Experts and Intuition

To live in our current culture is to be surrounded by experts.  It can feel comforting to outsource decisions about my health, my parenting, my emotional state, my career path...  I'm constantly overtired and short on time.  Can someone just tell me what to do?  On the face of it, turning to an expert seems terribly efficient and there's a certain element of checking out that I can do. 

[side note...As I privately mull over experts vs personal intuition, we're regularly digging into this tension over at Bricoleur Collective.  It dominated our most recent discussion, which I summarized in this blog post. Then I found I had more to say, especially in the context of motherhood and yoga and so...]

Following my intuition is a huge time commitment.  I need space in my day to be quiet and listen, to get in touch with Ajna Chakra (Third Eye). As I feel my way along, my path might not look consistent or concrete the way it might if I follow prescribed steps laid out by a professional. I'm making decisions based on what's best in real time, and that often adds up to a whole lot of messiness that sometimes seems like "failure."  My head starts spinning with "if only I had done it the way so and so said, this situation would be neat and tidy right now."  I fret, I try and clear some space again to make friends with my inner voice, and that space inevitably gets co-opted by the cries of a toddler. Did I mention I'm exhausted?  

The thing is, I'm also growing weary of all the experts. Especially regarding motherhood. I've read a good number of parenting blogs and books.  Money has been spent on a sleep training plan, with mixed success. I've had a pediatrician tell me it's time to wean and I've had another congratulate me on still breastfeeding my 13 month old son.  What works today may not be helpful tomorrow. Even with all the outside opinions taken into account, I'm still tinkering with this method and that idea.  My son is a real person, living in real time, surrounded by parents living real lives. The advice I get seems made for a baby in a bubble. Seeking outside advice actually doesn't seem to be saving me time.

Here's an ongoing example. A good night's sleep is illusive in our household.  Despite what he's "supposed" to be doing at his age, my son continues to wake around 5am to nurse before sleeping for a couple more hours.  About once a week he wakes up before that and lately will not be consoled unless I hold him. It happened two nights ago. He awoke at 1:30am, screaming, SCREAMING. I knew he wouldn't go back to sleep if I simply forced him onto his back in the crib and walked out.  And I can't sleep through his cries, I'm in the next room.  Wary of physical contact leading to breastfeeding when I've sworn it off before 5am, I picked him up and brought him to bed. He didn't ask to nurse. In fact, he fell right to sleep in between mama and dada. Two hours later he did wake up and start poking my chest. But he was calm. We put him back in his crib and after a little cry, he went back to sleep for another two hours. It wasn't the best night of sleep, but it could have been a whole lot worse had I never picked him up.  

I'd read Our Sleeping Training Nightmare on the New York Times site just the day before and it stuck with me. "Could every professional be wrong," asks the author/mother. "My instincts say yes, but I've never really been on speaking terms with my instincts." She gets on speaking terms and ultimately concludes that "this is parenting, then: trying and failing and reaching and missing and sometimes getting it right, and always loving." 

And this is parenting: holding space for ourselves, our children, and our families. Parenting is an opportunity for continual mindfulness practice. It's never giving up on that time to myself I try and carve out every morning after the 5am feed, but really only happens twice a week. It's creating some spaciousness in my body and mind through Tonglen Meditation. It's giving my son room to roam while keeping focused on him as boredom creeps in and I reach for my phone and then stop (and reach and stop and reach and stop) and go back to holding a safe space for him to keep exploring and expanding his world.



Right and Wrong (more on the middle way)

It's been a long month.  I started this post in mid-May, just before our in-city move.  I put off final edits and now it's June.  This is my life at the moment.  Disorganized, distracted, dazed.  My daily routine involves chasing a crawling, climbing 9 month old through the box maze that is our new home.  Rather than procrastinate any longer, or start over, I'm ready to just post my thoughts from several weeks ago....

