I’m Not Aware

It’s the beginning of another year and for whatever reason – cultural, internal or driven by the all-powerful social media – I am pulled toward self-review. If I am being completely honest, my life is a series of perpetual self-evals. What is my purpose? What should I be doing? Am I on the right path? Am of service to others? To anyone? Followed by, I could do better, Habits are hard, and my all time favorite, Let’s figure this out.

So, here I sit before a blank screen pondering those same tired thoughts without a lot of fresh input. Instead, I offer the following…

Everything begins with awareness. Awareness of that higher, wiser part of ourselves. We all have it, and sometimes we use it. We all know we shouldn’t have the extra helping of pumpkin pie (or maybe even the first), stay up to binge watch something that is not really enhancing our lives, not getting up early to own the day, not planning meals and finances. I trust you’re familiar. I mean there are mythical beings out there whose finances are pristine, their abs are true, their kitchens are stocked with local, organic vegan fare and their relationships are nothing but love and light.

But I’ve yet to meet such a unicorn. If they don’t really exist, why am I spinning plates and hula hooping trying to live up to their imaginary standards?

I’m not gonna make this about resolutions or even intentions. Has that worked for you? I mean for more than a week? Me neither.

My gift to myself this coming year is going to be to listen to my gut, my higher self, the universe, nature, pretty much any voice that doesn’t come from my ego running rough shod with scissors through the night or any other actual well-meaning, yet mortally flawed, human being. I’m going to listen to the powerful, yet calm and quiet and simple promptings of my soul.

    • Put the phone down.
    • Go to your mat.
    • Drink water instead.
    • It’s a beautiful day for a walk.

I mean, her advice is spot on and so clear, there is no innuendo, no context needed, nothing cloudy or unsure. And usually it’s not about don’t do something and more about make a better choice. For my energy, my sanity, my peace.

My life will still be full of all that I love, travel, decorating, creativity, but I feel like it will be richer, cleaner, more spacious, maybe, if I pay closer attention. I kind of imagine myself – my human form – with all my to-do’s and passions and needs stuck to me, adding weight and making me itchy. Then I imagine creating space through nothing more than awareness and listening to that wise voice. (Conscious breathing and meditation never hurt, so I’ll throw that in a well) Then I begin to see myself with an inch of air between me and all that stuff. Then maybe a foot. Then maybe arm’s length, just far enough away that I can reach out and choose which task or project I wish to work on or play with. I mean everything we do involves choice. If we’re not consciously selecting where we put our energy and focus, those decisions are happening by default. And not very elegantly, I may add.

So that’s it. Just listen and follow directions. That’s my big plan. I mean, how hard can it be?

Yard Sale

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During the process of purging and organizing I have been playing game show host with my thoughts and my stuff. Some truth or dare, if you will.

There is a lot of ‘what iffing’ going on as well.

  • What if I only had 10 minutes to gather everything dear to me – assuming all the sentient beings were already taken care of – what would I grab?
  • What if I lost all this stuff? What would I miss? Any of it?
  • What if I gave all of this away to people I knew – as opposed to strangers at a thrift store – would that feel good? Would there be attachment to their appreciation or lack thereof?
  • What if I gave everything away and regretted it?

My internal self queries have gone beyond the pragmatic ‘do I need this?’ line of questioning into the psychological realm of judgment and self-worth.

Somehow there is a sense of self that is attached to everything we own. (I’m gonna go ahead and say we, I think that’s safe.) The degree to which this is debilitating or harmful will be markedly different for everyone, dependent solely on belief systems.

A few of the attachments I’ve stumbled across for myself, and those reflected back to me when I’ve shared my year-long madness with others, include:

Status. “Owning this means I’ve made it to some magical level of achievement.”

Value. “This cost a lot of money. Maybe I’ll sell it, I’m sure it’s gone way up in value.” It has not, unless it’s jewelry or a Van Gogh.

Respect. “This was a gift and what if so-and-so comes over and it’s not displayed? Isn’t that just rude?”

