Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Going Home Again

Sunday morning at a friend's

They say you can't go home again, but I think there are different ways to think about this concept that make it untrue.

This past weekend, I went on a very short trip into Ohio to visit with a person who has known me since fourth grade.

As I drove south, I had this feeling that I was driving into the past, and it didn't feel good. It felt creepy. It made me anxious. I wondered what the hell I thought I was doing.

But then the second that my friend and I started talking, I realized that I had kinda sorta driven into my past but into a really wonderful part of it.  This was a part of my past that had helped me to make it to my present.  Though my friend was my own age, she was someone (like my great aunt) who had witnessed me.  She saw the real me and she encouraged the real me to pursue her dreams.

I did not. I got way off track for a very long time.

Now I am back, and it seems so very fitting that at the time of my life when I have finally gotten around to being the real me that she witnessed, my friend re-entered my life.

She has been asking to see me for a while now...during my process of transformation she has been in the background, and this past weekend, when I told her stories of what felt like new self discoveries, she finally got to say to me, "Well...that is who you have always been."

You can go home again.  You can and must go home to your real self.  Regardless of your age or the time of your life or how stuck you might feel, it is never ever too late and it is imperative that you take this trip.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bits of Bliss

This week a few new things entered our lives here at the Lilypad.  Of course, first I got my very own, beautiful, amazing, how-did-this-happen-to-me movement studio, for which after this weekend, I will be frantically planning (it opens October 1st).

Then I re-painted the front door:



Then this came to live here:

I know...we already have FOUR cats, but you see, for many of our years together, Marcy and I had FIVE. Then within about four years, we lost all of those elder cats and they went to live at Sparkle Pond.

I told Marcy, "Never more than TWO ever again."

Yep.  Whatever.

Then I told her, "Four is perfect."

Yep. Whatever.

For us, it seems that Five is the magic number.

As soon as Mister Rumi entered the house, it was like we were complete. Finally.  I didn't realize it, but we were missing one small, blue eyed puzzle piece.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Exciting Update!


The landlord is super awesome friendly and we just instantly agreed on everything.  I felt comfortable with him right away, so that was cool.

Starting on October 1st, my movement work and teaching will have its very own, huge, wooden-floored, light-filled space.

And here's the really wacky serendipitous thing: you know that Great Aunt who was my main witness when I was little? The one I wrote about here and elsewhere?

Her house used to be about three buildings away from my new studio.  When I walk in that neighborhood, sometimes, I can still smell her...

Yep.  This is where I belong, truly.

I think she helped.

Now I am off to make LISTS!  Glorious mountains of LISTS!

If any of you dear readers have any suggestions or ideas or anything at all to share with me about this process, do tell. I am all ears!

Puppy versus Big Dreams

Note: This story does not end with puppies. A necessary spoiler so you aren't disappointed.

A few weeks ago, Marcy was suddenly enamored of the idea that I have a puppy. She got it into her cute skull that I would do really well with an "emotional support animal" that I could take everywhere with me.  I think she had an image along these lines in her head.

Fast forward a couple weeks and suddenly I am presented with the most perfect space EVER for a bricks and mortar studio of my very own.

I am, right now, in that wait and see stage of things that I hate.  I am waiting to hear from the landlord, who, I think, is already pretty settled on me, but I will not go into high gear with planning until I have signed a lease.

After first seeing the space, I was nothing but excited, and then the fears started to kick in.

For the first time, I could clearly hear the voices of my fears. I could clearly hear what they were saying.  Usually, my fears are more nebulous.  They are mostly feelings, body stuff.

But my level of awareness has increased a ton over the last couple of months and so this time, these fears took on a solidity that they have never had, and they kept repeating the same thing to me over and over:

"Stay small. Stay small. This is too scary! STAY SMALL! You should just get that emotional support animal..." (Insert images of me and cute dog with cute outfits having cute, but small, times together...ahhh...soft and simple and....SMALL...)

"Don't get big. It's too scary. You cannot possibly take on such responsibilities.  Small is super SAFE. You have always chosen small for us before and we like it."

On and on, these voices droned for a couple of days.  And I let them.