(May 12) My son finally "did his nights," as the french say, for the first time last night at 8 months and 10 days old.  He took longer than the other babies we know around the same age.  But he beat his dad by a few weeks.  We'd gotten to a manageable place at 7 months, then hit 8 months and it all went to hell.  Screaming, unable to console even when brought to bed with us, many night wakings, still nursing twice, impossible to put to sleep, short naps again... I planned to wait it out until our move Saturday, but by last weekend I had had enough and saw a window of opportunity to implement "cry and console."  Parents will probably know what I mean.  If you aren't a parent, it's pretty simple (but oh so controversial).  My own partner has resisted it.  Let the baby cry for increasing intervals and only console for 1-2 minutes between each, without picking baby up.  Sunday night...we went rounds for over an hour before he fell into an exhausted slumber.  Monday night...30 minutes.  Back to two night wakings to feed.  Tuesday night...12 minutes with, surprise, one night waking!  I was pretty happy.  Then last night he went to sleep by himself in 3 minutes...until 6am.  

Of course I woke up feeling pretty pleased with myself.  I had doubts about this strategy, especially going it alone.  But so far it's working.  Better than expected.  My husband is surprised.  I feel good about being right.  

Of course Pema has something to say about this.  I'm taking it slowly through her book, When Things Fall Apart.  This morning I re-read chapter 13 for about the fifth time.  It's easy for me to get caught up in feeling bad about being wrong - I spend a lot of energy there.  Yet parenting has me on the flip side - feeling good about being right.  It's so easy to get cozy with that superiority.  Pema reminds me to live in the middle - without attachment to right or wrong.  It's hard to move away from that black and white world.  Yet compassion can be found in the space you create in between extremes; a compassion necessary for leaving suffering behind.


The Middle Way

I got a little sidetracked from Pema Chodren last week.  It was good to return over the weekend during my morning practice.  I'm trying something new, in an effort to let go of my attachment to completion and order.  So many habits have formed in my life around these desires- I rush through much of my life in order to be done and check something else off my list.  Books are just one example.  It feels so good to finish; I love that sense of satisfaction when the chapter is read, the book is done, and I can take it off the "to read" pile and put it neatly in its place on the shelf.   So I've begun to placing my bookmark at the end of a chapter, rather than the beginning, to encourage myself to sit with what I'm reading a bit longer.  

This morning I found myself, still, at the end of chapter nine - Six Kinds of Loneliness.  

The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality, like changing our DNA.  We are undoing a pattern that is not just our pattern.  It's the human pattern we project onto a world, a zillion possibilities of attaining resolution... We not only seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution.  We don't deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that.  We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.
Not wandering in the world of desire is another way of describing cool loneliness... The word desire encompasses that addiction quality, the way we grab for something because we want to find a way to make things ok... Not wandering in the world of desire is about relating directly with how things are.  Loneliness is not a problem.  Loneliness is nothing to be solved.
Another aspect of cool loneliness is not seeking security from one's discursive thoughts...  We don't seek the companionship of our own constant conversation with ourselves about how it is and how it isn't, whether it is or whether it isn't, whether it should be or whether it shouldn't, whether it can or whether it can't...  We can gradually drop our ideals about who we think we ought to be, or who we think we want to be, or who we think other people think we want to be or ought to be.  We give it up and just look directly with compassion and humor at who we are.

I love this, especially the last part.  I spend so much energy in my life analyzing what I think others' expectations of my life are.  Stories within stories within stories until I'm exhausted and very far from a calm appreciation of who I am.  I want things to be this way, to be that way, to be just a little bit different from how they are, how I am.  I've missed a lot of my life while I run back and forth between what could have been and what should be.  Maybe it's time to spend some time in the middle.  Loneliness gets a bad rap, but it can be a very rich space, as the ancient Persian poet, Hafiz , well knew.  


The moon is once again signaling a new beginning.  I love this about the lunar cycle.  We don't have to wait for another January 1 or another birthday or another season.  Every month we are invited to join the lady moon for a fresh start.  She signals us quietly and calmly, just a sliver of cool light.  She whispers to us, "join the creativity happening all around you.  play and dance and make something.  let go of your quest for the alluring, yet ever illusive, linear (upward) trajectory through life and surrender to the cyclical rhythm of nature." 

