A Newlywed, Again
By Joyce Maynard
Last summer, a little shy of my 60th birthday, I made my way through a field on a New Hampshire hill side, where my 61-year-old groom awaited me. I’m a newlywed again.
It’s different, of course. No babies, no in-laws. Where, in my 20s, I barely knew myself, let alone the man I was marrying, the partner Jim gets is a fully formed woman with a long history of friends, work, other relationships, old wounds and hard-earned wisdom. I get a man with the same.
And then there’s the sex part. I know women my age who say they’re all done with that, and others (a few) who hunger for it. I’m in neither place. I’m not even close to feeling ready to give up on the idea of being my partner’s lover. But I can’t pretend, either, that my body chemistry leaves me in the same place I was at 25, or even 45. Tell me about a couple who spend five hours making love and my first reaction will be: That sounds tiring.
In the early days of our time together—when I held in my stomach, naked, and he did pull-ups on the beam over our bed—we showed each other our best selves. Two years later, he knows I get Botox to iron out the lines in my forehead. I ask—when we’re heading out on a trip—did you bring your pills? (Also, the lubricant.)
But if sexual intimacy is, in the end, about showing one’s true self, then we are having the most real sex of our lives. Not the wildest, or the most frequent, or athletic. We are two battle-scarred soldiers, home from the front. I appreciate every small good thing—the way, seeing a drop of pesto on my arm, Jim leans across the table and licks it off my skin; the way, when he plays his bass guitar, I catch a glimpse of the young man he must have been, 40 years ago. Often, when we get into bed, what we want most is sleep. But even then, if I have put on my pajamas (old habit), he tugs at them gently. “What’s this?” he says. (And in truth, I was hoping he’d say that.) Then I pull them off, and we are naked together.
"Remembering to pause and take a breath before we react can shift the energy of the outcome.
We have all had the experience of reacting in a way that was less than ideal upon hearing bad news, being unfairly criticized, or being told something we did not want to hear. This happens because when our emotions are triggered, they tend to take center stage, inhibiting our ability to pause before we speak. We may feel compelled to release the tension by expressing ourselves in some way, whether it’s yelling back at the person yelling at us, or rushing to deliver words of comfort to a friend in trouble. However, there is much to be said for teaching ourselves to remember to pause and take a deep breath before we respond to the shocks and insults that can come our way in life. Our initial response is not always what’s best for us, or the other people involved. Reacting to childish rage with childish rage will only escalate the negativity in a situation, further ensnaring us in an undesirable dynamic. Similarly, when we react defensively, or simply thoughtlessly, we often end up feeling regret over our words or actions. In the end, we save ourselves a lot of pain when we take a deep breath and really tune in to ourselves, and the other person, before we respond. This doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t say anything, although in some cases, that may be the best option. Some situations require a fairly immediate response, but even just a moment of grounding ourselves before we do so can help enormously. The next time you find yourself wanting to react, try to pause, and in that pause, take a deep breath. Feel your feet on the floor, the air on your skin, and listen for a response to arise within you, rather than just going with the first thing that pops into your head. You may find that in that moment, there is the potential to move beyond reaction and into the more subtle and creative realm of response, where something new can happen."
~ Madisyn Taylor
NO Stretch Appeal Dance practice this week.
Saturday's Soft practice is full.
Carol's Astrological Renewal Workshop is full.
Please let me know if you wish to be added to the wait-list ...
**NOTE NEW CLASS TIME**
STARTING TUESDAY, 9/9/14 ~ Stretch Appeal Dance ~ will be offered from:
12:45 - 1:45
Tuesday and Thursday
Commencement: A Mother’s Guide to the Extra Stuff
I can never remember if the word “commencement” means beginning or ending. My knee jerk reaction is to think that it means ending, though my writer’s mind quickly corrects it.
That’s probably because graduation ceremonies are called Commencement, and I think of graduation day as an ending—leaving the known behind: a good reputation, dear friends at a stone’s throw, families whose refrigerators and bikes and kitchen tables are yours for the sharing… the dismantling of decorated walls soon to betray you for guests, or someone else with new photo collages, new tapestries, new blue ribbons. I have never been good at leaving the familiar, and I usually mark it with a little hidden graffiti—Laura Munson lived here, and the dates.
But it’s not my turn this upcoming Commencement. It’s my daughter’s. Now it’s she who is dismantling her room, coming down to the end of her check list, five more days of school to go, graduation invitations in the mail, college deposit in, orientation dates in stone. There is a new timber in her voice; something dire. “Mom, can you do something with my Breyer horse collection?”
