How are you, really?

How are you?

No, really.

How. Are. You?

Not a simple question to answer, especially when it is asked in passing as a pleasantry rather than a real inquiry.

Generally, our response ranges from good to well, demanding on where we reside on the grammar scale – by the way, Grammar Girl states it’s okay to say good. Anyway, neither good nor well adequately describes the ebb and flow of our lives.

At any given time, we have a million and one things affecting how we feel. We worry. We’re anxious. We’re lonely. We’re unsure.  We’re sad. And yet we keep all of it hidden. We settle for polite conversation rather than fulfilling our need for connection and understanding.

This really hit me hard Sunday afternoon at church as I stood at the door of the auditorium greeting people. So many faces showed signs of preoccupation, worry and stress. But when I asked how are you, everyone answered either I’m good or even worse, I’m fine. Perhaps this really struck me because I was just as guilty. If I were being honest, I would have said I’m struggling with being here today. Not only didn’t I feel very well, I was battling a wave of sadness. I felt as if I didn’t matter. I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people walking through the doors of the church felt the same way I did.

The church is supposed to be a place of comfort and grace, but we allow pleasantry to take the place of compassion or even love. We keep our deepest needs buried beneath a thinly veiled smile. That’s crazy!

Of course, I know it isn’t practical for everyone to stop and tell the greeter their problems. Nor should the greeter kill the vibe by sharing her woes. But where does pleasantry end and realness begin?

The problem may be we spend too much time worrying about appearances. We don’t want people to think poorly of us or to know we don’t have it all together, which creates a breeding ground for depression. Loneliness and despair often lead to a belief that we don’t matter, or worse that the world would be better off without us. And this feeling is only intensified when we think we are the only person who isn’t okay.

I’m particularly sensitive to this because of my loss, but that doesn’t alleviate the fact that too many people suffer in silence. And for some of them, like my son, it’s a matter of life and death.

We have got to move beyond the pleasantry of I’m fine, particularly with the people we are closest to. Ask deeper questions and be willing to listen. Share your own experiences with the ebb and flow of life.

A lot of this was swirling through my head as I stood at the door, and it all came to a head when one of the team leaders stopped to check how things were going. She asked me how I was doing. Rather than giving her a pat answer, I told her the truth. And to my surprise, she told me she wasn’t okay either. Her grandfather had died the week before and she was struggling with sadness and grief. Though brief, our honest conversation became an opportunity for us to comfort one another. And when she walked away, I truly felt better.

Maybe we can’t dive into every I’m good, but we can make a special effort with the people who we’re in relationship with, whether professional or personal. Ask follow-up questions. Or better yet, ask deeper questions which require real conversation. It may take more time, but it could make the difference between life and death.

 

 

 

 

The Story Only You Can Tell

Two weeks from today I will hop on an Airbus A340-600 and head across the pond. First stop London. I will finally see my daughter, who I haven’t seen since the beginning of January. And after a quick three-day tour of London, my family and I will begin our five country, fourteen-day tour.

A bit ambitious, but exciting.

In preparation, I have been obsessing over two things: how to pack two-week’s worth of clothes in a carry-on and what camera lens to take. While there is probably some connection I could make between my clothes challenge and writing, but I don’t see it. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t gotten much further than deciding on what color jeans to pack – black, dark blue-wash and gray, in case you’re wondering.

The decision on a camera lens, on the other hand, relates to some of the same choices I make as a writer.

So, here’s the issue. I have a macro lens and a telephoto lens, which for the most part fit my photography needs. I could pack both and go on my merry way. But who wants to lug around two heavy pieces of equipment when they may or may not be the right tools to convey the story I want to tell.

Which begs to question, what story am I trying to tell.

It’s easy to take the typical vacation pictures everyone takes. The person standing a distance from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, pretending to hold it up. The one where someone has the Eiffel Tower between his thumb and pointer finger. Or the perfectly centered postcard-type shot of some landmark. They all record the trip, but they don’t share anything about the traveler.

