72-Hour Creative Bundle Sale!


I’m super excited and honored to share Andrea Scher’s fantastic new Superhero Bundle! Founder of Superhero Life and all-around magic-maker of epic proportions, Andrea is actually the very first blogger I ever encountered 11 years ago, when I first entered the blogosphere, She’s at it again, this time offering access to 9 different ecourses and ebooks that will get you unstuck, stir your creative passions, and help you step more fully into your own creative mojo.

Your bundle includes photography, writing, and art-making e-courses and e-books from… 

teachers-bundle-2017-574x617.jpg


My collection of 18 short essays will remind you that you are 
Already Rocking This. You are already an artist, a writer, a poet, a maker of things, and a force of nature. Dip into it anytime you need some fierce encouragement for starting, keeping going, and moving past doubt into doing.

 


This sale ends at midnight PST on Thursday, October 12, 2017 — so don’t miss it!

The Art of Becoming a Boring Writer (and Embracing It)

No, thanks. I'm good.

No, thanks. I’m good.

There was a time when I feared that without drama, I might become a boring writer.

I’ve since concluded that this is a risk I’m more than willing to take. Everyday life offers me endless material, with so much less angst and ache. In fact, we make a pretty good team. In fact, when I’m no longer oriented towards the next shoe dropping or the next big drama, writing requires a new kind of courage and creativity.

It’s the creativity to recognize that everyday life is teeming with writing-worthy moments. And it’s the courage to show up not only when everything’s chaotic, not only when I’m in a place of unrest or searching or heightened emotion or shifting ground, but from inside of everyday life, against a backdrop and in the context of extraordinary conditions. Because for better or for worse, the world is not short on extraordinary conditions.

Everyday life is, of course, all we ever get. It’s where we all live.

It’s where the trash can and the kitchen sink both and the laundry basket fill up, no matter how many times you empty them. It’s where you get things stuck between your teeth, break your phone screen, and change the cat litter. Everyday life is where you oversleep, see a cardinal in the bare tree outside your kitchen window, and forget to change the calendar on the first of the month.

Isn’t it amazing to stop and realize we all live in the same place, in this way?

As I’m writing this, it’s occurring to me that everyday life and drama may be inseparable, in that being human is pretty damn dramatic, no matter how you slice it. The whole having-a-body thing, being-in-relationship thing, and making-a-difference thing? Dude.

When I look at it this way, that is plenty o’ drama for me. Throw in politics that make your head spin, cost of living, and ever-changing dynamics with self, partner, kids, family members, friends, and colleagues, and let’s just say we’ve all got our hands full.

Maybe this is where the idea of “creating” drama comes in. There’s the complexity of everyday life, already plenty to contend with, and then there are the everyday choices we each make about where to place our attention, our energy, and our time. This is where we — ahem, I — can get derailed. But knowing this, and practicing an alternate way of responding to things as they come up, I see more and more that “drama” is often unnecessary and avoidable.

How do I tell the difference between everyday life and “unnecessary drama”?

The body, baby.

Everyday life involved a mish-mash of ease and stress, routines and detours, plans and surprises. Navigating these when I’m not creating “extra” drama generally means I can maintain some composure, think clearly, make decisions with some degree of confidence, speak up for myself, experience compassion, identify sources of frustration or anger, and ask for help without shame. Mind you, it’s a rare day that all of this happens without a hitch. Come to think of it, I may yet to have experienced a 24-hour period where all of this went down without a snafu or three. But hey man, ideals are useful and give us something to practice and a place to return to when we get lost in patterns that no longer serve.

Patterns that no longer serve live in the body, and that’s where drama originates, too. My body isn’t trying to create drama; it’s just reacting in the way I’ve trained it to.  I’m betting that you have at least one person in your life whose presence has historically caused your blood pressure to go up — and not in a good way. Let’s say this person’s name popping up — in a text or message — is enough to make your heart race (and not in a good way). This is drama — but it’s not your “fault.” It’s a learned response, one your body came up with to protect you.

The only drama now is in how to choose to respond. Maybe responding at all is not in your best interest, or choosing as neutral and direct a route as possible is how you can keep your presence of mind and heart intact, rather than letting outside forces drive you into a dust storm of blinding emotional proportions.