Within this fresh start offered each month is the paradox that we continue on with our life.  We keep moving and breathing.  We start again and continue on.  I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert's delightful book Big Magic.  She concludes with a reminder about life's paradoxes. 

Creativity is sacred, and its not sacred.  What we make matters enormously, and it doesn't matter at all.  We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.  We are terrified, and we are brave.  Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.  Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.  Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise -- you can make anything.  So please calm down now and get back to work, okay?  The treasures hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.

I love that she asks us to be playful and at the same time, nudges us to settle down and just do what we were made to do.  It reminds me of the dual nature of the moon celebrated in the yoga asana pattern Chandra Namaskar (moon salutes).  They are wonderfully alive, while intensely calming. The moon herself can invite heightened or grounded energy depending on whether she's new or full. 

So what will I do today, Day 1 (in the fourth month of the year, in the 36th year of my life)?  Rather than move on to the next book in my stack, I think I'll start this one again.  See what I might have missed the first time.  Allow the encouragement and inspiration to sink in a little deeper.  Start the same journey and see how it becomes its own, different from the last.


Good Enough Practice

"Good enough" is popping up all around me.  6 months ago I entered motherhood and now good enough parenting catches my eye.  I'm nearly finished with Elizabeth Gilbert's new book, Big Magic, and themes of mundane and persistence stand out - a sort of gentle nudge to just do it every day, even if your writing is total crap and you don't feel at all creative.  I even tried to write this blog weeks ago, the words came out just right, and then as I went to publish I accidentally deleted it.  My second attempt will have to be good enough, because the ideal first version is long gone.

Good enough is normally unacceptable.  I have high standards, my family's are even higher.  I'm genetically predisposed to perfectionism.  But I'm tired to my bones.  I don't know when I'll really sleep.  And so "good enough" isn't such a stretch.  My yoga practice is a shadow of what it once was.  My work is adequate.  My cooking lacks creativity, but is edible.  I dress merely to be clothed, not to make any fashion statement. 

Good enough feels like failure.  I suffer greatly in my attachment to perfectionism.  I like to believe I'm in total control of my life and when it's merely a fraction of what I believe I'm capable of, I think I am to blame. I wrestle constantly with hope, which seems so virtuous but always lets me down.  My instinct is to run from hopelessness, but I can't shake it.  So here I am, muddling through, suffering greatly, and then my friend brings Pema Chodren back into my life.  She's got everything and more to say about my particular suffering.  This week I'm re-reading this passage from When Thing Fall Apart as if my life depends on it.

The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. What a relief. Finally somebody told the truth. Suffering is part of life, and we don’t have to feel it’s happening because we personally made the wrong move. In reality, however, when we feel suffering, we think that something is wrong. As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience up or liven it down or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot.

Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there’s one, there’s always the other. This is the root of our pain. In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keeping looking for alternatives.

Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment. We feel that someone else knows what’s going on, but that there’s something missing in us, and therefore something is lacking in our world.

Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look. That’s the compassionate thing to do. That’s the brave thing to do. We could smell that piece of shit. We could feel it; what is its texture, color, and shape? We can explore the nature of that piece of shit. We can know the nature of dislike, shame, and embarrassment and not believe there’s something wrong with that. We can drop the fundamental hope that there is a better “me” who one day will emerge. We can’t just jump over ourselves as if we were not there. It’s better to take a straight look at all our hopes and fears. Then some kind of confidence in our basic sanity arises.

It's funny, this passage.  It gives me a new perspective on the moon cards I read every morning.  Earlier this week, before reading chapter 7 in Pema, I picked up my card for Day 19 of the lunar cycle. 


