Nooks and Crannies but No Room for Doubt.

Feminist Psychology Space Time Tanks

I’m rethinking this blogging stuff.

Actually, what I’m really thinking about is being flexible.

And not in that “oh, you’re so flexible” yoga sort of way. Or maybe I am. Maybe the physical flexibility we look for in our asana practice is really just a way to contemplate the flexibility we need to have in our lives. The flexibility to live with change. New circumstances. Sudden hairpin curves on the road of life. You know what I mean.

And so I’m rethinking this blogging stuff.

In two weeks time I’ll begin graduate school at Sofia University. I’m chasing a master’s in transpersonal psychology. I’d thought about attending Sofia for the past few years but didn’t think I was smart enough, had enough time or enough money. And so I spent a few years twiddling my thumbs and signing up for courses that didn’t feed my heart and brain the way my heart and brain need to be fed.

Turns out I am smart enough, I can make time and graduate student loans are easy to come by.

But something will have to give. So, for now, Your Weekly Prompt is on hiatus.

Originally Your Weekly Prompt was Your Daily Prompt and my intention was to post every day – a photograph, a poem, an essay or maybe just one word. Anything that might set the creative wheel in motion for anyone who happened upon the page. As for what it might do for me, I hoped it would support my writing by encouraging discipline. And it sorta kinda did – until 2012 took a hairpin turn to the left and every thing I thought I was going to do pulled over to the shoulder of the road to accommodate everything that I did do.

If you follow Your Daily Prompt I hope you’ll follow Practically Twisted.

Practically Twisted will be pulling double duty for the time being. Keeping track of my yoga life, my writing life and my non-existent love life. Should be fun.

Comet McNaught as seen from Swift's Creek, Vic...

If I’d never read THIS, I would have never known there’s a slight chance…ok, more than a slight chance…that we’ll be dust by March.  I jest (I think).

And although I said I would avoid writing resolutions this year and instead just endeavor to show more kindness toward myself, given the extenuating circumstances and the challenge set forth by the fun folks at WordPress I feel compelled to find three things I’d most like to change about myself.  Before March.

The first two are easy:

1.  I want to forgive myself for all the not so well thought choices I’ve made throughout my life.  Like being an art major instead of a history major like I wanted to do but was too chicken.  Or like choosing to not think about a retirement plan until I was fifty (of course, that could be moot if March ends with a bang).  And I think I’d like to forgive myself for disappearing off to Ireland for ten years instead of staying put and working through whatever it was I needed to work through. Ireland was great but it’s true – wherever you go, there you are.  So if I’d stay home instead of gallivanting off into the wilds I’d be ten years ahead on that retirement plan!

2.  Before March, I want to play with my shadow.  Let a little bit of my dark side out.  See if I can be a bad girl.  A very, very bad girl.  Ok. Maybe not that bad.  But I’m curious.  I want to see if I am more than a naïve Pollyanna.  Without breaking any laws, of course.

You know, this last one was easy, too:

3.  Finally, I’d like to show more courage.  I’d like to hear myself say ‘no’ more often – which really shouldn’t require courage, just a sense of who you are and what you want. I’d like to perform in public again – something I promised myself I’d do last year and then quickly brushed aside.  That takes a bit of courage.  I think it takes courage to believe in yourself with such ferocity that you refuse to allow your story to play out in any other way than the way you always believed it would.

Maybe that’s what I really want to do.  Before March 2013 I want be ferocious.

I better get busy.  March is only fifty-eight days away!

Woman Writing a Letter

If you want to put a neat little twist on the whole end-of-the-year resolution deal, Kelly McGonigal – one of my favorite teachers and author of Yoga for Pain Relief and The Willpower Instinct suggests we try this ideas: (click HERE)

I’d tell you more, but I have to do this: (click HERE)

IMG_1616I’m aching to have a piece accepted into my favorite peer-reviewed journal.  But I had a bit of an ego knock today when my submission was returned.

Five years ago a rejection meant stomping feet, pulled hair, flying word bombs and falling tears.  In other words – a full-on hissy-fit tantrum.

But that was then, this is now.

I’ll admit there was a pity party and pout – but it was momentary.  Because instead of washing my hands of the entire idea I re-read the editor’s email and found a glimmer of hope. And so I refused to accept defeat. Reading in between the lines I sensed the editor was rooting for me. When I re-read my submission I realized her criticism was spot-on (of course it was – she’s the editor!). Yes, the story needed fleshing out. What I’d written was good, but anecdotal. I needed evidence to support my story.

