Thursday, December 31, 2009

Dreamboard for the Blue Moon

For this full moon dreamboard, I decided to try Jamie Ridler's Soul Reflections - the Home Edition as the process to create my board. So perhaps it's not technically a "dreamboard" but a "soul reflections board." Still, it was a way to gather intuitive wisdom about what my heart and soul need right now. It was a blissful indulgence (i.e., necessity) to dedicate a good chunk of time to doing something deeply immersive just for myself, especially at this time of year. The experience was the closest I've gotten to taking part in a workshop while staying at home. And I chose to do it in my pajamas!

In my board I see that I'm yearning to march confidently forward. I feel there is a lot of heat in the center -- intention, direction and energy applied to an abundance of natural gifts: fruit and flowers. Also present is an attitude of seeking, tuning into the inner compass through meditation, and the intellectual processes of deep observation and analysis. The elements on the board represent parts of who I am or who I am becoming. I've dubbed the central figure the warrior princess and perhaps there is a part of me that wants to strut confidently forward -- taking part in exciting adventures, discovering new things, showing the world what I'm capable of. It almost seems too big and too much for my everyday self concept, but clearly there's a part of me that wants to bust out of the old container. But in doing so it seems the message is that rather than follow a more masculine model of constantly pushing forward, this feminine warrior of the heart respects nature's flow: external and internal. From the soft processes that nurture plants, develop flowers and grow into fruit to the soft processes of sitting in silence to discover the quiet truths residing within us. Only with these soft ingredients available can I then apply the fires of my intent, desire and will to create. Those creations can manifest in a constellation of forms: they might be delicious food, beautiful music, thought-provoking and entertaining performance, or satisfying community.

As I look forward to the new year I'm thankful for the surprisingly wonderful experience that blogging has been. I started up a blog earlier this year simply to participate in sharing a dreamboard but what I've found is a community of real, insightful, funny, caring and creative people -- all sharing your truths, your processes, your lessons, your aha moments. Thanks to you all, and may the coming year bring whatever your heart desires!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A kinder and gentler season

Each Wednesday, Jamie Ridler provides a question as a prompt for participants to cast wishes and support one another's wish making. For today's Wishcasting Wednesday, Jamie asks, "What do you wish for this holiday season?"

This holiday season is starting out much like the others I’ve experienced since becoming an adult. More hassle than fun. Even when I was a child, I did not enjoy having a birthday so close to Christmas. December now typically means a heaping serving of stress about gift shopping, numerous social gatherings, and last but not least, a mound of anxiety about the passing of another year accompanied with plenty of critical self-judgment about how little I’ve accomplished. It seems that I really haven’t been able to truly enjoy my birthday month for years, maybe decades.

The rest of this holiday (and birthday) season, my wish is to be more relaxed and actually find time to nurture my spirit. And I’d like to feel no guilt for not always taking care of others first. I wish to be able to look at the past year and see plenty of accomplishments rather than all the things I didn’t get around to. I wish to enjoy social gatherings without feeling like I have to measure up to some ideal of what a host or guest should be. In short, I wish to be kinder and gentler to myself and to savor the spirit of the season in a more simple and pure way.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dreamboard for the Full Cold Moon

I skipped making a dreamboard for the previous full moon, but for this moon I was very curious to see what could emerge. I tried not to think too much as I chose the images, but once I got started I found myself choosing circle after circle. I've also chosen more sparkly images this time, for some reason. And dance is still a key element. Although I'm a musician I've been letting myself enjoy dancing much more lately. While I'm pleased with yet puzzled by this collection of images, I'm excited to see how the story of this dreamboard may unfold over the coming weeks.

If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Joy Diet - It takes two to... connect

This is a photo of my very first dance in Buenos Aires. I don't know the man I'm dancing with, nor did I get his name. I do know this was preceded by a silent meeting of gazes at what was my first milonga in the birthplace of tango.

