About what matters

Writing about what really matters

Always buy yourself a birthday present

Billie full size

This is, to my mind, a small but important secret to a happy life. You should get yourself a Christmas present too–or one for any and every holiday you believe should be accompanied by a gift you really like.

This way, no matter how many boring gift certificates you get, or flowers that are already wilting, or chocolate that’s bloomed, or clothing in a size from 10 years ago or a size you have never yet worn, you can smile pleasantly and think of the really satisfactory present you’ve already gotten. From you.

This was mine this year–posted per Hannah’s request to see the frame. (You can also see that the world did not lose a great photographer when I decided to write.) I was in San Jose on business around my birthday, and after dinner I wandered into the Bruni Gallery. This print of a Billie Holliday portrait–after a famous photograph–spoke to me. For awhile anyway, despite a difficult and painful life, she raised her voice and used it to call attention to injustice (which seems a weak word for lynching), singing the haunting “Strange Fruit” to cap every Café Society performance.

I see her doing just that every time I walk in my front door–a reminder to raise my voice in service of justice, and everything else that’s truly important.

Billie frame closeup

Feeding myself

Self care

 

This is the SoulCollage® card I made today. I often have an idea of what I want to make, but this card was purely intuitive. The dancer is an image I’ve been saving for quite awhile; the hummingbird is from a magazine I bought at Half-Price Books on Friday night. (I like to browse in shops near work while I wait for the Friday night traffic to die down. I’m realizing as I think about it that I also spent far less than I would have at Barnes & Noble–my total purchase was about what I would have saved with my member discount at the bookstore!)

This is part of my reading of the card …

I am one who hides my face. I am one who is graceful and beautiful, who dances.

I am one who feeds myself from the most beautiful, delectable flowers.

This is a moment when you need to feed yourself …

I anticipate taking a break from blogging in the near future. So if you wonder where I am … I am feeding myself, from the most beautiful, delectable flowers!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Don’t apologize for who you are

Queen

Be yourself no matter what they say. –Gordon Sumner, aka Sting

There’s no one alive who is Youer than You. –Theodore Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss

Our first assignment at the SoulCollage retreat I attended earlier this month was to make a card using only two images. I’d brought a small stash with me in my carry-on, and I asked myself which image was strong enough to carry a card all by itself.

This one, which I’d chosen at my very first SoulCollage workshop and saved ever since, came immediately to mind. The background image I’d found only the night before. I think they’re perfect together, and I love the strong, unapologetic energy of this card.

Toward the end of the retreat, we were assigned to write down a question, draw three cards blind (face down), and ask the cards’ advice about the question.

My question was about how to make nice in a situation where I’d been thrown together with someone who probably wouldn’t have chosen to spend any time with me, and vice versa. This card was the first I drew, and her advice was simple:

Don’t apologize for who you are.

What good advice this is.

Just because someone may be judging, disapproving, reacting, doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. Sometimes that’s just what people do.

Each of our personalities is, in my view, integral to the sacred missions we’ve each come here to carry out. To learn and grow, to love, to face and overcome challenges, to resolve karmic debts, to move closer to the realization that we are all one.

So be yourself, your best self, no matter what they say.

This post is illustrated with my new SoulCollage® card Queen of the Night.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

A bit of natural magic

Retreat 2

I’ve just returned from several days at a SoulCollage retreat, and I’m feeling relaxed and mellow. There’s no telling what kind of outrageous thing you could say to me right now, and still get a very mild response.

We each had our own cabins, and mine was a little extra hike away on an adjacent property. The first night I walked back at dusk, about 9 pm, and was surrounded by flashing fireflies–a bit of natural magic, and something I never see at home.

There were lots of beautiful wildflowers, fresh air, a bit of rain, grasshoppers that rose up on black wings as I walked down the path to the road, invisible as rolled leaves when they settled again.

It’s good to get away.

