One way to define love is "sustained, compassionate attention". These words came from John Muir Laws, a naturalist, educator, and artist who inspires stewardship of the land by sharing his practice of nature sketching. When I read these words, I began to see the importance of my own art practice in developing sustained, compassionate attention for myself.Read More
I recently returned from a week-long stay in Keystone, Colorado. I was there with a small group of physicians gathered to restore their voice to the practice of medicine.
How I got there was through a series of events I can only call synchronicity.
What I felt was a profound feeling of "coming home".
I showed up as all of me, in full color. My role was to listen deeply and expansively, and I chose to record what I heard in visual form.
It was as if everything I practiced was serving me in my service to this gathering. Each morning I woke early and rode my rented bike along the many trails around Keystone. I listened to the Snake River winding its way through the trees. I inhaled with awe each time I arrived at the vista of Lake Dillon. I clawed my way up a steep hill only to be rewarded with the jackpot of a stunning view of Breckenridge and beyond.
I had learned from these past few years of practicing self-care that these morning steps were my fuel for being present and thinking creatively. I knew what to do - even in an environment away from my familiar surroundings at home - because I had practiced them into new habits. I had my biking clothes, I was comfortable riding, and all I had to do was explore new roads and read new maps.
I also had my daily sketching and art journaling practice in place, something I started only within the last two years. I have experimented with many different formats and media, and I am comfortable drawing outside. On this trip, I brought a small Moleskine Japanese album with accordion pages. It fit in my small travel purse or pocket, and I carried a pouch with pen, markers, and water brushes.
On my morning rides, I often sketched a scene quickly in ink, filling in color later in the day or in the evening. I noticed what I noticed. I took note of the stories I wanted to tell. And by the time I got home, there were three or four panels that needed coloring, which I completed within a few days.
New experiences, new people, new places -- all of these fuel my creativity and keep me inspired.
I am grateful for the daily practices I cultivate at home, so I am well-prepared to stay open when I'm on the road.
For a frame-by-frame caption story of my Keystone travel journal, see my post here.
For an in-depth reflection on the contents of the physician meeting and its impact on me personally, stay tuned!
I firmly believe everyone should have the experience - at least once in their life - of pooping in the wilderness. Of digging a hole at least six inches deep, dropping trou, and watching their own poop land in the hole. Then filling it with soil, packing it down, and returning the surrounding earth to its original state.
I believe this not just because pooping in holes has become second nature since I started backpacking, but because I experienced real compost in my friend Lydia's yard yesterday. From start to mulch. When you see one too many potted plants or cut flower arrangements in your life, you forget where it all really comes from. Not just the postcard pictures of a farm with a guy in overalls posed casually leaning on a fence that you see from the side of the road. Not the beautiful bins of colorful, washed produce (definitely not GMO and definitely organic) at the farmers' market.
No, I'm talking about what dirt really is. How our bodies - the stuff of our skin and bones - are ultimately the same stuff as dirt. How the plants growing prettily or wildly in the ground are also the same stuff as dirt. How if you have the chance to take a shovel and pull up some plants, move them to the compost heap, then come back a few months later, you might see something that looks nothing like the original plant but a lot like dirt.
We make dirt wrong. We use it to describe the things we don't want on us ("Don't touch that! It's DIRTY!"), don't want to hear ("Don't say that DIRTY word!"), and what we work hard to get rid of ("Wash your hands...they're DIRTY!").
But DIRT is US.
It was a moment of revelation - of Oneness, if you will - when my friend Lydia lifted the tarp covering the fresh heap of compost made of kitchen scraps. It was hard for me to watch all the creepy crawly worms and bugs making their way through coffee grounds, pumpkin skins, paper scraps, egg shells, and leaves.
I didn't want to have to see it. I'll admit that.
But there they were, making DIRT...the vital ingredient that fuels all life, the stuff that IS life in its final form and the source of all living things. The end...and the beginning...simultaneously.
It had been so long since I'd seen, smelled, and participated in decomposition that it woke me up. But of course that isn't exactly true. I'm surrounded by life - and DIRT - at all times, I just ignore the "dirty" parts and focus on enjoying the flowers and the fruits. I let other people handle the dirt - "do the dirty work". Or I separate myself from the "dark" or "dirty" aspects of me. I try to edit them out of my experience, as if it's better that way.