I let my fears have their say and I did not respond.  Little did my fears know, they were making no headway. I was listening but I was not taking their advice and I had no plans to.  I was just listening.  They were there; they had things to say. Telling my fears to "shut it!"...well, that just makes them yell things even louder.

Instead, I just continued to listen.  And you know what? They must have gotten tired, lost their voices, because there is the echo of what they had to say, for sure, but I don't hear fresh material coming from them any more.

I am still afraid, for sure.  Acting on Big Dreams should be a bit scary or you aren't dreaming big enough.

But fear, schmear. I am moving forward regardless...and without that puppy who would have kept me acting way too safe.

Monday, August 22, 2011

(Slow) Media Fast Failure...and Back to It

Photo by Marcy/Amusement Park on Our Lake

Last week, right after I wrote the update post about my negative media fast, I fell off the wagon.

It was quite accidental. Someone posted something on facebook that looked rather innocent and I clicked on the link and landed on something that instantly and thoroughly pissed me off.  (It doesn't even matter what it was.)

This sent me into a rapid descent.  In no time whatsoever, I was angry at the WORLD.

This does me no good. This does the world no good.  This anger is not, in any way, productive or justified.

It is anger for anger's sake.  A sort of "entitlement anger."

This happens to the best of us and it is the worst of us.

It does not lead to good deeds or world change or even very localized change, for that matter. It is that sort of anger that lets people THINK they are doing something when they rant on facebook, for example, but in reality, they are just adding to the River of Ugly and Ick.

This anger, otherwise, completely feeds on itself.

There is anger out there that feeds on com/passion and social justice, and it fuels works that need to happen, but most of us do not experience that sort of anger or this world would be very different indeed.

How did I deal with falling off this wagon?

Like any addict, I started over, with day one, with the "next right thing."

Here are some more sites to help replace the negative ones in your life, in case you are feeling the pull of all the nonproductive crap out there:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Discussing Chronic Grief & Healing Over at Svasti

A while ago, the wonderful Svasti asked me to be a part of her interview series, Chronic Yogi, about yoga teachers who suffer from chronic illnesses of all sorts.

Since she asked me, I have been thinking about this idea of "diagnosis" and how exactly I would label what I suffered from and finally, in the last couple of years, overcome.

I started answering her questions before I knew.  Her questions were very thought provoking and I ended up sort of, well, vomiting copious amounts of words!  Poor Svasti!

But I think it turned out to be my best interview ever, where I really articulate this journey.

And I did finally come up with my "label:"  Chronic Grief.

Go here to read.  And be sure you have a few minutes, because it's, umm..., a little long.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

(Slow) Media Fast Now

One week and one day.  Eight little days.

I thought it had been much longer since I wrote this post and declared myself on a (Slow) Media Fast.

I am much more of a negative news addict than I thought. I have only been "dry" for eight days. What?!  How is that possible?!

Sigh. I really thought it had been at least a couple of weeks.

I have only been tempted, though, a couple of times.  Thanks to Facebook; I almost just automatically clicked on someone's negative news link.  I caught myself just in time.

If you are attempting to participate in this Fast, how have you been doing?

And have you found any alternatives? Any more happy?

I have!

I think I first stumbled upon Hug Nation many months ago, but still being a negative news junkie, I didn't take it all that seriously.  I mean, COME ON!  HUG NATION!?

Then, just recently, thanks to Google+ actually, I stumbled upon John Halcyon Styn's work again and I am just in love with this guy's videos. (And his hair...and his style...)

I don't listen to a lot of stuff like this. I find it too sugary. My sweet tooth is not that big.

Yet...there is something about Styn's delivery of the material that makes it more like a meal than the typical dessert cart fluff that is floating around out there.

If you haven't yet joined in the negative news fast, what's stopping you?

Join us and see what happens.

One day at a time...

Monday, August 15, 2011

Do You Have a Play Plan?

If you can make that photo bigger (and you should be able to, because I never "lock" them), you might be able to see how relaxed my face is. I love being near the water and that day at the beach was extracoolawesome. It was windy and she was really stirred up..."she" referring to the lake, of course.

After attending the trauma workshop, I was out of sorts, as I have mentioned. Finally, late last week I had an appointment with my favorite energy healer.