“Can’t you just leave them on your shelf?” I ask, vignettes reeling by of mock horse races on the lawn and barnyard feedings with tiny plastic apples, and that one coveted palomino paint that became real one Christmas.
“I need room for my stuff.”
And then I realize that the stuff that has been strewn all over her room for the last four years of high school actually could have had a home in her bookshelves if we’d been more able (or willing) to pack up her plastic horse collection. I’m not sure whose job this is. Please Lord, not mine.
I look into her eyes. And I see…it’s my job. Some things are just too hard.
Suddenly, I feel a desperate need to give advice in fast forward. “Have I taught you how to make hospital corners? And to never leave a wet towel on a bed? Or leave a glass directly on wood?”
“I know. Respect the wood. You’ve told me.” She’s tolerating my Mom-ness much more than usual lately. She’s in the bittersweet of Commencement while I am bursting into tears in pathetic public places, like at the bank drive thru, catching myself in the video screen looking miserable. Will her roommate know that when she needs a hug but is too shy to ask, she makes tea? Will she know that she likes to sing in harmony and that all those eye-ball rolls don’t really mean anything? Will she know that she acts street-tough sometimes, but is deeply sensitive and if she’s playing the ukulele along with Jack Johnson, something pretty rough probably happened at school that day?
“Mom, why are you crying?” she says, bringing me back to the grim task of packing up her happy childhood.
“I’m sorry. I’m just going to miss you.”
Last week was when it really hit. I was doing laundry and I heard from her room in that new dire timber, “How do stamps work?”
“Stamps? Like postage stamps?”
“Yeah.” This from a 4.0 student.
I went into her room. She was sitting on her bed addressing graduation party invitations. “Really? You can program a computer, but you don’t know how stamps work???”
“My generation doesn’t really use them.”
I was sure she was playing a joke on me. Stamps? But she wasn’t. She really had no clue that you use the same stamp for a local letter that you do for one that goes all the way to New York City.
Geez—what other glaring omissions have there been in my mothering? I’ve tried so hard to fill in every blank, taking every single second possible as a teaching moment. “Maybe I should write you a survival handbook for college. Would that be helpful?”
“I know all the basic stuff. But yeah…maybe the extra stuff.”
I wracked my brain, taking inventory. The extra stuff. If stamps are “extra” this could get ugly! I decided to do it room by room, compartmentalizing life in cross-section, like the dollhouse we spent hours decorating and playing in.
I start with How to boil water, tell if pasta is ready, smell a gas leak, turn off the water main…but suddenly it turns into a different kind of “extra.”
- If you’re having a bad day, leave the dishes. But do soak them, or you’ll really be in a bad mood when you get around to cleaning them.
- If you’re having a really bad day, don’t adhere to the utensil slots. Just chuck ‘em all in and let them fall where they may. Actually, if it’s a really bad day, just leave the dishes alone. They can wait.
- No matter what kind of mood you’re in, make yourself a nice meal, especially if you’re lonely.
- Always eat some fruit in the morning and some veggies at some point in the day. Keep bananas, carrots, apples, and potatoes around. They do the trick when you’re not feeling inspired.
- Keep a granola bar in your purse. (Tip: Use only small purses—lest you end up with a Mary Poppins carpet bag, coat rack and all. Read Nora Ephron’s essay on women’s purses.)
- Splurge on really good jam and really good bread.
- Always have a flower or a piece of greenery in a vase on your kitchen windowsill. It really helps.
- If you see evidence of mice, set traps immediately. This probably will not apply to 99% of the places you’ll live, (we live in Montana), so take it metaphorically: See s*** for what it is and get rid of the source before it gets out of control.
- Always smell fish before you buy it. If it smells like fish, it’s no good. Also, look into its eyes. They should be clear. This also applies to boyfriends.
- To cut goat cheese, use dental floss. (Unflavored! Duh. Don’t roll your eyes.)
- Learn how to make homemade chicken broth. (Ask your mother)
- Splurge on nice candles. Light them for yourself daily. Light the not-nice ones for guests. Not the other way around.
- Lie on the couch and do other things than watch TV. Like read a book or listen to classical music.
- Watch old movies. You know…back when people used stamps, and women dressed for travel. There’s a lot to learn from the “olden days.”
- Listen to NPR. Especially opera on NPR. Pretty much everything you need to know about life is in operas.
