Tuesday, April 24, 2012

new post on GOOD!

this came out yesterday on GOOD.  after reading their lastest print magazine, i have to say that I just think is the best magazine out these days.  i wrote it as part of their spring cleaning series.  as someone who mentions karma on a daily basis, it was helpful for me to clarify what i really mean when i say that and to come up with some ideas of how to be proactive in living a thoughtful life.  enjoy! oh and when you are done reading, go to npr first listen and check out the new albums by norah jones and patrick watson.  i've been loving them both.

Even if we don’t exactly understand what it is, we all want to have good karma. The word, which simply means “action” in Hinduism and Buddhism, is frequently referenced in our culture when we want to explain why things happen a certain way for us. Maybe the idea of karma in reincarnation is too much for you. But, taken more practically, it’s a good way of understanding cause and effect. 
Here are a few observations on what has worked for me to clean up my karma—or, in plainer language, to feel a more positive sense of control over my life.

Notice patterns. Is there a problem you have again and again at work with different colleagues? An issue you face with your current lover that feels eerily similar to the one that caused your last break up? It’s important to start asking these questions; in my experience, life will interject again and again until you learn the answer. Sometimes I just want to bang my head into the wall because I get so sick of being reminded that I can’t control other people. I have to tell myself that this conflict continues to come up because there is something I need to learn about myself and my role in the world. If you slip into a “why me” victim mode, then the lesson is lost. As you begin this practice of noticing, don’t get too caught up in trying to fix the problem. Awareness of our actions leads to a sense of responsibility, which is much more empowering than feeling life is conspiring against us.

See yourself in the world. Once you have a sense of what you are working on, have a quiet, honest moment with yourself whenever that issue or person starts to irk you. Most importantly, it’s good to have the courage to say, “Yeah, sometimes I kinda do that, too.” A few months ago, I got very worked up after spending Sunday dinner with my dad. In my opinion, he doesn’t listen to me very well. On the ride home, my boyfriend began to tell me a story. After awhile, I realized I hadn’t been listening to my boyfriend at all because instead I was getting upset about my dad not listening to me. The irony was so strong that I had to laugh at myself. Since noticing that, I am a lot more compassionate when I notice my dad getting distracted. My advice is to start doing this with acquaintances, and when you are ready for advanced studies in karma, move on to your partner or your parents. Sit with their most annoying qualities and ask yourself very honestly if you’re not also guilty of the same habits.

Watch your thoughts. To be ready for these humble openings, we need to make some space in our brains. Until we know what it feels like to be in balance, we won’t notice what it feels like to spiral out. Meditation is good for us, but it’s never going to work unless we actually do it. I talked about doing meditation for years, but only in this past year did I start my daily practice. Actually meditating is much harder and more awesome than talking about doing it. Start today. Set a timer for five minutes and watch your breath in and your breath out. If you get distracted, no big deal. Notice where you mind went and come back to the breath. As you do this for longer, you’ll notice the awe-inspiring busyness of your mind and the sweet spaces of quiet that we can cultivate, just by sitting there and listening.

Cultivate positive thoughts.  When we start to engage in these everyday practices, we eventually find there is no true or false, right or wrong—it’s just our perceptions. And the good news is that our perceptions can be the most malleable parts of our being. Social researcher Brene Brown has spent years interviewing people about shame and fear. From that data she unearthed a special brand of people that she refers to as “wholehearted,” people who have an abundance of love in their lives and feel lots of genuine appreciation for what they have going on in life. After years of this research, she found the one and only thing that set wholehearted people apart is the belief that they are worthy of love. That’s it—just one paper-thin thought is the most important indicator in how valuable we feel in the world.  Since thoughts lead to actions, which lead to reactions (i.e. karma), then it makes sense to start with cleaning up your thinking. Start by noticing what thoughts tear you down inside. When you find one that strikes a chord, pay attention and see if you can cultivate a positive opposition. “I’m not qualified to be here” can turn into “I don’t have to be perfect at this.” This is an important yogic technique called pratipaksha bhavanam that has been practiced for thousands of years. Like all these estoteric yogic and Buddhist ideas, I believe they are still used today because they make a lot of sense and actually work. We just have to do them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

"When you begin a picture, you often make some pretty discoveries. You must be on guard against these.  Destroy the thing, do it over several times. In each destorying of a beautiful discovery , the artist does not really suppress it, but rather transforms it, condenses it, make it more substational. What comes out in the end is the result of discarded finds. Otherwise, you become your own connoisseur. I sell myself nothing" 

