Wednesday, December 19, 2012


"There's only one very good life. The one you know you want and you make yourself. " --Diana Vreeland

Are you ready to live a very good life? Are you ready to make 2013 your best year yet? Then join me in January at East West Bookshop in Seattle and WRITE YOUR YEAR!

Based on my manifestation writing class WRITE YOUR LIFE, this class is designed to help you create the life you desire this year, using writing as a tool for manifestation and change.

You do not need to be a “writer” to benefit from this class, but you do need a willingness to look openly and honestly at your life, to forgive and let go, and to put words into action and to take the next step with courage.

If you are ready, go here to register. Hope to see you there!


"Our problem is not that we do too little, our problem is that we do too much." --The Universe on Day 4 or 5 of my silent meditation retreat

Last year Christmas ended in a closet, with many tears.

My older son, worn out by too many presents, too many sweets, too much Christmas, just couldn't take it anymore and he broke down, running to his grandmother's closet to cry.

I spent a good part of the day crouched there with him, trying to give him comfort and talk him out. It didn't help.

Eventually he came out on his own, bounced back and had a pretty good time, but after that, I was done.

Fifteen years of trying to make the three Christmases in a row thing work just wasn't working anymore. My husband and I agreed that day to do it differently this year.

We had hoped to be out of town, preferably somewhere warm and tropical. It was not to be.

Although I searched and searched - Google, Expedia, Kayak, TripAdvisor, etc., etc. - I just could not find the right spot at the right price.

And my son - the one who was crying in the closet - he doesn't want to go anywhere. He is adamant. He wants to stay home. Right here in the eye of the holiday storm.

So what to do? And how to do it in a way that doesn't leave one of us crying in the closet on Christmas day?

The answer is, we don't know. We honestly have no idea. This is something we are figuring out as we go. And in the meantime we are doing not much.

Last Saturday we got a tree, which remains half decorated, boxes of ornaments and decorations littering our living room.

More holiday cards arrive each day with their happy greetings and perfect family photos. I am temped....I could just find a picture from our road trip...NO! I tell myself, Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

And what about the gifts?

We are trying to do that differently as well, without hurting anyone's feelings. Giving experiences instead of presents. Regifting things that are meaningful to us that others might enjoy. Cutting back where we can on unconscious giving.

What I am realizing as I tell people about our attempts at a different kind of Christmas is that others are looking for a way out of all the busyness as well.

Standing on the playground last week, talking to two moms, one said, I am just so sick of it all. The Giving Tree and my kids' lists, and my family and in-laws and all the different charities. I love them all and they are good causes and some people out there truly need things, but most of us just don't and it makes me want to pull into myself and say 'Enough!' I don't want to give anymore. 

The other mom, nodding her head, I feel like I just want to get it all over with (making a shoving motion with her hands) teacher gifts and kids' gifts and my hair dresser's gift. Here take it, I'm done.

These are not greedy, heartless women. These women have given me a lot - they have hosted me in their homes, had my kids over for play dates, brought meals to teachers, volunteered for field trips, checked homework, planned events and served on the PTSA board.

If we are all feeling this way I can only imagine there are more of us out there. This is not the reason for the season. To give beyond what you have to give. To give to "get it over with" and end up worn out, exhausted and broke at the end of December. Where's the love? Where's the peace? Where's the Christmas spirit in this kind of giving?

I try and imagine what my great grandmother's Christmas might have been like. Church on Christmas Eve, some new mittens, a few nuts and an orange in the stockings, a special meal. It would not have started on November 1st and lasted 55 days. It would not have included trips to the mall and the post office and the hardware store. Or hours stamping and addressing cards to everyone she had ever known.

I don't want to sound like a Scrooge. I love the idea of Christmas, I really do.

Sending photos and letters to friends and family. Love it. Buying thoughtful gifts for those I care about. Love it.  Baking special treats to share. Love it. Enjoying a good meal with those I love. Love it. Making our house look warm and inviting with fairy lights and a live tree. Love it. Giving tips and recognition to those whose service means my life is easier (the garbage man, the milkman, our kids' teachers, and babysitters). Love it. But all at once? All in the space of two or three days? It's overwhelming. It's exhausting. And it's killing my Christmas spirit.

How can we celebrate the birth of Christ - by all accounts modest and spare - in the midst of all this activity?
That's what I want this year - the true Christmas. The Christmas of Jesus. Simple. Quiet. Slow. Yet full of light and joy and love.

It's what I want for 2013 as well.

Spending ten days doing nothing but meditating, walking, eating, and resting, led me to this realization: "Our problem is not that we do too little, our problem is that we do too much."

The world tells us we need to do MORE. GIVE MORE, MAKE MORE, BE MORE. What if what we are giving, doing, making, being is already too much? What if we need to do LESS to enjoy it more?

Giving a gift from the heart and not from the mall. Taking the time to be truly present for the person you are with instead of rushing off to the next activity. Making a simple meal, instead of a feast and enjoying every bite.

I'm not an expert at this by any means. Every day I need to check my impulse to make a list, check it twice then rush out and DO, DO, DO!

Then I remember that doing, doing, doing does nobody any good. That for the past fifteen years doing, doing, doing has led to one unhappy scene after another. That we need to do less to enjoy it more.

