Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Turn Me On, or, The Terror of Our Desire


It's the last day of school and the most sublimely beautiful, early summer day in New York City. My charge is at the park with a pack of his best friends, there is an endless supply of pizza and sweets, and I've just given him permission to play in the kid's water fountains in his school uniform. Because childhood. Because summer. Because get dirty. Why not? He sprints away before I can change my mind, bursting through the water with unreserved, joyful abandon. This goes on for hours. I watch with wonder at his full presence in the moment and his total commitment to the task at hand: having the most fun possible. Right here. Right now.

Later on I've moved into my evening and my own version of fun: Breathe-In, a movement and meditation event held monthly by two of my favorite teachers in New York. Before class begins, I'm laying out quietly, dissolving the day and trying to arrive fully to the moment when a question drifts up clear and strong from my deep center of knowing:

"When will you let me be happy?"

Basic nature, forever and always.
My earliest, most clear memories are of pleasure. In a particularly deviant moment, I recall being maybe five years old and grinding on the pew in front of me while standing to pray during Catholic mass. AMEN! I also remember being caught in the act, a hissing no, and confusion over why something that felt good wouldn't be okay. Sheila Kelley, founder of the transformative movement system S Factor, calls this The First Offense- the first time we recall some part of us being coded as shameful. It is the beginning of the turning off of that aspect of our being. We must behave in pro-social ways in order to be accepted and included in the tribe. When a behavior is coded as anti-social, we must repress it in order to survive in our environments. It may not actually be life or death, but it feels it, and that's all that counts to our body's trauma response. We don't know why, but this part of ourselves is unacceptable and it must go in order for us to live.

Just as the failure of an organ will lead to an overall system shutdown, the repression of one expression of self leads to the unintended dulling or shutdown of other areas. I've met so many women who are so disconnected from their pleasure that not only do they not know their sexual selves but they can't tell you much of anything that lights them up inside.

Pleasure encompasses so much more than the sexual; it's a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment. Delight. Glee. Gratification. Contentment. Similarly, our Turn On is actually so much more than our sex. Our Turn On is the fathomless well of our personal magic. What does it mean to be Turned On? We tend to think of it only as sexual arousal, but let's look at it more broadly. It could mean; to make a piece of equipment or machinery start working, to start a supply of electricity, to activate a system.

To Bring to Life. To Awaken. To Empower. This is what happens when we live Turned On, and people who are fully alive and awake, living in their power, cannot be fooled, manipulated or controlled. You cannot sell them shit they don't need for problems they don't actually have because they know who they are. The smooth flow of a capitalist society depends on a gnawing sense of listless discontent and insecurity. People who have come alive are staging a daily rebellion that makes them strangers in the world, and straying outside the herd feels dangerous. Those who stand out and shine bright are easier to pick off, put down. To live boldly and be seen clearly is a vulnerable act.

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This piece started on June 22nd. I spent the summer very seriously considering the question "When will you let me be happy?" and all its implications; 1) That I am not happy, 2) In what ways am I unhappy?, 3) Oh no, I play a very large part in this unhappiness, and 4) What am I willing to do to be happy?

Through deep meditation and some domestic travel journeys, I discovered my most authentic desire, and riding along in its sidecar, enormous terror. I know what I want and I am absolutely terrified of it. My desire flaunts social convention for the lives of good citizens and respectable women. My most authentic desire is to travel the world full time. I want to live location independent, allowing the flow of life to have its way with me. I want to be able to make money on every continent, in every time zone. I don't want a TV or a husband or a permanent address. I want total freedom and a whole planet's worth of space. All the space and freedom that a US passport holder can get.

There's not a lot of compassion on offer for those who stand out. Celebrities and basically anyone on the internet is on the possible receiving end of baseless cruelty. I feel vulnerable admitting my desire, terrified of the hissing "No," of having this thing that I need to be happy codified as shameful. How selfish I am to even admit this, let alone to take action! We don't get to follow our pleasure. It is to be swallowed to choking, swallowed to death. Because others were told No, so you will be told No, so you must tell yourself No. There's an unspoken responsibility to collectively suffer.

