12.16.2014

sanctuary

this week i tried an experiment. i offered sanctuary. i’m sharing this experiment with you because it’s december, hopes/wishes/expectations are high, the world is moving fast, and sanctuary is hard to secure.

sanctuary is defined as “a place where someone or something is protected or given shelter.” (webster) it is home, it is safety, and it takes many forms. there are physical sanctuary spaces and there are relationships that serve as sanctuary in all the important ways. the best sanctuaries provide shelter, nourishment, and basic attendance to needs. bird sanctuaries offer places to nest, food, and protection from contextual threats. natural habitat sanctuaries keep the “unnatural” out and, at the minimum, faith based sanctuaries offer space for gathering with like minded others and the Divine. sanctuary doesn’t end there though. home can be sanctuary and so can you.

while most of you reading this have a roof over your head and food in your belly you may have never considered your place of residence as a place of protection. similarly, the thought of your self as a sanctuary for others may have never entered your mind. let’s take a minute to consider these options. 

seriously...close your eyes and consider: how could my home/car/place of business/my self be a place of protection and shelter for someone in my life?

if my self welcomes your self with grace then you are protected from judgement and given shelter from abandonment, alone-ness, and more. in listening better, attending more, and taking a few risks we might both be nurtured by the sanctuary that results.

the risk i took this week involved me opening my home as a place for retreat. i didn’t sweep or clean the sinks. i didn’t plan an elaborate menu or promise great entertainment. instead, i put out some bowls of nuts and fruit, made a simple pot of soup, lit some candles, piled blankets and heating pads by the front door and invited people who are the “givers” in my community to come and go, read or sleep, journal or stare into space, and simply just be. i asked participants to walk right in between 11 and 5, find their space, and embrace the quiet of a community of people being fed by some stillness. it was a beautiful time simply because it was. 

so often we don’t offer ourselves or our homes as sanctuary simply because we lack the vision to see that what we have is exactly enough. we don’t need better answers, more advanced social/relational skills, cleaner homes, better furniture, or catered buffets. we only need our selves and what we already have. i believe that we can always stretch what we already have without going without ourselves.

what if sanctuary is simply our full humanity being willing to welcome the full humanity of others? to love and to allow ourselves to be loved into feeling protected and nurtured and fed. what if we could offer sanctuary with a simple look, an honest word intentionally stated, or by sharing something we have that others might need? what if we allowed enough to be enough as we do so rather worrying that our offering needs to be perfect, extreme, or given without awkwardness? who cares about awkwardness when you are offering something as sacred as sanctuary. it’s bound to feel risky when our whole messy humanity gets offered up to the complex humanity of others in order to extend nurturance and safety and welcome. 

if you’re up for the risk, i’ve assembled a small list of ways you  might offer sanctuary in the coming days. i’m sure you have ideas too and i would love to hear them. if we each took even one small swing at this challenge, we might just change the world (while changing ourselves).

ways of offering “sanctuary” (from the easiest/least costly to more difficult/involved/more costly):

smile at the grocery checker. ask them about their day. genuinely listen to their answer.

look into the eyes of someone in your home/work place/church/volunteer organization/classroom and tell them one thing that you appreciate about them. don’t make it a joke.

have a conversation with someone where you listen 90% of the time and talk only 10%. resist the urge to give answers, turn the conversation to yourself, or “fix” the person you are with.

greet the poor and disenfranchised, or just “different,” among you with a smile and eye to eye contact when you encounter or pass them on the street. a “hi” wouldn’t hurt either.

if you drive kids around a lot as part of your normal routine, turn your car into a place of rest (name it something like “the calm cab”). buy small (cheap) battery operated tea light candles, travel with relaxing (but interesting) music or recorded books, and set an ambiance of quiet and rest. try some car yoga and deep breathing.

gather the change from your purse or car (or get some when shopping) and drop it into the bucket of the salvation army bell ringer when you arrive at or depart from a store. thank them for their work.

if you end up having to call customer service, work hard to make the encounter a positive one and then ask to be transferred to the phone agent’s manager in order to commend them on the great service.

carry a small stickie note pad. leave a note on the public bathroom mirror thanking the person who cleans the bathroom or stick one on your mug before putting it in the “bus your own” bin at the coffee shop, thanking the dishwasher.

rake your neighbor’s leaves/shovel your neighbor’s snow.

write a note/email/text to someone who has experienced a loss during the past year. tell them that you remember and that you care. resist the desire to offer platitudes and offer nothing but empathy and love instead.

use side walk chalk to leave encouraging notes on the sidewalk or on the ground by peoples’ car doors.

carry $5 coffee or fast food gift cards to give to those who can’t afford a hot drink on a cold day.

purchase the drink of the person behind you in line.

bring store bought goodies to the people who work at your local trash department, post office, fire department, etc. (they often can’t accept home made food items) with a note of gratitude.

go to a pet store and use the self serve machine to make a dog tag with a message such as “you matter.” place it on a ribbon or simple chain and give it to someone who needs this reminder with the instructions for them to pass it on when they find someone who needs it as much as, or more than, them.

