Sunday, December 28, 2014

Love for the New Year

As this year is quickly coming to a close, I'm thinking about what I'd like the new year to bring. If I'm honest, I want to be happy all the time. I want my life to be a series of good things, of wishes coming true, of ease and grace. Yet, as I look back at this year, or any year, really, I see that's not possible. Life is good things and bad things, marriages and divorces, deaths and births all smushed together.

I've tried to escape pain, to only experience pleasure, but pain is inescapable. There will always be pain and there will always be pleasure, but there will also always be something more than either. Call it love, call it God, call it Spirit, call it the universe. There exists something beyond me, that's bigger than me that gives me peace of mind no matter what.

New Year
This isn't me but it could be.

I used to set New Year's resolutions, which morphed into intentions. My only intention for this year is to align myself closer with God, Spirit, the universe. When I'm in alignment, when I'm “feeling the love” so to speak, I feel OK regardless of the circumstances. So often I get caught up in one thing or another; the drama overtakes me and I overidentify with my pain. I feel helpless, like a little boat upon the sea getting bashed about by waves and wind.

I equate syncing up with the universe as diving down deep into the ocean where the water is less choppy and the wind blows above me. In essence, a state of mental equipoise. How great does that sound?!? I can't guarantee that I'll be able to maintain a state of detachment, but I'd sure like to try. This year I'd like to experience bliss not attached to people or circumstances, but rather self-generating through dint of my spiritual practices. This year I'd like to experience divine, unconditional love. The kind I feel as a constant presence. This year I'd like to take a different approach to my trials as I remember their transient nature. I want to use my gifts to serve others in anyway I can and treat myself with all the love, care, and attention I deserve.

I have that wish for others too. I wish that we may all experience untold bliss like we've never experienced before. That we ascend to new heights and feel just how loved we are. That we maintain our mental equipoise and align ourselves with something greater than us. That we serve ourselves and others and practice the golden rule.

I dream of a world that I just described, a world where 2015 is a bright and blessed year for all of us. A world where we join together to create a new Earth.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Light Within

Considering today is not only the solstice but Chanukah, I figured it would be a good time to talk about light and what it's become a metaphor of.

One of the principles of Chanukah that I like the most is the idea that one candle may kindle the light of many others and yet lose none of its own light. Some people say that we're already enlightened. I don't subscribe to that idea because I for one have too many hangups and issues to consider myself to be on par with Lord Buddha, someone who I think we can all agree was enlightened.

Maybe within each of us there is a canyon of aitinght
Maybe within each of us there is a canyon of light waiting to get out.

What I do have, what we all have, is a soul, a spark, a piece of consciousness. In other words, light. I consider enlightenment to be a state of grace where consciousness or light is so vast and bright that the separation between me and what is not me no longer exists. I consider it my duty to remind others of their own light, of their own consciousness. In other words, to be a candle that kindles the light of many others.

During this holiday season it's both easy to forget and easy to remember that life is not just about consuming things: food, drinks, or gifts. That we are more than human machines driven by impulse and instinct. We each have a light within us that is longing to burn ever brighter, to radiate ourselves and those around us.

Something important to remember though, is we do have human bodies, we aren't just light beings. A friend circulated this post by Jeff Brown the other day who said:

"Real spirituality is all about 'enrealment' -- it includes everything human in the equation. The real now is the one that includes everything we left behind on the path. We must work through our story, before the unresolved elements of our story kill us.”

I absolutely agree. My spiritual path is about using everything as a vehicle for liberation or enlightenment. About not running from feelings and tough times, and yet always remembering there is something more to me. Something outside the drama, the ups and downs, a witnessing part of me that remains unaffected and emits a light that can never be diminished. It's my job to keep growing that light, to keep remembering its presence, and to kindle that light in others.

May you also remember the light being that you are. May you remember you are more than the sum of your parts, and may you also endeavor to shine a light on all parts of yourself because that is where enlightenment happens.

I dream of a world where we remember our brightness and we share that brightness with others. A world where we're not scared of shadows because shadows are where light is most needed. A world where we embrace all parts of ourselves as we kindle the flame of enlightenment.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Forget the Future

My mother recorded the audio for this post because I'm sick. =(

I have a tendency to focus on the future. And I mean more than being goal-oriented. I view the future as a tantalizing prospect and look forward to it with giddy anticipation. When I think of the future, it’s always as an absolute, not a possibility. I think of the future as a book that’s already written just waiting for me to read. Except, that’s not true. The future is more like a “choose your own adventure story.”

Van in the dust
The future is an open road!

I think I’ve already mentioned how I’ve yet to meet a psychic who can accurately predict my future. I was reminded of that yet again recently. I visited a city that she said would be great for me, where she thought I’d really flourish. It’s been a question in my mind ever since she suggested it two years ago. I visited the city and felt . . . nothing. I didn’t feel a hum of excitement or awe or frisson. Mostly I felt bored and uninspired.

My dad keeps saying to me there’s no way you can tell whether you’ll like living somewhere after only a weekend, but I think he’s wrong. I think you can tell almost immediately because you’re picking up on something – a vibration, an energy, something that notifies you whether a place is yours or not. After coming back from this trip I felt elated, not because I enjoyed the city, but because I finally felt that the world is my oyster.

I’ve honestly believed my life had a certain trajectory; that the future was decided, but after going on this trip I realized it’s not. The future is a series of possibilities, of adventures that I get to choose. All of my actions will have reactions – that’s a law of nature – but the actions I take now affect my future. The future is not something to live into, it’s something I’m creating with each and every moment with all the decisions I’m making right this instant.

I’m terribly excited by this realization because it relates to the #blacklivesmatter movement. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been despondent thinking about race in the U.S. and how people of color are treated. It seems inevitable that injustice will continue and that whatever will happen will happen. But when I realize the future is not decided, that we’re co-creating the future, we can establish a new way of being, of living, of treating each other.

In physics, if a ball is on a certain track, the slightest bump can cause the ball to veer off course. In the beginning, the change will be miniscule, but eventually, the difference between where the ball could have gone and where it ends up will be vast. That means the tiniest actions on our part could greatly affect the future. That to me means I can forget about the future because it’s the present that really matters.

I dream of a world where we understand the future is wide open with possibilities. A world where we know anything can happen. A world where we take the steps now for a future we’d like to create. A world where we understand even the slightest change can make the biggest difference.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Just as Green

I have a tendency to romanticize/idealize places. I think that if only I could live in _______ all my problems will be solved. That’s an exaggeration, but not by much.

I suffer from sleep problems, as in, I don’t sleep well and I’m extremely sensitive to noise even with a white noise machine and earplugs. People kept telling me to move to a super remote place because remote places are quieter, and then I’d be able to sleep through the night. So I did. I temporarily moved to a retreat site in Missouri where the closest town – 20 minutes away – has a population of 2,000 people.

green grass
The grass is NOT greener on the other side.

When I got there, I found that the grass was not greener, so to speak, but just as green as anywhere else. Much to my surprise I still had problems sleeping – a train ran through nearby with a loud whistle, I heard planes flying overhead, the hum of the refrigerator bugged me, etc. I don’t regret the decision because moving to Missouri gave me a sense of freedom and relief I hadn’t experienced in probably years. I didn’t worry about anyone playing loud music on the weekends because I couldn’t even see my closest neighbors. I checked the mail whenever I wanted (in my last place the mailbox was locked and the key hung in my landlady’s house); if I needed a trash bag I walked into the main house and grabbed one. If I needed some spices I went to the commercial kitchen to get them.