This post is illustrated by one of the SoulCollage® cards I made this past week, Retreat.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Faith as substance

Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. –Hebrews 11:1, KJV

I’ve been thinking this weekend about faith, and this passage in particular, one I’ve heard all my life. In doing so I’m finding new meaning in it that I never saw before.

This verse seems to me to be saying that faith is actually what the things we hope for are made of. That we in fact manifest what we hope for by having faith in it. And that how we know it’s coming is by looking at our faith. If the faith is there, it will produce results. This will happen.

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage® card I made today, Faith.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

Forty-eight things I’ve learned along the way

Leo cropped

Nora Ephron famously felt bad about her neck (though hopefully she no longer does). I do not, despite having the sort of neck not found on any swan, the sort of neck not flattered by a flaw-concealing turtleneck.

In those moments when I could be feeling bad about my neck, I instead choose to feel good about the head sitting on top of it–specifically the many contents that were missing in the days when the neck beneath was flawless.

In honor of my birthday, a list of 48 random things I’ve learned thus far. (Links are mostly to previous blog posts.)

  1. How to choose my battles. It’s amazing when I think about it now, how many (unimportant) things I was once willing to pitch battle for.
  2. Being able to recognize my ego’s involvement has really made all the difference. At least 99% of the time, that’s what the battle was really about.
  3. Compassion is a great thing to have on hand when your own or someone else’s ego flares up.
  4. Kindness is also pretty important. Even when you need to draw a boundary firmly, it’s generally possible to do it with kindness.
  5. How to forgive continually.
  6. And how to release bitterness–also key.
  7. I used to think being smart was a lot more important than it really is. It’s nice, sure, but far from the most important thing.
  8. Love–that would be the most important thing.
  9. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear …” (I John 4:18, KJV). When fear comes up in one of its many guises, love is the antidote.
  10. Learning to meditatelife-changing for sure.
  11. I learned I was an artist–and I bet you are too. I’d love to see everyone find a really good way to access their right brains.
  12. I grew up laboring in a huge organic vegetable garden, but only as an adult did I discover the joy of working hand-in-hand with Mother Nature to unleash plants’ amazing desire to grow and thrive.
  13. I still remember reading the magazine article that taught me to recognize a narcissist. Based on my early experience, I was choosing narcissists as friends. (Word to the wise: they don’t make very good ones.) I’ve finally learned to stop doing that. Woohoo!
  14. I’ve also learned to allow others to be exactly who they are. If people in my life are behaving badly, I generally do say a few words about it–and leave it at that. People have to change, if that’s what they’re going to do, at their own pace. I hope that if they’re not ready to hear now, they will be later.
  15. But just because I must allow people to be exactly who they are doesn’t mean I have to allow everyone into my inner circle, regardless of their behavior.
  16. Much if not most of what I was taught as a child simply isn’t true.
  17. It’s OK to be uncertain. Embracing a model that offers a complete set of answers about how the world works is certainly tempting, but it’s also a pretty good way to be wrong.
  18. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter a great deal what people believe, if anything. What really matters is how we treat others. Living a good life isn’t dependent on a particular worldview.
  19. Therefore, beliefs are generally not worth fighting for–but a value might be. Justice is worth fighting for.
  20. Karma is real–a universal law to which there are no exceptions.
  21. At the same time, if you’re a graduate student in the school of life, expectations are higher for you than for someone at the elementary-school level–and that’s fair.
  22. I no longer believe you only live once. I find this comforting, because it means there’s no need to try to accomplish everything, see everything, do everything, in this one lifetime. Accordingly, I don’t have a bucket list–or if I do, it’s a short one.
  23. It’s OK to relax. In fact, it’s a really good idea.
  24. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being an introvert. Oh, I am an introvert. (I was quite sure for awhile that I was right and Myers-Briggs was all wrong.)
  25. Models are really helpful, but there’s still a lot they don’t reveal.
  26. Life is not a competition.
  27. Cooperation is really enjoyable.
  28. Sarcasm is best in small doses, and is probably not one of the world’s great art forms.
  29. Participation in social media is not a measure of the validity of my life. And Facebook friends are not the same as real friends.
  30. Complaining isn’t a tool for making anything better, though feedback might be.
  31. Having companion animals is totally worth the trouble and mess. And just think of all the money I’ve saved by eliminating carpet and rugs from my life!
  32. An old house is worth the trouble too. But it’s best to have an excellent plumber, electrician, carpenter, and painter on speed dial.
  33. I am the very best person, bar none, to define what my life should look like.
  34. A good, hot bath can cure what ails you.
  35. A good cup of hot tea (my favorite: acai green tea) is also a pretty good idea. I leave my desk for at least one cup of tea every day I work.
  36. Whether or not you should listen to your mother depends entirely on what your mother has to say.
  37. The leaders of my country may or may not be wise. If they are not, I should notice and take an active role in electing those who are.
  38. Self-help is ultimately the only help there is.
  39. But we could all use a hand up.
  40. No one asked me to judge.
  41. The less I judge, the happier I am.
  42. This is what a feminist looks like.
  43. I should decide what is and isn’t BS on the basis of how well it works, not what other people say about it or what it looks like on the surface.
  44. But when in doubt, follow your gut.
  45. It’s a good idea not to abdicate control, but it’s a mistake to think that every aspect of my life can and should be within my complete control. Forces of nature came by their name honestly.
  46. I am responsible for making the world a better place–and so are you.
  47. I’m not perfect, and neither is anyone I know. Discovering anyone’s imperfection should not be surprising. We’re all human.
  48. The best is yet to come.