This week we are discussing the chapter in the Joy Diet about Connection. While I didn't practice Martha Beck's suggestions much this week, I did think a lot about what connection feels like. Tango is a useful analogy for me. For me the best tango experiences are not about sex appeal and flashy moves. They're about that feeling of being together in a shared moment, a moment that flows like our best Nothing experiences, and feeling mutually held in an attitude of caring.

When I saw this picture of myself dancing, I was struck by how it seems I am embracing an old friend. I think this is rather like Martha's suggestion to start by being in the Nothing place with strangers. Many of my most memorable tango experiences have been dancing with strangers. There is truly something magical about encountering another person without preconceptions or expectations. I believe that being in this space with people you know, or people you love is an extremely difficult but worthwhile practice to seek to master. I know my skills at this are modest at best, but reading this chapter reminded me how rewarding the experience can be.

This week I had what could be one of the most difficult situations in which to attempt this connection practice. It involved dinner with an ex-paramour. I didn't succeed at nothing-doing at all. Ok, I'll be truthful. My inner experience was a disaster. There was too much noise in my head: anxieties about my own future, dissections of our shared past, trying to not be judged, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah. Why is it so hard to get out of our own heads?!

On the flip side, my experience of sharing my truths (including the not so pretty ones) with my close friends and my wonderful guy has led me to feel deeper connection with them. I guess I did do some work with this chapter after all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Joy Diet - Laughing well

I had fun this week "working at" discovering what makes me laugh most. Here then is a list, by no means exhaustive and by no means foolproof (especially when I'm counting laughs), and in no particular order...

1. My man's silly miming
2. Monty Python
3. Movie musicals
4. Meals out with friends
5. Movement improv
6. Musical improv
7. Making silly faces
8. Bowling
9. Ping pong
10. Participating in any sports I'm woefully unskilled at
11. Jimmy Kimmel's unnecessary censorship
12. Flight of the Conchords

I found the easiest laughs come when I'm with others, the least reliable when I try to go to one of my media sources of guffaws and giggles. I think I got a good dose of 25 laughs in the few hours I spent at dinner with friends. That day was easily well beyond the recommended minimum. Other days, where I spent almost the entire day alone, I was unable to reach the minimum threshold of 30 even with the help of funny videos. I guess real people I know are the best way to keep a smile on my face. For those dull days when I'm not around others I've thought about trying laughter yoga. Have any of you tried it? What have I missed? What funny bone ticklers do you prefer?

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Joy Diet - Exploring Play

You can listen to my musical response to exploring play while you read this post by clicking the play button below.

An Eagle on the Precipice - improvisation#2 on C# (for "see sharp")
Helen Yee - violin, vox ©2009

As I've been going through the Joy Diet, I have experienced a wide range of emotions. This week was extreme. In fact, I don't feel like writing much about it yet, as I'm still trying to make sense of it all. I used Martha Beck's suggestions for uncovering what my "real career" is (again, a weird choice of terminology but I'll play along for now). The lumpy nuggets, still to be carved into greater focus, revolve around realms of my Big Desire and beyond: connection with loved ones and others, changing people's perspectives and consciousness, adding beauty and art to the world, traveling and experiencing the world.

Why do I have to keep learning and relearning the lessons of the Fool? In the Creativity chapter, I had already struggled to be light and playful about the big things in my life. Martha's suggestion to recognize the things we do in service of our "real career" as "games" has been difficult for me to absorb and practice. I've historically been a rather strict critic to myself, expecting to know the right answers, expecting perfect compliance with plans whether small or grand, chastising myself for slipping. This week, I tried to be a more gentle and nurturing caretaker of my slightly tattered spirit. Here are a few of my aha moments:

1. My soul wants desperately to dance. I obliged. This week I watched Dancing with the Stars, danced along with Gabrielle Roth's "The Wave" DVD, and discovered the value of regular "James Brown dance breaks" in the living room. Dance lifts my spirits and helps me feel "in my own skin."

2. I enjoy making delicious food. On my most vulnerable day this week I had a birthday party to go to, and I had promised to bake some Pan de Muertos, a traditional bread for the Mexican Day of the Dead. Okay, so maybe this was more highly symbolic than the other food I prepared this week, but this is the kind of synchronicity I've been noticing lately. (By the way, the bread came out beautifully and was given a thumbs up from the sole Mexicana at the party.)