A great photo reflects the eye of the photographer, revealing her soul through the emotion she evokes and the sense of time and place she creates. It tells a story only that photographer can tell.

As writers, you and I are called to write the stories only we can write. We could write more generic pieces, but that doesn’t reveal who we are or allow the reader to connect with a real person. Also, we miss the beauty of revelation when we gravitate toward more popular or familiar ways of seeing. The writing may be more difficult, but it’s far more interesting to write and to read.

In some ways, it’s easier for me to reveal my soul as a photographer than as a writer. My photos focus on beauty while my writing tries to make sense of pain. It feels as if there is more to lose when I share my thoughts in words.

But then I’m reminded of a photograph I took of my son several years ago. I’ve always loved the picture, but it wasn’t until after his death that I understood why. That photo of Matt  captures both his beauty and his pain.

Back when I took that picture, I would often step into the shadows to photograph my children moving naturally through their life. I wanted to tell the story of who they were while growing up. Unfortunately, they hated those types of photographs and started calling me a stalker. They became hyper-alert whenever I picked up my camera, so I couldn’t take pictures unobserved. Instead I would have to beg them to pose for a photo, which always ended in bickering between the three of them. As a result,  I took less and less pictures of them individually and collectively.

This trip to Europe is a special trip for my family. The last time we took a major trip it was our first Christmas after Matt’s death. All we wanted was a distraction. And when I picked up the camera, I focused on the ocean, sunrises and sunsets. It soothed my broken heart. I avoided candid, unobserved shots. It broke my heart to see the pain written on my children’s faces when no one was looking.

Perhaps I’ve been obsessing over camera lens because I want to remember this trip as more than a list of sites seen. I want to tell the story of healing and hope. That’s why I decided to take both lens. And just case I see something neither of those lens cover, I bought another one.

Now all I have to do is figure the clothes thing out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why you may need to implode your story

One perk of being married to someone in construction management is getting to witness the different phases of building a building. I have been to ground breakings, looked down gigantic holes at poured footings and walked through completed buildings noting unfinished punch-list items before the final walk-through.  All the while learning  the lingo and gaining enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Sunday, I got to watch the implosion of the 14-story Georgia Archive building. The boom of the explosives followed by the collapsing of the building is oddly exhilarating and a little frightening.

Afterwards, I sat in as my husband and his colleagues watched several videos  of the implosion and debriefed. It was fascinating to learn that every step of the 15 seconds process was expected and accounted for, including which way the building fell. It got me to thinking about how imploding our writing may be the very thing we need to build a better story.

As a writer, it’s important to consider the structure of your piece. There are times when the current form doesn’t accurately frame or support the ideas. It may be necessary to implode the whole thing to build a better structure.

One of the witnesses to the implosion Sunday noted during an interview that he didn’t see why they had to tear it down. The witness wasn’t aware that the building was no longer structurally sound or that the state plans to make better use of the land by building a new courthouse complex on the lot.

We might feel the same resistance to tearing down our story, especially if we spent a lot time working on the it. We get attached to our own words, even going as far to call them our ‘babies’.  But sometimes even our best ideas need an overhaul, which may mean blowing the whole thing up.

I recently ran across this very problem while working on the memoir I’m writing about losing my son. Despite the several hours of work, I realized simple revision isn’t going to be enough to savage one of the chapters. It needed to be imploded. That means objectively examining the structure and content to determine why it isn’t working. Then teasing out anything salvageable, which may require thinking about the subject from a different perspective.

Years ago, I wrote a short story about woman who cooks her husband this wonderful dinner the night before she leaves him. The story was written from the perspective of the woman. And not to toot my own horn, but I thought it was a damn good story. Well, unfortunately I was in the minority. A group of writers in one writing workshop thought the protagonist was a bitch for leaving her hard-working husband. For years, I held on to the belief that they just didn’t understand her and continued to submit the story to various literary magazines. Needless to say, not one magazine or journal accepted it. Then a group of writers, who I trusted and respected, suggested I examine the structure and rewrite the story.

