A few long days off of social media did me (and my mind and anxieties) so much good. I highly recommend periodic breaks, to rest and reset your mind.
I'm definitely no guru, and I might not know what I'm talking about as I stumble through my little place on this rock and how to be here, fully, but I will tell you this:
- it's way too easy to lose yourself (oneself, ourselves, myself, whichever floats your boat) in the tide of information, today. It's absolutely everywhere, from your morning scroll through the feeds to the phones and the news-screens at the gas pumps and in taxi-cabs and on the billboards and the papers in your kids' backpacks and the junk-mail and the signs everywhere and the TV at the end of the night, and back to the feeds before bed. (This seems to be the norm for too many of us, especially the younger generations.) Not to mention the opinions and thoughts and needs of other human beings, and pets, and causes, and so on. Our attention is spread thin.
And knowing your priorities, knowing your own mind, and your own wishes - sturdy in the middle of the storm of words and sounds and beeps and the meme-culture and the slurry of outside suggestions all around you - and acting on them, can be a wonderful, but challenging journey toward your own inner peace and happiness. Your own sweet company, unencumbered by others. You're the only one that knows what your happiness looks like and feels like, and when you find it, it should be cherished.
I've found that it's really hard to generate true ideas and genuine thoughts and a sense of inner-peace when we're constantly ingesting the thoughts and ideas of others. And it's quite a challenge to create anything new or unique from a cluttered and busy mind, and I feel that our world today... needs creative ideas and art and wonder - as well as - critical thinking and tangible solutions toward the future that so many of us dream about.
But that's our culture today. Busy. Every moment of every day a distracted mind is open to influence. It's quite right and normal to find something bigger to believe in and join with and to have that higher purpose sort of hold you and guide you forward. This is why we have religion and civic groups and lodges and sisterhoods and brotherhoods and yoga classes and these days, even fitness classes are embracing a whole-self approach. Because it's all connected and we all seek something to belong to and to help structure our days, toward something of value, something that will serve humanity in some way, as well as help us to enjoy ourselves while we're here. We all want to be okay and we want others to be okay, too. Mostly.
I don't have a problem with technology, per se. It can be very helpful and useful, and I think we need it for the issues that face us, in a real way. The Sun and the Wind are free, but we need technology to harness them for energy. In a modern world, we need tools to interact with the energy around us. And we need to connect with each other, as we use these tools. I think our inventions and devices should enhance current relationships and create new ones, for sure, but not stifle and replace them, entirely. And I think that's where technology and social media are at a tipping point. Our gadgets are becoming stand-ins for friendships and loved ones. I've seen in real-time a human being choose the words of a random meme on their Facebook page over an honest conversation. Because vulnerability feels weird, these days, I guess.
I'm an information-nerd, a philosopher by nature, a deep-thinker, and I tuck that part away often, in order to fit in, it seems. And while I am also quite social and work in public service, and am surrounded by books and information, I've always been an observer and a sharer, be design - watching how we behave and interact and shrink or grow. I think as a species, we are fascinating creatures. We search so much, so far, for so long. Such an ache, a deep desire for connection, comfort, and understanding. And seldom slow down enough to connect, organically, and allow those things.
There are about 40 million of us on the planet with anxiety conditions and/or depression. Teens are committing suicide over social media bullying and harassment. And I wonder if so much virtual connectivity, so fast, is a good thing for us, or not. We are, no doubt, in the Information Age. And as information and technology continue to explode outward, our mission remains to continue inward. To understand ourselves, fully, in order to interact more genuinely with our world. Know yourself, know the world. It starts within. These are the times we are living in, and if we want to thrive through them, we need to carve out those moments for ourselves. We need to create sanctuaries of peace, within, as they become harder and harder to find, without.
Since the dawn of human thought, it seems that there have been two interpretations that drive human behavior:
- we have enough
- we don't have enough
And we see these themes regurgitated everywhere. In spirituality and religious texts, in business models, in marketing and advertising, in life-coaching and therapy. In arts, in science. They've always been distinct and separate forces. Black or white, one or off, yes or no, with me or against me. (But take heart, these old extremes are fading, generation by generation...)
Gratitude and blind faith for our resources (there is enough, let's take care of each other and not seek for more)
Practical knowledge and planning/control of resources (There is not enough, let's control the supply and choose who gets what.)
Have / Have Not. Love vs Fear. Good vs Bad. Light and Dark. Science vs Faith. Nature vs Nurture. Masculine/Feminine. Aristocrats vs Peasants, Artisans vs Corporations, and on and on. Etc, etc, etc...
And I get it, in every way that I can and ought to, I do get it. And honestly, some days I miss undergrad, when I used to be able to pontificate and debate about such ideas. Ideas and hope and conversations and collaborations about big things, a worldview, and what we could do... WHAT WE COULD DO if we did it together... oh... I do miss it, sometimes.
