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The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself. (Alan Alda)

Today, I had the opportunity to be a part of something grand and rare and fine – a group of women who came together to celebrate, explore, and rediscover their creative selves. A group of women who were unwilling to play small anymore. A group of women who were unwilling to make the artists within them play second fiddle to duty for one moment longer.

Today was the first meeting of HeART & Soul, a women’s art journaling group that Dani and Martina devised, at Three Sisters’ where I work. I loved watching everyone walk into the back room, art kits in hand – looks of excitement and trepidation on their faces. Art is not for the meek, people. And maybe, the trepidation was appropriate – for some of us, declaring ourselves ‘artist’ feels like stating that we’ve become something dangerous and sketchy (haha) and to be looked at askance. Because, honestly, society says so.

It is a brave thing to open a dialogue with your own beautifully messy soul – because when you open that door, you know that what comes through might not be ‘neat’ or ‘acceptable’ or ‘proper’ – and because you know that in order to do this thing right, to go all the way…you need to, well, go all the way – and that means you need to not care if it’s messy or imperfect or ‘unacceptable’ to anyone but you.

Today, these women were a part of a guerrilla art movement (and not like the surreptitious knitted coverings of trees or murals that appear overnight, which is its own thing) – guerrilla forces move among us, unnoticed. They look like you and me, but they’re agents in a revolution. Today, I had the chance to be a part of that revolution – of women awakening to their own innate creative power.

I do tend to think of things kind of militaristically – I’ve noticed that I tend to return to combat metaphors a lot in my blogs. I do see myself as warrior. I see each and every one of those women as warriors. Gentle ones, fighting the hardest battle they’ll ever fight against the most wily opponent they’ll ever face: themselves.

We are our own worst enemies. We are the ones who tell ourselves how wrong we are, how broken, how strange, how unacceptable. We are also the ones who have the supreme power to end it. To stop lying down and taking it. To place a flower in the barrel of the guns leveled at us by the inner critic. To scream at the top of our lungs, “ENOUGH!”

We are the only ones who have the power to claim our own beauty, our own majesty. We are the only ones who have the power to claim our own strength, our own imaginative prowess, our own unique vision. No one can give it to you. And no one can take that away, unless you let them. Today, thirteen women came in testament to their unwillingness to go to bed feeling as though a piece of them had gone missing, like a sock lost somewhere between the washing machine and the dryer. They arrived in testament to their unwillingness to move through another day with this part of themselves left unexplored.

It was a beautiful thing to be part of – I am grateful to have had the opportunity to act as witness. Any time someone stands up to an oppressor (even if that oppressor is within), there should be someone to bear witness, to honor them and their experience. Thank you everyone, for sharing yourselves today. Thank you for coming – thank you for choosing to explore the unmapped depths within you. I look forward to the next time when we stand together on the line, and face down our worst critics: ourselves.

There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. (Martha Graham)

I’ve pretty much decided that the person I most need to ‘hug it out’ with … is me. (For the uninitiated, ‘hugging it out’ is to end an argument or dispute with a hug showing that the ill will is over). The person I am the cruelest to … is me. The person I am most frequently at odds with…is me. The person I am the hardest on…is me.

Not a real comfortable thought. Pretty crappity, actually.

And how did I come to this bit of wisdom?? By getting slapped upside the back of my head with it via the Universe. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I choose to pay attention – and when some issue comes up for me in separate instances in quick succession, I figure that it’s being brought front-and-center for a reason. I choose to believe the reason is because it’s something I must be ready to look at or deal with.

On Monday, in two separate instances, I was forced to confront the fact that I have an absolutely impossible time saying anything good about myself in a true and real way. And I don’t mean that I can’t admit that I do things well – but that’s surface stuff. I can’t say nice things about who I am as a being. And that sucks.

The first slap? During our art journaling group, where the page topic was “I am beautiful and sacred because…” People, I had nothing. I looked around at my friends who were busily listing out the ways they knew they were beautiful and sacred, and I sat there frozen like a deer caught in headlights. I actually felt my brain do that open-mouthed, fish gasping, um-um-um, thing. I finally picked some stuff that I felt like I could convince myself was true and put it on my list. And somewhere in the back of my mind, the justifications started, “That was just hard because you weren’t focusing. It’s nothing. You know all this stuff. Blah. Blah. Blah.”