Nevertheless, today I'm coming to you live from a flight to San Francisco during which I've taken online courses in designing sales funnels and viral marketing. On January 1st, 2018, I'm catching a one way to Thailand where I will begin an indefinite period of world travel, working online along the way in social media strategy and writing. The next few months will be spent saving money and learning a new, mobile trade so that I can follow my pleasure to the ends of this earth.

My responsibility in life is not to validate the unhealthy suppression of desire. My responsibility is to myself and to answer the question "When will you let me be happy?"

Now.

Today, wild bird. I'll gut my possessions. I'll risk colossal failure. I'll do the thing that scares and thrills me most. For freedom. For authentic joy. To ensure that I know, for better or worse, exactly what it is to live my truth.

You many want a TV or a husband or a permanent address, and that's great! It doesn't matter what the desire is, what matters is the responsibility you have to yourself to see it fulfilled. Look and listen for what it is that will bring you joy and even if it scares you half to death, go for it. Many may tell you how stupid or selfish you are being, but it's you that has to live in your reality.

Make it exactly what it needs to be for you.

#yolo

xoxo

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Will Yoga For Likes, or, Growing Up Your Yoga

These photos were taken on the same day three years apart. One might expect that "progress" would look like a foot on the head in an even deeper backbend. Alas! In the interim, I've become the inhabitant of a whole new body. An as-yet-unhealed injury to my right shoulder makes Urdhva Dhanurasana extremely painful to come  into and limits my mobility in the pose significantly. Yes, this is still a deep full wheel, but I can no longer pull my chest forward with perfectly straight arms. I can no longer do the full expression of the pose and as a result, I totally suck. I'm a terrible yogi and an even worse person. Sorry.

Jk! In the age of social media overshare, it's easy to compare ourselves to others in many different contexts and feel less than. The full reality behind the perfect photo is rarely divulged. When those "30 day challenges" started rolling out on Instagram, I did ALL of them. I would spend part of every day forcing my unwarm body into poses I couldn't always safely complete. What you saw may have looked impressive, but I was often uncomfortable and unsafe, and this is not yoga.

#ProgressNotPerfection was my go to hashtag for my "progress shots," revealing the naive assumption that my body would only get bendier and that progress was a linear path into ever fuller expressions of advanced poses. Did being able to do a "perfect," full expression of Urdhva make me happy? Or a better person? No, it didn't. Neither did producing a steady stream of awe inspiring yoga photos that I look back on cringing. All I see is me disrespecting my body, and I did it all for the likes.

Injury is a great teacher. With progress limited by my new shoulder, I have had to find satisfaction in my practice not in how it looks on Instagram but in how it feels in my body. Even when I'm in class, I'm still having a personal practice, hiding out in the back and making small modifications to the sequence. It's the humbling my ego needed to be able to use yoga to make friends with myself rather than utilize it as one more tool of internalized oppression. I jokingly apologize for being "bad at yoga," but this is real. I hear it all the time from people who don't feel comfortable coming to the mat in their state of utter social media unsexiness.

Sometimes, despite my best attempts not to, I still catch myself watching other people's yoga. I see clenched jaws, shallow breath, straining, grasping. I see myself, younger in my practice, trying to push my way into a shape that I couldn't actually embody. Injury has made me a bit of an alignment purist, but honestly, if we're not going to practice the poses with integrity, what are we doing? Yoga is a space to meet yourself honestly where you are and to work from there. If you can't touch the ground without rounding your back, grab a block! Go to the place where you feel an edge-pushing discomfort and stop there, even if it's a million miles from where you think you should to be.

You may find overtime that your body opens deeper, that you are able to find the poses in fuller expression. One day you may graduate to having the block on its lowest level, then removing it entirely. You may get injured and have a humbling scale back of activity.

Alternately, perhaps your muscles will remain steadfastly stiff, movements ungraceful. poses partially expressed. But you keep showing up, despite how "bad" you are at yoga, because when you're there, you feel at home in your body. When you move, you are stretching to find the most space, freedom and ease possible in the moment. You find the places in you of discomfort and learn to be with them lovingly because this is the only way to thrive. You ride the breath to this clear understanding...