But I had to ask myself: if I swallowed my pride and crawled back to the drawing board, would the second round of effort be worth it?

I didn’t ask myself twice. The answer was a no-brainer.

I contacted the editor, told her what my plans were to improve the article and asked if I could re-submit for the summer issue.

She said “yes.”

So I’ve learned what a writer does. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself when she’s rejected. She keeps an

open mind and takes an objective look at her work and the criticism it has received. And then she makes it right.

Re-submitting the work does not guarantee acceptance. But it demonstrates (to me at least) that I’m not one for giving up on the first try. Not anymore.

281 Word/20 minutes/a bit of fiddling

Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake

As a holiday gift one of my students presented me with a home-baked coffee cake. Possibly one of the best coffee cakes I’ve tasted. I knew I was in trouble from the first slice and so I did the only reasonable thing: I cut the cake in half, wrapped one half in foil to share with a friend and put the remaining half in the freezer. My intention was to reward myself from time to time with a sliver of its walnut and buttery goodness.

Yeah. That kinda didn’t happen.

Because this is that weird week. That odd week at the end of each year that we don’t really know what to do with. We’re sort of finished with the gluttonous food frenzy that began at Thanksgiving, and yet we still have New Years to contend with. For the self-employed yoga teacher it’s that week when not all classes are in full swing. Private clients are off skiing or basking in Hawaiian sun. In other words – I have a bit of time on my hands. Sure, I could put this time to good use like cleaning my kitchen floor or organizing my storage space. But didn’t I just get done making a resolution to be kind to myself? I think I did (you can read about it here).

And so I had no choice. I had to eat the coffee cake.

Now before you picture me a twitching, glassy-eyed madwoman with brown sugar crumble smeared on my face and trailing down the front of my sweatshirt – I didn’t say I ate ALL the coffee cake. In fact, I backed away from the coffee cake after the second sliver (ok…third sliver). Yep. I burped that Tupperware baby and slipped that bad boy right back in the freezer where it belonged.

Because half the fun of luscious coffee cake is the anticipation of enjoying that last slice on Sunday morning, warmed gently, with a mug of steaming fresh pressed coffee.

Besides, like I said, I resolved to be kind to myself. And to me that means taking a middle path. Showing a bit of moderation. Even when the best coffee cake in the world is begging to be enjoyed.

Is it Sunday yet?

ps…Yes, I’ll try to get the recipe… 

376 words/20 minutes with 10 minutes of fussing

 

I’m doing that thing that I do. The thing that from the day I discovered my ability to make a list I’ve anticipated, longed for and agonized over. After 2010′s novel-writing debacle it’s the one thing I pinky swore with myself I’d never, ever do ever again. But here I sit, craving it the way a former four-pack-a-day woman of a certain age might crave a Virginia Slims.

It’s the last week of December. I want to write my resolutions. That’s right. ResolutionS. Because I’m never satisfied with one.

A symbol of Jainism consisting of a hand and a...

A symbol of Jainism consisting of a hand and a wheel reading “ahimsa”, the Jain vow of non-violence.

(Yet as I do this I’m thinking about ahimsa. Ahimsa is non-violence. Kindness and non-violence towards all living things. Wait a minute. I’m a living thing. It means me, too. Kindness and non-violence towards Mimm. Huh.)

So there you have it. With a flash of unanticipated insight complete with the cartoon lightbulb shining brightly above my head: as an act of kindness toward myself, I am not writing ANY resolutions this year. And I am definitely not going to drop any hints – that is, if I was going to write a list of resolutions – of what they might be. Nope. Not gonna do it.

Because when I write resolutions – which I’m not doing this year, by the way – I usually begin by breaking down the categories. What changes would I like to be a witness to in my life? What will I do to improve my health and fitness? My finances? My love life?

The categories are then broken down into sub-categories. There’s physical health, mental health and spiritual growth. There are bills to pay down and savings to build up. And the love life? Weeelllll…there are on-line sites to explore, real life avenues for meeting people, dates to arrange and not cancel at the last minute. Don’t forget about my intellectual life. There are books to read and graduate school papers to submit…ahead of schedule, of course.

After the categories and sub-categories are established, we begin creating a time line.

  • How soon do I want to lose fifteen pounds? In time for the opening of Samyama Yoga Studio at the end of the month? No problem. Two pounds a week. Any ninny could do that.
  • Oh? You’d like to run a 10-K in March? Easy-peasy. Haven’t run ten feet in ten months? Pishaw. No worries.
  • Meditating for an hour each day beginning January 1st? Consider it done.
  • Car paid off and retirement secured by April? Piece of cake. While you’re at it, have that down payment on a house saved by July.
  • Subscriptions to the dating sites Flirty at Fifty, Is it Hot in Here or am I Just Happy to See You and Trading Up established in time for Valentine’s Day…ok…that’s never going to happen.