And I went about my day. That night (as I wrote about in my last blog), I attended a ‘floating salon’ where we were talking about our womanness and what it is to be a woman, etc. One of the things that we were encouraged to do as a part of embracing our juicy selves was to brag. About ourselves. Again, the deer-in-headlights, fish gaping reaction. My brain panicked and just kind of stuttered.

As you all know, I am verbose. Loquacious, even. When asked to come up with even one brag, I had nothing. And as much as I’d like to say it’s because I am some paragon of modesty, up for sainthood or something, I can’t because I’m not.

What I am is a product of my upbringing – the child of Midwestern parents whose genealogy includes a whole lot of stoic folks. Talking about yourself is pretty much a no-no. When you’re asked how you are, the proper response is “Fine. And you?” And then they say, “Fine.” And then you talk about the weather. Bragging? That’s anathema.

I can admit that’s a convenient ‘out’ for me – when you become an adult and make your way in the world on your own, it’s on you to iron out the wrinkles that are inherent in any upbringing (different upbringing = different garment = different wrinkles – but no matter what, we’ve all got wrinkles). Once you’re out there on your own, I figure you don’t get to point at your mommy and daddy and say that’s why this or that is screwy with you. What you get to do is sit with your wrinkle and figure out why you’re still hanging onto something that obviously doesn’t work for you anymore. And replace it with something a bit healthier, or with a better fit for you.

And the reason I’m clear on the fact that I can’t simply point to my Midwestern upbringing, shrug my shoulders and let it go is because this was the second time today that I needed to be able to say something good and positive about myself, and it was the second time I was utterly stymied by that simple task.

What’s one good thing I can say about myself? Well, it’s another ‘easy’ one because it’s about something I do, not something I am. I am an awesome cheerleader for people – I am awesome at telling other people how awesome they are. It’s absolutely effortless for me to see their good stuff and tell them about it.

Why in the hell can’t I do that for myself? I am okay at telling myself the things I am good at – I can at least acknowledge it. I am utter crap at telling myself the things I am. You know, I don’t even know if I am clear on what I am. What I embody. What I shine forth.

I’ve thought about this for a couple of days now, and I think it has to start with stopping something. I have to stop telling myself all the ways I fail. I have to stop pointing at all the missteps and small mistakes and flogging myself with them. I have to stop telling myself perpetually that there is something wrong with me.

A few weeks ago, one of my dear friends posted a video on her blog. And I found myself going back to watch it again and again. It was called “There is nothing wrong with you.” I watched it, and I cried. Because no matter how much self work I’ve done, no matter how much excavating I’ve done inwardly, no matter how many books I’ve read or classes I’ve attended, I still believe that I am something to be fixed. To be improved. To be healed. To be amended, appended, adjusted. That I need to improve, remove. That I need to tweak and pull and twist myself continually in the aim of finally achieving…what?

And you know what? It’s not true. I am not broken. I am not faulty. I am not sick. I am not damaged. I am not a screw up. I am not a failure. I am not something to be fixed.

There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with you, either, by the way, though you think there is.

I think that somewhere along the way, I stopped focusing on what the path of mastery is supposed to be about and started getting stuck in fixing all my foibles. That is not the path of mastery. The path of mastery is noticing. It is attending. It is being present. It is noticing who you are and what you do, and how it makes you feel – and then knowing that the path continues beyond that point of notice, offering you opportunity after opportunity to make new choices. Nowhere in that is there any inherent judgment. I slapped the judgment in there all by myself.

It’s reflective of that distinction that good parents make when correcting a child – to make sure to say that it was a bad choice, or a naughty thing to do, but to never tell the child that they are bad or naughty. Somewhere along the line, I stopped making that distinction for myself, and started telling myself that I was wrong, that I was broken, that I was bad. And I forgot that it was the things I did – which can always be changed, and new choices made – which could be judged, if judging is even necessary.

I’m sharing the video on here again, because I need to watch it again. There is nothing wrong with me. I cannot hear that enough times, and maybe neither can you.