She put me back together again with the aid of singing bowls, which she kept placing on and around me, inviting them to sing their songs of health and happy into my physical and subtle bodies.

At the end of the appointment, she asked if I had been to the beach lately.


I have, most ashamedly, barely been to the beach this summer at all.

Water is my main healing agent and this lake...if it weren't for this lake, who knows where I would live, because she is truly my anchor to this place.

Marcy took me immediately and then we got these great pictures.

Going to the beach reminded me of my favorite day at the trauma workshop. We were lucky enough to have a guest teacher, Steve Gross, Head Play Expert Extraordinaire of the organization Life is Good Playmakers.  (Watch this; it's so well done.)

We played with a colored parachute, beach balls, music. Steve has this way about him that just opens you up.  (I, and another girl at the workshop, discussed how we were nervous for this particular segment, and that as soon as we saw him, we were all like, "Oh, we LOVE him."  Instantly.  That is the power of his energy.)

The main thing I learned from Steve is that play is not always about being silly.  Play is about experimenting, exploring, connecting, and doing all of this in an environment that feels safe and allows you to make your own choices.

He also emphasized the idea of a "Play Plan."

As adults in this culture, we plan plan plan for everything, don't we?  But it is predominately the sort of planning that is about "controlling."  We hope we can control all the bad things, for example, or we hope we can control what would happen after a bad thing.

But a PLAY PLAN?!  Who makes a play plan?  That sounds, well, TOO FREAKING FUN!

And as adults, we should really be having as little fun as possible. There is work to be done, weeds to be pulled, meals to be cooked...


Play is what makes life worth living and not just for your toddler.  Play is creative and stimulating.  The very act of play is an assertion of optimism over dread, grief, fear, darkness in general.

Play is the most important work you can do, really.

When you are thinking about your play plan, you can think about a couple of things:

First, what did you used to do when you were little, a teenager, last week...that would make you lose all sense of time.

Second, what sorts of things do you say "Oh...I could never do that..." to?

Third, how could you leak play all over the people around you?  How could you include the people you love?

My Play Plan

I vow to play more in general. To not take everything so damn seriously.

I will go to the beach MORE MORE MORE.

I will take more day trips to see and experience new things.

I will not worry about looking silly, even when I am wearing my tutu in public.

I will wear my tutu in public.

I will save up and buy pink glitter wheeled roller skates and stop talking about pink glitter wheeled roller skates.

I will do more things with no point or goal in mind...

You get the idea.

I will be working to make my plan plan more specific over the coming days and weeks.

Here's what you can do:

Create a play plan for yourself.

Leave it here in the comments.

Or write a whole blog post about your plan and then come back and leave the link in the comments.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Unconditional Love for Self or Others is Never Bad but Maybe Your Definition Sucks

At the lake on a VERY windy day!
There is a wider conversation going on here, of course, about loving the body, thanks to a very damaging Glamour article entitled, Loving My Body Almost Killed Me.

(To read more about the many ways that that article is misleading and quite horrible beyond the title, go here and here.)


That is how sick we are in this culture, that we can write a title like that, but what does one expect from a magazine whose existence is predicated on the thesis that you are not happy with any aspect of your life? But wait! "They" have the answers and it all has to do with being thin and finding the right man and wearing sexy jeans.

Hurray for answers!


We are very messed up about love in this culture, in general. We think it's okay, for example, that people who "love" us, treat us badly. We don't see anything wrong with the way some parents abuse their children and we tell the adult child, "they loved you as best they could." No, actually, they didn't.

Let's stop using the word love in such filthy ways, shall we?

If you need a  brush up course on what unconditional love actually looks like in action, read this book. Like, right now.

For this post, let's focus on the body stuff, 'kay?

Unconditionally loving your body, as the author of that piece does not seem to understand, has two parts -- like the sides of a ladder.

She was trying to climb a ladder that was missing one side and that is always dangerous and well, stupid.

She understood that one side of the ladder was made up of "Acceptance," but she was missing the other side, "Care."

This is the magical formula:

Unconditional Love for Your Body = Acceptance + CARE

You cannot just take care of the body, either, because if you are not accepting, then "care" becomes as twisted as our twisted versions of what masquerades for "love" in these parts.

