Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: How Do You Wish To Be Brave?

I used to think being brave meant the ability to jump off cliffs into crystal clear lakes. I used to think being brave meant climbing really hard routes on sandstone, mountain biking in Moab on slick-rock, and rafting under a full moon. Fats forward 5 years and now the word brave has taken on an entirely new meaning. 

I wish to brave by...
 Telling the people in my life that I love them and send them good vibes each and every day.
Taking my writing & creativity seriously, not just something "I like to do once in awhile."
Setting healthy boundaries in my life.
Knowing that it is okay to say no and to say yes.
Telling myself it's okay to not have all the answers.
Putting myself first on my priorities list.
Aspiring to be the best I can be.
Living my life as if every day is my absolute last.
Engaging in small acts of love.
Sitting with uneasy feelings and letting them move through me rather than fighting them away.
Following my bliss.

I am reading "Living Your Yoga," by Judith Hansen Lasater and I finished the chapter on Faith. She says that Faith is the cousin of Courage. Faith is the "juice" that drives you in your pursuits when you may not know what the end result will look or feel like. This is being brave.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

21 Days: The Monkey Mind Meditation Challenge

Monkey Mind Meditation Challenge

I am a huge fan of the beautiful, sexy, smart, sassy, Kris Carr. She was diagnosed with cancer a couple years ago, reformed her whole lifestyle around holistic care, a vegan diet, and a revamp of her spiritual self. Her most recent book, Crazy Sexy Diet was on the NY Times Bestseller list and it sits on my desk and I paw through it daily. She is a goddess. Go visit her site right now You will be transformed.

In January, she hosted a 21 Day Cleanse. February was a shake your booty challenge, a focus on exercise and getting your but in gear. April is about cleansing the mind with a 21 day meditation challenge. Simply put: Find time everyday over the next 21 days to meditate. One of my goals this spring is to start a meditation practice and what better way to start. I like these challenges. They motivate me, give me a goal, structure, and deadlines. And when you think about it, its only 21 days, 3 weeks. Just long enough to establish a habit. :)

A wise mentor of mine always told me that before you step foot into any new adventure, problem, challenge, project, etc., it is important to establish an intention. My Intention for this challenge: To develop a consistent and sustainable meditation practice that I can stick to for the rest of my life.

Yes, it seems lofty, big, too complicated, to boxed in but its not. I have meditated in the past, I know its good for my brain, for my soul, for my work, for my mental health, for my sleep, for my relationships. Like vegetables, you can't have too much.

Today was Day 1. I sat on my cushion after my yoga practice for 12 minutes. 12 minutes is nothing in the world I live in. On a daily basis, 12 minutes flies by, especially when working with kids. 12 minutes is about the time it takes me to shower. 12 minutes is about the time it takes me to commute to work. 12 minutes on my meditation cushion seems like a lifetime. 

Observations: It felt so good to sit in silence, just me, by myself, with my breath, with my crazy brain and the thoughts its married to. My thoughts are simply a ticker tape, just going by, one at a time, no attachment to the thoughts about smoothies, cleaning the house, packing my lunch, my dirty feet, the pizza in the oven, blah, blah, blah. The Self Discovery realization: I am coming into my own. This spring is about blooming, being strong, establishing roots and being grounded. Huh. I got that in 12 minutes? 

Stay tuned for more meditation reports. 

One more thing: come join me. 

Dear World...Meet Lauren

When I was in college, I was hardcore. I would get out on the weekends, take big risks, cliff jumping into lakes, mountain biking in Moab, climbing & rappelling at night, sea kayaking on Lake Powell, white water rafting under a full moon and skiing in waist deep powder 4 days a week. I received my degree in Outdoor Recreation with an emphasis in Leadership & Instruction. I knew as soon as I set foot in my first recreation class, I wanted to help people grow as professionals and as human beings in adventure based programming. Now as a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do specifically with my life, and now, almost 27 years old, I still don't know what I exactly want to do.

But here's what I do know: As an experiential educator, I strive to not only provide dynamic experiences in safe environments for individuals, but I am constantly seeking out ways to guide individuals into the "growth zone" as one might call it. As humans, we have a tendency to sit with the comfortable on a day to day basis and that seems to work for us. We like our comforts, we like "knowing," and we sometimes don't do well with change. We have a tendency to be hard on ourselves, painting little perfect pictures of what success should look like, we determine at an early age that winning is better than losing, and sometimes we find ourselves asking, "At what cost?" The following is a true story. A single moment I had the privilege of witnessing and being in the presence of. It was so profound, so unbelievable, that it literally moved me to tears.