I resisted the idea at first, because I didn’t want to destroy what was there. But it had to be done. I looked at the story from the husband’s perspective, which added more texture. I changed the name and resubmitted it to various publications. After a few more rejections, it was published by Mused BellaOnline Literary Review [Read “A Fresh Start”].

Perhaps the story would have found a home in its original form, but the action of imploding my work helped me to grow as a writer. Now I’m not afraid to completely re-think a piece. I see it as playing with the ideas and don’t feel any pressure to get it right.  If it doesn’t work, I try something else.

Fortunately, writing differs from construction in that we can always go back to the way things used to be thanks to wonders of technology. But more often than not, we end up with a stronger and more well-written piece.

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Sustain Resistance

It’s been one hundred and eleven days  since the election.

Thirty-eight since the inauguration.

It’s important to note because three plus months of active resistance is exhausting.

I’ve marched. Made phone calls. Written emails. Huddled. Visited my senator and knocked on doors. I’m tired and tempted to give up.

A week ago  a family member told me not to worry, it will all be over in eight year.

That’s a scary thought.

Please understand, this is not my thing. It never has been. In fact, keeping up with all the political rhetoric makes my head hurt. I’d prefer to be writing about writing. But I don’t have a choice. I don’t have the luxury of being  silent if I want to see things change.

The question  becomes  how do we sustain the determination needed to keep up the resistance. After all, we can’t walk around grumpy and angry all the time. We still have live a life of purpose and joy. We still want to have fun.

I’ve tried to bring joy back by limiting my interaction with the news and social media. I’d scroll rapidly through Facebook looking for babies and puppies. I’d avoid the news as much as humanly possible. And I was almost lulled into complacency. The repeal of ACA, Muslim ban, loss of women’s reproductive rights, environmental policy, gun control, and general infringements on civil liberties have little to do with my day as I run Minerva Rising, write and spend time with my husband and family. Truth is it would be easy to shrug and say it won’t change my life one way or the other. But the fact is that isn’t true.  Martin Luther King said it best when he said:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Bearing that in mind,  it seems contradictory that my first inclination was to say no when my husband asked if I wanted to spend Saturday afternoon canvassing for Jon Ossoff, a Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 6th District seat left vacant when Tom Price was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. But frankly, there’s a part of me that wonders if any of it makes a difference. Also,  I didn’t want to spend another weekend fighting for the resistance.

Two weeks ago, I felt the same way when I was in Washington D.C. I had agreed to go with thirty other Georgia writers to meet with Senators Issackson and Perdue’s aides, but I almost convinced myself it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t go. At the time, the  AWP conference and book fair seemed to be more important. Not to mention the fact, I was tired and didn’t want to expand the energy necessary make a trip to the Capital. But something made me go, and I’m glad I did. If I hadn’t gone, I would have missed the opportunity  to see  the apathy the Senators have for their constituency.  It was both shocking and disheartening to watch the various writers share their concerns about religious intolerance, the repeal of ACA and the Muslim ban,  as the aides  looked on with disdain and disinterest. I left the Capital certain we’d did little to change their minds, but more determined to stay vigilant.

So, even though I wanted to do other things this past Saturday, I spent the afternoon knocking on doors. Which, by the way, is a scary prospect for an African-American woman in an Atlanta suburban neighborhood peppered with pickup trucks and camouflage.

As we walked door to door, it occurred to me resistance requires balance. It’s about navigating vigilance with a healthy dose of self-care. In the words:

know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away and know when to run. — Kenny Rogers

We can sustain our resistance by remembering these five things:

  1. Read enough news to stay current and knowledgeable. Don’t get sucked into every Facebook post or twit. It’s too easy to feel overwhelmed, by all the opinions. A lot of those posts are designed more to add fuel to the fire than to instigate change.
  2. Don’t get comfortable. We can’t just shrug our shoulders and look away. We must get involved, even if it means doing things which frighten us. Saturday, I felt anxious every time we rang a doorbell. I feared someone would meet us with a shot-gun. Maybe a bit melodramatic, but I knocked anyway. Fortunately, people were pleasant – even the few who weren’t interested in talking to us.
  3. Talk about real issues and real people. Avoid spouting off bi-partisan rhetoric. When people can put a face to an issue, it becomes more than just an idea.
  4. Know the facts. Read actual research and check sources. Not only does that inform our opinion, it allows us to look beyond the simple solutions.
  5. Resist the urge to give up.Do what you can, but know when to take a break.