3. Making music is a "flow" thing for me. When I can completely immerse myself in the moment when making music with others, or when practicing on my own, I lose myself in the task at hand, perform to the edges of my ability, feel growing mastery, and can look back at the experience satisfied. By the way, regarding the soundtrack to this post, C# is not a very violin-friendly key, but the pun was too tempting too pass up!

4. The eagle vision and mouse vision exercise lessens my anxiety. I found that most of the mouse things I spend my time on do fit with the eagle's vision. That surprised me. The recasting of "real career" as activities that allow me to achieve and experience my lifetime goals/desires helped me see that the shape of my life is more on track than I had assumed it was.

5. Lightening up is highly useful for me. Maybe if I keep practicing on the small things I'll be able to look at my "real career" as a game, too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Joy Diet - The Trick to Treats

While in the past weeks it has often been a challenging shared journey through Martha Beck’s book, The Joy Diet, this week on “Treats” was a bit different. The Joy Diet definition of a treat? “Anything that makes you feel like smiling.” While the lists of favorite things were a bit slow to compile early on, as I went through the week more and more simple treats would just pop into my mind.

I have to admit I felt a bit like a slacker this week, indulging in a few of my favorite things on a daily basis. I’m learning that perhaps my work ethic cramps my happiness a bit. Even if I’m not doing something on my list, my guilt or anxiety about not doing it often kills the joy I’d otherwise have indulging in a treat. It looks like I need a lot more practice on balancing between doing not-so-enjoyable things and treating myself well.

One of the exercises this week was to catalog our sensory delights. While the exercise called for five things, in the spirit of simple extravagances I decided to add a couple more:

I love the taste of:
1. Dark chocolate
2. Congee with pork and thousand year egg
3. Vanilla ice cream
4. El Presidente’s arroz con pollo (in my neighborhood)
5. Our homemade mushroom risotto
6. Cherimoya
7. Empanadas from La Continental (in Buenos Aires!)

I love the sight of:
1. An older couple holding hands
2. Puppies playing
3. My guy’s smile
4. Flowers in a garden
5. The light playing on buildings as the sun begins to set
6. The Mountains out west
7. The Pacific Ocean

I love the feel of:
1. Cashmere
2. Sun on my back
3. Being massaged
4. A good tango dance
5. My man, holding my hand
6. Soft, furry, warm kitties (or puppies)
7. A nice comfy bed

I love the smell of:
1. Coffee
2. Norma Kamali’s perfume
3. Nag champa
4. Meyer’s geranium scent washing liquid
5. Oatmeal cooking in the morning
6. Thé des Lumieres (from Mariage Frères)
7. Homemade bread in the oven

I love the sound of:
1. Wind chimes
2. A running stream or waterfall
3. Bird songs
4. Rain
5. Wind in the trees
6. Thoughtful, emotional music
7. An old-fashioned stovetop coffee percolator

One interesting experience I had this week was a risk that morphed into a treat. I participated in a workshop offered by Mark Lamb, called “Inside Out, Moving in the Moment.” The class explores ways to generate movement in the moment, along with improvising text, and personal story. In the class we were to explore the possibilities of movement invention while moving non-judgmentally and with a deep sense of play. This sounded like just the right step to take on my desire of heading in a direction that brings together music with performance art or theatre. I’ve wanted to explore and learn more about disciplines beyond music making, particularly storytelling and movement. It was my small scary step in the direction of a big desire.

Interestingly, in this setting I had a chance to use Martha’s suggestion to practice divine decadence. My invented movement motif flipped me 180 degrees and turned my back to the audience – and it reminded me of Miles Davis. Years back I’d attended a concert and he played almost half of the performance with his back to the audience. Years of training to give to the audience, to connect with them, to never turn your back were tossed out in mere seconds. My spontaneously improvised text and movement came together in a mini-performance that felt authentic and powerfully freeing. What a real treat! I came out of that class excited, feeling like I’ve just discovered a much BIGGER playground. This new adventure brings with it many new things to learn and ways to grow into myself. I have a feeling I'll be going back to this risk-treat again and again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Joy Diet - The faces of Risk

You can listen to my musical response to facing risk while you read this post by clicking the play button below.