One of my staff who works at the indoor climbing wall at the Y approached me a couple weeks ago about bringing a group of 24 adults ranging in age from 18-21 years old.These adults are part of the Shoreline Community Based Transition Program. This program helps individuals with physical and mental disabilities learn job skills, living skills, and relationship skills in order to be functioning and contributing adults in an ever changing world.

A few weeks ago, 10 of these individuals came to the rock wall to climb and it was completely new territory for everyone. It was one of the best professional experiences I have ever been part of. It was great.

Fast froward three weeks: Now, I was going to be hosting 24 individuals with disabilities ranging from Cerebral Palsy to Developmental Delays, to Autism, to Down Syndrome. They were all going to be climbing on the wall. Yep. I was bordering on my growth and panic zone boundaries for sure. Have you ever had that feeling where everything is super chaotic around you and somehow you find peace and solace and feel nothing but grounded? That's exactly how Friday felt.

All of these wonderful, happy, smiling individuals walked into the lobby of the Y, excited, pulling out their membership cards ready to get the show on the road. We walked down to the gym and this amazing energy just grew. It was nothing special-just a bunch of people coming together for a common experience getting excited. We kicked off with a few fun icebreakers to get to know each other. I mingled around smiling from ear to ear listening to what people had to say about their favorite pizza topping and their favorite ice cream flavor. And then little did I know I was about to meet the person who would change my life Lauren.
Stone Or Hill Climbing Clip Art

Lauren is an African-American female in her early twenties. Lauren lives her life with severe Cerebral Palsy, no function of her right side including her hand and arm, and also has a developmental disability. Lauren has no problem walking around independently and her voice...her voice sounds of confidence, strength, and pure grace.

The question for the icebreaker was about having any wish you wanted granted.
Lauren came up to me and put out her right hand, "Hi. My name is Lauren and if I could have any wish granted in the world, it would be to run as fast as I can." I stuck out my hand, "Hi. My name is Jen and if I could have any wish granted in the world, it would be to travel around the world for a year."  "Why don't you?" Lauren asked me with a smile. I smiled back, thinking to myself that this woman knows her shit.

For the first time in a long time, I was nervous. I wasn't worried about keeping the group safe. I wasn't worried about having enough staff support. I was nervous about the end results. What were these individuals going to get out of this? Would they be okay physically? As an experiential educator, I am always thinking two, three, four steps ahead. How is this going to fit? How can I frame? How can I sequence? What's the question to ask here? How can I balance being empowering and instructional? Some of the climbers had been with us in the first round of climbing a few weeks back and had no problem stepping right up and demonstrating for the others bouldering and putting on the equipment.

Lauren came up to me, completely serious, about 6" from my face, "Jen, I want to climb. I can do it." I looked at my staff and had another staff come over. Lauren started off bouldering, climbing without a rope, and got about 6" off the ground. She fell off the wall simply because she couldn't hold her weight. Did it bother her? Hell know. She proceeded to say, "I want on the rope. Get me on a rope-I can climb the wall."

I harnessed Lauren up as she put both of her hands on my head and stepped through the leg loops. I put a helmet on her and walked her over to the rope. In that moment, it was her and I-nobody else existed in those next 20 minutes. I was kneeling down, looking up at her-my eyes locking with hers. That trust you get when you know someone has got your back-thats what happened. I had her back, and she had mine. I knew she was not going to freak out. I knew this would be a positive experience for her and she hadn't even started climbing yet. Two male staff were on either side of her to help get her started. I was belaying her and within seconds, she was a foot off the ground. Remember, Lauren has no use of her right arm or hand. She can only climb with three points of contact. And she went...UP. Two feet, three feet, five feet, six feet off the ground. Her legs straightened, she was reaching, pulling, using really good technique.

She looked down at me and the rest of the group. Her smile lit the place like the Vegas strip. "I DID IT! LOOK AT ME! I DID IT!" She gave me the thumbs up to be lowered. I lowered her gracefully to the ground. I couldn't see anything. My eyes were blurry, I felt hot, like I couldn't breathe. My hands were shaking. I was crying.

"THAT WAS AWESOME!" Lauren exclaimed. "THAT WAS SO AWESOME! I DID IT. I WON! JEN, I DID IT! I CLIMBED HIGH!" I was speechless. I unclipped her and walked her over to get her harness and helmet off. I was beyond moved, inspired. I was rocked to my core. My soul was turned upside down and inside out. This is what inspiration feels like.