As I stood there, staring at the bustling city of worms crawling in and out, up and down, through the muck, I remembered. I remembered all the ways I have tried to push away the "dirty" parts of my past, to make everything look clean all the time, to live as if the flowers - the things of Beauty I've decided I want to see - don't have deep roots that crawl through that same rich soil, black and moist with powerful fuel for life. I remembered how I've distanced myself from the earth, whenever I insisted on standing tall, head held high, looking towards the horizon of some greater dream, trying to deny the "dirt" that supported me under my feet at all times.
Staring at the pile of compost as it became compost, I witnessed an aspect of Oneness we aren't often presented. If it's true that everything is energy, that every single phenomenon is in the same field of infinite potential, then it surely applies to compost too.
It also applies to pooping in the woods.
Which is why, if you ever have the chance, you should do it. But please don't leave toilet paper in the backcountry. I'm begging you.
Or go look at a pile of compost. Study and observe how life feeds on life.
And be with everything that comes up for you - all the feelings of aversion, disgust, and wanting to turn away to experience "something better" than this.
How is the stuff you consider "dirt" in your life actually the compost pile, rich with nutrients and material for your growth and thriving?
How would you feel differently about your "poopy" circumstances if you saw them simply as compost in the making, as both the byproduct of your process and the source of all that is to come?
By all means, train your eyes to see the flowers, and use your taste to savor the sweet fruits of life. But also remember, they - and we - all need the dirt to grow.
“How you see determines what you see, and what you feel.” – Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with vision boards since the very beginning. My very first one was an assignment for the very first personal development workshop I attended. End of Day One, before we were to break for dinner, we had a few hours to make a board of what makes our heart come alive.
The second one I made was later that year with an ex-boyfriend on a retreat in Santa Cruz. It was my first beach weekend retreat since moving to California five years before. What had taken me so long?
Then I made another one that made me feel like crap, but I didn’t quite know why.
I kept up with vision boards for some reason. Maybe it was my determination to see if they would really work for me in my life. I was a total skeptic in the beginning, going through the motions like a good student, but not truly expecting anything to happen.
I haven't yet written about the latest example of how a vision board changed my life, and since I’m leading a vision board workshop next week, this seems like a good time to really tell the story in completeness.
From Complaining to Creating
I was living in a tiny house with my boyfriend. It was his house. I moved into it. This was after I had downsized my own belongings by eighty percent. I had moved out of a commercial office space, and then moved out of my apartment after staring at the furniture for months and months, not knowing how I would detach myself from it.
There was really no space that was “mine”, although I had access to everything that was his. We made a garden. We cooked. We adventured mostly outside the house. But we felt closed in because we were surrounded by apartment buildings, a parking garage, an architectural firm, and a daycare center. Our blinds were always closed, and there was only one door to the outside. I had a tiny space in the back, about the dimensions of a single yoga mat, where I did my morning ritual, meditation and chanting. I could see a patch of the sky, and the tops of trees from the windows in there, which gave me a daily dose of spaciousness.
My enlightened self can identify the gifts of that time in my life – the gifts of being outdoors for a long hike every single weekend, the gifts of being in my garden every day in the summer, the gifts of not working so hard on my business, the gifts of discovering REI, and the gift of becoming more open to things falling apart.
But I still found myself spending most of my waking hours complaining about the space, what was missing, how it was impeding my ability to focus on my work.
I realized most of my energy and attention were being spent on what I didn’t want, and what wasn’t working. I was blaming the space for all of the things I wasn’t able to feel within myself.
One day it occurred to me that I was also free to ask, “What if I shifted my attention to what I do want?” Aha! I hadn’t done that in awhile. Complaining was my mind’s way of dealing with the situation, believing that if I complained enough, maybe something would happen differently.
It had been over a year and nothing had “happened” differently, at least with the space.
So I decided to make a vision board.
What It Looks Like versus What It Feels Like
I used google to search for images of places and views and living spaces that felt like what I wanted to experience from my own living space, but had never dared to say out loud. Knowing what I wanted to feel like is an important difference from believing I knew what things were supposed to look like. We’re so bombarded with images these days that we rarely have time to sink into our bodily sensations that come up in response to these images. I've learned that when I connect with the feeling behind images, I am often surprised that what they look like is nothing like what I imagined.
