Archives for category: writing prompts

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.

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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

Dental floss 日本語: フロス使用例

I’m having my teeth cleaned today. I’ve only just woken and haven’t checked news reports but last I heard Australia was unscathed. So I figure I might as well enter the holidays with clean teeth.

While I like having clean, shiny teeth, I don’t enjoy visiting the dentist. Who does? They mean well – dentists – but the anticipation of learning how I’ll atone for my toothly sins gives me nervous stomach. One look in my mouth and my dentist knows every bit of mischief my teeth and gums have been up to since my last cleaning in April. She just knows. Every cup of coffee, every glass of red wine. Every cube of ice I’ve cracked with my molars, every pistachio shell broken with my canines. Every hair pin pried opened with my incisors.

She’ll know, of course, that my flossing is on the more random side. At the last visit she even knew that in the rare moment that I did floss I was using wimpy waxed flossing tape designed for the flossing challenged and not a brawny, blood drawing, gum tenderizing cable of rope thick enough to moor a small dinghy.

Big deal. So I don’t like to floss. I’m also not a fan of the lecture about flossing the hygienist will deliver when I’m at my most vulnerable: trapped in a chair with a bright light aimed directly toward my gaping mouth which at that moment is so filled with cold metal tools and warm wiggling fingers that I’m unable to say, “Please don’t give me the lecture about flossing. I know. I don’t floss regularly. I know. Consider it a lifestyle choice.”

I’ll leave the office forty-five minutes later with a new toothbrush – soft to protect my delicate gums and with a petite bristle head as to not crowd what my dentist said was a small mouth. I have a small frame (with a hefty amount of flesh supporting it). Small frame – small jaw. Small jaw – small mouth. Who knew?

On the way out the hygienist will slip me a cute little sample sized box of dental floss. Mint flavored. I’ll even promise to use it. Because despite my reluctance I understand the importance of flossing. Really. I do.

When I arrive home I’ll admire my pearly whites in the mirror and consider sipping red wine through a straw. I’ll tuck the new toothbrush into the overnight bag I use when I’m house sitting and set the dental floss on the table by my bed.

“Every night.” I promise myself. I promise.

405 words/20 minutes and maybe another ten minutes of quick revision

English: Bird on a Persimmon Tree. A Nuthatch ...

They arrived in a plastic bag. Five orange orbs hard as rocks.

“They’re from my tree. Aren’t they beautiful?”

They were beautiful. They are beautiful. Persimmons are beautiful.

And the most painful test of patience known to humankind.

Six weeks later and the five persimmons on my kitchen counter are settling in just fine. One or two yield slightly to my fingers. The others refuse to show any indication that they intend to ripen anytime this year. Or this century.

Still, if I can just hold on a few more weeks. If I can wait until January. Oh! What a treat I’ll have!

But I never do.

I am a woman of limited patience.

And I know that in a few days – in a weak moment on Sunday afternoon – I’ll cradle each persimmon and gently press. I’ll fool myself into believing they’ve given in to the decay that calls them and their beautiful fruit has turned into a sweet, gooey pudding. I’ll choose the one that I know – I just know – is ready, and I’ll slice its top off.

One look indicates that now is not the time. That my patience failed me again. But I’ll refuse to admit that this was a bad idea. I’ll take a spoon and scoop a bit of reluctant persimmon flesh into the spoon’s bowl. As it heads toward my mouth I plead to the Goddess of Goodness for the taste of sugar.

Anyone who has ever eaten a persimmon too early knows what happens next.

Instead of sweetness, my mouth puckers. The saliva that could help me complete the process of mastication has disappeared. Drawn up and away. It’s not sour, nor bitter. Just vile. I spit the fruit from my mouth.

Another year. Another wasted persimmon. Another tragic gastronomical moment. Because if I had waited, I would have tasted bliss. The effects of an unripe persimmon on the mouth’s mucosa are despicable. But a ripe persimmon? It’s like tasting heaven.

As I clean up the mess I promise myself and the four remaining persimmons that I will wait. I will wait. Because some things are worth waiting for.

And then it occurs to me. Persimmons are late bloomers. Just like me.

374 words, 15 minutes, very limited revision

Sloth in the Amazon

“You have no discipline.”

I laughed at the suggestion. Me? No discipline? Say what??

I was visiting the same friend with whom I’ve shared meals with over the past few months. It was an offhanded comment, tossed out to me as I bundled up for the drive home.

But it sat with me, the comment. Right there in the passenger seat. It noodled its way into my brain, burrowed through my grey matter, interrupted a few dreams and is now, here it is again:

My Morning Vexation.

