly but there are days when I spend close to an hour finding new music. I can get lost down winding roads of musical bliss and barely be able to drag myself out and then there are days when nothing is "singing" to me.

So the second change is that I will no longer share music on a daily basis. Sure, when I come across something new and fabulous, I'll put it out there, but this way it will happen more naturally.

Third, my "Bliss" section and the photo information will now be at the bottom of the post. The reason for this has to do with feeds and other boring blog stuff blah blah blah.

Fourth, I am moving enCouraging Bliss's prompt to Friday, so that people have more time to work on it and share it. That way it will be the top post for a total of three days.

I am hoping more people will Mister Linky because of this and that more people will share the idea with others so that we might become a force!

Fifth, I will write BlissQuest on Thursdays, and I'll use this time to use Skribit suggestions and answer any email questions that I might get.

(Please use the Skribit to the right. You don't just have to vote on what is already there; you can add your own in the little box!)

That's it.

Good changes. I'm hoping they are changes that will allow me to focus on getting Blisschick into paper book format so that she might roam in different sorts of places than just blogland!

Blisschick and I need to FLY!

If you have any suggestions for new material, content, ways of doing things on Blisschick, I would certainly appreciate it!

Thank you, all the readers, all the commenters, all the lurkers!, all the people who email me privately, for sharing yourselves so generously with me and everyone else.

Bliss: Writing and being here. Hearing voices from all over the world. Participating in conversations meant to help us all be the best versions of ourselves so that we might all live our bliss and thereby be the change.

(Photo: Lily form of Narcissus, back yard, 2009)