Dear World,
Meet Lauren. Lauren taught me that success is so much more than achieving something. Lauren taught me that to be comfortable takes grace, courage, sparkle. It takes guts to be in this world. It takes guts to be a human being walking on this planet with 6.9 billion other people. It takes something to walk up to someone, put out your hand and tell them your name and the biggest wish you have ever had. It takes a big person to get in someone else's face and tell them what you want, what you need in order to be happy. It takes a hell of a lot of heart to try something most people would never let you near.

Lauren taught me that it's no big deal to go all in with your bets on trusting some hot shot 26 year old "hardcore" woman with your life while you climb this 30 foot vertical tower. Being hardcore is just stepping up and doing it, even in the face of the world telling you no. Out of all the people in this world I have ever met, big mountain skiers, free climbers, cliff jumpers, white water boaters, Lauren is the most hardcore of all.

Thank you Lauren. I hope we can climb again together soon.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Things I Am Loving Right Now...

It's Thursday. The sun is struggling to appear. I popped out of bed eager to get my day started. Heading to morning coffee with The Man after an incredible date night last night down at a little neighborhood Mediterranean restaurant where he had lamb kabob and I, Gnocchi with a glass of Chianti. Realizing in that moment sitting across from him, how much I love him, all of him, even his tiny flaws like oversleeping the alarm, drinking juice out of the container, and his unbelievable collection of cords, cables, and electronic supplies stacked neatly in the basement and categorized. I am thankful for his ability to support me by listening and by being a mentor, by encouraging me to shoot for the stars with my dreams to write a book, become a yoga teacher, and more. With love comes being loving. 

20 Things I am Loving Right Now...
2. Journaling before bed religiously 
3. Quiet mornings by myself
4. Listening to Jamie Ridler's Podcasts while walking the dog
6. Glasses of wine with dinner
7. Fresh strawberries
8. Cooking on the weekends
9. Working on my blog
10. Creating full moon dreamboards
11. Browsing the library in silence
12. Taking the kids I work with outside and seeing them totally immersed in play
13. Sun, warmth, spring, and longer days
14. Weekend phone chats with my mom
15. Not multitasking
16. Being confident in creating boundaries
17. Moving slower
18. Passion...for everything
19. Letting my inner creative artist come to life
20. Being okay with what is

What are 20 things you are loving right now?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: How Do You Wish To Sparkle?

It's so funny that this prompt came up today because at the start of 2011, my theme for the year was SPARKLE. I wanted to take on this idea of standing out and living powerfully in all areas of my life: love, work, money, friends, family, writing, health & wellness, and spirituality. I wanted to step it up a notch. 

Lately, I have been in a funk, working through some stuff, not feeling super healthy as a head cold took over my life for the past 4 days. When I get sick, I don't feel super sparkly. I have been on an emotional rollercoaster of sorts, dealing with where I stand in the world, asking myself, "What do I really want right now? What does my body really need right now?" I am 99.9% sure that this is what happens when spring peaks its head around the corner. The winter was rough-grey, dark, rainy. And now, I am feeling my vitality juice start to flow again in my veins as the sun hits my skin on walks outside. 

I wish to sparkle in having a renewed sense of bliss, power, and vitality in all areas of my life. I want to commit to a spiritual practice, get superfit, play more, laugh more, and spend more time doing the things that matter most to me. I wish for energy again, good health, and moments of pure relaxation and do nothingness. I want to be present in all areas of my life and choose intentionality over just getting things done. I want to sweat more, eat good food, and get dressed up for date night again. Embracing my feminine spirit while balancing the active, get dirty part of my self. Simply smiling more will add to my sparkle.

This is such a good reminder for me to move on from the grey, dark, rainy energy and move towards the sunny, vibrant, spring. I took on Sparkle as a theme for 2011 and there is no better time than right now. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Full Worm Moon: A Dreamboarding Exercise

Jamie Ridler, an amazing artist has turned me on to "Full Moon Dreamboards." A lot of the current stuff I am reading right now in terms of spirituality and creativity talks a lot about the cycles of the moon and how our energy shifts depending on where the moon is at anytime during the month. At first, this was a little "too out there" for me, but as I looked at things more closely, it is exactly what I have been needing. 

This weekend marked the first day of spring. Yes, the grass is green, things are starting to warm up, the sun feels so good on parched, winter skin, and people are outside again, hitting baseballs, running, and lighting up their barbecues. This weekend was also a full moon and I decided to embark on a little exercise:

"When I first heard the phrase “Full Worm Moon,” I was less than enthusiastic, but as I discovered that this March moon is when the earth starts to soften and the burrowers of her soil find their way to the surface, I started to change my mind. What if we took our cue from spring and allowed ourselves to soften? What if we let what’s within us find its way to the surface? What tender dreams would be revealed? Under this Full Worm Moon, open your awareness. Pay attention to the the dreams that are wiggling their way to the surface. What wishes are asking for your attention? What is beginning to emerge? Let your dreamboard guide the way." -Jamie Ridler

So I got my collage supplies out tonight and started to create in silence. I just listened and became visually engaged in images and words and the final product hits so close to home. My emerging wishes for this full moon heading into spring:

-Lots, lots, lots of self-love, self-care, and self-nurturing through the things I love doing: writing, being outside, being upside down, and being creative. The "fresh lemon spirit" made me uber excited to invest in some yummy citrus shower gel.

