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Willing to See the Goodness

Kira Elliott Finding Joy

“Let go of the battle. Breathe quietly and let it be. Let your body relax and your heart soften. Open to whatever you experience without fighting.”
― Jack Kornfield

Wow, what a week of…yuck, muck and just plain old suffering. Ok, it was not all that bad but it certainly dumped a ton of annoyance all at once in my life. I have mentioned more than once that frigid arctic cold has settled over the midwest for what seems like weeks now. Here in Detroit we are talking multiple days in the the negative digits on the thermometer.

The cold is not only getting to me and my spirits but my house and car as well. Three pipes froze and burst on Monday night despite doing all of the prevention measures that normally work, like heat tape and dripping the pipes. This house was not made to withstand weeks below zero. My car battery decided to die at in Whole Foods parking lot on Friday. Thank goodness Jay was available to come and give me a jump. And a sinus cold finally got the better of me when I woke on my birthday unable to stand up without the world spinning out of control.

Nothing too horrible but enough to make me feel like life is picking on me, which can be a dangerous place. I can fall into the old habit of feeling sorry for myself. I begin to see all of life as crap and miss out on the goodness and joy of life. If I stop to look at it, my life is more goodness and joy than crap. The trick is I have to be willing to see the goodness, even when it seems like life is never-ending crap. This is not to say I ignore the crap but rather I allow it all,  the goodness, joy and crap, to exist side by side. I have to let go of the evil black and white thinking that is poison to my soul.

So today the sun is shining and holy Mother of God it is going to be in the 20’s today. I could dwell on the fact it is going back down to -8 tonight but I am going to allow myself to enjoy the sun instead. I am going to go outside and take some pictures perhaps. Something to get out of the house beside going to work or the grocery store.

 

Here is this week’s Inspiration to Open Your Heart.

 Getting Grief Right by Patrick O’Malley- Personally I think this is a must read for everyone. Grief is a powerful, unavoidable human experience and as a culture we don’t know how to deal with it well. There is a prevailing message grief can be managed and contained. A false message we can move through the grief and check each box off and get on with our lives. I am coming up to the third year anniversary of D’s death. I am not sure the grief ever fully ends, it becomes different, less intense at times. I needed to read how the depth of our loss is reflective of the depth of our love for who or what we lost. I need to know it is ok to still find myself crying on the way to work after 3 years.

Ten Real Life Love Stories That’ll Grab You by the Heart via StroyCorps- I love StoryCorps and these are great stories to uplift and remind you of how awesome life really is. If you ever get a chance to go and tell your story with StoryCorps I recommend it.

Return to Joy by Jack Kornfield- I have to agree the most radical thing I can do is choose to be happy. This reminds me that no matter what is going on in my life, how much I might be stuck on my suffering, I have a choice. My spiritual practice is as much about cultivating joy and compassion as it is letting go of suffering.

Ode to Failure by Peter Grandbois-I have to admit I became uncomfortable reading this essay. The direct voice of the writer reminding us of how failure is inherent in life brought an awareness and a freedom from the grasping of success. Beautifully written this is worth reading a few times to absorb all the insights. Yes, life is not about winning, being the best or succeeding all the time, but rather showing up and enjoying the life we have.

And finally, Not Everything Needs to be Published by Jennifer S. White- I needed to read this post. I needed the reminder I write because I have to write. The last few months my journal is the main place my writing happening. Prolific amounts of writing and none of it for consummation by others. Yes, some ideas may get worked out for a blog post or an essay but it is for me. Also, much of what I write in my creative writing workshops is not for publication. Sometimes I feel like I am not writing enough because I am not publishing more but writing is not about publishing, writing is one of the ways I meet my soul.

May your coming week be filled with moments to choose joy. ~Kira

 

1

Year Forty-Four

Kira Elliott Year 44

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”— Danielle LaPorte

Today is my 44th birthday, which is turning into a not so special day. I am laying on the couch under two quilts and a pink comforter I have had since I was 10 years old. My cat, Lupe, is sitting on the arm rest meowing incessantly for me to pet her. It is only 3 degrees today with no end in sight for these arctic temperatures. I read today it is colder here in the midwest than it is in Antarctica. The only good thing is the sun is shining today, which is of course why is it so darn cold.

I stayed home from work today because when I woke this morning I could barely lift my head off my pillow. The world spun around and my stomach lurched as I tried to make my way to the bathroom. I am not sure if it is a sinus infection gone wrong or if I have the flu but I am nurturing myself with hot tea, plain toast and Yin Chiao (a chinese miracle compound if you ask me). Birthday dinner plans with Max and my mother cancelled after I crawled out of the bathroom at 7:00 am.

