Tag Archives: balance

Feng Shui the Psyche for 2018

20 Dec

Call me superstitious but I take the transition between one year into the next very seriously. How one spends New Years’ Eve isn’t so important but the period leading up to it is: the week between X-mas and New Years can be a valuable time to take stock. It’s an opportunity to think about all that has transpired and to set a template for what one wants to create.


The only way to do this though is to carve out space in our schedules and psyches for contemplation. Who can think straight when our minds are running a million miles a minute and when our bodies are bone tired from pushing to the limits?

In Chinese thought, Feng Shui entails “a system of laws considered to govern spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy (qi).” To have qi moving with ease throughout a home or office, the furniture needs to be arranged in a way that optimizes its flow. If we were to apply the same concepts to our lives, we need enough spatial freedom in our schedules and psyches for qi to flow at maximum efficiency. If the Feng Shui of our inner lives is inadequate, some rearranging and prioritizing of how we’re spending our time and energy might be in store.

The last two Decembers I’ve had to consider, “If I’m this tired now, how will I feel in the New Year?” I want to start 2018 with a feeling of vim and vigor but I can’t if I’m emotionally, physically, and mentally depleted. How do I hit the re-set button? What can I stop doing or take a short break from?

I don’t think I’m alone in these feelings. Modern life is pushing us to move faster and faster. Our smart phones keep us constantly connected to work, friends, family, and information. Rarely do we get a break unless we turn the damn things off. Even when things are wonderful, we’re over-stimulated and taxed. Abundance of any kind comes with stresses too. We have to manage the bounty on our plate and even nutritious food is unhealthy if we’re stuffed to the gills.

If we don’t take stock, we suddenly find ourselves crushed under a wheel of demands and stresses we can’t manage. Then the feeling of being victimized by “it” only adds to the stress.

But pain is information. It’s trying to tell us something. We can take cues from when our energy feels blocked, gummed up and low. Usually, that is a sign that it is time to practice some feng shui. For me, that means slowing down and doing less. It means not going to the gym but to the hills for a walk instead. It means spending more time in quiet and less time in the car. It means telling people I’m getting off the grid for a bit and that I might not be so quick to respond to calls, emails and plans. But I can only put rest into practice if I clear space for it.

Before the new year starts, it can be good to write down what we want to release from 2017 and what we want to create. But we also need to consider what is realistic when mapping out our goals, projects and intentions. Rome wasn’t built in a day. So perhaps we focus on a few things for January, February and March and then concentrate on other items during the remaining months. The key thing is that there is enough psychic space to keep the energy moving through freely. Otherwise, we don’t think well, sleep well, or relate well. Perhaps new years intentions aren’t so much about goals as about how to live and love well and how to embrace our passions without losing ourselves in the process.


The Beauty of Boredom

16 Aug

Boredom isn’t really in my repertoire. Raised an only child, I learned to entertain myself at an early age and never really felt bored. I came to appreciate that there is plenty to do in life.

Yet every now and then, particularly when I’m super pooped like I am right now, I have to spend a day doing almost nothing. I always find this somewhat frustrating. I mean what could be more boring than just sitting on the couch or lying in bed when it’s sweltering hot both inside and outside? Just being is not terribly exciting, thought provoking, stimulating, or pleasurable. Nonetheless, I sometimes work myself into such a frenzy of career demands that the exhaustion comes with the territory.

I dislike these days yet I know there is beauty in boredom. Watching the hours tick away, not even reading or watching t.v., I find myself in a weird free fall. Just sitting here on the couch in the last hour I have noticed the sky change from pink to violet and now I see the moon almost full. I have painted two pictures and emptied my mind of weeks of teaching and travel. I have felt spaced out and my head has buzzed with a weird tingling vibration.

And I know this is absolutely vital to my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

The other day I was so happy to be home I bought three bouquets of flowers for different rooms in my house. Today, I noticed each arrangement yield more to its blossoms. When we’re bored, we start to pay attention.


Tomorrow is another day. The to-do list never ending. The I-want-to-do-list even longer.

Yet today I had moments of boredom and in those pockets of empty space, I heard the still small voice that beckons me. As always, I doubt where it will lead me, yet know I must find the courage to follow it. Without the down time, I wouldn’t have paid attention to its presence.

Running Water Over Stones

25 Mar

As I watched a group of neighbors dressed in black walk to Maudy Thursday services at a nearby church, I looked down and realized that I too was dressed in black. My yoga pants were black and so was my sweater. Only the neigbhors entered the church and I walked into the funky and traditional yoga studio near my house. “I’m worshipping at a different altar tonight,” I thought. However, for me, it’s all the same altar. Prayer, meditation, yoga, nature, church fellowship, and worship are all fundamental resources that help me feel connected to God.


