Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why I Write

Recently, I have added a new practice into my morning routine. In addition to my meditation and a few gentle stretches and breathing practices, I have been sitting down at my desk and writing. It has been taking more of a journaling format and I think I spend 10-15 minutes jotting down things, but I will say it has been extremely nourishing and a lovely new practice that not only brings me lots of joy, but is creating a sense of spaciousness as well. 

This morning, I was at my desk, really settling into the groove and since it was Saturday, I spent some extra time with the writing. One of the things that showed up at the forefront of my mind as well as on the page was this question/inquiry of why I write. The question came from a place of pure inquiry, no judgement at all, but really took the role of witness. So I played with it for a bit and through my day today, I continued to come back to the question itself over and over and when something starts to dig into me, I like to put on my detective badge and do some digging. 

Let's go back in time. I remember clearly taking a few creative writing classes growing up, outside of school. I remember how fearless I was in writing, sharing, getting the feedback, and then going back to the page and reworking things. I always had journals and notebooks, filled with my observations about life, my experiences living as a human on the planet. Some of my greatest memories were being in my room on a Sunday afternoon with a fresh notebook and pen just writing at my desk. 

I remember writing speeches and participating in essay contests with Toastmaster groups for scholarships, and also writing for my high school newspaper when I was a freshman and the whole paper was run by juniors and seniors. Little fear. High amounts of confidence. The topics were relatively concrete...very easy to come up with things, facts, and opinions. And then in college, writing was more about getting to a desired result, a grade, or a deadline. I could pump papers out in my sleep, it never bothered me as it did some of my friends and classmates. 

And then when I was dealing with my own emotional turmoil in college, my personal writing took a turn. My journals were dark, scattered with thoughts that would make people cringe, anger and sadness saturated page after page. Being with my thoughts at times was uneasy and so I took time away from my personal writing practice and really threw myself into my yoga studies. After graduating from college, I took my trip to Nepal and my journal was my rock. It allowed me to process a deeply transformative experience in being in a developing country for three weeks. I was also traveling along and so having my journal made me feel connected to something bigger than myself. 

Moving to Seattle in 2007 was also a deeply transformative time. I was leaving the comfortable bubble that college provided and really heading out on my own to become an adult. All of this led me to starting my blog.

My first post on this blog was on February 7, 2008, almost seven years ago. I started it as a way to bring my writing out into the world, not caring at all about readers, followers, making money from a blog, or having any huge goals around it. It was a vehicle to develop my own practice and craft and get a deeper sense of what it means to bring my thoughts and musings into the light, a very vulnerable act. Since then, I have had highly productive spurts of posts and then periods of nothing for months at a time, usually because I had let life gobble me up, not creating the space for the craft. I intentionally don't create a strategy for the blog because I feel it's so important to follow what's in front of me and what's in my heart. Having the blog is a great exercise for in not being attached to outcomes and certain results, a very counter-intuitive way of being for me personally. 

So...now, I ask myself the question again...why do I write? Well, I write for lots of reasons; clarity, finding my voice, uncovering the unseeable, processing challenging interactions, looking at the world through a new lens. But the real reason I write is that it gives me such peace and contentment to take the thoughts in my head and get them out, letting them go like a child throwing a penny into a wishing fountain. Some of the stuff I write, nobody will ever see and some of the stuff I put out here on the blog can be considered crap. And at the end of the day, if I can find a little more space to be open and vulnerable in a world that is so confronting, then maybe, just maybe others will too. 

Happy writing.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

2015: Desires. Plans. Intentions. Goals

Sunrise on the Ganges, India Trip, 2014
Well here we all are, three weeks into 2015 and I feel like I am finally finding my groove. I felt a bit like I was a steam train, slow moving at first but now strong and steady, moving into this year feeling so inspired and grateful for the abundance I so often see in my own life when I pause, breathe, and really see what is all around me.

I heard something on a podcast recently that mentioned this idea of the feelings of a new year being available to us every single day, when the sun rises. We have the opportunity to create and step into what is possible the moment we open our eyes in the morning. I found that to be a great reminder in how we approach living our lives with full intention.

I wrote about my lessons from 2014 already and have been brewing some mega magic around discovering and mapping out my 2015. Normally, I would have pushed myself to get all my visioning and goal setting done before the end of 2014, yet this year was different. With The Man being sick over the holiday and resettling back from India, I just wasn't really ready and now I know better than to force. So, here I am, three weeks into the new year and I am so excited to share about my four overarching themes and some desires & goals for 2015.

