Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dealing with Chaos & Difficult Emotions

The past couple weeks have been a bit on the trying side. With the wedding right around the corner and transitions happening all around me, I have noticed and felt more sensitive to all of it. I have had multiple sessions of crying, sometimes deep sobbing, both at home and work, and when I try to deeply articulate what is going on, I can't seem to put my finger on it.

A few weekends ago, I co-led a retreat on Vulnerability. I taught the complimentary movement and yoga pieces and it was truly wonderful; being around eight other fabulous, intelligent and wise women, eating delicious vegetarian food, sipping tea, quiet time in the woods, and napping. Yet, I came back a little more fragile than when I arrived at the retreat. And I didn't do a fabulous job of creating ease in my transition back, hence integration started to happen and I was running my life like I had been before I left: fast and unaware.

Through the years, I have been able to navigate and embrace change a lot more easily than I used to when I was younger, yet these past few weeks, I have noticed more and more that the chaos and the difficult emotions are harder to navigate. My sensitivity has gone up and in my environments, the chaos and whirlwind type energy has also increased. Needless to say, I have spent some time reflecting as to how to go about navigating these difficult emotions and the chaos with ease, grace, and a sense of spaciousness, and here is what I am finding:

To truly listen, I have to get quiet. I can't gather myself or my thoughts with all the noise. I have recently acknowledged that noise comes from so many places; our digital lives, the reading, the DVD time on the computer, the chores, the conversations with clients and colleagues, all of it. When I get quiet, really, truly quiet, I can get access to what's truly there for me in my emotions

Support comes in many forms. I have never been one to publicly display my emotions. Vulnerability has been challenging for me and asking for support and help from others is challenging. I have made progress in this arena, especially with The Man, but I have always been one to seek support outside of people. My books, journal, and yoga mat are just a few support tools that I turn to when the storm is rough. Also, being active and sleep. My morning workouts and 7-8 hours of good sleep support the processing.

Know the rhythms. It's a wonderful thing when you know your body so well and can attune to the rhythms that work for you. I know I am more sensitive late at night, especially when trying to work on a complex task that takes brain power. Mistakes trigger me in that space more than if I was working on something during the day. This is a huge change for me and my life, because I used to be a night owl when it came to work. Now, I have to consciously shut down life at 10pm and engage in my self-care and nourishment and regroup from the day.

The importance scale. The Man taught me about the importance scale...1-10, how important is it to you? I absolutely love this. We use it daily, recently, multiple times per day. I can look at a task, a desire, an errand and evaluate super fast how important something is and in that moment, I can actively engage or let go. It's a magic tool. I love, love, love it. I use it for just about everything that is fluff: chores, stuff, wedding decisions, etc.

A big lesson in spiritual practice is that the only thing permanent is change. It's the truth. It's not about creating pristine and sterile environments void of change, but instead learning to navigate the chaos and difficult emotions with grace and ease, and hopefully a little more space can be created to tune in, be aware, and hold ourselves with tenderness and love.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 100! Lessons, Takeaways, and Gratitude...


Here we are. The last post of my project. 100 days of writing & posting, minus a few remote writing sessions in the wilderness. It's been such a trip...many late nights with the laptop in bed (yes, in the beginning I swore I wouldn't write in bed, but that promise was broken 45 days in), nights that I had no desire to write but I did, and weekend afternoons where my thoughts and hands couldn't stop. I look back on the goals of the project and they were twofold:

1. Practice a craft that has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember.
2. Put myself out there and be vulnerable, no matter what.

So, as I hit day 100, it's a bit anticlimactic. I am here writing a late night post trying to come down from all the energy that was created at my New Moon circle tonight around a firepit, and I am trying to solidify and streamline my thoughts about what this project has taught me and what I really got from it. As an educator, I find it so important to come full circle. Experience, reflection, transformation and application. So, without censorship, here is my brain dump of my lessons, my learnings and takeaways from my 100 day project, "100 Days of Jen's Musings."

