Friday, August 14, 2015

Finally Friday Week 27: Learning to Ground

I went to the woods to ground myself. Seeing the thick roots of the pine and cedar trees at Llandover Woods near my house reminded me of how important it is to do this. Life moves at such a pace these days and if our roots are not strong and our feet are not firmly planted on the ground, we will sway, bend and even break with even a small gust of wind.

As I walked along, I felt every single step on the soft earth. I smelled pine and stopped to stare at the huge thick trunks of the trees before me. How long had these trees been here? 20 years? 100 years? I could not say for sure, but they looked like great guardians of the earth. They'd been through storms, rain, wind, drought, birds had built their homes in their branches. They'd been pecked by woodpeckers who left deep welts, like battle scars on their trunks. They'd been infested with bugs and some of them had lost their branches, but the roots and trunks were still standing strong.

I need to go to the forest to remind myself to be like a tree. Winds of change can be fierce at times and the tendency is to blow all over the place. Sometimes it's easy to blow so far from where we're meant to go that we're no longer sure who we are.

I have the tendency to want to roam when what I really need to do is ground. I think part to that is a fear of looking deeply at my life. I fear the mundane and I also have a fear of settling.

If I have any free time, I want to travel. However, this will be the first break from teaching where I will not go far from my home. I have a plan to hunker down, clear out the old, organize, write, garden, create a budget and make my home a haven.

This does not mean that I will not travel again. I know travel is in my future for sure, but I'm feeling the need to ground before I take off because eventually I will need to land again and what good is flying around if I can't land. I think it's a skill worth mastering and even being good at.

So I'm getting my lessons from the trees and the earth right now. I don't need to go far to do this. I can start right where I am.

Do you have trouble grounding yourself or are you are very grounded person who could use a bit more adventure and spontaneity in your life?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Finally Friday Week 26: There is a Web that We Cannot See

In light of my leaving Facebook, I pulled this one out from the cob-webbed attic of blog posts. It was Lesson 211 of 365 Lessons I wrote in 2012. Maybe connection does not require us to be hooked up to internet or on Facebook or anything else. Maybe it just requires us to really see. When I'm really tuned in, all the right people and things show up. This has been my experience. Here's the post that fits my feeling these days:  

Something very strange happened today. My husband commented a few days ago about a book he's been reading about a matrix. I didn't think much of it until the subject came back today. We decided to go down to the woods near our house. It was foggy and the air was full of moisture. As we walked through the dense forest, I could feel a dewy film on my face. It made my hair practically wet. It was like we were walking through a cloud. At times, we couldn't see far in front of us. The air was mixed with the smell of salt from nearby Puget Sound. It felt like we were in a mystery book. Like we were about to unearth something no one knew about. And we did, sort of.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw this intricate dome, or matrix if you will. It was glowing white. And then another one and another one and another one. They were everywhere. Intricate webs, even domes like little universes hung in the trees and bushes. They seemed to float there, almost like ghosts. The cloud we were in illuminated all the spider webs in the entire forest. The moisture of the clouds caused a dew to form on the webs which cast them all in a glowing light. How many times had I walked that forest never knowing that hundreds of spider webs were all around me, invisible to my eye? They were intricate web networks, each spider spinning its own universe and there each spider sat, right in the center.

These webs all around us blew us away. It was like we were in a strange Lord of the Rings movie or, more  appropriateley, Land of the Spiders. It made my husband think of a matrix. I, instead, thought of the World Wide Web. I like how those words just glide off my tongue. Those words, of course, refer to the internet, but perhaps they mean something even more than that. Perhaps there is a web we cannot see connecting all of us, just like all the webs in the forest that we were only able to see due to the cloud coverage.

Thousands of tiny spider threads were all connected to one another. They weren't random in their design. They seemed purposeful. There seemed to be a reason for each pattern cast. Like snowflakes, each one was unique and intricate.

I started to think about all the people I have connected to; about how, when I let go, the right people always seem to appear. Was this random? Or was there something I couldn't see going on? Was there a web? Why were we seeing all these webs in the trees? Is there something happening under the surface of what we see?

I don't know the answer, but I was in awe of this beauty in the forest today. My husband and I walked through a wonderland of these webs. It was hard to believe they were for real because I'd never seen them there before.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Finally Friday Week 23: Facebook Burnout

I've got Facebook burnout. Yes, I think it's actually a disease. My name is Katherine Jenkins and I have an addiction. How could I have possibly gotten addicted to a site that sums up the entire world's lives in a status update. A STATUS UPDATE.

What's happened to our lives? I can log into Facebook for 5 minutes and see links on friend's pages to the Bill Cosby debacle, read the top story about a dentist who killed Cecil, the beloved lion, find out the latest on who's given birth, who's died, who is depressed, who had a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles for breakfast. And the things is, I've bought into all this too. Today I posted a pic of my toes...MY TOES...after a trip to the nail salon. Do people really want to see my toes? Well, on Facebook it's all game. It's like a fast, downward spiral into the abyss of too much information.

Fast forward to three days later, after a lovely weekend at my family's lake house with my family sans Facebook, and I've now signed off of Facebook for an undisclosed amount of time. I'm taking it day by day, just as anyone does when they come off of an addiction.

I feel like I just left a country where I had lived for a long time. People said their goodbyes. They all posted notes that read: au revoir, we will miss your posts, hate to see you go, why do you have to leave...

And now,  it's like I've woken up from a long dream and I'm sitting here twiddling my thumbs in real time wondering what to do with all the free time! Wow, a lot of time gets sucked into the vortex of the internet if you let it. I'm choosing to fight back.

I have so many things I want to do in this world. So many moments I don't want to pass me by. I don't have time for an addiction to social media. I've got things to do!