This practice, this body, this life, only belong to you. You are not here to impress anyone, or to convince anyone of anything. You are here to live well, joyfully, and in alignment with your own truth, respecting your natural limits.

Don't be fooled. Everything else is noise.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Giving Up Making Good, or, The Father Wound on Father's Day

When I was young and I would tell my father "I love you," he would reply "Thank you." As human communication continued to devolve, if I wrote it in a text, his reply was the smiling emoji wearing sunglasses. Seriously.

My father would be quick to point out all the terrible things he *didn't* do, as if one should be rewarded for not doing things that you shouldn't be doing anyway. No, sir, you do not get a medal for *not* beating your wife and children. Physical assault is illegal. Your prize for avoiding it is not going to jail. Nice try, though.

349 days ago it became abundantly clear to me what an unsafe man my father is to have in my life and I cut him off. No longer would he be allowed to mishandle my tenderness, tearing my wounding open again and again. This is the beauty of adulthood. We get to thoughtfully filter who and what we let in. We get to erect firm boundaries for self love and preservation. It is our most powerful responsibility to ourselves; to choose wisely, lovingly, firmly.

This is my first father's day as a fatherless daughter. In the weeks before today, the ads for socks and grills picked up speed and every one made me cringe a bit. I've been stewing in a growing mix of mourning and guilt. I've heard whispers that he's lonely and sad. An ill informed family member reached out to me suggesting that I make peace; "He IS your father, after all." It is my desire that all beings be free from suffering, and I hate the idea of anyone feeling desperately alone, but what of my own suffering? What of the lifetime that I spent carrying the yoke of trying to make good, only to realize that I never had control over him? That his happiness was never my responsibility?

The oddest sensation is of missing him. But it is not him. It is the *idea* of Father; a steady, sensible, abundantly loving, available, thoughtful man who would be there when I needed him. A kind, present parent who wouldn't always get it right but who would keep showing up with care, no matter what. This was not my experience but I miss it, somehow. This thing I never had but always desperately wanted. I have called upon and embodied my own masculine to father myself into some semblance of healing and completion. I am my own father now. But on days like today, I wish I didn't have to be.

If you have someone in your life who does more harm than good, hear me clearly: this is your permission to walk away. You are allowed to give up trying to make good. Because other people are in charge of their own joy, not us. Because you are a grown up and you have to be your own best parent now; the sort of parent that you maybe never had but longed for. And a good parent says No when no is needed. A good parent protects the tender parts of their baby. A good parent knows what Cheryl Strayed expressed in a Dear Sugar column years ago; "Limits are not punishments, but rather lucid and respectful expressions of our needs and desires and capabilities."

They may be family but you don't owe them anything.
Do no harm but take no shit.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Everything Alive Inside You

He bought a gorgeous aboriginal throw as a memento and as the space for our afternoon work. We took it over the railroad tracks, down the winding, sandy path to a quiet place on the dunes, removed from the beach below. I lay down and he set to his task rhythmically delivering the most profound healing work I've ever received. Honestly, no hyperbole. I reeled for days after, tremoring, laughcrying in yoga, swimming in the ocean, rolling around on the floor, writing pages on pages all in an attempt to integrate the way my mind and heart had just been blown wide. It was a glorious surprise, by far my best travel souvenir to date.

The last time I experienced such a deep inner earthquake was nine years ago when I was diving into Kundalini yoga, and, as I like to quip, Kundalini made me quit my job, my relationship, San Francisco...etc. In a word, this practice was destructive. Anything that wasn't fully in alignment with my truth and well being had to go. And this saved my life.

Perhaps then you can imagine the gratitude I have for my new healer friend, and the attachment I found cropping up as our time together began to close. When one has met someone who matches them so neatly, who is attuned, readily vulnerable and open, it's natural to want to keep them around. There also arises the danger of attaching the healing you've experienced to the practitioner.