  • Writing is hard work. It's a physical practice. Natalie Goldberg articulates this in her books. It's a full body practice and you have to be in your body to write. My body practices (yoga, working out, walking, gardening), help me be a better writer.
  • Things get worse before they get better...with content, transition, with honing a craft. 
  • Showing up is 80% of it. As long as I made my way to my laptop, the post would come. It was getting to my seat that was challenging. Meditators out there, sound familiar?
  • If it's important to you, that's all that matters. I don't really care what people think of my posts. I don't write for people, I write for myself. 
  • Setting a goal and creating an accountability structure works for me, not everybody. Challenges, 100 day projects, personal training...all those things work for me and provide a road map to my feeling successful but not everybody likes those systems. To each their own.
  • Be honest & authentic.
  • I can talk about writing, I can read about it, I can research it, but that doesn't make me a writer...writing makes me a writer. 
  • My writing became a spiritual practice and will continue to be one.
  • I don't ever know what I am going to write about until I sit down and breathe my three breaths. It provides the gap and the transition to arrive and then the faucets turn on.
  • Bits and pieces are sometimes better than the whole. Some of my shorter posts are posts I am most proud of. More does not always equal better.
  • If I value something, I make the time for it. No matter what.
  • When I don't write, I become agitated. Same for yoga, breathing, meditation, drinking water, and sleeping enough.
  • We all have a story.
  • Find the things that bring you joy and go do more of those things. Writing brings me so much joy and whether or not it's out in the cloud, the most important thing for me is that I get joy out of doing it.
  • My experiences are my truth and those are valuable containers to pull from. 
  • The bones and the muscles are more important than then clipped fingernails. I don't get caught up on grammar and structure and perfect spelling. The story and content is where I spend my time and that works for me. 
  • If you truly love something, care for it and nurture it. 
So that is a handful of my takeaways from this project. I will be continuing my writing here on my blog and also taking some time off in August for my "August Break," and will be spending more time with my journal for reflection before I get married.

Thank you for all the support...you all know who you are. I want to especially thank The Man who has been so supportive every day of this project. He reads my stuff and stands behind me as I make the time for this part of my life. It means so damn much to me.

Deep gratitude and hats off to the artists, the writers, the snowflake maker, and the rest of us who are creating, showing up, and being vulnerable in our work.

Blessings,
Jen

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 99: Bloom!

The dahlias are blooming, the dahlias are blooming! It's an exciting time in the yard right now. It has been quite a journey watching the process unfold in growing our own wedding flowers. And now, it's all coming to fruition. Seeing something bloom right before your eyes is like magic, or at least it is for me. It's like giving birth in a hardcore gardener type of way. I am so blessed to witness the process and to experience the joy that it brings.

As I step into the next five weeks and prepare to marry my best friend, the dahlias are here with me, blooming, and serving as a reminder that all will be totally okay. It will all unfold and bloom in the perfect way possible. The dahlias tell me in their beauty that this is a time full of joy, love, and hard work. They also tell me that it will be magical.

Oh yes, it will be so magical.

Monday, July 13, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 98: My 2015 Reading List

Photo from Lifehack.com
My goal this year is to read 52 books. It equals out to a book a week. I am nowhere near where I thought I would be. I am behind, yet I am being gentle. I have a lot going on and can't read during any free minute but I have gotten through some good ones this year. I thought I would share. I keep track of my reading list in Evernote.

I have always been a reader. I remember sneaking reading under my sheets at night with a flashlight & headlamp. It has always been a huge piece of my life and it continues to be. I wish I could spend days and days reading in bed, on the couch, or in the lawn chair, but until that happens, I fit it in when I can (99% of my reading is done at night before bed), and I soak it all up. I primarily read non-fiction and Buddhist studies, but every so often, I find a piece of fiction that totally lights me up. Reading is fundamental. It's a basic piece of my lifestyle nutrition. I strongly encourage it.

Goal: Read 52 Books in 2015...Here is what I have read so far...