Missouri was good for my soul but not for my body – alas, I still wasn’t sleeping. The whole thing made me realize external places are not what need to change, I need to change. I broke down and bought myself some sleep headphones, i.e. headphones specifically designed for sleeping, which I didn’t know existed until about a month ago. If being literally in the middle of nowhere was still too noisy for me, clearly nowhere except a sensory deprivation tank will be quiet enough.

Mostly what this all means, what I’m taking away from the experience, is nowhere is a magic bullet, nowhere will cure all my problems because the majority of my problems are internal. That’s not to say some places aren’t better than others – some places are more suited to my needs, but it’s unrealistic to think moving somewhere will make all my troubles disappear. More likely, I’ll have new and different problems. No place is a utopia as much as I like to fantasize about one. I do think the world can be a better place, but again and again I see a “utopia” manifests with effort and perseverance, not some magic wand or a plane ticket.

I dream of a world where we realize going somewhere else won’t make our troubles disappear, they might just go into hiding for a while. A world where we realize usually we are the ones that need to change. A world where instead of fantasizing about a place where the grass is greener, we realize the grass is just as green.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Santosha, or Contentment

In yoga there is a concept of santosha, or contentment that I’ve always struggled with. I am rarely content with what I have and am usually focused on what’s next as opposed to what is. This week I had two interactions that brought some perspective.

When I flew back to the West Coast a couple of Saturdays ago, I started chatting with the guy next to me. I asked him if he liked where he lived and the answer was, “No.” When I asked him why he’s lived there so long he said because of his job. In that moment, I felt a swell of gratitude and contentment.

So, I know I'm inferring some things, but this guy sure looks content! 

My gypsy lifestyle is not without its challenges (hello moving more times than years I’ve been alive), but the one thing I will say is if I’m unhappy in a place I’ll move. I’d much rather take a chance on an uncertain future than a discontented secure one. I love that about myself. I appreciate the fact I’m willing to take a risk, to do the scary thing, in the hopes it will pay off.

In this same conversation, my seatmate asked me if I traveled much. My curt reply was, “Yes.” It got me thinking about all the places I’ve been lucky enough to see in my life. Usually I’m comparing myself with others and coming up short. I’ll think to myself, “Yeah, I’ve traveled a lot, but I haven’t traveled as much as so-and-so,” or, “Yeah, but I haven’t been to _____.” I’m constantly striving ahead instead of being content with what I have. In that reflective plane ride, I felt appreciation for the places I’ve seen, and the places I’ve lived.

A few days after I arrived, I got my haircut. The hairdresser started telling me about her life and I was again amazed to hear about someone’s life that is so different from mine. She’s 23 and has never lived anywhere else. She’s barely left the state. She also told me about her sister, who is close to my age, and has the sort of life I thought I would have at 30: married, owns a house, possibly babies in the future. Her sister also hasn’t left the state or lived anywhere else. In that moment, I peeked into the life of someone else and found that in fact I am content with my own.

What I am getting at here, perhaps poorly, is that so often I look at what I don’t have, how my life doesn’t look the way I think it should, and I forget to remember what’s great about it. And I don’t mean the things we’re all grateful for – a place to sleep, enough to eat, great friends – I mean the character traits I possess, the way I choose to live my life. I see possibilities of other ways of being and I feel content because despite everything, life is pretty good.

I dream of a world where we’re all able to cultivate contentment for ourselves. A world where we want what we already have. A world where we take the time to pause and congratulate ourselves for what we’re doing right. A world where we have santosha.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What is "The Truth"?

I am obsessed with “the truth.” Maybe it’s a hallmark of being a journalist, but I’m constantly searching for “the Truth” with a capital T. When people throw out platitudes like “the truth is relative,” and “everybody has their own truth,” I’m unsatisfied because why? Why is the truth relative? Why does everyone have their own truth?

Last week, I wrote about logic versus intuition, and defined intuition as a reflection of consciousness. I also said perhaps the reason why intuition can be wrong is that the reflection isn’t clear and maybe it’s like smudges on a mirror.

Being outside in nature also calms the mind down and allows intuition to come through.

This week I did some more investigation because I wasn’t fully satisfied with that answer. My spiritual teacher says there are “layers of the mind” and this affects the different ways in which humans operate. One layer is responsible for satisfying what we sense through the body. So, for instance, if I’m cold and reach for a blanket, that’s one layer of the mind. Another layer of the mind deals with conscious thought like problem-solving and intellectual reasoning.

The layer I’m interested in at the moment is the layer where intuition comes in. My teacher uses a Sanskrit word that I am sure to mispronounce, but the English translation is “supramental” or “higher mind.” This is the layer responsible for scientific discoveries and creative insight. When the lower levels of the mind are quiet, the higher mind comes through. This is what Michelangelo is referring to when he likened the creative process to “a seizure of the soul” or when Albert Einstein said in reference to discovering relativity, “There is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition.”

So what happens after the message gets delivered, if you will? When a person gets an intuitive hit, it still has to filter through their mind and sift through biases and experiences, aka, the smudges on a mirror. That explains why the truth is relative – because each person has their own experiences and biases the intuitive message is coming through. For each person, the reflection of consciousness looks a little bit different.

That means there is an absolute truth, but I am not able to access it because my mirror is too dirty. The quickest way to clean the mirror, according to my teacher, is to meditate because meditation silences the lower layers of the mind and allows a person to access the higher ones. If you can believe it, the layer where intuition lives is not the highest layer of the mind! The higher layers are ones where duality ceases to exist and a person sees everything as an expression of Spirit. But that is perhaps another post for another time.

I dream of a world where we all quiet our minds and allow something greater than us to come through. A world where we understand that behind the relative truth is an absolute truth that maybe we can’t quite see. A world where we each seek to know that absolute truth and arrive at those higher layers.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Logic versus Intuition

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about logic and intuition. I notice that for the most part people seem to advocate one or the other.

On the logic side, science and rationality are worshipped. Some people disregard anything that cannot be proved scientifically. If there’s no randomized controlled trial, the thing is full of crap. This is why people say homeopathics are snake oil, despite the loads of anecdotal evidence that say otherwise. Maybe what’s happening is our scientific instruments aren’t sensitive enough yet to measure homeopathics.

I like this picture because it represents a division, but at the same time unison.
I like this picture because it shows division but at the same time unison.

Also, the thing about randomized controlled trials is they’re imperfect and there is often conflicting evidence. In radiology, for instance, a subject I am very familiar with as writing about CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds is my primary source of income, there’s a huge debate about breast cancer screening. A study from Canada recently stated breast cancer screening causes more harm than good. The researchers argue breast cancer screening leads to overdiagnosis, or diagnosing tumors as cancerous that may not become problematic. In other words, diagnosing cancer too much.

On the other hand, there are also randomized controlled trials stating the opposite, that breast cancer screening causes early diagnosis, i.e., catching a cancer early, and not overdiagnosis. Advocates vehemently argue the true harm to women is from these scientific studies that scare women into believing they don’t need their regular mammograms. Who is right?