- Make sure to have musical instruments and keep them within eye-range so you’ll actually play them. Guitars and pianos welcome group jam sessions.
- Always have a drum somewhere for that person who claims they “aren’t musical.”
- Have board games and cards in a drawer or on a shelf. Play them. Especially Scrabble, backgammon, gin rummy, Farkle, and Scattagories.
- Have guide books and binoculars. It’s good to know your birds and flowers and other critters. Even in the city, there are hawks.
- Have nice hand towels and nice soap in your powder room. Your guests should feel special.
- Use your powder room. You should feel special too!
- Always have an extra roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.
- And a plunger. (Replace plungers every-so-often, unless you are the type to wash and disinfect toilet plungers. Dirty secret: I’m not. That’s what the second flush is for.)
- Don’t forget to wash the toilet flusher handle when you wash your toilets. They are dearly overlooked. (Try not to think about that too much in hotel rooms.)
- Put nice art in your bathrooms. And magazines. You can learn a lot about a person from their bathroom.
- Supply room spray.
- Don’t be a slob. Pick up your clothes. If they’re not dirty, put them somewhere to wear again during the week, like in a hamper in your closet. NOT on a chair. And definitely NOT on your treadmill. Like your mother. Who then forgets she has a treadmill.
- Wash your sheets at least once a month and splurge on nice sheets and feather pillows.
- If the person/people with whom you are sharing your room snore, make sure you have earplugs by your bed.
- Supply your nightstand with books that you want to read when you grow up: a book of poetry, a spiritual text of some sort, a classic novel, something on the bestseller list that is not written by a celebrity.
- If you eat breakfast in bed, use a tray. Crumbs are worse than bedbugs in some cases, especially if you’ve listened to your mother and splurged on good bread.
- Eat breakfast in bed, but not lunch or dinner. That means you’re depressed.
- Sleep in every-so-often. Like till eleven. This will get harder and harder the older you get.
- Virginia Woolf was right—you need a room of your own, even it’s in an eave, or a closet under a stairway, or (if you’re lucky enough) a whole studio over your garage, or an unoccupied bedroom, or a renovated garden shed. Claim space for yourself!
- Don’t allow people to come and go without knocking.
- If you have children, always have an available chair in it for them. It’s important to have your own space, but it’s also important that they know that your work does not take away your motherhood.
- This one is really really important: Whatever it is that you do in that office, whether it’s a vocation or avocation, make sure it’s something you love. NOT something that you are necessarily good at. If you happen to be good at what you love, then that’s a bonus, but not a rule!
- Have a communal outdoor space that feels like a room in your house, but isn’t exactly…like: A screened porch, fire escape, hammock, hot tub, front stoop, garden or terrace. It doesn’t have to be big. Just a place where you sit at least once every few days and dream a little.
A few extra extras:
- Write handwritten notes on nice stationary to people you love. That’s where the stamp comes in…
- Try not to kill bugs. If they’re inside, put a mason jar over them and take them outside. They do elegant things like lick the wax off the peony buds so that they can bloom (I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there.) (Mice are a different story. If you’ve had one die in the walls, you’ll know what I mean.)
- Practice Yes and Possibility instead of No and Not Possible. Positive begets positive and negative begets negative. You don’t want the latter.
- Have fun, for crying out loud! Life is beautiful and heartbreaking any way you slice it so you might as well enjoy the ride!
- There is no such thing as cool.
- Judge not.
- Don’t mistake a full schedule for a full life. If you find yourself saying, “There’s never a dull moment,” you should probably make it a goal to have at least one “dull moment” every day.
- Take walks. (especially in the rain)
- Sing. Dance. Read poetry.
- Have dogs. Grow a garden.
- Create the sacred wherever you are.
- Be kind to old people and remember they know a lot more than you do. Ask them to tell you their stories.
- Know that there are saints everywhere. Look for them. They’re often where you least expect it.
- Call your mother. Texting is a challenge since she can never find her reading glasses. Plus, she likes to hear your voice. It reminds her of lying in bed with you when you were little, reading books, singing, praying, watching the moon, dreaming.
And she loves you no matter what, which is hard to find.
~ Laura Munson
We’re encouraged to meditate every day, even for a short time, in order to cultivate steadfastness with ourselves. We sit under all kinds of circumstances—whether we are feeling healthy or sick, whether we’re in a good mood or depressed, whether we feel our meditation is going well or is completely falling apart. As we continue to sit we see that meditation isn’t about getting it right or attaining some ideal state. It’s about being able to stay present with ourselves. It becomes increasingly clear that we won’t be free of self-destructive patterns unless we develop a compassionate understanding of what they are.