-Being open, receptive, and accepting to all that happens. I really want to start a consistent meditation practice for 15 minutes a day and just being open to what I will find makes me feel even more at peace. 

-Living boldly in all areas of my life and taking on the possibility of being sexy & bold. Incorporating & matching my go-getting attitude with a soft feminine spirit (hence the high heel).

Spring reminds us all that we are growing, always in process, and arriving at new ground. I look forward to what will open up and bloom. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wishcasting Wednesday: What Do You Wish For The World?

I found Jamie Ridler during one of my late night browsing sessions and love her work. Her podcast is fantastic and every Wednesday on her blog, she poses a prompt called "Wishcasting" for people to answer on their blogs and post a link on her site. I am going to start integrating Wishcasting Wednesdays into my blog and I hope you enjoy them. Today, her question is: What Do You Wish For The World?

I wish that all people found work and livelihood they absolutely love being engaged in.
I wish for immense, limitless love between humans, government, countries, and cultures.
I wish for our children to be heard as they are sometimes our greatest teachers.
I wish for globalized healthcare.
I wish for hunger, poverty, war, disease, and homelessness to cease. 
I wish for healthy work-life balance where relationships are nurtured.
I wish for our environment to be nurtured and protected and conserved.
I wish for all humans everywhere to know that they have the power to make a difference.

Friday, March 11, 2011

daffodils: why they have to do with everything

I came home last night after having a wonderful sit down chat with a friend at a local Mexican restaurant where we nibbled endlessly on chips and salsa and sipped diet coke. We laughed at our current life happenings, shared endlessly about life, love, work, the everyday. We reminisced about the company we both used to work for and commented about how time goes by so fast. Female spirit and energy-the recipe for joy. It was so good to be in that flow of conversation, to trust and lean in and really listen. 

Last night I came home and after some quick talk with The Man, he said, "I have good news and I have bad news." I proceeded to say, "Well, give me the bad news." "Well, the daffodils we planted haven't started coming up yet and they should be." "And the good news?" I asked. "Well the tulips we planted are coming up."Without hesitation, I simply said, "When they're ready, they will come up," and walked into the bedroom to change and then sat down to join him on the couch for a movie. 

Now, it's the morning after and I am sitting here with my hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea. I just returned from my morning woods walk with Ginger where a light rain pelted us as we raced up the dirt hill along the creek, water flowing and rushing exclaiming, "Spring is almost here!" I stopped mid-track and observed little green buds on these delicate branches completely open and waiting, inviting the sun and the warmth to push them along to full blossom. Just waiting in the moment-not forced, not anxious, just waiting for that perfect moment. 


I think back to where I was a year ago. The Man and I had just started dating and things were incredibly new and fresh. Love was totally encompassing. I knew that after I had experienced such a traumatic crisis, I was putting myself back together, piece by piece physically, mentally, and emotionally. I remember thinking to myself that I would not date or be in a relationship for at least a year until I got my shit back in check. Well, sometimes as most of us know, our ideal plans shift and change and morph and move. I ended up falling in love with my best friend and I was ready. I was ready to grow and bloom and be on a team again with someone who had my back. I was like a daffodil, waiting until the exact perfect moment to be in the world again. So with that said, the daffodils will sprout and bloom...when they are ready.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

20 things I am loving right now

This morning, I woke up to a very quiet house. The Man left early this morning for work leaving the dog and I in dream land. Oh so nice....I am having one of those blissful mornings-waking up slowly, putting on my slippers and shawl and settling in to write. I am drinking the remnants of a very berry smoothie I made yesterday and looking out the window to fog and a lighter shade of gray in the sky. I am happy. After finishing this post, I will get changed and bring the dog for a walk in the woods.

things I am Loving right now:
1. date night to small little Seattle restaurants
2. reading really good spiritual stuff before bed
3. herbal tea in the morning and at night
4. kickboxing class
5. smoothies
6. sending cards to people I love
7. my new deck of Angel cards
8. cuddling with our dog Ginger
9. cleaning out my car
10. a slower pace
11. not multitasking while I am on the phone
12. salads for lunch
13. blank calendar space in my planner
14. laughing with The Man
15. watching movies in bed on my laptop
16. chocolate peanut butter ice cream
17. playing with watercolor & collage
18. going with the flow
19. learning from children
20. letting go of expectations

Simply making a quick list of 20 will serve as a gratitude point and remind you that the small things add up and make our days SPARKLE.