I've been working on a novel recently. I'm 75 pages into the book and I'm excited to get cracking seriously at that project with no interruptions. I'd like to go meditate for 10 days and I'm excited to take a trip to Australia in 2016 for book research. I've got places to see and things to do.

I have promised myself that I won't go back to Facebook until I'm done with book one of my trilogy and an outline and chapter summaries of book two and three.

Social media can wait and it will be worth the wait.

I will, however, continue to blog here and work on my books.

Show up next Friday to see how the progress is going and if I've caved and gone back to Facebook.

I promise you that I will have stuck to my convictions. Once I set my mind to something, there is no turning back.

Are you on Facebook and do you ever feel like pulling the plug? What would you do with all the free time?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Finally Friday Week 22: Abundance Has Nothing To Do With Money

"Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune into."—Wayne Dyer

You could have everything money can buy: a few Rolls Royces, trips to 5-star hotels around the world, several houses in various locations, your own private jet, etc. Maybe a summer vacation for you means flying in your private airplane or first class to your 5-star resort where you will be pampered by a host of staff. They do everything from the tips of your toes to the top of your head: pedicures, manicures, hair styling, massages—the works! You don't need to lift a finger.

On the other hand, maybe you have a meager amount in your bank account, live in a tiny apartment and pay rent month to month, cook at home and watch home movies. A summer vacation for you may mean a trip to your backyard or garden with a good book, a tall glass of homemade lemonade, a K-mart folding lawn chair, and your favorite radio station.

Which scenario is more abundant?

The truth is, abundance has zero to do with money.

Money can't buy you love, happiness, a clean bill of health, or a fabulous life. Maybe you can buy anything you want, but you will not live forever. Money can't buy you immortality and your stuff will probably outlive you.

Abundance has nothing to do with money. Abundance is about having enough or more than you need. It's a state of mind. It is related to nature and the spirit. In nature, there is nothing lacking. In nature, everything co-exists and works together. To feel abundant in spirit, this feeling of coexistence is important. When you separate yourself from the whole, there is a feeling that something is lacking.

In fact, nothing you own is really yours. However, the ego makes us believe this is so. We say, "I paid for this, so I expect all these things!" or "This service was not what I expected, I want my money back."

Now you are NOT in a state of abundance, you are in a state of lack. You have all the money in the world, but you are not satisfied. Unfortunately, it's a bottomless bucket and you'll never be able to fill it this way.

Or maybe your dialog is more like this: "How come I never have enough?" "How can I get more?" "Why does everyone else have what I don't have?"

Now you are looking over the fence and comparing lawns. Why is her grass greener? Again, you are operating from a state of lack.

I remember once when I was in a Vietnamese noodle shop with my husband Yoon. They were selling $5 bowls of noodles. An Indian man walked in. He looked rather humble in appearance and he apparently came on foot to the restaurant. The owner, who seemed to know him, asked, "How are you?"

His answer sort of surprised me and even today Yoon and I sometimes repeat his words and smile at each other when either one of us says it.

The Indian man said, "Today couldn't be better. I have two legs to walk and money to buy a bowl of noodles. Everything I touch turns to gold." Then, he flashed a smile so wide with sparkling eyes so bright and in that moment I was completely convinced that this was true.

In fact, everything he touched DID turn to gold in a metaphorical sense. This was his experience both mentally and spiritually. Complete abundance was radiating from this humble looking man. He had everything he needed. He was completely fulfilled.

Some people marry for money, I married a monk. This is not a usual scenario. I remember once my uncle said to me, "It must really be love, because who would marry a monk? They don't own a thing."

And yet, I often feel like the Indian man. I feel completely abundant. I feel like everything I touch turns to gold both spiritually, mentally and even physically. It's not something that can be taken away or lost. It's an inner state. In my opinion, this inner state is more valuable than anything on the material plane. It comes with earnest practice. It comes with connection, love, sharing and opening. It comes with being generous and not expecting anything in return. It comes with realizing that we are all connected in some way. This is true abundance and I wouldn't trade it for all the dollars in the world.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Finally Friday Week 21: Purging in Paradise

There's something I didn't mention. I came down with a pretty bad cold. The kind that keeps you in bed with a stack of Kleenex on your belly, a good book, cough drops—the works! Yes, you can get sick in paradise. I am :)

But the interesting thing is, I'm still enjoying my time here. Sure, night time is a bit rough with the coughing and such, but I usually feel a bit better during the daytime and have enough energy to go on one adventure. Luckily, I think the cold is on its final stretch to the finish line, thank goodness.

We are in the most gorgeous setting, so it's actually rather healing. We are way up in the hills of Kula at the base of the Mt. Haleakala farm sitting for friends. Yoon says my body is purging out all the impurities in this high vortex place. I'd like to look at it that way. It's given me an opportunity to slow down. In fact, whether I have a cold or not, this place makes you move very slow. It's not the kind of place where you are surrounded by tourists and you feel the need to check activities off a list.

Here, we feel we are not tourists. We are locals. I even went to the clinic here and Yoon drives a big truck that says Practice Aloha on the bumper. I have a CVS card and everyone thinks we are local.

This place calls us not to go out, but to sink in. It sings and vibrates and moves. A whirl of energy mixed with the fragrance of flowers, fluttering birds, trade winds from the coast, plants, vegetables, sun and light. It's really all about the light and the air and the stars. They make you stand still. You can't move. You don't remember what you planned to do, because you are just right here.

I'm right here.

No agenda.

Just wake up and see what happens.