1. Design & Live a Spacious Life. This is number one this year. For those of you who have listened to my stories of India, this was my biggest takeaway & personal learning from my trip. I got on the plane in Seattle totally burnt out like a crispy french fry; dull, bland, and not desirable. I am really out to create more space in my life in all areas:

  • Living with less...clutter, clothing, stuff, commitments, etc.
  • Keeping one weekend day completely free & open each week
  • Cutting down on mind numbing social media browsing (I hope you might join me in my own FFF-February Facebook Fast)
  • Renew my relationship with rest

2. Create Sacred, Loving, Partnership. A year ago, I was getting ready to take my Yoga Teacher Training exam and despite the many days and nights of studying anatomy and Sanskrit, The Man surprised me with a weekend getaway to Leavenworth, WA (a quaint, Bavarian Village which is super cute in the winter) and proposed to me on a sleigh ride. This year, we are getting married and I couldn't be more excited about walking the path of partnership with my best friend.

  • Carving out deliberate, intentional quality time with The Man. This includes our weekly date night and time spent on the weekends together.
  • Creating health and wellness together; cooking more and being active together.
  • Enjoy the planning and designing of our ceremony and reception, keeping our values of fun, integrity, and connection at the forefront of our decisions. 
  • Surrounding ourselves with other relationships that are nurturing and that bring us true joy, both independent of each other and together.
  • Cultivate gratitude intentionally. 

3. Feel Nourished, Vital, and Well. I pretty much keep a healthy living component at the forefront of every year, not because I want to torture myself with fad diets and 4am gym jaunts, but because my physical health directly correlates with my mental health and wellness, which is super duper important to how I show up in my life for others and in my work in the world.

  • Integrate daily movement into my life. That can be a gym visit or a walk break during work. 
  • Fall in love with the kitchen again. This directly correlates to theme #1 around spaciousness in my life.
  • Engage in activities that are nourishing. This includes my meditation and yoga practices, continuing to grow as a yoga teacher, keeping fiscally fit, creating morning & evening routines that support my life, and watching my energy output at work. 
  • Practicing radical acts of self-care. Mental health days, honoring my introverted nature, visits to the naked lady spa, massages and body scrubs, all of the above.
  • Embrace rest and play and integrate both into daily life.

4. Embrace Creativity & Learning. I am a lifelong learner & seeker and I have known this about myself since I started school. I remember I would be sad on the last day of school because I wouldn't be able to have structured time for reading and writing. This year, I am setting some metric goals around my reading & writing as well as a few other gems related to learning and creativity.

  • Read 52 books this year. I will be posting my reading lists on the blog and via Instagram. I will also be continuing to listen to audiobooks on my commute. I have about a 45 minute commute on some days and this really has transformed my entire relationship with driving.
  • Write 100 blog posts. I am out to surpass any of my other years of writing and really striving to be intentional about making the time for writing. My writing also includes journaling time, working on the start of my memoir, and also morning pages.
  • Take a hip hop dance class series.
  • Re-start learning Italian self-study style.

As I sit here and write out these desires and intentions, I am more stoked than I have ever been. I feel like I have my map in hand and that my backpack is packed with everything I need. Now, I just have to start walking. And that's truly the key. Putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and being open to course correcting when needed. Living an intentional life is a practice and practice means progress, not perfection. I hope your first three weeks of 2015 are treating you well and are giving you insight into your own map.

Blessings on the path,
Jen

p.s. My process for designing my goals and intentions stems from Danielle LaPorte's Desire Map. I am a Desire Map evangelist. The process has transformed my entire relationship with goal setting and I strongly encourage you to check her out.  It. Will. Change. Your. Life.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

When We Get Attached...

Image from www.peanuts.com
Getting attached is natural. I don't care how spiritually evolved you are, how many hours you sit on the meditation cushion or yoga mat, or how many self-help books you have on your shelves. If you are anything like me, in the realm of being a human being having an experience on this planet, most likely, you get attached sometimes. You get attached to people, relationships, how meals should be, how your body should look, how your partner makes love to you, what traffic should be like, what the weather should be like, how your phone should work a certain way, how others should write their e-mails, how your waiter should greet you...blah, blah, blah.

The start of 2015 has actually been quite clunky for me and as I reflect on the past eleven days, I can really see that 99.9% of my upset comes out of...wait for it...drum roll...ATTACHMENT!

Let's take a trip back in time to the holidays and New Year's Eve. The Man came down with a pretty icky bronchial infection which made him turn into crappy man. He felt like shit, therefore I felt like shit because I wanted him to not feel like shit. And in that moment, I made a decision about living in what should be versus how things were for real. And then came my upset. Oh man...I was pissed off! I wanted a romantic Christmas holiday season with sipping hot cocoa on our couch looking at our tree, playing games, laughing and being silly, and cuddling...oh I wanted the cuddling.