The qualities I wanted to feel were captured with the words gathering space, nourishing space, convertible space, walking space, creativity, honoring earth, peace, reflection, nature, beauty, energizing, growth, inspiration, joy.
Since I wasn’t able to see these qualities in my living space at that time, I didn’t believe they could be part of my reality ever. But I set aside those doubts for one evening, and put myself in the place of the person in my imagination – the “me” who had it all. I found pictures of nature, hiking trails in the backyard, a garden, expansive views of hillsides, trees, big windows, high ceilings, convertible spaces for creating, reflecting, gathering, eating, and seeing nature.
Then I said, What the heck, since I’m doing this exercise, why not put everything out there? The stuff I really don’t believe is possible.
So I put in a recording studio – a picture of a guy playing guitar in front of a microphone, surrounded by windows opening into views of trees and nature. Another secret desire of mine was to have my own creative space, and for my boyfriend to have his own creative space, so that we could come together in each of these spaces but were not forced to work in the same space at the same time. I put in a picture of a home yoga studio with luxurious amounts of open hardwood floor space, literally thinking, “Yeah, right. No one has that!” while feeling in my body the tingles of excitement around the idea of, “What if I did?”
I loved the resulting images, and it was enough for me to make it the wallpaper on our computer so I could dream of living there on a daily basis.
Three magic words: "Thanks, I quit."
Then I let go.
There was a sense of relief and freedom just from having created the vision board. And in my mind, everything about the images seemed impossible – there was nowhere I had ever seen in the Bay Area that would meet all these criteria, be affordable enough for us, close enough to my boyfriend’s work for a manageable commute, and so on. My naysayer mind chimed in again with its list of “no way”s.
I let go but I didn’t forget. I left the vision board on the wallpaper of our computer, and then I returned to the tasks of daily life.
Within three weeks, my boyfriend sent me a link to a property for rent in Half Moon Bay. The pictures had windows that looked similar to the images on the vision board. Interesting, I thought. I clicked back onto craigslist and saw that there were two other places in Half Moon Bay within our price range. One of them had very dark pictures, and a very simple description that wasn’t flashy. Yet it just had a feeling that intrigued me, and I wanted to check it out. We scheduled appointments at all three properties for that weekend.
The minute we turned the corner and started driving down the street, I knew this was the one. I just felt this was where we were going to live.
Then our jaws kept dropping. The beach was just steps from the front door.
There was a large room facing the ocean that is now our home music studio and house concert venue. And the front room, with two large windows peeking out to the ocean view, is now my home yoga and meditation space and painting studio!
I even have my own office, which I honestly didn’t even expect. I was prepared to let that go in exchange for the yoga and creative space. But I got it all!
We got it all.
We are both so happy and inspired in this space, as it serves our needs and creative purpose in life right now. We enjoy sharing it with the community in the form of house concerts, my new SoulBodyMind Salon series, and who knows what other forms will emerge.
I tell this story whenever anyone asks “how we found” this place, because I know from experience that the place found us.
By shifting the energy from “what’s missing” and “what’s not working” to “What do we want to create?”, we invited in our own ability to see possibilities in a whole new way.
I never imagined, even at the moment of making the vision board, that we would end up living by the ocean. I was in love with the tall trees, the mountains, the rivers. I thought we would find a little cottage up there somewhere. But my ability to imagine was only based on my prior experience, and the universe had a greater vision and infinite possibilities waiting for my ability – my vision - to discover them.
Try out the experiment of taking an area of struggle in your life, an area where you notice yourself spending a lot of time complaining about what’s wrong or missing, and try asking, “What do I want to create in this situation?”
I’d love to know what you see through these new eyes.
Join me on February 9th for a Vision Board Workshop at Prajna Yoga & Healing Arts in Belmont, CA. Do you want to have me facilitate a Vision Board Workshop for your organization or in your home? I'd love to talk about that with you. Contact me to discuss your curiosity and interest.
Photo credits: sunset, Randy Bales. All others by the author. Prints of hand-painted heart image available at my online Zazzle store.
