Om Shanti Shanti

Week two of my thirty-day journey has come and gone. Here are a few thoughts from after today’s practice:

“Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

Chelsea Rae read those words during shavasana this morning. Her voice with the slow sunrise moved my soul, a little. I have done some form of yoga everyday for 15 days. I feel good. My arms are are getting a little achy and I have to force myself to rest, but I feel good.

That quote has been hanging over me all day. What makes me feel alive? Yoga, running, singing, cooking, painting, sculpting, writing-all these things make me feel like a real person with a beating heart. Isn’t that the point of a spiritual life? Couldn’t salvation be found in life itself? Isn’t that why we take risks? To feel ourselves? To feel God pulsing through us? Regardless, I am grateful for yoga today. Grateful for breathing and moving and bending and breaking.

Halfway in and I know the god I am looking for is bigger than my old one. He also looks like me, though he is a loving Father he is a small Woman. Though he is the Source itself, he is a grain of sand. He is the vapor of my exhale, the oxygen of my inhale.

Namaste

(You can find my thoughts on Week One here)

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Om Shanti-week one

There has been so much going on all around me (and I’m sure you, too) and I have been MIA. Wow, it is already September 7th and I am a week into a new month-long commitment. I have decided to do yoga every day for the month of September. This is not a unique challenge, by any means. However, the “why” of any task is what gives it its importance. Here are a few things I journaled after practice tonight on my “why”:

It feels a little silly to write this, but I honestly felt called to this.

For many reasons, I have not practiced the religion I grew up in for almost a year. In light of recent events and the world I live in, I felt frustrated with Christianity and hopeless in my faith. So, I said my goodbyes to my past life and escorted myself out of the culture that I had been so completely shaped by. Months passed, full of so much beauty, bitterness, anger, gratitude, and grace. Whether I liked it or not, the Divine was underscoring everything I experienced.

But I have also been empty and longing and I have recently come to terms with that. Like, tonight.

Rilke wrote that God is “the great homesickness we could never shake off” and that seems to be my truth.

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All this to say, I think I started this ritualistic practice to open myself up to that world again and to prayer again and to the idea of God again. Maybe if my breath and body are intentional, every time I unroll my mat, I will be heard by the Lord. My sweat, the result of work full of gratitude. My balance, evidence of a quiet mind. My rest, the clear presence of a searching heart.

I am unashamedly chasing God during this journey. I will let you know what I find.

Namaste.

 

Thank you

I have spent the last month listing things I am grateful for every day. Honestly, I had read accounts of this process changing people’s hearts and lifting spirits. But I was still doubtful. I am here to tell you that, although I am not a completely new person, this practice is transformative. Gratitude is like a wave, with each thankful moment folding into itself. By the end of the month, I was wading in an ocean of gratitude.

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Acknowledging all of the beauty and privilege that I experience every single day was humbling and moving. The ocean is vast and I have an incredible amount of things to be thankful for. I have kept up this practice because no matter how bad the day is, there is always something to be thankful for. It also gets me to clear my head for a few moments and get connected with the gifts that the Divine has given me.

I wanted to list everything I was thankful for this past month, but it was a very long list. So here are some of my favorites-

THANK YOU:

  • for this inkling of hope I hold on to
  • for strawberries on my salad
  • for David’s face near mine
  • for sun on my shoulders
  • for the song I sing in every darkness
  • for cold water
  • for Leon Bridges
  • for purple
  • for green smoothies
  • for feeling strong
  • for the pain that lets me know I am alive
  • for Jenny and young love
  • for forest park
  • for home made coffee
  • for my spirit being full and empty
  • for the train going by us through trees
  • for sleepy anticipation
  • for Tennessee rain
  • for flickering lights like stars or souls around us
  • for waking up at Anna’s house
  • for no more late nights
  • for intimacy at midnight
  • for sweetness at dawn
  • for You
  • for Me
  • for it All

 

 

 

Weekday Reading

Consider this a “state of the union” of sorts. At the beginning of the year, I resolved to read at least 50 books. My definition of what a “book” is is loose. I was previously writing little reports on what I liked or disliked about the book and key quotes. That hasn’t happened in a long time! I have not stopped reading, but I certainly have stopped writing about what I’ve been reading. So here is the comprehensive list (so far) with comments:

