Accountability

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There is a little life-mastery, business boosting, book my brother loves: Living Forward. He has talked about it, done the process and talked about that and encouraged me to do the same as well as download the podcasts of its authors. I have done none of that.

After finishing the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (I seem to always need to be reading some sort of non-fiction, motivational type book) I cast about my home of many bookcases for the next inspiring tome. I have been reading The Body Keeps the Score in small disconnected doses, but that one has a heaviness to it that is more informative than inspiring so something a little lighter, a little shorter that will make me do something would be perfect.

Enter Living Forward. I read it aloud to my husband. He had been going through a bout of “wooziness” characterized by vertigo and mild nausea, so reading was out for him for now. This also made him my captive.

Let’s take the high road and say the book bears an eerie likeness to What Matters Most, the leadership program by Franklin Covey. An homage let’s say. But, the information was very useful and it was time for me to revisit it, so I took to it earnestly.

I will not spoil it for you here, but I will share that the process begins with writing your own eulogy – a possibly creepy, but very telling activity. How do you want to be remembered? It makes me think of the quote that’s often attributed to Buddha,

“Who you are now is a result of what you have done, who you will become will be the result of what you do now.”

Or something like that. This exercise, if thoughtfully done, can help guide your future, transform your present, or at the very least shine a light on all the awesomeness you already are.

From there, life accounts are created and within each one of those are purpose statements, reality and commitments. It’s all very motivating. They key to the whole enchilada is returning to it daily.

Reading. It. Every. Day.

This too is helpful, if sometimes a bit of a slog. It puts all your thoughts and promises to yourself in front of your face on the regular. You can catch bad behavior, change harmful habits and feel a moment of guilt that can help turn the ship around and move in the healthy direction you had intended.

Mostly it works. There are still some bugs in my programming, but with the daily read I am getting over myself quite efficiently. I’ll be making good on those gym and meditation promises any day now.

Personal History

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I am lost in a sea of personal history. Memories and emotions gently rock my present, nudging my attention this way and that.

My room: the repository of my past. Photos from as far back as 1800 and something. My great-grandparents parents photos and maybe their parents too. Some I know, some are magical ghosts of my DNA.

My room: the sanctuary of my creative aspirations. Over 20 boxes of hundreds of beads – many semi-precious stones that I could just caress for hours. I am partial to rubies, they feel mysterious and rich. Aquamarine gives me space, I can’t help but take a deep breath in when working with them. And sapphires are the keepers of  secrets. In boxes in my closet are unpainted canvases, paper cut for projects forgotten and photos I’ve taken and left to die in the back of a drawer.

My room:  the organizational nerve center. Four file drawers hold the remnants of an abandoned organizational system, files numbered and lettered but empty. Files full of bills paid, places to visit, the history of my pets and cherished documents that allow me to wander the earth.

My room: holder of tiny sacred spaces. An altar that continues to grow even though there appears to be no more room, sits atop a large bookcase. As I was counting it I thought I’d find new homes for some of the excess Buddhas and rocks, but there appears to be no such thing as excess Buddhas.

This was to be the last room on my list but something compelled me to “knock it out.” It’s been a week. More than. I’m almost done counting. That was supposed to be the easy part. But to count photos you must touch them and I don’t know about you, but I must also look at them. And as I do I am mentally eliminating some and finding purposes for others. I am sorting and organizing memories as if I can come back to them when I’m ready.

There are just a few boxes of photos left to count and then all the jewelry supplies. I have set a goal to complete the counting by the end of this week – Sunday. In the meantime I am surrounded by a mine field of unfinished projects. And it’s creating heaviness, filling spaces that I need free and open. Cards that need to be cut, photos to be sorted and culled, letters to be read and overall purging. This is just round one.

As I sort through the stuff that has built me I wonder what I am really hoping to gain by this process. My goal from the outset been space and time. I want to be able to walk into my home and not feel compelled to straighten up, but I sense something much deeper at work.

Urgency. I carry with me, deep in my gut, this sense of needing to get things done. Organizing, categorizing, sorting then storing. Get it done, check it off. But when it’s done will I be sad? Will I look for the next thing to accomplish no matter how trivial? Maybe that need will abate once things are ordered. Maybe not. This is the work of the process. This is why to abandon it or hold fast to rules would dilute the outcome.

It’s cranky and itchy, the process, but in a most informative way. It’s doing its work on me and I like, don’t like it. I think that means it’s working.

16 Tiny Buddhas

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I avoided my room like the plague when I was following the Japanese Art of Tidying protocal to declutter last year. It’s her fault, really, Marie Kondo’s. She recommended waiting until everything else was sorted and purged before beginning on sentimental items. I took that to mean craft supplies as well.