Last Saturday I attended a program called TEDxSandHillRdWomen in Menlo Park, California. You may already be familiar with the TED talks series. This was one of 130 events of its kind around the world on the same day, gathering women together to hear "ideas worth sharing." I had an intuition about attending, and synchronicity brought me the opportunity to take the place of a friend's friend who could not attend at the last minute. All kinds of insecurities ran through my mind in the hours and days approaching the event. I was not a speaker, "only" an attendee. Yet all of the connotations in my mind about "Sand Hill Road" - the home of venture capitalists and attorneys for all of Silicon Valley, the allure of which had once drawn me into the role of venture capitalist, and eventually drew me to live in this zip code when I first chose to move to California - now haunted me. I wondered what I would wear. I no longer even own any high heeled shoes or suits, and I didn't feel like dressing up to "be like" what my mind believed a "Sand Hill Rd woman" should look like. I watched my mind mull over this question, knowing from my higher awareness that it didn't matter at all what I wore, but also curiously observing as my thoughts popped up anyway.
A few days before, a friend heard me describe this and said, "The question you should be asking is, what do YOU want out of this?"
I immediately replied, "I want to be comfortable as myself. I want to show up as myself."
She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she nodded. "And I'm looking at you right now. I see you, right in front of me now. Are you comfortable?"
We were sitting cross-legged on the hardwood floor of my home, getting ready to sing and make music together. I had met with this woman every two weeks for the last two years. I was totally comfortable.
And now, nearly a week after attending the amazing TEDx event, I can say that I felt totally comfortable there as well. I was surprised in the most delightful of ways at everything - the diversity of women there, the inspiring speakers offering so many different perspectives, the serendipitous interactions I experienced throughout every moment of the day - and most of all, I was delighted to experience myself as me, fully inhabiting my body and my mind and my spirit exactly where I am today.
I felt the sense of "home" that one feels when we are surrounded by people who make us feel that we are not alone, that we are seen and accepted for exactly who we are, that we share more in common - our fears, our grief, our insecurities, our hopes, our ambitions, our courage - than we are different or separate from one another.
I felt this in every cell of my body. And I wore no makeup. I wore comfortable shoes. I wore jeans. I wore beautiful colors and fabrics in which I physically felt at ease. I was confident in a way that is different from the ways I have "dressed up" to "perform" for others in the past. And I was seen by so many women for who I am. I was able to see into the hearts and the lives of these women and feel the confidence that I am absolutely not alone in my human journey, in my deep desire to speak about the values I hold in my heart, the issues in this world that I know are important, and how we must all transform - no matter where we are today - in order to sustain and support life on this earth.
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From the women onstage I learned that I am not alone in my challenges, my thinking, or my passion to make a difference based on what I have experienced in my life. I also learned that as women, we have a tendency to criticize each other when we see another women step up into her own power. That we as women also tend to shut down and hide when we feel there is the slightest possibility of dissent or resistance (or even silence) in response to our ideas. That we as women must learn how to support one another as we each take the risk of bringing our ideas into the world.
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It is no longer a question of building résumés, or putting women into positions of leadership and decision-making where men currently dominate, or getting equal access. It is a question of supporting life itself on this planet. This is vital not only to women, but to everyone who inhabits the earth. It is a question of bringing the truth in women's hearts - what we know so deeply to be true - into our way of life, creating communities that are based on our real values. Not the ones we have imitated in order to be accepted. Not the ones we have gradually adopted in order to fit in. Not the ones we have been trained by advertising and media to believe. Not the ones we have reluctantly accepted as “just the way it is”. [singlepic id=493 w=320 h=240 float=center] In summary, I heard the voices of extraordinary women - a serial entrepreneur who has built billion-dollar businesses, a venture capitalist, a founder of an environmental alliance, a global fundraiser/author/activist, a redheaded Chinese-speaking songwriting banjo player....the list goes on, and these titles do little to describe the power of the heart and mind that each of them conveyed in their own totally unique way. How they have each followed their own path and have taken action on their intuition's whispers in service of a more heartfelt world, a greater depth of connection, with life.
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My point in all of this is to share my passion that the future of our earth depends on women and girls adding our voices to the conversation of life. We women are in a position to bring balance to the conversation, to influence everyone - men and women - in our families, communities, and workplaces, by expressing ourselves more authentically, more truthfully, by honoring who we truly are, in every moment.