And peacocks happened actually. We were up on the Hana Highway where we decided to stop off at Garden of Eden. We couldn't resist the name. Wow, what a gem of a place! The first thing I saw as we entered was a large male peacock. Peacocks have been on my mind for months now lately. The peacock began to follow me. Later we found a female and her baby and then the same thing happened. Around and around we went together near a picnic bench. I would think she'd want to protect her baby, but she wanted to scope me out. Maybe she was looking for food? I decided it was a sign. I needed a sign anyway. I decided that peacocks are my "spirit animal".

I looked it up online and it said that peacocks represent immortality and rebirth. They also represent royalty and prosperity. On a website called I read this quote: "With a peacock as your animal guide, he will tell you the power of believing that all things come in perfect timing, just trust the process and allow the Universe to do it's magic working on your behalf."

So with all this purging in paradise, perhaps I'm going through a kind of transformation. Maybe I'm becoming a peacock? No, in all seriousness, I do feel like something wants to work itself out of me. It could be just the cold, but I feel like it's a bit more than that. I feel I have been becoming a different person for a very long time, but I'm still holding on to old patterns and beliefs. These pull me down, really. So this purging, if I were to look at it metaphorically, really is a pulling out of who I used to be. It's not always easy to let that go. There's lots of fear in letting go of the identities we create.

I'm going to "trust the process," as the quote says. At times, up here, it feels like nothing is happening, but I know so much is going on. More than I can even comprehend.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Finally Friday Week 20: Living Wild in Maui

A rainbow on our journey up to the farm

"Nana ka maka;
ho`olohe ka pepeiao;
pa`a ka waha."

"Observe with the eyes;
listen with the ears;
shut the mouth."

Hawaiian Proverb

We are tending to a friend's farm for several weeks out here in the wilds of Maui, Hawaii. It's an outdoor living style. The kitchen is outside and we sleep in a geodesic dome and use the outside shower. We are taking care of two cute pups, 6 chickens, an amazing garden.

Life moves at a slower pace here. I'm sitting in the open air kitchen sipping Hawaiian ginger tea with fresh picked limes from the lime tree. Every now and then a hen comes along and plops down in front of me and then gets up, cackles and pecks at something in the rocks, and then wanders off. We don't feel the need to do too much out here except tend to our farming duties. We aren't farmers at home, except for the little garden we have in the front yard that a dear friend is watering while we are away.

The kale and Swiss chard here put my kale and Swiss chard to shame. These are not plants, these are TREES. I've never seen a kale tree grow anywhere else, so my husband and I figure it must be all the Aloha out here on this island in the middle of the Pacific. Here's what they look like:

Besides gathering eggs from the hens everyday, there are plenty of fruit trees bearing lots of fruit right now. The avacados are humungous and delicious and there are also bananas, mangoes, limes, tangerines and peaches all growing right above our heads!

And the flowers...well, there's nothing like the flowers on Hawaii: hibiscus, bird of paradise and, my favorite, plumeria.

The tropical rains have moved in, so I've moved the pups inside the dome where we are hiding out until it passes. Rains last a very short time here. The big chimes are blowing gently in the wind and birds of all varieties are singing their songs. Out in the pasture beyond, past the goats that graze in the gulch, I saw a pair of spotted dear. The male had huge antlers. And a few days ago a bright orange cardinal flew into the open air kitchen and kept trying to fly out the window rather than out the other side which was open to the outdoors. Yoon had to catch him and set him free. 

We feel so fortunate that our friends are willing to share their piece of paradise with us and we are tempted to live out in the wilds of Hawaii too someday. There must be a reason why we keep coming back to these islands every year. When you get away from all the tourists and the hoopla and really sink into Aloha, let it enter you and feed your soul, things really start to shift. They say the islands magnify everything and change happens super fast. It you set an intention here, it's bound to take hold much faster than it normally would. I think I believe that.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Finally Friday Week 19: Symbols in Dreams and Waking Life

"Dreams are more real than reality itself, they're closer to the self."— Gao Xingjian

I was on a train. I was with Yoon, my husband. The train was suspended above the city, like a train from the future. It was a crowded, bustling city on the coast and it appeared to be in Korea. We thought we were headed towards Seoul, but found out that the train was going the opposite direction. Somehow the train stopped and I could not find Yoon to know if we should get off. Everyone was filing out the doors. I stood up and looked in front of me and behind, but Yoon was nowhere to be seen. I followed everyone off the train and to a bus. I thought the bus was headed to Seoul and that I'd find Yoon eventually. The bus drove on a road that hugged the coastline. There was a blanket of snow on the beach and white caps out on the ocean that seemed to be getting bigger by the minute. The water swirled up in a giant tsunami wave over our bus and then receded with the same forcefulness with which it rose. I was a little frightened. We seemed to be headed further and further out to the countryside and I had a sinking feeling I was once again going the wrong direction. I stood up and asked the bus driver in broken Korean if we were headed to Seoul. He stopped the bus and pointed to a tiny bus station where I could get a refund for my bus ticket and a bus to Seoul. Eventually, after many hours, I arrived in Seoul to my house there. I waited and waited for Yoon. A co-worker from my current job walked in. I said, "What are you doing here?" She let me know that she lived there. "Do you know where Yoon is?" And right as I said it, he walked in wearing yoga clothes and plopped down on the sofa as if it were no big deal that we had lost each other on the train.

And then last night, I had a similar dream. I lost my suitcase on a tour we were on. They were loading suitcases onto the roof of a bus and I had a sinking feeling that mine did not get loaded on. Sure enough, it hadn't. And then I had also misplaced my glasses and a favorite shirt from India in the hotel where we were staying with our group. I lamented about this to Yoon who believed the suitcase would show up and the glasses/shirt could be replaced. He ran off to chat with someone in our group who, coincidentally, had an Indian shirt just like the one I had bought years ago in India. She gave it to him to give to me. He said, "I found your shirt!" I was elated, but after I put it on, I knew it wasn't mine. I said, "This is not my shirt, where did you get it?" He let me know that he got it from someone in our group who had one just like mine. She did not seem to mind parting with it. I didn't feel right about it and gave it back. I felt a bit deflated about the loss of these material things because some of them had meaning to me, even though they were just things.

