Thursday, December 31, 2009

How to Overcome Brain Induced Lethargy


Yesterday, I was having a difficult time. There are reasons for this, yes, but we all know by now that it's not the reasons but our reactions to those reasons that create anxiety or lethargy or apathy or whatever particular demon holds you back from the life you are meant to live.

I get a combo reaction that I am sure is common: my anxiety gets so bad that it paralyzes me into lethargy.

I can clearly see what it is I need to be doing in order to feel better.

I can also clearly see that I am avoiding that thing intentionally so as not to feel better.

Oh, Brain, the trouble you cause!

I sat on the couch going from Twitter to Facebook to Gmail and back again, feeling this battle being waged between Brain and Body. Watching the whole thing with a mix of disgust and amusement.

I mean, it is something, isn't it, that I can watch this, that I am aware of it, that my Witness is present?

Eventually, as I knew it would, Body won. I got up and put on some music and just began. Slowly. Not expecting anything but a little movement.

That lack of expectation always ends with joyful, boundless, fully embodied dancing.

I sweated. I worked. I focused. I lost myself. I lost My Self. The negative brain chatter ceased.

Things got quiet.

I found myself. I found My Self.

As I always do when I am doing what I am Meant to Do.

This is the point where it can get rather exciting. Brain gets out of the way and becomes the Organ of Dreams & Imaginings that it is meant to be.

All of the oxygen and joy changes the chemistry of Brain.

Brain started pumping out messages and ideas; it coordinated my limbs in new ways; it activated hormones.

Body and Brain, once again, became Team Bliss.

Are you able to watch your resistance? Are you then able to overcome it? Or do you give in? Why?


(Photo of Toby and Lilly playing with abandon.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Final Wishcasting of 2009


We, in no way, planned to have that kitten peaking out of that photo come to live with us.

I was sitting at home two nights after returning from Kripalu when Marcy called me from work to tell me to look at some photos she had sent me. Two hours later, Toby arrived.

My first -- no, I should say -- My second impulse was to say No. We don't need a kitten in this house at this time. No, I just got back and have barely re-acclimated to my normal home life. No, I am not a person who likes surprises.

That is what I always say: I am not a person who likes surprises.

For the year 2009, my word was Fly, and it can be kinda hard to fly if you are totally against surprises.

I did things that I would never have done a mere year before -- truly, mere months before.

For 2010, of course, my word is Embody, and to strengthen my commitment to fully embodying my life, this path, my skin, I wish for 2010 to be...

Full of Wonderful Surprises.

That's right. I'm asking it in. To be more clear, I want to surprise myself. With good things, risky things, daring things, big things, shiny and sparkling things.

What about you? Are you willing to be surprised or do you insist on a level of control that eradicates the possibility of surprise from your life?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How to Deal with a Little Christmas Tummy Pudge


Over the Christmas holidays, I had decided that I would eat the treats I wanted to eat. I was not going to castigate myself for this enjoyment. Marcy and I agreed upon some yums that she wanted to cook and bake and I agreed to eat!

As you know, I've been working hard on my daily dance/yoga/workout routines, and I have been reaping physical rewards for that focus, determination, and willpower.

But over the holidays...oye!

Not only did I eat things like sticky buns many days in a row (and they were perfection itself), but I also sat around reading and got up to dance a whole. lot. less.

In the past, thanks to some lovely body image dis-ease, I would have gone off the deep end at the fact that my tummy is showing the results of increased calories and decreased activity.

In the past, I would have been weighing myself ever step of the way.

Thanks to Marcy, I can't do that anymore.

Years ago, she made me throw out that scale.

Now it's all a matter of listening to the wisdom of my body, and it has told me a few things.

First, it told me that eating those sticky buns was all about joy. (Starving myself has been a problem in the past, so enjoying the act of eating is important.)

Second, it told me that it was okay to get off track for two weeks, because I would be getting right back on.

Third, it reminded me that this is all part of the journey of my word of the year, Embody. Learning not to judge myself based on temporary physical states (including a little extra weight or feeling tired) is a huge lesson for me.

I am thankful that I don't have the weapon that is the Scale sitting in my bathroom, taunting me, giving me "evidence" of my "failure."

Have you decided to join the World Wide Dump Your Scale Day? If you do, and you decide to write about, let me know!

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Inner Cat


We've had an amazingly relaxing holiday here at the Lilypad. We've spent a lot of our time watching Toby and Lilly romp and roll through the wrapping paper and emptied boxes. Every morning starts with them racing through the room as we sit on the couch laughing and clapping and sipping espresso. The photo above is typical right now -- the cat a mere blur of happy abandon.

As we start this week that will end with the beginning of the New Year, I watch the cats and think a lot about my word for 2010, Embody.

Cats are fur-covered packages of Action. They don't contemplate the right or wrong of somersaulting over that new feathered toy. They don't procrastinate chasing their new sister cat, thinking maybe there is a better time to do so.

For me, then, much of my word of the year exploration will be about not questioning my desires or dreams but instead moving forward as the impulse moves me.

In two weeks, for example, I am going to start two eight week ballroom dancing classes (rumba and salsa!). I would normally wonder "Why" I am doing this. I would question what would "come of it."

I feel my brain trying to generate resistance to something that has called to me for many years.

I feel my brain coming up with all sorts of reasons not to.

But my Body yells "YES!"

And my Body is smart like a Cat.