What have you learned along the way?

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Personal power + Leo.

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

Six reasons to meditate

Meditation

Every so often, I’ll be listening to a recitation of problems and I’ll say, “You know, I think meditation could really help with that.” And then I’ll get a list of reasons why the person I’m talking to can’t possibly meditate. (These are all real reasons.)

  • Their dog has dementia and wants to go outside every five minutes. (A five-minute meditation practice is perfectly valid.)
  • The apartment’s too noisy–someone’s car alarm is always going off. (It’s completely possible to meditate no matter the background noise–leaf blowers, fireworks, a thunderstorm. I do try to choose a quieter time if I can. No doubt every apartment complex, dorm, or other communal living space has its quieter times.)
  • Physical issues make sitting in the ‘proper’ position too painful. (My view is that the proper position is the one that allows you to meditate comfortably for the amount of time that yields the benefit you’re looking for. Insight meditation also recommends being comfortable. I once attended a day-long meditation retreat, and found that the grouchy monk running the retreat and I had different views on this. As I made myself comfortable, he shot me looks, and finally explained how wrong it was to do so–that if a fly, for example, lands on your nose while you’re meditating, you should simply allow it to sit there for as long as it likes. I was very comfortable with never returning to that meditation center. I believe a real spiritual leader won’t judge you, and neither should you judge yourself, if you decide that being comfortable while you meditate is right for you.)
  • They’ve tried it, but clearly have no talent for meditation, as they just can’t stop thinking no matter how hard they try. (There are a lucky few who have a natural talent for meditation–the rest of us get to get good at it the hard way, which starts off in exactly this way. As someone to whom a few things have come easily, I think it’s a salutary experience to keep working at something worthwhile despite no immediate signs of genius. I have read–and I believe this–that meditating with your mind running 100 miles an hour is still practice.)

So there are the excuses. If you haven’t yet committed to a meditation practice, here are a few reasons to meditate based on my own experience, that I hope will speak to you.