So I had two dreams about losing something two nights in a row: losing my husband in a crowd and losing my possessions. It could be a coincidence, but I like to look at these things. Sometimes these images and signs can show up in waking life too. I have many memories of losing my keys or losing my sunglasses. For this reason, I purposely buy cheap sunglasses. I also have memories of losing Yoon in a crowd. I once lost him on a ferry boat. We were disembarking and he was nowhere to be found and he couldn't remember where the car was parked, so he stood near the ramp where the cars were disembarking, waiting until he could identify my car and quickly jumped in.

Life is full of loss, but no one likes to lose anything. Eventually we will all have to let go at some point. I think these are signs that I've been afraid to let go of....what? I'm not really sure.

 Yoon and I have carved out quite a comfortable life and community here in Seattle and we really enjoy ourselves here. We travel, we lead retreats, I teach at a local college, he teaches yoga all around Seattle. We enjoy the beaches and walks all over this amazing city. So what's the problem? Why all the dreams about losing something? Do these dreams mean anything? Should I pay attention to them? Do they have to make any sense or can I just leave them for what they are?

Today, while walking on one of those amazing beach-forest walks, I felt the joy of eating my first thimble berry of the season and could almost feel the chill myself as I watched my husband strip down to his underwear and plunge into Puget Sound and then run over to the log where I was seated so that he could dry off. We sunk are bodies down into the warm sand, letting it sift between our toes and  fingers. We closed our eyes and held hands and eventually Yoon fell asleep and I could hear a faint snore. It was a blissful afternoon and we've been having lots of those lately. 

But, on the way back, I could feel my body wanting to stride ahead through the forest. Yoon got stuck behind some slow hikers and I was in the clear. It felt good to hear my heart beat, be silent, smell the sweet fragrance of the pine needles under my sneakers and look up to the canopy of maples, cedar and pine above me, creating the perfect shade to a gorgeous day in Seattle. As I walked on the path alone, I felt the future fold in on me. I saw a friend on my path, in my mind's eye. I saw myself in another terrain doing very different things. I saw that I was part of a community. That I lived in nature with other like-minded people. It felt like it was Hawaii. I felt like I had come home. I stopped on the path and hugged a pine tree—touched my forehead to its thick bark skin. Yoon caught up with me and we happily continued on our way to the car.

I looked online about what the word "lose" or "lost" means in dreams. It's pretty predictable to guess the meaning. I believe I've gotten quite comfortable with my life. I'm not being challenged or feeling challenged. I've become a bit lethargic and I procrastinate quite a bit. I don't feel a clear direction and I know I'm not using all of my gifts. I know I have much more to do here on the planet and I have much more to offer. I've sunken into the habitual and the tried and true, but it's time to step out into that great, scary, undefined abyss again. The one that takes you places you never dreamed you'd go. I've taken this leap so many times before, but oddly it seems scarier this time. Before, I took the leap because I was not comfortable where I was. Now I am completely comfortable, but feeling called to step out again.

Do you pay attention to symbols and signs in your dreams and waking life?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Finally Friday Week 18: The Fine Art of Floating

It's 81 degrees in Washington State and it's 8:30pm. I know that might not seem like much, but it is for these parts.

As soon as we heard it was going to be this warm, Yoon and I made plans to pack up and head to our family lake house. We wanted to be near water.

Speaking of water, I was instructed by several doctors NOT to swim, but I'm a rebel. When someone tells me not to do things, that's a license to try it. As long as I'm not hurting anyone, including myself, I'm all game.

Since I ruptured my eardrum back in March, I knew that lake water in my ear is a very big no-no. An infection much worse than the one that blew my eardrum could happen very easily if ANY water gets in it, but particularly lake or ocean water.

But, hello, it's 81 degrees and expected to be warm all summer. I can't let a hole in my ear stop me. So the doctor recommended Mack's silicone earplugs and keeping my head out of the water. And that's what I did today! It felt liberating to be in the crystal clear lake swimming around. A part of me thought I wouldn't be able to do that until I got my ear repaired. I was very careful to keep my head out and the smooth lake (not a ripple in it) made it easy to do so.

I went in and out of the lake all day. Just as soon as I dried off, I wanted back in. I floated and floated and floated for hours. Sometimes I used a noodle to float and other times I floated in a lounger. It was so liberating to close my eyes and gently drift on this glassy surface, untethered to anything. I think I was having my own private celebration. I felt like I had succeeded in doing something I thought was ruled out for me. It was a little victory and I enjoyed every minute of it today.

I know that goals are important and I've been thinking a lot about some of things I'd like to do before I turn a big number in 5 years. I've got ideas and plans and schemes. I'm working towards those and I'm a person that has quite a bit of determination. Once I put my mind to something, I tend to do it.

But today I practiced the art of floating. I was in the now. The dark water made it feel like I was tumbling through space. Sparkles on the water were thousands of stars. I've come to realize that things will work out for the best. That life is a dance between me and something much bigger. You can call it God or the Universe or whatever you want. The Universe seems to work for me right now. I am finding that it is important to be both grounded and to let go. This is the fine art of floating. I know who I am and I know the things that are important to me, but, as John Lennon once said so eloquently, "Life happens when we are busy making other plans." I don't want to let one moment of this life pass me by. Our time here happens in a blink of an eye. So yes, I have dreams and goals and I know that some will play out in my life like they have before, but I'm not hanging on to some idea or dream of the future. I'm floating with now. It's all we've really got.

