Monthly Archives: October 2011

Could = compassion

I’ve been thinking lately about discipline. More specifically, my lack of it. For about a week now my life has been indulgence central, and I haven’t cared. I haven’t made any seriously bad choices, but nor have I been acting in my highest good.

Take, for example, the decision to attend a party on Saturday night: I was sick with a cold. (But I was tired of being cooped up!) I had a huge freelance project that was taking many hours to complete. (But I deserved a break from working!) I needed to budget my time if I was going to be able to keep my brunch plans for the next day. (But it was a going-away party!)

I could have compromised by attending the party, staying sober, and heading home early. Instead, I had a blast–and plenty to drink–before getting home after 2 a.m.

Biggest deal in the world? No. But there were consequences: I felt worse, not better, the next day, and the remaining volume of freelance work meant I had to cancel on a friend–she was cool about it, but that doesn’t mean it was a cool thing to do.

What’s cool is to be considerate of myself and others. It made no sense to poison my body or bail on my friend, but I did both because, well, because I felt like it. I knew what the smart options were and I ignored them.

All of that is okay, of course, because we always are, thank goodness. But I’d still like to be better. Not because I should, but because I can.

I’m done with shoulds. In all my years of using them, they’ve never made me feel good. Instead, I’m making a conscious effort to replace my “shoulds” with “coulds,” in the hopes that compassionate self-discipline will find some space to flourish.

When I encourage self-discipline with shoulds, my ego responds with teenage-angst resistance: Don’t tell me what to do! But with coulds, choice replaces demand, and that leaves room for compassion.

I am setting some lofty goals for myself over the next few months, and the outcomes are important to me. If I’m going to succeed, self-hate has simply got to take a backseat to love and compassion, and altering my language is a great way to help that happen.

Live love

Life is so great. So abundant and good and gracious. I know the tides turn, so this euphoria I’ve been floating in for days is bound to dissipate, but until it does I want to soak in the sensations and share them.

I spent ten days in Texas and it was so, so, so good for my soul. I grew up near Dallas and have strong ties in Austin as well, yet I attended college in Chicago and have lived in Manhattan ever since, so it’s always interesting when I revisit my homeland.

I’m rarely there for more than a few days at a time, so it was a real luxury to have two weekends and a full week in between with no obligations outside of a high school reunion and a wedding.

Everything was wonderful. I kept my heart open entirely and there was love everywhere I looked. Love for the highways and the hill country, for the urban and the rural, for the familiar and the unexpected. Love for what I’ve lost and for what remains and for what I’ve yet to gain. Love for family, and friends, and commitment, and courage. Love, love, love, love, love.

It’s not all you need, but it will certainly keep you on a path to fulfillment. I have faith in love: I know I can trust in its existence, that I am always safe and cared for. How frickin’ awesome is that?!

The past is history, the future’s mystery, and now is a gift–that’s why they call it the present. I don’t know the official source of that sentiment, nor am I entirely comfortable repeating it (because no matter how happy and full of love I feel, there is still a cheese-factor to certain aphorisms that makes me cringe). But no doubt, those ideas are true.

Lately I’ve been enjoying the gift of the present moment so much that I haven’t really had time to fret over what’s happened or worry about what’s next, and I’ve discovered a surprisingly comfortable state of unknowing. It feels like a good way to be, connected to a limitless source of love and welcoming whatever is.

There is more I want to tell you–how lucky I feel to have had a fantastic evening with high school friends in New York last night, thereby extending the magic of my Texas trip a little longer, and how excited I am to take yoga tonight with one of my favorite teachers, and how optimistic I am about serving as a Connector with, and how seriously I am thinking of writing a book next month.

But right now, I have the present to attend to, and so do you, so I’ll just leave you with a picture from last night’s concert venue, which pretty much captures what my heart feels like inside. Ah, love, thanks.

The Angel Orensanz Foundation is a beautiful place, just like love.

Occupy within

I am not on Wall Street. I am on vacation in Texas, and right now I’m sitting on a breezy back porch, looking out at trees and sunshine in their infinite beauty. Everything is okay and I know this completely. There is nothing to hate, only fear to overcome.

Yet fear can be fierce.

I believe love can heal anything, but I am worried, too. Today I got an email saying that Manhattan’s Occupy Wall Street initiative will be shut down tomorrow morning, and that scares me. I visited the site last week because I knew it was worth investigating, and I wanted to see it before I left for Texas, just in case a threat like today’s was to emerge and prevent me from returning.

I really hope the occupiers are not evicted. I’m not quite sure what is happening with the Occupy movement, but from my perspective it is positive: People are showing up. Action is replacing apathy, and that is encouraging.

Every person has a voice, but many of us stay silent, and there is no use in that. Our primary purpose on the planet is to expand our consciousness through love, and repression and judgment don’t help a whit.

So yes, please, let’s all of us speak up. Be respectful; follow the laws (and then work to change them, if you’re so inclined). But don’t keep quiet. Have courage; be heard.

It takes bravery to claim yourself: When I started making my private thoughts public back in January, I knew I was taking a risk, especially since I am a professional writer, so I essentially stake my reputation on my words. But my willingness to expose my authentic self has set in motion a chain of personal growth that far outweighs the fear of being misunderstood or disliked.