For those who eschew science and rationality, there’s a belief in the infallibility of intuition, that intuition is always right.  Except, that’s not always true and not everybody’s intuition is equally valid. How many times have we watched a contestant on The Bachelor declare they know they’ll receive the final rose? That “their gut” tells them they’ve found the love of their life and then the person ends up being wrong? Clearly there’s something going on here.

My spiritual teacher defines intuition as a reflection of Consciousness, or Spirit. He also says that meditation leads to a clearer reflection of Consciousness. In that context, it makes sense why people can be off when they say they’re using their intuition; either the person is really tapping into their ego, or their reflection to Consciousness isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s like a mirror and some people have smudges all over it so they can see some of the reflection but not all of it.

I have a tendency to completely accept something a person says if they say it came from their intuition, especially if it can’t be scientifically proved. However, people, me included, are wrong sometimes! I have a brain so I need to use it!

My spiritual teacher also says:
The highest treasure of human beings, distinct from other creatures, is their intellectual superiority. Had there been no intelligence in humans, they would hardly be different from other animals. This philosophical consciousness will lead humanity to greater intellectuality. And this constant pursuit of intellectuality leads one to its furthest limit, where intuition begins. – Shrii Shrii Anandamurtii
Intuition is valued, of course, but so is intellect. Maybe it’s time I start using both logic and intuition. Maybe we all need that integration.

I dream of a world where we don’t accept something as true just because someone said they had a feeling about it. And at the same time, I dream of a world where we understand some things are beyond logic, some things don’t make sense and they may never will. A world that’s not logic versus intuition, but a world that relies on logic and intuition.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Doing it Alone

The other day a friend and I started to watch an HBO show called Enlightened. The basic gist is a woman has a nervous breakdown and goes to Hawaii to get her health back. She returns to her normal life and is struggling to implement all the new things that she learned like daily meditation or giving up her destructive habits. She often gets frustrated and stops. Throughout the show I kept saying, “That woman needs some friends!”

I think often when it comes to changing a habit, belief, or behavior, there’s an idea that willpower will be enough. That a person can, and should, be able to tackle the issue on their own. I think that’s why the self-help market is so huge – people want to change and believe that desire is all they need. In my opinion, that desire or determination is the first step. What solidifies a habit, belief, or behavior (besides repetition) is support.

What I like about this picture is it demonstrates aloneness and togetherness at the same time!
What I like about this picture is it demonstrates aloneness and togetherness at the same time!

The reason I kept yelling at the TV screen that the main character needed some friends, is because it’s hard to change. No epiphany there I’m sure. We already know this. We hear about it all the time when it comes to exercise. In fact, I just turned in an article on Friday in which several gyms and personal trainers all told me the latest trend is personal training in groups of three to five. When a person is working out with their friends they’re more likely to go to the gym because there’s accountability, and because it’s more fun. I’ve found the same is true with the internal changes.

In Sanskrit there’s a word for this: satsaunga, or good spiritual company. Usually it’s thought of in terms of who we hang out with, but I think it’s important not just for who we have fun with, but who will help us in life. One of the most useful things for me has been learning who to talk to about what. Some friends are good for their light-heartedness. Other friends I’ll call up if I’m feeling sad. I’ll talk to somebody else about my spiritual issues. There’s a saying I really like that applies: “Don’t go to the hardware store for milk.” Imbibing that saying has saved me a lot of frustration, that’s for sure!

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir here, but mostly I’m advocating when it comes to change, not doing it alone. Doing something alone will only get a person so far. When there’s the support of a community, when someone else knows about the changes you’re trying to make, that’s when they stick. And if I can broaden this a little more, the support of other people is also what ensures change in the greater world. In the West, we think in individualistic terms, but really, we are so much more than individuals. We’re like little droplets of water that when pooled together become a river. And a river eventually becomes an ocean.

I dream of a world where we encourage one another. A world where we support each other as we make positive changes in our lives. A world where we understand firm determination and willpower alone are not enough to wrest transformation, transformation requires a village. A world where instead of doing things alone, we do them together.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Expectations and Traditions

Audio at the bottom.

In about a month I’ll be 30. (One month!) Where I come from, i.e., the South, 30 means you’re married with a child or two and own a house. That is decidedly not my reality; in fact, I’m at the complete opposite end of the spectrum – single, childless, and not even an apartment, much less a house. This is not what I anticipated my life looking like. This is not what I expected for myself.

In October, a friend of mine turned 30 and when I voiced my own apprehensions about turning the big 3-0, she said, “Is life really so bad? Don’t you think you’ve lived well? Aren’t you pleased with the choices you’ve made?” I wouldn’t say I’m pleased, but I would say I think I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve been given.

Let's pretend this is a birthday sparkler.

It’s painful to grieve for the future that could have been, the Ghost of Christmas Future, if you will, but while I don’t have the house, the kids, or the partner, I still count myself blessed. I’m well-read, well-traveled, and well-loved. By that I mean I am loved by many near and far. I belong to several communities and each of those communities is filled with loving, generous people, for which I’m grateful. Their kindness has brought me to tears over and over again.

I also think about something another friend of mine said to me in college. When I told her someone called me nontraditional, she said, “According to whose traditions?” I love that because she’s right. Whose traditions am I adopting here? Whose expectations am I foisting upon myself? Is anyone except for me judging and criticizing my life for not looking a certain way? To be honest, I think most people are too consumed with living their lives to judge mine.

I also think about a passage that has resonance for me: “[M]y serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations ... the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations.” I’ve had many expectations for my life, how it will go, what I expect will happen, and all it has accomplished is to make me sad or frustrated. Perhaps it’s time to discard the expectations and instead trust that as someone said to me a decade ago, I’m nontraditional, and that means I get to make my own traditions.

This post is all about me turning 30, but I hope you find some relevance for your own life. Things rarely work out the way we expect or plan and when that happens, I hope you’ll join me in yelling, “Plot twist!” After all, what great adventure doesn’t have a few surprises?

I dream of a world where we discard our expectations and make our own traditions. A world where we realize our lives may not follow the path we had planned, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. A world where we accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why Reform Just Won't Cut It

For audio, scroll to the bottom.

I have some hang-ups about money. I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in this. For a long time I thought if I made a lot of money I would turn into a jerk, which is kind of silly because to paraphrase Henry Ford, money doesn't change people, it merely unmasks them. If a person is naturally selfish or arrogant or greedy, the money brings that out. I’m not naturally mean spirited so I think it’s safe to say making more money won’t bring those qualities out in me.

Once I cleared that hurdle, the idea of being a “conscious millionaire” started to appeal to me. It sounds great! Someone who is kind and compassionate, but also has money. Someone who can donate to her favorite charities and change some things because as we’re all aware, in this day in age, money equals power. If I became the richest person in the world then I could change the rules and make things better for everyone! Except, in a conversation I had with a friend on Friday night, I realized being a conscious millionaire is not enough.

I want to live in a world where the mantra isn't "consume."