I usually hate drawing this card.  I want to skip over Day 19, pretend it doesn't exist.  Except this time through the deck I'm confronted with shit head on.  Flying shit.  My son sneeks a dirty diaper into our afternoon.  I go to change him, expecting just another wet cloth.  I fling the the diaper open and there goes poop.  I can't see it, but I can smell it.  I'm forced to let eyesight play second fiddle to my sense of smell and let my nose seek it out.  I find a nice little stinky clump sitting on the pretty cream crib bumper.  I shake my head, hold my breath, then go ahead and grab that little piece of poop and toss it out.  There's a tiny mark left behind, but really, no one else would know.  I could undo all those nice little ties and do yet another load of laundry.  Instead, I just leave it.  It's clean enough.  And time to let good enough be good enough. 

A Return to Maitri

I've been a big fan of Maitri (loving kindness) Practice, since my dear teacher Lisa Steele introduced me to it years ago.  It's been a consistent part of my daily practice, at least it was until about two weeks after my son was born and my world turned completely upside down.  I let it go.  And then the hours of lost sleep started to add up.  And my support systems fell apart.  And we had the rainiest winter in Seattle in a century.  And I found out I have to move my family, again.  The world started looking pretty ugly.

Then my best friend brought Pema Chodren back into my life.  While I holed up with a new baby, she discovered secular buddhism and maitri and all the practices I love.  She did the kindest thing for me that I've experienced since she left a daffodil on my doorstep on a dark day 7 years ago.  She reminded me about mindfulness, gently, over and over throughout the long winter.  She sent me passages from Pema's When Things Fall Apart.  She reminded me to breathe.  I'm deeply grateful.

It's a transformative experience to sjmply pause instead of immediately filling up the space.  By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamental restlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness. -Pema Chodren

Time Crunch

Pike Place ClockI'm still adjusting to the recent leap we took to "spring forward" an hour.  I love the extra light in my living room come late afternoon, but I feel behind as soon as I open my eyes each morning.  We're also coming out of a season that is supposed to provide a chance to hibernate and move at a slower pace, but with the holidays and new year's resolutions, winter is often just as exhausting as any other time of year. The shift of seasons (spring starts Friday) give us the opportunity to pause and reflect on what's working in daily routines and what isn't.  As we say goodbye to winter, I'm ready to re-focus my dwindling breath and meditation practice.  Turns out, this isn't just for yogis.  Anyone can feel less rushed and stressed by starting a simple practice. The New York Times recently featured an op-ed highlighting the link between our level of anxiety and our perception of goals.  That we live in a world of constant connection--allowing us to try and juggle numerous things at once--heightens our sense of busyness.  Mental exercises that focus on breath and re-framing how we think about time can actually lessen stress!

Rather than consider this as one more "to do," start small and see if it works for you.  Meditation doesn't have to be an hour-long practice to have benefit.  Five minutes is more than enough, if that's what you feel you can reasonably make time for.  Set your alarm 5 minutes earlier tomorrow, go sit in a quiet place, and set another alarm for 5 minutes.  Connect to each of your five senses in some way.  Then focus on taking three conscious breaths.  Follow the inhale and exhale in and out of your body.  Then think about a time you were at ease - feel the experience of relaxation throughout your body.  Try and stay with the sensation for about 30 seconds.  Go back to your breath and finish with three more slow inhales and exhales.  Repeat the following morning.  See what happens.

Buddhism and Yoga

In an effort to deepen my practice and teaching, I'm enrolled in an advanced yoga teacher training program with 8 Limbs Yoga Centers.  Every few months I gather with other teachers to delve into a particular aspect of yoga.  This coming weekend the over-arching theme is Buddhism and meditation.  Certainly not all yogis are Buddhists and vice versa, but there are many connections between the two practices.  With this training on my mind, I stumbled across "What Does Buddhism Require" in The New York Times.  If you're curious at all about some the tenants of this tradition, I recommend this overview. Two aspects of this article caught my attention, as they relate to both my yoga practice and my graduate studies:

  • "The third (jewel) is the Sangha, or spiritual community, conceived sometimes as the community of other practitioners, sometimes as the community of monks and nuns, sometimes as the community of awakened beings. The project of full awakening is a collective, not an individual, venture."
  • "The Buddhist tradition encourages us to see ourselves as impermanent, interdependent individuals, linked to one another and to our world through shared commitments to achieving an understanding of our lives and a reduction of suffering. It encourages us to rethink egoism and to consider an orientation to the world characterized by care and joint responsibility. That can’t be a bad thing."