And then New Year's...he was stuck in bed. I was agitated...it was 8:30, he was basically dead to the world asleep and I was like, "WTF?!" It's New Years!" I wanted us to be out to dinner, maybe watching the fireworks from some street up on Queen Anne and then rushing home for more hot drinks and cuddling. Well, here is how it actually went...I threw my clothes into a heaping pile in the office, got into yoga pants, my favorite sweater that I acquired from the thrift store last year that I wear pretty much all winter, and my socks. I then walked into the kitchen, opened the freezer door, dug out some pretzel bites and potstickers, (Thanks Costco!) and heated those suckers up. I poured myself leftover prosecco from Christmas and then went into the bedroom and fired up the Hulu on the laptop. I then proceeded to catch up on all episodes of Modern Family and made myself pretty ill from inhaling these processed frozen snack foods. I shoved the laptop off my lap, took out my book, read for about an hour, looked at the clock, saw it was 11:33pm, and said to myself, "Well, that wasn't what I had in mind," turned off the light, and went to sleep.

And you know what? The next morning was just like any other morning. Yeah, it was a New Year, but it wasn't this earth shattering thing. I didn't really regret how I spent the night before. Yeah, it was the only New Year's Eve that I didn't make it until midnight in my adult life, but who cares?
The lesson for me from all of this is that when we get attached to how things should be, how people should act, or how things should look, it comes from a sense of fear, maybe a bit of insecurity, but most certainly, a place of not knowing. I know for myself, I have been working for years with this idea. Trying so hard to not be attached but it just gets me more attached to not being attached! So, when in doubt, I have been finding some tried and true strategies for dealing with this attachment beast...

1. Don't beat yourself up for getting attached. It's the whole human experience thing and it's okay. Putting on the self sabotage suit doesn't make it any easier. I promise.

2. Express yo'self! I love this whole idea about complaining with perspective. Find your bestie to vent with. Yes, in the grand scheme of the world and everything humanity is dealing with, the issue is maybe not as life threatening as other things going on, AND, it's what you are facing in the moment and it is tough. Get validated...it feels better.

3. When I took my Landmark education series, I absolutely loved the whole distinction on Upsets. The curriculum says that upsets come in the form of three areas in life:
1. Thwarted Intentions: I was out to do something, and it did not go the way I planned.
2. Undelivered Communication: enough said.
3. Unfulfilled Expectations: Been there, done that.

Needless to say, we all have ideas in our heads about how things should go and how people should act. It's okay when it doesn't and it's even okay to be upset about it. The real key though is to be open and receptive to what's on the other side...that is where the real magic is and if we can all sit with that for even a bit, walking in the world becomes maybe just a bit easier.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

14 Lessons I Am Taking With Me From 2014

.365 days goes by pretty fast. Those 8,760 hours seem to fly by in a blink of an eye. And yet, when I personally pour myself some bubbly and think about what the year looked like and brought with it, I am amazed at how much fits in. 2014 was about Big Steps & Big Dreams. Engagement, Yoga Teacher Training, India, work promotion, and expanding & deepening my relationships with my tribe. I let go of some people and some commitments that weren't serving me anymore, and ended up doing a major purge of my home office in the last few hours of the year. I stayed healthy and strong, wholehearted and open. Here are my own 14 Lessons I am taking with me from 2014. They are being packed up with care as I know I will count on them for their wisdom and gold in years to come.

1. It really is all about how I want to feel. Period. Ever since diving deep into The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, I am SUPER DUPER CRYSTAL CLEAR on how I want to feel and that ultimately drives everything else. Feelings are different than emotions. Feelings are the juice, the nectar, the sweet stuff at the center of the truffle. I have embraced the Desire Map practice and it truly drives 99.9% of my choices in my every day life. And...It's a practice. It's not always perfect and it takes work and showing up. That I can definitely get behind. 

2. Gratitude, Gratitude, Gratitude. This year, I took gratitude to a practice. Brene Brown talks a lot about this in her Guideposts for Wholehearted Living. I started taking 5-10 minutes every night and making a list of what I was grateful for about that day. It has been lovely looking back through the pages and seeing common themes: Skype Technology to connect with loved ones from afar, clean water (that was really huge after traveling to India), comfy clothes, quiet mornings, hugs. Little things that make my own world go round and a joy to live in. 

3. It's In Space That The Light/Truth/Love/Magic Shows Up. One of my biggest takeaways from my trip to India is the need to have more spaciousness in my life. Living in India for three weeks provided me lots of open space to process what I was going through at the time. I was coming off of a brutally busy and crammed couple months. I don't really remember October. Or the couple weeks before I left. I basically was a car on overdrive when I should have been in neutral. My body hurt, I was tight and compressed on my mind and heart. Going to India cracked me wide open and I got to see the other side of having lots of spaciousness to receive the beauty that life truly has to offer. For that lesson, I am forever grateful. 

4. To Practice Is To Live. One of my yoga teachers said to us in teacher training, "How we spend our days is how we live our lives." Our lives truly are a manifestation of our daily habits. When I get on my yoga mat, or my meditation cushion, or breathe deeply at a stop light or tune into my feet as I walk away from a meeting or really hug The Man when I walk in the door, I am practicing. I am practicing living my life from a place of presence. 