Last night, I floated along on calm waters. Enjoyed feeling buoyant – let the breeze kiss my skin and flitter through my hair. I soaked up the sun until it drifted into twilight, and then I soaked up the light of the full moon. Watched it glitter and dance on the ripples of the calm expanse of lake. Fought the urge to dangle in an undignified manner off the back of the boat to run my fingers through the darkling water. Found that I had missed this, without ever knowing that it was being missed.

I drifted along in a company of women gathered together in a ‘floating salon’ pulled together and orchestrated by one of the many amazing women I’ve met in the past two years. We came together as an outpouring of her personal searching for a vision of womanhood that filled and fulfilled her. To share in that search, and to talk about our own searching.

If I am going to be brutally honest, and tell it like it is…the last thing I wanted to do was discuss the topic of desire. And my reaction to that made me realize that there was something there that wanted looking at – why did the idea of talking about desire make me want to forego the beauty of the boat trip and the experience in order to avoid discomfort?? Because I have had a shitty relationship to my physicality. That is why. At least in part.

For the past year and a half or so, I would have to say I have not been a good friend to my body. And I don’t mean dieting. To be honest, I have never dieted in my entire freaking life, and I probably never will. Not because I’ve been blessed with some absurdly wonderful genetics or metabolism, but because I am pretty sure that I am constitutionally incapable of it. I don’t own a scale. I don’t care about them. I want to feel good in my clothes – that’s the barometer for me. And right now? No, I kind of don’t.

For a while, I had been doing yoga. I liked feeling bendy and strong. I liked the way that the practice of it made me walk differently every day of my life, even though I only went to yoga once a week. It made me feel conscious of what my body did and the way it moved, and what made it feel good to live inside this skin and use these muscles and to be a physical being. And then, I stopped going to yoga.

In conjunction with the yoga, I had been going running a few times a week. And when I say ‘running,’ I mean ‘interval training,’ only I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I called it, ‘walk a bit, run a bit, get tired of running, walk a bit, run a bit, get tired of running, walk a bit more, go home.’ And I did that because, essentially, I didn’t want to run that much. I had no freaking clue what ‘interval training’ was until I told someone that’s how I ran and they told me that’s what I was doing. I thought it was just exercising in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was going to die.

I was able to recognize that I liked both running and yoga for the same reasons: even if I was doing it ‘with’ other people I was really only competing against myself and for myself, there’s almost no coordination involved, they made me feel bendy and strong, and there was the ability to be very meditative since yoga is, and running is like being on autopilot. And still, I stopped doing both. I could point to this or that, but the fact is, I let other things take precedence and I abused the relationship I have with my body as a result.

So, how does desire fit in here? Well, if I’m busy not looking at something because I don’t want to face it, then I sure don’t want to get on a boat and talk about it, cause then I have to look at it or there’s no point in going. If I’m going to be honest and tell it like it is, then I’ve gotta say that there’s a big part of me that feels uncomfortable talking about or thinking about desire – a fact which, actually, kind of surprised me. But I had to look at the fact that I’m good about saying or asking or desiring some things, and crap at doing the rest – which means, I’m still not doing it all the way. I’m only doing it part-way, and well enough to hopefully not get ‘called’ on going halfway.

What I’ve gotta sit with for awhile is why in the heck I feel like I can’t ask for or expect things? What is it that is making me feel like I can’t desire things? I’ve gotten to a point (and I’ve been journaling about this actually in my private journal) where I feel like I could not tell you what shape the next year would take – not even remotely, not even vaguely. And that’s totally not me.

And there’s a relationship there – if I know what I desire, and I believe that I can bring those desires into being, then I know at least vaguely what shape my year will take. So, I think it’s obvious that there’s a disconnect between me and knowing what I desire, and a disconnect between me and believing I can bring those desires into being. And I don’t know which bit got unplugged first, but they’re both unplugged.

Knowing the way my year could go involves different parts of my being – my mental self, my emotional self, my spiritual self. All of them have gotten a lot of play for the past two years. My physical self has been the orphan left out in the cold. And like a starving orphan, my physical self no longer knows how to voice a desire or to even communicate it. My inability to voice desire on any of these levels is not particularly healthy. I am really good about attending to others, in the way that women tend to be – I naturally act as caretaker. And I’m really good about preaching about self-care to others…so I have to start listening to my own sermons.