Facing Risk - improvisation#1 on D (for Desire)
Helen Yee, violin ©2009

Maybe the Joy Diet is working, or maybe I've gotten too truthful with myself to deny that my desire to create needs to be acted upon. It seems that Martha's goading to take a small scary step and to "walk into the monster's maw" has inspired me to face my fears and put something out there. What's there to stop me? The faces of risk:

1. The risk of "it's not up to my standards" -- Whether due to perfectionism or pride, not wanting to put work out in the world until it's just right has often kept me from starting. The prospect of creating a wonderful, genius work of art is daunting. I never feel prepared enough. There's often some piece of knowledge, or skill, or training, or achievement that I think I must have before I'm qualified to even attempt. So the blank page has often been the result.

2. The risk of "looking like a fool" -- And then there is the fear of being ridiculed or criticized. We all hope that our work will be well received, but it is painfully obvious that it makes no sense that the fear of bad reviews should keep me from creating. Martha's words need to stay with me: "Any risk worth taking is worth taking whether it leads to success or failure. The criterion by which you should decide which dangers to face, and which to avoid, is not your chance of succeeding but the depth of your desire." In my vision card for this week, the idea is to not focus on the nasty pointed teeth of the beast, but the heart's desire that can only be reached by passing through the fear.

3. The risk of "disappointing others" -- I think the earlier chapters in The Joy Diet, Truth and Desire, have helped me look within and really know what I feel and what I want or need. With a clearer idea of those things I have already found it easier (not easy but easier) to say no to people. And it has worked, keeping me from overextending myself, and lowering my stress and anxiety levels. Nonetheless, one of my small risks this week involved saying no to someone, and though it was difficult to do I was tremendously relieved once I'd done it.

These were my monsters, this week at least. I'm sure I'll put names to a few others as my experience with taking risks grows.

And what about my musical response to facing risk? While I play music regularly I have put off creating and sharing any new pieces of music for a long time. The audio clip above is my way of stepping into the monster's maw. It's not finished or perfect, it's not going to win a Grammy, and I might find it a bit disappointing, but it is far better than promising myself that someday I'll start writing again without taking action.

When I walked over to the stereo to start up the cello drone I had expected a nice bed of A, but somehow out came the D drone. In the interest of welcoming the unexpected and "collaborating" with the unplanned, I decided to just go with it. During my improvisation I tried to keep a spirit of walking to the edge of risk in the piece. What does it feel like to walk to the edge and take a jump? To find another edge and push at it a little more? How do I deal with feeling uncomfortable and a bit scared? It feels great to finally break an internal barrier that was keeping me from moving forward, no matter how small this scary step was. And now that it's out there, I wonder what I'll want to risk next...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Joy Diet - Creativity lessons from The Fool

For as long as I can remember, I've considered myself a creative person. Whether it was visual arts, music, or more lately, dancing -- creativity has been part of what I do. So, I thought this week's chapter in the Joy Diet would be easy. The only problem was: I wasn't setting out to create a work of art. Martha's instructions were to write down our most pressing heart's desire in the form of a question such as "How could I...?" and then write five possible answers. My desires this week were little things like "I want to know what my calling is" and "I want to feel more grounded and less anxious." I found I could play Martha's game and creatively come up with some answers, but I wasn't feeling satisfied with it. Something kept nagging at me.

I wasn't feeling any more grounded. I wasn't feeling any less anxious. My to do lists didn't help. Busyness didn't remedy my angst that I wasn't getting any closer to my desires. Also, I am very fuzzy on the particular shape my big desire should take. Making a living as an artist? All this nebulousness was making me very uncomfortable. I did what any self-respecting sensible, logical person would do -- I pulled a tarot card to gain some insight on my problem.