 

Until next time. . .

 

 

 

 

Why Am I Procrastinating?

It’s been four weeks since I posted a blog.

I could go into a long explanation about how busy I’ve been. As executive editor of Minerva Rising Press, I had to prepare for the 2017  AWP Conference, finalize the latest Minerva Rising issue – Fathers, and manage day-to-day operations. All necessary activities, but none require day and night involvement. In addition, my husband and I started a foundation to honor Matt’s life which needs oversight and management. And we won’t even get into being a wife and mother, or the general capriciousness of life.  But even with all of that, not writing my blog is an issue of procrastination, especially in light of how many episodes of House of Cards, This is Us, Timeless and Blackish that were watched within the same four weeks.

When I started working on my MFA back in 2009, I had a thirteen-year old daughter at home, taught writing classes full-time at a small liberal arts college, and lead a women’s Bible study on Saturday mornings, but still found time to write.  Procrastination was never an issue. So, why is it a problem now?

Many believe procrastination is a time-management problem, but the Washington Post article, The real reasons you procrastinate – and how to stop”, suggests it’s more of an emotional management issue. According to Timothy Pychyl, a professor who studies procrastination at Carleton University in Ottawa, the procrastinator believes she must feel good about the task she needs to complete. It becomes an issue of what feels better at the time. The procrastinator gives into the immediate gratification of feeling good in the moment rather than the more fulfilling accomplishment of a completed task.

I am totally an immediate gratification girl. And lately, I’ve been accepting the quick satisfaction of journaling instead of the more complicated blogging.  It’s less risky. No one reads it. My procrastination seems to be an issue of the type of writing I give into, rather than avoiding the task completely.

I spend a lot of time writing in my personal journal. My mornings general consists of devotional time with the Lord, followed by writing my morning pages. The practice of writing three pages in the morning came from The Artist Way. They gave the writer access to  innate creativity through the authentic first thoughts of the morning. For years, this practice provided deep insight into my writing and life in general.  Some of my favorite blogs started on those pages. But lately, there’s an issue of follow-through. Ideas spring up, but never get fully developed. Instead, they lay buried in the pages of my journal.

Don’t miss understand, I am not knocking morning pages. They are what taught me to trust the authenticity of my own voice.  But confining my voice to the privacy of my journal has contributed to my silence on many vital issues in our country. Writing about them gets it off my chest, but it does little to give voice to the voiceless.  Writers most write and publish.

This point was driven home to me as I left the Capital over a week ago while attending AWP. I sensed a need to use my writing for more than processing my life.  As writers, we must stand up for the values we believe in.  We can no longer afford to be silent in this contentious and volatile political climate.

It is much more important for me to write about the experience of being rushed out of Georgia Senators Isackson’s and Perdue’s office after thirty minutes by their aides despite being scheduled to meet for an hour. Or to add my voice in support of the affordable care act, planned parenthood, women reproductive rights and immigrants. And to speak out against racism, sexism, and classism. I need to share my experiences as a grieving mother so that others know they aren’t alone.

Being able to write is a precious gift meant to be shared. There is much work to be done to uphold the beliefs and values that established this country. Everyone must do their part. For some it means organizing or actively engaging in the political process by running for office. For others, it means volunteering or donating to organizations that support the marginalized. And to those of us who write, it means telling the stories that need to be told. It means stepping out of our comfort zone with the hope of expanding minds and changing the conversation. All of that to say I am more committed than ever to using my writing as an act of resistance.

So, even though I’ve been silent for the last four weeks, I’m back in the game.  No more procrastination. Only writing.