1. Think on These Things-J. Krishnamurti
2. Thrive-Arianna Huffington
3. The Signature of All Things-Elizabeth Gilbert
4. Being with Dying-Joan Halifax
5. Making Space: creating a home meditation practice-Tich Nhat Hanh
6. Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play when Nobody Has the Time-Brigid Schulte
7. Long Quiet Highway-Natalie Goldberg
8. 5 Love Languages-Gary Chapman
9. Better than Before-Gretchen Rubin
10. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
11. Mindful Work-David Gelles
12. Writing Down the Bones- Natalie Goldberg
13. Carry on warrior: thoughts on living life unarmed-Glennon Melton
14. Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change-Pema Chodron

Sunday, July 12, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 97: Re-entry

Coming back from retreat is always a bit like being hit with a sprinkler without forewarning. You never know what you might walk back into. You have taken a few or maybe many days away from regular life, you have made space for quiet, contemplative work, and nourishment in the community and presence of others. Usually, retreat takes place in a beautiful locale, complete with hikes, yoga, vegetarian food, and time to nap, read, and journal. Then, you pull into the driveway and life feels like a jack-in-the-box toy; out pops to do lists, a garden to tend to, dishes to put away, laundry to fold, bills to pay, mail to open, work to prep for, dinner to cook...the list goes on and on.

I remember when I came home from my first retreat and felt totally pushed into the fast paced lifestyle again, immediately losing all the lessons and insights I brought back. It was as though I had put together a 1000 piece puzzle and boom! It was dropped on the floor and pieces were everywhere.
Now, I employ a few strategies that keep me sane; no commitments the night I get back, The Man and I always go out to dinner and ice cream (there is never ice cream on retreats, so it's a huge craving when I get back), and unpacking and enjoying downtime and connection. Sometimes, we embark on a little errand outing, but I am sensitive to my adjustment time.

The lessons I have on re-entry are not only applicable when I get back from retreat. They are applicable lessons that I want to employ all the time; being gentle with myself, clear about my needs and expectations, and practicing self-care.

It is unrealistic to think that life can be lived in total isolation. The magic is in this life, in the here and now. It's the intricate balance of all the work, of all the practices, of all the teachings. Bringing it back to this life, the here and now life, is the ticket.

Happy homecoming.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 94: To Friendship

We had dinner with friends tonight and I reveled in the fact of how good it feels to share in meal and drink with the people you love. I have a lot of nostalgia around sharing meals around the table. Growing up Italian, it's a huge part of culture- food and talking and sharing. It's just what you do. Long, extended meals with people having lots of conversations about lots of different things is what makes it so juicy and dynamic. The wine flows and the smiles and laughter increase. It's not yelling...it's passion expressed out of the vocal cords.

You will be interrupted, you will get sidetracked, and people will question you. It's the table where anything goes. One plate, many forks, because sharing feels so much better than hoarding it yourself. Manners have a place, but let's not get super stressed about it. talk with your hands. It relieves stress when you look as though you are flailing about. I promise you.

Lean in, look into the other person's eyes...connect with them. After all, they are your lifeline. Here and now in this life.

When the bread is broken, you never have to say it because you all know. You know that you are surrounded by your people. Your tribe that you have traveled around the world to find. You clink glasses in a toast. To friendship. The most priceless, valuable thing to have in your life.

You look over at your partner from across the table and he is laughing his laugh. He hasn't laughed like that in awhile. It's the medicine, right? This moment is so soothing in so many ways. Put life on hold, just for a bit, it belongs on the shelf tonight. Rip up the to do list and surrender. Walk away from the desk, because tonight, tonight is the night to toast and share with friends this thing so, so, so good.

To friendship.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 93: I Got Nothing

For the first time in this project, I don't have much to write about or say. I am empty. An empty vessel of sorts. Maybe it's total contentment with all that there is in life at this moment, maybe it's exhaustion, maybe it's being in love. Whatever it is, I don't have anything to write about. 

I could write about how today was like most days; waking up at 6:40am, making my lemon water and breakfast snack, packing the car, driving down to the gym, working out for an hour, driving to work, showering, having my morning coffee, and diving right into my day. 