This happens across realms of healing. Sometimes people transition from hard drugs or boozing to yoga and attribute all their success to The Yoga. I've even just written it: "Kundalini yoga saved my life." While it is true that yoga and meditation generate actual, physiological changes, these practices would be entirely ineffective without disciplined commitment. As they say in AA, "It Works If You Work It." It is the work we put in and our willingness to heal that makes the difference. We keep coming back...and it works!

The Healing is grown and lives inside us. It is not a gift given outside of ourselves from a teacher, preacher, therapist or guru. The Healing is the fruit of our labor, the reaping of our sowing. "Healers" are truly facilitators, creating the space and giving the permission wherein you are able to do the work. This is a valuable art, but without your will, all is for naught. When they are gone, when you've stepped off your yoga mat or out of their office, your healing remains with you and the course of it is in your hands.

If you are in a practice or see a healer that makes their presence necessary for your continued equilibrium, RUN away. The healing practitioner's goal should always be to become obsolete to you. Healing tools should serve to strengthen us to the point where we no longer need them. When you reach the roof of the house, do you drag the ladder up with you? No. It has served its purpose. You let it go.

Just as our healing does, all our feelings and experiences live within us. Love, for example, is not an inert, scarce resource that can be given away, lost, stolen or otherwise possessed. Our love is not "wasted" for having been shared with someone who leaves. It is alive in everyone and everything, in abundance never ending. There may be external stimuli which help inspire love or joy, but those feelings were in you all along. Happiness really is an inside job.

On the other side of the same coin, we must contend with our pain, shame and rage as beings living inside us. This is not Inception. No one snuck in in the night and planted them there. They were there and something happened to activate them, but they still belong to you. If you refuse to take responsibility for them and remain mindful of their activity, you risk having them control you from the underground.

During some recent train writing, I had an epiphany about attachment: part of what makes letting go of relationships and moments so hard is the feeling of loss that accompanies this, but we're not seeing the whole picture. While the moment may be over or your loved one gone, you are free to pool the experience, and to retain whatever joy remains or lessons that serve you. Sometimes we keep trying to return to something we know we can't resurrect looking for validation of what happened. It was real and whatever happened therein has not gone away! You get to keep all the healing that you experienced in the mirror of this other person. Your love and joy still live inside you. The only thing we lose when we let go is potential future pleasure, but this never existed. It was never ours to lose.

It is all there.
All our loss, sorrow, shame, anger and regret.
All our healing, growth, joy, pleasure and fun.
Everything that's ever happened to us is written on bones and tucked between muscle fibers.

If we heal, it's because we've tilled and fertilized the soil, creating a nourishing loam for new life to grow. We commit to the work with courage and keep at it.
If we are angry, it's because the anger lives in us. Learn to be with it. Let it teach you something important about the state of your heart.
If we are happy, it's because the happiness lives in us, too. We choose it everyday.

You can choose to give this power and responsibility away, to anchor your wellness in another human being, but this is pure folly. As soon as they go- and we all go, in time- then what? The end result of operating under the illusion that someone else is the master of our destinies is deep dependency and instability. If we wish to be truly independent and free, we have to learn to, as Zen Master Osho suggests, "develop within ourselves the capacity to make our way through the darkness without any companions, maps or guide."

Our internal environment is our holy domain.
We are the kings and queens of our experience.
The things we most need are already alive inside us.
There is nothing missing.

xoxo

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Greed and Gluttony: Failing at Brahmacharya and Aparigraha

As an adolescent person beginning to look more deeply into the workings of things, I viscerally remember the depression I felt upon first encountering the Four Noble Truths. The world is filled with suffering and the only path to alleviate suffering is non-attachment? It felt so harsh and lonely to me, this idea of not being attached to anything and the assumption that this meant you couldn't love anyone. In my mind, the two were one in the same; the love I felt for my family was woven together with a desire that I would never be without them.

There's an old Taoist story concerning a farmer whose horse runs away one day. His neighbors express their sympathy and the farmer says, "We'll see." When the horse returns with more horses in tow, the neighbors are overjoyed for him. Once again he replies, "We'll see." The farmer's son takes one of the horses out for a ride, is bucked and breaks his leg. The neighbors are so sorry about this misfortune, but the farmer is unmoved: "We'll see." Soon the army comes around, conscripting young men for a war. Because of the son's broken leg, he is overlooked and left behind. The neighbors are again so happy for the farmer, but his reply is unchanged; "We'll see."

