November 6, 2017

If Things Had Happened Differently

If things had happened differently, I would still be stuck in my craft room on South Hill. I would still be dealing with struggling, broken people, hearing the same old tired stories, and thinking the same old tired thoughts.

If things had happened differently, I would have gone to Barb’s funeral, I would have never sent that resignation letter, I would…might…still be sitting in the front row, still coordinating the festivals, and definitely be unutterably bored and stagnant.

If things had happened differently, I would not have grown. Or possibly, something more mundane could have happened…I could have never gone to school, never met some amazing professors, and never racked up so much school debt. I would have never realized I could achieve summa cum laude, learn great things, and think great thoughts. I might have never dreamed of working towards a masters, or dreamed of attaining a Ph.D. All of that would have never happened, if all that happened never did.

If things would have happened differently, I may still have been mired in clinical depression. If I had continued anti-depressants, my brain wouldn’t be as functional as it is now. I may have never lost those extra pounds or grown my hair long. I would have never traveled to Greece, walked in amazing places, or challenged myself to learning new languages. If I hadn’t made the choices I did, I would have never known love as deeply as I know now, or known the potential that was deep within me.

If things had happened differently, I wouldn’t be sitting looking at a beautiful sunny sky over a glorious Grand Canal. I wouldn’t have a sweet, sun-bathed office where all my needs are met. I wouldn’t be able to breathe. I wouldn’t be living - only surviving.

I am glad things happened differently than what was expected for me. I am glad that I took a chance, dreamed big dreams, stepped outside the rules, built a costume, did crazy things, and met fantastic and talented people. I am a better person because of it all. Honestly, if things had happened differently, I cannot really predict what would have happened, but I don’t anticipate it to be good, at least as good as it is now.

Now I get to breathe.
Now I have the privilege to learn, grow, and explore.
To laugh, and love, without judgement.

Now I am really living.


October 18, 2017

Kindness, A Poem

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
    purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

--Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words



October 13, 2017

Building a Committed Practice - A Reflection


I am in week 6 of my first semester of a master's degree program in Mindfulness Studies. As part of the Theory class, the professor assigned reflection and analysis of our practice, as it stands now. This is my reflection. 


I started setting time aside for a committed practice prior to the term starting. I knew it would be required, so I figured that I should just get a start on it as soon as possible. So, after our move, getting settled, and recovering from graduation, I got serious about meditation. I picked up my yoga practice again in earnest, since it had fell by the wayside in my sprint towards graduation. But, it wasn’t until we started class that it really sunk in that I was building something consistent and enduring, as opposed to a hit-and-miss hobby or comfort measure in times of crisis.

As I reflect on these past 6 weeks of meditative practice, I realize I have become comfortably addicted to what has become a morning ritual. Upon awakening, instead of lying in bed letting my mind wander toward panic, I embrace the dark quiet of my meditation area, light a candle, get settled, and breathe. Sometimes guided, sometimes not – it doesn’t really matter. What I am after is the stillness that comes over my body first, then my mind. The deeper the stillness, the more aware I become. Focused awareness, for me, is beautiful. I really am home in the present.

I have always been an aware person. Being highly sensitive and empathic, I have had to learn to tamp the receptors down – there is little benefit from sponging everyone’s emotions and motivations, especially while trying to figure out which are my own. Undisciplined awareness is like many radio stations all playing at the same time – absolute chaos. This is something I am still, and always will be, dealing with and working on. I have realized that meditation was the life ring I had been needing all this time. Yoga is wonderful, especially if it is practiced as a meditation, however sitting in stillness gives me a glimpse of the balance and equanimity that I struggle to maintain throughout the day.

No, it is not always easy. I have fallen asleep during body scans (sloth, perhaps). I have struggled with keeping awareness on my breath (or on my toe!) that may be attributed to restlessness. I have dealt with feelings of failure and other unsolicited emotions that have arisen. But, I am determined to “aware them lightly,” as Lama Surya Das encourages, and not attach to them or judge myself. The compassion I desperately want to give to others I am finally giving to myself. And not just when I am on the cushion, but in all areas of my life.