I could write about my upcoming wedding and how it's a big transition and a new chapter in my life.
I could write about how I am in total love with work, my garden, my tribe, and what I am reading.
I could write about my wishes and dreams for the rest of the year.
I could write about how I believe we are all doing the best we can each and every day.
I could write about all my favorite things in the summer; dining and drinking wine outdoors and laughing with good people. So many stories are shared around the table. 
I could write about my looking forward to slower, lazy days after the wedding.

I could write a lot about a lot but I am empty. And being empty is okay. Because there is room for anything and everything. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 92: Wishes & Dreams

I wish for lazy days and long brunches with friends.
I dream of a simple life where clutter has no space.
I wish to learn how to drive a motorcycle.
I dream of traveling to exotic locations for three month sabbaticals.
I wish to spend more of my life telling the people around me how grateful I am for them.
I dream of a whole month where I never have to set my alarm.
I wish for spaciousness in all areas of my life.
I dream of eating junk cereal for breakfast.
I wish for campouts and fort building in my living room.
I dream of days where all I do is read in bed.
I wish for coastal hiking trips with beach campfires and chips, salsa, and beer.
I dream of a day where all people find work that they absolutely love.
I wish for soft hearts and open minds.
I dream of a day where everyone has a home to go to on the coldest nights.
I wish that everyone feels welcome in any place of worship.
I dream of the kind of time that stands still.
I wish that kindness was the universal religion.
I dream of communities that are built from small businesses and deep connections.
I wish for fancy drinks out of wine glasses.
I dream of listening more than I speak.
I wish for quiet time to be regularly built into my life.
I dream of beauty in my spaces.

It's imperative to pen our wishes and dreams. It helps us see beyond our day to day, to think and imagine bigger things and to help us hone into our values and align our actions to what is important to us. Take some time, pen them out, and see what small action you can take today to make something in your life happen. I challenge us all.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 91: The Moving Truck

Like most Sundays, I don't set an alarm. It's the one day of the week that I have set aside total flow time...get up when I want, eat when I want, shower when I want, chores when I want, etc. It has taken me so many years to arrive at this place of total grace in my weekends. I call them my scared Sundays because it's so open and spacious and it really allows me to restore and reflect before the week begins. I love operating from a powerful place of choice as well. I get to choose how I spend my time and if that means I am sleeping until 9am and reading in bed until 11am, so be it.

As I was making brunch for The Man and myself, I looked across the street and saw a U-Haul. Two people, most likely the parents of the individual who was moving, were loading comforters, side tables, an office chair, and baskets and containers into the U-Haul. I took a deep breath as I leaned on the counter and thought about my own moving experiences. There have quite a bit of moves. Big ones too.

My move to Colorado after I graduated high school left me with my mountain bike, and my backpack which I used to transport my bedding back up to my dorm from the UPS store. Then, when I moved off campus and lived with my partner at the time, that was a big step in my life. Two years later, I moved into my own apartment on campus, craving a deep sense of independence and solitude. Then, off to Seattle where I had no firm living situation, but lived out of my office for a couple weeks until I found a space. Then there was the moving into an apartment with my partner (same one I lived with in Colorado), and then we moved into a bigger place a year later. Then out on my own after we split, and then into my current place, with The Man.

Thinking through all of that leaves me a little out of breath. Even though I was young, life felt a little transient. Apartment leases in megaplexes do that to you. The other thing that remains true is that like anything in life, there are cycles. We move in and we move out...of spaces, places, jobs, love, friendships, passions, and interactions. It's all part of the deal in having this human experience.

In my environmental studies class in college, we talked a lot about having a sense of place. As I looked across the street at the U-Haul, I was overcome with the sense of home I feel here in my own space and Seattle. A lot of people have asked me why I am not getting married in Maine, my home state, and I can confidently say that Maine is absolutely beautiful and I got so much out of my childhood and young adulthood there. It's a magical place to visit and I am grateful to be able to go and visit.