You may have noticed that what once brought you joy has the ability to transform into a source of suffering. It is near impossible to accurately discern which occurrences are "good" and "bad" because of the ever shifting nature of reality. Everything is changing, one thing turning over into another. It is also the case that frequently the joy has not become suffering. The joy simply becomes a thing that Was, rather than a thing that Is, and it is our clinging to it that causes us pain.

Many years ago, I became heavily attached to a man who brought me a lot of pleasure. I did not understand that he was not to be a deep well for me, but a happy hour shot of well tequila. What he had to offer was real and fun, but was limited to the moment, and I had yet to learn that the world is generous and abundant. Scarcity mentality combined with a strong predilection for feeling gooood trapped me in an illusion that he was the only source. It HAD to be him and if not him, surely I would never experience anything better. This makes for desperation and grasping, which ain't cute, kids.

It's not illogical to want to keep having fun when you're having fun. If you are able to connect well with someone, which is often half the battle in human relating, it makes sense that you would want to grow and maintain the connection. However, we have to be real about what's actually available. If you are at a restaurant that doesn't offer refills for your drink, what are you going to do? Scream at the server? Demand a manager? Write a nasty Yelp review? Perhaps, instead of causing so much strife, you could just enjoy the drink you had and if you're still thirsty, order something else.

There's a limit and lifespan to all things; bodies, relationships and pints of fancy vegan ice cream. I can't tell you how many times I've mourned something before it's even over, still in a place and already half-not-there. It's a way to inoculate oneself against the pain of loss, but it's also a terrible joy robber. My time with my old lover could've been a pure joy, still looked back upon with total fondness, if I had just welcomed it warmly and bid farewell with gratitude when it was over. I've managed this since then and it's a much healthier way to relate to people and moments. Open handed. Welcome, thank you, good bye!

It's also really fucking hard sometimes. Holy shit it is hard to gracefully embrace the reality of life when the reality is the absence of something that brought you so much happiness. I'll have strong words for the next person who assails me with the gross platitude Don't Cry Because It's Over, Smile Because It Happened(!!!) Seeing just how gluttonous and greedy you are capable of being can also be uncomfortable. I have stood outside myself watching myself, marveling at the sort of animal I have in me; unapologetically self-serving, insatiable, demanding and ungrateful. It does not feel like who I am, and is certainly not who I want to be. Yet I've found myself sending a fifth shrill text in a row, trying to get a bucket of water out of a well that's long run dry. Trying to manipulate reality to meet my needs. Suffering because of my attachment to what Was.

Zen Master Osho taught that when we cling to memories, we turn our back on the innumerable blessings available in the here and now. It is one thing to day dream a bit about the past, and another thing entirely to refuse to participate in the present because you're so sure that it will never get any better than what was. How will we know unless we try? Letting Go is an act of faith that the world is indeed generous and abundant, that the end of one joy is not the End of All Joy. This pain will become another thing which feels good and that'll become something else until we die and become the source of someone else's suffering in their missing of us. This is the way of things.

The adult self is learning that while attachment and love are not mutually exclusive, they are also not the same. One can be very attached to something that they don't actually love, and love something deeply that they are able to let go gracefully when the time comes. A high degree of attachment does not denote a superior sort of love. This is an ego trap. If you can't stop thinking about someone and/or feel that you can't live without them, this is unhealthy and bound for pain. In fact, the only way for something you love to never become a source of suffering is to remain unattached to it.

This is a pretty idea. I would love to be able to love this way; without need or grasping. Pure, free and perfect love. This is a tall, challenging order. There's a greedy, gluttonous sort of animal inside me who is slow to tame. Life will continue to present opportunities to practice this in the form of pleasures transformed into pain. Perhaps, someday, I'll be a very good yogi and master the yamas; brahmacharya (non-excess) and aparigraha (non-greed). Perhaps I'll be able to smile because it happened, to love with open hands and non-attachment. Until then, I will be an evolving human doing her best and that's okay.