Although I have taken yoga classes for twenty years, it has only been in the last few that I have started to understand yoga and to realize why having a practice is vital for my emotional, physical and mental well being. Yoga teaches me not just about my body but about how I hold stress and negative thought patterns and how I can stop the constant gripping.

I went to class last night because it was a restorative one. Restorative yoga is different than active yoga. It is specifically designed to calm the nervous system. By using props (a bolster, blocks, blankets, and a strap), you put your body in resting, open postures and hold them for a good ten minutes, if not longer. As you relax into the poses, you can actually feel when the body begins to melt into the floor or the props; you start to notice when the body begins to surrender its never ending push for control and hyper-vigilance. You notice when it starts to release the defensive and protective armor that no longer serves.

“As humans, we are always pushed into stressful states yet the body cannot hold stress and relaxation simultaneously. If we train our bodies to relax, it is physiologically impossible to hold stress at the same time,” said the teacher.

“In growth and transformation, there is always a degree of discomfort. So when you hold new poses, you might initially feel uncomfortable.” I burst out laughing. Yeah, growth and transformation can make one a wee bit uncomfortable.

The first pose we did was called something like “running water over stones.” At least this is the imagery the teacher talked about. Lying on our backs with bolsters and blankets propped to put our spines in their natural curvatures, our bodies were akin to stones that stay  solid and stationary as water runs over them. That water, that ever pulsating movement of life can wear down the stones, yet if we are solid and stationary, the water doesn’t have to push us around. We can be in harmony with the flow of life.


There are some restorative yoga poses where the props are meant to be intrusive, pushing the body to open and stretch more actively; others that are designed for the body to simply melt and surrender.

There is also the inhalation, the exhalation, and the space between the next breath. That space is vital; it’s where the next beat of life and creativity spring from. That is the space I am most interested in harnessing, yet it is the whole flow of breath that keeps one moving through transformation and growth.

“Relax, relax!” the Saturday teacher always says to me when taking the hatha yoga class. “You’re making it too hard.” If he only knew. If he only knew how often I can make things too hard or how hard I can be on myself. It’s good to take a look in the mirror sometimes. Yet he also says like a kind grandfather (and with a twinkle in his eye), “That’s beautiful. You’re holding the pose beautifully.” It’s also good to note our progress.

Is Technology Killing You?

31 Oct

There are days when if one more thing beeps at me, indicating that I have a text, email, or phone call, I want to pick up the phone and throw it against the wall. There are times when I want to smash the thing into a million pieces and scream, “Leave me the f— alone!” Can I get a witness, or am I the only person on the planet that feels this way?

Don’t get me wrong. My smart phone is a device of incredible convenience, and at times, pleasure. It allows me to work for myself, to stay connected to family and friends, and to be in a long distance relationship despite miles of geographical separation. But I think technology is slowly killing us.

The new normal is to be constantly beeped at like we’re Pavlov’s dog subjected to classical conditioning.

We are not entirely powerless here. We can have periods where we turn off the notifications and/or the phone. We can also elect to not have a phone, although in today’s business world, that isn’t really an option.

For someone who has had to work years on ironing out co-dependent behaviors, the phone presents a challenge. When it beeps at me I feel like it’s a person who IMMEDIATELY wants something from me. I have to pause and say to myself, “Your emergency is not my emergency,” or, “I’m in the middle of something. I can’t get to you right now. Whatever it is can wait.” If I’m driving in the middle of heinous traffic conditions, it’s best I focus on the road and tell the phone, “Go away! Later!” Or, if I’m in a deep intimate conversation with someone and the phone beeps or rings or vibrates or buzzes, I can pause and say, “Let me turn this thing off.”

The other day I took my car in for an oil change. My mechanic’s shop was a buzz with activity. Cars and people were lined up for his attention, the phone was ringing, and the office attendant had temporarily stepped out. Yet he didn’t seem harried or flustered. He just calmly did what he needed to do, one thing at a time. Not only that, he did it all with a smile, despite having thrown his back out. “What is his secret?” I thought. “What keeps him grounded and in the moment? Was it because there was no smart phone around?” I doubt he had one. However, I suspected his demeanor had more to do with something internal that allowed him to triage nonsense and to know the limits of what could and couldn’t be accomplished in one day.

After working at a cafe for an hour, I returned to pick up my car. It wasn’t quite ready, so I sat down on a bench to wait. Immediately, I pulled out my phone. Then I stopped myself. What the heck needed checking? I’d just caught up on all my email. At that moment, I felt a ray of warmth grace my cheek as the sun appeared from behind a cloud. I stopped. Could I just sit here for ten or fifteen minutes and do nothing? Could I just close my eyes and breathe?