So I waited. And waited. Until this year.

My approach to this cataloging, decluttering, organizing task has me going room to room. I do like how Ms. Kondo had me group items last year and if it hadn’t been for that I would probably be in a heap at the back of my closet, murmuring, trying to rock myself back to reality.

I started on my room yesterday. When I say ‘my room’ I am referring to that space that is sometimes a jewelry studio, or a library, or an office, or most recently, a hole full of flat surfaces on which to put things to go through at a later date.

This is that later date.

I dreaded it. Knowing that there was so much stuff in there. So many little tiny things to go through and count. Craft stuff, jewelry making supplies, 2 filing cabinets, a large bookcase full of books and an altar on top hosting a meeting of the tiniest Buddhas and Hindu deities along with shells, crystals, candles and rocks. Always rocks.

But it has been liberating, as I think I knew it would be.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to count, how to count. Do I count every paperclip or just the container holding them? What about paper for the printer? Why count each piece? I decided, for now anyway, to count loose things. Pens, pencils, pads of paper, staplers, that sort of thing. I counted the containers that held pencils and binder clips and every empty file folder. I counted the furniture and artwork and the lamps. When I got to the bookcase I counted everything, down to the last tiny shell and wobbly bronze Ganesh the size of my pinky fingernail.

Altar items:

3 Elephants
6 Ganesh
16 Buddha
5 crystals
25 rocks – I really need to look into the rock obsession
1 rabbit – born in the year of
2 frogs
1 sealed container of Ganges water
1 Quan Yin
4 packages of flower petals – mostly from temples in India
1 dog
2 old Japanese guys – I’m pretty sure there’s a more eloquent term for these wise men
4 cards
2 oil difussers
1 owl – from Slovenia who always makes me smile. Get it? Who?
2 nuts – from a recent trip up north
2 fabric printing block – from India
2 Durgas – she’s my girl
4 shells
2 coral
3 feathers
1 Om tile
1 Ganesh tile
1 prayer for forgiveness
1 snake figurine
1 good fortune cat
1 angel
2 mala bead strands
1 peacock feather fan
1 framed Radha Krishna – painted by my yoga teacher
2 Balinese marriage dolls
1 strand of lampwork beads  – that I made in a class, rudimentary but pretty colors.

In all 101 items on top of the bookcase along with a lamp. Four equal sized shelves beneath it containing 120 books and myriad other trinkets and mementos. But I got to touch every one and consider its purpose, conjure its meaning and decide if it was necessary.

So often we set things where we want them then walk away. We may dust them or around them, but that can be a mindless chore – something to get through – and we don’t fully appreciate those things we chose to bring into our homes. Some of us don’t even dust our own things, some of us don’t even dust. Not naming any names.

While I was counting and cataloging I made some initial decisions and purges. I dumped quite a few magazines in the recycle bin, along with some papers I had been holding onto until I uncovered their importance. There was none. I filed papers that had been lingering in my in box that I had to rifle through on more than one occasion to look for something, which had it been filed in the proper place would have saved me lots of time. That’s part of the end game here – time. I filled a box with items to go to others and added to bags sitting in the garage intended for Good Will or some other thrift store.

I also made note of further culling that needed to take place: files that needed thinning, books that could be appreciated by others now that I’ve absorbed what I could from them. I made some decisions about making jewelry and crafts that surprised me and glanced at the boxes and envelopes of family photos – dating back to the 1800s – I have yet to further organize and scan.

This room has been so many things, so many colors and sometimes a complete design and organizational conundrum. I think I may have made some decisions about that too.

I will tackle the rest over the weekend. It will be completed, the first round of purging and cataloging. That will feel like an accomplishment.

Letting go of what I don’t need so someone who does need it can have it feels noble and sometimes scary. What if I need that someday?

Like a coloring book. Purged 11 of those. Still have 9. I think I’ll be okay.

Writing Spaces

 

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When I first read the topic for today’s ‘postaday’ my mind instantly went to the right corner of my living room sofa, where the perfect mold of me awaits patiently each day. On the table to my right, an ebony wood Buddha holding a chunk of amethyst is overseeing my efforts, quietly cheering me on, as Buddhas are known to do. Surrounding him are my mug of steaming hot joe, a camera – I never know when I’ll be called outside by the sound of a cardinal or mocking bird for a photo shoot – and one of million journals. To my left one or two of four bite sized doggies snores softly.