Happy Holidays. May you do less and enjoy it more this season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

3 Rules for Life

Three Rules for Life: 

1) Be kind to yourself 
2) Do not harm others 
3) Purify your mind 

I tried writing about my 10-day silent retreat at the NW Vipassana Center yesterday, but I couldn't do it justice. I got bogged down in the details and the essence somehow went missing. So instead of spitting it all out in one L-O-N-G post, I think I'll just share a few of the juicy tidbits over the next few weeks. 

This quote is the first thing I "wrote down" at the retreat. Mind, I use the term "wrote down" loosely here. One of the precepts you agree to live by while at the retreat is "no sensual entertainments." This includes music, television, computers, cell phones, and, yes, pencils, pens and journals.

Woah, talk about hard. Everyone thought the silence was going to be the tricky part. Being silent is easy because no one else is talking. No one else is even looking at you so the temptation to talk is really quite rare. (The few "slips" I did hear were inevitably the result of accidents - bumping into someone, stepping on a toe or letting a door fall in someone's way. Most people just can't resist a quick "sorry" under those circumstances.)

But writing. Now THAT was hard.

One particularly desperate night found me scouring my bags for a rogue pen I didn't turn in. No luck. Another evening I went for a "walk" after dinner, hoping to find a small stick I could use to carve words into my Vipassana handbook - the only paper I had in my possession. I found one, but soon realized this also broke the precept against lying, so I dropped it and went back to my room.

What I did instead was start a page of notes in my head. Each time I wanted to remember something I would repeat it to myself a few times then add it to my page of notes with a number.

Each day I would repeat the whole page in my head a few times to be sure I was retaining all of my notes. It was like memorizing a long poem and kept my brain active in a way it hasn't been since college.

So I have twelve little gems to share with you over the next few weeks. I may not share them all, some - upon further reflection - may turn out to be not all that earth-shattering after all, but those that hold up will be shared here.

Which brings us to this first quote.

I believe this comes from the first day's evening discourse and was the first major realization of the ten days for me.

Being kind to yourself comes first. Not last. Not when you have time later. Not if you get around to it. First.

Because if you are kind to yourself, you do not need to do harm to others. The reason we do harm to others is because of how we feel inside of ourselves. If we use kindness on ourselves first there is no reason to do harm.

This is a revolutionary idea where I come from (the mid-west). You are not kind to yourself first. You put yourself last. You take care of everyone else's needs and then if there is anything left over that's what you get.

This is how I've been living. It's how I've been parenting. It's how I've been in my relationships. No wonder I'm pissed off.

Whenever things are going badly around home, my older son becomes fixated on the idea that I hate him. No matter how much I tell him I love him or show him I love him, he always comes back with, "You said you hated me. Remember? In the car? On the way to Idaho?" Sometimes he just can't let it go.

Sometimes makes me very sad, sometimes sympathetic, and sometimes it just makes me madder and madder. Madder at him, madder at myself. But every time he said it I denied it vehemently with many hugs, kisses and I love yous.

What I realized this weekend is that it's true. I didn't love him in those moments, if you are using the word love as an active verb. I didn't love him because I didn't always show him love and I didn't always show him love because I never showed myself love by being kind to myself.

I gave and I gave and I gave and I gave until I had absolutely nothing more to give and then, when they inevitable asked for that one more thing (because that's what kids do :) I exploded, screaming inside, "WHAT ABOUT ME!?!??!?!"

I wanted someone to notice that I was tired or frustrated or upset and do something about it. I wanted someone to help me for a change. Take care of me. Love me.

What I realized at the retreat is: that person has to be me.

I am the only one who knows when the frustration is starting to build. When the anger is stirring. When I am approaching my wits end.

And that is the time to enact Rule #1. Go lie down. Meditate. Breathe. Take a walk. Take a break. Get out of the house. Anything but the status quo. Anything but continuing to give. Anything but not being kind to myself.

Because if I do #1, # 2 is in the bag.

And #3? #3 is for another day. Until then, be kind to yourselves out there. DO IT FIRST.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Wisdom from Master Shifu

"Anything is possible if you have inner peace." --Master Shifu from Kung Fu Panda 2 

Master Shifu's Inner Peace :)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wisdom from Pema Chodron

"Any wisdom we have is all mixed up in what we already have." --Pema Chodron

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wisdom from Chuck Pettis

"In prayer, we talk to God. In meditation, we listen." --Chuck Pettis

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wisdom from Jacqueline Winspear

"Be still until there is nothing." --Jacqueline Winspear, from her book "The Mapping of Love and Death"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wisdom from David R. Hawkins

"A mind that's being watched becomes more humble and begins to relinquish its claims to omniscience - a growth in awareness can then take place." --David R. Hawkins, MD, PhD, from his book "Power vs. Force"

Monday, December 3, 2012

Wisdom from Anodea Judith

"Use stillness to effect change." --Anodea Judith

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wisdom from Wallace Stevens

"The way through the world is more difficult to find than the way beyond it." --Wallace Stevens

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wisdom from Cat Stevens

"...[T]he answer lies within, so why not take a look now?" --Cat Stevens