The more I practice and study, the more I experience the beauty of the collective and the value of embracing the impermanence of life.  Change is constant.  Community, if we dare to embrace it, helps us move through our ever-shifting landscapes with grace.

Antara Drishti

I've been studying the fourth chapter of the Sutras with one of my teachers this summer.  It's all about finding our own way.  We each see the world differently. We practice so we can turn down the heat that gets the mind all frothy, so we can take action without an agenda.  Meditation is training for having awareness in the midst of life.  Though there are patterns to being human, though past and present exist for us all, we each have our own unique path.  We must pay attention to find our own way, rather than relying on what works for someone else.  This is lonely, we long for others to "get" us.  We attach to being understood.  I have faced this quite intensely in my life and though I surrendered in a big way several years ago, the desire crops up again and again.  I want to be known and understood deeply!  The ache of loneliness can take my breath away.  And without breath I lose my connection to the present.  In reality, each inhale and exhale draws me into a new moment, a different self than the one just before.  Each breath brings hope and freedom. Tonight I notice the sun setting just a tad earlier and the reality that we're edging towards late summer begins to sink in.  For the first time in my life, I'm in school during this lazy season and to my surprise I'm not at all resentful.  Turns out permaculture is as much about yoga as it is getting my hands dirty.  I'm reading this amazing book - The One Straw Revolution -  which is about life and philosophy as well as agriculture.  I found a passage that seems straight out of the Sutras fourth chapter, if I substitute "yoga/students/practice" for "agriculture/farmers/ farming."  Here's my adaptation:

A truly successful practice requires not so much arduous labor as awareness, observation, connection and persistence.  In today's yoga culture, businesses lure us into products and brands promising that by applying them to our practices according to fixed, prescribed schedules, without much thought about our unique circumstances, yogis can be sure of reliable results.  This might be termed "know-nothing" yoga - very different from "do-nothing" yoga which calls on the self to question conventional practices that may be needless or even harmful to her/his own unique body.  Let's advocate for a curiosity, openness, and willingness to fail so that we can trust.  This is not simple yoga but a more complex, aligned yoga.

Summer is a good time to explore your practice in new ways.  To break out of your usual habits.  What does this look like?  Perhaps the heat of the season poses a significant challenge.  I usually avoid evening class at all costs when the temperature rises above 70 degrees, but this year I've surrendered and found myself loving the heat.  By pushing just a little past my comfort zone I find a whole new depth to my practice.  This isn't by any means the only option.  Why not try out a new class time with a teacher you're unfamiliar with?  Or pull out your mat at home.  Both are opportunities to assess your practice through new eyes.  A vacation can also become a chance to practice alone, to explore asana, pranayama and meditation without a teacher and others surrounding you.  It can be scary and uncomfortable, and it can also be freeing to discover the teacher inside you.  No one knows your body as well as you do, practicing on your own is a way to build trust with yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not calling for an end to group yoga.  There is power in community, in joining together with our breath and intention.  I think balance is the key.  We seek out space to explore on our own so we stay true to self when we come together.  We give up mindless yoga and come to class with an awareness and sense of responsibility for our own journey.  Rather than rely on someone else to point the way, we find alignment from within.

Summer Reading Suggestions

stack of booksThe past month has been a big ego check for me.  When I started my blog I was determined not to be "one of those writers" who posts consistently for the first few months and then fades off into oblivion.  I should have known that would only set me up for a little humble pie!  Fortunately, I'm a big fan of pie, even this flavor.  Lesson learned.  Spring quarter has been busier than usual for me and my writing energy has gone into essays for grad school.  The rest of my creativity seems focused on teaching.  And so it goes. Last week a student of mine stopped me after class to thank me for a book recommendation I'd given her.  I often read a passage during our studio practice from something I've been assigned in grad school.  Chipping away at a masters degree in Whole Systems Design ties nicely into my continuing study of yoga.  Whether a book is about the environmental history of Seattle, cross-cultural communication or science, it inevitably brings me back to my practice.  With summer just around the corner, it seems like a good time to post my grad school reading list as I finish up my third quarter.  Hope you find some time to sit down with a good book or two in the coming months!