Emotion. “All my feelings for that person are wrapped up in this ___fill in the blank___. If I let it go I am basically disregarding the very existence of this person in my life and therefore their value as a human being.” (Hint: you do not have that kind of power, it’s up to them what sort of value they place on their existence.)

Memories. Similar to emotion but more wistful and much more powerful. “Every time I look at or touch this it makes me feel ____fill in the blank_____. I don’t want to forget this memory, therefore I can never let go of this thing.”

Recently I had a conversation with a friend about that very topic: memory. It went something like this:

Me: Letting go of stuff is getting easier and easier.

Them: Yeah? What about the things that have really great memories attached to them?

Me: Even that stuff isn’t so hard to part with any more. The memories aren’t in the thing.

Them: But what if it’s a memory that makes you feel good and once you get rid of the thing you don’t have that touchstone to look back on that good memory.

Me: Hopefully you’ll have new memories and that memory will have served its purpose. Or it will still surface once in a while on its own.

Them: Yeah… I guess.

Neither one of us was firmly convinced of our own argument, nor did we adopt the other’s line of thinking. It was a kindly philosophical debate that we allowed to hover in the air around us as we moved on to other topics.

Out of these types of conversations and my own game show fantasies, I have developed a sure-fire way to determine the fate of my individual things. Sure-fire is a fancy way of saying it mostly works.

It’s the yard sale technique.

Literally, if you can, place all your items up for consideration and maybe some you were for sure you were going to keep or toss onto table(s) much like you would find at a yard sale. Don’t spend a lot of time arranging them or grouping them, just place them safely. Then take a few minutes to walk around the table and decide if you would purchase them all over again, if they were for sale – even for a buck or two. If the answer is a resounding internal “yes” with fireworks and heart emoticons rising like balloons, then pick that item up and place it in your ‘basket’. If it’s a “nah, don’t know why I’ve been holding onto that for so long anyway,” leave it on the table. If it’s riding the fence and keeps calling you back to be considered, find a holding area in which to place it.

This can also be done in small batches, by the room let’s say. Or in stages; everything out, grab what you love, leave the rest and come back later.

I am a fan of just letting go, but I also understand the delicate threads that link us to our pasts. I feel that should be honored. When the decision is made thoughtfully there can be little room for regret.

Go shopping in your own home. Maybe you’ll find something nice to pick up for someone else!

Not Anti-Social

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I gave myself a one month reprieve from social media. Let’s call it restriction. Or social media lite. I promised myself I would visit Facebook only to post for business and not to scroll and share videos. I would post only to Instagram for personal use – maybe a photo or two a day – and I would endeavor to blog on the daily and post from WordPress to Facebook.

How did I do?

  • I blogged every day but five. I wrote every day but 2. Sometimes it’s better not to post than to post crap. My personal standard.
  • I was able to get in and out of Facebook with little conflict, but did get a little sucked in on my birthday.
  • I didn’t post to Instagram as much as I expected, which tells me a lot (we’ll get to that).
  • The cravings went away after about a week.

Here’s what I have observed in that month:

My compulsion to pick up my phone and scroll has more to do with wanting to distract myself from the multitude of conversations competing in my head than with wondering what’s going on in the world. When I am in creative mode, I often wander to the kitchen or back porch or grab my phone to steer my thoughts away from the problem at hand. It usually works and the solution materializes, but using more content isn’t the answer. Instead, when I grab my phone to scroll I lose sight all together of what I was noodling in the first place and I am sucked into the couch never to fully recover creatively.

No one asked me where I was. No one wondered why Allison wasn’t posting sloth videos anymore. This was less troubling than confirming of what I postulated would be the result of my absence. We have lost the ability to wait, to be patient, to allow thoughts, ideas or even people to surface in our minds. We are victims of the media. I know that sounds ominous, but think about it: We respond to what is right in front of us. If my friend Mark posts a ton, I have very specific opinions about him based on what he wants me to believe about him. Also I think about him more than some of my closer friends because he shows up in front of me more often. Do I really care what Mark is doing? Only if he pops up in my feed. I wouldn’t actively seek him out. Conclusion: If it’s in front of us we feel compelled to respond, if it’s not, we don’t think about it at all. This is a problem. This is a loss of critical thinking. I know it’s just a portion of the time we are walking around talking and breathing, but it is reshaping us.