Do you make your moments count, or are you holding out for something better?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Finally Friday Week 17: The Upside of Procrastination

"Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but 20 percent of people chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions—which, unfortunately, are increasingly available."—Psychology Today

You really need to fold laundry, pay bills and exercise, but you'd rather check Facebook, call a friend, see what's on TV, read a book, read this blog and the list does on. Why is it so difficult to complete tasks or items on our to-do list?

I will be honest. I'm one of those people who waits until the ultimate last moment to complete things. I'm very deadline driven and if I don't have a deadline, well then, forget it. I'm not going to get much done.

I also don't like to fill my schedule. I like to have lots of unstructured time to do what spontaneously inspires me. These blog posts were meant to go out on Fridays, but I don't seem to be able to get here until Saturday or Sunday. At least I get here on the weekend and I have written every single week for 17 weeks, so that's something.

The thing is, I love writing and doing this blog, but lately the weather has been so amazing here in Washington State and I've found myself wanting to be outdoors more and more. I love walking, barbecuing, meeting with friends, and just having fun. I think I'm still a kid at heart. Kids don't make lists of things to do. Kids enjoy unstructured play time and I have a lot of that still in me.

The upside of procrastination is in that unstructured time when "anything" can happen. I'm in the moment and I don't know what will happen. It's then that I get the most amazing epiphanies or have the most awesome ideas. I think this is part of being a writer too. There is a gathering time when it looks like nothing is happening, but under the surface of appearances, a lot is going on. I allow myself to have great swaths of unstructured time for this reason.

But there is always a balance, right?

Luckily exercise is part of my play time. It's what I do when I procrastinate. It could be worse, I could eat pie all day. Instead of cleaning the house and getting ready for my class tomorrow, I went to my husband's yoga class in downtown Edmonds. I don't regret that either. It felt so good to stretch my body and sweat! I felt all the muscles come alive and it gave me the motivation I was seeking to jump back on this blog and accomplish some of the tasks I've let fall by the wayside.

I haven't completely let it all go. Afterall, I'm here on week 17 writing this blog post!

I do feel lately that I've needed to pull in the reigns a bit. I've let myself do whatever I want whenever I'm free. However, house cleaning, laundry folding, bill paying and book writing all need to GET DONE.

I WILL get there. I always do. But I might just take my own sweet time....unless, of course, a deadline is looming.

Do you procrastinate or do you stick to your "to-do" list and get things accomplished right away?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Finally Friday Week 16: Every Day Magic

Simple moment of drinking tea with Yoon
“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic -- the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we're alone.”—Charles de Lint

Magic. I find it all around these days. This weekend I'm finding it in very simple things. It's a holiday weekend and I could feel the energy in the city on Friday. Everyone was packing, shopping, and getting ready to hightail it out of here to enjoy the weekend far from the stresses of the city. I thought about going away too, but somehow the weekend snuck up on me and I honestly didn't have the energy to make a plan. It's nice, sometimes, how the city becomes deserted on a long weekend. Normally crowded city streets become free and clear. It feels like Yoon and I have the entire city to ourselves.

One of the reasons I didn't feel the need to get out of town is due to the fact that I teach only three days a week, so I actually have a long weekend every weekend. There was nothing extremely special about having one extra day.

I've felt like really sinking into where I am recently. When I can witness the magic of life everyday in very simple things, I feel completely full. I don't live for weekends. I try and live everyday. In fact, I have found magic in living fully every single day. Even on my drives to work, I am able to witness the changing of the trees, flowers, and life all around.

This morning, Yoon and I went on a huge walk through Carkeek park. We did a loop through the forest and along Puget Sound. We might as well have been on one of the San Juan Islands. It felt so remote, yet we were 10 minutes from our house. We stopped by a stream with smooth stones and tall cedar trees and we took in the fragrant smell of flowers and babbling sounds of the brook below us. I felt a complete peace there.

When we got home, we relaxed and drank tea.

 Then we went to the $4 movie theater down the street and saw the Argentinian film Wild Tales. It was an intense movie! When we got back to the house, Yoon took out frozen salmon steaks from the freezer and sliced sweet potatoes and barbecued them all on the grill. I heated up a stuffed Shitake mushroom and leftover dumplings and a leak pancake from a Taiwanese restaurant. We ate all of this out in the front garden along with plum wine and Hawaiian music.

It was so relaxing and made me appreciate the very simple things in life.

Now I'm here writing this blog post on Saturday evening.

Do you often experience everyday magic. What are the simple things you find magic in?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Finally Friday Week 15: What is Intuitive Writing?

Intuitive Writing class at Kalani on The Big Island of Hawaii
"We are more connected than we think. Our innermost, private thoughts that flow out through the intuitive writing process are not strange or weird, or unfit to share. Instead, they are often universal thoughts, feelings, emotions, concerns and even ideas."—Katherine Jenkins

 Since I am currently teaching an intuitive writing class to a group, I thought I'd try it out here. Usually I use pen and paper when I practice intuitive writing, but you can also type. There seems to be more connection to the page and the words and the innermost thoughts when there is direct contact to pen and paper, so this is an experiment. There are no rules in intuitive writing. It's stream of conscious writing. You get to let loose on the page and that can be very freeing. The other part about intuitive writing is that once you start you can't stop. It does not mean that you have to write very fast, but just continue to keep your hand (or in this case hands) moving. If you stop, you will think, ponder, critique, rewrite, throw away, cross out, worry, fret, give up, do something else, pat yourself on the back and a number of other things. You will move out of the STREAM of consciousness and start heading in other directions. Now you are not practicing intuitive writing.

