Sunday, July 17, 2016

sunday grace


i dream a lot about flying, flying like a bird and metaphorically flying (accomplishment).

it's often the steps that are required to take flight that keep me grounded.

this poem reminds me to keep trying, be patient, do the work.

Friday, July 1, 2016

trauma-informed yoga

{ahimsa}

some friends have asked me, "what exactly is trauma-informed yoga?"  this conversation is so important, so i thought i would write about it here.

the answer is complex.  so complex that i had to edit down this post because the original was a mile long and i still hadn't begun to capture the breadth and depth of the topic.  i whittled it down to a few fundamentals that are critical when offering trauma-informed yoga.

trauma occurs when our ability to cope is overwhelmed.  trauma exists across a spectrum and is defined by how events are experienced and internalized, rather than by the event itself.  this means that anything could be experienced as a trauma.  when something overwhelms our ability to cope, our nervous system provides the cues to the physical body to mount a response to the danger--fight, flight, or freeze.  when our system restores to a sense of safety (regulation) after the threat has ended, trauma can be experienced without long-term or debilitating effects.  it is when our nervous system does not return to a sense of safety and we are unable to return to a place of healthy regulation that we remain stuck in survival response even though the actual threat no longer exists.

the practice of yoga is uniquely suited to people who have experienced trauma, allowing them to experience safety and learn and practice very effective self-regulation techniques. yoga brings our awareness to what is happening in the body (over and over again),  this act of focusing on sensation grounds our experience in the here and now, rather than the past.  when we practice regulating the body in this present state using sensation, grounding, orientation, breath and other resources, the door is opened for our brains to step out of the stuckness and construct more hopeful possibilities in the face of perceived threat.  this is the process of cultivating resilience.

ahimsa, the first yama in the yogi's ethical code, means non-violence or do no harm.  first and foremost, we have the obligation to ensure that we are not causing harm, triggering, or in any way re-traumatizing yoga students (to the best of our ability).  with trauma, this can be tricky.  we start by not taking this responsibility lightly.

some things to consider about offering trauma-informed yoga:

  • understanding the complexity of trauma is key.  i wholeheartedly support that each and every yoga teacher know the basics of trauma and the many ways it can show up in a class.  however, i worry about oversimplification and that the concept is becoming a bit of a flavor-of-the-month in the yoga world.  we must ensure our behavior remains true to its original intention to be of service.
  • there is a difference between a yoga teacher being informed about trauma and taking measures to promote emotional safety in a general studio class and a yoga class or program that is held specifically for a known traumatized or marginalized population.  a good rule is that the teacher's experience with and knowledge of trauma is congruent with the known level of trauma in the room.
  • when working with trauma, a high level of self-awareness is critical.  we have to know our own privilege, tendencies, blindspots and triggers.  a behavior, personality trait, words or teaching approach we have and use could unintentionally cause harm to someone with trauma.   unfortunately, so many people are operating from a place of unconsciousness and have no idea how they harm or trigger.  yes, even yogis.
  • we must know and manage our own trauma histories.  there are not that many humans in the world (if any) who are have not experienced trauma to one degree or another.  if you are operating from a place of unaddressed trauma, you are unlikely to adequately gauge when you are doing harm. 
  • when a student has experienced trauma, they are also not likely to adequately gauge when harm is being done to them or when things are dangerous.  this is one of the explanations for re-victimization. this makes the ethical obligation of the trauma-informed yoga teacher even more imperative.
  • consider your preparation to be trauma-informed.  there is an abundance of fantastic information about trauma-informed yoga.  self-study and online courses with reliable professionals are appropriate for trauma-informed teachers of general studio classes, however, due to its complexity, trauma isn't really a topic you can unpack and understand in a few sessions.
  • there are more in-depth, lengthy and in-person programs for those who teach classes and programs intentionally designed for students with trauma.  other professional experience working with trauma (i.e. as a therapist, social worker, first responder, etc.) is sensible here too.  
  • we must check our motivation to teach trauma-informed yoga.  we are motivated to be of service, to create and maintain emotional safety for others, to offer effective tools for self-regulation and embodiment.  we don't teach trauma-informed yoga to be heroes or because it feels important or we're working out our own shit or because all the popular yoga teachers are doing it.  