I’m currently in the middle of nowhere Missouri. I mean really middle of nowhere. The closest town (about 20 minutes away) has a population of around 2,000. When I think “middle of nowhere,” I think cheap. When I asked my friend how much he’s paying for internet, I nearly choked on my tea when he said a telephone and internet combo is costing him $100 a month. For a speed of 1.5 mbps! If I was in California, I could pay $65 a month for a speed of 45 mbps! What makes this all the more depressing is my location isn’t exactly booming economically, meaning the people who are the least likely able to afford $100 a month for a regular landline phone and DSL are the ones getting price gouged. The wealthy areas are where people are paying less for phone and internet service.

It was in that moment that I realized being a conscious millionaire would only help so much. Sure, I can donate to my favorite charities and help family and friends, but what about the people I’ll never meet? Those in the Ozarks or the Bible Belt or the Midwest? My millions won’t help them at all. The only thing that will help them is a complete dismantling of our current economic system. And that requires an economic revolution. A “reform” just won’t cut it. The very principles of capitalism are founded on greed and selfishness, and greed and selfishness have given us the world we currently live in.

But we don’t have to keep living in that world. Alternative economic systems exist. I’ve written about it before, but Prout – the Progressive Utilization Theory – is an alternative to capitalism and communism. Prout is economics based on compassion and love, on understanding all beings are worthy of love and respect. It takes out exploitation and gives more power to workers through its emphasis on cooperatives. The utilities – water, electricity, and in this day and age I would argue, internet – would be taken care of by the government so we no longer have a situation where someone in Missouri is paying $100 for slow speeds and poor service.

In the words of John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

I dream of a world where economics is based on taking care of everyone rather than exploitation. A world where we share more than we consume. A world where we are stewards of the Earth rather than masters over it. A world where we’ve revolutionized our economy.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Inspired Action

For the audio version, scroll to the bottom.

There are many areas of my life where I have no idea what I’m doing. Because I have no idea what I’m doing, I look to other people for guidance because obviously they’ll know more than me. One such area is getting media coverage for myself as an inspirational speaker and for my book.

I’ve signed up for courses and seminars. I’ve read books, watched videos. I’ve been told this, like getting a job or a life partner, is a numbers game. That the more I blanket various media outlets the more likely something will pan out. Kind of like throwing spaghetti against the wall – at least one noodle will stick.

This seemed like an appropriate picture, no?
This seemed like an appropriate picture, no?

However, none of this has worked for me. When I complained to a new friend yesterday she said, “Of course, because you’re trying to replicate someone else’s experience. You’re on your own journey so you have to do what works for you.” The older I get the more I find this to be true. What works for others doesn’t work for me, and as much as I’d like to follow a formula, life isn’t like that. When I reflect on my past I very clearly see a guiding force, so perhaps it’s time to start trusting that force more and taking action when I am called to do so.

The other day this ad kept popping up for a website called “Help a Reporter Out.” I tried four times to close out the tab to no avail. Finally, I gave in and signed up. Wouldn’t you know it, the next day I received an email from a reporter looking for someone with my expertise. I kid you not.

I don’t know that it will amount to anything because stories get shelved all the time, but that’s not the point. The point is when I take inspired action, it always works out. The radio show I was interviewed for, the websites that published my work, they all came to fruition because an internal voice told me to contact them. What if instead of wasting my time querying people I don’t feel any resonance with, I only took action when I felt called to do so?

I dream of a world where we start listening to ourselves more. A world where we understand what works for others may not work for us. A world where we take action when it’s backed by intuition or spiritual knowledge. A world where our actions are inspired.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Which Way to Go?

For the audio version, scroll to the bottom.

All week it seems the thing I keep saying over and over again to friends is, “There is no ‘wrong’ choice,” so I decided it must be something to blog about.

When I’m confronted with a choice I’m often stricken with a sense of paralysis. “Oh no! Which way to go? What choice is the right one?” I freeze up because I’m so scared of making a mistake, that I’ll start down a certain road and realize it’s the most horrible one ever.

I know I usually write captions but all I really want to say is can you believe this picture? Photo credit: David Marcu.

Something that soothes me and also feels liberating is remembering nothing is permanent. I know that sentiment often encourages people to live life to the fullest, or as if today was our last, but for me it also means if I make a “bad” choice, I can choose again. I can choose to navigate in a different direction. Nothing is stuck, or static, or stale.

What a relief to remember that. I think about when I was applying for colleges. It seemed like a weighty decision. That wherever I went would set me on a course for life so choosing wisely was imperative. So I did. And the school I went to was a terrible fit. What did I do? I transferred schools. There was no need for me to suffer where I was even though a part of me felt like I had to, that because I made this choice I must stick with it.

I know our society is all about sticking with things. Quitting is for losers or some such nonsense. I’m a believer in following things through to the end – if I say I’ll do something, I will, but when I feel like I have to stick with something just because I made the decision to do so, what am I really accomplishing? Wouldn’t it be better for me to have the flexibility to change my mind?

A while back I wrote a post on being unconventional. In it, I realized I’ve been looking for a home that feels like “the one.” A home that I’ll settle down in. A home that I’ll live in for years. These days, I’m not looking for “the one.” I’m realizing oh-so-clearly that I have to take a chance, and then if it doesn’t work out, I take another one. I don’t have to remain committed to a toxic situation. Now, when I’m looking for places to live, it’s not so serious. It’s not a life-or-death, I’m-locked-into-this-so-I-better-choose-wisely thing. It’s more of an, “OK, I’ll try this out for a while, see how it goes,” kind of thing.

We human beings were not made for staticity, we were made for movement. So when our choices seem not so great, we can make other ones. There are very few things that we truly can’t undo. I’m not saying there won’t be consequences – there are always consequences, but perhaps we don’t need to agonize quite so much at the beginning.

I dream of a world where we realize we have the power of choice and that means we can always choose again. A world where we realize if things are headed in a direction we don’t like, we can turn around. A world where we realize life is more flexible than it seems.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

It Can Happen Fast

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.

My recovery mentor often says to me, “Change happens on higher power’s timeline, and when it happens, it happens fast, so be ready.” Today I’m marveling at how true that is, particularly because I’m in a place that has seasons. In the Bay Area, there are two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. In Missouri, there is a proper spring, summer, fall, and winter.

Last Wednesday, I was in shorts and t-shirt, dipping my legs in the lake. The very next day we had a thunderstorm replete with rain and lightning and then it was cold. Like, pull-out-my-fall- jacket cold. Like, turn-the-heat-on cold. It went from summer to fall in the course of a day. I realize comparing change to the seasons is not so valid anymore, considering that today the temperature is back up to the 70s, but change happens quickly in life too.

I do have to say, it's really nice to have leaves like this again.
I read an interview about the recently departed Joan Rivers who I’d always unfairly dismissed as a mean-spirited comedian. There was a point in her life when she was blacklisted from The Tonight Show, her husband Edgar had killed himself, and her career was floundering. She seriously contemplated suicide. She said, “What saved me was my dog jumped into my lap. I thought, 'No one will take care of him.'... I had the gun in my lap, and the dog sat on the gun. I lecture on suicide because things turn around. I tell people this is a horrible, awful, dark moment, but it will change and you must know it’s going to change and you push forward. I look back and think, 'Life is great, life goes on. It changes.'"