I could not point to a moment in time when I started to become unclear on what I wanted, what I desired. I could not point to an instant or an instance that caused that shift. And maybe, I’ve never been very good at voicing them…but only thought I was. That’s the trickiest bit, isn’t it?

I’ve always framed it as thinking about the things I want – but that so passive, isn’t it? Want means that you’re in a state of want, and lack. That there’s some kind of dearth that you have been powerless to amend. Desire feels active, passionate, proactive. Desiring things means that all of your being is devoted to bringing the things and experiences you desire into being. It is creative, powerful, and empowering. Want is disempowering.

So much of this past year has been about me defining the things that I no longer wanted to be a part of my life. About elimination. About destruction. And that has to come first. In order to build something new, you have to tear down the old, or let it come tumbling down of its own accord. I have been purging, purging, purging. And now, I have to say…for what? What do I desire? With what do I want to fill the emptiness I’ve created? What do I want to be born here? What do I desire to bring into being?

Maybe it’s time to stop tearing everything down for a bit, get some focus, and connect with what I really desire. One of the suggestions that came out of our group was to make a list of all your desires and post it publicly in your home so that everyone who lived there with you could see what you desired and help to bring it into being. I am adding that to my ‘to-do’ list for the week. Not so much because I need others to know what I desire, but because I need to know what I desire.

If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. (J.M. Power)

I found this online tonight, and it made me think about something that I haven’t been doing very well the past two weeks: be daring. I’ve been tired, and I’ve been feeling crapped out, and I’ve given myself some time to be in that now. And the next step? Getting up, and getting on with it…because no one’s gonna do it for me.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“We live in a culture that tells us that there is never enough. That we are not enough, that we are not good enough, that we are not safe enough, that we can never be certain enough, that we’re not perfect enough. And maybe the one that we really don’t talk about, that I think is perhaps the most dangerous, is that we are not extraordinary enough. In this world, somehow, an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life. And so often we are missing what is truly important because we’re on the quest for what is extraordinary. Not understanding that in our ordinary lives, in the ordinary moments of our lives, is really where we can find the most joy.” (Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW)

I love this woman and her message. She’s willing to look at – and talk about – all the things that we turn away from. Thought I’d share this with you today – it’s something I’ll bring into the hours and the minutes of my day today.

Watch the full video on her blog here.

Language…has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone. (Paul Johannes Tillich)

I have always and ever been a study in contradiction – I am always both this and that. That’s part of being human, I think – the complexity and the changeableness.

I have always really identified with the mythos of the phoenix – the cyclical nature of it, the circularity, the rise and the fall. That’s me. I am both outgoing and personable, and reclusive and introverted. I am just one or the other at different times, cyclically. To everything there is a season, and a time for all things under heaven has been one of the strongest ideals / ideas in my makeup.

Lately, I find myself daydreaming about going to a hermitage. I always find myself thinking – at first – that a week would do it, and then the longer I entertain the daydream, the longer my ideal stay stretches. I’ve even scouted out places for hermitages – looked them up online, and priced them out and everything. One day, I’m strongly attracted to the whole no-phone, no-internet, no-tv, cabin-in-the-woods scene, and another day, I want to go up to a nice place I stayed once in Phillips, WI and enjoy all of those things, and the aloneness, too.

If I were a phoenix in fact, I would now at this moment be in the ashes stage of things – having already had a period of great growth and productivity, having allowed all that was unnecessary or outgrown to burn out of me. I have been so content in quiet. I have been so content in solitude.

I go through this cycle frequently – the first part starts with burning enthusiasm, and I just take in, take in, take in – absorbing everything that comes my way. Snapping it up and moving forward and doing so with energy, enthusiasm and verve. This sometimes coincides with the next part of the cycle – where I put out, produce, share, interact, and make things or formulate ideas, write blogs, write in my journal. Sometimes I flip-flop back and forth between these two phases for awhile – and the whole time, it feels pretty good – I feel alive and vital and invigorated.

And then I enter a phase like the one I’m in now. Where I wanna go all Thoreau and retreat to a cabin in the woods somewhere and just be. Not think, not do, not take in, not produce – just be. And I’m finally realizing that this is just a part of who I am – and that it’s a necessary part. Without the solitude, I burn out. Without the ability to just sit and be, I simply flame my way through life without taking things in deeply enough to make them true and lasting parts of who I am.