This is What Democracy Looks Like

Like many, I was devastated by the election. Not because my party didn’t win, but because it seemed to be referendum for hate. I worried about the safety and security of my African-American family and friends. I worried about people losing their healthcare. I imagined mothers and fathers being ripped away from their children and sent back to their country of origin. I shuddered at the thought of visitors not being allowed to enter the country because of their religion. It was all too much to bear.

When a friend asked if I wanted to go with her to march on Washington, I said yes even though it meant stepping out of my comfort zone. The issue felt too weighty to ignore. Something had to be done.

But as the march got closer, the more trepidation I felt.

What if things turned ugly? Visions of riot gear, tear gas and arrest plagued my mind. And when I wasn’t thinking about that, I worried about being shoot by a counter-protester. I hoped against all hope that something would happen to change the election results so that I wouldn’t have to go.

By the January 19th, I climbed in the car with three other women and headed to Washington.

Watching the inauguration protest and violence at an Arlington pub did little to quail my fears.

But Saturday morning changed everything. The hotel lobby was filled with men and women in pink caps and protest signs. And as we left the hotel, we were joined by more protesters. People lined up ten deep to purchase Metra cards for the various ticket machines. The platforms were jammed with people waiting to board chock-full trains. Though my friends and I, like thousands of others, ended up walking the four miles to the rally, we remained excited and determined.

Long lines of protester walked from Arlington toward the Capitol. Drivers honked and cheered as they drove by.  Once we reached the Washington Monument there were pink hats and protest signs as far as the eye could see. It made me wonder how we ended up with Donald Trump as president when there so many people who opposed him.

Perhaps it happened when people like me believed casting our vote was enough. But I knew better than that.  I didn’t take any chances when Barack Obama ran for president. I gave money. I made phone calls. I knocked on doors. But I did none of that during this past election. I cast my vote and hoped for the best.

Hoping for the best doesn’t work. Neither does waiting to see what happens. I’m guessing that’s why the organizers of the Women’s March felt it was time to act.

And thank God they did.

Standing on the mall during the Women’s March was amazing. You could feel a spirit of love flow through the crowd as a million women stood together in solidarity. The speakers reminded us that it’s our job to fight for the democracy we all hold dear.

Women are a force to be reckoned with. We have the power to make a difference.

That was amazingly clear as a sea of pink hats worn by women, men, old, young, straight, gay, queer, transgender, black, white, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Christian, moved down the mall toward the White House, chanting: “This is what democracy looks likes.”

What a beautiful sight!

We raised our voices. Now we must keep the momentum going by vigilantly working together as a community to be the change we want to see in our country.

We have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone. It may be scary, but it’s the only way we are going to make a difference.

Write your local congressman and hold them accountable. Attend your local governmental meetings. Check the accuracy of your news sources. Read. Volunteer. Donate. Run for office or support a woman who is.

The most important thing is that we stay engaged.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Strategies to Overcome Writer’s Block

Imagine this scene . . .

It’s ten in the morning. A woman sits at her desk with a cup of tea. She turns on her computer and opens a Word document.  With fingers hovering over the keyboard, she ponders what to type. Just an hour or so earlier all sorts of idea floated through her mind while she showered.  But as she stares at the screen, her mind goes blank.

Sound familiar?

Of course, it does.

Writer’s block is the enemy of many well-intentioned writers.  It turns the greatest ideas into mush and drives us to that basket of unfolded clothes sitting on the dryer. And while it may be responsible for our spotless kitchen, it does little to soothe the ache to tell our story.

When I first attempted to write this week’s blog, writer’s block hit hard. In fact, it started before I even sat down at my computer.

The hardest part of making a commitment to write and post weekly is figuring out what to write.  And while the adage says – write what you know – it often feels as if all things I know have been written about before, and I don’t have anything new to add.  It would have been quite easy to give in and divert my attention to the front hall closet, which was badly in need of cleaning. But fortunately, my Passion planner was laying open next to me with the weekly focus of self-discipline staring me in the face.