What a gift! It seems the Fool wanted to talk to me, and had been trying to get through to me all along (as you'll see from the article and video links below). My patterns typically involve using the exacting force of logical thinking to solve problems. It feels good when I can reason out a problem. Yet, as I was trying to move toward my big desire with analysis, all I got was paralysis. And anxiety.

What I missed is the possibility that weighty questions about my purpose in life can be approached with a sense of foolishness, nonsense and fun. Seeing this, I felt immediately lighter. I could take the Fool's leap into the unknown. A tiger may bite his leg but he is oblivious to it. He makes the leap into the void with a smile on his face and his eyes wide open to the possible. And the first loop in the endless cosmic hula hoop is a circle around his heart. I could likewise place my desires at the center of my leap into the void -- to move toward a desired new life with a sense of playfulness, openness to possibilities, and trust that the right answers will spontaneously appear. The lesson for me? That to feel less anxious I should not cling to the ground but get comfortable with groundlessness.

Underscoring the lesson of The Fool, were some things I came across this week. The New York Times had an article, How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect, that describes studies in how priming the brain with nonsense and disorientation actually increases people's abilities to recognize patterns. It looks like most of Martha Beck's "mind yoga" suggestions for increasing our creativity have scientific basis! They force our brains to make sense out of nonsense, thus spurring creativity.

And this video shows the power of fun as a motivator. What's your experience? Does the idea of allowing more foolishness and fun into the mix free up your creative thinking on big desires?

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Joy Diet - Playing with desire

Genuine desire. Pick a pebble, any pebble. Twice this week, my desire had to do with being happy with myself. I know that sounds like a vague notion. I was facing a busy week returning to certain elements of my working life and artistic life after a quiet period spent introspectively. Partly, I didn't feel ready. It felt as if someone had gently nudged me from a soporific dream state and strapped me into the capsule of a rocket. And before I could prepare myself mentally and physically, the shuddering of the spacecraft provided the rude call to wake up and steer myself into orbit. My to-do list this week was long, including a couple of days dedicated to being out of town on business. Knowing that I’d lose two days to something that was not my heart’s desire made me anxious -- I would be missing out on time spent doing things I enjoy. The simple desire to be happy with myself was enough. I wanted to take action on my list without anxiety and self-flagellation.

When heading home from the two days spent out of town, my desire turned to something very elemental. I wanted time with my instrument. The yearning only intensified with days separated from any music making. No playing, no singing, no humming. I now realize I need music like I need air.

And then there was The Big One -- the desire so difficult to allow myself to have. Because it was always warned against, because it is completely impractical, because only silly dreamers can entertain the thought of making a living as an artist. I don’t want throw myself completely into trying to make it happen only to wind up proving the naysayers right. Also I’m afraid it is too much to ask, so I’m tempted to discard this pebble. But I won’t do it yet. I have a hunch I can benefit from spending more time keeping this one in my pocket, familiarizing myself with the ache of holding it. I want to conduct an experiment: let’s see what happens to this desire if I keep it close, if I resist the notion of tossing it back into the heap.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dreamboard - Running at the full harvest moon

I was excited to see what would emerge with this Full Harvest Moon Dreamboard because I've been feeling a lot of changes lately. This dreamboard seems more dynamic and active than my last one, and for good reason. October is often a hectic month for me, and this one is no exception, though not for the usual reasons.

Running, jumping, diving into the next phase of my life seems to be a large part of what I'm sensing is on its way. Along with this, there is a mood of mystery and theatricality about what's coming -- the curtains opening, the eggs hatching, gestures of reaching toward the unknown, the moon and lanterns illuminating the night. It also looks like I'm longing for celebrations and gatherings for some well-deserved pauses from all that action!

If you're interested in making a dreamboard yourself and sharing it with others, check out Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards Online. Check out what others are dreaming for themselves for this full moon here.