This is a process I am happy and willing to continue. I have no expectations of greatness, accomplishment, or accolades. I will just continue to sit and be grateful for the great pleasure and privilege it is to explore the inner secret garden of which I now have the key.

Over earth wind blows,
within the body breath flows;
cleansing timelessness.

May 31, 2017

Spirits, Deities, and Magic - A Conversation

“You have to hear what I learned in history class yesterday.”
Lisa, my best friend and roommate, is always eager to hear what I learn in class. And sometimes she can take what I have learned to her 6th grade classroom of screw-beanies. My four years of classes at PLU have given us much to discuss, to be sure.
Today, as we headed from the coast inland to the outlet mall for a little retail therapy, I was eager to narrate the lecture and discussion about animism, totemism, and shamanism, as it is a completely different perspective on religion than I had heard in my various former lives. Combined, Lisa and I have clocked multiple decades of religious experience, and this was definitely worth an animated conversation.
So, I started with stage 1, which is the best place to start. I explained that throughout history many peoples have believed that everything has a spirit – from teddy bears to volcanoes. We laughed as I recounted the classroom discussion – we are endlessly fascinated and informed of the culture by the perspective revealed by my younger classmates. It has been many years since I was twenty-something, and that is all I am going to say about that. Anyway, I continued, we all easily believe that all the things in the universe have a spirit, and noted how it is an easy way to explain natural phenomenon, as well as unexplainable events, such as earthquakes and such. Animism, such as that displayed by just about every living human, is the personification of objects, imposing human likes, dislikes, and emotions onto the breathing and non-breathing alike (such as cars, phones, stuffed toys, animals – even rocks can ‘cry out’). Further, all items in our environment, even the entire universe, possess a sentient spirit.
After commenting about how animism has often been discussed as so much unacceptable paganism in our past lives, I moved on to stage 2. Totemism, I enjoyed explaining, was picking one spirit or divine personage out of the entire universe to focus on, since no one could do justice to honoring the entirety of surrounding spirits. And then, I dropped the bombshell – Abraham of Old Testament fame, (as well as Akhenaten, the heathen Egyptian New Kingdom pharaoh), was simply picking one of a plethora of supernatural divinities to revere, in hopes of good fortune and prosperity. My sweet friend responded with the appropriate gasp of revelation. Could that be? Could it simply be totemism that prompted Abram to choose YHWH rather than Ba’al? And further, what if he would have chosen Ba’al? We both laughed at the thought of all the interpretation and homilies we have heard and studied over the years and marveled at the indignant outrage of disbelief those leaders would exhibit if they were presented with that information!
So, if animism is the concept that everything has a spirit, and totemism is choosing one out of many to honor (such as a spirit animal for the individual or group), then the final stage (3) is shamanism, I continued. The word alone causes immense repulsion by any good monotheist. As I explained that a shaman isn’t just one who performs magic (as we had been led to belief), but a mediator between individuals and their chosen divine, I was very aware that we were enjoying this way too much. To think of a priest, pastor, rabbi, or leader of any religion for that matter, as a shaman tickled us in a way that I almost felt guilty! The religious folk of my past would be turning inside-out at the thought, I am sure. I shared the class discussion prompted by my fellow classmate who self-identified as Sunni Muslim; he was a very good example of how the blood would quickly run out of the collective face of my former congregation at the thought of them sitting under a shaman. But, technically they are – they all are. There is no difference, in my view, between the voodoo Mambos (female priest) and the LDS Bishop – they are both assumed to possess a position closer to the supernatural and are sought for counsel, prayer, healing, and other assorted rituals specific to their belief system. So, would that be considered magic? Depends upon who you ask, I suppose.
Lisa and I freely pondered these things together while driving through the lush, leafy trees dotted with the golden sunshine that lined the 2-lane country road that cuts through several small towns on the way to our favorite shopping-mecca. Somehow, being out of organized religion has given us the freedom to contemplate history in ways often warned about, even forbidden, by most religious leadership and dogma.  Their loss.