--Pablo Picasso

Thursday, April 19, 2012

the answer (in case you were wondering)

the answer to all issues, problems and general lifeyness of life is LOVE! love love love, personally i can't get enough of the stuff. love you guys!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

in between the tropics

last morning sunrise in bermuda (aka paradise)

i loved bermuda, loved loved bermuda. i have lots of funny vintagey photos to share of the adventure but this one captures the essence of this sea-hugged nation of boats and pink shorts and limestone roofs. i'm off to florida now for mark and danielle's union now and feeling lucky for april travel (i've done it for three years now and it always feels like an easter rebirth to me). in the meantime, enjoy this poem (which is like a mini-rebirth, as perhaps all good poetry should be)

Inventing a horse is not easy.
One must not only think of the horse.
One must dig fence posts around him.
One must include a place where horses like to live;
or do when they live with humans like you.
Slowly, you must walk him in the cold;
feed him bran mash, apples;
accustom him to the harness;
holding in mind even when you are tired
harnesses and tack cloths and saddle oil
to keep the saddle clean as a face in the sun;
one must imagine teaching him to run
among the knuckles of tree roots,
not to be skittish at first sight of timber wolves,
and not to grow thin in the city,
where at some point you will have to live;
and one must imagine the absence of money.
Most of all, though: the living weight,
the sound of his feet on the needles,
and, since he is heavy, and real,
and sometimes tired after a run
down the river with a light whip at his side,
one must imagine love
in the mind that does not know love,
an animal mind, a love that does not depend
on your image of it,
your understanding of it;
indifferent to all that it lacks:
a muzzle and two black eyes
looking the day away, a field empty
of everything but witchgrass, fluent trees,
and some piles of hay.

--megan o'rourke

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

much ado about nothing

flowering jasmine blossom tea

i woke up with work on my mind this morning. there are postcards to be printed for the costa rica and memorial day yoga retreats, cds that need to be mailed out to photo clients, and this week i'm finishing up my class outlines for fem*ex, which i'll be co-facilitating at youthbuild dcpcs this spring. i feel lucky that i'm at a place where a morning of working on projects sends a shiver up my spine. as much as i curse technology sometimes, i do love sitting at my desk with a cup of tea and the feeling of accomplishment that checking a project off my to do list will give me.

of course, i can also look a little deeper and see that this compulsion to work may be coming from me getting ready to leave town on a vacation. yes, it's a vacation and it's to a tropical place! bermuda to be more exact. and while i am there i am not teaching yoga, massaging anyone, photographing anything (except what i like), visiting family or having any outward purpose except to relax, soak up sunshine and cargar las pilas. i'm excited! and also, i think my puritanical side is a little freaked out, hence wanted to dive into work.

for these past seven months or so i've been so so busy almost every weekend with yoga training and photography and teaching workshops. during that time i promised myself that once i had some free weekends i would let myself relax and really enjoy them. at first it was wonderful and little by little, i feel the need to "do" knocking at my door with it's tiny, steely knuckles. i felt it particularly this weekend when a photo job canceled and adam and i found ourselves with a free, beautiful day to play in dc. we walked around the loveliness of dumbarton oaks, drank tea at ching chang cha, saw the hunger games (loved it, even though i haven't read the books), and ate the best cupcakes in the sunshine down by the river. it's the afternoon i've always dreamed of but during it i had to keep telling myself that i was allowed to enjoy it and not work and spend a little hard-earned money on myself.

the view from our cupcake perch

adam at dumbarton oaks

i saw this quote yesterday and it helped me understand: "We’re not worthy, and we’re not unworthy. Worthiness has nothing to do with it. Life gives us everything, freely, with a generosity it’s hard for us to grasp. We don’t earn it. Our part is to say thank you and give back from the generosity that has given us so much." - Cheri Huber

so that's it. it's not a cycle of working to earn our free time, but rather it's an exercise in enjoying and accepting what comes to us. when i lived in peru, i felt like i had to navigate a lot of worlds. one weekend i would spend a day swimming in the pool of an embassy family in lima and then next i would be back with my host family eating bread and drinking weak tea by the fire stove. my mantra became to appreciate it all without comparison. right now i am in the cycle of relaxation and play and i'm gonna go with that, as best i can, until things get busy again--just because i can.

seeing mason jennings at the birchmere on sunday was beautiful!