I realized I needed help, so I looked for a writing prompt.  And while I didn’t get my blog done, I did start an essay and a short story about Cinderella. It felt good to overcome writer’s block, but I still had to come up with an idea for this blog.

That’s when I saw this quote on Twitter:

writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all
― Charles BukowskiThe Last Night of the Earth Poems

It got me to thinking. I could write about my writer’s block. So here are five strategies to overcome writer’s block:

  1. Stay in the chair. Make a commitment to keep your behind in your seat, writing for a specified amount of time. Set the timer. Record the thoughts running through your mind. I can’t tell you how many times my writing projects start with some variation of the following sentence: I have no idea what to write or how to start this. Nonetheless, as I type out my thoughts, the piece starts to take shape. By the time the timer goes off, I’m well into writing.
  2. Read and annotate. As I type those words, I can almost see my daughter shaking her head and calling me an English teacher nerd. But it works. Reading stimulates our thinking, but we need to catch the thoughts as they are happening. Write questions and responses in the margins. Expand on those ideas in your writing.
  3. Visit an art gallery or museum. Wander through the galleries, paying close attention to what speaks to you and why. This blog came to me yesterday at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African- American Arts + Culture. Many of the paintings reminded me of my childhood. I made a note in my phone about a painting that was similar to the wallpaper that hung in main room of my great-grandparents house. Another bought back the memory of a wedding gown my grandmother made for one of her customers. I came away from the center with a full writing tank.
  4. Be willing to write a shitty first draft. “Shitty first drafts” is my favorite chapter of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It taught me to get over myself and just write. Allow yourself to get the words down, then you can clearly see what the piece is supposed to be. The real work of writing has always been in revision. That’s where you craft the piece into what it’s meant to be.
  5. Make yourself accountable. Share your intention to write with other person or better yet several people. Join a writer’s group. My first novel happened ten pages at a time, because I didn’t want to let down the other members of my writing group. It also helped that one of the members sent frequent emails reminding me of the importance of getting my work done.

Don’t let writer’s block win. Your writing is too important.

Write on, my friends!

 

The Ultimate Writing Challenge.

pen-and-journal

Always we begin again

 – St Benedict

I received a rejection in my email yesterday. It was particularly difficult because a few days before Christmas I had a telephone conversation with the editor of the press where she told me how much she wanted to see my book in the world. We talked briefly about the terms, and left it with her needing to sort through their upcoming publications to see if there was a place for my book.

It felt promising.

Though in reality our conversation came about after I received an email from her with news that I wasn’t selected for the first book award contest where I was one of five finalist. People say it’s an honor to be a finalist, but the reality is losing sucks. I was only partially comforted by the editor’s request that I call her to talk about her interest in publishing my book.

It seemed as if I was really close to a book deal.

Then came the rejection. The email was kind and personal, but a no nonetheless.

After a few tears and a little wandering around Target, I was faced with the question of where to send it next. Though to be honest, there was a part of me that wanted to say the hell with it. I toyed with the idea of giving up the whole writing thing. I questioned the sanity of subjecting myself to continued rejection. But after a prep-talk from my husband, sometime in prayer and a glass or two of wine, I realized the more important question is how do I sure myself up so that a rejection doesn’t feel so devastating?

Rejection is a very real part of the writing life. We all know that, but it doesn’t take away the sting.  It’s as if the editor’s no confirms our greatest fear that we aren’t good enough. We wonder if perhaps our parents were right to suggest we pursue something with a future – and a salary. But the truth is we didn’t choose writing. It chose us. We write because we have to.

Truth is I feel better about life in general when I’m writing. Writing clears my head. It clarifies and expands my thinking. It opens my eyes to the things below the surface of what is said or done. It helps me understand myself and the world around. It’s my lifeline.

No rejection can take that away.

So I begin again. I will look for new places to send my book and continue to write.

Prior to receiving the rejection email, signed up for a 52 week writing challenge. I loved the idea of  writing  one essay a week and posting it. It seemed to be the perfect writing goal for the year. It would give me the opportunity to develop my ideas and actually write the reflections and commentaries that float around my head. It would also be a way to produce more work while actively working on my craft.