Reading List - in no particular order

Hidden Connections  |  Capra

Thinking in Systems  |  Meadows

Post Carbon Reader  |  Heinberg & Lerch

Emerald City  |  Klingle

Soil and Soul  |  McIntosh

Walk Out Walk On  |  Wheatley & Frieze

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down  |  Fadiman

Bridging Cultural Conflicts  |  LeBaron

Group Genius  |  Sawyer

Paradoxes of Group Life  |  Smith & Berg

Bulldozer in the Countryside  |  Rome

Original Instructions  |  Nelson

American Cultural Patterns  |  Stewart & Bennett

Four Fold Way  |  Arrien

Finding Our Way  |  Wheatley

Practice of Adaptive Leadership  |  Heifetz, Linksy & Grashow

Basic Concepts  |  Bennett

Leadership and the New Science  |  Wheatley

Stepping Slowly

IDo not Want to step so quickly Over a beautiful line on God's palm As I move through the earth's Marketplace Today.

I do not want to touch any object in this world Without my eyes testifying to the truth That everything is My Beloved.

Something has happened To my understanding of existence That now makes my heart always full of wonder And kindness.

I do not Want to step so quickly Over this sacred place on God's body That is right beneath your Own foot

As I Dance with Precious life Today. (Hafiz)


We, by which I mean I, have spent a good deal of life looking for perfect Saturdays in far away places and exciting/exotic venues. The streets and bistros of Paris, Italian cafes and gelato stands, California beaches and boutiques... Without fail I end up finding pure delight and contentment under my nose. Today it's in the kitchen and at the table with a dear friend. Our entertainment is each other, the bright sun, the chirping birds and a bag of farm fresh produce (oh yes, and a lovely little local goat cheese). Absolutely ordinary, but what could a be better way to be on holiday?

Embracing Ordinary

Perfectly Average AfternoonIt's actually one of those gorgeous Seattle days today that reminds you why the rain is worth it, but this photo seemed more appropriate to my musings.  I saw a video recently that keeps replaying in my mind.  The entire 40 minutes is worth your time.  What's stuck in my head is a call to "tolerate the boring bits" in life and each other.  Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together observes the general tendency of our current culture to live as though all that matters is stringing together a social-media-worthy collection of highlights, avoiding or distracting ourselves during the relatively uninteresting phases. This theme has continued to pop up in my life the past two weeks. Crossing to Safety is a beautiful story, one I read years ago and put away on a shelf.  I dug it out recently and was once again touched by the simple tale of friendship.  One character encourages her friend, the writer, to aspire to a book about regular life.  "Most artists--writers too, you're all alike--found it easier to get attention with demonstrations of treachery, malice, death, violence."  Charity begs Larry, "write something about a really decent, kind, good human being living a normal life in a normal community, interested in the things most ordinary people are interested in."

Over the weekend I attended three yoga workshops with Sarah Powers.  She had a lot of interesting things to share about yin yoga and suffering.  What stands out to me is our final meditation, during which Sarah reminded us of the benefit of cultivating attention.  Not attention to anything, just pure attention.  This is something to be practiced, just like any other skill.  Let me tell you, it felt a lot like learning to appreciate the mundane, because gazing at carpet for 15 minutes, even striped carpet, isn't exactly what I call fun.  And yet, so necessary.

One final thought on appreciating--celebrating even--the average, everyday moments of life, from my favorite poet...