But I think, or so I've reasoned, in my way, that a well-lived and rounded life finds the middle. It ought to. And going forward, it simply must. And this is always where I will land, pulling from both. Seeking some sort of peace or equanimity. A balance between the two extremes. Our culture almost encourages extreme behavior, just to get noticed. Celebrated. To find a piece of fame. To make lots of money, to stand out, to shake the cages, whether it's legal or not, violent or not, cruel or not, fair or not, kind or not, intelligent or not, sustainable or not.
But the most impactful, successful, and inspiring people and organizations that I've seen... blend both.
A well-thought-out, grounded, structure and plan, and a reasonable expectation of behavior toward a greater good - guided by creative insight, altruism, soulful abundance, and gratitude.
Exciting times, scary times, nerve-wracking times, inspired times, changing times. And as ever, I'm glad I get to play, in my small and simple ways.
New Moon Intentions... a deeper focus and commitment to healthy choices...
My 2020 Priorities:
- Unbridled Creativity
- Nourished Relationships
It's taken a while to find that all of these, when honored consistently in each area of life (and it's an ongoing practice, I'm always working at it,) keep me in a beautiful balance of passion and peace, grounded and flying in the clouds, self-care and serving a greater good. Authentic grounded presence and still, hope for a bright future.
Everyday life with its ups and downs and obligations and responsibilities, as well as moments of high magic and connection and inspired movement with a creative flow. Both.
I feel like when I give to give, consistently, without self-care or structure... I burn out and resentment toward others builds. I shut down.
When I tend to myself and put my own needs first, consistently, without concern for my impact on others, I choke on my own greed and resentment toward myself builds. I shut down.
When I nourish myself, and give when I'm full, and then restore my energy, consistently, when I weave both together... I can give for longer, in a more sustained and healthy way.
Cheers to balanced, intentional living. And thanks for listening, universe. My friends and co-workers roll their eyes when I ramble about such things... so, I'm glad you're here to witness my words, readers.
Writing something new, and it's not what I thought it was... but I'm glad to be writing it. xo
love, love, love
It's gray and damp and rainy in New York, today.
Often, in winter, I visit one of the local arboretums...to get a taste of the tropics in the cold. It's an instant boost and a mood lifter. Warm, humid air, fresh and bright florals and fragrance, it just fills my soul up. It feeds my dopamine, if you prefer. It provides a dose of bliss and simple pleasure in an otherwise monotonous and dreary day. And it's great for creativity.
My feeds and the TV and the papers all shout the same things at me... impeachment, the environment, oil and climate and the hungry and the division and destruction and on and on until I could easily fall into a depression, trying to come to terms with all of it at once.
But I breathe into presence. And Grace. And the petals of a flower and how Nature could come up with this... this intricately designed, exquisite, simple yet complex, beautiful and little delicate thing that wants only to be colorful and pleasing and produce its nectar. It is because it is and I allow myself to marvel at it. And the world slows down, within, and then without, once again. I can focus my energy, as the world spins, onto this steady and simple piece of living poetry and I fall into it, easily.
Notes from a garden meditation:
And aren't we all Nature. Of it and in it, all at once, and here is the paradox. A system, at once, set on both self-destruction and self-preservation. As is the human body. Red cells; white cells. Lovers and fighters. And to keep that balance is always the order of the day. Are the good things being fed, are the bad ones being starved? So it is with our thoughts, as well, if we can gain distance from them. For a few moments, at least.
And I hover and float as I sink into meditation some more. Surface thoughts dissipate and float off. Grand ideas and solutions and wonderment and simplicity return.
And if we could only hold all that Light in a shaker bottle, far above the Earth... and dispense it like we do pro-biotics into our own bodies. Add more good, to gain a bit more beneficial flora, to outweigh the bad. And if only we could sprinkle some life-sized pro-biotics onto our planet. Good to outnumber the bad. Or beneficial to outnumber the depleting, but who gets to say? Who chooses, is there still a right and a wrong or is rational thought gone? Do facts matter or does majority rule reign?
Lighter and lighter still, as I float.
And there we all are... specks on this rock. A number of us arguing and scuffling about matters of great weight, or so they seem. A number of us fighting for what is right, or so we insist. A number of us building new things, destroying old things, moving things, preserving things. A number of us jumping, dancing, singing, laughing, playing, searching, running. A number of us crying, rocking, swaying, isolating, caught up in fear and defensiveness. But from up there, we're just the gummy and moving film that coats the big rock, like an algae, really, and what a ruckus we think we make. What a ruckus we try to make.
"See me, hear me, feel me..." The Who
And I consider how long we are here, how long we get to be here, as a moving part of this cosmic film, these tiny moving pieces that are part of a much bigger universal puzzle. And how do I want to spend that time? Scurrying? Arguing, judging, fighting? Destroying or healing? Creating or condemning?