What does your Body desire or need? What holds you back?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Peak into Our Christmas Day

Having two young cats in the house for Christmas was a furry, tumbling bundle of fun. Lilly is not yet two, and, of course, Toby is only a few months. Most of the day, looked like this:


We piled blankets on the floor in front of the tree and just played all day and left the mess of paper and boxes. It was our favorite Christmas ever.


It took me all day to get this decent photo of Lilly, looking angelic -- but we know otherwise!


By the end of the day, there was some passing out:


And the passing out seems to be continuing into today!

Marcy and I are already making plans for next year. We are thinking about a Christmas Eve party to celebrate the German tradition of the belschnickel.

Oh! In the middle of the day yesterday, we ate some more homemade sticky buns and drank some more homemade eggnog while we watched this movie, which is all about never stopping, the unimportance of age, and the importance of doing the thing that makes you most happy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Anything & Everything


Today, we celebrate Possibility.

Today, we celebrate Mystery and Awe and Beauty so big that our human minds cannot truly conceptualize it.

That is what I believe.

I believe that religions as path are examples of some of our best and most breath-taking imaginings.

I believe, like the boy in Philip Roth's Conversion of the Jews (short story must-read), that Anything and Everything is possible with the Infinite Divine.

Including the existence of humanity and divinity in one being. Including love incarnate. Including timelessness of ritual.

In celebration of Anything and Everything, I wish you and yours Beauty and Bliss and Bounty.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Light


The light is slowly coming back, our days lengthening minute by minute as we make our way through this Winter season in the Northern Hemisphere.

And yet...

It is this external darkness that can nurture an inner light through hibernation and contemplation.

It is the darkness of the womb that brings forth new life.

This time of year was a perfect choice for the Christmas holiday.

As we approach Midnight this Christmas Eve, what light resides deep within your heart and soul? What light do you radiate? What light is your inner candle, leading your out of darkness?

Some of my favorite quotes about light:

People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.

~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The hero is the one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light.

~Felix Adler

When you possess light within, you see it externally.

~Anaïs Nin

Someday perhaps the inner light will shine forth from us, and then we'll need no other light.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Indestructible Kernel of Hope


This is a picture of what I saw above me upon opening my eyes after a deep relaxation exercise in the Chapel at Kripalu during my teacher training. The Chapel was central to the life of the Jesuits who once lived in this monastery. Now, the large mosaic at the front is covered with cloth and there is a giant, dancing Shiva in front of it.

Sad because I think a dancing Shiva would be fine with an Ignatian mosaic.

In the following letter written by Thomas Merton in 1967, he speaks of an indestructible kernel of hope. My teacher training, for me, is yet more proof of this kernel and its indestructible nature.

No matter how depressed I have been (and it has been very bad, do not be mistaken), some part of me knew there was light at the end of that deep and dark tunnel. Some part of me continued to fight the good fight.

I am thankful that I have emerged from the tunnel -- not unscathed, surely, yet reborn better than ever.

Advent is about anticipating birth, creation, the radically new and transformative.

I have been living in an Advent of sorts for many years. Time to celebrate Christmas.

(Advent-Christmas, 1967) The times are difficult. They call for courage and faith. Faith is in the end a lonely virtue. Lonely especially where a deep authentic community of love is not an accomplished fact, but a job to be begun over and over... Love is not something we get from Mother Church as a child gets milk from the breast: it also has to be given. We don't get love if don't give any.

Christmas, then, is not just a sweet regression to breast-feeding and infancy. It is a serious and sometimes difficult feast. Difficult especially if, for psychological reasons, we fail to grasp the indestructible kernel of hope that is in it. If we are just looking for a little consolation-we may be disappointed.

Thomas Merton. The Road to Joy, Robert E. Daggy, editor (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989): 108. (Emphases mine

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This Chick's Word of the Year 2010


It is a big deal for me to post a photo of myself to this site, but I think that visibility is part of my challenge for the New Year.

I have kept myself invisible for a long time now. I thought it was necessary to protect vulnerable parts of myself. I thought it was necessary to keep myself small and to not admit my desires and dreams.

No more of that!

Thanks to that lovely, beret-wearing woman on the left side of the photo, Megha, our YogaDance teacher trainer, I am ready to be Big and to be Seen and to be Fully Myself.

My word for 2010 became obvious to me about three days after returning from my final teacher training.

My word for 2009 was fly. Fly, I did.

For the first time ever, I sprang forth from this blog to teach a workshop in Cleveland -- in a place I had never seen and with people I had never met. I had to travel to get there and stay in a hotel all by myself. All of these things were big challenges.

And, of course, I went to Massachusetts for my YogaDance teacher training -- twice. For a whole week each time. Again, going somewhere strange to meet strangers and to do new things.

The more I have pushed myself, the more I dance, the more I explore my true desires, the more I get out of my head and into my body. This has taught me so much about the relationship between body, brain, and mind, and how that affects the quality of our lives.

I want more of that, and I know for a fact that a lot of you have had a similar life experience of living mostly in your head.

I know a lot of you are feeling the push to live from your intuitions, from your heart, from your center, from your body.

We are spiritual beings, yes, but we are sent to have a sensual, body-based experience.

For 2010, I will be delving deeply into body issues of all sorts, including our relationship to beauty, our war with weight, and our need for pleasure and playfulness.

For 2010, this Blisschick's word is:
Embody.


