Looking for the good

Every afternoon I work with an afterschool program, usually I'm offering art experiments and projects. At least once a week, a parent arrives to pick up their child, finds me knee-deep in some sparkly, sticky tangle and says, " I don't know how you do it" So I thought I'd tell you my secret, I have found that it works at home, in my workplace, and at family gatherings too. I keep my eyes trained on the good. 

One of the very first teaching experiences I had was with a Montessori teacher who gave me advice that continues to serve me today: to stop and listen to the room. I didn't know it then, but it's essentially mindfulness- bringing my attention fully to the moment in front of me and soaking it in before reacting. Finding the good in what seems like chaos is much more easily done this way, and often times the good is that I was able to stay calm. When I allow the time to listen I notice so many more subtleties about the energy I'm sensing, instead of pushing my agenda like a steamroller. As I write this I'm coming down from the energy of Halloween day in a classroom of 3-5 yr olds. The anticipation level is high today, my friends! It could just as easily be a baby shower for your second cousin, taking a moment to stop and listen is an opportunity to return fully present to the moment and often the easiest way to go with the flow- which feels pretty dang good. 

The mind is at work stirring up evidence all the time, what's not safe, why it won't work out, what is and is not my place. Because of the mind's earliest job, to keep us alive, it seems like we're not even wired to look for the good. My mind looks for the bad and stays away from it. The reptilian part of our brain certainly serves a purpose, it's just not the one I want driving the bus. Looking for the good unseats the mind and leaves me in what feels like uncharted territory instead of old patterns and unhealthy habits. In her work of self-inquiry, Byron Katie asks, "what do I fail to notice when I'm believing what I'm believing?" and this question has been the golden path out more times than I can count.  When I'm completely down, feeling overwhelmed and all alone, if I can find even one thing that I'm failing to notice I find myself all of a sudden in the eye of the storm instead of at the mercy of it. 

Make a list of gratitudes. I giggled when Marianne Williamson said it, because it's true, that we don't give up on working out just because we didn't lose 10 lbs and gain six-pack abs that same day. I give up on working out for lots of reasons, which is another post, probably on discipline. Gratitude is a practice that makes a habit of unseating the fight-or-flight brain that wants to be our default setting. When I practice gratitude I can suddenly see the big sky and the scale of what I'm thinking is a problem. 

Here are 5 things I'm grateful for right now, I'd love you to add to the list in the comments space below:

Sun shining on my back

The sound of my dog breathing heavily in her sleep

A quiet place to sit and think

Squarespace

Warm clothes

Working, and hard

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I went on a trip to Europe with my family this summer, the first time I'd been in nine years. My son is now eight and my daughter five and we decided, with naps behind us, we were all ready. It all came together around getting to be with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew, who live there, in their favorite holiday spot. It was magical, and a trip I will think of fondly on long, cold nights in the midwest. 

We were away for two weeks, and I decided to set down Curious Ground during that time. Since designing this business last year I haven't set it down for one day. I said so often throughout the year that the whole thing felt very much like giving birth, so it's funny that when it was time to set down this work I experienced it sort of like when I left my son with a sitter for the first time. I felt so much anxiety about the right way to walk away, so afraid that I'd lose all the progress I'd made, and not really sure what I'd do when I wasn't working. A dear friend suggested that I create a ceremony around letting go of Curious Ground for a time. In talking about it, what came to me was burying it in the backyard. I dug a little spot and buried a fortune cookie fortune that read, "your present plans are going to succeed", along with a piece of quartz and a garden marker. I even watered it.  When in doubt, create magic. Really, what suspends belief like magic?

My perspective always shifts with travel, and on this first adventure with the kids I have come home changed again. I think my next post will be about what I learned about my expectations while vacationing with my husband and kids. I also noticed that I was really ready for some rest after working so hard this year. Perhaps another post will be all about the culture of work here and how different it is in Europe (and the knee-buckling peaches...) I'm now reinvigorated after some time to let the mind wander and am ready to pick up Curious Ground again! You're invited on the journey of getting out of our own way by expressing our creativity. 

 

It's time to be for real

I signed up to serve others and I find myself standing with a cafeteria tray, ducking into the phone booth too shy to step into what I set out to do/be/have. I signed up for this, I choose to do what I'm doing, I've spent more time than I could have imagined squirreled away putting this dream together, to serve and help you find freedom. I want to help you get out of your own way. What I am learning in real time is that there is no skipping being the student first. I am fighting myself and it is exhausting and messy. What advice would I give you? I've got lots, gotta start using it myself. So fucking humbling. You know what I never saw coming? That I would tell people my dreams and they'd be more in my corner than I am. I am fortunate to have a solid support system in my life, and they've booked the stage I claimed, they're even focusing the spotlight and I find myself shrinking away. Thanks, guys, but I don't think I can do it. Maybe later.

As my Grandma would say,  "Oh, Hon. est. ly"   

I heard a story recently about Ella Fitzgerald and her first performance. She never thought she'd be a singer, she wanted to be a dancer. Just before her debut performance as a dancer, she got stage fright and froze in her spot just off stage. The MC told her she had to come up with something, something had to fill that mic time. So she sang, something she thought nothing of, as a way to fill time. Imagine the irreplaceable sweetness that would be missing from the world had Ella Fitzgerald never sung.

I'm breaking the fourth wall of the self-help sphere and sharing from my wounds, and I may regret it, because this might sound whiny and victimy-y, and maybe this is the self-soothing crap I should save for my journal. Here's what I do know about this current crisis of confidence: I've been here before and I'll be back again and again. The idea that we learn something and then move on, never to look back, is false, hooey. No matter how defeating this experience I know I'll be back. That's human phenomena, life with this brain and these sets of thoughts, made by this particular life and culture and gender and various lenses. How do we end suffering? We stop believing that suffering is bad. We stop hanging on the idea that easy is good and hard is bad. Easy, hard, good, bad, messy, clean, just are.

I don't know how to get out of this current state, and I know that I will. Thoughts and feelings are fleeting. Once again I see that I'm in my own way. Thinking my way out of this is a spiraling rabbit hole so here I sit, letting life have me. It's so messy. So many tears and ache. I surrender.