"Care" becomes that woman on the elliptical who has that dead look in her eyes (you know you've seen her) and the only light in them comes from the calorie counter in her head.

"Care" becomes the dude who thinks if his shoulders only get an inch bigger, he can finally have the life he always dreamed of.

"Care" becomes hording, vomiting, binging, lying, obsessing, hurting.

But if we accept our bodies as in this love equation, then care becomes feeding nutritious foods with that occasional yummy treat.

Care becomes dancing til you sweat buckets and fall over in a tumble of giggles -- from good tired and not from exhaustion.

Care becomes taking risks that push you past your comfort zones but are still safe and kind.

Care and acceptance.

Acceptance and care.

If you don't have both, you don't know what love is.

And that is what will kill you.

Because love is always good. Love is always the cure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Set Point: Do You Even Know What Your Body WANTS to Weigh?

As you may recall, I have not owned a scale for many years due to the fact that it was an object of extreme obsession. I would weigh myself multiple times a day, including after exercise and after tinkling. I was ruled by that thing for all of my teen years and quite a few of my adult years.

Other numbers, of course, can take the place of a scale, and I have since learned not to cave into counting calories or believing in the arbitrary and very bad (practically NO) science of the overused (as in "should never be used") BMI.

In the two and half years since I have returned to dance and my body has shown its thanks and relief by being healthier, stronger, and more creative than ever in my life, it is impossible not to notice the number that is the size of my clothing as it shrinks. I do not have any clue how to stop being somewhat mesmerized by that, but I have come so far and expecting perfection of any kind is the basis of the problem to begin with.

So this past weekend, Marcy and I visited a house with a scale in the bathroom, and I, thinking I have come so far, stepped on it "out of pure curiosity."

There is nothing PURE about that particular curiosity. It is pure bullshit. I wanted to see if my number was "small enough," if I could be as happy as I feel.  Pure and simple self judgment, that.

The number on the scale, big surprise, was not what I wanted it to be. It was downright disappointing. It was the number I used to get stuck at in high school.

It is that sort of number that most of us refer to as "the Wall."

It was the number that I would be feeling kinda healthy at and someone in my family (or more than one someone) would say, "you could really stand to lose ten or fifteen pounds..."

Every time. And I would drop into my cycle of starve and binge and starve and exercise, and stave and self hate, and starve and...  You know all about it, I'm sure.

Sometimes I would dip down to the number those people thought was more ideal (and at one point, I went far below it but that is another story) and I would stay there for a wee bit but I was always hungry, always thinking about food, always trying not to think about food.

That number?  That number is not a Wall; that number is called my Set Point, people, and it is what my body wants to weigh. It is what she likes to weigh.

And my body knows better than me and yours knows better than you, because this set point is determined by more chemicals and genes and circumstances than you can even imagine. (Read this book if you are wanting more.)

Here's the really ridiculous thing: if you saw me, if you hugged me, you would only notice how small I am, but I was raised to believe that small is only small when it is almost gone.

The other thing? If you saw me dance, you would only notice how graceful, strong, and flexible I am.

So I am learning, right now, to deal with the Beautiful Reality of Set Point Weight.

Think about the Body Wisdom that this Set Point demonstrates!

And think about how we denigrate and deny and destroy that wisdom every time we give in to all the hateful energy of the media, every time we let someone (including the medical community) judge us based on how we look, every time we step on that scale and a litany of curses rolls off our tongues as we lash ourselves to tiny, bloody, broken bits.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

(Slow) Media Fast

Tuppy & Lilly

I have had enough. My full is beyond filled. My head feels like it is stuffed and close to ex or im-ploding.

Here is the main thing I have learned: that no matter how "informed" I am, it doesn't matter to my life, except that it makes my life more anxious, more fear-based, less joyful.

The "news" does nothing for me but bad things. The "news" makes me sit still and worry, when I could be doing something good for myself and those around me. The "news" makes me make decisions out of fear rather than making choices that are about growth, expansion, learning.

So I am declaring a long-term Negative Media Fast.

I am slowing down and fasting.

I am hoping you will join me.

