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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Summer Lake

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami

The storms that blew in yesterday and took my internet pulled cold air down from Canada, again. Grey clouds and spats of rain have hung around all day. It’s a fall day in July, sweaters and mugs of hot tea. Much of the power is still out in the area so I feel blessed to have mine on. I am exhausted but feeling light and buoyant.

I just turned in my ten pages of writing to Jenna of the The Word Cellar. For the last year and half Jenna has been my writing coach and I turn in ten pages of writing once a month. Now I have about 12,000 words for what is turning into a book. Every time I manage to complete another ten pages of writing I sit in silence, a little stunned, after I hit the send button. I am really doing this writing thing and I am learning so much. Every month I get better, I see more of the dots and how they connect.

This month the writing was hard, I am starting to focus and narrow the scope of what I am writing. I am working on structure and theme. I am giving myself limits, and yes that is good and it is challenging. Writing feels like a storm, sweeping up all of the gunk, blowing the old dried up ideas out and then I am left, clear, crisp and refreshed. More to come on what I am learning and my writing but for now, I am celebrating.

This week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart has more in-depth reading. Perhaps this demonstrates the level of my procrastination this past week. Regardless, I hope you enjoy.

Love Stories via the New Yorker- Here is a collection of a wide range of stories about love for summer reading. Good writing that will linger with you all afternoon long.

Thoughts on Creativity and Time by Jenna McGuiggan- Jenna has a way of getting at the heart of the matter when it comes to struggles with writing. Plus I keep talking about her, you have to go check her out.

Interview with Veronika Scott- Veronica was given a project in art school, design something useful that will impact the community. Not only did she design a coat that turns into a sleeping bag for many of the homeless in Detroit but she started a successful business in Detroit employing homeless women to make them. This is an inspiring story of making an impact and one of many of the cool things happening in Detroit.

Stop Minimizing the Costs of Teaching Girls to ‘Stay Safe’ by Soraya Chemaly- This post stopped me in my tracks. I read and then reread. As a survivor of rape, the issue of ‘staying safe’ is never far from my mind. The number of times I have changed my course, choose different because I was ‘staying safe’ is astounding. Not a day goes by that I do not consider my ‘safety’. It is exhausting and it does piss me off, yet I never want to experience rape again. It was validating to read I am not alone.

And finally, New Moon Whispers by Kimberly McGill- This is the perfect weekend. I love the softness and gentle ebb and flow of her writing. I hate to admit this but I never thought of the new moon as being a time to rest and replenish. So many good ideas and I have to check out Catamaran. I think am going to start new rituals for the new moon.

May your coming week be filled with moments to sit and read a good love story. ~Kira

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Sleep Always Makes Things Better

not at all helpful let alone kine

This morning as I sat in the predawn darkness and wrote in my journal, I felt fresh and energized. I felt hopeful there might be time for working on writing or other creative projects later in the day. So I packed my bag, as I do everyday, with a few books I am reading for research, my project notebook and hope that somewhere in my day I will find time to read, write, do something, even if only for a half hour. I can’t remember the last time I found that time in my day, even though I lug my books and notebooks swung over my shoulder everywhere I go.

It is 6 pm, I just got home; I am exhausted, as I am most nights. I try to pace myself throughout the day, yet I often burn out quickly—hot, bright and blue and then poof my flame is extinguished by 2 pm if I am lucky. To be fair I have been up since 4 am, really 3 am because that is when I woke to see the red lights telling me go back to sleep but my mind had other ideas.

I am now laying on the couch trying to super hard to not be annoyed. But every neighbor is operating every single power tool—loud, vibrating, clanking— that grates on every single nerve in my body. I am not sure if it is the cool summer day that has brought the neighbors out to fix, cut, hammer, mow and blow but I can barely hear myself think let alone rest. The more I try to ignore the jarring noise, the more my awareness and irritation is heightened.

Regardless if I wake at 3 am or 5 am, this is how I end up most nights, a motionless blob on the couch in a white night-gown at 6 pm. It is how I end up in bed at 7:30 pm with my partner wanting to talk about moments of our day, yet my eyes are already closed. My mind a soft mass of no longer coordinating thoughts and ideas.

But more importantly this is where I start to beat myself up for not doing enough; for failing to show up to “manifest” my dreams. This is where I begin to feel the inner tightness and pressure of deadlines, ones I set for myself, begin to constrict my breath. Not at all helpful, let alone kind.

So what do I do? I go to bed, I have to take care of my body first. I breathe and acknowledge, the neighbors will stop mowing, sawing, hammering and what ever else it is they are doing. I also acknowledge that it is my own internal expectations causing my stomach to tighten and my anxiety level to rise. There is no real threat—aside from my tyrannical thoughts. I remind myself, I do something, even if it is only what seems an insignificant step, everyday for my writing and other projects.

Sure I start most mornings bright, rested and full of hope. Yes, most of my days end with me in a puddle, but I write something everyday and I read something everyday. And I am making progress, over the last year working with Jenna I have amassed over 12,000 words for what might be a book. I am researching structure and themes. I am in awe of how much I have learned about writing and the craft of writing. For the little girl who could barely scrawl her name by the age of 10 and who stayed away from English classes despite my desire to write and read, I am doing pretty good.

But most importantly I go to bed. I listen to my body and I heed the cues. Sleep always makes things better. There is no creative work from me when I am exhausted. So yes, when exhaustion visits you, heed the call and go to bed. Take rest.

Tomorrow morning I will rise and finish this post. I will be fresh and energized. Plus tomorrow I have the day off of my day job, so I can flash burn my energy on my own work.