My love isn't perfect but it is strong and sweet.

May we be able to let what comes, comes, and what goes, goes,
with equanimity, grace and gratitude.

xoxo

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Fiery, Alchemical Force of Love

"Just like our organs, our anger is part of us. When we are angry, we have to go back to ourselves and take good care of our anger. We cannot say, 'Go away, anger, I don’t want you.' When you have a stomachache, you don’t say, 'I don’t want you stomach, go away.' No, you take care of it. In the same way, we have to embrace and take good care of our anger."
—Thich Nhat Hanh

When I was in yoga teacher training, I let all my hair grow. For half a year, I didn't shave or cut any of it off. It was in part a respectful nod to the Sikh tradition of not cutting any hairs on the body, and part an experiment in self-love. Having been raised in a culture which shamed the presence of hair on certain parts of my body, could I let that hair be there and still feel happy and comfortable in my skin?

Since then, I have vacillated between shaving regularly and going long periods of time without. With the ebb and flow of my body hair has grown a sense of almost militant pride in who I am and this logical conclusion: I was born in a female body and this hair grows out of my female body, so how is it unfeminine? How can that which occurs naturally be unnatural?

Diving beneath skin deep, we can apply this same logic to the whole of our beings. We must lovingly care for every part of who we are, for what we recoil from in ourselves we will not be able to embrace in others. What we reject in ourselves will not leave. Repression forces our anger, pain, shame and brutality into the darkness, where it will remain until we muster the courage to face it. It will not be silent and inert; it seeps out and controls our behavior from the underground. These repressions are a festering danger.

Recently, I had a challenging relationship with a coworker. They were often harsh and demanding, rigid and determined to be right, no matter the cost. Experience has taught that most times we can either be happy or right, but not both. I would rather be happy than right, but sometimes had to strongly stand for myself in the face of attacks to my character. After a few exchanged blows and displays of my might, my coworker began to respect me more and it became easier to work with them.

It also became apparent overtime that they were operating from a place of fear, exhaustion and scarcity. They badly needed help but didn't feel comfortable surrendering any control to anyone else- they had been burned before, they cannot rely on anyone but themselves. With an equal mix of firmness and thoughtful care, I began to take control of what I could to ease their burden. I encouraged them to take time off to play, to take care of themselves. I consistently, excellently showed up and held the weight down, and they were able to soften and relax a bit. Through the alchemical force of my fierce love, I was able to transform the lead of our relating to gold.

Love is an alchemical force that turns lead to gold.

Love is the only force on this planet that can coax our anger, pain, shame and brutality out into the light. If we are to heal ourselves and others, we have to step into a place of softness and allowing. We must make friends with every part of ourselves, especially the parts that are hard to face. It is the difficult to love feelings and the difficult to love people that need a strong, steady embrace most of all. We can never be truly free until we are able to welcome anything that arises with gentleness and curiosity. "Hello! Welcome! What have you come to teach me?"

The first yama (code of right living) in the Yoga Sutras is ahimsa, to do no harm. While it's my sincere desire that all living things would feel totally loved in my presence, there should be limits to what one is willing to accept. As some yogis cheekily state, "Do no harm but take no shit." Love is often mistaken as a weak thing, but if you've ever witnessed a parent defend their child, you know how ferocious love can be. 

Love can be very soft and sweet, but it can also manifest as a fiery roar. It was a ferocious self-love that defended me against my coworker, that empowered me to stand strongly for myself and be unwilling to let another do harm to me. It was a fierce love that thoughtfully supported that coworker in their well being, while also holding them accountable for their maladaptive behavior. It is my desire that I will do no harm, but best believe that I will also take no shit. It's a fine line worth testing and a balance worth perfecting. 

May we cultivate an inner spaciousness that allows for both:
Embracing, allowing, softening, gentleness AND
Healthy boundaries, firmness, accountability

May our love be both sweet and fierce.