January 10, 2017

First Stickies of the New Year...Brrr!


Yes, that poor baby is standing on what is usually liquid. It has been so cold this winter! The canal at our beloved beach house froze so much that we could throw medium sized rocks on the top and they would bounce! 

Along with these cold temps, I started my last J-Term at PLU, and my last official  religion course. Gosh, I have taken so many religion courses, but there are so many more I would love to take! But, alas, it is time to wind up this chapter of my life by intently studying medieval Christianity (a favorite of mine, really). 

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Speaking of Star Wars, (and who isn't!), check out those sticky note pads! Cool, eh?

We went to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story for the second time - love it! What a great back story to take you right into A New Hope (Ep. IV). I really resonated with the Jyn Erso character, and the blind martial artist/monk, Chirrut Imwe. I won't say anymore, and won't give spoilers, but I think if you like Star Wars at all, you would enjoy this one.

a sweet little Jyn to live in my speeder...
So much techy-love:

The app Bloglovin' - what, you haven't heard of it?? You really need to jump on that iPhone and grab this one. Then load it up with your favorite blogs. Pure technological love!

Another app I really love is Quartz - but, I have mentioned this one before. Check it out for a more 'controlled' news source. And, it will make you smile, too.

And, one more: Gaia online; this is not a freebie, but at $10/month, it is a good way to stay fresh with your yoga practice, and guided meditations, if you are into that. I just gave Cameron Gilley and some Yin Yoga a test-drive - pure love! You may love it, too.


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So, since it is so cold, and we are fighting the sniffles around here, how about some yummy soup? I found this tasty recipe (that is not labor intensive) called Detox Immune-Boosting Chicken Soup. It will be great cozied up with a blanket and a video...how about Ben Hur? That is our choice for tonite. Or perhaps something a little more medieval...like Cadfael? OK, tell me you love Derek Jacobi! I know, right? Loved him in I, Claudius, too. Highly recommend both.

Both Brother Cadfael and Claudius had it pretty easy when it came to clothing choices, to be sure. However, unless you wear a toga regularly or don a monk's tunic, that is not our lot. I am currently reading The Curated Closet, by Anuschka Rees - this woman is a genius. I firmly believe that every woman, and even some men, would benefit from this book filled with fashion wisdom. She won't be telling you what to buy, or what your 'capsule wardrobe' should consist of, but it is more of a workbook-type affair that leads you to your own personalized style and direction for dressing that is fun and stress-free. It builds wonderfully upon Marie Kondo's Magic of Tidying book, too. Another high recommend!

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OOOOOooooh, looky!


Isn't it great?? 
My honey has been working so hard on this display quilt for my graduation.
It is even better in person...

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And, one more sticky for my dear friend Kevin, who just was gifted a Vitamix:


Salsa Mexicano, the Liz-version


1/4 to 1/2 medium yellow onion (dependent on your taste)
2 cans stewed tomatoes (Mexican style, if available)
jalapeno peppers (optional, amount to your taste)
1 small can diced green chilies with juice
2 T white vinegar
2 T tomato paste
1 T dried cilantro
1 T chili powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
black pepper, to taste

Place onions in food processor (I use a Vitamix) and pulse until just shy of puree. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed but still chunky. You may need to scrapes sides to integrate ingredients halfway through mixing. Do not over mix.

Bust out the chips.



And now, off to study.
Until next time...

December 30, 2016

Clearing the Deck

I love this blog. It seems to be a refuge in a way other venues just cannot. It is no wonder that throughout history people have withdrawn to writing as a way to both record moments and history, and to think deeply about their human experience. And, what's not to love about that?

As the fog moves up the canal this late December morning, I am again awed at the place I find myself. Call it fortunate, or blessed, or just plumb-ass lucky...I am so very grateful for my circumstances. I think the seagulls that bob along with the winter migrating ducks agree.