 

 

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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Secret Garden

“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett

A light fog hangs low on the yard this morning. Daisies and Brown Eyed Susan’s are in bloom despite the thick weeds choking the flower beds. I admit, I gave up weeding years ago when D. passed away. At first it was because I was consumed with grief, now it’s because I overextend myself with projects and responsibilities. I am not sure if this business is just an extension of grief or a habit of uncomfortable living. Either way I have made peace with my gardens and the weeds. I have taken them off my “to do” list. Instead I have a list filled with writing projects, photography projects and one day return to my studio to paint again.

The world is quiet this morning except for the lone screech of a blue jay off in the distance. Even the crickets are silent. Summer has been too cool this year for the June Bugs to start their droning songs in the still heat of midday. I love Sunday mornings, waking up before Jay and the rest of the neighborhood. It is me and the cats sitting in my office, taking our time. Wandering about a poem, writing in my journal, reading an essay I have carried in my bag all week.

Waking up before the rest of the world and especially on Sunday mornings is my secret garden. This space of quiet, with my journal, books, and the birds waking up is where I have found my courage, my voice—my heart. This is where I have learned how to take care of myself.

This weeks Inspiration to Open Your Heart is teeming with so much goodness. I hope at least one link is what you needed to read and perhaps changes your perspective just a bit.

The Importance of Journaling- I am a huge advocate for daily journaling. It has literally saved my life and mind. I began journaling when I was 10 and began a daily journal in 1994 when my son was a baby and I needed a life raft for my mind and heart. I too am plagued with the notion I need to write everyday but I often don’t see my journal writing as counting. I need to get over that.

How to Thrive in a World Where Change is Constant-  Want to Innovate? Become a Now-est. So many interesting concepts. So much innovation and change is happening in the world, it is hard to keep up.

The Power of Story by Scott Eagan- Here is a review of Once I Was Cool by Megan Stielstra. I first heard about Megan and her work listening to an interview on Other People Podcast while driving through the flat farm lands of Ohio. I was mesmerized by her candor and her story. You really need to check her out. You can listen to her Other People Podcast interview here. Then go get her book.

The Secret Garden’s Hidden Depths- I could not resist this one. I think we all need our own Secret Garden where we learn how to take care of ourselves and find our voice. I need to re-read this gem of a book.

Unurh Street Art, Hyuro Valencia- More street art that makes our city’s beautiful.

May your coming week be filled with moments in your own secret garden. ~Kira

 

 

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Mindfulness is Not About Increased Productivity.

Mindfulness Path

“Now may every living thing, young or old,
weak or strong, living near or far, known or
unknown, living or departed or yet unborn,
may every living thing be full of bliss.”
The Dhammapada

Today I read an article about how companies are beginning to embrace mindfulness programs for their employees. It seems mindfulness increases productivity. I paused and thought, “Crap, now even mindfulness is being used to be more productive. Now this is going to become another “should” I throw on the heap of expectations and crap I have to do to be good enough.” I felt rather dishearten. I closed the tab and did not finish reading the article.

I don’t need yet another siren call to do more or be more productive. The call is hard to resist, I feel my body and mind fill with temptation. In some ways, doing more, being more productive, becomes a seductive enchantment—it becomes yet another way for me not to feel or be present for what is happening. Another way to hide my heart and not risk vulnerability.

My meditation practice is the one thing that keeps me sane. I don’t meditate so I can be more productive. Sure that might be a nice byproduct at times because my mind is not as cluttered with roaming discursive thoughts as much. I also can tell you, sometimes I meditate and my mind does not turn off. It stays on wrap speed, zipping around, planning, anticipating, trying to avert trouble.

What my meditation practice does for me is it affords me the opportunity of non-judgmental awareness of what is happening in the present. It gives me a chance to remove the self judgement and condemnation for being human. When that happens I have the opportunity to open my heart, to see others as they are and allow them to see me as I am. I have to opportunity to connect. It is not about increased productivity. Mindfulness is not about increased productivity. I don’t care how people spin it.

May you find bliss in your coming day and in your awareness of the moment. ~Kira

 

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Inspiration to Open Your Heart

Summer Shadows

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” -Lao Tzu

The air is thick and steamy today, it is finally hot again. It feels like rain is gathering, out the window the sky is solid gray. I sit in my little office, in the dimming evening light, the fan blowing cool air, rustling the curtains. I hear the muffled low thump thump bass of music from across the street. This is summertime and I am hiding out in my office, wandering around on the internet, taking naps, reading books and trying to stay on task. I have not been too successful today. At least not to my standards.

I pile high productivity expectations onto my weekends. I internalize a self-imposed pressure because I sign up for too many classes, I have too many projects and deadlines roaming around. I consistently over extend myself. I want to be fabulous, I want to learn and create, be witty, be smart. I want to move the needle on my creative work, put more work out into the world. I find myself trying to manage my time, plan wisely, make every moment count. The more I do this, the more unfocused I become, the more fatigue sets in. I become a bumbling mess, overflowing with anxiety.

I always hope I can do more than I can, but reality slaps me up on the weekends. I am human and I have limitations. I know I need to pull back on a few of my projects. I need to create more breathing room. To be honest, it kind of sucks to realize I am causing my anxiety. My intentions are good, I want to create ways to share my heart with others. I want to help others open their heart. But does that work if I can just half start so many projects?

So I think I need to take inventory of what I have in process right now. I need to prioritize and make some hard choices. I need to honor my limitations.

How hard is that? I am finding super hard.

At any rate, here are links I found this week as Inspiration to Open Your Heart:

Virginia Woolf’s Idea of Privacy

2014 iPhone Photography Awards

Busy Means You’re Not Focused

I Believe In Stories by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

How to Reduce Stress by Doing Less and Doing it Slowly by Toni Bernhard

May you find space to breathe and open your heart in the coming week. ~Kira

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