surprise someone with a meal. drop it off with a smile and simple note that says “save the time you would have used to make your dinner and use it to stare into space, listen to music, read a book, etc.” even a simple loaf of bread, container of soup (or can of soup), a bag of salad, and some apples will do to make someone feel loved.

offer to do the laundry for someone in your life who is stretched thin. pick it up, take it home to wash and dry it, and return it the following day folded.

offer to watch someone’s children or ailing parents for an hour or two. if you have the resources, give the person you’re relieving money for coffee, a meal out, or a movie.

open your home (even if it’s messy, the dishes are dirty, or you wish it were better appointed...it’s the ultimate gift of comfort to invite others to encounter you as you truly are). light candles, offer simple food (even popcorn and water works), and provide space for people to retreat or connect. it isn’t what you serve or the decor you serve it around that will provide sanctuary for people. neither is it the intricate theme or event you plan to entertain. rather, it’s the opportunity to authentically connect with real people and our selves that speaks deeply. real people have sanctuaries that aren’t perfect and we all long to interact in honesty with our real selves invited to the table.


11.25.2014

relational fire setting (ferguson, facebook, and fire safety)

it’s been a little more than twelve hours since the grand jury in ferguson missouri announced their conclusion and there are fires everywhere. actual fires burning in and around the city (and elsewhere) and relational fires burning everywhere.

it is important to be aware that our words can be like sparks. they fall upon ears connected to hearts and minds where our language starts relational fires all the time. 

in a time when throwing words into wide open spaces is easier and farther reaching than ever, it is important to be mindful of the impact of what proceeds from our lips and our finger tips. in a culture where delaying is rare and impulsive commenting a national pass time we are constantly throwing sparks into the wind. because the ears that our words reach often exist in living rooms and coffee shops and homes far removed from the ones in which we sit it’s become far too easy to fail to consider the tinder we are throwing sparks toward. 

when building a bonfire at the beach or a camp fire in the woods we are told to survey the area, to prepare and light the fire with intention, to consider the size and scope of the fire relative to the setting, and to have what we need to put the fire out before we light it. lighting a fire without the right conditions can be futile or dangerous. either it just won’t work or it runs the risk of burning out of control, of spreading, of becoming dangerous.

what might our discourse today look like if we used the same caution? if we thought first (and long and hard) then crafted well constructed comments to be placed with intention out in the world? if we tended these comments with caution and care for everyone around the fire in mind (as opposed to caring only for our own safety or escape plane)?


physical fires are not the only dangerous ones. relational burns can be every bit as destructive. fire is a beautiful gift and unfathomable tool. i am spending my day praying, intending, and hoping that we will use the fire of our words respectfully, empathically, mindfully, and with love which is the way that all super powers are best engaged.

11.18.2014

finding your ten minutes (sh*t still & other ideas)

research out of university of virginia this past summer found that a majority of individuals asked to spend between six and fifteen minutes in a room alone with no stimuli chose to administer a light electrical shock to themselves over having no stimulation at all. this may seem extreme but it really doesn’t surprise me at all. 
as a person who has become hyper-aware of our cultural dependence upon technology, media, and digital devices, i notice this phenomenon all the time. from where i sit it seems as though we are increasingly uncomfortable when we find ourselves alone, still, quiet, or in any other number of what we might consider to be under-stimulated states. notice any group of people standing in line, waiting for their table at a restaurant, or sitting just about anywhere alone and you will likely see a phone or two (or ten). as a people we would rather do just about anything other than wait in an open and receptive posture. so, instead, we surf, search, read, comment, post, and tweet. 

the conundrum we’ve created for ourselves is profound. we are uncomfortable with stillness of mind/heart/body so we don’t require it of ourselves. consequently, the less we practice being bored, quiet, and still the less capacity we have to handle these states of being. in no time, we have developed the habit of distracting ourselves and any ability we did have to tolerate boredom (otherwise known as “open and receptive states of mind and body”) has atrophied due to under-use.

this cycle will not stop itself. 

neither will it be easy to reverse.

it is, however, worth it to try.

ten minutes a day is all it takes to double the grey matter in the regions of your brain related to emotional regulation and self control. while the participants in the research that brought us this finding were engaged in mindfulness meditation (much like contemplative prayer) for those ten minutes, i am convinced that even letting our minds wander in non-judgmental ways, or being still and quiet while soaking in the surroundings, or any number of other self directed experiences might have similar effects. 

there is an immense amount of freedom in finding ourselves able to entertain, stimulate, soothe, and regulate. being dependent upon a device for these things leaves us, well, dependent. finding ten minutes to do so could, quite literally, change our lives. it could increase our creativity, lead to greater cardiac health, open doors to calmness and internal peace, grow our capacity for empathic, authentic connection to others and more.