Last year I wrote a post for my year forty-three where I created a list of 43 things I wanted to do. I have to say when I wrote the list of these wonderful, fun and worthwhile things, I had every intention of going back to it every month or so and striking through all of items I had completed, accomplished, achieved.

These are dangerous words, I have for far too long made my life mantra. Doing, accomplishing, achieving, almost compulsively to fill in the enormous spaces and gaps inside that say I am not good enough. I have spent a lifetime trying to prove myself worthy of existing. These gaps and spaces were planted partly by my upbringing by a broken mother who tried but missed the parenting mark by miles and maybe continents. Also, gaps of not good enough were partly created by the American cultural of always bigger, better, brighter. I internalized all of these messages of not good enough that trickled in slowly over the years and branded them as my own.

When I wrote that list for my year forty-three, I set myself up to fail—again. Last Sunday I sat at our cluttered kitchen table and read this list of impossible tasks out loud to my partner Jay. He stopped doing the dishes, turned to me and ask “Why would you even write a list like that? Why would you do that to yourself?” For this man who does not grapple with crippling self-doubt or a lack of essential worthiness could never understand the drive to prove myself as worthy. We laugh a lot as I read, realizing only 9 or 10 of the items were accomplished.

Which brings me to year forty-four. While I might not have completed my looming year forty-three list, I did something even better. I slowed down, lowered and lowered even more the bar I set for myself to prove I am worthy. This is the first year I can remember I didn’t sit in the cold darkness of the New Year and write a long list of goals to prove I am good enough.

This year I worked instead with Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map clarifying my Core Desire Feelings (peaceful, connected, creative, authentic and abundant) and setting 4 intentions for the coming year. Only 4, clear, simple intentions to help me live in alignment with how I want to feel, not what I want to achieve, do or accomplish.

Year forty-three was a good year, a productive year for me internally. What I experienced in year forty-three was a major shift in my core of how I feel about myself as worthy.Working with The Desire Map, I learned I value taking care of myself (read this post to learn more). I cultivated a deep abiding sense of self-compassion and kindness towards myself.

So today, at the start of my year forty-four, the sun is setting, the temperature is dropping fast, the furnace continues to blow warm air through the rattling air ducts and the sound of water dripping from all of the faucets in the house is a constant. I am still on the couch, feeling a bit better and hoping to go to work tomorrow.

This year I extend kindness to myself and I will not make a list. Instead, I will continue to check in daily to see if my choices are helping me to cultivate my Core Desire Feelings. This is my birthday gift to myself.

5

The Gift of this Sunday

Kira Elliott Winter Sun

“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening.” ― Madeleine L’Engle

Sun floods my little writing studio as the cats linger near the space heater. Let me not be fooled by the sun, it is cold, super cold, keep the faucets dripping all day cold. It is -11 degrees fahrenheit now, with only an expected high of 4 degrees. I am bundled in my pajamas, a hoodie, my bathrobe and a knit cap on my head.

I admit, I am getting a bit anxious for this winter to break a bit. It normally is not this cold mid-February. I am yearning to go out on the trails to smell the damp earth, hear the early spring peepers and witness buds on the tips of branches. I breathe and wait. It is coming.

Due to the cold, I am not planning on leaving the house today. Instead, I have plans to immerse myself in my writing, reading, perhaps planning my next creative writing workshop and well, hanging out with my partner Jay. Or maybe not. I may choose to practice yoga, clean the house, or watch a movie on Netflix. Maybe I will choose to sit and meditate longer than my daily 30 minutes.

The gift of this Sunday is I have no agenda. I can move slower, linger over a long essay on the New Yorker, sit with Jay as he plays his guitar, maybe just sit on the couch and watch Riggins, my black cat, roll around on the floor. The point is, today I have the gift of not every single moment of my day scheduled, nor do I have any pressing deadlines. I have open space to open my heart.

Here are this week’s links to essays, photos and blog posts I wanted to share with you as inspiration to open your heart.

In honor of Valentines Day, here are two essays about love.

Lottery Tickets:Grieving for a Husband by Elizabeth Alexander- Simply a beautiful essay and meditation on love and grieving.

Seventy-Seven Reasons I Can’t Marry You Sean by Sally Howe- Another wonderful essay about a different kind of love.

It’s Not All Good by Ally Hamilton- Wow, I love, love, love this post. Honest and beautifully written. “Don’t worry about being positive. Just be awake. Hold it all.”

Awakening the Wisdom of the Heart- Here is short video about living with an open heart.

What they Carried: Portraits of Refugees- Haunting images of refugees and their most important object they brought with them as they fled their homes.