(By the way, that tutu is the special something I ordered from here to wear to my YogaDance Teacher training graduation ceremony. And check out the makeup on the model. Totally fun!)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Returning


This photo was taken the day I arrived in Lenox, Massachusetts, as I awaited the shuttle to take me to Kripalu for my second and final week of YogaDance teacher training.

I have been home now for a little over a week, and I am so thankful for all the guest bloggers who covered this space with their wisdom and joy while I took much needed time to integrate my experience.

Two days after my return, we got a new kitten, as you know, which brought so much energy to this house.

Much needed playful energy, as I was having a difficult few days.

YogaDance is a system of healing movement that works with the chakras (for posts about the chakras go here), so the teacher training is intensely emotional.

The more you work with these energy centers, the deeper into your "stuff" you go.

This past week, I felt like I got to my bedrock -- that place where the oldest, most ingrained belief systems have sat and solidified.

The chakra work acted like a giant drill, breaking up all the crap, sending tiny shards of self-hatred toward my heart to be melted by my new understanding and this wondrously deep love of life that dance has grown within me.

I will write more about this, of course, over the coming weeks. For now, I am mending.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

MysticBliss: Take Heaven, Take Peace, Take Joy


No heaven can come to us unless
our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.
No peace lies in the future which
is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.
The gloom of the world is but a shadow;
behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.
And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you,
with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

—Fra Giovanni
(c. 1433 – 1515)

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Unexpected Bliss of Lori-Lyn Hurley


Returning from a week at Kripalu places a specific demand upon me: Rest and Integration. For this to happen, I need to go deep inside. So this week I am honored to present a series of posts by some wonderful writers about their experiences of Unexpected Bliss.

Lori-Lyn Hurley was born and raised in Kentucky, embraced the adventure of New York for almost ten years, then moved back to Kentucky where she lives with her partner and their pug. She writes, makes messy art, delves into the beautiful world of energy work and intuition, leads workshops, dances with a hula hoop in a marching band, and dreams. She blogs here and you can follow her on Twitter here.

The Unexpected Bliss of Where I Live
by Lori-Lyn Hurley

When I moved away from my hometown seventeen years ago, I did so because I felt I wasn’t a good fit for it or it for me. I moved to New York looking for adventure and opportunity and things to do. (And I found all of that.) When I moved back to my hometown seven years ago, I did so for a number of reasons, but I was also certain that I was coming back to a place that wasn’t a good fit for me.

I had always seen my town as too conservative, too traditional, too cliquish and, quite frankly, too boring. We see what we believe, so I found lots of evidence to support my theory. My partner and I often wondered out loud why there wasn’t a community for us (not married, no children, don’t go to church). We have lots of wonderful and fascinating friends, I had my writers group (love), we had our family, but it seemed that life was just speeding along with everyone doing his or her thing and what we felt was a lack of events, of places, of gatherings for the likes of us.

Then, I joined a marching band. I joined the band – a community band with dancing hoop girls formed to support Local First Lexington – because I wanted to socialize and be with people and have fun, and it is tremendously fun, but it has also held a multitude of unexpected lessons and been a source of unexpected bliss for me.

Joining March Madness gave me instant access to a community of really amazing, generous people, and it gave me opportunity to dress up and perform (yay!) but it also opened my eyes to how dead wrong I’d been about the place where I live.

There is more going on here than I would ever have time for. Live music, poetry readings, belly dance performances, fire dancing, potlucks, brunch alongs, and most of all, a genuine love of adventure and creativity and envelope pushing. There is support here for me that I did not know was here – just waiting for me to step into it.

Since joining March Madness, I’ve found that I’m so much more comfortable just being myself – dressing the way I want to dress, listening (and dancing to) the music I love, placing myself in the conversation of life here. Where I live. Where I’m from. The band has shown me what a multi-faceted, loving, outrageous and beautiful place this really is.

Where else am I going to get to sit on the top level of a double-decker bus packed with Halloween bedazzled musicians and shout, beep, beep, beep, while the bus backs up in a parking lot?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Unexpected Bliss of Jamie Ridler


Returning from a week at Kripalu places a specific demand upon me: Rest and Integration. For this to happen, I need to go deep inside. So this week I am honored to present a series of posts by some wonderful writers about their experiences of Unexpected Bliss.

Jamie Ridler is a creative self-development coach based in Toronto, who has created vibrant online communities, including Wishcasting Wednesday and Full Moon Dreamboards to name just two examples. Coming Soon: The launch of Soul Reflections, a creative home-workshop that connects you to your spirit and reveals what’s stirring in your heart. Don’t miss the launch and a special offer; sign up for News from Jamie Ridler Studios here.

My Unexpected Bliss as a Club Girl
by Jamie Ridler

One of the best times of my life blossomed out of one of the worst times of my life. It was as though a sad, lonely seed found some dirt in the crag of a broken sidewalk, took hold, and surprisingly burst into the blossom it was meant to be.

As a grad student, I lived with my boyfriend. We’d been together since high school and known each other since we were 12. We were so intertwined that it was impossible to imagine being apart. We were so committed to one another that I don’t think we noticed how unhappy we were.

And I’m certain that I didn’t realize just how removed from myself I had become.

That all changed when my sister invited me out dancing. Before I knew it, we were going out every Sunday. And on the dance floor, I found myself again. Dancing with my whole heart, my whole body, my whole soul, I remembered who I was. Amidst the crowds, the sweat, the music and the lights, I could feel my own heart beating. I felt so fully alive. I was laughing again, playing, moving to my own rhythm.

I knew that I couldn’t go back to greying out my heart, to stifling my spirit ever again.

