Monday, August 30, 2010

The Three Journeys: (Part 1 of a 3 Part Series)



As I sit here listening to Neil Young on Pandora, I am smiling because I just got back from a date...a date with myself to see"Eat. Pray. Love." The book sits on my shelf, thoroughly read and worn and the movie was indeed a treat as well as a good dose of self-love, inspiration, laughter & tears.

As I sat there by myself surrounded by other amazing women, totally engrossed in the film, feeling tingly as Julia Roberts ate herself simple in Italy, bowed to a guru in India, and made sweet love to a Brazilian in Bali, I thought about my own personal journey and how I ended up here, in Seattle, working for a non-profit, being in love with an amazing man, and living in a community where I feel supported, loved, and intellectually challenged. In the movie, Liz Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts is eating with a group of friends in Italy, family style of course, and they start talking about their "word." The "word" is described as the word that describes who you are, not what you do. For example, it could be love, it could be grace, it could be peace. You get the point. 

Well, on my way home, I started thinking about my "word." So many came to mind: Change, Love, Patience, Grace, Inspire, Miracles. Then, as I put my key in my door, it came to me: Journey. Journey is my word. It sounds a bit cliche, but I think it fits. It feels right. Why Journey?

Ever since I can remember, I have always been curious. Searching. Learning. Exploring. I have always craved for change and a new challenge. I remember climbing Mt. Washington when I was 10 years old with my dad and my brother and got home and told my mom I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail when I graduated high school. I would flip through outdoor magazines, dreaming of the day when I had my own car and drivers license and I could pack up a backpack and escape for days on end. Well, fast forward 16 years and here I am, still passionate about adventure. About learning. About soaking up as much knowledge as possible. 

The Three Journeys that have shaped me and continue to mold me from the inside out are The Journey of Yoga, The Journey of Love, and The Journey of Blissful Livelihood. This blog post is a three part series so keep checking in to complete The Three Journeys with me. 

Part 1: The Journey of Yoga
There have been so many transformational moments in my life around yoga. The first time I stepped on a yoga mat was when I was 16 years old and I took a yoga class with my mom at the local hospital wellness center. The teacher was so incredibly graceful. She had gray hair and her skin was tanned but smooth. Her voice put me right to sleep and I experienced my first ever savasana (corpse pose) and I never looked back. Yoga has been an integral part of my life. It was the only way I could put my type A personality on the shelf for 60 minutes and just be. I met a Vinyasa (Flow) teacher in college and studied with her for two years. I had been struggling with depression and deep seeded grief. I couldn't sleep and I felt as though my head was always under water, just covering my ears so I couldn't hear anything but I could see everything. I was an observer of life and that first yoga class moved something so deep inside me that I felt alive again. 

I remember collapsing into Pigeon Pose, a very deep hip opener. Tears filled my eyes and started to stream down my face. My heart started to beat again and life slowly pumped through my veins. In November of 2007, my teacher took her own life. I was devastated and it took me a few months for me to get back on my yoga mat again. Each time I practice, I whisper her name and dedicate a smile full of life and light to her. She saved my life and I never told her in person but I know she knows.

My yoga practice has evolved since I was 16. I pick up my mat and have more fun. It is more of a playful practice and I don't get too serious with myself. I had a teacher in a class once that said, "Two Rules of Yoga: Smile when you wobble, laugh when you fall." I have a tendency to practice on grass & pavement, on a friends carpet, or in an office. I like to share yoga with others, including my partner who giggles with me as the dog licks my face in Cobra pose. A yoga mat lives in my car and the other day, I gave it to my campers to use as a sitting mat when it was pouring buckets on us.

Yoga books line my shelves and I have a subscription to Yoga Journal, compliments of my awesome brother who gives it to me every year for the holidays. I love yoga music and feel that no class should be without it. My favorite pose is headstand and I don't get to do it everyday. Yoga is the thread that always runs through me. It is always alive, even if I don't get to the mat everyday for a Sun Salutation. I still eat cheeseburgers, I watch reality TV once in awhile, and I enjoy the occasional glass of wine. I choose to stay under the warm covers with my man instead of waking up at 3:30am to meditate. 

For me, yoga is not about being rigid. Yoga helps me to adapt and be flexible, not just physically. It is one of the few activities where I can just be with myself, raw and open, totally and completely vulnerable. It is the journey that never ends. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How We Make Love Work

Today as I was heading back to Seattle on the ferry from Bainbridge Island, I witnessed the following: I was standing with my friend who has been visiting from Maine for the weekend on the top deck looking at the Seattle City Skyline and I just happened to glance down at the bottom deck where the cars and bikes were anxiously awaiting to disembark the ferry as soon as we arrived. The skyline was beautiful as it always is as you come in from the islands and see the skyscrapers and city life awaiting you. Then I saw a middle aged couple below on the car deck hand-off their camera to a bystander and ask to get their picture taken while the ferry sped to the terminal. The wind was blowing the woman's hair and the man took her in his arms and kissed her while the bystander took the photo. The woman was smiling and I knew that under her sunglasses, her eyes were that of a puppy adoring its best friend.