Yet, my home is here, in Seattle, in our little abode.

Home is where I walk 10 steps and get to my living room or deck and sit and look outside at my garden. Home is where I can get to my yoga class in 8 minutes. Home is having my tribe surround me and share in bottles of good wine and snacks on a summer night. I breathe easy here. I fell in love with The Man of my dreams here. I have work that totally lights me up here.

So, my little wish to the person moving this morning: May your next space and place totally light you up from the inside out and keep you warm and loving. May you settle in and breathe easier. May your tribe be a moments notice away. May you enjoy your new sense of place. May it feel like home.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 90: What My Garden Teaches Me

Even though it was a holiday weekend, I spent a good chunk of my Saturday in my garden. I know, I know...I worked on the holiday in the dirt. It was so hot but it felt so good to spend time outside in the sun. When I am in my garden, I lose myself. I become so engrossed in the present moment (a very rare occasion), that I lose sense of time and I literally turn myself over to mother nature. As I was building some new soil mixtures into larger pots for additional summer edibles, my mind went to the place of receiving. My garden gives me so many lessons, both big and small, that I seldom take the time to articulate, so I thought I would take the time and capture just a few.

Like my life, my garden is always in process. There will never be an end point. There is always something to do, to work on. Like life. I walk outside and am so content yet I know I can always give a few minutes, hours, and days here and there to make adjustments, move things around, compost the old, etc. When I first started gardening, I had this fantasy in my head that there would be this end point, that everything would be "done." It's not the case. Ever. 

Like my garden, my life follows cycles and rhythms. It wasn't until I started gardening that I really tuned into the cycles and seasonality of life. Everything has a season. Sometimes, things are in full bloom, bursting with energy and are full of color and beauty, other times things are heavy, damp, and in hibernation, turning inward for rest and recovery. I can usually feel what my garden feels and I now honor that instead of fighting it. 

I just have to start digging. I can attend all the seminars I want, buy all the fancy tools and organic soil amendment, get the most beautiful pots and flowers, but it means nothing if I don't get my shorts and t-shirt on, put on my gloves, kneel down, and start digging. If I want results, I have to put in the work. Nike said it best...just do it.

It's way easier working in a team. Out of all the time The Man and I spend together, my favorite times are the two of us working in the garden. I cherish that time the most. We have some of our best conversations while digging in the dirt and we play to each other's strengths. I used to think i would be a solo flyer, never wanting to get married, and now, here I am, so deeply content with my partner in life and my partner in the garden. The support he provides me out there directly translates to the support he gives me in every area of my life. 

So that's it. My four favorite lessons my garden has given me. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 89: Summer Love: A Few of My Favorite Summer Photos

Okay, let's be completely honest. The summer has totally rocked. I have been having so much fun. It's been full at times, but oh so lovely. I thought I would share a few of my favorite captured moments as step into the last 10 days of the 100 day project. I hope you are having a lovely summer and getting lots of time outside and with your loved ones to celebrate the sun, the warmth, and the blooming happening all around.