So with many tears and much struggle, I left. When I did, I had no money, no job and no idea what I was going to do.

I never felt so free.

I moved in with my sister and one of our girlfriends. It was a basement apartment, cold, dark and mouldy, but it was an oasis of freedom amidst loving friends. It was on a beautiful tree-lined street in a hip neighbourhood of Toronto, and it soon became filled with many of my favourite memories.

Most importantly, it served as home base while we lived our lives as club girls. Long black dresses. Short gold ones. Big boots. Industrial Sundays. Retro Mondays. Dancing all night. Collecting club passes so we could get in for free. Arriving before 10:30 so we could get one beer for $2.50. I felt alive. I felt beautiful. I felt like me.

In finding the courage to leave, to step into the unknown, to honour the truth of who I was, I found my bliss. I’ll never let go again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Introducing


Mr. Tobias J.

or as we call him, Toby.

Or as Marcy likes to call him Toblerone

or Sir

or Chairman Meow the Second

or Bumble Bee.

The Unexpected Bliss of Magpie Girl Rachelle Mee-Chapman


Returning from a week at Kripalu places a specific demand upon me: Rest and Integration. For this to happen, I need to go deep inside. So this week I am honored to present a series of posts by some wonderful writers about their experiences of Unexpected Bliss.

Rachelle Mee-Chapman is a soulcare specialist, writer, and mother(ish) to several. You can find her at Magpie Girl, follow her at Twitter, or friend her at Facebook. You can also join her mailing list for more information about her on-line soul spa, Flock, forming in January.

Unexpected Bliss in Denmark
by Rachelle Mee-Chapman

I am not one of those people who eagerly latches on to the idea of “Bliss.” As a chronic pain survivor, Bliss is often in short supply. Even when I know what my Bliss is, I cannot always begin to reach for it. I’m stretching, though, to sink more deeply into the concept. So when Christine suggested the idea of writing about Unexpected Bliss, something coalesced for me right away.
Lately, I have been submerged into the Unexpected Bliss that comes with Solitude.

I am a spiritual director, and most spiritual directors are pretty gaga about Solitude. They go on silent retreats. They spend time in their “quiet closets.” They walk for hours alone in the heath. Not me. My natural proclivity is for the group, the pack, the tribe.

In our former house in Seattle, our biological family of four rapidly expanded to become a household of seven. There was our long-time housemate Sharon, who will forever be the soulful center of our children’s early memories. Then there was our son-adopted-by-affection, Souren, who started out coming to dinner and ended up with his own room on the ground floor. Finally, there was our beloved housemate Rebecca with her downstairs room filled with bookshelves and the soft glow of the fish tank. Add to this clan the dozen or so folks who came each week for dinner at our Thursday night soulcare group, along with the endless stream of playdates, tea dates, potlucks, and impromptu wine tastings, and our big house was rarely quiet. I adored it. The community that surrounded me was my pride and joy.

And then, I moved to Denmark.

Denmark does not have a reputation for being an overly gregarious nation. Expat friends tried to warn us. But like most people ready for adventure, we blithely ignored whatever we did not want to hear. We were skilled community builders. Didn’t we have lots of evidence of our ability to create soultribes? Surely we could overcome cultural biases and build a new community amongst the Danes.

As it turns out, not so much. And after a year of trying, I pretty much gave up. As a fellow ex-pat friend put it, “I am tired of always saying ‘How are you? How is your family? How is your cat?’ I think I do not have to try to be so nice if no one is reciprocating.” It’s exhausting, to host all the play dates and make all the dinner invitations and never receive any in return. Eventually you give up. Eventually, you give in. And then the days pour out before you like a large, silent lake. I resisted that reality for a long time. Then I realize that I had to sit by that lake and wait for it to tell me its name.

“Solitude.” It whispered. “Solitude.”

In Solitude, I found out how strong I truly am. In Solitude, I faced loneliness, illness, and confusion – and I survived. In Solitude, I sat in silence and found out – not what my community wanted me to do – but what I wanted to do. Solitude asked me to type for endless hours until I found my voice. Solitude led me to the work I love most.

Solitude introduced me to my Bliss.

Perhaps there is something in your life that is not your favorite. Something that has come your way and landed straight in your lap. Something that is not your first nature, but is nonetheless quite real, quite prominent—quite a big part of your every day.

What would it look like if you sat beside it and waited for it to tell you its name? What might happen if you patted it down, ever so nicely, to see what gifts it might have hidden in its pockets? What if it is holding on to something for you until you are ready for it?

What if that thing is Bliss?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Name Game


I could say that this little guy came into our lives very unexpectedly last night, but that would be untrue.

The day before yesterday, a thought popped into my head: "An orange tabby is just about on his way to us."

And voila! A ten week old kitten came to us via a friend.

We thought we knew his name before we met him -- Tuppy, our favorite silly character in P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster series.

But then we met him and now we don't know. We are leaning toward Toby, in honor of our sweet Jobie.

The Unexpected Bliss of Eco Yogini


Returning from a week at Kripalu places a specific demand upon me: Rest and Integration. For this to happen, I need to go deep inside. So this week I am honored to present a series of posts by some wonderful writers about their experiences of Unexpected Bliss.

The Eco-Yogini is a Speech-Language Pathologist from Nova Scotia Canada, who is passionate about yoga and the environment. She writes on her blog about her struggle to integrate these passions into her daily life, including in the planning of her wedding and in the eating of chocolates.

