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.

Friday, November 13, 2015

let's hygge

it seems my entire life i've been obsessed with things danish.  my favorite day trip when i was a child was a visit to solvang, a wee danish village smack dab in the middle of california.  as a young adult, i fell in love with danish mid-century modern furniture.  copenhagen is on my bucket list.  i live and love my life with a characteristically strong yet sensitive danish man.

as our winters continue to get longer and grayer and colder here in virginia, i'm intrigued by the concept of hygge, the danes' notion of staying cozy, warm and happy during winter months.  i am currently devouring the year of living danishly, by helen russell about a woman from london who moves to denmark.  a new friend describes hygge to her as, "having a cosy time."  she further explains that it is about home and warmth and food and drink and friendship.  and apparently those of us in extraverted-focused cultures like western europe and the americas have challenges with hunkering down, getting cozy and embracing the still silent winter.

as i continue to research hygge, i assess that i've done a pretty decent job of having it intuitively.  but this winter i want to be more intentional about having and doing it.  here are some ideas that have been swirling around my head:

getting outside
it is interesting that when i first started thinking about hygge, i associated it as going outdoors more in the winter, about exploring and embracing the natural beauty of virginia during her coldest days. this can include:
  • walks in the snow
  • snuggling up by the backyard campfire
  • foraging for shed deer antlers (we have a herd of six deer who regularly graze through gypsy hill.  occasionally we spy the elder buck.  this year he was seen sporting five-point antlers.  i'm hoping he sheds them in our forest.) 
  • finding an outdoor christmas or winter market to explore
  • a weekend trip to hot springs (because hot natural mineral tubs in the snow!)

the short days of winter often take their toll on me emotionally.  i require regular sunshine to function well.
  • this summer ken installed a giant skylight in the kitchen.  it has already made a huge difference in the quality of light in our home.  our house is surrounded by tall forest trees, when they shed their leaves in autumn, natural sunlight pours through the windows.  now it is going to be superilluminated.
  • we replace our lightbulbs in winter with brighter lights and more wattage.  (also, i am still missing incandescent bulbs...cannot get on board with l.e.d. or even halogens...)
  • thinking about glow as a substitute for light...massive amounts of candles, hanging lanterns and twinkle lights are a must.

cultivating inner warmth
there is no better way than yoga, friends.  it physically warms the body and a regular practice produces an inner glow that cannot be replicated.
  • this winter i'll be doing yoga teacher training with my friend and teacher cyndi lee.  
  • extra warmth and friendship guaranteed by the beautiful sangha at yoga goodness studio
  • my weird schedule this summer and fall has required me to get committed to a regular home (and hotel) practice...this will serve me well on those days when we are snowed in.

tea (and other liquid warmth)
  • of course i have to have my coffee in the morning, but i love having hot tea the rest of the day
  • we have the best local organic tea at good karma tea company (you can order online if you don't live here).  the company is run by two amazing women and i got to design their logo.
  • i like to experiment with making my own blends as well
  • i've also become accustomed to sipping a mug of hot water several times per day
  • and my go-tos chai and tazo passion

winter days when not a lot is going on provide large chunks of time to be in the studio.  this winter:
  • complete the commissioned ganesh (he's almost done!)
  • paint BIG; four huge blank canvasses are waiting
  • the interior walls of the house feel like they need something new as well...
  • finishing up a painted mandala on the front brick porch
  • sharing it with others via collaborative paintings and workshops

poetry and books
so many books in the "to read" stack and so many more stories i'm craving, including:

color and warmth
color is always important to me, but even more necessary when it is hazy white-gray outside.

  • i love making and eating soups from scratch, my favorites are chicken+white bean and superspicy carrot.
  • i've been making my own bone broth as a base for all of them, bodies need extra fat and minerals during the winter months
  • thinking about an organic citrus delivery service (the citrus available here is kind of blah)
  • ditto avocados, they are required eating for this california girl and i am not down with the mealy watery ones of winter in the mid-atlantic
  • but also focused on eating seasonally and researching what nutrients bodies need during the winter and that are grown locally...squash and kale, anyone?

rest well
you guys, bed is kind of my favorite place.  i am not at all averse to an 8pm bedtime.  most nights i sleep very soundly because:
  • good sheets are a non-negotiable
  • i like the air to be cool and the bed to be warm
  • a big humidifier hums all through the night, for great sleep, great skin and great white noise.
  • we make a good effort to limit other electronics/screens in the bedroom