Much of my writing, even book writing, has come from intuitive writing. At least that is where I started. I allowed myself to just write. From there things started to take shape or I gave my writing shape. It starts with an idea and flows from there.

There are no rules of grammar, punctuation or spelling in intuitive writing. You can write in another language, symbols or pictures. You can repeat words. You can doodle or scribble or write blah, blah blah. You will find that even when you think there is nothing to write, something indeed will come out—something you least expected.

Often I give my students a prompt and we go from there. When I say, "Times up!" they are usually not ready to stop. They are in the flow. I let them finish up what they are writing. Most of the time these writers are unsure of what they have just written. I then open the space for sharing. We now put words to this writing we have created. This can be scary because we are creating from a very deep place. It can be scary to share what we have written. We may feel it is too raw, unpolished, obscene, vulnerable, bad, incomprehensible, rubbish or simply too personal to share. I never make anyone share if they don't want to, but often everyone does. There's a bonding that happens with every single group. If one person is writing about standing on the edge of a cliff, I often find that others have written about this too with slightly different words to express this scene or these emotions. What happens then is that we realize we are often more connected than we think—that our innermost, private thoughts that flow out through the intuitive writing process are not strange or weird, or unfit to share, they are often universal thoughts, feelings, emotions, concerns and even ideas. They come from a place of connectedness and there is a great feeling that comes with being connected on a deeper level.

I am merely the guide in these classes. I provide and create the space for intuitive writing to happen, but it's the group that writes and creates. I am also one of the people in the group who is creating and sharing.

I feel fortunate to have taught these classes as an artist-in-residence at Kalani on the Big Island of Hawaii and at Edmonds Community College as part of their Arts Now program. Currently I teach these classes from my home. I feel this is the best space to teach these classes as it feels nurturing to be in a home around a table with comfy chairs, cups of teas, journals and pens.

When I hear the clicking of pens on paper, it brings me joy. How many times have you sat in a circle of people in silence and practiced writing without thinking? How many times have you let go of where your writing should go (or where you should go for that matter) and just let the words fall out on the page.

I just did that here. I just practiced intuitive writing for this blog post! How about that?

Have you ever practiced intuitive writing? Choose a prompt and set a timer for 10 minutes and just write. I promise you that you'll discover amazing things if you do this for just 10 minutes a day!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Finally Friday Week 14: Celebrating Motherhood In All Its Forms

"We are born of love; Love is our mother."— Rumi

Today is Mother's Day and it also happens to be my 12th anniversary. It's rare for my wedding anniversary and Mother's Day to fall on the same day, but this year it happened.

This year I wanted to spend time with my mother and celebrate an important day with my husband. Luckily, I was able to do both.

My mother wanted to go to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island on Saturday for the afternoon, so we met her there and enjoyed a short time together. Afterwards, my husband and I spent a wonderful 12th anniversary together. We rented a beach bungalow across the bridge from Bainbridge in Suquamish. We brought crabs and wine and ate out on the gorgeous deck watching sailboats go by. Eagles soared above our heads and an otter took a nap on a floating dock in the distance.

Since my anniversary fell on Mother's Day this year, I began to ponder this day a bit more. I am so thankful that my mother is here in Washington State and I get to see her more often than I used to when I lived overseas for about 10 years.

As I scrolled through my Facebook updates when I got home, I found that the vast majority of them were about how people spent this special day devoted to mothers. There were brunches, breakfasts in bed, trips to gardens, homemade cards, hand-bought cards, poems, flowers, photos, etc. I even put a photo of my mother and me at Bloedel Reserve up on my page.

While mothers were brunching and opening handmade cards, I was snuggling with my husband in our beach bungalow. He got up later and turned on some romantic French music and made me the most delicious breakfast. I never get tired of our time together and every year, in fact, I find more reasons to celebrate life, not just on our anniversary!

Was it a coincidence that I got married almost on Mother's Day?

Truthfully, I was in South Korea for my wedding and Mother's Day isn't really celebrated. In fact, it's combined with Father's Day and is called Parent's Day and it's celebrated on May 8th. I find this an interesting cultural difference. In South Korea, raising children is often done by many people. My husband was raised by his grandparents and lived with them until he left the nest. It's not an individual effort, it's a group effort. In South Korea, if a woman gets on a bus with two or three children, it is not unusual for a complete stranger to stand up and take one of the children by the hand until the mother is ready to get off the bus. They say, "It takes a village," and I observed this in Korea.

My husband and I never really talked about having children. Lots of people said, "Oh, just wait. You will want to have a few of your own as you get older." But that feeling never really came for either of us. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore children and I think they enjoy their time with me too. I am a great babysitter, a pretty fun aunt to my nephews and get a kick out of my best friend's twins, but I never felt the need to make my own children. I felt like there were so many lovely children out there already—so many I could share in loving. My husband makes cute noises and funny faces at every baby he sees, just about. He never hesitates to engage in conversation with a kid. I love this about him.

 So I started to think of motherhood and maternity on a larger plane. What is a mother? On the physical plane, most would agree that it is a person who has kids. Or some may even argue that is is a person who has a pet dog, cat, bird or lizard. My stepmom did not have kids of her own, but she is a pretty good mom to a very sweet bird who she loves dearly (and that bird has had a seriously long life!) and she is a wonderful stepmom.

On a spiritual plane, I feel as if I have been a mother for countless lives. In fact, I get glimpses of this in my dreams. I wonder if there was a maternal connection to my husband in a past life. Maybe we were all once mothers in one form or another. The instinct is there to nurture. We can nurture ourselves just as gently as we would nurture a newborn. We can also nurture the planet and all forms of life that exist on it. By doing this, I believe we connect to all life on a very deep level. It's here where we are not separate—it's here where we are all children of mother earth doing our own share.