~ Pema Chodron
"Striking the right balance between our physical and spiritual beings is one of the most challenging aspects of existence. We are dualistic by nature, spiritual entities bound to earth by physical bodies. In our lifetimes, we are charged with the duty of nurturing and tending both with equal devotion and love. Yet while both aspects of the self are deserving of honor and respect, there is a tendency for people who are more spiritually focused to ignore, avoid, or dismiss their bodies. Similarly, many individuals are entirely ensconced in the carnal realm and pay no attention to the needs of the soul. In both cases, an adjustment is in order. We are whole only to the degree that we embrace both sides of our beings.
If the soul is the inward manifestation of our consciousness, the body is the living, breathing expression of that consciousness. The physical self provides the home in which the spiritual self takes root and flourishes. Just as we must tend to the seed of the soul to ensure that it grows strong, so, too, must we care for the protective shell that is the body. Though there will no doubt be times in our lives when we feel more comfortable focusing on the spiritual self or the physical self, denying the fundamental importance of one or the other can lead to ill health, emotional distress, and a sense of incompleteness. Both facets of the human experience play a vital role in our well-being.
The body and the soul are the yin and yang of our current reality. They are, at this point of human evolution, irreparably bound together, and many spiritual teachers agree that the body is one of the greatest vehicles through which to access the soul. In fact, many believe that our spirit has chosen to be embodied as an essential part of our spiritual development. Consequently, it is the responsibility of each person on the planet to forge a marriage between the two, so that these disparate aspects bring out the best in each other, creating a vibrant, dynamic, and workable whole."
~ Madisyn Taylor
YOU are invited to share an afternoon with renowned astrologer:
September 6, 2014
1:00 - 4:00 pm
Traveling Through the Light and the Dark
Astrology studies nature's rhythms in time: as it says in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for every purpose under heaven.
In this workshop, we will look at nature's simplest rhythm: how the journey of the Sun and Moon create light and dark, the cycles of growth and rest.
In order to better understand these potent seasonal rhythms, we will explore the impact on each individual horoscope.
Those confirmed for the workshop will receive a copy of their personal horoscope and lifetime lunation cycle.
11:30 - 12:30
full day of renewal
Filling Fast through word of mouth
(text or vm)
To Explain Her Broad Appeal:
"It's a function of her mind-set, Helen has an innate sense of who she is, and a confidence and directness. She doesn't play it safe. What's sexy is how she is in the world even more than how she looks, though she certainly looks beautiful."
The Break-Up Letter I Never Wrote
I don’t hate you. That might make it easier for us both, to splinter apart, forever shattering each other into separate pieces of what once was whole.
No, I still find you as wonderful as the day I fell in love with you. You are not other — I know this spiritually. But you are different — I know this viscerally.
You may not understand or accept when I say I’m not angry that we are no longer on the same path. I’ve shown my fiery side, so my regret is in confusing this result with that reaction.
Yes I know, love, there is a molten core in me that usually flows as quietly and calmly as a lava field and you and I always agreed it was my passion-filled heart that steamed and bubbled and kept our love alive.
It was as enticing to you as the heat was strong.
But, at times, it erupted and this is what you never seemed to understand: it was only because that passion was sanctioned with the harshest of penalties. It was ignored. You took my heart for granted.
You, in your day-to-day practical way, unconsciously tossed your dirty laundry on my heart, smothering it. It would go for days, weeks, unnoticed and smoldering, and rather than flowing freely as you yourself once so lovingly appreciated, it finally erupted.
A fire demands reverence and attention.
You thought I had changed; I hated to hear that.
And now, my love, I say to you, you were right. You see, I simply returned to me — the one you fell in love with and were drawn to like a moth to the flame.
I embody the idea that it’s all an illusion and so I flex into something new and different at times, vacillating perhaps, but always looking with an empathetic eye to what is other than me.
How many parts of you have I seen and tried on as my own?
I regret that you didn't try on parts of me.
Remember how I tried to describe myself when we first met?
You were pleased with how easy I made it for you to get to know me because, as you soon discovered and also derived pleasure from, I am a bit enigmatic. Anyway, remember, I told you: I am a Pisces woman born in the Year of the Pig.