I’ve given thought to whether or not this is a depressed state – maybe, in a way, it could be considered one. I suppose that my other natural state of ebullience and enthusiasm so contradicts this one that it seems so. But there’s no real sadness, just quietness. There’s sadness when I’m flying high, too. There have been times of my life when lying in the ashes for too long has grown into a depression, but I know what that looks like now, and this is not it.

I like the fact that I can live in both worlds – the outer one of bustle and product and learning and interaction, and the inner one of synthesis and quietness and meditation and peace. I like the fact that I can be both things – and maybe, I am just getting better at putting words to the feelings of each and getting better at honoring each part of the cycle. The time when I haven’t done this, when I’ve denied myself a part of this, I’ve suffered. I’m really not interested any longer in making myself appear to be in certain mood or a state in order to put others at ease. It does me a disservice – and really, I think it does others a disservice.

Where in God’s name did we ever get the idea that we had to be forever happy? That if we weren’t, there would be a pill to “fix” that? Why did we ever move away from just letting things be in their natural state, in the natural progression and cycle? It’s become systemic in this society to “fix” damn near everything with some pill. Ugh. You know, it’s totally natural to be quiet. To not produce. To not be eternally and perpetually connected or available. To just be. To be in solitude. For a while.

To crave solitude and to find ways to embrace that need and fill it are healthy. To step back, to assess, to become still – these are all healthy things. When they stretch on and on, they’re not so healthy – but the need for solitude is something that I believe is innate. The need to engage in a period of rest is innate.

What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it – like a secret vice. (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

If we never stop moving, if we never go inward and engage our own soul, that is unhealthy. If we are unable to or uncomfortable with being alone for fear of what we might just find within, that’s unhealthy.

There’s just so much to see and read, to take in, to learn, to engage with, to be available for, that there are honestly times I just get plain old world-weary of it. We live in the most connected society ever. It’s tiring. I, for one, remember life before the advent of the cell phone – and I loved it. I loved going off the map for awhile without there being this strange and unnatural unspoken expectation for you to make yourself available to all others simply because you are in possession of a cell phone. That is unhealthy.

I’ve been digging this alone-time thing. I’ve been digging being quiet. It’s not that my head is empty or that my heart is empty – it’s that they’ve been so filled that I need time to discern what gets to remain and what doesn’t. This past year and a half has been so utterly full of changes – and most of them awesome ones – and so full of movement and doing, that I truly haven’t had the time to make meaning into a meal – it’s been taken in snack-sized bites.

I’ve come to a time where it was necessary to sit alone and break bread with myself. To go inward and feel all the feelings I didn’t have time to feel before. To draw together all of my experiences and all the thoughts that go with them and to see them in connection and conjunction to one another. To play with ideas, or to just let them sit there in my mind and see what happens. To dwell. To be quiet enough to hear the answers to all the prayers I’ve prayed in the past year and a half.

It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts. (K.T. Jong)

I’ve grown adept at staking out my corners and letting the world know that I am okay…that I just need to go off the map for awhile. For the most part now my friends, my family, my loved ones understand it and respect it. It’s not so much that they give it to me, but more that I took it whether they were going to give it or not, and they’ve just gotten used to it. They maybe even see the benefit of it – because just like all work and no play make me a dull girl, all interaction and no solitude makes me a crabby one.

By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear. (George Herbert)

I’ve given some thought to how this might play out if I ever have children. Once you’re a parent, your rights change. There’s a different order to things, and a different set of responsibilities that have to be attended to. One of the hopes is that I’d be able to show my children the value of solitude, and teach them to be calm islands in the river of life around them. To show them the value of all ways of being: the furor of fire, the flexibility of water, the stability of earth, the peace and purpose of air. The depths of spirit.

I grew up in the era before children had online calendars and their parents scheduled play dates and became glorified chauffeurs. I grew up hearing, “Bored? There’s no such thing. There’s plenty to do, and if you can’t find something, just sit there. Eventually you will.” And subsequently, I know how to have and enjoy downtime, as well as knowing how to occupy myself and engage with others. How to do both.