I wouldn’t trade the freedom I feel for anything; opening my heart was the best choice I ever made. Every day I choose to “occupy within,” to take responsibility for my thoughts and feelings. Taking action with good intention is empowering, and it is truly loving.

What is loving for me? This is the best question, the one I ask myself all the time, and one that I encourage you to ask yourself. I’m not camping out in downtown Manhattan because that doesn’t feel right for me. But it does feel right to notice what is going on, and to support the First Amendment rights of my fellow citizens. Fear is oh-so-overrated, and actions are the only things worth judging.

This sign, dated 10/4/11, and left at Occupy Wall Street for me to find and photograph that evening, says "The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything." (Online research suggests Albert Einstein's original wording might have been slightly different, but you get the idea.)

High-tech homage

I felt so sad when I read the tweets about Steve Jobs.

I wasn’t expecting them. I knew he was sick; he stepped down, after all. But just the other day I watched an entertaining video that at least implied Steve Jobs was okay, and it was fiction, but it felt good to believe it, and yesterday he died.

I didn’t know Steve Jobs, so I was a little surprised to realize how very sad I felt. But I soaked in the feeling and opened to learning about it, and soon it made sense: Of course his death is upsetting. I love him. I may not have known him firsthand, but I know his heart’s work, his contributions to this earth, and they are personal.

Macs are pretty personal. Moreso than PCs, in my experience, which is funny since PC means Personal Computer. But it’s nonetheless true that my iBooks felt like my besties, whereas my current netbook is more like a trusted assistant. As for the iPod, it caused a paradigm shift in how I experience music, for the infinite better. And while I don’t have an iPhone, I doubt the smartphone I so heavily depend on would be as awesome as it is without Apple’s competition.

Steve Jobs made his life matter by following his passions and believing in his purpose, and in doing so he shared love and its benefits with millions. Of course he will be missed, but the products of his existence are plentiful, and his energy will have continued life. For that I am so very grateful.

I claim no rights whatsoever to this image and do not know who created it; I found/shared from this site:

A path of permanence

An average(!) view from the Kripalu campus

This past weekend I treated myself to a retreat at Kripalu, which is a center out in the Berkshires of Massachusetts that promotes health and well-being through the lens of yoga. One of my favorite yoga teachers trained at Kripalu, and I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about the place, so when a particularly appealing workshop showed up on the schedule, I decided to spring for a trip. It was the first time I’ve ever taken myself on a vacation that didn’t focus on visiting friends or family, and it was an immensely rewarding experience.

For one thing, the environment is absolutely gorgeous. A grin popped onto my face as soon as I hopped off the bus at the Lenox town hall, even before the shuttle van transported me to the Kripalu campus, which consists of simple buildings nestled among meadows and an orchard and woodlands and a lakefront with a mountainous backdrop. I arrived with a couple hours to spare, so after claiming a bunk in the dorm where I’d be sleeping, I set out to explore.

A short walk later, after I discovered, marveled at, and then waded through a meadow to hug an especially beautiful tree,

This tree has my heart.

it was time to find my way back to home base and get ready for afternoon yoga, have dinner, and start the program I’d signed up for.

The next 40+ hours went by in a blur of workshop sessions, yoga classes, whirlpool visits, and the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten, all of which kept me comfortably indoors until Sunday afternoon, when my scheduled events had ended and I yet again had some time to explore my surroundings.

I decided to go hiking.

And by “hiking” I mean “walking around trying not to get lost.” I am not super great with following maps, and have little to no experience finding trails. Nonetheless it was a beautiful afternoon and I wasn’t going to waste it indoors. So off I went, and before long I was stuck.

Turns out the bold lines on the map do not necessarily correlate with reality. Sometimes, sure. For example, later in the afternoon I embarked on a second journey and knew exactly where I was supposed to turn.

This is obviously a path.

But where I became stuck, there was no such immediate clarity. I had started off walking alongside the road, figuring that path was reliable enough, but after a while I suspected I had missed the turnoff where a hiking trail supposedly began. Sure enough, when I squinted into the foliage on my left, I noticed a pedestrian walkway of packed mud and trudged up to meet it. At that point I knew I was on the right track. But before long I again sensed I had traveled too far without seeing a turnoff. I consulted my map, turned it around a few times, and decided, yes, this was about the place I should be seeing a new trail. But I didn’t see anything of the sort.

This is a path?!

I saw a tangle of grass and leaves that led nowhere. And yet, if I could trust my instincts or my map at all, it was the spot where a new path should appear. And really, if I squinted hard enough, maybe there was a path in there somewhere.

At any rate, I knew the direction I’d been moving in was no longer right, and there really wasn’t anywhere else to turn, so, onward and upward. I set off through the grass, pretending I could tell where it was taking me.

A minute or two later, I looked to my left and laughed.

Yes, this is a path.

Sure, it was awfully narrow, but a path was indeed present. No doubt about it, there is always somewhere to go, even if figuring out the way involves uncertainty.

There is so much more I could say about Kripalu–about the top-notch, self-focused yoga instruction; about the easy sense of community forged by hundreds of strangers with a shared interest in peace and growth; about the wholesome, savory, so-good-I-can’t-believe-it’s-healthy array of food.

But all of those things are still in the Berkshires, whereas what matters most is what I took home in my heart: the spark of triumphant delight that shot through my body upon realizing I can forever find my way. Nature will nurture me no matter what, and its loving energy is an absolute constant in an ever-changing world.