MusicBliss
by Eco-Yogini

Christine sent me a little note a few weeks ago about a "secret" she wanted to share... and I thought: YES, I ADORE secrets! This one was especially exciting as it was an invitation to guest post on her wonderful space while she was recovering from the awesomeness of Dance. The topic: Something that has recently and UNEXPECTEDLY brought you bliss.

I gotta admit, this was a difficult question. Recently, my life hasn't been especially fun, and although not catastrophic, I definitely get mere snippets of Bliss during my weeks.

However, just the other day I had a *moment.* I was driving home from a particularly stressful day of work and heard Halifax's "one song in a row" request...for Billie Jean. I have historically resisted this song, as my name kinda fits there and people have sung it out throughout my childhood. But that day...I cranked the song and felt...something. An urge.

"I should play this song. I bet it's easy to learn. I should sing it TONIGHT!"

After a month of silence from my guitar (my beautiful Larrivée) from being sick with... The Hog or whatnot, I decided that my first song back would be Billie Jean. What the heck.

I should preface this by explaining that music has been an integral part of my life since I was 10 years old. From classical piano and singing lessons to learning the guitar and forming a band, I HEART music more than any single thing in my life. From Maynard's beautifully haunting voice to Jenn Grant's funky melancholy, I would completely fold should my hearing flutter away.

Singing used to bring me so much happiness... but recently with sickness, stress and perhaps the fact that I'm getting older and feel the "open mic" scene has passed, my Music has been silent. No new songs written, no close your eyes and fill your heart.

Until last week.

I sat down, practiced a few times, took a deep breath and began. The chords are a bit tricky for my wimpy, unpracticed fingers and the wording isn't all that familiar but the BLISS. Oh My Goddess, the sense of completeness, of wholeness... of MYSELF shouting "Here I am!!!!"

Oh, how I missed Her, that confident and strong Me. I sang Billie Jean from the "ou ou's" right up to the very last chorus at least five times that night. It had nothing to do with Michael Jackson or the lyrics but how that melody FLOWED from my heart and let me know that my Voice may have been hiding but she was still there. Ready to fill me up.

Never in a million years would I have predicted that Billie Jean would bring back my Music Bliss from her squelched and healing place.

Now I am complete again.

I hope you, Christine's fantastic readers, have had such a moment recently of just closing your eyes and feeling WHOLE.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fumbling toward Imperfection at Fumbling for Words

Today, I have the distinct honor of writing a guest post for Heather Plett at Fumbling for Words.

I have met Heather in real life and I adore her. She is everything she seems on her blog: honest, authentic, loving, inquisitive, and thoughtful.

My post, Fumbling toward Imperfection, is about taking the lid off your soul's most precious dreams.

Go, say Hi to Heather. You'll be glad you did!

The Unexpected Bliss of Photographer & Joy Rebel, Brandi Reynolds


Returning from a week at Kripalu places a specific demand upon me: Rest and Integration. For this to happen, I need to go deep inside. So this week I am honored to present a series of posts by some wonderful writers about their experiences of Unexpected Bliss.

Brandi Reynolds is an artist, photographer and joy rebel, living in a suburb of Dallas with her infinitely patient husband and two rescued furry souls that drive her nuts half the time. The intention of her creative expression, and her life, is to celebrate, inspire, enjoy and connect with joy and humor in all facets of life. You can discover the beauty she sees in the everyday in etsy shop or join the joy rebellion on her website.

Bliss in letting go
by Brandi Reynolds

I am fascinated with spirituality in all forms and often hear of ‘mountain top experiences.' The ones you hear about where this profound shift occurs and all the baggage falls away and all of a sudden everything is clear and beautiful and serene. Then this person descends down the mountain, never to be bothered by the issues of mere mortals again.

Or something like that.

Truthfully, I like being human, with all the stuff that comes with it. I like being in this body, in this particular turn around the sun, having hands on, messy, vibrant experiences. I don’t really have any desire to ascend past the hub-bub of this human experience, even when it hurts, as I consider it all an enriching unfolding of my authentic self.

However.

There are experiences that are authentic and enriching (even if they are sometimes hurtful or hard) and then there are experiences that are drama or unnecessary or just not what I’m looking for in life.

Bliss comes when I am able to see grace and clarity in those situations because what ultimately happens is that something that I’m holding on to -- some old habit or way of thinking that no longer serves -- gets released. And it’s like I’ve been holding in a breath that I can now let out.

Freedom.

These moments rarely come with fanfare. In fact, they most often come in quiet moments alone. Yet when that breath is released and I find myself free from an old, painful or unhealthy idea, I feel bliss.

I’d like to thank Christine for allowing me to share my moments of unexpected bliss as the space she has created is truly one of bliss.

I wish for everyone small moments of bliss today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dispatch from Kripalu: Graduation & Travel

The sun is shining and the wind is whipping and whistling around the outside of this big, brick building. In a little over an hour, I will begin my journey home.

Sigh.

I am eager to be home. I am eager to rest and to spend the next couple of weeks really integrating what I have experienced here. This time around, I know that's what it takes: Rest & Reflection.

After the teacher training in October, I naively thought I would go home and keep this level of intense work going. I had no idea that my whole life had changed from the inside and that the outside of it would be in need of much adjusting.

This time: Naps, salt baths, animal cuddling, tons of journal writing, good food, and very gentle body work and dancing.

Advent, this time of awaiting birth, is the perfect season to make this commitment to patiently pausing.