As we all know, Joan went on to have a successful career and a rich life, but there was a point when she was thinking about ending it all. I also reflect on the turn of events for friends of mine. They're getting married this winter and they didn't even know each other a year ago! They met in the winter of 2013, got engaged in June 2014, and now they’re getting married.

Even in my own life I’ve seen how change happens quickly. One day I was settling into my new abode and within an hour a sweet situation turned sour and I started making plans to live elsewhere.

I often think change happens painfully slowly, that it’s gradual – and that is certainly true – but sometimes it also happens quickly, and we have no idea it’s coming even 10 minutes prior. At this point in my life when things are so up in the air, when I have no idea where I’ll be next, what will happen next, what lies before me, it’s heartening to remember my life won’t always look this way. That change happens on the universe’s timeline, and when it happens it can happen fast so I need to be ready.

I dream of a world where we have hope for the future. A world where we realize life can change for the better in an instant. A world where we understand our troubles will pass and we’ll be glad we stuck around to see it.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.

In this day and age it’s easy to believe we are the masters of our fates and the captains of our souls. I mean, heck, I can buy a pumpkin year round if I want to. I don’t have to ascribe to a growing season, and I can take a pill to regulate everything from bowel movements to babies. However, I’d like to suggest that we are perhaps unknowingly moving toward, or with, something greater than ourselves.

It’s officially the Jewish New Year (l’shana tova people!) and in addition to being a palindrome, 5775, this is also a sabbatical year. When I read that I literally laughed out loud. Traditionally, the sabbatical year applies to forgiving debts and leaving land fallow, but the spirit of it is rest and release.

I may be the captain of my soul but I'm floating on something. . .
I may be the captain of my soul but I'm floating on something. . .

I laughed because today I am flying to Missouri, or “the sticks” as my mother lovingly says, to have my own sabbatical. My primary purpose for uprooting myself for a few months is to rest. To sleep every day until 10 a.m. when I’ll start work, to take walks in nature, and remove myself from all stimuli. It may turn into a whole year, but the plan is to have my hibernation last for a few months. How perfect that my own sabbatical is coinciding with that of the Jewish sabbatical year! I didn’t plan it that way; I didn’t even know it was a rest year until two weeks ago.

What I love about this is my body, my brain, my something, is syncing up to a natural rhythm and cycle that I have no conscious knowledge of. My body, my brain, my something are taking care of me, are looking out for me, and I didn’t have to try at all. There’s an unseen force that is moving me. As much as I am the captain of my soul, my boat is sitting on water that has its own ebbs and flows. I’m being swept along with something massive and beautiful and poetic.

How refreshing! How relaxing! To not have to be in charge all the time and still be taken care of is a gift. It’s kind of exhausting being a captain isn’t it? To worry about where to steer and how fast you’re going and if you’re veering off course? It’s nice for me to take a step back and realize even when I stop trying I still end up on land. I’m speaking metaphorically, but did you know this also happened literally?

In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl constructed a raft called Kon-Tiki to cross the Pacific Ocean from South America to the Polynesian islands to show it was entirely possible that Peruvians settled the area in the pre-Columbian times. He wanted to show by using only the materials and technologies available to those people at the time, that there were no technical reasons to prevent them from having done so. And he did it. On a freaking raft. He smashed into a reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Sometimes all that’s required of us is to turn our sail in the direction we want to go and let the current take us there.

I dream of a world where we honor the cycles we may be knowingly or unknowingly syncing up with. A world where we understand there’s a cosmic intellect that’s like an ocean current pulling us. A world where we set our sails and allow ourselves to be carried along.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Bit by Bit (with audio)

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom. 

This whole week the concept of bit by bit, of doing things in small chunks, has been on my mind because I'm again in the midst of packing, so I'm reposting this blog from about a year ago.  

I'm sitting in my cottage surrounded by boxes -- although not as many as last week! -- and what I want is to unpack everything now. I want to be settled now. I want all the organizing to be done now. I want my big payday right this minute, not little by little.

I quite often forget this concept of bit by bit, baby steps, slow and steady wins the race, etc. because I'm attracted by the big and bold, by pomp and circumstance. I love hearing about seemingly overnight success and Cinderella stories because, well, I'm impatient.

Bit by bit adds up to something grand. 

Bit by bit is important for me to remember because more often it's the case someone is wealthy because they know how to save -- they sock away money a little bit here, a little bit there. More often it's the case an actor has been auditioning for years before they become an "overnight" success. Truly it's the baby steps, the hard work along the way that builds up to something great. Rome wasn't built in a day and nor will my cottage be unpacked in a day. I want to be a best-selling author this minute, but when I focus on the big goal I forget about selling one book at a time to one person at a time.

For someone like me who's melodramatic and makes big drastic changes quite frequently, doing something bit by bit is crucial. When I look at all the things that have stuck with me -- my meditation practice, my yoga practice, my recovery from addiction -- it's because I did things little by little. They've become permanent fixtures in my life because I took action every single day -- not because I made one grand sweeping gesture. Sure, the grand gestures are fun and exciting, but it's the little actions everyday that have made the most lasting impact.

I don't know that anyone else will get anything out of this blogpost, but I guess I'm saying for today I realize there is value in the small things. In doing things one day at a time, bit by bit. Yes, I'm impressed by vast canyons, but that's because I'm seeing the end results -- many canyons are created by water wearing down rock little by little, day by day. Bit by bit adds up to something beautiful and grand, and right now is the time for me to practice that, knowing eventually I'll see the results I'm looking for.

I dream of a world where we value doing something bit by bit. A world where we understand constant and steady pressure adds up to something amazing. A world where we have patience with ourselves and each other. A world where we cherish our baby steps.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Let it Be (with audio)

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.

I want to be happy all the time. I don’t think I’m alone in this. What I’m noticing lately is whenever I’m scared or anxious I turn into Judgey McJudgerson and tell myself it’s bad to feel what I’m feeling. I make myself feel worse because I tell myself it’s stupid for me to startle at every noise or to have a fear of driving. Mostly I tell myself I shouldn’t feel the way I do.

Even if I don’t explicitly tell myself I shouldn’t feel scared or anxious or unhappy, I do so tacitly whenever I try to change my feelings. When I use affirmations, yoga, meditation, tapping, self-talk, going to my happy place, etc. I’m not saying these are bad tools, they’ve been very helpful, but this week I’ve been trying something new, which is to let myself be. To let the anxiety spring up without judging it, without trying to change it. Just noticing it and seeing what happens.

Let it Be
Did you know "let it be" is a popular tattoo? Because it is.

Ever since I was hit by a car in November, I’ve felt a little panicky every time I cross the street. My heart starts to race and I have to psyche myself up, triple checking where the cars are to ensure my safety. When I’ve tried something different, i.e. neutrality and self-compassion, I’ve noticed my fear of crossing the street has abated.

I don’t know this will work all the time, but it’s a bit of a relief to not try so hard to feel a certain way. To not judge myself and criticize myself for feeling something I don’t perceive everyone else does (i.e. being afraid of crossing the street). When I treat myself with love and self-compassion, the anxiety doesn’t fight back nearly as strongly.