However, after processing this last rejection it seems my ultimate writing goal for this year is to continue to write and submit, taking each rejection in stride, knowing that always we begin again.

Three Things I Learned From Writing Every Day

It’s December 31st and I have successfully completed the December Writing Challenge. I have blogged every day for this month. Although there were a few days that I didn’t meet the word count or the posting time, I did meet the goal of writing every day. And through the process I have learned three valuable lessons.

  1. You can alway find time to write. There have been plenty of times this month, including this very moment, when it wasn’t convenient to sit down and write. However, I didn’t allow myself to be stray away from my goal. I prioritized my time. Sometimes that meant getting up earlier in the morning. Other times it meant pulling away from other activities. Either way, I made time to write.
  2. The words will come if you give them time. There were several times when I sat at my computer without a clue as to what I would write about. I would actually start typing words like, “I don’t know what to write” or “I don’t feel like doing this”, and slowly but surely the words would come. In fact, the days that I didn’t know what to write were often the best days. Those post would get more likes than the post I spent more time thinking about.
  3. There is an audience out there who is interested in what you have to say. When I started this challenge, I didn’t really think people would follow or even notice what I was doing. But amazingly enough, just when I would start to feel discouraged or want to give-up, I’d receive an email from someone commenting on one of my post or someone new would begin to follow my blog. Knowing that I wasn’t writing in oblivion kept me going. It’s made me think quote from Field of Dreams is true: “If you build it, they will come.”

I’m glad I took the challenge. It’s been a great experience. But I am also glad it’s over. I’m really looking forward to a day off. I’ll be back in a few days, but now I have to go get dressed from New Years Eve. 

Have a wonderful and safe New Years!

Until next time. . .

Setting an Intention for the New Year

Often at the beginning of yoga the teacher will talk to students about setting an intention for their practice. This is designed to help students focus their awareness and attention on a quality or virtue they want to cultivate on the mat. The thought is that by incorporating a specific quality or virtue into your practice, you will be able to carry it into your life off of the mat.

In the past, I would always select huge concepts like inner peace or patience as my intention. However, my awareness and attention during class was completely focused on either the inflexibility of my body and/or the difficulty of the pose. It isn’t a surprise that I rarely left class feeling any sense of inner peace or patience. During a recent class, I decided to set a basic intention of accepting my body for where it is. Whenever I had difficulty with a pose, I gently reminded myself that whatever I could do was enough. And as a result, not only did I leave class feeling more at peace, throughout the rest of the day I found myself being more gentle in my self-talk. That experience totally changed the way I experience yoga.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to set an intention, especially as we approach the New Year. The goals or resolutions that we set are determined by what we want to accomplish in the coming year. Lose weight. Find a job. Write a book. Publish book😉. But these ideas come from our thinking mind rather than a longing from our highest self*. An intention is birthed at the core of our heart where we find our deepest truth. It’s our most heartfelt desire and realizing it leads to a sense of fulfillment.

We all want to experience the satisfaction of living a fulfilled life. So we set goals and make resolutions in January to guide our steps. But often, like my quest of inner peace in yoga class, we come away frustrate because our attention and focus drifts. We get too busy to go to the gym. We too tired after work to write, so we watch television instead. It takes too much effort to count points or whatever the diet requires. And at the end of the year we become a bunch of cynics, who don’t make resolutions because they “never stick”.   

What if instead we set a small intention for the year that speaks to our heart? It’s harder to figure out exactly what that should be, because we have to quiet our brain and actually listen to our heart. The heart is soft-spoken and easily discouraged. So give it time. Do that thing today that it’s urging you to do.

Go for a walk.

Read a book.

Take a nap.

Do whatever you need to do to listen. I’m going to paint.

Until next time. . .

Read more about Setting an Intention:

*Why Do We Set Intentions in Yoga?

Sankalpa: Going Beyond Resolutions

The Power Behind Setting An Intention In Yoga