In my head, I thought to myself, "Wow. That is love at work." Then I started thinking about this a little bit more. It got me thinking, "How do we make love work?"

The man and I are co-reading Dr. John Gray's book, "When Mars & Venus Collide: How Men & Women Cope Differently with Stress and its Effects on Relationships." 
I just finished the book tonight and I must admit, I learned a TON! So getting back to the question at hand, "How Do We Make Love Work?" I started delving into some deep thoughts about how we do make it work and how we also don't make it work, for both ourselves and our partners. See my "4 Revelations" below.

#1. Patience
I have turned the corner in my revelations that things don't happen overnight. Well, some things do, but most things that are important to us don't happen overnight. Also, we must be careful not to rush our partners or rush to a solution around a conflict. I know that continuing down a dangerous path of saying mean things and being a jerk and then making a quick but sarcastic apology DOESN'T work.

We must also give ourselves permission to take time for ourselves to nourish our souls and spirits. This is also true with our livelihood. If you know me personally, you know that I am a huge proponent of following your bliss and creating work that is purposeful, meaningful, and work that lights you up everyday. It takes some patience. I promise.

#2. The Little Things
After spending some quality time with Dr. John Gray, I now see the importance of the little things that we do for ourselves and our partners that add up and make a big difference. For instance, the man totally scheduled an impromptu date night at my favorite pizza joint in Seattle the other night, then after we got home, totally cleaned the inside of my windshield with window cleaner while I grabbed some stuff to go to a staff meeting. YES! A little thing that made a HUGE difference! The man is constantly going above and beyond in the little things: Oil Changes, fresh orange juice, opening the door at the grocery store, giving me $20 for gas, just being a great man.

In terms of doing things for ourselves, it can be anything. Taking a break and playing an online game of solitaire and beating the computer, buying flowers for yourself at the farmers market every Saturday (my new favorite thing to do), or breathing for five minutes a day. It is sooooo important that we make the little things a priority in this hectic, speed crazed life we are living.

#3. The Thank You
The man and I have been together for almost 6 months and we have been privileged to experience being best friends first, then lovers totally immersed in the honeymoon period, and now partners and teammates that don't always play so well together at times :) First of all, it's okay that its not perfect all the time. It never will be, but that is why it is imperative that we don't get too comfortable with the people in our lives and take them for granted. At the end of the day, the only thing we got is our people. We have to stick together because connection and compassion will get us through. Boo Yeah! Soooo, when was the last time you sent a thank you note for a gift you received? What about thanking your partner? What about thanking your boss & organization for the opportunity to work for them? GIVE THANKS...NOW!
Book Recommendation: "Living Life as a Thank You"

#4. If Your Not In Communication, Then Your Doomed
We hear it in every self-help book, every transformational seminar, every therapist, mediator, coach, etc. COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE. I know that personally, I expect everyone, including my man to be able to read my mind. Yep, I do know he doesn't have the superpower to do so, yet I expect it. Ha! Well, the joke is on me. I am slowly learning that if I need something, I have to speak up and that goes for every damn area in my life. Finances, job, relationship, family, spiritual development, my business, etc. I get to choose what I want and how I communicate it.
________________________________________________________________________________
So, with all of that said, my "4 Revelations" aren't rocket science and they are not only for relationships. I started this post with the question about how we make love work. It is totally and ultimately up to us how we love our lives, every area of our lives. We have to step out on a limb, pull that someone or something into our arms when its windy, kiss it on the cheek, await to disembark and love it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thankful for My Feet: A Lesson in Self-Care

Let me first start off with the fact that this summer has been absolutely amazing. I am working in a position that allows me to follow my passion, I get to be outside 8+ hours everyday, and I have my nights and weekends off. Also, if you know me, you observe the ego trip I get from having an AMAZING Chaco Tan. (See Below)So every morning I hop out of bed, do my "Get Ready" routine, strap on my Chacos, and out the door I go with my Stainless Steel Mug filled with Herbal Tea. At night, it's pretty much the same, only in reverse. Take off the Chacos, smile at the tan lines that are getting more defined by the day, shower, and have a cup of tea before bed.

Well last night, my tootsies were not doing so hot. After a long day of being in Chacos, I strapped on my sneakers and took the Friday night Zumba Class and did some strength training. I got home, threw the Tennis Shoes aside, showered and then I sat down, then I got hungry. So I got up to make some dinner and immediately sat back down. YIKES! A shooting/stabbing/ice pick sensation shot through my right foot and I pretty much collapsed. Hmmmm...what is this all about?