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  1. Finding Ultra by Rich Roll: This is a delightful read if you’re into ultra racing or a vegan lifestyle. 
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: So so good and insightful and moving. Loved it.
  3. What do we know? by Mary Oliver: Lovely poems with a soft touch that only Mary can give.
  4. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Funny and informative. A must-read if you have hiked any part of the Appalachian Trail. 
  5. Three Stories by Gustave Flaubert: Short and sweet with some intricate characters. 
  6. Namaslay by Candace Moore: To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed about how much I enjoyed this book. It explains basic yoga asanas with a memoir-esque narrative sprinkled in. 
  7. Poetry Magazine “March Issue”: This issue was full of lyric poems and a selections from Max Ritvo-a poet who died before the issue was published. 
  8. What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami: This book was a slow, meditative journey through Murakami’s experience with running. 
  9. One More Thing by BJ Novak: Such a good book to bring to work! It contains funny and engaging short stories ranging from 1-12 pages long. 
  10. Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron: This book is truly transformative. I loved it and plan to revisit often.
  11. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert: A collections of essays and thoughts on writing and living a creative life. Totally motivating and encouraging and I now want to be friends with Ms. Gilbert.
  12. The Feather Room by Anis Mojgani: It’s no secret-I love this poet. This is a magical collection that will take you through mystical scenes and real feelings. Sigh.
  13. Maron by Marc Maron: Though funny, this book definitely made me feel uncomfortable at points. I’m still iffy on about liking this curmudgeon. 
  14. Botanical Color at Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos: A beautiful how-to on natural dyeing and harvesting materials.
  15.  20. The first six books of The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket: David and I have been reading these aloud to each other on trips and such. This is my favorite children’s book series (sorry Harry Potter people) and I forgot how fun and suspenseful it is! 

So there it is! I have 23 weeks to read 30 books. I am back on track and beyond excited. Now let’s get reading.

Warmly,

Mary Emily

Outdoors on Sundays

The morning here is cool and birds are singing (thank you, Oregon) and I’m sipping on some cold brew. I’ve waited a long time to write this post because it’s incredibly dear to me and of course, that makes me nervous to share it.

“What’s my name, what’s my stations, oh, just tell me what I should do, I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night that would do such injustice to you. Or bow down and be grateful and say “sure take all that you see” to the men who move only in dimly lit halls and determine my future for me.” -Fleet Foxes

This year has been full of changes in the world and the country and I think it is safe to say it’s got a lot of us thinking “What’s next?” For me, the shift in the US government has made me turn into a reluctant activist. I am a passive white girl who has had very little in the way of adversity in her life. But watching my friends hurt because of racial tension, people I respect make plans as if they are going to lose their jobs because they work in the arts and the administration’s blatant disrespect for the environment has ended my passivity. I can’t rely on others to protect what I hold dear. That’s my job now.  And, if I may be frank, it’s yours too. Obviously, I am not putting the pressure of saving the whole world, resolving wars and conflict, mending a broken education system, etc. on our shoulders. But I am saying this: Find what you love and fight for it.

If you know me or have seen this blog, you know that I love nature. The outdoors are my church, inspiration, and motivator. I have found myself deeply devastated at the way things are unfolding for environmental agencies. With climate change as an imminent threat, this disrespect is not only upsetting but dangerous. You, like me, may be asking “Why?” Here’s my (probably wrong) conclusion: People in general, do not care for what they do not know. That is my only way to understand most of the decisions made. So I decided to try to give those around me the opportunity to get acquainted with nature. Thus, the Outdoors on Sundays Project was born.

The idea is simple: I go outside every Sunday and invite whoever wants to come along. I have gone outside the 6 weeks and have committed to another 9 (16 weeks in all!). Rain or shine, sickness or health, I’ll be outside with whatever person I’ve managed to drag there with me. I just want people to get to know their beautiful home. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but we don’t know how long our home will be this beautiful.

If you didn’t read any of the above and just looked at the pictures, please stop and read:

  1. I want to get the word out. If you are in the Portland, Oregon area and want to go outside with me, let me know.*
  2. If you are not in the area, commit to going outside more. Even if it’s a picnic in a park, the grass and trees will do you good. If you do go outside on a Sunday and are fond of Instagram, use #outdoorsonsundaysproject so I can see! 
  3. I am challenging myself and you to do something to help protect and preserve the world around you. I recently gave up meat because of animal agriculture’s environmental impact.  Recycle more, cut out grocery bags, get a reusable straw, sign petitions, go to rallies, etc. There are literally so many things to do. and they are all important and helpful. 

Honestly, I haven’t even said all that I wanted to about this. I know I’m not perfectly informed and I know that with everything that’s going on, it’s hard to see clearly what can be done. However, I know that nature belongs to all of us and that is a game changer.

Now, I am off to go outdoors. It’s Sunday, after all.

This is the link to my original Instagram post about this project.

*it is assumed that you aren’t a creep.

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Adventure seeker

It seems like I have blinked twice and the summer is already half over. If I am completely honest, this summer has gone by the quickest of any I have experienced in the past. There have been only a few markers or events to even denote the passage of time. Real question: is this what getting older feels like?

Regardless, that is not what this particular post is about. I have been thinking more and more about having a life of adventure. I recently finished The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and have started reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Both books are about creative living and I highly recommend them. In a nutshell, they are both about pursuing your dreams in a real way within the structure of your real life. Since birth (most likely), one of my dreams has been to live a life of adventure. I have always wanted to be an independent, free-spirited adventuress who writes and paints and runs and rides horses and etc. In May, I got a great full-time job as a tile painter. And just like that, I became a “weekend warrior” type. The adventure-seeker-free spirit inside of me yelped and I became anxious.