Why am I telling you this? Maybe you can relate. Maybe you try to coerce yourself into being happy all the time or believing that if you’re not it’s your fault. That you’re not thinking the right thoughts, or meditating enough, or affirming enough, or eating the right food. And while those things may be true, what’s also true is that you and I are human. We are made to experience emotions. We are made to experience highs and lows. It’s unrealistic to expect that I’ll be happy all the time, and placing that expectation upon myself only makes when I’m unhappy that much worse.

How much easier would it be if we let our emotions pass like petals floating down a stream? If we didn’t expect that we could control our emotions with such exactitude? If we practiced radical self-acceptance and were kinder and gentler to our internal selves? I, for one, am finding there are a lot of emotions I’ve buried beneath my anxiety, and I wonder if I excavate them and allow myself to feel them, if my anxiety will disappear.

I dream of a world where we don’t try to force ourselves to feel one way or another. A world where we practice neutrality and self-compassion instead of judgment for our inner selves. A world where we let ourselves be.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Kindsight (with audio)

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.
“View your life with kindsight. Stop beating yourself up about things from your past. Instead of slapping yourself on the forehead and asking, ‘What was I thinking?’ breathe and ask the kinder question, ‘What was I learning?’” – Karen Salmansohn
I love this concept of kindsight, of viewing my past mistakes with compassion, but I’ll be honest, it’s soooo hard. Far easier for me to beat myself up for eternity. For instance, I still think about a mistake I made in 7th grade and burn with shame and embarrassment. I think it’s because in a weird way I believe by beating myself up about it over and over again I’ll keep myself from repeating it. Like that saying, “If you don’t remember the past you’re doomed to repeat it.”

View your past mistakes through the eyes of love!
View your past mistakes through the eyes of love!

Well, I’m so desperate not to repeat the past that I remember it and remember it and remember it . . .  I have the “remembering the past” thing down pat so perhaps it’s time to move onto, “What was I learning?” If I ask, “What was I learning?” that means I can cut out the self-flagellation bit and focus on the lesson. Although, I have to be honest, at the moment I’m self-reflecting and beating myself up. One step at a time I guess.

On Friday, a friend asked me to speak about self-compassion (go figure) and it occurred to me the most compassionate thing I do for myself is let the mistake go. Not justify, not say, “Mistakes are human,” not remind myself I didn’t know better or nobody’s perfect, or any of the million things we say to ourselves and each other when we make a mistake. Just let it go. Say to myself, “OK. That happened. Let’s move on.”

To me, kindsight is about integrating the lesson to a degree I don’t have to constantly remind myself what I did wrong because I’ve already taken corrective measures. And it’s about trusting myself that I won’t make the same mistake, or at least I won’t in the exact same way, and if I do, I can forgive myself.

Ah forgiveness. That’s another tough one. I find it about a bajillion times easier to forgive other people, even people who’ve been mean to me, than to forgive myself. When I look at my character traits I see that lack of compassion for others isn’t one of them, but I certainly lack compassion for myself. I have such a big heart; perhaps it’s time to turn all that love, affection, forgiveness, and compassion inward. It sure beats the alternative.

I dream of a world where we have more compassion for ourselves. A world where we practice gentleness about our past mistakes. A world where we integrate the lessons we’ve learned and let go of the harmful deeds. A world where we view our past with kindsight.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mistakes, Martyrdom, and Me

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom. 

I’m sure this will come as a big shock, but I’m hard on myself. I can’t seem to let go of previous mistakes. On Wednesday, I didn’t turn right fast enough. I kept waiting for the far left lane to be clear so I could merge into it and thus avoid having to change lanes quickly later on. The car behind me did not like this, honked at me, and exclaimed, “You’re not turning left!” I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I feel uncomfortable because 1.) a stranger honked and yelled at me and 2.) he was probably right. I probably could have turned right much sooner than I did. I want strangers to like me. I’m bothered by brief interactions with others because I don’t get to hash things out with them, there’s no chance to explain or justify. The person is left with only one impression and that makes me uncomfortable.

I saw this image and couldn't resist! I'm an INFJ and it's so true!

On my best days, I approach mistakes as opportunities, as learning experiences. I remind myself I can’t know everything in advance and the only one who expects me to do everything perfectly every time is me. Oh perfectionism, how I’d like to do without thee.

Another reason I’m uncomfortable with brief interactions with strangers is I want to be able to control outcomes and reactions. I want to be able to predict how somebody will respond and it’s impossible to do that with strangers, and even people I know, really. Trying to do things so that I get the reaction I desire out of someone else is called manipulation, or perhaps people pleasing. At the moment, people pleasing and perfectionism have morphed into martyrdom. I don’t want to displease others so I’m willing to suffer at my own expense.

There is nothing noble about this. Sacrifice is a tenet of my spiritual practices, but there’s a difference between sacrificing out of love for another, or love for a country, and sacrificing so people like me. When I start to allow myself to sacrifice so much that I suffer, I turn myself into a martyr, a role no one asked me to play. I allow other people’s needs and wishes to become more important than mine and that’s not acceptable. If I don’t take care of myself, neither will anyone else.

My needs are just as important as someone else’s. Not more important, not less important, equally important. When I turn into a people-pleasing martyr, I’m saying to myself and to the other person, “I don’t matter, my needs don’t matter.” You know what? They do. Especially if I’m paying for them. I have every right to send food back at a restaurant. I have every right to ask my neighbors to turn down their music at night. The answer may be “No,” but I still have a right to ask. And as I’ve seen time and time again, even when the answer is “No,” my higher power still takes care of me in interesting and creative ways I could never have imagined.

I dream of a world where we strike the right balance between sacrifice and selfishness. A world where we don’t needlessly suffer on someone else’s behalf. A world where we stand up for ourselves, remembering we have to be our own heroes. A world where we do our best to take care of ourselves and when that’s not possible, we remember higher power has it covered.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stewards of the Earth (with audio)

For the audio version of the post, scroll to the bottom.

When I look around at what’s going in on the world I feel powerless and depressed. I have to keep reminding myself things are not always what they seem, that I have more power than I think I do, but it’s incredibly difficult. I want other people to tell me happy, optimistic things, but I’m realizing (yet again) I have to do that for myself.

Yesterday, I saw pictorial evidence about how severe the drought in California is. I’m posting two of the pictures below:

enterprise bridge
Here the Enterprise Bridge spans the Lake Oroville in Butte County, California in July 2011.

enterprise bridge
Here, the Enterprise Bridge spans the same reservoir in 2014. (Source)

Whoa. You guys those pictures are scary. This is usually where I would tell you to stop watering your lawn or to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, but only about 4 percent of California’s water footprint is individual, personal use. According to a 2012 Pacific Institute report, 93 percent of California’s water use goes to agriculture. When I say “agriculture” I don’t mean lettuce. I’m talking about meat. OneGreenPlanet.Org wrote an article about this and cited studies from Cornell and other places that found it takes 100 times more water to produce one pound of animal protein than one pound of grain protein.

I really hate talking about food choices because I was teased so mercilessly for being a vegetarian as a child. And I have an eating disorder so I’m really uncomfortable talking about food. However, having said that, if you are as scared looking at those drought pictures as I am, perhaps it’s time to get uncomfortable. According to the
Environmental Working Group, if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles – or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

Of course political action is also necessary, but cutting down meat consumption is something we as individuals have control over right now. And if you want to contribute even more, there’s a
petition you can sign that urges the California legislature to reject any attempt to weaken, water down, or delay implementation of California's best climate change law. If you live in New York, or plan to be in New York City in September, there’s a People’s Climate March to demand that world leaders aim high, and create the solutions we need to combat the climate crisis.