Well I did some thinking as I stuck some frozen veggies right on the top of my foot and enjoyed some much deserved Netflix. Now, I will be the first to admit that my feet are quite ugly. They are not precious little Cinderella feet by any means. They have character. The toenails aren't painted all the time, I have large callouses, I recovered from a flesh eating fungus that I had been battling for like 4 years, and I like to walk outside a lot in barefeet and sandals.

I thought about how my feet have served me so well since I took my first steps 25 years ago. They have been my ultimate vehicle, getting me to places on time, getting to the top of mountains, the valleys of deserts, climbing frozen waterfalls, scrambling up sandstone, being stuck in heels for proms, semi formals, and graduations, walking the streets of Puerto Rico, bouldering in Utah, sinking in the sand on beaches in Maine, tiptoeing through the door post curfew, and also, running for miles as an athlete. I have been hard on them and they in turn have been great to me.

So, with all that said about my feet, the ultimate learning lesson is that I am getting better at managing my self-care. I am learning that the downtime is just as important as "Life in Action." I am learning to think about how much time I spend on my feet and how much time I am spending off of them. This self-care thing is relatively new to me. I have been the typical Type-A, go go go woman for so long and it is nice to see what the other side has to offer. I am learning to treat myself in small ways that bring a smile to my face and a deep breath to my lungs. Incorporating the simple pleasures has been something I am exploring as the summer progresses. My hope is that this lesson will follow me for a very long time since I am now at the point of recognizing its importance.

It is important to follow your heart and take the necessary "footsteps" to get there but be sure to remember to soak your feet once in awhile and close your eyes and think about all the wonderful places those feet have taken you. They, like yourself, deserve a break too.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why Marriage Doesn't Scare Me Anymore

The title of this post alone may have you wondering, "Hmmm...what the hell is she talking about?" Well, first off, don't worry. I don't have any news or anything like that but I do have a few thoughts on the topic. Let me start by saying that marriage is all around me in some form or another. Some things are merely presenting themselves as straight up commitment, especially when the going gets tough.

When I was in my early teens, I would go around and make some very big statements about marriage and kids. I was always spouting off, "I am never getting married! I never want kids! Who needs that stuff? You have to give up your life and who wants to do that?" Well, fast forward 12 years and here I am in a happily committed relationship to a man I love more than ice cream, more than the Red Sox, more than lobster. He is the light of my life and he makes my world just a better place to be in. He knows the words I can't say just right and thinks it is cute, he smiles when I take my Chacos off after a day at work and show off the progressive tan lines. He is fascinated at how much I eat. We schedule couples night in our Google Calendars and it has a "Never End" date. This is my man and lately I am starting to see that this is the man I want to spend many years with, happily and not so happily, to travel with, to swim in the ocean with, to walk the dog with, to cook with, and to laugh with.

Granted, marriage is about a lot more than traveling and laughing. It is one of the biggest rites of passage people go through. Now, let me be clear, marriage comes in all shapes and sizes, colors, and traditions. I am not talking about churches, white dresses, and huge cakes. What I am talking about is a deep, intimate, celebration and intention that two people make and declare that they will be there for each other, no matter what the case may be. It's very much like "I got your back if you got mine."

I have the privilege of witnessing some of the most amazing women I know prepare to take this next big leap in life and love and I am so incredibly happy for them. My cousin asked me to be in her wedding which is next April and she is two years my junior. I am so happy for her and her fiancĂ© and I know that their friendship has served a foundation for what will be a magical and blissful marriage.

My colleague just had a bridal shower and she is so blissfully in love, that it makes me tingle on the inside. Her deep understanding and intentionality behind her relationship with her man and her marriage got me really thinking about how I show up for my own man. Her mom made a great analogy about their relationship. She said that her daughter is like white water in a river and her soon to be son-in law is the stable rock right in the middle, does not move, does not erode, just stands stable and strong and supportive. I thought, "Wow, my hope is that all human beings find that. We all need our rock."

Marriage isn't only about people. Sometimes we are faced with a choice of whether to commit or not on whatever we are doing. It can be a spiritual practice, a writing project, a new career step, a fitness goal, a relationship with a family member. We all must commit ourselves to something and whatever it is, passion, trust, and openness must lie at the heart of that commitment.

So I leave with this: Marriage used to scare me, not in the traditional sense, but because I was scared of committing to something. I was still in the space of exploration and openness with ideas and curiosity. In my own personal growth and maturity, I am finding that commitment makes me light up from the inside because I know that when I commit from my heart, I am fired up from the core.

What lights you up and what commitment are you making in your world?