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I asked myself “what does this mean?” and “am I giving up my dreams?” and “Julie Cameron would shake her head if she knew.” A few weeks after accepting the job, David and I decided to make good on a new year’s resolution: to hike the Wildwood trail (over 30 miles) in one day.  We started the trail at 6:15 AM on the hottest day of the summer. I wish I could say that it was easy peasy and such, but it wasn’t. It was easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was hot, my feet swelled to twice their size, and I came face to face with my weaknesses. However, it was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. I got to spend the day with my best friend, I was outside for almost 14 hours, and I came face to face with my strengths. Additionally, I feel a whole new connection with Forest Park and for that, I am grateful.

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What does the Wildwood trail have to do with Julie Cameron, dreams, and adventure? Well, that day spent on the trail graciously showed me that I am pursuing my dream of an adventurous life. I get so focused and frustrated on what I am not doing, following, experiencing, that I ignore all that I am saying “yes” to: I have been to the coast seven times this year, I have run a lot of miles in the woods, I have spent time outdoors every Sunday for the last 6 weeks, and I have written almost every day since December. I am not intending to sound arrogant or braggy. I am intending to show myself and you that we may already be following our bliss, whether we feel like it or not.

Hiking Wildwood trail, committing to my writing practice, Ms. Cameron, Ms. Gilbert, and the “Outdoors on Sundays Project” (which I hope to unpack more next week!) have all been incredible teachers to me. They have taught me that, yes, I do long for an adventurous life and yes, there are always new and better things I can accomplish. But they have also shown me that adventure seeking is in my blood. I don’t have to worry about living complacently, and neither do you. When we find those things that make us feel alive, we won’t be able to stay away for long.

Currently: not running

I was out with my friend Kammie the other night and I mentioned this blog and she said “Oh, I haven’t read it because I’m not a runner.” I felt a little surprised and then I realized, I need to make running more relatable to other parts of life! Or maybe I need to write less about running? Anyway, if you are here and you are not a runner, welcome.  Thanks for making it this far. I promise my posts are not always completely about running. I also promise that most of them are one hundred percent nonsensical and unedited thoughts.

As of when I am sitting down to write this, I haven’t run in two weeks. Two weeks! That is the longest break I have taken in a long time. I felt a little niggle in my knee about a month ago. I thought it would go away, but it persisted. I kind of trapped myself into having to take time off and, let me tell you, not running has provided me with more challenges than I thought.

The first challenge I expected: mental breakdown. I know that sounds so dramatic (even for me), but the mental game that goes into running step after step is supremely difficult. The reward of endorphins and catharsis is worth it. However, when that rush was stripped away, I felt anxious. I felt restless and unfocused in all of my other practices. I stopped wanting to write. I stopped trying to meditate. I became helpless and a little hopeless. That story is probably not news to you and it certainly wasn’t to me.

The second thing I have experienced: an identity crisis. I have found myself challenging my identity as a strong and healthy person. Remember when I finally was at peace with calling myself a “runner?” When I had to stop running, I asked so many questions about who I was:

If I’m not running, who am I? If running is where my power, individuality, strength, health, etc. lies, then what happens when running is stripped away. Do I become a powerless, nameless, weak, unhealthy woman? I openly talk about running, does this make me an imposter without it? Have I been faking it the whole time? Am I letting myself get too wrapped up in running? Will I be injured forever? Should I just decide to quit?

I harbored all of those thoughts (and more) in my mind for over a week without knowing they were there. When they came to the surface, I was ashamed. I was ashamed for thinking thoughts that seemed so silly and I was ashamed at letting myself get so stressed out about something so privileged and trivial as running. I spent the better part of yesterday working out what fighting that shame looks like.

 I have found that, for me, the best opponent to that shame is play. Someone who is playful is not concerned about always fulfilling expectations. Playfulness lets plans be malleable and identities be fluid. Playfulness looks at not running and says “Oh bummer, I can’t run! What new thing do I get to try?” Play is so full of joy, hope, and lightness. It seems like when I am choosing to be playful with my plans, nothing can get me down.

As of when I get post this and leave, I am going on my first run in two weeks. My knee is feeling a little better and I am chomping at the bit to get back on the trails. However, I am approaching the whole thing with a playful spirit. If I can’t run the whole distance, I’ll walk. If I need to stop early, I’ll do it. If I get to the trailhead and don’t feel good about the whole thing, I’ll skip it altogether. I am a powerful, individual, strong, and healthy person without it. And so are you! Whatever that “one thing” that’s yours is, let it go for a while. Abandon your practices and see what playfulness comes out in your life. There might be a few moment of darkness, but there will also be lightness and healing.