teaching trauma-informed yoga or being a part of a class or program intended to teach yoga as a resource for cultivating resilience is a tremendous gift and a huge responsibility.  it is not for everyone.  each of us has our own unique gifts and areas where we can best be of service.   

trauma-informed yoga is a never-ending journey of study, reflection, self-awareness, empathy, presence and selflessness.  it feels so big to me and i worry when i see or hear about others treating it so casually.  titration is intentionally used in the practice of trauma-informed yoga and the same cautious, deliberate and gradual exploration approach should be mirrored in the preparation to teach it.  

follow along as i continue to grow soul studio in an intentional, meaningful way.  we will be providing trauma-informed yoga and trauma-informed expressive arts and writing programs soon.  

Sunday, June 5, 2016

sunday grace: grounded and oriented

orient.  10"x10" acrylic, ink, paper, pencil on wood.

i'm studying how to teach trauma-informed yoga and the material is rocking me to the core.

so many times here, i start to write that i can't wait to begin teaching yoga and art to teenage girls, but that is not true.  i can wait.  because the material is complex and important.  the girls are complex and important.  it's going to take some time to process and integrate and practice.  i want to offer something authentic and meaningful.

for so many people, feeling safe in the body doesn't come naturally.  it requires consciously becoming grounded, orienting to the space, and cultivating resources for emotional safety.  one of the many cues i learned for orienting that really resonated with me is, "look around the room and find four blue things."  i practice this myself when i am overwhelmed or frustrated or feel sad and to start my yoga practice.  it's simple and effective.

i woke up this morning wanting to create a piece inspired by four blue things.  because, you know, i process in color. i love that the abstract shape in the center unintentionally formed into a compass.  it also resembles my favorite yoga posture, ardha chandrasana, balancing fear, strength, lightness and beauty.

these things are my grace today:  learning, orienting, seeing the path more clearly, patience.

four things that just might be blue.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

sunday grace: these four unlikely friends

{clockwise from top left:  the artist, frida kahlo; the mystic, anandamayi ma; the activist, angela davis,
and the believer, anne frank.  acrylic paint and image transfer on wood.}

yesterday i completed the fourth piece in an ongoing series of mixed-media work dedicated to my own personal archetypes.  i began a month ago just wanting to pay homage to frida kahlo after i daydreamed about us being friends and the kinds of things we would do together and talk about.  how would she listen to me?  what wisdom would she impart?  how could i make her proud?  i realized pretty quickly that i was actually exploring my archetypes, those women who hold particular resonance for me and who are the ideal personifications of qualities i wish to cultivate and maintain in my self and life.

i allowed the selection of the friends and the creative process to be informed by a current mood, need or memory.  i love the unlikely and powerful gang of heroes that emerged and who comprise the first four. even though they lived in different times and are of different cultures and have such a diverse treasure box of gifts, they all share a courageous and dreamy spirit with which i deeply connect.

. . . . .

i met my husband ken while we were both acting in the play the diary of anne frank.  the play was being produced in my hometown in california and the proceeds were dedicated to the agency i worked for at the time, to create a secure and confidential park where children in foster care could visit outdoors with their biological parents.  as both an actor in the play and a social worker at the agency, i was asked to give a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

i remember writing and speaking about the commonalities among children, the things that both the foster children and anne frank shared:  resilience, a connection to their parents no matter what, and a deep love of the freedom and light of the outdoors.  anne wrote in her diary, "the best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside."  it moved me deeply that we were building this space where children and their families could share time outside when that was the very thing that anne longed for while she was hidden in the annex.

i intentionally let her sit and write and smile in the open glorious outdoors in this piece.

friends, i am loving doing this series.  the physical time spent with the paint, photographs, scissors and glue gives space and time for me to ponder my own embodiment of the qualities of these extraordinary women.  i encourage you to spend time thinking about the remarkable humans who inform your life.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

sunday grace


moments of grace this week:

  • this wee patch of wildflowers at sunset, its beauty magnified by the fact that it is bordered by a busy highway to the east, a no-nonsense holiday inn to the south, applebee's to the north, a large government complex to the west.  it quietly stood its ground and whispered, "i'm still magnificent nature, even here in this bland chaos.  p.s. you too."
  • my meditation practice that saved me on a whirlwind tour of the state working closely with the most extroverted and energetic person i know.  
  • a mama raccoon and her two wee babes in a hollow tree behind the house.
  • homemade aqua de horchata over shaved ice in a newly-discovered hole-in-the-wall mexican joint in the middle of nowhere.
  • checking out the class schedule on the front window of a yoga studio, glancing inside to see a class in progress and a mother doing mommy-and-me yoga with two brand new babies, one lovingly held in each hand.
  • participating in two amazing yoga teacher trainings at the same time, one for yoga inclusivity and the other to teach trauma-informed yoga to youth in high-risk or marginalized settings.
  • reading poetry, perched on the edge of the blue ridge mountains.
  • receiving sas' my mindful year email for may.  this month's focus is cultivating mindful friendships.  these words:  "telling myself the truth is the foundation for every connection in my life." (you can sign up to receive the monthly emails here.) 
  • creating six little motivational notes for a fifth-grader as she breezes through her end-of-year tests this week.

    what were your moments?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

sunday grace: imaginary friends

imaginary friend {№4}:  the artist.  mixed media and image transfer on wood.  photo by leo matiz.

hello loves.

i'm deep into exploring my own personal archetypes over here.  i tend to think of them not in the traditional sense, but as muses:  badass gentle spirits whose lives, hearts and minds guide my own and spark curiosity and inspiration just when needed.

i like to call them my imaginary friends.

meet my artist friend, frida.

when we are lying around on the grass in the bright sunshine, exhausted after hours of talking and laughing, here are the things she whispers to me:

  • color is everything.
  • passion is everything.
  • justice is everything.
  • don't ever stop painting.
  • people will let you down, don't stop loving them.
  • animals will never let you down.
  • see it and say it.
  • be weird like me.
  • find other weird ones.
  • being a misfit is the most glorious gift.
  • visit the wilderness often.
  • visit the city often.
  • be well-read and never stop cultivating your intelligence.
  • be comfortable with silence and aloneness.
  • you must tend a garden and a home, they are the beautiful containers of your life.
  • scream when you need to scream.
  • dance when you need to dance.
  • paint.
  • paint.
  • paint.

(my spring|summer art project is to create a series of paintings of my imaginary friends.  i can't wait for you to meet them.)




Sunday, April 17, 2016

sunday grace: all the feels

alchemy cards, emotion deck, recently made with mindy tsonas' inner alchemy circle.

i am a sensitive human.

this is not new, i've always been tender and dramatic and melancholy and passionate and poetic.

but i used to fool myself into thinking i was keeping it a secret, carefully cultivating a moderately unaffected persona.

on occasion, one or more feeling might grow too powerful for containment and seep out in a big way.

big anger.  big fear.  big disappointment.  big grief.

sometimes my empathy kicks into overdrive and i get to feel others' emotions too.  (big fun.)

i learned that you can do a decent part-time job at hiding your emotions.  but you cannot not feel them.

i am developing a new-found appreciation for my deep feelings and ever-evolving empathy. i am observing them coming and going, watching their habits, their rhythm.  i am sitting with them and hearing their stories (which are my stories they've been trying to tell me for years and to which i stubbornly refused to listen).

so here we all are on this particular sunday morning; having coffee with me at the table is a little bit of restlessness, some disappointment, a lot of hope, compassion, courage, a mild sense of injustice. i'm trying not to pick at the scab that has grown over a recent wound to my heart.  i'm letting my feelings inform my wisdom and vise-versa.

and rumi is here too:

the guest house

this being human is a guest house
every morning a new arrival.

a joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

welcome and entertain them all
even if they are a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.
still treat each guest honorably.
he may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

the dark thought, the shame, the malice
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

be grateful for whoever comes
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


Monday, April 11, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

things i am not very good at


the other day, a sweet friend commented on facebook, "is there anything you can't do?"