P.S. Did I mention that I am officially now a YogaDance Teacher!? We had a beautiful and moving graduation ceremony and are now free to spread the joy of this practice. Hello, New Path!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dispatch from Kripalu: Jazz

I am sitting in the cafe at Kripalu after yet another long and wonderful day. We got a break from tonight's usual additional hours, and I was considering using this time to go to a Kirtan.

I thought about how healing and calming that could be. What a great use of my evening off.

Instead, I am sitting and listening to Jazz on my iPod, specifically this.

And that is exactly what I needed -- a little reminder of my home life.

(Any good thoughts, prayers, vibes, whatever that you can send regarding my travel on Friday would be greatly appreciated. The weather has been pretty nutty in my little home city.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dispatch from Kripalu: Dreaming

Tomorrow, we will be at the halfway point, and from the experience of the last time here, I know it will just fly at that point.

We are all done with our demo teaches and now we move onto exploring with one another. Exploring teaching methods, for one.

Exploring our dreams, for another.

We started Dreaming Big this evening. It seems too precious to write about just yet, so I'll wait. I'll let it simmer and turn into something more tangible and less fragile before I share it.

Do you have Precious Big Dreams? Do you even let yourself go there?

It was hard for me; I had to really push.

I recommend it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Relief

I did my final YogaDance Teacher Training demonstration teach today at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I am exhausted, and I am looking forward to falling asleep (possibly) without reviewing moves in my head.

When we were done, we sat in a circle and shared how we felt about our experiences. Relief was the only word that would come to this normally overflowing-with-words brain.

Relief that I had made it through this huge and momentous challenge.

But even more, Relief that I am here and that I am finally, finally, finally doing what I was born to do: Dance.

And now I will get to go out and share that with others.

The other word I am feeling right now? Gratitude. Gratitude as big as as the sky sitting over these beautiful mountains.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dispatch from Kripalu: First Hours

It is Sunday late afternoon, and I am waiting for the dinner hour to start. (Yes, my tummy rules my life!) I am sitting in the cafe, and the setting sun is edging the Berkshire Mountains in a salmon color.

When I arrived earlier today, it was bright and blue and sunny, and I only felt a wee bit dirty compared to the last time -- when I thought I might need some sort of acid scrub.

I think the weather (and perhaps the decreased filth?) is a harbinger of good things to come.

I am unpacked in my shared room.

This moment is the breath before I spring off the tip of the diving board. This time, I have a clue as to water temperature and I know what the floor of the pool looks like, but every dive is different, is it not?

My first week of Kripalu YogaDance teacher training in October was so personally transformative that I am having a hard time envisioning my dive.

I am thinking the best approach is the one we all take naturally when we are smaller -- a canon ball.

No perfection necessary. Just pure joy at body meeting experience meeting water.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Traveling to Kripalu

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, and most likely, by the time you read this, I am too exhausted to remember that fact.

I got on a bus at Midnight. I am scheduled to arrive at Kripalu by about 11:30 AM.

I am scheduled to arrive home on Saturday the 12th, which happens to be the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to whom I am especially devoted.

I will probably be too exhausted to remember that, too.

Is this post all about whining?

Obviously, it's a lot about whining, but I also wanted to say "hello" and let you know that I'll start blogging from my YogaDance teacher training as soon as I am clean and fed and can see straight.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

BlissObstacles: Realizing there is No "Try"


The title today -- in case you are not a geek -- comes from a Yoda quote: Do or do not. There is no try. (Smart muppet!)

This is a photo of a gorgeous necklace that Amy recently gave away from her Etsy shop. She does beautiful work and is generous to her blog readers, which you should obviously be!

Today, she joins us to write about her main obstacle to bliss. Enjoy her poetic and honest musings on her own inner workings:

The Switch

I have what I call a default switch.

Life presents a challenge, big or small, I allow the negativity to spiral…and the switch flips! I'm back in the victim-led life of drudgery. My default. What I perceive in the moment, or month, to be my true reality.

It's a familiar, predictable space that doesn't always bother me initially. It might even look sweet on the outside, I’ve been told, but feels vacuous and wrong inside my head. There is, of course, no chance at bliss here.

To flip the switch back, I move myself out into nature. Lots of sky, bare feet in the grass, movement.

Or I intentionally slow down even more than I once thought possible. Stare into the old soul eyes of my child. Fall into my sweet love’s embrace. Fall into bed. Cry.

Or I seek others. A change of scenery. I offer what I have to give with an open heart, fully seeing, hearing...loving.

Encouraging the passion, the bliss, of another inadvertently stirs up my own.


Despite my searching, I am always there. Despite my denial or despair over whether I am deserving, I am always there.

Sunlight on the river. My definition of bliss. A place where the darkness still exists. A place where I know I have a choice.

So somehow this simple, silly image of a tiny lever (that I control) works for me. It works because nothing, absolutely nothing, must be done first.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BlissObstacles: Falling into the State of Overwhelm


If you've been a commenter at all here at Blisschick, you probably recognize the name Karmacoy. She's been a faithful reader and a vibrant contributor to the conversation for so long now that I can't remember when her name first started popping up in my inbox.

It has been a joy to watch her blossom, and I love how shiny and strong she looks in the above photo. The biggest joy has been watching her return to her passion -- music and singing.

She blogs here and here and you can find her on facebook here.

Today, she joins us to write about obstacles to bliss.

A Course of Obstacles

What is the main difficulty you have encountered in trying to craft a life of Bliss? What have you tried to do about this?