The things that give me hope about the environmental state of the world are that things like the People’s Climate March are happening, that some cities have banned plastic bags, and that the awareness about eating better has taken off. It’s a small thing, but I’ve also started blogging for where I and other women are writing about the small things we’re doing to save money and promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

This morning I woke up with the song “
Ooh child things are gonna get easier” stuck in my head. Maybe it’s the universe’s way of telling me things will get brighter but only if you and I take the necessary action steps.

I dream of a world where we understand we are all stewards of the Earth and it’s our job to take care of it and each other. A world where we do our best to use resources as responsibly as possible. A world where we understand our choices do indeed affect the climate.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Taken Care of in Advance

For the audio version of this post, scroll to the bottom.

I’ve been sharing this with people and it seems to touch them so I’m sharing it with you too.

I think I was always meant to live in my current space for a short period of time. When I first moved in my mom came down to help me get settled (bless her). We went to every big box store and thrift store around searching for things I would need to make my space more comfortable. Stuff like a standing lamp. We searched everywhere and couldn’t find one. In fact, the closest we came was a lamp at Goodwill that after the employee plugged it in, sparked and gave him an electric shock.

paper lantern
Instead of a standing lamp I'm making do with a paper lantern, which was already in my closet. Another instance of being taken care of in advance!
I think higher power created a block so I wouldn’t invest in my living space, in this case monetarily. I think I was prevented from finding the more expensive things I needed for this spot in particular because I was never meant to be here long.

When things don’t go my way I rail against the universe, stew in frustration, and think the whole world is against me. I’m seeing, yet again, that perhaps when things don’t go my way, it’s because they’re not supposed to. That actually, even I’m not supposed to go that way. That’s not to say moving in here was a mistake – it wasn’t – but clearly, this is a short-term fling.

Some things require hard work and patience, but I’m starting to see when there’s one road block after another, when the universe keeps putting up signs that say, “Stop. Don’t go this way,” maybe it’s because it’s better for me to not go that way! That not all obstacles are meant to be overcome. That some obstacles are the universe’s way of taking care of me.

I’m focusing on housing in this post, but I think the concept applies to other things too – jobs, relationships, opportunities. Maybe when there’s one obstacle after another after another, higher power is saying, “Turn around.” And maybe when we’re not allowed to invest financially or emotionally it’s because it’s better if we don’t. I can only imagine how angry and bitter I would feel if my landlady blew up at me and asked me to move out after I spent a lot of money fixing my place up and unpacked everything. At the moment, some of my stuff is still in boxes and there are no pictures on the walls. Not to mention, I saved almost all of my moving boxes so obviously on some level I knew this was coming. And even though I don’t enjoy this turn of events, I can still sit back and see how I’m taken care of in advance.

I dream of a world where we understand some obstacles are for our benefit. A world where we realize not every obstacle is meant to be overcome. A world where we understand sometimes things don’t work out and it’s for our own good. A world where we see we’re taken care of in advance.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Love, Love, Love. The End

A band I like, the Downer Party, has a lyric from "Cities" that says, "How can it be that we live with those we love in different cities?" How apt for my experiences of the past week. I'm flying back from the East Coast where I attended a friend's wedding. It was so lovely -- the wedding and the visit.

The bride and groom! How could I not use this picture? I mean really.
The bride and groom! How could I not use this picture? I mean really. 

It had been at least a year, sometimes years, plural, since I saw some of my friends. We chatted as if no time had passed, falling into familiarity like driving the daily route to work. Despite distance, despite not talking for ages, the love is there, much like I wrote about in "Love from afar."

And now I'm going back to normal life, which sucks. It seems no matter where I am, I'm going to miss somebody because my loved ones don't live together in a big hippie commune. I wish I was one of those "smile because it happened" instead of "cry because it's over" people, but I'm not. I cry. I lament. I ache. But ever the practical person, I'm reminded there's nothing I can actually do to change all this. And perhaps the feeling of love is what's most important.

Maybe like I wrote about a few weeks ago, the emotions are more important than the particulars. Maybe it doesn't matter so much that we live in different time zones, that we don't speak often, that we don't know the ins and outs of each other's daily lives. perhaps what's most important is the love between us that quite often transcends time and space.

Is it easier to love people who live close by? Of course, but that's not always possible. Maybe in this day and age of being far flung, I have to content myself with knowing that I love. That love is all there is. That as I reference in the title of this post: "Love, love, love. The end."

I dream of a world where we love more. A world where we realize love is what's most important, not how often we see each other or how frequently we talk. A world where we take in Tennyson's sentiment, "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all."

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Maybe it's Already Here

The other day I was thinking about how it's been a dream of mine to travel and write. I am supremely envious of travel bloggers because I want to go to Hawaii! And Croatia! And swim with dolphins! I want to do cool things and get paid for it! And then I realized I already get paid to travel and write -- just not in the way I wanted.

Like I wrote last week, I've moved 32 times in 29 years. In a way, I do get paid to travel and write. At this very moment I'm staying with friends in Baltimore and tomorrow I will wake up and work like I normally do. I work from home so all that's required is internet access. You guys, I get paid to write and I travel. I SHOULD HAVE BEEN MORE SPECIFIC WITH MY DREAM.

The end scene of "Under the Tuscan Sun" is one of my favorites and so appropriate for this post.

I bring this up because maybe I already have the things I want so much. I've been craving a steady home, but in some ways I already have it. There's a retreat site in Missouri that I've gone to every year since I was three weeks old up until I was 25. It's the only stable place I've ever had because, well, I've moved 32 times. I've lamented my paltry dating life, but clearly I date homes so that already exists.

I think about that scene at the end of Under the Tuscan Sun where it's pointed out to Diane Lane's character that she has a family in her house, and a wedding, and someone to cook for. The family was her best friend and her best friend’s baby, the wedding was for a neighbor, and the people to cook for were the contractors on her house. Maybe in some ways all the things I want are already here and it's my job to open my eyes more. To see how my needs and wants are already getting fulfilled.

When I'm complaining about something to my recovery mentor I often say, "It will be OK." She responds back to me, "It is OK." Not in the future, now. I'm starting to see this is true. I want more money and I'm probably going to the retreat site in Missouri for a few months to recuperate -- boom, more money. I want more love in my life? Not only am I staying with dear friends right now, but I'm getting snuggles from their pets. Everything I want is already here, getting fulfilled in unexpected ways. It's sweet to notice that, to see how I'm already taken care of now, not in the future, but in the present.

I dream of a world where we can all identify how the things we want are already present for us. A world where we're grateful for all that we have and all that we're receiving. A world where we open our eyes more to see the unexpected ways the universe grants our wishes. A world where we see maybe it's already here.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

On Being Unconventional

The number of romantic interludes I’ve had is embarrassingly low. Like, so low many of you would be shocked. However, it was pointed out to me the other day the way I talk about places to live, other people talk about romantic relationships. And then it hit me – what other people experience in their dating life, I experience in my home life.