What that means - to be "authentic" and to be "truthful" - is the heart of each woman's own journey. To discover this by way of living. To ask. To know that she is not alone.
About two weeks ago I bought a bike. Brand new, cute as can be, even with a name, "Fiona". I also got the cutest panier ever, with a lime green flower and orange straps. [singlepic id=477 w=320 h=240 float=center]
On my very first ride, I got a flat tire. A complete blow out, requiring me to walk it home for about two miles. Luckily it was a particularly beautiful sunset on the ocean, and I got to look up, twisting my head slowly to savor the powder blue sky and cotton candy pink clouds spreading in all directions around me.
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Still, I was a little shaken by the fact that the road looked so innocent - no broken glass or bed of nails in sight. Just smooth blacktop for as far as the eye could see. Except for whatever jumped into my back tire that evening.
It turned into a perfect opportunity to have one of my coworkers show me how to change a flat. Somewhere around step 9 of the process, my eyes started to glaze over, but I kept taking notes as he explained and demonstrated patiently. He taught me about tire protectors and now I own some. If you don't have them, go get some!
I've been riding almost every day since. On the sunny ones, I'm riding chin up, smiling from ear to ear, and taking in the sounds of the rolling waves and the expansiveness of the ocean stretching out to the horizon. I note the particular shade of blue in the sky and on the water each day, because they are never repeated exactly.
Riding my bike has transformed a routine errand - hopping in my car to drive two miles to the local market for food each day - into a celebration of life. I breathe in the scent of cypress, I feel the warm sunshine on my cheeks, and I experience my own body propelling this amazing machine beneath me.
I wonder, “How the bicycle must have transformed human experience when it first appeared on this planet!”
And then I think, "What made us dream of a bigger machine that would multiply our speed of transit even more, but not require us to move our bodies at all?"
When I'm sitting on my bike, gliding along the paved path near the ocean, I think about these things. I am relaxed and confident, because this is a bike's territory. Pedestrians and dogs must yield.
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A different story begins the minute I cross from the path to the road. The very last stretch of ride between my house and the market involves crossing a major intersection with a stoplight. Four lanes of traffic, three strip malls, a gas station, a high school, all converge at one point. I have two streets to cross each time I reach this intersection. I walk across one way, and ride across the other, my body often tense with resolve to "get through" without any close encounters with cars or mishaps with my own machine beneath me.
One day last week, I was feeling particularly vulnerable. It was drizzling lightly. I liked being alone on the path, feeling the cool breeze in my ears, and the tiny fuzzy droplets of mist gathering on my eyelashes. I was cautious, using the brakes a bit more on the turns, controlling my speed, as I had no idea how Fiona would respond in wet conditions.
Traffic was slow on the main highway. Cars inched along, and it was only three o'clock. The high school had just gotten out, so large groups of kids congregated at the crosswalks, on their way home or to the adjacent strip mall.
I gritted my teeth and got through the stoplight. My pant leg got caught momentarily as I mounted to start to go across, and I had a slight moment of panic. I didn't want to be seen falling in the middle of the intersection! I started over, gathered my composure, and made my way across without a problem, although I was muttering some phrases to myself under my breath anyway. I hated that feeling of vulnerability, of having to depend on my body and this foreign thing underneath me to work properly in order to ensure my safe passage.
I did my shopping, filling my panier to the brim with beautiful vegetables and dinner fixings. I was ready to go home. But I had to get back across the hairy intersection first.
I took a slightly different route, making my way around the back of the store, thinking I would use a pedestrian crosswalk in the middle of the block. There was no easy way to get back to that stoplight. Cars came from four different directions - a parking lot, a side street, and two directions on the main road. A large group of high school kids – mostly boys – was hanging out on the sidewalk, directly in front of the pedestrian crosswalk. Most of them were looking down, kicking the ground, their hands shoved into their pockets, as if they were waiting for something. As I approached them, I felt an ancient but familiar wave course through my body – like prickles, spreading from my hands up to my neck, a tensing, a holding of my breath, a desire to "get through" this without being noticed, without embarassing myself.