A French door leading to the back patio swings in the gentle morning breeze as the sun reflects off the glass bouncing back into the living room. Occasionally the breeze brings with it the rich smell of the earth, still damp from the previous day’s storms. My painted toenails peek above my laptop screen. Somewhere nearby the coffee maker makes clicking sounds. The light and energy are good here.

But I also saw myself lying on my belly, propped on my elbows with my iPhone wedged between my hands, recounting the day’s events while in India. At a Starbucks on that same device in London as I waited out a spate of rain. I saw myself reaching into my purse for that flat little notebook I bought in a museum, that receives the freshest ideas that I may or may not act upon later. I saw myself sitting on my yoga mat in the middle of class begging that perfect sentence to stay somewhere within reach as I simultaneously tried to let go of everything.

My writing space is fluid, portable. It is my mind, my imagination. It’s between the ears and beyond my vision. It starts with a ping brought on by a word, a sight, a muse, then I just follow it. My writing space is everywhere. I couldn’t write of travel, insights, enchantment and experiences if I stayed in one place. My preferred typing space, however,  is in that light filled living room surrounded by four little dogs, the sound of birds singing in my backyard and the hum of the refrigerator in the next room.

But then, I haven’t had the opportunity to lift the lid of my laptop at a café in France yet.

21 Day Challenge – Day 8 – Recommitment

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It’s been one week since I issued and embarked on my 21 Day Challenge. One week down, 2 to go. A few noteworthy things are happening.

This isn’t a challenge with a prize at the end. It’s not measurable in a quantifiable way. There are tasks to be completed each day that help keep me on track and that’s imperative. With a high level distraction and procrastination risk factor, I need touch points, things I can check off.

The purpose of this challenge though is to remove obstacles by adding in good practices: yoga, yoga nidra, writing, photography, etc. One is removing distraction while the other is moving in the direction I have identified as my path. Both are necessary.

Without an end game, is it really a challenge? I am working on breaking old unhelpful habit patterns and creating a new way of being. So yes, it’s super challenging. Maybe especially because there is no real quantifiable goal. My hope is these tasks, that right now are the challenge, become woven into the fabric of each day, like brushing my teeth and making the bed.

In one of Stephen Covey’s books, he says, “Begin with the end in mind,” referring to the endgame. You want $1,000. That’s your goal. That’s the end. Now work backwards and create your strategy to achieve that goal.

If I have no real goal in mind other than changing habits, how do I work backwards from that? So I have created one identifiable goal to work with that is in alignment with my intention and aided by the tasks I have set forth in my challenge. This will add a richness and satisfaction in the doing aspect of each task.

The second thing that I’ve come to realize is some of the tasks I’ve assigned myself are becoming ‘the thing to get checked off.’ I think this is a natural resistance from the ego. “Ok, we’ve played around with the ‘new lifestyle thing’ long enough, let’s get back to the way things were.” It makes a very convincing argument. Staying stuck is so easy. And if I look at it as if I am just allowing, then it feels very yogic. Forgivable.

But that’s a familiar trap. This time though I see the trigger before getting caught in the net. Instead of letting go of the challenge or forgiving myself for missing something I need to lean into it. Be completely 100% present in each task I undertake. The challenge then becomes the challenge. Sticking with it.

There is a time when action is called for, of course. In the Amrit style of yoga there are two halves of each posture; first and second half. The first half is doing the posture, making it happen; the second half is coming out of the posture, standing still with the eyes closed and feeling – letting it happen. Both are valuable, especially together.

Life is like that. Action must come first. Make it happen. Get things in motion, and then let it move forward in whatever direction and form it takes.

A few months ago I got the itch to travel again and I selected Ireland as the next big trip I want to take. That is an action. The decision. I looked online at tours, airfare, and different towns in Ireland that might interest me. I begin to get excited. I am in action, on my way.

Then I get an email from a Swami I have worked with before. She has put together a Sacred India tour that starts February 16. I love India. All the places on the tour are towns I have never been to. It looks amazing. I’m going to India in February.

Maybe I’ll still go to Ireland later next year, maybe I won’t. I took the action which allowed me to get into the mind space to travel, which was the ultimate goal, and an opportunity arose. I made the decision to travel. I allowed India become a possibility.

My challenge has not changed – the tasks have not – but a quantifiable goal has emerged that along with my intention can keep me focused on the work in the present moment. Everything I do right now affects the next moment and the next and the next. Every thought I think, every action I take is creating my future. I must choose wisely.

[Photo: Playing around inside today. While the Buddha is beautiful in his natural color, playing around with him in photoshop made him more reflective of my mood today: Vibrant!]