I hate beeps and loud noises blasting from televisions, radios, and leaf blowers. I always have, even as a little girl. Instead, I love the sound of silence.

At the core, I gravitate to the most basic things in life: a flower; a bird; someone’s smile; a good book. As I sat there, I thought, “This is MY life. It’s up to me what I do with it.” I can make a choice. Technology can run me, or I can run technology.

At certain points in the day or night, I press the “off” button. Then I work on recharging my body, mind, and spirit. Otherwise, this device is going to crash.

Are You White Knuckling Life?

19 Oct

My significant other-person golfs. He is wild for it. I have only tried hitting golf balls twice in my life. Both times were with him. During our little lesson at the driving range, he told me not to grip the club. Instead I was to hold the club like a bird in my hands. Whatever. Even when I got a blister thirty minutes later, I didn’t think I was holding the club that hard. Later that night when I looked at this photo of me, I saw “it.” I wasn’t just gripping the club. I was strangling it. For further proof, the veins in my neck and arms were about to bulge.

I don’t know what it is about humans that makes us susceptible to over-extertion. We try too hard to control outcomes. Instead of easing into things and allowing a certain degree of flow, we push with our will.

Occasionally, we see the light and lighten up. The next day when I tried hitting golf balls, I loosened the grip. Surprisingly, I hit a few well.

When we grip too hard on things, we don’t allow for any type of organic evolution, whether this be in our relationships, work, or creative endeavors. There is a tension that needs to be struck between surrender and action. What helps negotiate this dynamic is our breath. The more we can let oxygen flow through in and out of systems, the better we navigate our life force.


This seems to be the lesson someone wants me to learn of late. The other day I received a card in the mail from a friend. Written on the card, in large letters, was the word, “Breathe.” I burst out laughing. If my friend only knew that her card had come like an omen.

It’s time to stop white knuckling through this year. Instead, it’s time to breathe a little…


Personal Inventory: Are You Living The Life You Want?

9 Oct

This morning, despite the fact that I need to be up and ready by 8:00 a.m., I spent an hour in bed reading a light, fluffy novel. I didn’t immediately check FB or my email. I simply stayed in bed, enjoying Nantucket and red roses, as my mind travelled to the setting of my novel.

Last night, I crawled into bed with this same novel and fell asleep by 8:30 p.m. I then proceeded to sleep for ten hours. This was the second night this week that I slept that long.

My boyfriend would attribute my behavior to the fact that I am an introvert. According to him, I’m on the extreme end of the introverted scale. I attribute my behavior to the fact that it is Autumn, and that I am tired. Autumn is the season where we harvest the events of the year and take inventory. It is the time where we prepare for Winter. If we live in a cold climate, which I don’t, we are at the mercy of the elements. If it rains or snows, we may choose to stay in and build a fire.


What crop are we harvesting and was there a good yield? And what do we need to do to ensure next year’s crop? Sometimes this entails letting a field lie fallow. Regardless, Winter will induce a period of dormancy.


Fall and Winter are probably my most productive periods of the year intellectually and creatively. Yet they are also the seasons where everything in me screams to slow down. I want to savor the pretty October days and the cool nights. I want to actually enjoy the holidays vs. be consumed by the stress of them. And I want to feel my own life, as another year rolls by. The older I get the more I realize that the years pass quickly, and that if we don’t take ownership for how we want to live, regrets will surface. I will not live that way. I want to fulfill the dreams I had as a child, that I played out in my mind, as I trotted off to school and admired the Pumpkins and turning leaves of Fall. I want to watch that sun setting like orange fire over the Pacific, and to know that I embraced its beauty.

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6 Jun

In yoga there is a balance pose that entails wrapping one’s leg around the other while standing with a semi-bent leg and then placing one’s arm over the other arm and twisting them into a pretzel-like shape. The only way to hold the pose without toppling over is to stare straight ahead at a point on the wall and not dare take your gaze away – not even for a second. I am actually quite good at this for some reason. Perhaps it is because I learned a similar technique as a child in ballet where in order to turn without getting dizzy you have to “spot” somewhere on the wall as your head and body spin around in rapid succession.


Activities like yoga help us practice more than physical actions; they help us apply some of these concepts into our lives. How do we find balance? And how can we execute and accomplish anything when so many things compete for our attention?

I am finding that in this day of cell phones, email, multiple social and work circles, personal relationships and all of the things that compete for our attention, moment by moment I have to ask myself, “Where is the spot on the wall?” There are times when I simply have to tune out everything but the one thing that needs my focus be it a person, a loved one, an animal, or a complex task. Yet more than anything I have to focus on God as my source. He is the spot that keeps me sane and when I remember that, it is easier to concentrate during the day.

