I’ve been hibernating in the woods next to the ocean for the last two months. I’ve had lots of time to marinate in the silence and isolation that always calls to me when the nights get long and the natural world sleeps. I’ve also learned a lot. From my woodpile, no less.
The house I’m in is old and the walls are full of love and life well lived. It’s also cold. And damp, especially in the winter. A wood-burning stove is my primary source of heat. Fortunately, the house comes with its own seemingly endless supply of wood. But the wood is out back and there is no one here to help me move it inside.
When I first arrived, I was totally overwhelmed just by the idea of bringing enough wood inside to heat the house. Thinking about it made my back and head hurt. So, for the first few days, I simply turned up the old thermostat and added another layer. I pretended that I was warm enough.
I love this time of year when the darkness is brightened by Christmas lights and warm fires. I feel the call to hibernate. To go within and reflect on the year that is coming to a close and begin to set my intentions for the year to come.
All of this is happening a little late for me this year because of the recent passing of my dear niece, Songja Ono, who released her struggle with brain cancer on December 5, 2015. A very bright light in the world went out and a new star was born that day. I will miss her presence in my life.
So given the time of year and the state of my own heart, it feels very fitting to share the poem that came from my Black Madonna painting, She Hears Our Cries. I feel like I transcribed this poem more than I wrote it. I sat quietly with her at the end of the process and asked her if she wanted the pen. Her message is below. I made an audio version for you, too, in case you would like to sit quietly and allow her words to wash over your heart.
There are times in life when it seems that I’m living on a see-saw. One day, life is wonderful and I am full of energy and hope for the future. The next thing I know, all I can manage is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To keep taking one breath after another and having faith that this too shall pass.
The last month has been one of those times for me. The night of the Paris attacks was the Opening Artists Reception at the first art show I’ve entered in San Francisco. A long-awaited night to celebrate community and creativity had also become a night of deep pain as once again we faced the affects of rage and hopelessness and asked ourselves “why?”
How do we do this? How do we hold what feels like polar opposites and not tear ourselves apart? How do we remain present to the reality of our world AND not let the darkness overwhelm us? The only answer I know is choice. We have to CHOOSE to live in the light, to be the light. It’s not always easy, but with every breath, I choose love. Over and over and over again.
So at the Opening Reception, I shared the message from my painting, She Hears Our Cries. It’s a message about light and darkness, about holding both and it brought great comfort to many who were there that night.
“Be more curious than afraid.” -Ishi
I am calling BULLSHIT on fearlessness. Fearlessness is a myth. A set-up. An illusion. On the other hand, fear is a natural, often healthy response that arises deep in our reptilian brain. Evolutionarily speaking, it got us here. It helped our species survive in a world that really wasn’t safe, when “not belonging” to a family or a tribe really was a matter of life and death.
While there are no more saw-tooth tigers threatening us, our reptilian brain – and its fear response – is not going away. Trying to get rid of fear is like Sisyphus trying to roll the stone up that mountain. It’s a no-win. That’s why I’m calling BULLSHIT on fearlessness.
If fear is here to stay, how do we move beyond it? Here’s my current fear challenge. I long to move out into the world. To give what I know I came here to give. Yet, when it comes to acting on my desire, I am often paralyzed by fear. It feels like I’m on my own personal see-saw. One breath, I’m up, ready to take off. The next breath, I’m down, so scared I can’t move. It’s crazy-making.
Does this sound familiar? How often do we find ourselves here? Too many to count right? Sigh. Each time I wake up in this place, I have to re-remember that I can be scared AND move forward at the same time. I can choose to move through – and beyond – fear, if I’m willing to practice – a lot! – compassion, curiosity and courage.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it before. That sudden horrible realization that you’ve forgotten something really important…like, um, your best friend’s birthday. One moment you’re fine, the next it feels like the floor has opened up and swallowed you whole. The flush of shame comes over you and all you want to do is curl up into a ball and disappear…or slink off while no one notices.
It sucks doesn’t it? Being hit in the gut with the realization that you messed up BIG TIME. You can apologize. You can call and text and email. But no matter how hard we try, there is no way to undo what has been done. No way to “fix it” or “make it better.”
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this happened to me recently. Yup. Me, the queen of it’s-not-possible-to-make-too-big-a-deal-over-birthdays. I forgot my best friend’s birthday. (For the second year in a row, she now tells me – god, can it get any worse?) Sure I could fall back on excuses (aka “reasons”) that may actually be true, but the stark reality is that I Messed Up. Pure and simple. I hurt a woman I love dearly, a woman who has not just walked beside me, but often carried me, literally and metaphorically, for more than 20 years.