So, a bit of clearing the clutter is in order, I suppose. I took the luxury, during this school break, to clean out my closet. Gosh, I have another bag to give to donation; at the risk of sounding redundant, have you checked out the Fast-Diet yet? It is neither a fast nor a diet, but I have been quite successful in dropping pounds and improving my health - which is the major benefit. Anyway, it was nice to clear out the old in anticipation of our final move down here in June. I can tell you one thing: I will be re-reading Marie Kondo's tidying book prior to that endeavor. No need to bring extra baggage with us!

Other cool things worth sharing:

Have you ever tried TokyoMilk perfumes or products? Lisa and I discovered it in the coolest little shop in Centralia called Shady Lady - what a find...both the perfume and the shop! I actually walked out of the shop and then had to turn around and go look at things again! That perfume came home with me...

Another product that is enjoying a lot of popularity is handmade soaps. I even saw some made by-men-for-men using beer, of all things! However, if you are looking for some really high-quality handmade soap made from goat milk, check out a local Ocean Shores producer named Laura Brannon. She and her husband run Gaia Blends Natural and Organic Soaps, Salves, and Candles. The salve is definitely worth trying, especially if you suffer from any dry skin ailments. She will be back in Ocean Shores in March, in case you are near-by. If not, check out her link above.

Under the heading of techy stuff, since I am no longer on facebook, I needed some way to keep up with at least the bare minimum of news. I tried the iphone app Newsify, but it seemed a bit cumbersome and not very adaptable to my needs. Then I tried Quartz, and I absolutely love it! With the appearance and tone of a texting friend, I get just the facts, or I can get a bit more. If I need even more information on the subject, I can follow the link to the actual article they are citing. Very cool! If you are like me, and not wanting to be inundated with our next president and his every move, check out Quartz (I actually have it as an app on my iphone, but if you follow the link, it takes you to the ability to subscribe for email updates. Very handy.)

And, speaking of scary news nobody is considering, how about THIS?

On that happy note, I just want to say that I am back on instagram under the moniker OceanShoresJedi, if anyone feels so inclined to follow. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em...right?

The appropriate music at the right time:



I cannot clear the clutter without mentioning the sad fact of the passing of Carrie Fisher (and her mother, Debbie Reynolds the very next day). The world of Star Wars fandom is in mourning. She will be greatly missed.

in Force Awakens

I love these two shots...



Well, I cannot end on that unhappy note...so how about some words of wisdom?

"You can say anything you like, as long as you say it the right way."

And, this one:

"Are you building up or tearing down?"

Definitely things to think about when considering relationships of all flavors. Our words have meaning, and what you say has the potential of reverberating in another's head long after the conversation has ended. It is wise to be mindful with our words; they may outlive us!


Well, that's all for now. The sun has come out again, there are a couple of geese swimming casually by my window, and the hummingbird just checked in to see what we were talking about before taking a sweet sip from the feeder.



December 22, 2016

A little bit of reminiscing - 2016

So, here we are at the end of another year - I can hardly believe it!

I left my beloved religious community and said goodbye to my mother in 2010, and then left my relationship of 20 years in 2012. I entered university in 2013 and now am getting ready to graduate with honors this coming spring. And, best of all - I am privileged to live life with two of the sweetest, most loving souls alive. Who could ask for more?

I am grateful to come to this time healthy and the most happy I have ever been.
I am grateful for my children, and their continued health and happiness.
I am grateful for a beautiful and peaceful home on the coast.
I am grateful for things to learn and for those who are willing to share their knowledge.
I am grateful for an innate curiosity and motivation to learn.
I am grateful for the wisdom that is available.
I am grateful for good food to eat, and the joy that comes from preparation and sharing.
I am grateful for life's necessities - power, heat, running water, soft beds, and laughter.
I am grateful for the nature all around us.
I am oh-so grateful for life.