In fact, it’s safe to wager that none of this will happen. Would I prefer that my life move in this direction? Of course. And I’d like all my classes overflowing with students, a beautifully furnished Craftsman home to call my own, an agent, a publishing contract – oh, and a recording contract while were at it (dream big I always say) – a swept-off-my-feet romance and a dog. Preferably a dog named Roscoe. Oh, and I’d like to sail through graduate school. And have financial security.

But isn’t setting a dozen bars impossibly out of reach an act of violence committed by me, towards me? Though perhaps it’s an act of kindness to choose the one bar that supports all the other hopes and dreams. And then to set that one, lone bar within reach.

Because, at the end of the day, despite all the whines and complaints and wishful thoughts I write about on this public forum – the truth is I’m a very happy woman. I live a simple life in a simple apartment. I have everything I need and very few things that I don’t need. I’m healthy and whole. There are friends who love me and friends I love. It’s a good life.

And yet…and yet….I’m human. I’m a human who does not write New Year’s Resolutions. Except maybe. Maybe this year I’ve the one resolution that will be the true catalyst for change. Maybe this year I’ve discovered the one idea, one habit, one way of walking on this path that has the potential to change the way I experience the entire journey? Do I have the strength and will power to see it through?

Of course I do. It’s just one resolution. And I’m not even going to wait for the New Year.

Beginning now, this moment, I resolve to be kind. I resolve to be kind to all living things. I resolve to be kind to me.

787 words in about an hour with a bit of revision.  My intention was to take twenty minutes each morning charge up my writing batteries with two-hundred words or so.  Ever the overachiever, this personal challenge is now eating up an hour.  Yes – I’ve written eleven posts in ten days.  But I have a real deadline for a real writing assignment and this is morphing from fun challenge to agent of procrastination.  Typical. To that end, I resolve to consider an end to this challenge.

Photo 43Christmas Day. Last night I resolved to wake this morning at six o’clock. I’ve been using an app on my phone that calls to wake me according to the principal of the Golden Mean. If my intention is to rise at 6:00, the iPhone version of a Tibetan bowl‘s single gong will seep into my subconscious at 5:45. The first chime is not at full volume and has no discernible effect. Five minutes later and a bit louder it sounds again. Is it my imagination or does that gong resonate with just the slightest edge of urgency in its tone? I make no attempt to bring myself any closer to full wakefulness. A few minutes later and once again there’s a proportionate increase in volume. This time, it feels personal. I swear that as the cyber sound of cyber wood hitting cyber brass lands on my frontal lobe I hear the echo of Ben Franklin’s voice in my head: wake up lazy cow…om…wake up lazy cow…shanti…wake up lazy cow…om….

As the appointed hour nears the ringing gong becomes increasingly incessant until finally, at 6:00 AM and at full volume its chimes fall in quick succession, unwilling to respectfully wait until the echo of proceeding chime fades.

This is just a practice run,” I tell myself. I pick up the phone, turn off one alarm and reset the nice, normal, standard iPhone alarm and grab another twenty minutes of shut-eye. “The New Year will be here soon enough.”

246 words/20 minutes with a bit of revision as I wrote

I nestled it in my palm and gave it a small squeeze. It was soft all the way around. Not mushy. Just soft. I knew it was a gamble but I didn’t have much to lose. I carved a neat circle with the point of my paring knife, took hold of the dried foliage and pulled. Inside, near the skin, the orange crimson flesh was soft – almost gelatinous. But it was the firm core that troubled me. Had I done it again? Had I given in too soon?

One gorgeous, beautiful, ripe persimmon.  Worth waiting for.

One gorgeous, beautiful, ripe persimmon. Worth waiting for.

Maybe all this meditation is paying off, because the persimmon was just a few hours shy of being perfect. My spoon slipped into the melted flesh. The cool fruit had the perfect amount of sweetness balanced with a tang that reminded me of ripe passion fruit.

If you crave instant gratification you’re better off grabbing a banana. But if you want to enjoy the most delicate, complex flavor (and practice mindful patience at the same time) keep the company of five persimmons for six weeks and then, when they’re almost mushy, one-by-one chop their cut little tops off and scoop spoonfuls of Mother Nature’s Instant Pudding down your gob.