What are you loving right now?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

a lesson in getting present

It's Saturday night, The Man is working, I just finished watching the new Karate Kid starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith's kid, which by the way, I enjoyed very much, and now, I am writing. One of my goals in 2011 is to create 100 posts on my blog which requires the transition from dreaming to doing. Man, I have been sitting in that space a lot lately. Dreaming about a lot and not doing a hell of a lot. Hmmm...perhaps a bad case of the winter blahs? Procrastination monster attack? The basic fact that I am an animal and should be hibernating this time of year? Well, whatever it is, it is so hard to get motivated lately. Anybody feelin' me out there? Not only is it hard to get motivated but it is hard to F-O-C-U-S! So hard.

Today I wrapped up my basketball season with the 4th & 5th grade girls I coach at the Y on a volunteer basis.
Side note/Fast Fact: Some of you know that basketball was a huge part of my life for over 10 years. My motto in high school was Eat, sleep, drink basketball. The winter has been about basketball since 4th grade for me either playing or coaching.

Well today was our last game and before I headed out, I was at the house being all ADD, working on a project for a few minutes, then a phone call, then cleaning the kitchen, then writing out a card, then lying down in the bed...all in a matter of like 20 minutes.

After observing this little situation for about 10 minutes, The Man exclaimed, "Wow. You are having a really hard time being present. What's going on with you?"
Instead of jumping down his throat for such a blatant (and true) criticism, I literally sat down on the bed and said, "I know. I don't know what's going on. I feel so disjointed, like things aren't clicking. Like my brain and body are completely disconnected. I feel like I have a hangover but without the alcohol."

Getting present. I first started exploring what it means to get present when I first started exploring Buddhism and Eastern philosophies when I was 16 years old. I heard the fastest way to get present is just check in with your breath. Obviously, fast forward 10 years later and here I am still struggling. It's not that easy...or is it? Is it possible to overthink the idea of being present? I am starting to lean this way. Maybe it is just a quick check in with ourselves-where is my mind right now? Am I grounded? Is my breath deep or shallow? How am I doing, really?

When I was in college I took a Buddhism class and hated it. It wasn't what I thought it would be at all. I remember falling asleep twice and skipping a few classes to be with my boyfriend. It was so dry, so boring-I wanted more practices and less history, blah, blah, blah....well, what I failed to realize was at the time, I should have stepped up and said, "This class isn't what I expected. I would like to withdraw." Instead, I avoided the reality and skirted around, wasting my own time and not being real. Getting present is exactly like that-getting real with what is especially when things become difficult.
Bringing it back home: So, tonight, I got some simple stuff done-washing the dishes. As the Buddhist saying goes, "When you wash dishes, just wash the dishes." Enjoying restful time and a great flick. And writing. These are my self-care strategies today. They won;t work every time and some days I need different stuff but I listened and got present to what I felt I needed at the particular moment.

I challenge you to listen, really listen, to how you are doing, really. If the answer is, 'I'm fine,' ask again and keep asking until you really know what your body and your mind need at this particular moment to get present again.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

the magical moment

right now the wind is so violent. outside, the howling is intense, big, scary. makes me not want to leave the comforts of our apartment. the man sleeps soundly, the dog is drinking out of her bowl. i just finished a bagel and tea and i am getting ready to go to work. late start today-gotta take advantage of morning bliss. yesterday i took a day off and it was magical. i started the say with some yummy restorative yoga. it was just me, my mat, my bolster, and a beautiful yoga cd the man got me for christmas.

i sat in seated wide legged forward bend, my yoga blocks stacked just enough to rest my forehead on them. wow. tension in the back of my neck-just observing. tension getting more intense-noticing. my hips are tight-understanding. my lower back is screaming-witnessing. then all of a sudden, something shifted. all the tension dissipated-magic. this was pure magic. i let out a deep moan and sat in this space of being tension-less. i sank deeper down into the asana, opening up. my back let go, space was created in my heart and my hips and neck.

this is why i do yoga. creating the space for opening-i got that concept yesterday rather than muscling through. this was what i needed-observing, being the witness, noticing all the feelings, the tension, the screaming of my muscles and body from neglect. breathe in breathe out. that is all there is and trusting that when you are ready to let go, something magical happens-you let go.