In reference to the above Instagram comment: I didn’t post as often I thought I would. I thought I loved to take photos, to capture moments and magic to share. It felt noble, like I was reminding everyone of the beauty of the world, a force for good in the sea of Chicken Littles. Turns out I’m just as attention hungry as the next guy. Because, overall, there is less engagement on Instagram it is somehow less gratifying. Which led me to just one conclusion: I’m doing it for me. I suppose this shouldn’t be revelatory, but it was informative nonetheless.

I used Facebook differently in my time off. I didn’t scroll and that felt like a win and key, but I did go on other than to post for business. I went to specific friend’s pages to see what they were doing. I know a few pregnant ladies so I checked in to see how they were; a friend was traveling and camping and I knew there would be beautiful photos of the mountains so I spied a few times; and I checked in on family. It all felt reassuring and like the correct use of Facebook for me.

In the time I wasn’t scrolling I was able to maximize my time. I continued to organize and purge my home – a commitment I made to myself at the beginning of the year. I wrote more, as I mentioned, and I had meaningful conversations with friends. Actual talking on the phone – can you imagine?! I spent time at stop lights observing what was around me – mostly people on their cell phones, and I read more actual books.

Now what?

  • I am going to continue to blog often, I’ll keep that everyday goal right in the front of my brain so I can come close.
  • The notifications will remain off on my phone so I am not driven to see who is doing what and who is liking my posts.
  • I will use Facebook as a means to check-in on, and engage with, people I know and love. A scroll here or there for a set period of time perhaps, but not as procrastination from my real work.

Overall I feel I have learned something about myself and about the culture of social media. At least for my generation. It was a worthy experiment and I can see a lot of value in continuing to honor the boundaries I set. It got me focused on writing again so I’m hopeful to get back to those book ideas, perhaps in lieu of blogging a few times a week. Or more. I like my brain on writing.

Now, about texting…

 

 

 

Mattering

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I’ve been absent for about 10 days. I have a really good reason: someone close to me passed away. It was unexpected and sad, but ultimately beautiful and freeing. For her.

I, on the other hand, have been gifted the bulk of her possessions. And it’s a lot. She had a two bedroom apartment stuffed with books, creative project pieces and parts, clothes and the normal belongs of a life richly lived.

The Universe can be douchily ironic. Just as I am in the process of purging and letting go I am presented with a whole house of stuff to manage.

I am not being intentionally insensitive, it is just that I am on the business end of handling this parting. Grief comes in waves mixed with laughter and sweet memories. For now, though, the sorting of that life is the task at hand.

It’s always a process.

In sorting through the markers of her life I am both compelled to keep special tokens and simultaneously light a match and walk away.

There will be no fires.

At first glance the items surrounding me point to a life of abundance. But on closer inspection I find evidence of something more akin to lack and fear. Where one stick of deodorant would suffice I find 4. All the same. Five tall bookcases line the walls of the craft studio. They are packed with scraps of fabric, beads, books on creative endeavors, sewing materials, patterns, paper, glue. There are two computers, a sewing machine and a closet stuffed with mystery. A million tiny notes are scattered about. Half as many projects begun then abandoned.

Elsewhere in the home 3 large bookcases are full of books, sometimes two rows deep, a few photos and other mementos dot the shelves. Stacks of books rest next to the spots most frequented, magazines teeter on tables, the freezer is stuffed with food, the refrigerator the same. The walls are covered in artwork and photos with still more framed pieces leaning against walls waiting for a vacancy. And appliances requested sit in boxes unused.

It is a very accurate representation of its occupant: homey, messy in that creative way and lived in. It’s welcoming and feels safe.

But it’s a lesson. In stuff, in love, in fear, in recognizing what is necessary. In recognizing what is true.