On my shoes,

Boiling water,

Toasting bread,

Buttering the sky;

That should be enough contact

With God in one day

To make anyone


(Hafiz - Buttering the Sky)


A student of mine asked me to share the poem I read in class yesterday.  It's from my favorite reading assignment in grad school so far -- Soil and Soul by Alastair McIntosh.  I found it to be a beautiful tale that weaves together history, mythology and spirituality with modern political, economic and environmental issues.  For anyone wishing to disentangle themselves from our Western notion of individuality, linear time and progress, this book is an opportunity to better understand a European heritage while exploring a more fluid, communal and cyclical notion of life.  Pick up a copy at your local library or neighborhood bookstore! I'll set you up for the poem by beginning with the preceding paragraph:

Their music is said to come straight from faerie -- from the hollow hill on which the first of the MacCrimmons had slept.  He had answered wisely when a faerie woman had asked him, 'Which woulds't thou prefer, skill without success or success without skill?'  And in my imagination it feels like the spirit of the MacCrimmon is present with me here.  It's as if I'm being taught the music of Avalon, Tir nan Og, the Celtic otherworld.

'This is to fortify and give comfort,' a voice says in my mind's ear.  'It's easy to make the music.  Just watch nature and play what you see and hear.  Play the waterfall, play the birdsong, play the beat of the butterfly's wings.  That's the only score you need.  That's faerie.  That's the very creativity of God.  Holy, Holy, Holy.  Breeee-jah...Breeeee-jah, Breeeee-jah.'

                                    ...and this girl said

                                    the girl with love in her eyes

                                    'You will accept it'

                                     and I said

                                     'I will accept what?'

                                     and she said again in the same calm voice

                                     'You will accept it

                                     accept the flood

                                     accept the calmness

                                     accept the otherworld people

                                     accept human beings'

                                    -Maoilious Caimbeul, And So Somersault

it could be a zebra

"A Bangladeshi friend described her view of it this way: from the third eye we hear or see beyond what is expected or usual. Suppose we hear hoofbeats on the road. Our minds might envision a horse. The third eye reminds us that it could be a zebra." (Michelle LeBaron) Sometimes I feel like I'm going to grad school for an extra degree in yoga. I'm always running into meditation ideas in the assigned reading. Case in point: I read the passage above earlier this week and brought it to my students as a guide for practicing non-attachment. I find it to be a beautiful reminder to let go of expectations. As a planner I often find myself setting agendas for how I spend my time - whether it's alone, with a dear friend or in a meeting. Planning is all well and good, but it can quickly get out of hand and stifle creativity. It can drown any sense of being present. This past week I was inspired to think ahead less and feel my way more. I showed up to class with just those four sentences and let a meditation develop. It's beautiful to settle into a moment and let it evolve into something beyond your intention.

I invite you to find a quiet space in your weekend, just a few moments, to draw awareness to third eye center* and gather the desires and resolutions for your day or week or year ahead. If you're like me, they won't be hard to find, they'll be lurking close by and easy to draw up into a big bundle. Hold them just long enough to recognize them, then let go. You might be surprised at what you find in the space just beyond expectation.

*Also known as "Ajna" in Sanskrit, or the 6th chakra. Associated with intuition and perception, it is located between, behind and just above the eyes.


holiday reading - life of pi

just before winter break, a fellow grad student in my cohort recommended Life of Pi to me.  i picked up a copy at Lamplight Books while looking for Christmas gifts (it's now an annual tradition for me to visit the market for Christmas shopping and I always stop in at Lamplight). this book caught me up in its story in a way i don't often experience anymore.  when i was a child, i spent the better part of many days with my nose buried in a book.  in high school i'd often stay up well past midnight with my bed lamp on, devouring a good tale.  Life of Pi brought out that kid in me and any moment of the last week that wasn't spent baking, cooking, sharing a meal with family or wrapping gifts was a opportunity to crack open my book.  what a story!  too many wonderful ideas to share all my favorite passages, but one particularly stayed with me:

Words of divine consciousness: moral exultation; lasting feelings of elevation, elation, joy; a quickening of the moral sense, which strikes one as more important than an intellectual understanding of things; an alignment of the universe along moral lines, not intellectual ones; a realization that the founding principle of existence is what we call love, which works itself out sometimes not clearly, not immediately, nonetheless ineluctably (p. 63).