Not because I necessarily believe the star signs make my life unfold, or my personality is categorical, it’s just that when you Googled those descriptions, it effectively, concisely, told you about mercurial me.
I knew you would love having a map, and admit it, you did.
And then I told you a bit of my life story; just enough to explain the ugliness in me that I knew you would discover. It was my way of marking a nice big X on your map Here is an obstacle!
Dad left. Mom died. Everything else is rather inconsequential, and you comforted me, acknowledging — and don’t you dare deny it, my love — you had fallen in love with the tragedy of it all.
You fancied yourself my hero.
Just for fun I related the remarkable nature of my name and how I have come to love it like I love my long tresses and green eyes because they suit me so well. I’m named for angels — mom said I looked like one when I was born and remember how you said I was one?
And my middle name, I’m sure she had no idea is derived from Dionysus. What a perfect accidental name for me, and a delicious contradiction. You also loved this tiny detail, found it provocative, even.
I was your devilish little angel.
Do you remember? You once marveled at my gentle giving nature in love, at my desire to talk deep into the night about the meaning of life, while softly stroking your tired body. You thought my thrift-shop style and messy mane of hair was charming.
You were exhilarated by my preference to be outside, under the stars, with dirt under my nails and sweat dried on my skin after a long day of work. You found me to be authentic, a wildly sexy woman because of these unconventional ways that I evoked your wonder.
So once we ended up on the couch, in front of the TV, staring blindly at a box side by side, was it really that surprising that I grew restless?
You stopped seeing me.
Or, did you just think I was cool with coasting since I wasn’t overly demanding or clingy or controlling? The snapshot of love was safely tucked away in the scrapbook; you had proven yourself capable of catching this silvery, slippery little fish. Was that all you required?
My love, I am not a souvenir.
This is why I’m writing. I am and always have been a kaleidoscopic dance of shifting color and rhythm. We both know that’s how I caught your eye. I am ethereal. Yes, hard to understand at times, ambiguous for sure, maybe overwhelming or even contradictory.
But I told you all this way back at the beginning. Rather sheepishly, even, because I knew then what you now have realized: I am hard to comprehend. And you, my love, loved me for it then.
Now, though, you gesticulate at me, the mess, as if I crept up on you, as If I made this happen!
My love, I say this: I am not a mess. I am merely a vision of what you yourself claim to want so badly to attain. I am a reflection of the world, and of you, and sometimes that makes me confusing.
Most people want to find the brightest sun or the most exquisite shooting star because those breathtaking heavenly bodies definitively illuminate them, as well.
I am awesome like the moon.
I have learned to embrace the ambiguity of me and I wish you had too. But, you couldn’t figure me out or solve me or capture the essence of waxing and waning me. With my intuition — that you once revered — I refused to accept that this mess was just mine.
So, you sat on the couch and waited. You waited for me to explode at the silent neglect of our love, and then you pointed your finger at me, pontificating, dripping with such self-loathing that you couldn’t even accept your role in this tumultuous thing we called us.
So I’m sorry, my love. You did not honor me by reciprocating or even communicating with any vulnerability or honesty. You simply sat in silent indignation, glorified by your own clever justification. Thus I swim away. As gravely wonderful as you are, I must go.
Perhaps you thought loving me would require work: it requires action of course, my love, but not work, at least no more than waking and breathing is work. Respect for the other that you keep cradled in your heart is never work. It just is.
That is how I loved you."
~ Angela Bowen
~ Angela Bowen
NO Stretch Appeal Dance practice this Tuesday, 8/12/14
YES Stretch Appeal Dance practice this Thursday, 8/14/14
YES Stretch Appeal Soft practice this Saturday, 8/16/14
photo taken @ our soft practice on saturday
How to stay connected:
I had grasped God's garment in the
but my hand slipped on the rich silk of it.
The "everlasting arms" my sister
loved to remember
must have upheld my leaden weight from falling, even so,
for though I claw at empty air and
nothing, no embrace,
I have not plummeted.
~ Denise Levertov
"Bodhichitta exists on two levels. First there is unconditional bodhichitta, an immediate experience that is refreshingly free of concept, opinion, and our usual all-caught-upness. It’s something hugely good that we are not able to pin down even slightly, like knowing at gut level that there’s absolutely nothing to lose. Second there is relative bodhichitta, our ability to keep our hearts and minds open to suffering without shutting down.