Stop reading* how terrible everything is and start working in the right here, right now of your life to make everything beautiful and joyful.

(*This includes not just hard news sites but facebook and twitter feeds and blogs that are filled with, what people think, is "essential and informative" or even just their negative attitudes that do nothing but feed the already unhelpful, wider dialogue out there.)

Stop believing that we are going to hell in a hand basket and weave something better in your local, immediate life.

Think outside the Box of Ick.

Part of the issue for me is Morning Routine. I read emails and look at headlines. (I already do not have television in the house and have not watched tv news for many years.)

So I know I need New & Better Morning Routines, and for that reason, I looked for some Positive Happy News sites and found a few to share.

If you know of others, please link in the comments.

But for now:
Positive News (our of the UK)

I am putting these on my toolbar so I can go to them even more easily than "hard news" sites, which I am getting rid of and would have to "search" for.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Choose Your Side Well

If I were one of those fear-mongering, apocalyptic types (whether disguised as "religion" or "politics" or "news"), I could certainly come up with a list of reasons to be afraid of life right now.

But I refuse to give into them.

Life can always seem scary. Every generation has its trials and difficulties. We are just way more informed now (and I assert way too informed, for that matter).

Every generation also has its victories and its beauty and its truth and its spirit and its faith and its love.

Which do you choose?

Which side are you on?

Which monsters or angels are you feeding?

What are you contributing?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Creative Soul as a Monk in This World

I don't recall when I found Christine's site, Abbey of the Arts, but I do remember the relief I felt upon finding such wisdom. I remember feeling like I had found a community of my heart that melded all the parts of me: creative and deeply spiritual.  A place where I could talk about these two things in tandem, rather than acting as if they could at all be separated.

My Jesus Freak self is not always welcome...on the internet or in real life. People assume things...ignorant things...based on little bits of information that do not in any way make up my whole picture.

But with Christine, there is never assumption because she understands that this flattens otherwise round, complex, and multi-dimensional human beings.

Alas, I am guilty of sometimes trying to flatten myself!  Sometimes I wish I could just be one thing. Sometimes I wish I could simply dive completely into Marian devotion, for example, and never come out.  Sometimes I wish Mary would leave me alone (sorry!) so I could just be single-mindedly focused on dance.

But these two things are the braid that is my healthy life, and Christine's most recent book, The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom,  is teaching me how to weave ribbons of appreciation and gratitude and love into that braid -- rather than trying to untangle it.

You can read her blog here and you can buy this fantastic book here.

For a taste of Christine's writing, she has contributed today's post:

Monastic Wisdom to Nurture Creative Rhythms

We have probably all had those times when the creative work just isn’t flowing like we want it to and it seems like such hard work to push forward.  I find a great deal of wisdom in monastic spirituality for creative flourishing.

The Seasons of the Day

The first is an awareness of the seasons.  Monks traditionally pray what is called the Liturgy of the Hours, gathering together up to seven times each day (depending on the community) to sing the psalms together.  It is a way of returning to an awareness of the deep source at the heart of all our work.  When the bells for prayer ring, the monks stop their work and come to the chapel.  No matter how important what they are doing may feel, the Hours take precedence.  It is a way of cultivating deep humility and non-attachment.

Several years ago I read the book Music of Silence by Brother David Steindl-Rast and it changed the way I understand the practice of praying the Hours.  Brother David invites us to consider them as a way of tending to the seasons of the day – that is, the rhythms of rise and fall from the Hour of awakening at dawn to the full heat of noon to the slow decline of the day at dusk to the Hour of unknowing and mystery at night.  I fell in love with his vision and it changed my relationship to this aspect of monastic practice.  I also began to see parallels between the monastic Hours and the seasons of the year.

I brought this awareness to my creative life and discovered a new way to tend to and honor my own creative rhythms.  Just as in the rise and fall of the day and year there is a natural ebb and flow to our creativity.  There may be some days when we feel full of the energy of spring blossoming, with visions and ideas flowing freely.  We show up to the blank page or the canvas and the work feels effortless and full of ease.  Or we may feel the fullness of summer, at the height of our creative powers when everything we create seems to bear fruit. 