When Christine first posed these questions, I immediately thought my main difficulty would have to be my lack of focus. I then began to formulate my list of tactics for dealing with this obstacle. I couldn’t decide how to say what I wanted, which led me to agonize over how often indecision has been my nemesis.

I decided to mull this over for a while.

Over the course of the next few days, I was hit with a case of the “poor hopeless, useless me’s” in which I felt totally negative and burdened with inability. My old familiar hindrance of doubt and inferiority had crept in. This wasn’t due specifically to the task of answering Christine’s questions, but it is just a general cycle I find myself in from time to time.

A day or two later as I dragged myself out of the doldrums, I realized that while in my down state I had (once again) let several things go. I was behind on housework, homework, deadlines and SELF-CARE. I entered into the state which usually follows doubt and inferiority: the state of overwhelm.

So there you have it. I have a list of four major obstacles to my crafting a life of bliss. It’s hard to say which one is the main difficulty, as they all tend to support one another.

The good news is, if I can manage to diminish (dare I say eliminate?) one of the cones of the obstacle course then the others tend to shrink away as well.

And the strategies devised to overcome one difficulty are often helpful in conquering one or more of the others.

So, in my efforts to craft a life of bliss, here are some of the methods I’ve come up with for ducking and weaving through the course:

Stating my bliss. Creating “Bliss Lists." In ink, paint, and computer graphics. Painted on stones, clipped out of magazines, stuck to the fridge, lipsticked to the bathroom mirror. Daily visual reminders. This really helps with leaping over lack of focus.

Scheduling of time into my daily/weekly routines (hell, even just having solid routines) in order to follow that bliss. For example: weekly choir practice, song writing sessions, going to see live music, etc. This addresses lack of focus and overwhelm.

Living a life of balance and making time for other interests as well such as reading, socializing, family and volunteering BUT making sure that I don’t fill my plate up so much with all that stuff that there is not enough room for my main course, Bliss a la mode. A recipe for anti-overwhelm.

Creating and posting (in an in-my-face place) a list of “essentials for a happy me." I, like many people, have noticed that when I’m eating properly (for me that includes eating blueberries daily if possible), exercising regularly, taking my vitamins, and getting outside, most of the obstacles make their appearances less frequently. Daily Gratitude is included in this list.

Meal and task planning appeals to my indecisive nature and helps to hold overwhelm at bay. When I don’t have my meals planned out, I can spend hours agonizing over ‘what’s for dinner?’ Mapping out a rough plan, including household tasks and errands, simplifies my life immensely.

Developing a network of Awesome Supportive Friends. This is the best remedy for doubt and inferiority that I have found. When someone else believes in me, it makes believing in myself seem not-so-crazy after all.

I just want to draw a small bit of attention to the wording of Christine’s question. She asked, “what have you tried to do” about the main difficulty.

These are things that I have tried.

Usually they help.

Sometimes I forget to try them.

Sometimes I don’t want to try them and avoid doing so for longer than is healthy for me.

Then I get back up, stare at those bright orange cones in my way, and try to overcome them again. Crafting a life of bliss is worth the effort.

What I need to remember, what WE ALL need to remember, is to just keep TRYING.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

BlissObstacles: The Weight of the Past


That is a perfect picture of our next guest blogger this week, Brooks Hall, whom I was privileged enough to meet recently in real life as we momentarily crossed paths at Kripalu.

Brooks writes this wonderful, delving, honest blog.

Today, she joins us to write about obstacles to bliss:

My Bliss Ship

After a recent meditation, I opened my eyes and I saw the things in my apartment—briefly, in my mind’s eye—as forming a ship, boat, or vessel to carry me forward. The things in my apartment (mostly remnants from my past) were like tiles on the outer part of the ship, keeping me protected on the inside. These things also came together to form a vehicle, a way of moving in the world.

The trouble can come when a piece remains unaddressed: its wavering, like a tile breaking loose, allows for a leak in the hull which slows me down. So to have integrity as I move forward through time, it’s important to know myself—including my physical effects. The stuff I sometimes call the “shit” in my apartment. I have really allowed this stuff that represents my past to create a drag that clings to me, holding me back from enjoying a more vibrant life. I’ve been ashamed of my home.

The key to stepping forth in a way that is more blissful for me is to be less obsessed with the ship and more enthralled by the ride. It’s great and good to know myself and to have examined myself deeply—it’s what I needed to do to feel more solid, more integrated. I needed to dig deep and understand what my hurts were about. I needed to lick wounds and get support.

Now I feel ready to float, ready to ride, and ready to go! I am ready to lighten the load. My passion can put the wind in my sails or perhaps fuel a powerful motor. My body and mind can do the work. My breath can keep me energized and calm.

Bon voyage!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

BlissObstacles: Shining Light on Resistance


Analiese Marie is a twenty-something writer, blogger, and yogini who lives and works (as a grant writer for an art museum) in the DC area. Armed with a Cultural Anthropology degree and a penchant for all things colorful and sparkly, Analiese is an intrepid and joyful explorer of human culture, with a particular interest in how people can live more creative, expressive, and adventurous lives. In addition to yoga and writing, Analiese is passionate about art of all kinds, good food (preferably local), good wine (preferably red), spending time outdoors, good books, and bubble baths. You can read more of her writing on her blog Tulips and Tea and you can find her on Twitter here.

