Earth Day for the Impactful Lazy

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Earth Day is a big movement, and there are lots of shouts about what we can do in honor of our home planet. Like kids, we tend to reject what is shouted at us. We defy based on an inner urge to thumb our noses at authority. What if, instead, you did the least you could do? What if today, we all did the least we could do?

We all have our routes, our daily trails on to work, our errands, our fill-ups at the gas station. What if today you used your two hands to pick up litter there? It’s not mandated. This is your idea, so naturally it feels better. It’s not self-righteous. It’s the very least you could do. More might mean multiple trips to the garbage can. No. No. That’s more than the least you could do. Ambition doesn’t feel as good.

Ambition will only make you like my friend Susan who walks around local schools, neighborhoods, and strip malls once a week to pick up litter. She dresses in a reflective vest, so she won’t be killed by a car. She pulls her hair up and wears gloves.

She picks up the trash that people drop to the ground without a thought. The trash men know her and often let her put her garbage bag in their truck. The least that Susan can do is more than the least that I can do. It’s more than a lot of us can do, but it’s a good idea to be yourself. Don’t be Susan. Be yourself, and that is worth something. In this case, it’s worth two handfuls of plastic cups, food containers, wrappers, and Styrofoam.

Your hands aren’t worth a whole lot today. Maybe that’s what you are thinking, but think about how other people feel about them. Someone that loves you dearly remembers holding your hand. Remember that jar you opened, and the caress on the cheek? Your hands have done a lot. There was that time you steadied a child learning to ride without training wheels, and the dog you held back from the speeding car. Oh, and, gosh, who can forget the tissues you’ve handed out over and over again? Your hands aren’t as impressive to you, because you take them for granted. A shark didn’t bite one off and further your determination to be a champion surfer. You didn’t have one blown off while running a marathon or have a an unfortunate run-in with a flesh-eating bacteria. Trust me, though. Your hands are wicked-awesome.
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The Feeling of You

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I feel most like me when I’m connecting to someone. Are you this way? I see the context of a situation, but then I dip into the subtext. I relish the unspoken world of communication that includes body language, respiratory rates, vibration, and spirit. I adore the way a plant’s tendril will reach for a trellis a few inches away. I like a hand on a cafe table that falls on top of mine at the right time. The feeling of me for a very long time has been waiting for these connections. It has been a longing, even in the face of lovely relationships in my life. The world was living on one level, and I was waiting for them on another. Anything that quenched this was sacred. Anyone that quenched this was equally so, but that meant they walked a fearful wire in my mind.

If I make you Holy, because you bring out the feeling of me, what happens when you aren’t around? What happens when you have an off day? What if you don’t need me to feel like you? The only way people can be made Holy in your life is if you make yourself sacred at the same time, and that was something I’d never tried before. Like I said, the feeling of me was one of expectation, not fulfillment. Why treasure that? Then it occurred to me, thirty-eight years into my life, ten years into a marriage, and four and half years into motherhood that I might change this equation. The feeling of me had to get better without the feeling of you.
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Wouldn’t it be great if I decided that and just made it happen? My life doesn’t work that way. It comes as the result of a trigger – many triggers actually. Spiritually, I take this as grand tweaks for the  better. In the moment, however, triggers feel like an energetic black hole opening in the center of my chest. They take your fear and play it out. They take the dish of heartache you sure can’t stomach, and they give you three servings. Why? To teach you the bad taste of your own distorted perceptions. My perception was longing, being left out of the good stuff, not being picked to join, people needing me less than I’d hoped. My feeling was the fear of never getting exactly what I wanted.

Nobody does get exactly what they want, but I had a list of people who I figured had a good chance. Top among them were runners. Runners were unlike me. They had stamina and discipline, so I lumped them into the getters, the achievers, the satisfied. Then, on a random day at the YMCA, I started running. A mile was what it had to be first. Runners can run a mile, I told myself. With no pain, no angst, and no tears I ran that mile and then some. I was a runner! In that instant, the feeling of me was no longer me anymore. It had changed. Better yet, it could be changed again.