The summer started with a lovely trip to the East Coast to kickoff our wedding celebrations. Lots of good food, laughter, and love all around. We pack light and I absolutely swear by my Dakine pack and my Burton roller. Essentials. Oh yes, and Chaco sandals. 
Our favorite little fish market in Maine. I love this old time signage and of course, I love lobsters. Essential and delicious! 
Summer days = hot evenings = cool salads and chilled white wine. Simple, refreshing, nourishing, and easy. All my favorite elements of dinner. 
Greenwood Car Show. Loved this little beauty. It's a dream of mine to have a VW van/bus. I want to road trip every summer to Maine and back in the fall. It will happen. It will happen....
Float Tank appointment. As an introvert, I need time away from life, sound, noise, and other humans. City living takes its toll sometimes and I have been dipping my toes into sensory deprivation experiences. It keeps my mind and heart nice and light. And resilient. 
Sunset viewing from the deck. The light is always different, which is totally fascinating to me. I sit out there a lot of the summer. We eat our meals, prep our gardening days, and read...lots of summer reading happens here. 
Frosty beers on Thursday nights. Date night. Oh yes, and Saturdays and Sundays too. Frosty beers all around.  So much joy packed into this little jar. 
An early summer photo taken at the Seattle Tilth Edible plant sale. Herbs, peppers, flowers and an apple turnover. My favorite kind of morning. All my peppers and herbs are blooming and delicious right now because of the early heat wave. 
I took this photo at Kerry Park on my 8th anniversary of living in Seattle. I had never been before (huge tourist trap), but I thought it was fitting to capture the beautiful city that I live in and totally love.
Saw this lovely poster at a work event. Laughter. It's what summer is all about for me. I have so many good memories of running on the beaches of Maine totally unabashed, living in the present and sinking into laughter and love. 
Grateful for the lovely woods by my house. A walk in the woods keeps me cool on the hot days and I love taking my camera and capturing the beautiful contrast of light and dark. When I am in the woods, I feel completely held and nourished and supported by this earth we live on. 
Luipnes! A total Maine flower. One of my favorites. It's the first time I grew them this year and they were stunning. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 88: Dishes

We don't have a dishwasher. Sometimes, I wish we did, but most of the time I am glad we don't. Dishes are my therapy. It's my quiet time. It's the time when I get to stand and move and work with my hands and feel this huge sense of accomplishment every single time after being done. Most of my days are spent at my desk at work, looking at a computer, in meetings, in conversations. Most of the work I do is sitting down. The dishes are relief for my spine and my hips, an opportunity to open my heart.

When I turn on the hot water and make the soapy solution in one of the sides of the sink, I smile and breathe deeply. My shoulders soften, my forehead relaxes. my mind gets quiet. I run my hands over dish after dish and the scrub brush between the spaces in the forks. The water running and rinsing the bubbles of the glass.

There is peace here, at the sink. This is what life is really about, yes? I engage in this acts every day, a prayer of sorts that has a beginning, a middle, an end. I am left with a blank slate at the end of every session. The countertop is clear. Awaiting more dishes, evidence that the bellies are full and the souls are happy.

Peace is here in this kitchen, at this sink. Good things happen. Wishes, ideas, creativity. It all gathers here, in the stainless basin, slippery with soap.

I am grateful for this opportunity, to stand, to clean, to wipe away the mess and start fresh yet again.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#100daysofjensmusings- Day 87: What I See

I went to grab lunch at the Italian bakery/deli across the street from work today. It was a later lunch than usual because I had meetings and calls right through the traditional lunch hour, so I scooted out quick so I could get back and dive into more of my work. I notice myself being less present when I am hungry.

So, I headed out in the 88 degree sunshine, exiting the air conditioned building, being stung by the heat wave that engulfed my body. I scampered down the street in a speedy fashion, crossing the street in my heels and then anxiously awaiting the signal to turn at the crosswalk. I arrived at the bakery, grabbed my sandwich and lemonade and scampered back to the building. At the crosswalk, I observed a man with two women, one of the women was quite young, maybe in her late teens, and the other woman looked old enough to be her mom. Both of the women were blind and had walking canes and the man was teaching the young woman how to use hers for what looked like the first time.

I stopped dead in my tracks. I was overcome with both happiness and sadness. Joy and hatred. Hating the fact that this young woman wasn't able to experience the sense of sight. I was sad that crossing the street for her will forever be different from my experience. Happiness and joy for the man dedicating his life to serving these women at this moment in time.

You may be reading this and passing all kinds of judgment my way and honestly, I don't care. What I do care about is the fact that I move through my days completely detached from the depth of my human experience. I have so much to be grateful for. So, so, so much. It's quite incredible and it blows my mind in moments like the moment I had this afternoon as I scampered back from my lunch purchase.

What I see is that the world gives us the lessons we need in the exact moments we need them to show up for us. B.K.S. Iyengar, the father of yoga, said once, "Nothing can be forced. Receptivity is everything."