Fearing or loving.
And if Love is the magic elixir in the cosmic goo that makes us shine and bond together like so many molecules that mesh together toward some greater thing, then let us Love. Let us give off luminescent Light, from within the mess. Let us be catalysts, one by one by one by one until we're two by two by two...creating a chain reaction, and on and on.
What if we, human beings, capable of such wide and vast and unlimited intellectual perspectives, and also of such narrow and limited, earthy ideas, what if we were said pro-biotics. Walking manifestations of bacteria and molecules and energy and light that are capable of great change, should we put our minds to it. But we often seem to be too busy numbing or entertaining or distracting our minds... to properly use them. Because it's exhausting, really. But what an amazing machine is the human mind, when properly lit up and utilized and plugged into its source.
And if all minds, lit up and turned on could work toward a greater good, simultaneously. Wow. What couldn't we do? Oh, but we differ, individually, don't we? And will we ever agree enough to move any given thing forward, or will we constantly disagree and battle our extremes against each other - in the grand coliseum - for sport?
Rome still stands, it often seems. Great battles keep us entertained and engaged on things other than ourselves and our potential. Still.
But to choose silence. Peace. To seek within. To seek out one's own mind and its limitless capabilities. To connect from within, from that place of effortless and underlying connection, like the roots of a tree far beneath the dirt, like synapses in the brain firing up with light when new connections are made. And what if all minds, all consciousness, was this way? Connections awaiting spark; separate fires in the dark?
What if the world was filled with these separate camps, small blazes, tribes huddled together, at different times, but each thought their own camp was the only one with light? They might give up after a while, their burning into the dark night, searching for life. But if each camp knew it wasn't alone and that their lights were brighter together, from a distance... they might coordinate for a larger purpose.
Which is why individual and inner work can be so vital, in these times.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. “ - John Lennon
When we love ourselves fearlessly, we learn to care for ourselves, deeply. And this love, this inner-radiance, this universal and powerful life-force, spreads to others and to all life-forms around us and within us.
Energy is contagious, whether it is positive or negative.
And yes, all this from a simple flower.
Take from it what you will; be it artistic or esoteric.
Silence, presence, and inward journeys are gold for creativity - new ideas, perspectives, understandings, and appreciations. And you do with it what you will, it's our choice, individually, but to get there - to that place - of hearing yourself, and not just the numb of the outside world, is where the goodies are.
Then, I ate a sandwich (lettuce wrap). Because - grounding.
Oh, and I loved my sandwich, too.
Only Ever Love
I had an up and down day, today.
I was feeling pretty darn good when I woke up, I got a quick workout in, drove out to a workshop on raising quail from eggs to release in areas of Long Island to minimize the tick population... (they eat them. Who knew?) It was actually fun and strange and very informative and important. Eric made it easy, breezy, and fun.
It was a rainy, gray day, I had lunch on the road (a protein box from Starbucks) and great music in the car, as I ran errands on my lunch break. I managed to squeeze in a few moments parked at the beach as I nibbled my cheese and fruit and things, and sipped my gigantic coffee.
A few minutes. That's all it takes, now, and I'm grateful for that. Waves. Wind. Seagulls and being transported into their world, watching them dive for clams in the choppy water and fly way up high and drop them with a crash on the pavement. Brutal. Lunch is served...
Perspective. It's a miraculous thing.
And those moments, where I get to slow it all down and become the scene I'm in, they're magic. There's a kind of ease and calmness in reflection, for me. Where was I then, and where am I now?
I've been zooming along for a number of years now, with little down time. It started with my first blog, as I wrote Ana J Awakens. Everything was a journey. Every day, all the time. There was magic everywhere, inspiration in absolutely everything, the world came alive for me in ways that I hadn't seen since early childhood - when my dreaming was strong. Then, the book came out and I found myself pulling women together, at different times, for meet-ups. I formed new friendships and expanded my networks. I began testing the words out on my tongue, "I wrote a book." "I am a writer." "Yes, it's finished, you can buy it here..." The first time around, telling people about it was beyond nerve-wracking. It felt so different, so strange and alien to me. But it stuck, the more I said it and the more I wrote and kept creating new things. Always, I'd wanted to share something of value. To help move the world forward, toward connection. Community. Peace. Harmony. In small ways. Big ways. Any way that I could and I think I'll just always be trying.
Afterwards, there was a lull in creativity. I thought I was blocked. Stuck. Frozen. I'd written my one book, now I'd just crawl back into my cave and go about my business. But, then I started dealing with some real-life struggles, new anxieties, my first-ever panic attack, and all the rest. I began bleeding into poetry and songwriting and journaling, in notebooks. So many notebooks. Surrounded by words.