That’s when the latest trigger came.

I Ran to the Water Tower

 

Water Tower at the Island's YMCA

Water Tower at the Island’s YMCA

About 20 yards in I decided to jog. I had a cold. My chest was congested, but I needed to do something to make myself feel productive. The walking path at my local YMCA goes through the woods, and I’m a plant lover.  I’m not a runner. I’m not a jogger. I’m not even a regular walker. I just decided to do it on this sunny, cool morning. I jogged at what a pace that felt like jogging until I was panting, and then I began walking the loop which would eventually led back to my car.

My schedule didn’t allow me to get back to the ‘Y’ until Thursday. I wanted to see how far I could jog again and  decided that the Water Tower would be a good goal.
A certain type of tree was blooming. I’ve yet to identify it, but it filled the woods with a scent that reminded me of Tea Olive. It was so much more welcoming than the varied smells of the gym inside, and I was so grateful to anything that might keep me going longer.
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I reminded myself to keep my mind on what I was doing, and that called my attention to my pace. If I slowed it down just a hair, how much farther could I run? This sort of jog felt good. I wasn’t striving. I wasn’t struggling. I was just moving forward. There was so much to see, familiar friends. I smiled at the happy ferns.
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Then I listen to the rustles of brown thrashers and squirrels in the fallen leaves. I hear the cries of Blue Jays, and the steps of other runners, and who was I kidding? I was still thinking. The voice wasn’t critical. It was practical. In fact, it seemed to be the voice of my body parts versus my brain.

My feet said, “Hey, we are perfectly capable of getting you there.” Of course they were. Then I paid attention to my arms and shoulders. I twisted my torso a little more. “This isn’t hard,” they said. We can go much farther.” I liked how it felt when they broke through the hair.IMG_0518

I kept going past the pond and started toward a mild incline. This wasn’t far. I thought of women all over the world, refugees who had traveled hundreds of miles on foot. My quads spoke up. I felt them working harder now. “We were made for this,” they told me. “We’ll get you there. Don’t question it.”Then, all of the sudden I was standing right at the base of the water tower. Ten steps more and it would have been half a mile.

Today I went back and started again. I began jogging right away and passed all of the same markers with a smile on my face. It didn’t feel hard. I got to the water tower so fast, and I kept jogging. There was a bench I could have sat on, but I didn’t. I paid attention to what happened as other walkers and runners passed me.

When I first began jogging, a walker was about 50 paces in front of me. Should I pass him? The temptation was to sprint by and have the path to myself, or maybe I saw this as a polite thing to do for him. I didn’t. I kept my pace and I passed him soon enough. Then other runners would go by me, and the temptation was to pick up my pace. Why? I didn’t consciously care, but I found myself having to refocus on my speed. Keep what’s working. Pretty soon I passed my car in the parking lot, the entrance, and then I was off into the trees on the other side. When I finished the loop I’d run an entire mile.

Pace is important. Social media shows us how fast other people are going. It can make you jealous over and over. The thing about being jealous is that it concentrates your heart and soul on other people, and your own progress slows. You’re treating yourself like you’re not good enough, and you feel not good enough, not sexy enough, not in the circle. Oh, I don’t know what it is with me. I hate not being in the circle. It’s the biggest trigger for me. I try to choose different thoughts now, and even better I listen to my body instead of my mind for a time,

Daring Greatly: My Fantasy Speech Opener

There is a fantasy that I have about being a hugely successful public speaker. I want to be like the Master Teachers making it big with their books on spirit. I want to walk toward a podium with a song playing to my stride. I see the crowd. I see the stage, and when I get to the podium, hmmm. I’m working that part out slowly.

I’d like to be provocative. That fantasy goes like this:

I stare down at some notes on the podium and take a sip of water that has been left for me. The welcoming applause falls to silence and anticipation. The first words out of my mouth are, “How many of you masturbate? Anybody?”