I joyfully welcome Analiese and her enthusiasm today to Blisschick, as she answers our December question:

What is the main difficulty you have encountered in trying to craft a life of bliss? What have you tried to do about this?

The main difficulty I've encountered in trying to craft a life of bliss is overcoming my resistance to breaking the rules.

In The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz writes about how we are conditioned to have certain beliefs and live our lives a certain way, according to society's "rules." You didn't consciously agree to these rules, but they are imprinted in your mind at very early age. Everything is subject to these rules: how you should look, how you should act, what is considered an "acceptable" career path, the "appropriate" way to express yourself, and so on. These beliefs are so deeply ingrained in your mind that you often don't consciously recognize that you could choose a alternative path. Instead, you beat yourself up for not conforming to society's expectations and vow to do better.

But somewhere along the way, if you're lucky, you have an awakening of sorts. Sometimes you can trace your awakening to a single distilled moment in time and sometimes it's a gradual process. You realize that there's more to life than following the rules. You realize that the rules are, in fact, an illusion.

You realize that your bliss is out there, waiting for you.

However, for a lot of people, pursuing our authentic bliss would require breaking all kinds of rules. And to clarify, when I talk about "breaking all kinds of rules," I don't mean engaging in reckless and/or dangerous behavior. I mean making mindful and authentic choices that might diverge from the norm but ultimately bring you closer to your bliss. Following your bliss might require you to dramatically re-arrange your priorities or even change your whole way of being. It might require you to make choices that other people don't understand. So you resist. It would be too difficult, you tell yourself. What would people think? How would my friends (or parents or partner) react? It would be too messy, too complicated, too time-consuming, too expensive, too whatever.

The great irony is that we are extremely creative in finding reasons to avoid pursuing our bliss!

This internal resistance can be incredibly hard to overcome. I struggle with it on a daily basis as I continue on my path toward bliss (which, for me, means honoring my creative talents and infusing creativity into my everyday life). I've found that the best way to overcome this resistance is to confront it directly.

When I feel my resistance cropping up, I call it out. Hey you! Resistance! Yes, I'm talking to you! I see you over there in the corner of my mind, and I've got some questions for you!

For example, you might ask yourself:

"What am I resisting?"
Making time for creative projects.
"What so-called rule is at the root of my resistance?"
I shouldn't make time for creative projects because I have too many other things on my to-do list.
"What would happen if I broke that rule?"
I might become deeply absorbed in the project and forget my to-do list altogether.
"Is there another way I might look at the situation?" (Play devil's advocate with yourself here.)
Well...I might create something wonderful. Getting into a creative groove might even help me think of a new and innovative way to approach something else on my to-do list. I'll probably still accomplish the other items on my to-do list, and if I don't, it won't be the end of the world.

A really powerful exercise is to make a list of 10 (or more!) blissful things you are resisting, and then, for each item on your list, answer the questions above, either saying your responses out loud or writing them down in a journal. I promise that, by the time you're done, you'll feel a new sense of empowerment, and you'll be itching to do some mindful rule-breaking! You may end up deciding that now really isn't the right time to do whatever it is, but the decision will be based on a thoughtful exploration of your options instead of fearful resistance.

Bringing your resistance into the light will enable you to keep it in perspective and empower you to make follow your bliss. If you follow your bliss, you can't help but be extraordinary. And that, my friends, is the truest rule I know.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BlissObstacles: Picking Up Other People's Crap


Almost a month ago, I put out a call for submissions from all you Blisschicks and Wild Women to write for this little site. I got some great responses and will be posting them this week.

For guidelines, go here.

I'll start taking submissions again from now until January 5th for the next prompt:

On an airplane, they remind you to give yourself
oxygen before worrying about a child or an elderly person.
If you can't breathe, you can't help anyone else.
How do you make sure to give yourself
necessary "oxygen" in your day to day life?

Remember, check the guidelines that I linked to above.

Today's Guest Blogger

Today, we have the first post answering our first prompt which was:

What is the main difficulty you have encountered in trying to craft a life of bliss? What have you tried to do about this?

Sallieann started writing her blog, Bunny Bites, when she was struggling to remain a vegetarian while traveling for her job. It's packed with recipes and all sorts of Yumminess and is completely Rabbit Approved (thus the photo of Miss Zoe at the top). She wrote the following:

Wikipedia describes bliss as, "a state of profound spiritual satisfaction, happiness or joy, often associated with religious ideas of the afterlife." Most of the time I nail this pretty well. I describe myself as a deeply happy person, but I'm also sensitive...super-sensitive. And although I might be having a grand day, I pick up on other people's unhappiness or frustration and it easily knocks me down a notch or two.


This has happened a few times this week. I had a yoga accident Saturday, leaving me unable to go to a Halloween party I'd been excited about all the prior week. Then I smashed my toe on Wednesday, which led to a trip to the emergency room. Through all of this, I was surprisingly up-beat with a few exceptions. All exceptions had to do with close friends who are going through challenging times. Instead of giving them space to sort themselves out...maybe offering a few kind words and then waiting for them to reach out, I jump right in with them and wallow around. It drains me and I need to stop.



So, I recommit myself to morning meditation and a bit of sweaty yoga to purge my soul. And I end each and every day in bed with my gratitudes. And I remind myself, that right here and right now...in this very state and body and mind...this is exactly where I'm supposed to be on my wonderful and exciting journey. And then I hunker down, peep out over the covers and wonder what's going to happen next!


Can any of you relate to this issue? I certainly can!

How do you deal with it?