Me, on my brand new Fiona with a brand new panier overflowing with vegetables, wearing a bright green rainshell and bright white helmet. Everything so bright and brand new. Who wouldn't notice that?
I changed my plans and kept riding.
I passed the group of boys and proceeded to the next parking lot entrance, thinking I could position myself to cross the street with the cars. Several minutes – or what seems like several minutes -- went by, and it was clear that drivers are not going to make space for me. I would have to “be aggressive” and act like a car, or wait. So, I decided to retrace my path by half a block back to the pedestrian crosswalk.
I never looked at any of those high school boys, but I felt them watching me as I approached. This, of course, made me avoid eye contact totally. They were spitting, laughing, and yelling things every now and then. As I looked over my left shoulder and waited with one foot poised on the pedal of my bike, I felt ashamed that I wasn't "aggressive enough" to cross the street as if I were another car, or, like some bikers, as if I owned the right of way. I felt lame for having retraced my route by half a block, just to use the pedestrian crosswalk. I waited, and I watched, and I found my window to cross. During those few seconds, I heard one boy's voice shout, "CHINESE PEOPLE!" I didn't look back. I couldn't. I felt a sting of pins and needles spread throughout my body, and all of my attention went toward getting out of there as fast as I could.
As I pedaled away, I recalled the incidents - yes, plural - from my childhood that had made me feel the same way. They were so long ago, but in that moment immediately came back into focus. I had been called "Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, if you please" starting in first grade. I had been taunted with, "Gook!" yelled at me from open car windows as I commuted on foot between the freshman building and the main building of my high school, where I took math class with the upperclassmen.
I knew exactly what these words meant, and I knew exactly what these people were making fun of - me. The slant of my eyes, the color of my hair, the whole history of a people that I didn't know and they probably didn't know either. I just looked like something funny and irrelevant to them.
I realized on that drizzly day, pedaling away from those boys, that the act of riding a bicycle is nothing short of revolutionary for me. None of the women in either of my parents' families ever learned to ride a bike. It was considered "too dangerous". That and swimming. From the stories I heard growing up, it seemed unnecessary for a girl to take such risks in the name of mere recreation and enjoyment. It was considered a privilege not to have to be physically active. It was a sign of refinement, education, and status. And there were no higher prizes than these in the Chinese culture that I learned about from my parents’ stories.
I never learned to ride a bike until second grade. That was late in my hometown of Libertyville, Illinois. It seemed to be a top priority in that suburb to teach your kids to swim, ride a bike, shoot a basketball, catch and throw a baseball. This is what the “All-American”, “normal” people in our neighborhood did for fun.
I learned to ride a bike mainly to avoid further embarrassment at school, to have one less reason not to fit in.
In my family, the priority for me was learning to play an instrument (two instruments, actually), learning to practice every day, focusing on building a skill in the solitude of our own home. No one at school really knew what I did at home, and I never found the words to explain it. One day a newspaper clipping announcing my first place win at a Chicago-area piano competition was tacked to the bulletin board of my fourth grade classroom. I felt the same sting of shame and embarrassment, like I didn't want anyone to see it, like I had to get out of there fast.
Why? I wanted to hide. I wanted to protect what I could protect, because anywhere I showed up, people would see my face. My slanty-eyed, unmistakably Chinese face, looking out at a sea of “All-American, normal” white faces. I could never hide my face, but I could hide what was in my heart, what I really cared about, what made me feel joyful and alive. No one could make fun of that if I kept it hidden, precious only to me.
I developed the habit of cultivating my most precious territory within me. It protected me, and I protected it. While others experienced me in performance, I experienced myself most deeply in the solitude of my own practice. I learned to love the stillness, silence, and solitude of practice. My practice – the sacred activities I do for myself, which now consist of yoga, meditation, singing, painting, writing, and bodywork – still brings me to the deepest feelings of love and connection in my life.
I'm grateful for my bike and for the fact that I learned to ride it.
On my bike, I get to experience my vulnerability in a tangible way. There is no hiding. I am not protected by the walls of the 4-wheel-drive SUV my brother insisted I drive after my second car accident in my twenties. "You need to be surrounded by a cage of steel," he said to me in his lovingly protective way, as he bought me a new car.