Enjoy launching your dreams!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Joy Diet - Getting to the Truth

I think I’m getting the hang of nothing! The fifteen minutes of nothingness has now become a practice of twenty minutes each day, and I stuck to it this week. Of course they don’t call it “practice” for nothing – my mind is ever busy wandering from obsession to preoccupation and back again. But it seems I’m a bit less discouraged now, and looking forward to sitting in meditation rather than dutifully forcing myself to. And I’m able to be more relaxed about noticing thoughts and letting them go.

Joy, however, still seems like a reward being withheld until I’ve satisfied a few prerequisite chores. Don’t get me wrong, I am beginning to find the process satisfying and comforting, but I’m wondering where the joy is in this Joy Diet. Nothing? Truth? It seems like the first couple of menu items are not as obviously joyful as what’s coming: Desire, Creativity, Risk, Treats, Play, Laughter, Connection, Feasting.

The week of Truth has revealed some of my monsters lurking in the deep. While I appreciate that being honest with ourselves is a necessity, why do the questions in this “menu item #2” focus on hurt and pain? I hope the next chapter will address the positive side of our truth, rather than only what we’re unhappy about. Some of the monsters revealed this week? I’m not good enough, I can’t live up to the hype, I’m feeling overwhelmed, I should have learned to play the piano, I am scattered and can’t focus, I am lazy and unmotivated. I get it when Martha Beck says, “If you make a habit of this, you’ll find that your ‘bad’ feelings are exactly the ones that you most need to explore. The feeling you think is bad beyond belief may be the only teacher in the universe from whom you can learn genuine goodness.” If my “pains” are coming more from my stories than about reality, I can more easily realize that I’m free to leave suffering behind. Sounds good to me. Martha Beck suggests we flip the pain-story, “trying permutations and explanations for it until you feel the open, satisfying sense that you’ve stumbled upon a story more true than the one you’ve been using to hurt yourself.” Again, this seems like sensible and good medicine, getting us to a greater truth than the original pain-story. But joy?

I did feel a little soothed by offering compassion to myself with the phrases: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be free from suffering.” But beyond that I’m not quite sure how to care for my “inner lying scumbag.” As suggested I also tried thinking of things I could do to bring more love into the world. Unfortunately, while I can think of a good number of actions that fit that description, I don’t comprehend how this would heal my wounds and pains. Maybe, like last week’s Nothing, I need to practice more and try to remember what Martha says:

“It is the truth that offers us this freedom, the freedom to test what we are taught, to accept what we feel in our hearts, to believe what we know in our bones, and to love ourselves – including the worst aspects of ourselves – until we see through enough of our illusions to discover who we were really meant to be. At this point, we will have dismantled the biggest lie, the most profound denial of all: the denial of our own inestimable power and value.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Joy Diet - What about nothing?

I'm still waiting for the joy in nothing. While I've been able to practice nothing most days, I have not felt joyful about it. I will keep at it. Patience, patience, I tell myself.

Patience is something I offer quite easily to other people, but with myself I often want the answers now. I have a sneaky suspicion I need to be compassionate with myself, persisting with the practice until I reach a point where I can feel the joy in doing nothing rather than approaching it with dutiful compliance. Hopefully, as the weeks of practice accumulate, I’ll find ways to get in touch with that empty space with a greater sense of peace and joyfulness.

One of the techniques I’ve found really helpful is one I picked up from one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: to be like a cat watching a mouse hole patiently, curious about the next mouse to appear. When I wait for the next thought to appear, it paradoxically takes longer to come. More nothingness between the mind-chatter!

Because I live in a noisy city, my mind can get snagged by sounds in my environment, taking my thoughts along on a train ride that carries me great distances, hopping from car to car, before I realize I was supposed to jump off that train of thought miles ago. To try and remedy it, I pretend I am surveilling my mind from a dark room (or van) with lots of monitors in it. When a sound or a thought enters the picture, a small light or screen corresponding to that impulse lights up, then goes dark. I don’t label or analyze any of the thoughts that light up the monitors, just notice that something lit up and forget about it (hopefully).