um...yes.  YES!  tons of things.  here is a list of things i can't do and it is, by no measure, exhaustive:
  • pottery.  while i tend to do pretty well in the creative arts, the whole pottery wheel magic has eluded me.  i have tried time and time again.  clay is just not my medium.  this failure is evident in the bowl above.  it was intended to be a large, magnificent bowl.  but once on the wheel, i could not get the walls higher than three inches.  and the glaze job is so shoddy (and i really tried!) that i couldn't even bring myself to post a photo showing the side.  it does serve a few purposes though:  random crap collector and humility totem.
  • fried chicken.  i can cook and (sometimes) bake, but the perfect fried chicken is forever outside my wheelhouse.  
  • self-promotion.  ugh, i get a little vomit in the back of my mouth just thinking about it. someone told me once that if i liked my own posts on facebook, they would get more exposure. i don't even know what to say about that.  
  • tolerating narcissists.  and their annoying partners sycophants.  this year seems to be the year i am flooded with narcissists.  are you experiencing this too?  is it a cultural phenomenon related to trump?  it's so bad that i couldn't even watch the new season of house of cards.  i had no space left for manipulative, sweet-talking, self-centered emotional vampires.
  • keeping house.  i don't know where my lack of effort and ability in this area comes from.  i have never been in the economic position to have a housekeeper, yet i have never developed a practice of cleaning up after myself without first throwing a hissy fit (a la five-year-old me).
  • being in a work group.  ugh.  for me, group participation goes deeper than simple introvert aversion. i can't remember being in a group that didn't have drama or dysfunction.  because i am an introvert with a lot of ideas, inevitably a more vocal, insecure person in the group takes credit for my input.  for the life of me, i can't understand the appeal (well, except maybe for that person who doesn't have their own ideas).  social workers are supposed to be the champions of the group process, but the evidence just isn't there for me. i truly value, request and give credit to the input and counsel of others if i am working on a project, but i prefer to do autonomous work.
  • learning a new language.  this one makes me really sad.  i like to imagine myself speaking fluent spanish and french, but once the lessons advance to more than simple memorization of words, i'm lost.   i know that my receptive language is far greater than my expressive language (i take in way more than i can process and express) and i am highly empathic, often feeling others' feelings and "hearing" the things they are not saying.  i've wondered if all that energy impedes the process of learning good old symbolic methods of communicating.
  • telling a good joke.  i tend to start over-explaining really early on, which kind of ruins the whole thing.
  • parties.  i do like planning parties and being in small gatherings with dear friends and new, interesting humans, but any time i am forced to small-talk for more than one minute, i fail.
  • sports.  again, i wish i could.  i spent my youth trying again and again to be good at anything athletic and failed over and over.  i would love to be a runner or a tennis player or kick a soccer ball around on a field with friends, but i have learned that my physical activity abilities are pretty much limited to dancing, yoga, hula-hooping and walking in the forest.
  • i ran into a wall at this point on the list and asked ken, "what else am i not good at?"  he is a smart man (and an actor) so he just allowed a perplexed, deep thinking look to take over his face.  i asked, "...maybe patience?" and he broke role immediately with an unconstrained, emphatic "YES!"  so there you go.

even though i don't do a great job at these things, it doesn't stop me from trying new things and even revisit a few of these from a new perspective every once in a while.  

it's also important to note some things that i failed at and, because i kept plugging away at them, became things i do pretty well:  listening, painting, confidence, public speaking, photography. gardening, discerning evidence from opinion...  

it doesn't feel very good to be a failure at something, but we all know that we learn from these experiences.  as i was writing this post, my curiosity was piqued about how i could learn to tell a joke or refine my attitude toward keeping the house i love.  writing the post was oddly inspiring for me.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

sunday grace: now


now from lisa parks on Vimeo.

hello loves.

i made my very first tiny film.  i am still (forever) practicing with camera work and editing, but i kind of love it.

i hope you do too.

things have been weird lately.  i needed to focus my attention on beauty, rather than harshness.  love, rather than resentment.  all while still being present, awake and alive in the somewhat fucked up emotional landscape of now.

i love you.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

sunday grace: the path


this was my path.

even before i could name it.

when i was much too small and american to know of buddha

or pema chödrön .

my sense of wonder saved me.

all the unknowable things gave me reason to stay.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

sunday grace: just for one day


this painting is propped on an easel in the downstairs studio.  i started it last september and it has been painted and repainted about six times.  its current state, still unfinished, still a bit of a mess, was inspired by my feelings following the death of david bowie.  i love that i know and experienced its understories.  all of them.  not one of the layers underneath the surface has anything to do with david bowie.

and yet they have everything to do with david bowie.

each layer we live, each moment, each transformation, each version and story of who we are, never leaves us.  they are all there beneath the surface, in the tissue, in the fiber, in the blood, in our individual and complex limbic terrains.

when we show up, they show up with us.

i take great comfort in this thought, especially on days like today.  i am uncertain and a little fearful today.  but i have had some courageous days.  and they echo in the back beat of my pulse.  today they will show up with me, in all my uncertainty and fear.    my own little gang of heroes.