I’d look around at the shocked crowd, and I’d pull people out a bit. Oh look, the President of that art college. “Paula? No? Hey, everyone, there’s the CEO of Hallmark Productions in town for the garden tours! Hey, Sandy! You? No. Where is my mother? She was supposed to be here today.”

I look all around the room to no avail.

“I’m here to talk about celebrating wholeness, and more specifically the whole woman. Our to-do lists are more interesting than you think. Masturbation was the start of my spiritual aperture widening substantially. It was how I came to understand my body’s energy and its pattern of movement. I got so good at it that Oprah made me sign a contract not to do it while driving. It wasn’t that she thought I was going to cause an accident; it was that I kept screaming her name. In my defense, I said that Gayle made me do it. I had to sign the contract nevertheless.”

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A Little Happy Over and Over Equals a Good Day

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The sun on my driveway makes me happy, and so does the one bumble bee coming and going from my Creeping Rosemary plant. Today, I got out the View-Masters for Elliot, and it made me happy when he sat in my lap to check one out. It’s rare that he’s stationary, and I enjoyed watching his little finger slide the lever down frame after frame.

This writing is completely boring. It’s not meant to thrill, because I think that’s the problem. I would love a day of thrills, of exciting news over the phone, of emails that propose new ventures and projects. That’s not where I am though. I am a woman who sits on the driveway, in her dress pants, and helps her son try reel after reel. It’s not big, bold, and newsworthy, but it is my life. I’m tired of looking around and thinking things would be so much better if –.

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Our standards for “good” have gotten a little out of wack. Well, I don’t know about you. When I had my child, I wanted to go back to work. I put effort into writing, and I kept waiting to be found. It’ll be great when somebody sees me. It’ll be great when I can show people what I am really about. I’m getting lost again. Let’s head back to the driveway.

There are valuable lessons to be learned on this concrete slab. There are beetles to identify. There is the proper amount  of time to suck a popsicle before it falls off the stick. Don’t put the garden hose in mama’s exhaust pipe. Do let the neighbor’s puppy give you a little lick. All in all, it’s not loud. It ain’t the sweet breath of recognition from Oprah. It’s my beautiful boy not thinking about yesterday or tomorrow.

Being Present, Comparison, and Facebook

All of you following along get that I’ve been influenced by my recent meeting with Buddhist teacher and priest Cindy Beach. True to her calling in life, she rang out the familiar cry to be present in my life. I chuckle, because I’ve given her a fake voice in my head with a lot of attitude. I hear myself saying, “Cindy, this is where I want to go!!!!” She says, “Giiiiiiiirl, you ain’t even here yet, talkin’ ’bout where you wanna go. Mmmm.” That is not at all like what she sounds like, but it makes me smile.

I’ve also been watching Brene Brown’s talks on the OWN network. She is the author of Daring Greatly and The Gift of Imperfection, and what I’m taking from her is the importance of vulnerability. Here I am, folks. It’s tough.

IMG_4267I have been paying attention to my mind the past few days, and it reminds me of a failed art assignment. The colors are muddy, and the details aren’t being communicated well. My first assignment was to get my thoughts focused on what I am doing at any given time. My cold has made me focus a lot on blowing my nose and on what I consume.

Last night I took a shower to literally try and clear my head. I figured being present would be easier surrounded by white tile and steam. There I was staring at the corner of the stall when all of the sudden I was aware of my vision coming into sharp focus, like I’d adjusted a camera’s lens. Oh my gosh, I thought. I was away and thinking of something. What was it? A song, maybe. I looked at the corner in sharp focus and took deep breaths. I adjusted my posture to the “Bird Girl” Cindy Beach referenced during our visit. Was energy moving better through my body? Could I just ask to have my spirit guides do energy work on me, and would that help clear my sinuses? Crap! I was off and thinking again.

I have to believe that being present will get easier with practice, but it is much harder to do than I imagined. I’m finding little spells of it, a few breaths of it at a time. That’s it! Through this process, however, I am learning what doesn’t work. This brings me to vulnerability.