May you find unscheduled moments to rest and open your heart this week. ~Kira

 

1

Winter’s Impermanence

 

Kira Elliott Winter Window

“It all goes away. Eventually, everything goes away.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert

The air is brittle tonight. The driveway is covered in four inches of compacted ice and snow. My foot steps crunch as I make my way down the driveway, careful to stay in the tire tracks where the surface is even. The only sound I hear in the thin air is my footsteps and my breath. It is dark and the headlights from a car down the street reflect off the stop sign at the corner, illuminating the red sign.

My partner, Jay said he would go check the mail when he left for band practice later in the evening. I told him I didn’t mind, I wanted to go out, as I suited up to go out in the cold. Under my thick down jacket, knitted hat, scarf, boots and mittens I am in my pajamas, ready for bed even though it is only 6:30 pm. I changed from the suit I wore to work when I got home earlier in the afternoon and hopped right into bed, trying to warm my bones and take a nap.

I had a plan to come home from work and start writing this blog post right away. I have materials for Saturdays creative writing workshop to send out too. However, by the time I got home, I knew I needed a pause. I needed to lay down, not think, or do. The past week has been long and busy. Too many appointments and meetings at opposite ends of the city, too much time sitting in traffic reminding myself to breathe and let go— I can’t change the weather, other drivers or stop accidents.

There is no mail, I turn and look down the street. I stand still and pause. I breathe the sharp cold air. Each exhale freezes in the air creating long icy trails that quickly dissipate. I love these moments, alone out in the cold, all sound absorbed by the snow and ice covering a world of squirrels, crickets and bunnies gone underground. The neighbors are tucked away in their homes, furnaces constantly humming, blowing warm air on families while they eat dinner and watch the evening news. Everything is quiet and still in the winter.

When I left the house this morning I heard a lone robin singing from high in a bare tree. I smiled, I have missed the sweetness of bird song. We have turned the corner towards spring even if the temperature is going down to -10 degrees fahrenheit tonight. The endless darkness and brutal cold will pass. It always does. This impermanence is what makes the darkness, arctic cold, the endless snow, bearable. I know spring’s seeds are in winter’s depths. The world is always moving, never stopping. So for now I will give myself the gift of pausing, allowing myself to be present, to relish the quiet—to relish winter’s impermanence.

 

2

Personal Writing is Making My Heart Hum

Kira Elliott Personal Writing

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.”
― Christina Baldwin

This is a weekend of writing. I have two creative writing workshops, essay revisions due to Jenna and journal writing, lots of journal writing.

I feel a renewed joy writing in my journal the last few weeks. When I sit at my desk in the cold stillness, the furnace blowing warmth over me, I write 3, 4, sometimes 6 pages and I don’t want to stop. I have been late for work, skipped working out, even skipped sitting on my meditation cushion, so I could write longer.

My personal writing is making my heart hum. It is helping me make sense of my interior and what is important here, now in my life. It is like the last 3 or 4 months I have bumbled around with a dark gray shroud over my head, unsure where I am going or what I am doing. Now a surge of energy and insight is flooding my pages and I just want to sit and write in my journal.

With that said, I am keeping this short because I have to complete my essay revisions (which I have put off, avoided and pretty much dreaded the last few weeks. I am now riddled with copious amounts of guilt and anxiety because I am not done yet). So here are some essays, posts and interviews that opened my heart this week.

Mary Oliver Listening to the World Via On Being- What a divine treat to be given this week. A rare interview with Mary Oliver, one of my long time favorite poets. Her work grounds me and opens my heart. When I am lost in anxiety reading a couple of her poems out loud will settle me. Ever single time. I love how she says, “I got saved by poetry and the beauty of world.” So true, for me too.

The Price I Pay to Write by Laura Bogart- Here is an insightful piece about what it takes a woman to sustain the writers life.

Life in Chains: Beginning and Ending at TGI Fridays by Sara Benincasa- I love Sara’s voice in this essay about growing up in suburban New Jersey. Who knew TGI Fridays was a place to find solace from the tension and struggles of growing up. Great Essay.

Creative Yin and Yang: Making Time for Writing While Riding the Waves of Creativity by Jo Malby- This post is brimming with insight about how to sustain a writing practice. I have to admit, my writing is blooming in my journal and in the various writing workshops I am involved in, but my essay writing, not so much. I am struggling to find muster to complete yet another round of edits and I feel like my soul is being sucked dry. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic but I have been in avoidance mode for well over two weeks and I have writing due in the next few days. As this post says, I need to remember to be kind to myself.

Touch as Nutrition by John Tuite- Owning up to the need for physical touch is hard for me. I grew up a family that uses distance to manage emotions, so there was very little physical touch. There is nothing harder for me to say than, “I need a hug.” Yet, when I allow myself to open to hugs, hand holding and just sitting cuddling on the couch with Jay, I feel my heart melt. I feel the softness of vulnerability and it is worth it.

May your coming week be filled with time to explore your heart. ~ Kira

 

 

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