Friday, January 29, 2016

five senses friday


it's been a while, five senses friday.

{see}

  • brilliantly white fresh snow
  • pink, purple and blue january sunsets

{hear}
  • the sound of my own voice learning yoga asanas in sanskrit (my new favorite sound)
  • listening to my own "om"
  • last week i stayed in a hotel that played barely audible house music in the elevator and hallways, i still hear the echo of the beat.  

{taste}
  • medicinal herb-infused bone broth
  • rose-cardamom syrup in hot cocoa

{smell}
  • purple hyacinths on the window sill

{touch}
  • each sacred ordinary object as i arrange and rearrange the tiny altars throughout the house
  • folding one thousand paper cranes

Monday, January 18, 2016

tiny memoir: best of my love

a boy and a girl, too young to be married, much less parents, sit in the parked car around three in the morning following one of his shows. both are exhausted from the endless arguing and disappointments. he is smoking a cigarette. she is desperately trying to figure out what to say next, what to do to lift them from this suffocating place. the familiar acoustic strums of best of my love drift from the radio. the song, already over ten years old, isn't a favorite of either, but they both know all the words by heart. because eagles music softly accompanied the raising of kids in southern california in the 70s. she leans her face against the window and stares up at the night sky, his gaze falls straight ahead and they begin to sing along. there is a moment of lightness, the magnetic pull of a shared story, but as the music fades out, they both know that singing that song is the last thing they will do together.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

the care and keeping of the yoga teacher trainee


in less than two weeks, i begin om yoga teacher training with cyndi lee.  i am excited and scared. i am ready and so not ready.  i've done my pre-training reading (twice), gathered notebooks, index cards, pens and pencils (i LOVE this bookish-girl part), and maintained a regular asana practice.  i've organized my calendar for the next six months; with increased out-of-town work hours, daily asana practice and weekend trainings, it's going to be full.

this morning i spent some time thinking about how else i can be more ready, how i can prepare in advance for the inevitable challenges that will arise.  i just kept coming back to the same questions:  what are the ways you can take extra care of yourself?  what things do you need to nourish and nurture your body and your soul?  it turns out, i already do and have these things.  i just need to be more intentional about using them the next six months.

for the soul
i chose a guiding word for this journey:  trust.  i know that self-doubt is going to creep in and i have to remember that i can trust my body, my mind, my teacher and my sangha.  i pulled three other art of attention cards (pictured above) in addition to trust that i know will support and motivate me:

  • see:  see your surroundings and lessons as blessings.
  • intuition:  your intuition holds ancient wisdom, trust it.
  • awaken:  awaken to another possibility
i am creating a little practice altar for meditation each morning before training.  here there is a little blue tiny buddha to remind me to have fun, ganesha to clear the path, a wood lotus to represent community, aqua aura quartz for clarity and spirit, and my little "be" ceramic stone.  to further remind me to just show up as i am that day, i will include flowers or greenery from my yard, whatever and however it is on that particular day of the year.

for the body
i need to stay well and capable the next six months.  not a simple task with winter colds bouncing about and lots of travelling.  in addition to my regular winter wellness support, i am adding or increasing the following:
  • bone broth (upper right corner) is kind of the perfect food, especially when you need something powerful but light so you don't have a tummy full of food during practice.  i do like to make my own at home, but i know the time involved is going to be an issue.  i've been testing packaged bone broth for the past few months and the winner is from bone broth company.  i have a feeling a hot cup of bone broth in the morning and afternoon during training is going to save me.  
  • hot water with raw honey, lemon and thin slices of ginger.
  • golden milk (lower left corner) every night before bed.  the turmeric softens and eases body tension and the magnesium promotes deep and restorative rest.
  • i am most worried about my lower back.  i've got a wee bit of a pinch on my sciatic nerve that flares up every once in a while.  in addition to a regular practice of asana specifically for my lower back, i've stocked up on arnica cream and made up a roller ball of doterra deep blue and almond oil.  
  • hot baths with sea salt, epsom salt, baking soda and ginger.
  • maybe a massage.  or two.  or ten.  
i know i can't prepare for every single thing that will pop up and threaten to grow my resistance, but i also know what when i don't take care of myself is when resistance has its tightest grip on me.  these little things give me a fighting chance to make it through with grace and resolve.