Related, Stephen Covey in his very well known book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” writes about the importance of centering one’s life around key priorities vs. abstract tasks. The latter is endless and will always bleed your life force while the former will actually help you stay centered and efficient around what really matters.

I must remember that as long as I spot, I can find my balance. And I must remember that this is a spiritual practice vs. yet one more thing I am attempting to control. Here’s to focusing so intently, the paradox results in surrender.

Creating Space

14 Mar

When I was a little girl I spent considerable time helping my grandparents in their garden. Well, they worked while I slapped at mosquitoes and sang songs to myself. I remember my grandmother once explaining that a weed was anything that grew where it shouldn’t. Even a rose could be considered a weed if it was in the wrong place or choking another plant from receiving nourishment. I am a big fan of roses so it never occurred to me to consider the flower a weed. Yet my grandma had a point.

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I think about this conversation from long ago as I consider how over-crowded many of our lives are at this point in time. Talk to anyone and most will say, “I’ve got way too much going on…. I’m so exhausted. If only I had more time….” When this is the adage and refrain, I wonder if some weeding can be done, even if some of the “weeds” are the equivalent of roses. Sometimes too much of anything, even good things can overwhelm. If this is the case, we can become more conscious and judicious of what we plant in the garden and where we place things.

On the other hand, nothing is more exquisite than a wild overrun English garden. I’ve always been enamored by this style of gardening for these creations have a random and chaotic feel yet paradoxically bring a sense of calm. In them one finds a dizzy yet harmonious vitality almost analogous to a rich full life.

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Currently, my life feels like one of these wild overgrown English gardens. There is so much blooming at the moment my head wants to spin from the sea of color. And yet, if I’m honest with myself, nothing is choking out anything. Instead, the various items are delicately enhancing the others. Why then do I feel I need to control it all or take something away? Would it not be better to simply pause and sit in the garden for a moment and take it all in? How do we create space in our lives and what type of space do we yearn for? How do we find that fragile balance between order and chaos? I find it a daily process, one that requires the diligence and commitment of any good gardener and the ability to surrender things to Mother Nature as well.

Creating on the Edge

18 Feb

In yoga, teachers often tell students to push themselves in a stretch only to the point where it is just starting to hurt. One is NEVER to push to the point of true pain for that defeats the whole purpose. Instead, one is told to go just to the edge of where the muscles aren’t used to being stretched and to use one’s breath to ease into new territory. In essence, this is a balance between surrender and will.

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In therapy there is a similar concept referred to as “titrating the anxiety”. This describes when an individual’s anxiety begins to increase because he or she is on the brink of a breakthrough and growth. It is a process of adding an unknown element to a known one and seeing how the two ingredients settle. Yet the resulting degree of anxiety shouldn’t be so intense that it creates terror or paralysis for that serves no one.

These concepts have vital correspondents with the creative process, for in creativity, we want to have a degree of freedom and ease, yet take the necessary risks to excel and grow. Creativity demands that we walk along the edge of the unknown. It takes us into new places, which can scare and inhibit us, as well as delight us. We become like Dorothy, at first terrified by stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Then we start to see life in technicolor as we journey through Oz.

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We live in a society with a common mindset that success results from pushing ourselves to the point of collapse. This of course is the death of creativity. Instead, we want to strike that beautiful balance between rest and motion, and stability and chaos. We also want to recognize when it’s time to slow down and refuel, so that we have the energy, courage and conviction to take new risks in the future.

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Big Macs On Steroids

20 Nov

The other day I was making reservations to stay in the Big Sur for I’ll be in that neck of the woods down the pike. I heard the woman on the other end of the line hesitate before she said, “I need to let you know there is no internet connection. Or t.v. in our rooms.” My heart did cartwheels when I was reminded of this. “That seriously is no problem,” I responded.

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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m just as into the internet and my smart phone as the next. And because I watch very little t.v., FB has become a form of mindless and sometimes thoughtful entertainment. But more and more, I feel the burden of modern life catching up with me as we demand that our systems take more and more in each day.

In order to function, work and live well, there has to be a degree of inner spaciousness. Without it, all suffers greatly.

We are a culture of Big Macs on steroids. Bigger, faster, louder, more!!!!!! It is exhausting.

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And it negates the fact that there is a natural rhythm to life of both action and stillness.


I am ready to eventually live on a farm or in some remote European village. To take up sailing or fly fishing. To go work somewhere in an organic garden. For now, I dream of my reservations in the Big Sur… Where there will be no internet and no noise. Just the sound of living water and dense fog cloaking me in its mystery.