Seriously. Me? Undisciplined?

Our intention was to follow Benjamin Franklin’s sage advice: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man (or in this case – little ol’ me) healthy, wealthy and wise.”

But I always have been an early riser. I love mornings. I’m one of those people lucky enough to be able to jump out of bed ready to start the day. For the past year, on most days, I’ve been waking between 6:30 and 7:00 AM. When I was working on the manuscript gathering dust in my storage locker I made it to the desk by 5:00 AM. So what if want to hit the snooze button a time or two? I’ve paid my dues.

Nope. My friend insists the day should begin at 6:00 AM, seven days a week. I, on the other hand, believe there ought to be allowances for days when our work schedules keep us busy until the early evening. For me, that’s today.

So when I seemed non-committal about rolling out of bed in time to put the Rice n’ Shine on before sunrise I became an undisciplined sloth. He was teasing (and for the record, never called me a sloth – that’s my doing), but clearly I must believe there’s some truth in his pronouncement or else it wouldn’t be nagging me so.

After all, where’s the meditation practice I promised myself? Why is my manuscript in a storage locker instead of Amazon’s bestseller charts and climbing? What about those ten pounds I’ve allowed to settle around my bottom half over the past two years? The pounds I lovingly call “writer’s ass” but are more likely a consequence of mid-life hormones running amok because I don’t have the self-control to say “no” to the occasional salted caramel (or evening bowl of ice cream). Finally – what about the medals for all the marathons I’ve run? Where are they? Well – there would be a few if the marathons I ran weren’t all in my head.

(Excuse me while I grab an ice pack. Do I know how to beat myself up for a fantasy life unlived or what?)

The truth is this: I do the best I can. There are days I shine. There are days I could live better. There are days I fail. We dream, we set goals, we make resolutions. And sometimes we have to set the dreams aside for a while, change the goals, abandon the resolutions. It’s not because we lack discipline or focus or drive or ambition. It’s because life happens. Sometimes life lifts us and we scale great heights with ease. And sometimes it grabs us by the…well – it grabs us by the you know what.

But here is another truth: Impermanence.  Moments pass.  Circumstances change. Happiness will turn to sadness just as surely as sorrow will turn to joy.

So maybe it’s not about demonstrating exemplary discipline after all. Maybe life is about living. Sleeping when you need to sleep, dancing when the mood strikes, eating with good health in mind but never forgetting to eat a few bowls of ice cream and some salted caramels along the way.

 617 words, 25 minutes and a few minutes of revision.

Rice n' Shine with goat milk, toasted coconut flakes and banana...yummy!

Rice n’ Shine with goat milk, toasted coconut flakes and banana…yummy!

Over the past few months I discovered the joy of having sit down meals shared with a friend. Let’s face it. Meals taken in a cramped studio apartment aren’t ideal. Until I found two TV tables at a garage sale “Dinner at Mimm’s” meant one of us at my desk and the other with a plate of food balanced on their lap.

But I digress.

On our road to attempted good health (gluten free, organic, limited GMOs) my friend and I began to shop for our groceries together. Rather than split the bounty we kept everything at his house. His was the bigger kitchen – it even had counter space AND space for a table and four chairs.

And that’s why my alarm has been pulling me away from dreamland at 5:30 AM. If I want breakfast I need to make the three-mile journey down the road and up the hill to his house. Crazy? Maybe. I’ll confess: at first it was torture. But when I decided that I could sleep in sweats and a tee-shirt rather than my Nick & Nora Monkey Pajamas rolling out of bed and behind the wheel of my CRV became much easier.

Add a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey and a few blueberries....

Add a dollop of yogurt, a drizzle of honey and a few blueberries….

Lunch and dinner meant coordinating strange schedules. But we managed. It was worth it. Preparing food, sharing meals and even sharing clean up with an open heart and mindful attitude is lovely. It temporarily changes the pace of life and offers us a chance to savor each moment and each morsel.

IMG_1667

Fresh pressed juice featuring beet root, carrot and ginger. A ruby glass of goodness!

My friend and I don’t always get along. We’re like family that way. But sitting down and slowing down to share home-cooked meals has been one of the highlights of this year. I kid you not.

And that’s why I better get my rear in gear. It’s ten minutes past six. If I don’t face this frosty morning soon I’m going to miss breakfast!

310 words, 14 minutes this morning and a bit of evening revision

 

DSC_0025 (2)_2This time of year I have some spare hours on my hands. Moments that I usually squander. Minutes that I typically spend sitting in my fat green chair pondering what great works I can accomplish. And then, before I know it, the next year has begun and it’s back to work.