Sound vague? That’s because drama, for all of its love of every last detail — often is, at its core, just that. Vague in the sense that if you stopped me in the middle of a class-act rant and asked me what this was really about, I might not be able to give you a specific answer. I am too busy handing over to someone who doesn’t deserve it a big platter of my power.

When there was a lot of drama in my life — in the throes of coming out, ending a decade-long marriage, navigating a new love long-distance, losing one job and finding another, moving, and moving through a scary period related to my wife’s health — there was no shortage of writing material. In fact, coming out alone could have been swan song.

But.

I do not live in these places, nor do I want to be defined by them.

I do not want to recycle my stories or fear that without extreme, usually difficult, conditions, my writing will suffer. This way of relating to drama is not all that different from any other form of addiction and the stories we tell about ourselves.

Try it out for yourself. Has this ever been true for you? “I can’t write without ___________.” Fill in the blank: Smoking on my back porch. A glass of whiskey with a single ice-cube. A broken heart. A betrayal. A burning question you will never, ever find the answer to.

Leaving drama-laden life behind and opting to become a boring writer doesn’t make you a boring person. If you are returning to more dramatic periods of your life, you’ll be able to see and write about them with a different kind of clarity from a distance. And if you’re looking for new subjects and stories and open to what’s really happening, within and all around you — you will never, ever have a shortage of material.

The Art of Prayer

1-miranjani-trackI was in the woods the other day — Monday morning — after getting my teeth cleaned. I’ve been on high alert since November 8. An American flag on someone’s front porch sends my mind to the question, “Whose America? Whose flag?”

The hygienist is a woman I see every six months who is always infinitely attentive and kind. Again, my mind fixated on the fact that Donald Trump is our President Elect, and I wondered who she voted for. Was there a chance she was one of the 58% of white woman who voted for him? I didn’t ask.

The dentist came to do a quick exam. I thought about his last name, four syllables that would fall foreign on many English-speaker’s ears, and wondered if he or his children had ever been harassed or worse.

I left the office with no cavities, an appointment scheduled for May, and my little paper bag of goodies — new toothbrush, whitening paste, a miniature roll of floss. Instead of driving back up Main Street to go home and get to work, I drove east to the Amethyst Conservation Area to walk a bit on the Robert Frost trail. The high that morning had been only in the 20s, but by 9:30 the air was already warming and I left my coat in the car.

On the trail, I just walked. I exchanged easy smiles with other walkers, stooped down to give a dog a pat on the head. I also found myself reflexively sizing people up as they approached. “She looks nice,” I’d think to myself, based on something arbitrary like the colors in her hat or the pants she wore or the lines in her face. Sometimes, these are the only cues we have.

If nothing else, this election has heightened something that any marginalized person has known for a long, long time — people might seem “nice,” might in fact be perfectly pleasant and lovely, but until you get to know someone or see them in some context other than, say, their work uniform, or walking the dog, it’s unknown whether they stand with and for you. Trust becomes complicated.

I had gone into woods not to meditate on such troubling and complicated questions, but to meditate, period. To try to find a pocket of quiet in my own hurting and vigilant heart. I walked and tried to bring my awareness back to my breath and the ground beneath my feet and the way my own breath was visible on the air. How good it felt to hit an incline and push myself forward through space! A relief to get a bit winded, to have physical exertion overtake a busy and over-tired mind.

I tried to pray. I even told God, “I don’t know how to pray right now.” And then the message echoed back to me, “Then that is your prayer.” I know better than to think God only listens if I get it right.

The only other clear thing I heard was this: Walk. Hold an acorn in your hand. Do small things. Love the people in front of you.

The Art of Stopping Time

cccpIt went by so fast. I thought it would feel like forever. I thought it would be awkward. But it wasn’t at all. It was the most natural thing in the world, to meet myself there for a whole minute. To look into my own eyes in the way I would a child, or someone I love so very much. The relief of it. The tenderness of it. The way when I played with the deep furrow lines between my brows, my expression changed. From loving and kind to amused to angry to simply relaxed. I watched my pupils grow large in the dim living room. I saw the ways in which my face hasn’t changed at all since childhood, and I saw the depth in my eyes of being.