What a wonderful time to be alive! Summer is here. The days are long. The gardens are growing. There is so much to be grateful for!
I am deeply grateful that YOU chose to join me on this incredible journey we call life. I know that you have more than enough material in your inbox and am honored that you chose to add mine to the mix.
These last two months have been a whirlwind of activity, causing me to dream wistfully of those wonderful lazy summer days when I was a kid and the most important question was whether to stay in and read a good book or go out and PLAY. Ahh, yes, little did we appreciate how lucky we were!
Just like giving a new workshop for the first time, launching my website reminded me of the big plays we used to produce in high school– the intense preparation, the thrill of production, and the “let-down” when it’s all over and suddenly there is a vacuum. It feels like I’m learning all over again how to maintain momentum so that I can continue to connect, inspire and do the work I want to do in the world.
And that makes me wonder about you. What brings you joy? How do you respond to the vacuum?
How do you manage the let down and maintain momentum?
One of my personal tricks is to remember that the journey of 10,000 miles begins with every step. When I feel overwhelmed by all there is to do, I remind myself that just like breathing, I can really only take one step at a time. Sometimes, it’s a big step. Other times, not so much. Problem is that when the steps are smaller, I don’t feel like I’m making any “progress.”
I have a confession to make. When I launched my website, I said I would be sending out bi-weekly newsletters. In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t. Ouch! Not exactly how I wanted to start.
When I realized that I was going to miss my very first goal, I immediately felt the flush of shame. My inner mean girls took over and they had a heyday!
“HaHaHa. We said all along that you couldn’t do this! “
“You BLEW IT, Tina. No one will ever listen or trust you now!”
“You’ve never been good with planning ahead, what made you think you could do this anyway?!”
I know intellectually that I’m probably the only person watching the days tick by and that many others have tripped up in the beginning. But that knowledge didn’t help silence the negative voices screaming inside. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I hadn’t delivered my first official newsletter “on-time.”
I struggled with what to do, what to say, how to recover. So, I did nothing. And of course, that just made matters worse. It was a nasty, self-fulfilling prophecy. The more time passed, the more I beat myself up. The more I beat myself up, the more stuck I became.
This is not a new pattern for me. It’s something I’ve worked with my whole life. I become so afraid of what others will think or say or do, that I am frozen in my tracks, crippled by my conviction that I will be rejected if I don’t do what I think I’m “supposed” to do in exactly the right way.
So how did I overcome my fear? How did I move beyond that crippling shame?
Welcome to Living in the GLOW!! As I write this inaugural post I am filled with gratitude for whatever it is that brought you here. You are why I write.
Living in the Glow was born of a deep desire to support those who hear the whisper of their own dreams, who seek a deeper, more fulfilling experience of life. Those who sense that there is something more to learn, more to experience, more to be. Those who long to create a life that reflects their own heart’s desires. To be the human beings they came here to be. If this describes you – or if you are simply drawn to consider these ideas – then you’ve come to the right place!
Carlos Santana says there are two kinds of people in the world: artists and con-artists! Since I’m not a con-artist and doubt you are either, I guess that means we are ALL artists – of one sort or another. Maybe your medium is gardening, maybe it’s ideas. Maybe you are helping to create a generation of compassionate beings or helping others heal the wounds that often come with living. Whatever is on your palette, your life is your canvas. How cool is that?!!!
In painting there is a concept called the “glow”. The Glow is the place between layers on the canvas. When we leave part of a previous layer visible, that space– the Glow– adds depth and movement to the painting. While it may be only a small piece of the whole, it helps bring the painting alive.
In life as in painting, the Glow is that place between what was and what is coming to be. The place between past and future. The pause between heartbeats, breaths, steps. The brief hesitation before a tender kiss. The Glow is the present moment.
How many times have we all heard that our intentions matter? Too many to count, right? If you’re anything like me, there is often a big gulf between what I know intellectually and how I live my life. Bringing these two together is hard work. It requires me to discern, articulate, remember AND ACT on what I want. PHEW. The entire process can be overwhelming and I either give up or “forget” to take the action I know is necessary. Either way, chances are high that I will beat myself up – again – for not following through. UGH. Get me off this treadmill!
That’s why I love Patti Digh’s little book “Four Word Self Help, Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives” It’s an easy and quick read with wonderful artwork and fabulous action-oriented reminders like “Give Up Toxic People,” “Ask Why Not How,” and “Live in Present Tense.” Sweet, right?
Since being introduced to this practice by my first art teacher, Karen Brooks, I have often used it to help me remember how I want to live my life. Seriously. I have a large portion of wall space in my studio devoted to my personal four word self-help list. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways I’ve found to create new perspectives and build new habits. And, it’s FUN!
Embrace Who You Are
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