I have moved 32 times (roughly) in 29 years and in that time I’ve experienced a LOT. I’ve had short-term flings (i.e. sublets); I’ve experienced love at first sight – my apartment in San Francisco – which has now turned into a phantom ex, the one I measure all others against. I’ve also had the experience of my love turning into a nightmare and lamenting how it happened – I’m talking about how my San Francisco upstairs neighbor started playing loud music and I didn’t sleep for four months.

Others date people. I date homes. Maybe I could move here, it looks nice! 

I’ve moved into places that sounded good on paper, places I liked well enough but didn’t love – like my in-law unit in Balboa Park with a yippy dog – that eventually drove me nuts. I’ve remained good friends with exes, such as places in Washington, D.C., and we catch up every so often. I’ve “dated” apartments with kids (i.e. had a roommate with a child), and savored foreign lovers – there is a hotel in Vienna that I go back to year after year with pleasure.

In my current place, it wasn’t love at first sight, but we liked one another, it had all the qualities I’m looking for, but it turns out my apartment can’t commit. I’m sad to say, my landlady blew up at me unexpectedly and asked me to move out before my lease is up. I do have a lease, so I’m not sure when I’m moving, but at the moment we’re in that awkward space of knowing our “relationship” is coming to an end. In the interim, we are linked due to circumstances.

Not to mention I’ve been on loads of first dates (i.e. going to look at a place after first reading about it on Craigslist), attended tons of parties (open houses), and been rejected countless times. And I find myself wanting places that don’t want me – places that sound so intriguing and perfect but can’t be bothered to give me the time of day. And the reverse – places have wanted me that I haven’t.

The feelings that other people have in romance – the hope, the excitement, the euphoria, the resentment, the disappointment, the anger, the heartbreak – I’ve experienced in finding places to live. I bring this up because I’m a teensy bit ashamed of my paltry dating life, but now I see the universe is infinite and unlimited and so I’m having similar experiences in an unconventional way. Unconventional doesn’t mean bad, it means unusual. It doesn’t mean I’m any less equipped to deal with a partner when he comes along because I’m feeling the same things other people are, just in a different way.

I wrote this post because I find the situation to be funny, but also because maybe you think in some ways you don’t measure up. Maybe you feel ashamed because you’re not having the same experiences other people are having. I’m here to tell you, maybe you are and you’re unaware of it. Maybe life isn’t so much about a route or a path as it is about feelings. Maybe every person is supposed to experience hope, excitement, euphoria, resentment, disappointment, anger, and heartbreak, and it’s the emotions that count, not the particulars.

I dream of a world where we don’t discount our emotions. A world where we stop comparing ourselves to others, always coming up short. A world where we realize feelings count more than circumstances. A world where we embrace our unconventional selves.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Love from Afar

I'm sick today so I'm reposting something from more than two years ago. Love from afar is on my mind because I'm reuniting with so many friends through weddings and visits that I'm reminded I can still love people even if I haven't seen them in 10 years.

Last night I went to a party a friend of mine from high school was throwing. I hadn’t seen him in YEARS, as in, possibly six or more, and yet when we saw each other it was like no time had passed. I love those friendships because they illustrate to me the basic truth that love never dies. You can lose contact with someone for years and when you see them again all the old feelings rush back. And that’s the case for romantic relationships as well. That’s probably why so many people get back together with their old flames. I get the warm fuzzies knowing love is one of those things that lasts.

love from afar
I LOVE this image! How perfect! Copyright goes to Calindi Creations.

Right about now is probably when you’re saying, “Love doesn’t always last.” I think it does, actually. It may just get transmuted into other feelings like anger, resentment, or distaste. But if love wasn’t there, the feelings wouldn’t be either. In my opinion the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s apathy. There’s a reason why we say there’s a thin line between love and hate. If a person is generally the same one we met, there’s a good chance we’ll continue to love them, possibly for eternity. The way my life is going right now it’s nice to hold onto some permanence. I’m not saying I’ll forever be in love with a person, but I do think I’ll forever love them, make sense?

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this except that it really does inspire me. To not see someone for years, to not have any contact with them, and then when they re-enter your orbit to still love and care about them as if they’ve been around all along. Because on some level they have. We’re all connected, we’re all one, so maybe when someone comes into your life they’re always a part of it. And perhaps they’re a part of your life even before you met, you just didn’t know it. I enjoy knowing that love can endure. That even if there were personal issues that kept you apart you can still love someone. That to me is a beautiful thing. It’s an amazing expression of who we are as human beings. It’s an amazing expression of how time doesn’t mean much after all. Of how we’re not as separate as we’re led to believe.

I’m rambling a bit but I’m grateful and I’m inspired because love endures! Itlasts. It’s sweet and precious and doesn’t go away because you’ve lost contact or had a fight or moved. It never left.

I dream of a world where we revel in the notion love endures and that we can love from afar. That we can lose contact with someone and still love them. A world where we understand in many ways time is meaningless. A world where we allow ourselves to give and receive love because we understand that it will last.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Power to the Present

I have to admit, I've been terrible at saying present lately. I spoke with a friend and she told me I've "left without leaving." My mind has been so focused on what's next, on problem-solving, on little worries and concerns about the future that I've been unable to enjoy what's in front of me. And that sucks.

I was out of town this weekend for a wedding and I spent a good chunk of it worrying about waking up at 4 a.m. today, Sunday, to drive three hours to the airport. I worried whether I would get to sleep, whether I would make the flight, etc. Well, I fell asleep at 3 a.m. this morning, so that was fun, and returned my rental car, caught all my flights, etc. without a hitch. All that worry merely distracted me from fully enjoying the present moment.

I looooove this picture and in an odd way I think it fits the theme of this post.

Part of it is physiological -- my adrenal glands are soooo taxed right now with all the stress I'm experiencing -- but part of it is because I believe I gain a sense of power through worrying. Obviously I do, otherwise I wouldn't worry so much! My unconscious refrain is, "If I think about something often enough then perhaps I'll be able to change the outcome." The thing is, I make great choices. I can trust myself. I do not set myself up for failure and most importantly, the question to ask myself is, "So what?"

So what if I miss my flight? So what if I don't sleep through the night? Are these things really as awful as I make them out to be? Of course not! Being at the wedding this weekend showed me how much I'm robbing myself of joy. For the past few months I've been so high-strung and in survival mode that I've forgotten how to just be, how to stay in the present.

The point of this post is to highlight that behavior and get back into the mindset I had a few years ago. I wasn't able to stay present all the time, but lately I've been unable to stay present even some of the time because there's been so much for me to deal with. Even as I type that I realize it's an excuse because there will always be something going on. Life is just one damn thing after another, according to Elbert Hubbard, and I tend to agree. It's been very easy for me to get wrapped up in the "one thing after another," but do I have to? Can't I instead take action as it's called for and then let it go? I sure can!

I don't have any solutions here, but I think this like most everything else is a process. It starts with recognizing I don't like what I'm currently doing and I want to change it. I think it also comes from challenging my anxious brain by saying, "So what?" because really, even when the worst happens, haven't I shown remarkable resilience?

I dream of a world where we relax and let things go. A world where we're present, in the moment, being here, now. A world where we take action as necessary and then let it go. A world where we remember we can trust ourselves and we can trust all is well and all shall be well. A world where we give power to the present.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.