In my car, I can hide. I can blend in with the traffic, just "getting through" to my destination each time. I can look out the windows and think my thoughts about other drivers, bikers, pedestrians. No one will notice me, if I just get through. I can play a CD and drown out the rain. I can keep the windows up and not feel a breeze.
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But my bike has taught me that there is an aliveness to being vulnerable. I feel the wind whipping by my ears, I hear the clicking of the gears and chains, I hear the swells and roars of the ocean waves, and I announce my presence to pedestrians by saying, "On your left!". I greet my fear each time I cross the highway, or, earlier this week, take a turn too quickly and crash into a fencepost. (Fiona and I are both doing fine.)
I feel both the rawness and the sweetness of being exposed. I feel more of everything when I am on my bike. I hear the birds singing and the highway patrol sirens blaring as they approach a wreck. I smell the eucalyptus trees, and the garbage waiting in cans for pickup. I recall ancient memories of shame, and I receive more reasons to appreciate my particular life story.
My bike taught me all of this, in only a few weeks. I plan to keep learning.
Last year I made a vision board for who I am and how I feel when I express my creativity. I had devoted 2010 to my Core of Peace, and I was setting a new intention for 2011. I didn't know exactly HOW my creativity would be expressed. But by making the vision board I connected with images and words that captured how I knew it would FEEL to be in that place of expression.
I let go of the HOW, because I didn't - and couldn't - know at the time what the exact steps would be.
I breathed deeply into the feelings of my own creativity, and allowed images to attract me without needing an explanation or a meaning or a concept. They were just images that I loved, for no "reason" at all.
Here is the vision board I made:
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I have it as the wallpaper image on my laptop, so every time I open my computer, the images enter my consciousness. Most days, I don't sit and deliberately stare at every image on my screen, but I know they are there.
I haven't thought about that vision board in many months. I have gone about the business of living, of staying in my Core of Peace, of letting some things go, and picking up other things, of planting seeds and watching them grow, all the while noticing that I cannot force growth to happen any faster than it already is.
Last night I looked at it again.
It was with a sense of amazement that I noticed how many of the images had actually come into my reality during 2011. In other words, my visions had come true!
While I was holding the intention to express more of my creativity in 2011, I lived by the mantra, "First Feel Free." The actions that resulted from that feeling included walking away from a commercial lease, and six months after that, downsizing my belongings by about eighty percent and moving out of my two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment, and into my boyfriend's two-bedroom, one-bathroom house, with a kitty and a big backyard.
We started a vegetable garden.
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We climbed to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite, after months of training with progressively longer hikes every weekend.
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I fell in love with the outdoors, and discovered a new interest (er, obsession) in backpacking.
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I accompanied a dear friend on violin while she sang her heart out in a burlesque show, observing the self-empowerment potential for women to love (and even flaunt) their own bodies exactly as they are.
Our band, Chinese Melodrama, stumbled into a new niche combining our love of supporting local businesses and the taste of wine, by providing music at local winery and wine bar events.
I got so busy living that my writing and videoblogging could no longer keep pace with the rate at which I was accumulating experiences. I let go of my need to report on every single learning and observation I had about the world, and began to just fully soak in the experience.
Meanwhile, another dream came true, with the opening of a brand new yoga and healing arts studio just a few blocks away from my new home. It was also another example of letting go of my grief over "not having a yoga studio anymore" and allowing the magic of life to arrive at my doorstep. I now find myself on the roster of musicians for the Sunday evening yoga and healing sound classes (starting in September, I'll be playing the second Sunday of every month), and working with the studio to coordinate events with my community of healing artists, musicians, and poets.
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Looking back at my vision board, I can count the images that have arrived in my reality since that day last year. I have found myself in the woods, on the top of mountains, at the rocky shores of the ocean, standing in awe of a sunset, opening my arms to the expansiveness of the sky, praising the stillness of the forest, celebrating my own beauty, and playfulness, and togetherness with a companion.
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All of this, once just a vision, is now my reality. All of this is who I am and how I feel when I express my creativity, letting go of the HOW and opening to the expansive mysteries of the earth and life.
The old saying goes, "Be careful what you wish for."
I say, "Be bold about what you wish for."
And brace yourself. Because you just may get it.