I soon started writing Wild Horses and Mistakes.
Travel. Oh, how I loved the travel. New people, new places and experiences. The deep and ominous Pacific, and what secrets I left there, with her, washed out in the undertow for safe-keeping. Deep and life-affirming conversations with strangers at airports. The rumble in my belly, as I crossed a new threshold. Alone. In another state. With no idea of how anything would play out... just going for it, and expecting the best, and seeing that when I went forward with the idea that I was a kind, open, loving person, that life usually met me there. When I went forward riddled with fear, paranoia, distrust, or a chip on my shoulder, life met me there as well. And how sensitive it all is. All of life, always, speaking to us and showing us to ourselves. How our perspectives determine and design our realities. And how easy it is to forget and to slip back into old ideas and shadows of pain and ideas that we're less-than.
We are not our stories. We are not those fleeting moments that pull us down or limit us or demean us in some way. We are what we bring, fully, to each moment. We are how we rise above those moments. We are energetic creatures and we are always, always creating.
Writing Wild Horses healed me. Changed me. Brought me to the other side of so many things, and I'll always be grateful for the serendipitous ways that I was led and nudged and whispered to and guided, at those moments when I felt most alone. And that's the beauty of an intentional journey like that, you can see how not alone we really are. Wild Horses restored my faith in something I'd always believed in and had lost - temporarily. That God is Love, and that I was a believer, and life had shown me how true this was. Fear creates distance and doubt. Love heals and connects and creates harmony. And so, courage, really, is being the first to drop the armor, and Love.
After I'd done the primary writing for Wild Horses, I'd been teased with the idea of podcasting. I took the bait. I jumped onto some new, free software online, bought a snowball mic at the music store, and I sat there. Staring into space, at first, laughing at myself. Then, it all started flowing out. I called it The Jelly. I was amazed at how much I had learned and integrated into my psyche, over those few years. I recorded a handful of episodes and then became preoccupied with getting Wild Horses out to print, finally. I was absolutely terrified to put it out there. It's the most honest and vulnerable thing I've done, so far. I second-guessed in profusion. Of course, now, I'm glad that I finished. Hearing women who connect to it come tell me, face-to-face, how they enjoyed it or found meaning in it, makes it worth it. These days, it is a big, big deal to expect someone to sit down and read a book and critique it. And I'm blown away at the ones who do, it's an honor to be read in any capacity. Truly. Attention is indeed, gold. If you read anything I write, I am grateful. Humbled. It's a gift to be able to connect and share thoughts in such a way. This is my way. I have many creative outputs, but free writing is always where I go home. The words wait for me, on the screen, in the pen, swirling in my head, to gather together and make manifest my inner ramblings and emotions and inclinations, that they might reach through space-time and connect. A bridge, from my mind to yours. There is a great intimacy in writing. Welcome, but please wipe your feet on the mat.
And now, as the days blend and bleed together and tiptoe ahead, I am popping up at events here and there, with two books in my traveling bag. And all I ever wanted to do was write a novel, just one book, and I never thought I actually would. It was...impossible. And I look back and see how many goals I had set, since, and how I'm on the other side of them. Smarter. A bit wiser. A bit tougher. Expanded.
So, whenever I get frustrated or feel like I'm standing still, I gaze back. I always feel like life is one big trail. And we're all here walking, together. Some ahead, some behind, all different kinds of people. But we're all just here, walking, figuring it out. Trying to get it right. Trying not to be assholes. Trying not to make a mess. Wanting to stay inspired and joyful, wanting to know that it all means something, wanting to know that we leave a good mark, as we go. Wanting it to be fun, yet somehow important. Hoping we don't trip and get injured. Wanting to stay so very much ourselves, and yet wanting so much to connect with others and share the experience. To marvel at the beauty, along the way. To huddle together when storms hit. And hoping to leave it all just a tiny bit better than we found it.
And I feel like, it's all right on time, you know? We start off on a path, and there are so many detours and side-trails, and deeper explorations, and pits to fall into, and cliffs to climb, up or down. And yet, somehow, we keep going. We just keep moving. In life and in art. We are all writing stories, with every choice that we make. And we make funny choices sometimes, and linger off down a strange path, into a weird cave filled with bats or something, and scoot back up to where we were going. A mistake to laugh off. And other times, we walk down some country road through wildflower meadows and stay there for a while, and maybe the path changes as we do. But I do believe that we make the path, as we walk.
And I think that there's so much more up ahead, than what we leave behind. Life: Expect obstacles. Pack a good bag. Stay kind. Know your strength. And just... keep going. Right?
Right. There's a beautiful sunrise ahead. There's a nice fire going, the rain has stopped the wind has died down...so, I'm going to get some rest, here, and just listen to the night sing.
The Jelly: creative hustle for anxious minds.
Mother. Librarian. Storyteller.