5. Keep The Foundation Strong. Keystone habits are truly my own magic key to the kingdom. When I am solid in my morning and evening routines, finding time for self-care and daily movement, fueling my body with good fuel, and getting outside, I am operating at a different vibrational level. Strong foundations keep the beautiful buildings from toppling over.

6. Get Quiet. Most people don't know that I am naturally introverted. I would much rather have dinner & drinks with one of my good friends than attend a dinner party of 20. I naturally gravitate towards activities like yoga, reading, and writing, or going to run on my own. Doing things in groups has always been challenging and 2014 pushed me around that where I got to grow. Amidst all of it though, quiet, reflective time in my days is some integral to how I show up in the world.

7. Know How You Like Your Own Eggs. If you can't ask for what you want, how will you get it? For me, I lived a lot of my life thinking others just magically knew what I wanted. I was convinced that people who loved me could read my mind. I mean, come on...that's what love is, right? Well, pop goes the idealistic balloon! No no no...people can't read my mind. If I want something, I have to make a powerful, clear request. Whether it comes to work, relationships, or time. It takes practice and mindfulness and like anything, gets easier over time. I strongly recommend you start by asking exactly how you want your eggs cooked.

8. Small Actions = Great Love. Not much to expand on here and I do think there is an internal tendency in me to overlook what small actions can be taken. Holding the door for an older person, maybe smiling and striking a conversation with tourists in the Pike Place Market, whatever the case. Sprinkle more of that around and it truly does have a ripple effect.

9.  I Don't Know Anything. This lesson came right smack dab in the middle of my India trip. I know nothing about anything. Yeah, sure...I have lots of ideas, great opinions, and ways I do things, but at the end of the day, I don't know what battles people are fighting or where I will be in five, ten twenty years. This lesson spills over into having deep intimacy with beginner's mind and how lovely is that.

10. Be Willing to Be Shaken & Stirred. 2014 had lots of ups and downs. for me, the valleys and the tough stuff were parts of myself that I really shunned away from. Now, I am dipping my toes into dancing with the tough stuff a little more. What stirs me and shakes me? Why are certain conversations so uncomfortable? Why do certain words and interactions trigger me more than others? Again, a lot of this is willingness for me to be vulnerable in all areas of my life. It's a challenging path and I have a lot of fear around it, yet I know it's good for me, right to my core.

11. Don't Feel Obligated to...well, do anything. Oh yes...the guilt trodden path of obligation. The word itself gives me the shivers. For so much of my life, obligation was at the forefront. I choose not to blame my family of origin, work environments, etc. It just is and I have been working with this for the past couple years. Obligation is a big umbrella for lots of shadow emotions: fear, guilt, the need to be loved, not feeling enough...I could keep going. I had the opportunity to work with a life coach this year who was doing her practicum in her coaching program and I had a chance to work with a lot of this stuff and it was truly fun. Being a witness to why I take certain actions is much different than being in it. Lots more observing, less judging. And...I don't operate under obligation anymore.

12. I Become Wiser in the Mirror of Relationship. A lot of people ask me what the hardest part of my India trip was. Of course, massive poverty, overpopulation, environmental degradation, etc., etc., always comes up, but actually the hardest part of the entire trip was seeing westerners, mostly ex-pats searching to find themselves. Most of these people have been travelling the globe for years looking for that "thing." They looked so lonely, their eyes sunken in, their bodies skinny, their upper backs hunched over. Very empty. I realized that my life, all of my life (spiritual, work, love), is all right here within me. I cherish my relationships and being in the world doing my work. Community is rich with lessons and that for me is the work and where the growth happens. I thought I went to India to find myself, but what ended up happening was that all I was looking for was within me all along and my heart truly is here at home, in Seattle, in my tiny house with all of my tribe and people with me. 

13. Stop Pushing So Fu!#% Hard. I am a pusher by nature. Overly driven, goal oriented, and very Type A. 2014 was about big dreams and goals, and it required effort. My takeaway is that life happens in the moments you are doing something else. My focus for 2015 is to push less, enjoy more...approach life with a new sense of spaciousness, grace, and ease. Things should be easy. Duh!

14. Simplify. I came back from being in India with a whole new relationship with my things. "I don't need all this crap," I keep professing. This lesson appeared right at the end of the year and I have so enjoyed the process of cleaning out and getting rid. Of course, there is always more to do. My personal space means so much to me and when it is out of whack or feeling compressed, I shoot through the roof. I am drawing on lots of inspiration from Tony House Living, Courtney Carver's website, and also using my contemplative practices to navigate this journey.

I hope you stay tuned for my 2015 Intentions post. :)

Blessings,
Jen