For now, I’m enjoying quiet. I’m enjoying naps. And I’m enjoying solitude.

I think that the majority of the Midwest took a collective breath, and sigh of relief yesterday. The oppressive heat and humidity that for weeks had been turning us all into vaguely damp and listless shadows of our former selves has finally broken.

I was able to turn off the air conditioning for the first time in weeks (thank you, thank you God – our checkbook, which absolutely flinched at the last utility bill thanks you, too).

I was able to throw open the windows and draw in cool, fresh air – the kind of summer air that lights, soft as a kiss, upon your skin (as opposed to what we had before, which was air that lay on your skin like some kind of wet tarp, smothering you).

I am such a lover of fall! Every year, at about the end of May, I start to look forward to September. Some people, like my fiancé, not only enjoy the summer and its hellish barrage of heat, but revel in it. He loves it. He wallows in it like an otter in a river. I fade. I go utterly transparent – all my sass and fire melt out and pool around my feet. All my ambition runs out, all my joie de vivre dissipates. And I spend the summer months (especially this summer, which according to the forecasters, has been the hottest summer in a decade) longing for fall.

I love fall. I cannot be alone in this: people loved this season so much, they christened it twice: once descriptively (fall), once poetically (autumn). Mmmm. Autumn. (Imagine Homer Simpson drooling over a doughnut…that’s how I feel, anticipating fall!!)

This morning, with the windows thrown open, has felt like a benediction. Like a promise, a foretelling. Like a lifeline, telling me to just hang on a bit longer, because soon every day will feel like this.

I love the clear cloudless blue skies of fall – I don’t think that they look quite the same any other time. I love the crispness of the air, the freshness. I love that it feels like something to be appreciated, since you know what’s coming after. I love the way the leaves always seem to turn all-of-a-sudden. Every year I watch and watch, trying to make sure that I catch the trees segueing from one palette to the next. No dice – somehow, I always seem to walk out the door to a world awash in brilliant sunset colors, having somehow missed the turning.

I love the mood of fall – a little bit pensive, a little bit joyful. I love pumpkins. I love tall fields of cornstalks rattling their dry and dusty bones in the crisp fall wind. I love leaves bunching, blown into corners and doorways. I love them carpeting streets with brilliance and jewel-toned color. I love the crunch they make under my feet. I slosh through them, kicking them up, like a kid.

Today, I am loving exactly what is: sweet summer air wafting into the windows, filling the house with the best of summer (wildflower smells, soft sunshine). Today, I am cherishing this brief reprieve from the kiln of summer’s torments. Hope the rest of you are enjoying it, too!!

A room without books is like a body without a soul. (Cicero)

I am a bookaholic. There should be support groups and 12-step meetings for people like me. I’ve always taken Cicero’s adage to heart – the result being, that there is no room in our apartment that doesn’t have at least one book in it.

When we moved in, I did what I always tend to do: get them on the shelves, without really worrying about what goes where. This past week, the apartment has felt small (it’s not), and confining. I’ve been going out onto the roof to breathe and feel space around me.

I didn’t want to feel driven out of the apartment – it’s supposed to be our sanctuary from the outside world, not something that drives us out into the outside world.

I decided that some ‘restructuring’ was in order – and I started with the books. I have never actually gone through my entire book collection – I didn’t want anyone to point out that I had three copies of a title or that some of them looked fit for the trash heap. I didn’t want to have to part with a single, solitary volume. I can tell you (pretty much) where I got each one, and why I bought it. I can tell you which ones were gifts and from who. I can tell you where I was when I read most of them, and what I first thought as I turned those pages or closed the covers at the end.

So, on Saturday night (notice that it is Wednesday already), at about a quarter to midnight, I got up off the couch and started denuding our bookshelves and piling them in the front room. I started categorizing, and dividing. I took a moment with each one, rubbing my hand over the cover or opening to a page and reading a sentence or two.

I wasn’t really intending to do this on the sneak, but I also didn’t announce my intention, and this is why: at some point, Jeremy became cognizant of what I was doing (he’d been wearing his headphones and working on his computer), and with a look of dismay said, “Um…babe…whatcha doin’?” I said, “Do you really want to know?” and he just shook his head and affixed his earmuffs back over his ears. He hates clutter and disarray – well, in this case, I needed to make a mess in order to clean one up (seems to be the way it always goes, doesn’t it?), and it was just better if he didn’t watch (go to your happy place Jeremy).