May we do no harm,
May all beings feel loved in our presences,
But may we also take no shit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

You Are Already Rich and Blessed

If you're reading this, it's likely that you own some sort of electronic device- a computer, a smartphone. It's also likely that you have a home to live in with functional electrical outlets that allow you to charge those devices, light switches to flip to illuminate the darkness, clean water that flows endless into cups, bathtubs, tea kettles.

These things are such an easy, natural part of life in many places that we tend to think of them as a given. We know that there are places in the world, sometimes very nearby, where people do not live with such ease. They don't know where their next meal will come from, or have a safe home or clean water. For a moment we may be #grateful for what we have, conscious of the grace that holds our lives together. Following hot on the heels of gratitude, though, is the ever-creeping, gaping gnaw of awareness of What's Not. We push aside our blessings and look only at what we don't have, what we have not achieved.

Dissatisfaction is a powerful creative force. It has inspired incredible innovation and progress in science, art, technology and human rights. There are some things that we should certainly not accept. But what if we are also refusing to accept a deep sense of comfort having our basic needs easily met? How much joy are we missing out on by refusing to acknowledge and celebrate What Is already?

This quote from Jack Gilbert is a favorite of mine that speaks to this:
"We must risk delight! We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world."
Lately it has been effortless for me to feel held and nurtured by the simple things that come easily. I'm living
on three acres of verdant Hawaiian jungle overlooking the Pacific. Everyday we pick and eat what the land has grown; avocados and mac nuts, very free range eggs, lilikoi, pomelos, tangerines, bananas and papayas. We make juice and marmalade and bread. We churn our own ice cream. We Ooh and Ahh over one gorgeous sunset after another. We hike down to the bay and swim with dolphins. It is what some might call "an embarrassment of riches." There is such an abundance of goodness that we literally can't consume it all (seriously, we have hundreds of pounds of citrus).

Yes, it is easy for me to sit here in the outdoor kitchen with a nice breeze and feel calm, nourished, content. All my needs are met. The coffee is strong. The avocado toast is daily. There is good yoga nearby. Wintertime and the living is easy. There is very little struggle and there are no bad days.

This is not like life in other times and spaces, I know. I usually live in New York, where we wear our struggle like a badge of honor. We may bitch and moan about the subway or the weather, but at the end of the day we are so proud to be able to make it there. We are strong, savvy and ambitious. We strive for the next greatest thing.

The world is so loud, busy and competitive that it's possible to overlook What Is and focus only on What's Not. What I've discovered, though, is that this leads to a perpetual mental state of Lack. What I have, who I am and what I do are never enough. Striving leads to strain. I feel anxious, unhappy, unsupported.

However, this isn't my reality. Even in "normal life" in New York, there are still things big and small that go right everyday. I am supported in ways that I may never know by people I will likely never meet. I don't have an unlimited free supply of tangerines and avocados, but I can buy them at Whole Foods and that's okay, too. It's not as effortless, but New York has perks that this rural jungle town does not, like functional public transit and sushi delivery.

Every time and space has its drawbacks, but there are also gift and opportunity on offer in every moment. I remain present to this by keeping a daily record of gratitude. It's a running list of everything fun, joyful and pleasurable that happens in my life that I find useful to reference. When times are lean, I am reminded how rich and blessed I already am. When times are lush, it serves to stack my joy exponentially. I smile and giggle at my rabid fondness for Mexican food, long walks, dogs and travel. I recall these moments of delight that I would otherwise forget and my life is made better for it in ways I can't full describe. It's a deeply nourishing, enriching practice that I highly recommend.

Let's start right now. Take a moment to write out (by hand, on paper...it works better that way) at least three things for which you are grateful. You can start with the "givens" if you like, then expand out to other areas.

But maybe you stop at the basic and obvious. Maybe you walk into the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of clean water and savor it. Maybe, for a moment, you feel totally supported and cared for by the ease with which you are able to access something so vital.

Never be satisfied with intolerable conditions. Fight oppression in all its forms. Fight for the rise of all bodies. But also be comforted and delighted by everything that is basic and easy.

What you have and who you are are already enough.

May your 2017 continue to be blessed abundantly!

xoxox