I agree. It’s nice to simply be still. Stillness has plenty going for it. But to be frank, I have plenty of stillness in my life. I mean – I’m a yoga teacher. I spend a good part of each and every day sitting in stillness. Practicing stillness. Encouraging others to find stillness.

I don’t need stillness. I need action.

So maybe this year I won’t squander these days between Thanksgiving and the New Year. The days when clients visit family and quarterly classes take a break. Starting now.

At the beginning of the year I stopped writing. The same way I stopped creating visual art. “It’s all right,” I told myself. “I don’t need to write for others – writing for myself is enough.” And, in truth, it should be enough. Spilled words falling from the heart with truth and courage should be all any one writer might hope for. It should satisfy.

Except I had plans. Ideas. Intentions.

And instead of allowing the words I needed to write fall from my heart, I allowed my intentions to fall by the wayside.

But it seems the universe has other plans.

I was resigned to the situation. Reasonably content. Who was I to think I had any talent? And at this time in my life isn’t ambition as tacky as me trying to pull off a leather mini-skirt?

But in the past month I’ve been approached twice by two different and disparate organizations and asked to write 1,000 words. Asked to spill.

Initially I didn’t believe I had it in me anymore. Until I sat down and tried.

Those moments that don’t just gently nudge a dozing spirit but smack it in the face with a wet trout are pretty powerful. I remembered what I had planned to do four years ago. I gave myself five years.

I have twelve months left.

But I need to get back into shape. I need to work a part of my brain that, quite frankly, I’ve allowed to atrophy.

So, in these spacious weeks the universe gifts me this time of year I’m going exercise. Twenty minutes or two hundred words – which ever comes first – each morning before anything else. It’s a Julia Cameron-esque attempt at waking up my writing muscle. Tuning in to that faint creative buzz that I know I have buried somewhere deep in my cerebral cortex.

Wish me luck.

 453 words written in fourteen minutes. I used the remaining six minutes for revision.

 

 

IMG_1756It’s difficult to believe that just two weeks and a few days ago I was standing under the pre-dawn stars of the Southern Hemisphere.

We parked on the shoulder of a narrow road along with a hundred other cars in Queensland, Australia. We had left Palm Cove at 1:00 AM on our way to Palmer Lake and a guaranteed clear view of the sky. Five solar physicists and me. My Big Bang Moment. We stopped two hours later, some distance from our destination, when the cars, cameras and folks huddled with sleeping bags wrapped around their shoulders told us we’d driven far enough.

Stepping out of the van we allowed our eyes to grow accustomed to the dark and then looked up. The Milky Way stretched to each horizon and the Large Magellanic Cloud was a sparkling smudge above the hills to our right. We marveled and pointed and giggled until our craned necks grew too tired to take in any more of the thousands of fairy lights above us. We needed to sleep. The main event was hours away.

I was the first to wake. My rustling stirred the others. The stars were gone and the sky was silver blue. But that would change. The sun hadn’t yet broken over the rim of the earth to fill the air with brilliant gold.

We stretched, stumbled off the last bits of sleep and found our cameras. A few low clouds would prevent us from seeing first contact. That was all right. The clouds could have first contact. Everything else was ours.

The moon took its time. We waited patiently. Some poured coffee, others chatted with new neighbors. We were all strangers and all friends with a single, pure intention – to witness a rare and beautiful chance of nature. To see the moon block the light of the sun. To be awed.

IMG_1776As totality approached our collective restlessness settled. The light changed, the temperature dropped. The air felt different on our skin.

When the sun turned to a thin blazing sliver of fire we stopped talking, turned our bodies toward the celestial spectacle and instinctively drew a silent, sacred space around the moment.

The sun disappeared. One voice behind me whispered, “there it is.” Another, a cowboy’s whoop of delight from a hundred yards down the road, was quickly muffled. This wasn’t the time for whoops and cheers. Minutes before we were a giddy group of fellow travelers but no longer. Now we were one spirit in communion with something so big and so wondrous no words or photographs or dances or paintings exist that can describe it.

We took our protective glasses off and stood with totality for two minutes. Venus stood with us, a hand width away from the moon’s black silhouette now framed by the aura of the sun’s white corona. The experience was primal. Grounding. It laid us bare and filled the world with one pure, singular tone.

The flash of stunning white light signaling the end of totality is burned into my memory as surely as it has laid down scar tissue on the back of my eyes. Our glasses back on, we watched the bully sun begin to push the moon out of the way. But the sacred spell was broken. We gathered for souvenir photographs, enjoyed the fidelity of a stranger’s telescope, climbed into the family van and became our new selves.