The piles of books in the picture amount to about one quarter of my entire “library.” I was still pulling books off shelves when I took it, and was only about halfway done with what’s in our apartment. The others are still at my parents’ house, languishing.

And that is what drove me off the couch at nearly midnight – the fact that I am tired of not knowing what I do or don’t have, that I’m tired of having things scattered to hell and gone in storage and whatnot. I want to surround myself with the things I treasure and shed the rest. I want there to be some kind of purpose behind the way that my books are displayed. I want, for perhaps the first time ever, to be able to look around and know what I’ve got, and where it is, and to be surrounded by them the way I’ve always wanted to be.

This may sound a bit psycho, but it’s been a little emotional for me – giving away a book is hard for me. In fact, if a friend would ask to borrow one, I’d tell them I wasn’t quite through with it, and the next time I saw them, I’d have purchased a copy to give them instead of loaning them a treasure that they might never return. Yeah, I know how sick that is.

When I was ten or twelve, my mom bought me a bookmark with that quote from Cicero on it. Even at that age, I got it. Now, I want to live it – differently. If a room without books is a body without soul, then a room with books is a room with soul – and for the first time in my life, I am starting to think about what kind of soul I want my rooms to have. For the first time in my life, I am feeling okay with shedding what I’ve outgrown or moved past. I feel okay with shedding the multiple copies of things. I feel okay with passing these treasures onto others.

Because if I can’t let go of what no longer fits, there is no room to gather in what does.

When we moved, I purged a LOT of things, and it felt good. I felt less burdened. I never made it to the books, because I didn’t want to face that part of it yet. And now, the books feel like the beginning. Once I’m through with them, I’ll sweep through the rest of the house again, letting go of all the things that I’ve hung onto, afraid to let them go.

And when I’m done, I’ll sit in the middle of our rooms, and enjoy the soul that fills them.

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Just when I thought everything was chugging along nicely, I heard a screech, a bang, a crash (metaphorically), and look down to find a big, greasy wrench in the works. Somehow my blasted computer has gotten a virus. The kind that incessantly displays warnings and error messages all over your screen so that you really cannot get the blasted computer to function. This is not good news.

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I’m typing this entry on Wordpad on the fiance’s computer — it feels like I’ve gone back in time here. Grrrr. I am going to work to try to get this issue resolved as soon as possible — but I wanted to let you know that if you saw a little less of me blogging, it wasn’t because I didn’t have plenty to say…it was because the machine I use to say it has turned traitor!
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Have any of you ever called the “free” help line for your antivirus software? I have. The length of time it takes to access a human being is utterly astounding. And after each attempt to fix or get information from the machine, there is more waiting. More tooth-grinding, more sighing. More waiting.
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Wish me luck everyone!

When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing – nothing. (Saint Francis of Assisi)

Tonight I facilitated another Reiki Share, and walked out of there feeling like a brand-new-gal. These gatherings have been one of my greatest joys as a Reiki practitioner (for about a bazillion reasons). Tonight, we got to talking about prayer and prayerfulness. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and I was so glad to get the input and thoughts of others as I muse over, ponder over, and chew on the whole concept of prayer, and the attitude of prayerfulness.

God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. (Mother Teresa)

I have had a complicated relationship with prayer, I think. Maybe most people have – I don’t know. All I know is that I was raised as a Catholic, and that was my religious foundation for a great deal of my life. I don’t even want to get into that whole phenomenon of Catholic anger, or the idea of the “recovering Catholic.” That’s not what I’m driving at here, and I don’t really identify with either of those things. My Catholic upbringing – and my specific exposure to that perspective – gave me one conception of prayer, one way to live prayer, one way to act in prayer. And for a long time, that was the only way I could think about praying.

I believe I am finally in a place where I can actually appreciate the meaning of the word prayerful for the first time in my life. Of sensing the necessary openness, instead of expectation. And I came to it through Reiki.