I will continue to sort through belongings, donating many to the faceless masses, gifting some to friends of the deceased and keeping a touchstone or two.

There are boxes full of love – letters, cards, photos of trips and good times – that were perhaps felt and then forgotten. Mementos of troubleless times. (I will study these.) But they were not powerful enough to convince the beholder of her worth. Perhaps for a moment, but long term this sense of ‘not-good-enoughness’ would take a seat beside her.

Receiving things, temporarily created peace. Until they didn’t and more things would be desired, procured. She wasn’t a hoarder, but may have been heading in that direction.

The biggest gift I am getting from this experience will not take up any space in my home. It is the recognition of my own self-worth, my place in the universe. That I matter.

She mattered too, so much more than she could accept and believe. She heard the words over and over again from so many people how she had made a life-changing difference to them, how she had given them peace when they thought none existed, how she awakened in them a creative spirit they didn’t know they had. But she didn’t receive those words, she didn’t integrate them. She wore them for a short time, shared them with those close to her as external evidence of her worth, then shed them like dead skin.

In sorting and purging her things I am infected with a sense of melancholy. In purging my own things and letting go I am left bare, all raw nerves and sensitive teeth. It’s necessary. At times I am elated and giddy. It’s a cleansing with far deeper implications than a tidy home. It’s a liberation. And it’s a process.

 

 

21 Day Challenge – Day 3 – Morning Thoughts

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Because intention is the key to living an Enchanted Life, I want to explore this idea a little further. Based on some of the comments I received on my last blog, I’m afraid I may have thrown a few people off track, or at the very least, been unclear.

My intention is not to lose weight. It would be a welcome side effect of this work – but that’s it. Dieting is a distraction, it is a way to divert attention from the real work. I’m gonna roll the dice here and bet that it is no one’s true purpose to diet. I used weight as an example because it is relatable, nearly everyone has had a goal to lose weight. But that is not what this intention is about.

My intention is to Live a Creative Life. It is actually a little stronger and deeper than that, but I’ll expand on that later. So let’s just go with Living a Creative Life.

All the things I am asking myself to do on a daily basis are the tools and tasks to keep me on track to live that intention. In the present.

1. Gym. I use the treadmill and engage in physical activity because I am a pitta (Ayurvedic body constitution – more on that another time) and my body loves activity. I am energized by moving aerobically.

2. Yoga. I cannot deny the benefits of a daily yoga practice. It allows my body to feel lighter and longer. I can move and release any frozen prana (energy – more on that later too) that may be showing up as energetic blockages.

3. Yoga Nidra. Meditation on steroids, Yoga Nidra calms and clears the mind. It allows the space between the perceived negative thought or incident and my equal and opposite negative reaction to grow. Eventually the incident or thought holds no charge so I am nonreactive. This takes me out of reaction and duality and into a state of nonreactive peace. This, too is an energy conserver.

Using these three tools creates the conditions that allow me to be a lightning rod for inspiration. I am an open channel for Presence to flow through me AND I have the physical energy and stamina to act on that inspiration.

4. No alcohol. Clarity. I love a nice glass of pinot noir, but I’m on a quest to become clear and I have noticed that wine is the gateway to sloth for me. It encourages me to eat junk late at night, stay up too late and sleep in. It’ll be back, but for now it’s one more distraction I can let go of.

5 and 6. Writing and photography. These are my passions and how I express myself creatively most often. There is skill involved, so the more I practice, the better I get. In addition to improving, I begin to develop and refine my own style.

This is my intention, This is my method to stay present and live that intention. Your intention will likely be different so your toolbox will be a different color and size than mine. It’s yours to fill. We can work on it together.

My intention is my yard stick. I measure big decisions and daily choices against it. Clearing physical and mental space to allow energy to flow through me supports this intention. Sleeping in, reading romance novels all day and watching TV all night takes me away from this intention.

The work is to remove the distractions by creating an environment in which they just don’t fit. The gift is clarity and synchronicity. The gift is living my intention.