i'll keep you posted friends.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

sunday grace: tea + apathy


some days i struggle to stay engaged with the human race.

some days i only want to talk to my dog.

some days the world is too loud and too stupid.

some days the tired seeps into my bones and i just want to sleep for a week.

some days my hyper-awareness of the flaws of people overwhelms me.

some days i am overlooked, betrayed, fooled, manipulated.

some days i feel poor, even though i no longer am.


in these moments it's seductive to slide into apathy, to find ease and relief and comfort in not seeing, not knowing, not caring, not listening, not speaking, not acting, not connecting.  the balm of indifference.  the relaxed posture of passivity.

sometimes i indulge in little sips.  enough to remember that it's just not my cup of tea, that i will always choose to live with curiosity and courage and compassion.


Friday, January 1, 2016

a strange feather


{my first painting of the year and the first in a series inspired by poets and poetry.}


a strange feather

all
the craziness,
all the empty plots,
all the ghosts and fears,

all the grudges and sorrows have
now
passed.

i must have inhaled
a strange
feather

that finally

fell

out.

{hafiz}

Thursday, December 31, 2015

living poetry


for several years now in late december or early january, i choose one word to guide my being through the new year (click here and scroll down to see previous years' words). this practice has really helped me refine my dreams and intentions. i love to look back during this week between christmas and new years day and see how the soul of the word manifested throughout my life and year.

for the past week or so i've been thinking about which word i want to choose for 2016.  i chose an intention word for my upcoming yoga teacher training (trust), but that felt very focused on my yoga goals as compared to my whole life.  so i kept searching.

one of the things i like to do to help narrow it down is look and listen for a word that is in heavy rotation in my current vocabulary and conversations.  there are a few right now:  wonder, precision, frontierpractice, poetry...

poetry was the word that kept lighting up in neon when it fluttered through my brain or escaped my lips.  still, it felt quite mysterious and undefined to be a guiding word (unless i was to become a full time poet).  then i ran across this string of words by poet and mystic rumi, let yourself become living poetry.

so it shall be words of the year for me.

for me, living poetry is:

  • having a structure, the components and some guidelines for how to lay life out on the page...inspiration, imagination, rhythm, precision, choice, selection, refinement, commitment
  • being able to throw all of that out the window and just live from my soul in the messy moment
  • seeing beauty in the ordinary
  • seeing opportunity for exploration and empathy in the un-beautiful
  • using words in provocative and inquiring ways to open understanding and connection
  • storytelling embodied in words, paint, dance, work, image, play, clothing, food, yoga, home, relationship
  • truth, spoken plainly and kindly
  • reading more poetry, discovering new poets, writing more
  • staying open to the twist, to changing beat, to unfinished words put aside to rest, to acceptance, to rejection, to editing, to uncrumpling those pages littering the floor and having another look
  • exploring the human heart and how it shows up in the world at any given moment

a happy, poetic year to you loves.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

sunday grace: a child full of wonder and love


one of the many gifts i received being mia's mom was the ability and permission to be openly and kindly curious.

as a child, mia would walk right up to a stranger and start asking them questions about random stuff that interested her.  sometimes this would be embarrassing, but one encounter changed this.  one day when she was five-ish, we got on the bus and i was chatting briefly with the driver as mia made her way to a seat.  when i caught up with her, she was deep in conversation with a sikh man about his bright orange "hat".  i sat mortified as he was kindly and patiently telling her why he wore a turban.  i apologized for her impoliteness.  he smiled warmly at me and said, "there is no reason to be sorry for a child full of wonder and love."