I looked into my eyes and thought about how thought had nothing to do with it. Just to be. Just to be here, with myself. That is why when the one-minute timer went off, I was startled. That was a whole minute?

As I write this, Mani has a hypnosis on – a man with the most wonderful Scottish brogue. He is talking about procrastination. He is talking about stopping time, and how long one second feels when time is stopped. He is talking about suffering, and how one minute is 60 times longer than one second, and an hour 60 times longer than one minute, and so on, and really, how long do you want to prolong your suffering?

Looking in the mirror for one minute was a bit like stopping time for me, which may explain why the timer came as a surprise. I realized just how rare it is that I stop and just see. Take one full minute to see. To just see myself or whomever it is in front of me. We avoid eye contact, at least prolonged eye contact. Culturally, it’s considered rude or even aggressive. Yet to meet someone’s eyes, especially your own, is such a gift. To stop and really just see. Not listen. Not take turns even. Just see equally – I am here, you are there, here we are.

Can you imagine if in a presidential debate, the opponents had to sit and just look at each other’s eyes for even a minute? No words, no rebuttals, no interruptions, no arguments, no evidence, no attacks, no defense. Just looking. Seeing. Two humans sitting together.

To look at myself in the mirror without words is to see my humanness. I am flawed, which is to say human. I am worn, which is to say human. I am creased and marked by time, because time does not stand still. And yet the illusion of it – that time is a thing I am bound by – that also melts away.

I don’t know what else to write. The hypnosis is ending with the words, “Wide, wide awake.” Maybe that’s it. Maybe taking a full minute to look in the mirror is a worthwhile daily practice. A way of saying, I am here. I am here and I am wide, wide awake. My eyes are deep with love and pain and care and little brown specks in the green and black pupils wide wide and awake in the dim room.

My face is my daughter’s face – this morning in the car, she said how every time an adult meets her for the first time, someone who already knows me, they exclaim how much she looks like her mother. “Sorry,” I say, faux-apologetically. But I can tell we are both ok with it.

I have this face that is timeless and not timeless. I resist the urge to look at the timer. I hear the clock on my dresser ticking. One second after another.

**

This was an unedited ten-minute freewrite in one of my current writing groups. If you’re looking to jumpstart or deepen your writing practice, join me for “What If You Knew?” (October 10-21), my next two-week group. Limited to 12 participants. More details and registration here.

The Art of Withstanding Fear

fog Fear can be a bitch — especially when it’s ungrounded, based in thoughts and not realities (which is usually the case, for me anyway). Maybe it’s fear based on something that happened in the past, or fear based on the idea of what could happen in the future, or some crazy collision of both of these.

What it isn’t — this elusive, illusory, free-floating fear — is here. In this quiet kitchen, fridge humming, one kid happily at school, the other getting ready since I let her sleep in, working away, interacting with really wonderful people who are deep in their own complicated, real lives (we all are, we all are), my wife in the other room eating oatmeal.

That whole “all is well” thing is quite useful sometimes, and requires a complete acceptance of the fullness and completeness of this very moment. This very moment. This very moment. So often if one of my kids is experiencing pain — physical or emotional — my urge is overwhelming to rush in and sooth or fix or help. But really, we don’t need to save our kids from themselves, any more than we need to save ourselves from ourselves.

“You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it’s hard. Not because you’re doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don’t avoid the pain. You need it. It’s meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you with the fuel you’ll burn to get your work done on this earth.” – Glennon Doyle Melton

I love this Glennon quote, because it reminds me not to avoid the stuff that hurts or the stuff that scares me. It’s such a steep practice for me sometimes, to speak my own truth, to balance listening and open-mindedness with what my body’s telling me. Sometimes I feel like I suck at it. Sometimes I want to avoid anything smacking of confrontation, to disappear, to make it go away. And mostly, what I need to trust is that it’s coming from love, but not everything requires action and reaction.

Can I be the mountain? Can I withstand some discomfort if the alternative is to swallow my voice in order to make others feel more comfortable? These, to me, are not easy questions to sit with. I want to say the answer is an obvious “hell yes,” but the truth is I’m not (yet) always as steady in my courage as I want to be.