Embracing Space for Renewal

Spring and summer are wonderful seasons, calling us to celebrate the fecundity of the world.  But equally important are autumn and winter, those seasons of releasing what no longer serves us, letting go and making room to enter the darkness and mystery of winter.  Sometimes we feel restless in our creative work, we can’t settle into a groove or get anything done.

At these times it is worth asking ourselves whether we are being invited into a different season.  I value sabbatical time in my creative process just as much as the actual work and production, so when I feel like I am pushing too hard I often recognize that I am in a season of releasing, of letting be for a while.  Sometimes this just requires an afternoon or a weekend away from producing, sometimes I need longer spans of time for renewal.

The real key for me is a deep embrace of this letting go which is different than just not doing anything.  I need to enter into the womb-space of incubation wholeheartedly to really experience its power to renew my vision. As David Whyte writes in his poem “Sweet Darkness”:

“When your eyes are tired / the world is tired also. . . Time to go into the dark / where the night has eyes / to recognize its own. . . The dark will be your womb / tonight. / The night will give you a horizon /further than you can see.”

We live in a spring and summer culture where so much energy is spent on producing that we forget the necessary complement to those rhythms, we may feel guilty for not “doing enough” because those messages have become subtly woven into our thoughts.  Or we may panic that our work isn’t flowing as it once was, forgetting that there is an ebb and flow to everything.

The Riverbanks of Creativity

There is another aspect of monastic life which brings more nuance to what I have just shared and that is practice or discipline.  Monks don’t practice contemplation only when they feel like it, or it is going well.  The real test of the practice is whether we can show up when life is full, rushed, or chaotic.  Or when we feel bored and restless.  Many religious communities live by what is known as a Rule which isn’t meant to be a hard and rigid document, but more like the shores of a riverbank, giving direction to the flow of the river, or a trellis guiding the vines upward. 

We are like the river and the vines, our lives need gentle direction and guidance we get through practice.  Monastic Rules are about expressing a set of values and practices a community wants to commit to, the direction they want to grow in.

As artists and creative beings we often need that kind of practice and direction as well.  Sometimes we need to just show up to the page even if we aren’t feeling the energy and desire or our lives are feeling too busy. The practice isn’t so much about producing as it is about cultivating in ourselves the habit of giving ourselves space for expression on a regular basis, for allowing what is deepest in us to come forth.

Creativity and Discernment

Creativity is largely about discerning the place between these – honoring our own inner rhythms and seasons and allowing as much space for being as for doing with the real commitment to discipline and practice, to showing up.  When we feel carried away by the demands of life and don’t have time for the creative work that brings us alive, it is a choice we make, perhaps it has been an unconscious one.  When we practice we make the choice to value this aliveness, to challenge and stretch ourselves.

Consider asking yourself what your own creative rhythms are.  When was the last time you really embraced a space of not-doing, of simply being in the womb-space?  What might shift if you allowed yourself permission to not produce or create for a period of time and saw that as an essential part of the whole creative process?  And what are the practices you commit to each day to give free expression to what is in your heart, without an emphasis on producing?  What are the disciplines which help to offer you support and structure for your creative flourishing?

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE is the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery offering online classes and other resources to integrate contemplative practice and creative expression.  She is the author of several books including her two newest-- The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom and Lectio Divina—The Sacred Art: Transforming Words and Images into Heart-Centered Prayer.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Post Kripalu Fugue

Normally, when I am away at Kripalu, I document the experience through, at least, brief daily blog posts. My most recent venture to Kripalu for the workshop on the neuroscience of trauma and the use of breath, movement, and relationship to treat trauma was a bit...triggering for someone like me, and thus, the lack of on-the-scene documentation.

Truth be told, it was a bit triggering for most of the people there, since people interested in helping with trauma have usually been through some sort.

Though triggering, I am happy to report that I had the internal resources to be witness to the triggers and then to deal with them appropriately and healthily.  Phew!

But I am tired and in the middle of trying to put it all together in some meaningful way.

In the meantime, how do you do with known triggers?  Are you able to work with them or do they still affect you too deeply to go into witness state?  Do you notice what triggers do to your body and breath or do you numb yourself to the experience?