(but sometimes i drink hot cocoa with marshmallows and binge-watch sex and the city.)

more hygge to come!
join me in turning our bad attitudes about winter into soft anticipation of a season of coziness and wonder.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

oh hi

i'm still here.

loving autumn in virginia.

getting back into my regular groove of work, art, yoga, life.

and then sometimes not.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


lately, i have very few words.  so, these:

and above all
watch with glittering eyes
the whole world around you
because the greatest secrets
are always hidden
in the most unlikely places.
those who don't believe in magic
will never find it.

-roald dahl

Sunday, September 20, 2015

sunday grace: things to do with your hands when someone you love is dying

  • hang a bright new string of prayer flags
  • pick up a pencil and write write write
  • place them on your thighs, palm down, in the mudra of calm abiding.  sit.  breathe.  abide.
  • rummage through boxes of ribbons and beads and finally start putting together that dream catcher.  you are a maker because of her.

  • type "grief" and "meditation" into google and discover this.  listen.  listen again.  and again.
  • pet your dogs
  • chop vegetables
  • finger paint
  • cut up a hundred tiny bits of colorful paper and create a collage, the first art she taught you.

  • pick up that box of tissues to take with you in the car.  even though you think you are going to hold it together, you will inevitably lose it at the farmers market, at the stoplight, when an old journey song plays on the radio
  • pack your bag, so that at least one thing is ready when it's time to go
  • let someone hold them
  • when the grief and confusion feel too heavy in your body, shake them vigorously to get it out
  • plant a new tree.  a deep red japanese maple, the color of her birthstone

  • pick up a book and spend the afternoon reading.  be grateful for the love of story that she instilled in you.
  • light a candle
  • wrap them around a warm mug of chai, feel and taste every single mug of cocoa and soup she ever made to comfort you when you were sick or having a bad day
  • sift through the photographs and revisit a life well lived.

  • quietly throw them up in surrender.  

Monday, September 14, 2015


"now she's back in the atmosphere
with drops of jupiter in her hair."

i've returned from this magical little place that is nestled into the nooks and crannies of the world's most ancient mountain range.  bend of ivy lodge, in the blue ridge mountains just north of asheville, was the location of alena hennessy's soul painting retreat.  it was so very luscious.  as i sifted through my photographs, i became aware that i was more present with my eyes and heart than with my camera.

still, i did not neglect to capture some of the magnificence of this week.  they are in no particular order as i have not yet shaken off the rhythm of retreat (i.e. go with the flow, say yes, be present, be open, etc.).  i'm going to hold on to it as long as i can.

everything we did...painting, talking, laughing, eating, sitting in silence...was adorned with the sounds of nature:  the creeks, the crickets, the rustling trees, the birds, the goats, the thunderstorms.

there was so much attention to spirit.

alena's teaching style is gentle and intuitive.  she provides demonstrations and guidance, but the painting process is yours alone.  i love this.

and it was such a delight to have the joyful and profoundly talented mati rose to teach and guide too.

summer's lush was just barely yielding to the crisp nature of autumn.  the grounds were incredible.

the lodge was cozy and you could tell its walls had held much happiness over the years.  we enjoyed yoga, qoya, reiki, journeying, storytelling and meditating here.

and we were nourished with an abundance of organic food sourced from local farms and providers.
all of our meals were made from scratch and with love by dava.  i have never been so well fed on so many levels.  the food was quite simply the most beautiful energy my body has ever had the pleasure to taste and smell and touch and see and hear.

even with all the amazing amenities and activities, it is always the people who make or break a retreat.  these women, who bravely came from near and far and gathered to quickly create a sisterhood out of strangers, they are the heart of this retreat.  they are artists and singers and healers and huggers and dancers.  the mountains will echo their laughter for a long time to come.

thank you life.

bonus list of things to start practicing in real life:
  • wear a bindi every day
  • dance qoya and shake your body like a dog
  • walk in nature
  • put your fingers in some paint and move it around a bit
  • sing to the sun
  • crap food doesn't feed your body or your soul, cook and eat like dava.
  • let people hug you.
  • people that make you laugh until you cry:  find more of them.