(then she asked him if she could try it on, but i'll leave that part of the story out.)

in that same spirit of wonder and love, a few friends and i visited our local mosque on friday to meet our muslim neighbors and learn about their faith.  my heart is broken at the increasing hate talk and very real threats pointed broadly at the faith and specifically toward muslim people.  but just expressing my solidarity felt a bit hollow because i really didn't know that much about the faith and culture.  i am always telling my students that being truly interested in people and staying open to hearing their experiences will build empathy and genuine relationships, so i really felt i needed to walk my talk.

we were welcomed to the small meeting place to observe noon prayers and service.  afterwards we had the opportunity to talk more casually with the members over pizza and then had a more formal orientation to the origins of the faith and its customs.  i was captivated at the manner in which they expressed their devotion in calm ritual.  there were beautiful moments i wished for my camera, like when a dad was showing his preschool-aged son the sequence of the prayer and the boy followed the movement in such a sweet and clumsy manner, checking in with tentative eye contact to make sure he was doing it right.

i learned so much in such a short period of time.  i do have more questions for future conversations, but here are some things i came away with:

  • just like every other spiritual gathering i have ever attended, there were yawning distracted children, passionate elders with lots of stories they wanted to share, and someone who forgot to silence their cell.
  • in other words, humans.
  • it is a deep and focused faith (especially in contrast to the casual and inconsistent mishmash of religious and spiritual practices that i engage in).
  • all moms (muslim, christian, buddhist, whatever) worry about their children, but some moms experience true fear on a regular basis for their children's safety.  i heard that fear.  i met those children.  this is not okay.
  • there is a recognition and reverence for mary, the mother of jesus (jesus and moses and other biblical figures as well).
  • we have a vast misunderstanding of jihad in the broader american culture.  my new friend defined it as a struggle, a challenge in life (very similar to buddhist samsara), adding, "sometimes broccoli is my jihad".  
  • i have an affinity for the shapes and lines of the mosques and wearing a headscarf.
  • i was warmly hugged by a woman and the energy of the connection spoke the words, "i am with you."  from both sides.  human connection, sister connection, friendship...amazing everyday magic.

i returned home with a sense of peace and a full heart.  

and remain committed, in these days when we are celebrating the birth of a child full of wonder and love, to more fully embody these gifts of baby jesus, of mia, of the sweet boys and girls at the mosque, of children everywhere.

have a beautiful season of wonder and love.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

sunday grace: the grace of making


i don't pretend to know the solutions for our world.  but i do know the solution for my little world when things seem to be falling apart on a larger scale:  when there is destruction, create.

needless to say my maker hands have been very active over the last few days.  it seems when they are not making something, they are pressed together in prayer or resting in calm abiding during meditation.

creating is the opposite of destruction.  it has such healing magic on both an individual and collective level.  the act of creating soothes the soul and provides contribution when you feel immobilized and hopeless.  it can be an antidote for collective despair.

some of my makes from the last few days and weeks:


this giant wood panel (that my beautiful husband made for me) is just being played on right now.  i'm writing little bits of understory as i continue to layer with colors.


a few weeks ago, i decided i needed to do something with the beads i have been hoarding for years.  i learned to make crochet beaded necklaces from a video tutorial.  it's kind of addictive, that repetitive productive process.



i want to make handmade gifts for my loves this christmas.  i sketched out a ganesh to print on fabric for a sachet filled with comforting lush fragrance.


when i was stuck pondering how to simplify the sewing of the sachet, i remembered that i had sketched and watercolored a ganesh a few months back that would be a simpler circular shape.  so it is.



still experimenting with natural fillers, but it's kind of awesome.


i met a friend downtown for a few healing hours of catching up over hot spiced cider and tea.  i was overjoyed to see good karma tea in the shop.  it's so lovely (and a little weird) to see your art (i designed the logo) in the world.


i'm taking some baby steps (because honestly, i think they are the only steps i know how to take) in figuring out how to share my making with the world.  one step was ordering a set of contact cards (yes, contact cards, because i have a strong avoidant reaction to the word business and everything associated with it, so i'm using my own language around sharing my work).

while i was mixing scents for the ganesh sachets, i explored capturing the scents i love around our home.  i have said so many times, "i wish i could bottle that smell".  so i did.  this fragrance oil is everything i love about here:  woods (cedars, juniper), comfort (coffee, cocoa, chai) and spirit (nag champa).  i had such an amazing time making it that i am working on sharing it.  because i need my entire world to smell like comfort and safety right now.


i kind of caught the scentmaking bug, i'm currently working on a holiday scent called soulstice fire.


i hope you find yourself with some time and space to create something lovely today.  our world needs your individual gracemaking.  thank you for making art, friends, peace, healthy children, soup, tea and conversation flavored with empathy and compassion.  thank you for weaving together textile and community and asana and story.  thank you for creating our beautiful world.

i love you.