Speaking of patience, being mindful, meditation and compassion: Santa Claus brought my upstairs neighbors a television. I couldn’t be more thrilled. Really.

They fell asleep in front of it last night. Or at least I think they did because when I pulled out one earplug at 2:00 AM I couldn’t hear his booming bass voice but I could hear the booms from the war drama they had been watching.

No, I didn’t hear him until 4:00 AM. He wakes up at 4:00 AM and although their apartment is the exact size and floor plan as mine (about 200 square feet) he’s worried he won’t heard with all the racket of pre-dawn going on outside in our little patch of suburbia.

Sigh.

No, I don’t enjoy complaining but neither do I enjoy confrontation. Moving is not an option, but these are:

  1. Stop complaining because, quite frankly, I sound like a cranky old lady.  And I am not a cranky old lady.
  2. Begin a gratitude practice: I’m grateful for the roof over my head. I’m grateful for the sounds of life and happiness that surround me. I’m grateful for earplugs. And valerian. And red wine.
  3. Be grateful for those moments when I am in “the flow” and whatever is happening around me (or above me) melts into the ether and I don’t hear a thing. Like now, for instance.
  4. Extend the hand of friendship. I should introduce myself. Perhaps with a holiday card welcoming them to the neighborhood and a basket of almost ripe persimmons. (NO! They’re NOT getting the persimmons!)
  5. Accept the things that I cannot change: I cannot move. I cannot build a sound barrier between their floor and my ceiling. I cannot become a raging lunatic pounding with a broom handle and shouting at them to “Turn down the damn TV!!”  That is SO not an option.
  6. Embrace the things I CAN change: like my attitude. My practice. If I can wait weeks while persimmons ripen I can adapt to the cacophony of noisy neighbors, creaky floors, bombs falling and couples in love.

Yes. I can.

554 words/about 30 minutes with a bit of revision

Beltany Stone Circle, from its west side, sout...

Beltony, up the road from where I lived outside of Raphoe, and where I enjoyed walking my dogs Inca and Honey.

I remember my first holiday in Nebraska. I was expecting something out of The Waltons: snowy fields, blustery cold and a roaring fire. What I got was dry corn stubble poking out of dirt that hadn’t seen snow in weeks and unseasonably warm temperatures. It was so warm, in fact, that I walked the fields thirteen miles outside McCook in shirt sleeves. I didn’t know that Mother Nature would more than make up for that first snowless disappointment. Over the next four years – while I attended Doane College in Crete (just south of Lincoln) – we experienced more than our fair share of blizzards and frozen mornings. To keep warm I stole an arctic Army coat marked “Kiln Crew” from the art department and trudged through knee-deep whiteness to campus.

I had a fair chance of a white Christmas in Donegal, Ireland. Although more often than not the snow mixed with rain and then froze. If that happened I wouldn’t dare drive my car the two miles downhill into Raphoe. We were lucky if a truck came by with grit and even luckier if it was plowed. I’d walk and slide to Raphoe if need be but mostly I’d cancel my yoga classes, tell my bodywork clients to curl up with a good book and then I would do that, too, for as long as the ice lasted. During my last winter in Raphoe we had a few days of freezing fog. On the first day I could see Raphoe from my hilltop. As the fog developed (it didn’t ‘roll in’ like it does through the Golden Gate – the fog in Raphoe seemed to simply manifest itself) the town was wrapped in a white cloud that slowly spread and weightlessly lumbered up my road until everything around me was seen through a veil of drifting ice crystals tumbling on air. It was as if we had all turned to ghosts – the horses, the trees, the fields and the sheep – all ghosts. And I was a ghost, too. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

I prefer my winters and my holidays with a bit of grey. I still feel a tickle of anticipation when the weather forecast promises a dusting of snow on the Santa Cruz Mountains. It won’t snow where I am but that’s a fair trade for the perfect summer days we experience pretty much from April through October.

But I don’t want a perfect summer day today. I want a day that tells me its winter. A day that reminds me of the mountains of plowed sidewalk snow I’ve seen in Nebraska, of the crawling frozen fog in Donegal. I want a day that gives me permission to stay in my pyjamas. And that’s the day I’ve been given.

On this Sunday morning in Northern California the rain is pouring and the skies are dark grey. There’s a fair wind – not too strong but just strong enough. It’s the type of morning that begs for a second cup of coffee with cream and honey. It’s the type of day that calls for warm toast with melted butter and jam. It’s a curling up day.

And that’s what I’m going to do.

550 words (more or less)/about 30 minutes with ten minutes for noodling

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