Today I celebrate motherhood in all its forms—whether you are a parent to a beautiful child, dog, cat or bird. I celebrate you today for the nurturing you offer. Whether it is tending to a garden, taking care of and elderly parent, making the planet a better place to live, offering your gifts to this world through writing, speaking, art or in any other way. And this day may also hold a lot of grief for you too. Maybe you have lost your mother, sister or child. Maybe it conjures up memories you'd just as soon forget. Maybe the day is bittersweet.

Whether you celebrated or grieved or reminisced today, this day is also for you. For every moment you have nurtured, cared, loved, offered your gifts, or tended to anyone or anything, I celebrate YOU!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Finally Friday Week 12: Seeing the Silver Lining

My husband Yoon at the summit of Haleakala, Maui
"I'm choosing to see the silver lining. Every single moment and life event we are faced with has one, even if it doesn't seem like it."—Katherine Jenkins
 Lately, after a long period of smooth sailing, some storms and waves have been on the horizon. They have not only affected me, but those around me as well.

I wonder how and why these things come and how they have become so predominant lately. In the midst of a crisis or bad news, it's hard to see the silver lining, but what I've discovered is that life goes on.

Today, on a walk through the beautiful woods near our house, I asked my husband what he thought about the recent string of events—an earthquake, a fire in a friend's home, my own ruptured right eardrum. These things happened fast and out of the blue. One day I was walking along with a friend and the next day I could not hear. It seemed like things were exploding all around, in one way or another.

"It's nothing personal," my husband said, "Things come and go, are born and die, it has nothing to do with anyone or anything. Just the world balancing itself out."

We walked along for a while in silence. The new green leaves on the trees were so vibrant. The leafy branches seemed to almost reach out and touch us. They were pulsing with new life. Birds fluttered around us. Life was happening all around, but right below the vibrant green, swept close to the roots of these new shoots, were brown leaves from last year. They were barely noticeable and blended into the background.

I felt my own life pulse through my veins. I felt my feet in my shoes and the sun on my face. I felt my legs move on their own—strong and steady. I also felt the static of my right ear that weeks before could hear distinct birdcalls from distant paths in the forest. If I strained a bit, I could still hear those sounds. They were not so distinct, but they were there.

"Not all is lost," I told myself, "Look at all this beauty!" And in that moment I feel gratitude for all that I could see. My husband reached out to massage my neck. The warmth of his hands on my skin made me also feel gratitude for having him in my life.

Our lives may not be perfect, but this moment is just fine as it is. "This moment, this moment, this moment," became my mantra as I walked through the forest.

Recent events have caused me to stop, slow down and witness life. I feel humbled by all that is around me. Things I see everyday have become miraculous. I often wonder if life explodes or shakes or erupts to get us to sit up and notice its still there—to make us realize how amazing it is.

I've been blessed with silver linings these days. How lucky I am to get to experience this life.

Do you often see the silver lining in unfortunate situations or events?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Finally Friday Week 11: My Sixth Sense

"You lose one sense and others become stronger."—Katherine Jenkins 

I believe this to be a fact because I have witnessed it. Due to a ruptured right eardrum, I've lost some hearing in my right ear and may eventually need surgery because the hole is apparently too large to heal on its own. I'm living with a static sound in my right ear and loss of hearing. I try not to focus on it. I try to just go about my day.

People who see me can't really notice a difference. They speak to me just the same and I respond, but I am straining to hear them sometimes and even staining to get a sense of the outer volume of my own  voice, which is magnified inside my head. They don't notice this and can't see or feel the difference, but I feel it. It's with me every moment and I'm slowly learning to accept it.

It's caused me to go inward. It feels, actually, like all my senses want me to go inward a bit more. I prefer silence to crowds and a walk in nature to a walk in a busy park. Loud pitched noises, like kids screaming and low rumbles, like a truck roaring by, completely throw me off. Forget shopping malls—the sounds echo all over in my head and I need to get out. Oddly, movie theaters are okay—anywhere where the sound is somewhat contained is okay.

Writing in my office is peaceful. Writing anywhere puts me at ease. I am sitting here in my office at 5:30pm on Saturday. The late afternoon sun is casting a bright light on all the tulips and bluebells in my yard. That is what I see from my office window.

I can also hear the hissing sound in my right ear. It's like a blank spot or static on a TV. I'd like to adjust the station and make it clear again. I have faith that I will regain full sound in that ear and when that happens this white noise will disappear. I have a hunch that this will happen.

Other senses have recently become heightened. My sense of smell is very keen. I have always had a very strong intuition and even teach intuitive writing classes, but losing my hearing has caused this sense—I call it my sixth sense—to become very strong. I move slower now. I hear the birds outside right now with my left ear, and my right ear is straining to hear the sound as well. I can feel my left ear making up for what my right ear can no longer do. It's as if my brain is recalibrating everything. It's as if I am becoming a new human.

Here's what the dictionary says about sixth sense:

Sixth Sense
n. noun
1. A power of perception seemingly independent of the five senses; keen intuition.

When we lose a sense that connects us to the outside world, or a sense becomes somewhat compromised, others kick in and help out.

 All of our five senses—sight, sound, taste, touch and smell—come from the outside world and filter through our physical body, but intuition operates on its own, independent of the outside world. It's that gut feeling or hunch we have about something. It sometimes causes you to do things that you can't explain or that may not make sense at the time. It doesn't "make sense" because you are not using your senses to arrive at your answer. You are using something very different.