Those who train wholeheartedly in awakening unconditional and relative bodhichitta are called bodhisattvas or warriors—not warriors who kill and harm but warriors of nonaggression who hear the cries of the world. These are men and women who are willing to train in the middle of the fire. Training in the middle of the fire can mean that warrior-bodhisattvas enter challenging situations in order to alleviate suffering. It also refers to their willingness to cut through personal reactivity and self-deception, to their dedication to uncovering the basic undistorted energy of bodhichitta. We have many examples of master warriors—people like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King—who recognized that the greatest harm comes from our own aggressive minds. They devoted their lives to helping others understand this truth. There are also many ordinary people who spend their lives training in opening their hearts and minds in order to help others do the same. Like them, we could learn to relate to ourselves and our world as warriors. We could train in awakening our courage and love."
~ Pema Chodron
Where do you find your inspiration? From travelling around the country, particularly the south-west United States. I love Native American and Mexican design.
Describe your aesthetic.A mix of masculine and feminine. I think a lot of people assume I am a goth, but I actually really love florals.
Who wears your pieces?Someone who appreciates design, detail and is looking for something that they can wear for the rest of their lives.
What's your background?
I studied film at NYU and spent a while working with [the painter] Francesco Clemente. I was also doing a lot of styling, which is how I started to get more involved in creating my own jewellery.
When we take control of our thoughts by focusing on the breath, we are able to stay present. Our thoughts are products of the mind. When we bring our focus to our breath, we engage our mind in the present and free ourselves of extraneous thoughts that may not be serving us. When we become rooted in our bodies, all that matters is what’s in front of us rather than worries over what might or might not happen. We are able to be fully present and engaged with whatever we are doing. Calm any worries by paying close attention to your breath and you can effectively and successfully meet your obligations.
If you can live with the sadness of human life (often called the tender heart or genuine heart of sadness), if you can be willing to feel fully and acknowledge continually your own sadness and the sadness of life, but at the same time not be drowned in it, because you also remember the vision and power of the Great Eastern Sun, you experience balance and completeness, joining heaven and earth, joining vision and practicality.
~ Pema Chodron
"If you are feeling stuck in your life and are ready for change, take time to declare to the Universe that you are ready.
There comes a point in most of our lives when we feel ready to experience a change we’ve had trouble carrying out. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a home, a relationship, job, or a town that hasn’t felt right for a long time, but we’ve been unable to shift our circumstances in the direction we want to go. At times like this, it can help to declare to the universe that we are ready for a change. Think of it as informing a helpful friend that you need her assistance to move to the next level in your life. If the time is right, the universe will respond with opportunities and offers designed to help you create the change you wish to see.
You can begin the process of making your declaration by getting clear within yourself about what exactly you want to change. Whenever we ask anyone for help, they can assist us that much better if we are specific. The universe also appreciates our clarity and has an easier time answering a direct communication than a vague yearning. When you are clear on what you want, write your declaration on a piece of paper and place it on your altar, if you have one. If you don’t, you can also place it under your pillow or in a box on your nightstand. Set aside a period of time every day to be silent with your wishes for change, repeating your declaration like a mantra. This lets the universe know that you are ready to change and will be receptive to its efforts.
Feel free to continue to refine and redefine your declaration, and remember to be open to the many different ways in which the change you seek might come to be. Remember also to be active in your own efforts, taking opportunities that come your way, watching for signs, and always taking responsibility for your intentions. If things don’t happen quickly, try not to be discouraged; it might take time to free up energy that has been blocked and possibly serving a purpose beyond what we can understand. If you continue your conversation with the universe, declaring yourself clearly and openly, you cannot help but experience the magic of changing and being changed."
~ Madisyn Taylor
"Assessing the people we spend the most time with allows us to see if they add something constructive to, or subtract from, our lives. Should a friend sap our strength, for example, we can simply set the intention to tell them how we feel or simply spend less time with them. We will find that the moment we are honest with ourselves about our own feelings, the more candid we can be with others about how they make us feel. While this may involve some drastic changes to our social life it can bring about a personal transformation that will truly empower us, since ! the decision to live our truth will infuse our lives with greater happiness.
When we surround ourselves with positive people, we clear away the negativity that exists around us and create more room to welcome nurturing energy. Doing this not only enriches our lives but also envelopes us in a supportive and healing space that fosters greater growth, understanding, and love of ourselves as well as those we care about."
~ Madisyn Taylor
1. Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for "negative capability." We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
2. Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
4. Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken. Most importantly, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
5. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
6. Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
7.“Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.