  1. Meditation is great for releasing what’s bothering you. When I’m feeling upset, I often try to make time to meditate ahead of schedule (typically after breakfast and before my shower in the morning, and before bed at night). Inevitably anything I’m upset or excited about will cross my mind as I meditate. When it does, I visualize packing several symbols of whatever it is into a helium balloon, and cutting the string.
  2. Meditation is also great practice for releasing judgment of yourself and the need to be perfect. It soon becomes apparent that thoughts enter your mind, that’s what they do, and it’s OK. Perfection, whatever that might be, isn’t possible, but awareness and recognition of what’s happening is. You simply recognize the thoughts, release them, and move on–nothing else is necessary. This works in real life, too–you notice something has gone off the rails a bit, take corrective action, and just keep moving.
  3. Once you’ve meditated for awhile, not only does ‘monkey mind’ rarely happen during meditation, but my experience has been that it fades considerably all the rest of the time too. I used to actually try to drum up thoughts in quiet moments, asking myself, ‘OK, what’s next?’ I don’t do that anymore, and there are nice quiet spaces in my mind pretty much all the time. Peace, in other words. Calm. Serenity.
  4. I find that meditating before bed generally puts me in the perfect frame of mind for sleep. Good sleep is pretty much impossible to overvalue.
  5. When I meditate, I’ve found that I’m much more patient and tolerant. It’s not unusual now for people to thank me for my patience. I’m not sure that happened even once in all the years I didn’t meditate.
  6. Studies have shown that violent crime decreases in the surrounding area when people meditate regularly. I love that a practice intended to benefit me and my own life, in combination with the practice of others I both know and don’t know, raises the vibration of our neighborhoods and cities such that harmful violence is prevented, and lives that could have been painfully disrupted or even ended, never are. Together, we can bring that about.

If you meditate, what benefits have you experienced?

This post is illustrated with the SoulCollage card I made today, Meditation.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

The beauty of compassion

Kuan Yin

This is the SoulCollage card I made last Sunday afternoon, in the midst of being strongly irritated by (in my estimation) a friend’s immature behavior.

This is Kuan Yin, goddess and bodhisattva of compassion, kindness, mercy, and protection. She has beautiful energy–as, I suppose, bodhisattvas do.

Usually when I decide to make a SoulCollage card, I have an idea of what the theme is going to be, but on this day I didn’t have anything preconceived. I sat down to look at images I’d saved, and before I knew it, I’d pulled out three of Kuan Yin. At first I wasn’t sure they were all her, because they weren’t all labeled, but I noticed all of them held the same upside-down vase (which a little research revealed is a water jar).

I understood that the trait of compassion was being emphasized to me, and took the message to heart.

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage card Kuan Yin.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

Through a positive lens

Fawn

Thought I’d share part of a recent SoulCollage card reading … my question was, Please tell me what I need to know most right now.

I am one who is gentle and loving. I see the world clearly, but I choose to view it through a positive lens.

What I have to say about your question is: Be more like me. That is all.

This is my SoulCollage card Opening the gate + 5th chakra totem Fawn.

SoulCollage® cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

A great day for justice

Yes take 3

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered. –Justice Anthony Kennedy, on behalf of the Supreme Court of the United States

Just wanted to post something brief and celebratory on this historic day! I’m really thrilled that the Supreme Court did the right thing today, announcing their 5-4 decision in favor of marriage equality. I was also happy to learn yesterday that my company filed an amicus brief in this case. Sixty percent of the country agrees with the Court–and I’m certain we are on the right side of history. There’s undoubtedly more work to be done on civil rights in this country, but this is a huge step in the right direction–probably the most important US civil rights milestone in my memory. (Loving v. Virginia, another key marriage equality case, was decided the year I was born.)

If you live in the US and want to show your support for marriage equality and the LGBT community who will be bearing the brunt of any backlash from the unenlightened minority, keychain tags and stickers are available from the Human Rights Campaign. Those who wished for the preservation of the unjust status quo need to understand that this decision reflects the will of the majority.

There’s so much more we need to do … but let’s savor this moment!

This post is illustrated with my SoulCollage® card Yes!

SoulCollage cards are for personal use, and are not for sale, barter, or trade.

 

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