So far, I only skipped one day this week and I found that the next day’s meditation was more difficult. It almost seemed as if the backlog of mental noise that hadn’t been released into the “waterfall” was now damming up the works. Perhaps that is one of the values of practicing daily?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beginning The Joy Diet

Jamie Ridler has organized another voyage through her online book blogging group, The Next Chapter. Although I don't know whether I am ready to embark on this journey and I'm a newbie at blogging, I don't want to miss the boat. So I'm hopping on and hoping for a fun and enlightening ride through The Joy Diet, by Martha Beck.

Because right now I've got so many things on my plate, and other things lurking on the edges of my plate, I wonder if I can take on one more thing. But hmmm, the first thing Martha Beck wants us to add to our daily diet is nothing. Sure, I believe I can do that! Yet I know from past practice how deceptively simple it sounds, and how difficult it is to consistently do. Perhaps, knowing that others are taking this trip will help me keep from jumping ship.

What I'm looking for during this journey is a reconnection to joy that might help positively shift my inner experience as I make major transitions in my life. In letting go, I have felt that my moorings have been cut and that I'm adrift. The process of becoming has often been, for me, fraught with anxiety and confusion, mixed with fear of the unknown, mixed with hope for the unknown. I am hoping that the joy diet will help me become clearer and more connected to my self. To rediscover and reconnect with my own inner moorings. To fully enter, enjoy and savor this transition period instead of worrying.

The discussion group is taking each of the 10 practices a week at a time and is open to all. Feel free to join in. I'm looking forward to the journey!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


The fishing net is tangled around my ankles, but I’m not on a fishing boat, not on a pier, not anywhere near the water. I’m on Delancey Street, just having enjoyed a sublime gelato from il Laboratorio del Gelato. I stumble a bit, hobbled like a steer caught in a gaucho’s bolo. Miraculously I manage to not fall over. I wonder how a fishing net wound up on the street on the Lower East Side. A cruel joke of the gods? Who is the fishing god anyway, Neptune? He must be getting me back for all those times I tweaked his nose as I passed the Dakota on the Upper West Side. Funny, the things we do without worrying about the consequences. In ancient times, we must have been ever mindful of our smallest actions for fear of angering such gods. My transgression could have meant being ostracized because my actions would bring Wrath upon not only my head, but the entire clan. Life’s rhythms are changed by assumed consequence. Once a rule was made up – say, don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mother’s back – it would probably first become a personal habit. Or it might be encoded into a whole community of walkers with a head-downward creed of humility in the service of paranoia. A cult of watching where you walk.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What was lost

The bottom of the lake is where she imagined the ring would be. Darlene hadn’t listened to the little voice inside. Until that afternoon. As she set out for her journey across the lake in the canoe, she thought about taking off the ring and putting it in her pocket. It was a ring her grandmother had given her, the last time she visited. The last time she heard her grandmother’s sweet and soothing voice in real life, not in her head as she often did now. Her grandmother handed her the ring, a ruby set in bright yellow gold, telling Darlene how she and Grandpa visited India when they were much younger. How the smells of the market lingered in their clothes and hair and how they were reminded of their trip whenever they followed their noses down East 6th Street in New York. The ring immediately spoke to the newlyweds, and although they already had their diamond engagement ring and solid gold wedding bands, it felt like this was a ring that symbolized the new adventure they were setting forth on together. As Darlene excitedly slipped it on her finger she felt a jolt of envy then, of her grandmother’s lifetime of travel and adventure. Perhaps the ring’s new home at the bottom of the lake was a signal to leave old envies in a cold, deep sleeping place. Darlene would have to take the next step.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Searching for a new rhythm

Life threw me some big changes, and I feel a bit out of whack. My mind and body have been performing a specific set of patterns for some time. Nine years for one project and twenty-two years for a career. Now the landscape I once danced in has been hit by a tornado and I find myself tripping over debris or not moving through a space once filled by an office building. Until my mind and body adjust to the new reality, perhaps it's too much to ask myself to come up with a new dance? I feel pressured by expectations [my own?] that I come up with a new pattern quickly, when what I really want to do is take some time to walk in my new world with care and attention. I want to trust that the new rhythm will naturally emerge when it is time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The dancing man