If I am honest with you and myself right now, I’ll tell you that Facebook has become my crutch for validation throughout the day. I enjoy sharing my photos. That’s fine. I enjoy hearing about your lives. Fine. But there is something else I don’t like to admit: it re-enforces what I’m trying to avoid. I’ve lived a life of comparison, and I’ve come to agree with the Buddhist perspective that comparison equals suffering. I’m having trouble blessing where you are, because I’m not feeling accomplished enough right now. I’m having trouble with not finding a full-time job. I’m having trouble with the idea of me being undisciplined, and I’m having trouble seeing clear paths versus road blocks. Facebook charges me with that feeling over and over throughout the day, and “likes” make me feel like I’m in a room full of like-minded people for a while. “Likes” make me think that you’re all people I can count on for a phone conversation, for a heart-to-heart, and that you all would just as soon seek me out for the same. That’s not true though. Relationships are cultivated in person. They are cultivated through shared experiences, and they are not cultivated with icons, photographs of food, or even a buffet of hilarious comments.

Do I hate Facebook? Nope. I’d rather see what you’re all up to than tend to the dishes in the sink. I’d rather focus on making you feel better than me. A little balance is all I’m speaking about. Nobody should wait around to be “liked.”

 

A Girl Walks into The Savannah Zen Center

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I walked into the Savannah Zen Center in the hopes of telling them where I was going and what I wanted, what I truly desired. But as I have said before, the nature of desire is wanting not getting. I show up wanting, and the advice of Head Teacher Cindy Beach is to be fully where I am.

The here-ness of my present situation is one that causes me angst. It causes me suffering, because there are problems for which I have no  answers. My mind works relentlessly to solve them while I do chores, and so I am not entirely in the moment – ever. Doing this and that at the same time has been my norm for so very long. Last night, when I stopped for a while, it was so quiet. I felt neither good nor bad. I was the space in between that spirit had suggested I find months ago. We leave peace. It doesn’t leave us.

Even as I understood and appreciated Cindy’s informal teaching, I observed my body reacting. I say my body, because my mind was okay with what she said. Ego prompted my body though. When you aren’t identifying with ego and watching it, it’s a curious experience. I walked to my car just fine. By the time I’d driven a block away, tears were falling down my cheeks. Energy swirled and pulsed around my heart chakra, but I couldn’t point to one thing that truly made me sad.

 

When the tears dried, there was a voice that told me Cindy’s advice to “stop striving” did not mean stop succeeding. When had I started equating the two? College maybe. If your field is full of competition, you must strive to be seen. You must strive to have your work seen. You must strive, or your work is worth nothing. Well, you won’t get paid for it. That’s what we all wanted. The rewards of having our hearts’ designs seen were shown to us on field trips to New York City. They were shown to us in the magazines we cut up to make our collage assignments. Oh, to be there. You have to really want it… to get there.

The idols of the creative soul, at least the one’s modeled for an Art major in the late 90′s, were all people who had tried and tried. They worked and worked. They acquired thick skins and egos built for self-promotion. Confidence in what could be was just as important, if not more so, than where we were at the time. Bags under our eyes and  catch-as-catch-can diets meant we were on the path to getting. These scars of our professional aspirations were the sage’s walking stick. When we looked in the mirror, our haggard reflections were supportive. Rest, stillness, contentment, self-care, were the policies of one who didn’t want to get there. So, we asked ourselves dozens of times a day: Do you want this? Can you make the cut in a pack of others with the same desire?

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Now, I’m 38. My creative soul is now called to spiritual pursuits as well. What do we call that? The path! The ego is something to release. The striving is something to release. Sitting on a meditation cushion is not a form of transportation. It is not for going through your mental file cabinet. It isn’t even for quieting. It just is. I just am. My ego is annoyed and rooting for me at the same time. I’m here, in the here-ness, not sure where here will be next.