Some of the most important decisions I've made in my life have been on gut feelings or hunches I've had. The "gut feeling" or even "heart feeling" I had about my husband defied any form of rationale. He was a monk at the time in South Korea. This did not "make sense," but my intuition told me it was right and I followed it. In fact, I'm still following my intuition and it's never, ever lead me astray. The only time I've been lead astray is when I do something that doesn't feel right or when I'm pushing for something to happen or change and it's not the time for things to happen or change. 

Humans are very impatient. We want answers now. When we push for things and push for our ideas, we lose access to our intuition. Intuition is effortless. It happens in the now. It does not push or seek or strive, it just is. So much of what we are searching for in our lives is right in front of us. It's in every single moment we encounter in every situation we are faced with, whether that situation is what we call good or bad. 

And boy, do we want the good...all the time. We are pleasure seekers by nature and constantly seek it out. We want to have a five-star day everyday. We dream of a sunny day in paradise on a beach with a palm tree and a fruity drink with an umbrella in our hand. We can almost see, taste, touch, hear and smell that day. We try and make it happen exactly as we imagine it and then it rains or a flight is delayed or we lose our camera or our wedding ring while swimming and then we are disappointed because things didn't go "as planned," but even those experiences have something rich to offer us. When we let go of wanting, we allow the world to come dance with us. It's not only about me now, it's about the interplay of everyone and everything.

We've forgotten an important element to this entire puzzle. We've forgotten that we are not in control of what happens. While we can go out and plan and push and strive and scheme for all of our dreams, there may be something else in our cards AND we may not like the cards we are dealt and immediately request another hand. We may say, "Wait, I don't really like these cards, can I get another hand."

But the cards right in front of you are the only ones you've got and they hold the key to all the mysteries of this amazing life. My sixth sense tells me that those cards are right on and they aren't necessarily cards I would have chosen for myself if it were all up to me. And, oddly, that is the greatest blessing. It isn't all up to me. There are millions of factors, and people and events and timing and the aligning of the stars and planets and maybe even past lives that go into where I am right here and now—maybe God had a hand in it or my karma or even the Universe. Who knows? And that is the mystery of this life and the reason why things don't need to make sense all the time. So when my sixth sense comes calling, I sit upright and listen, take notes and follow it.

When I lost my hearing, a friend immediately texted me and said, "Your sixth sense is strong and will make up for any loss of sense." She also recently wrote to me, "And you also see the silver lining." 

Yes, I think this is true.

Is your sixth sense strong? Do you usually see the silver lining in situations?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Finally Friday Week 10: A Room of One's Own

My writing room before it got simplified.
"Our house is not a fancy place, but it holds our hearts and so many memories."—Katherine Jenkins

Well, I'm here finally....on Sunday! Time certainly flew this weekend. Last week I missed a whole week of classes at the college where I teach due to a very bad ear infection and perforated ear. I'm still getting over that and can't hear completely in my right ear. I guess these things take awhile to get over, but I'm certain I will get over it completely.

It's very strange not to hear out of an ear. Since one ear is blocked to the outside world, it's forced me to go inward a bit. I've started meditating more and cleaned up my office and made it into a little sanctuary of peace.

I used to not like coming in my office. It was stacked with books, papers, bags, clothes, etc. I did my work at the dining room table. Now that it's clean in here, I'm finding it a nice place to rest, write, work, meditate, etc.

It's a fresh clean slate in here. Anything could happen. The stale energy is gone and I feel a sense of ease. I'm reminded that much of my very first book was created in this room. I want to bring that creative energy back.

I like the room to be simple, not cluttered—just a desk in the corner, a chair, a rug, lamp, a computer. What more does one need. I work much better in clean, clear spaces. I feel the mind does not get stuck.

It's a bit like traveling the wide open road. So many places to go. A room for writing and meditating should be like that.

From my window, I can see our backyard which is in desperate need to be mowed, but my husband's allergies have prevented him from doing so. Behind the overgrown patch of grass, red tulips, clusters of blue bells and a sprinkle of dandelion's create their own bouquet in the yard. It's a wild bouquet—one that has not been tamed by a gardener's hand. I see the apple blossoms blooming on the tree and ivy is running up the trunks of the old oaks. The Japanese maple has got fresh green leaves. If I squint my eyes, it's a beautiful scene. Everything blooming and growing wild and mad. However, when I un-squint them, I see there's a lot of work that could be done.

The window in my office brings in so much light. I recall many days, between writing chapters of my book, when I'd get stuck on a section, just drinking my tea and staring out that window waiting for that spark of genius to take over—the moment when I became un-stuck.

Yoon and I have been here in this little house since February 2006—a little over 9 years. That's astonishing! Before we lived here we were constantly on the go and moving around. Before we landed here, I'd never lived any place for more than two years after I left home. But this house in Seattle has been quite convenient. It's close to everything and it's just big enough for the two of us. We still travel quite a bit, but this house has become our base—sort of by default, but it has served us well.

I have been getting the itch to change—to pack everything up and head out on the wide-open road. I'd like to live in other places. I'd like to have that feeling again where I'm not tied to any place. Time is passing and I'm still here. Here in this little house.

Yet, this house hasn't held me back in the least. I've been able to travel all over the world and always come back to its welcoming, yet wild, garden, warm my body near the fireplace, rest with a good book on the sofa, watch all the different flowers come to bloom like our pink camellia tree, the cherry blossom Yoon planted five years ago,  and the Japanese maples that greet us at our fence door along with the purple clematis. Oh, and the irises and tulips, daffodils and sweet roses!

It's not a fancy place, but one that holds our hearts and so many memories.

Do you have a room of your own? How long have you been in your house?