With the wildest, swishing abandon I've seen anybody dance with on the sidewalks of New York City he twirls by. Have you seen him? He wears a baseball cap, tilted at a saucy angle, earphones piping something good to his brain. What he listens to is a mystery. It's impossible to miss him as he careers down the sidewalk, weaving and turning, repeating some phrase as a mantra. Is he crazy? Or is he just freakishly uninhibited? The stares and giggles I see on the street make me wonder if my inner desire to join in isn't shared. How do the more conventional see the line between crazy and creative? I want to dance on that line and prove it is completely sane.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Riding the wave

On Saturday I went to see a dance performance at Lincoln Center's recently reopened and simply beautiful Alice Tully Hall. Shen Wei Dance Arts performed a three-movement piece entitled, "Re-" that has me continuing to think about it, even now. The following evening, I had the chance to hear once again a segment of music used for one of the movements, only this time in the subterranean music venue, Le Poisson Rouge. Todd Reynolds, the violinist, introduced the piece he was about to play and explained that during the creative and rehearsal process it had taken on the name, "Killer." As I listened to the powerful and terrifying piece for violin and electronics in the dramatically dark club with its starkly lit stage, I could literally see the choreography from the night before. Actually, it was more like a kinesthetic inner compulsion fighting to emerge through my own body. I wanted to dance it. It struck me then: this music was such a perfect fit with that particular physical movement that the two had become inseparable in my mind.

I think music is meant to move us. Not only emotionally, but often literally. Some of my most cherished memories of music making are when body, breath and sound are riding on the same wave, the same impulse, moving as one. Try singing a line from a favorite song, investing it with the intention and the emotion the song calls for, without moving anything below your head. Completely unnatural, right? It hurts just thinking about it! But sometimes, I get so caught up in the technical challenges of trying to play or sing something that my body gets out of sync with my mind. In a recent practice session with other improvising vocalists, I was soloing over a delicious sonic bed my compadres had laid down when I felt compelled to step and gesture while I sang. I decided to go with it, and you know what? It all felt like one perfect thing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Walking in "The Land of I Don't Know"

It can be scary to put aside one's assumptions that things operate according to, well, one's assumptions about the way things work. I'm going to try this for a little while: instead of relying on my trusty "go-to guy" up there in the left hemisphere, I am going to try encountering everything today in the spirit of "Wow. What is that?" and see what I notice.

I expect it won't be easy, if a recent dream is any indication. In the dream an ex-boyfriend, whom I think of as a philosopher and psychiatrist, is fighting his employer's judgment against him. He's about to be fired or fined, and he is trying to gather facts to make his case. The dreaming-I still feels attracted to him and does not trust that I wouldn't act on it (which would tempt disaster). Substitute "left, analyst brain" for "ex-boyfriend" and it seems that my analytical and practical side doesn't want to be fired. The truth is I like my left brain, I'm used to it, and it has served me quite well, thank you. Or has it? Lefty is also a stubborn bully who wants to set up an armed border patrol [see Margin Release]. So my experiment is to tip the scales in the other direction for a change. Just for now, Lefty. Just for a little while. ::wink, wink::

photo credit:

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I've typically been a sensible person so I often have trouble dreaming, but I'm giving it a try and trust it'll get easier with practice. Let's just say I'm learning to kick caution to the curb and to give the other side of my brain a chance to stretch. The biggest surprise so far has been what happened when the pieces fell into their glued positions. Surprising relationships of ideas and images emerged. Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Margin Release

It caught my attention at the flea market. Something about that repurposing of an obsolete machine spoke to me. As time marches on, fewer and fewer of us can count ourselves among those who have used a manual typewriter and know its particular quirks. I searched through the trays of jewelry, all embedded with recycled typewriter keys, wanting to find something that told a story. No, a simple letter wouldn't do. Who would know where that nugget came from? It would have to be @ and ¢ stacked, or 1/2 and 1/4.

And then I saw it. I've declared it my talisman. As I begin exploring the world of blogging, of following my inner creative urges, it urges me on. To color outside the lines. To let go of the bounds of old patterns. To be free.