One part of Reiki is actually providing yourself and others with treatment – that’s the part that most people are familiar with. They’ve seen it on the news, they’ve seen it on Dr. Oz, they’ve read about it online. And, all of that exposure? It’s great. I love it. But it neglects so much.

It’s the other part of Reiki that seems to be unseen, unacknowledged, and undiscussed. The inward part – the part where the practitioner (the one who practices) commits to walking a spiritual path. The part of Reiki that is the act of living prayerfully.

In college, I read Dorothy Day’s biography, and the quote that most struck me was when she said, “I could not go to God on my knees.” For such a long time, I really thought that was pretty much the only option I had – to be penitent, knees bent, head bowed, staring downward.

Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude. (Walter A. Mueller)

In the intervening years between reading and identifying with that quote and today, my conception of prayer, and my understanding of what it means to be prayerful, has grown and blossomed. Yes, there are times I go to God on my knees, but I let it be in reverence, and not in shame. There are also times I go with arms held high, feeling joyful and embraced. Feeling jubilant.

Eddie Izzard, a rather unconventional comedian, does quite a few skits on religion. (I love his comedy – it’s intelligent and quick and wry.) In one particular skit, he says that one of the things that’s always bewildered him is the way that so many Christians manage to sing praise songs in a dirge tone. That was my experience growing up – attending church each Sunday and watching the congregants sing Alleluia as though they were going to the gallows. And I prayed dirgefully. Uck.

Reiki has brought me a new way to experience prayer – something which I did not expect. I’ve talked about this quite a bit in Reiki Shares and in other gatherings, but not here on my blog. For me, providing treatment for someone becomes a prayerful experience. I tell clients that it feels almost as though the entire session becomes one long prayer. There is peace, and silence, and the space for them to heal and to find resolution. For me, there is inner quiet, and a meditative state that is something quite different than the state I’m in when I grocery shop or watch tv. There is an attentiveness and openness on the part of both myself and the client. We each enter the session with hopes (a form of prayer) and intentions (a kind of petition) and openness (the willingness to hear and receive the results of those hopes and intentions).

Prayer gives a man the opportunity of getting to know a gentleman he hardly ever meets. I do not mean his maker, but himself. (William Inge)

I try to bring more of that into my day (with varying degrees of success). I try to bring myself into a state of mindfulness more often in my everyday life. I try to think prayerfully, walk prayerfully. Be prayerful.

Being prayerful, for me, has come to mean:

  • Being soft like water – able to bend with the flexible and changing world around me.
  • Being passionate like fire – able to feel all the things that it means to be human with depth and meaning.
  • Being open to new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways of behaving.
  • Being mindful of all the world around me, and the deservingness of everyone and everything to be treated with the reverence that is due one of God’s creations.
  • Being mindful of my speech, knowing that the wrong words have such ability to harm.
  • Being mindful of my attitudes, knowing that I (like everyone else) tend to get “stuck” in them.
  • Being mindful of my part in all things – that even when I feel as though I’ve been wronged, there is something in that experience that is mine, and that I need to own.
  • Open arms. Open hands. Open heart.
  • More listening, less talking.

My intention this month was to work at being more prayerful in my daily life. I want to embrace all the ways that prayer has been a blessing to me in both joy and sorrow. I want to walk, knowing that with each step I take, I have an opportunity to walk prayerfully. With each breath, I have an opportunity to breathe prayerfully. Each word, each thought, each action – is an opportunity to be prayerful.

I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. (Abraham Lincoln)

It is of course possible to dance a prayer. (Terri Guillemets)

I wrote about this tonight because it’s occupying my thoughts, and I wanted to write about it to see where I was with it. I fully expect my feelings, thoughts, and ideas about prayer to change and grow – I welcome it. When I “write to discovery,” as I intended to do tonight, I tend not to be as eloquent as when I feel sure of what I’m saying – thanks for bearing with that.

I’d love to hear about what prayerfulness means for others. How do you experience prayer? How do you live prayer in your life? What things have you had to heal about prayer in order to get where you are today?

Part of walking the path of mastery is picking up all the pieces of your life one by one, like stones on the riverbank, and holding them in your hands. Turning them over and over, examining them. Seeing them again and for the first time. My growing relationship to prayer is another of those stones – one which I know I’ll cup thoughtfully in my palm many times as I walk forward.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)