finding our ten minutes need not be a challenge. here are some places to grab them back from:

time spent waiting in line.
time spent mindlessly surfing facebook, youtube, twitter (or any other number of sites).
time spent watching the binge watching the third (or tenth) episode of that favorite show.
time spent at red lights or stuck in traffic (turn off the radio and leave your phone in the trunk).
time spent waiting for your coffee/to go/meal order to be prepared.
time spent waiting for a friend.
at a meal (or coffee date) you take yourself out to...alone. with no book or phone.
on a walk where you leave your phone behind.
on a silent sit where you sit someplace in public for 10 minutes and do nothing but look up and around.
at a library or museum where you can be quietly with others.
time spent in the bathroom. (a very creative university administrative staff person (yes, that’s you chett!!) recently suggested, after hearing that students tweet from the toilet at one of my talks, that we start “sh*t still: a contemplative movement of people committed to quiet potty time.” i could not agree with him more!!!)
time spent lying in bed before or after sleep. (i recently saw an art print that said something like “you’re the person i want to lie next to and look at my phone.” ugh...)

phone free time can change us. it can empower us to know ourselves and our abilities to live in the world. it can make us squirm and make us grow. it is worth the effort and it is possible. it will feel odd at first. and we might fumble and look foolish and feel even more strange than we look. anything worth doing is worth doing awkwardly and this is worth doing.

so, i challenge you, find your ten minutes and fumble through it with awkward empowering strange and fulfilling confidence. the pay off just might astound you.


11.13.2014

relational thanks giving

it’s been a full fall. travel, speaking engagements, and an ability to stretch whatever is left in the fridge has meant that i haven’t done a real grocery shopping trip in several weeks. the farm stand nearby has provided plenty of produce and we’ve just made due without every thing else. this week, however, i am home and i’m ready to stock up, to fill my fridge and freezer, and to make soup. lots and lots of soup. so, tonight, i went to the store. several of them actually. and...i am stunned. the holidays, it seems, are now “officially sponsored” by a gazillion brands touting pumpkin this, matzo that, and peppermint everything to make “your holiday table complete.” end caps overflow with “holiday favorites” and “frozen” themed cereal/fruitsnacks/hotchocolate/andeverythingelse (all “stocking stuffer approved”). pumpkin marshmallows, power bars, and chips (yes...they exist...pumpkin chips) promise to “elevate your thanksgiving table.” menorahs, christmas lights, and ornaments sit happily next to the thanksgiving table decorations (which are now on clearance) and everything everywhere seems to scream “BUY THIS AMAZINGLY THEMED FOOD/DRINK/GIFT/DECORATION TO MAKE YOUR HOLIDAY GATHERING PERFECT.” 

ladies and gentlemen, there is no such thing as a perfect holiday GATHERING and, if there were, you certainly would not find the elements for it at a store.

this is a stressful time of year for many. expectations are high. romanticized notions of family and celebration are before us everywhere. time is short and calendars are full. the options are hyper-plentiful (roast your own organic pumpkin and make your own pastry for pumpkin pie, order one from the bakery, buy frozen crusts and canned pumpkin, buy pre-made crusts but use fresh pumpkin, buy a frozen pie?) gone are the days of a few cut flowers on the thanksgiving table which held turkey and gravy, potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries. oh, and, green bean casserole.

the family that i married into holds a large thanksgiving potluck every year. the first year that i attended, my stress level was high. i was a novice cook from an urban home heading out to the country to contribute a dish to a table full of delicacies made by generations of from-scratch cooks. these were folks who grew their own gardens and made their own grape juice. they canned and dehydrated and baked bread. i wanted to be embraced by these magees who, i assumed, had never bought a convenience food mix of any kind. i wanted to contribute something hearty and wholly homemade to their feast so i went to work peeling potatoes, toasting home made bread crumbs, going from store to store trying to find fresh herbs (this was 1987 when grocery stores showed no evidence of herbs other than in the dry good area). i made my own stock and bought butter from a local dairy. i stayed up cooking most of the night before thanksgiving and woke up early that morning to finish. hours later i entered the gathering with pans of home made mashed potatoes and stuffing, a raging headache, and feeling like i might either cry or throw up if anyone looked at, let alone talked to, me. exhausted and nervous, i was giving my husband the silent treatment simply because it was his family i was trying so hard to impress. as the day went on and a few kind family members complimented me on my stuffing (which was soggy, overly salted, and passable at best) i began to relax enough to eat. by that time my offerings were gone so i helped myself to a heaping plate of the stuffing and mashed potatoes that grandma herself had made. they tasted, as i expected they would, amazing. i went back for more and, low and behold, learned from grandma herself that both had come fresh from boxes. “oh goodness,” grandma said, “i don’t have time for all that work on thanksgiving. not when everyone is coming over. this stuff (pointing to the boxes in the pantry) works just fine.” this wisdom will stick with me forever. i had made assumptions about what was important for this particular family time (from scratch cooking) and had missed the mark all together. what was most important to the magees was the togetherness and my misdirected effort left me largely unavailable for that.

where we put our time and energy, our forethought and intentions, our hearts and even our money, matters. it matters not because there is judgement or punishment awaiting us if we spend them “incorrectly” but, instead, because these expenditures shape us. i am not, by nature or practice, a cook. by trying to present myself as one i profoundly shaped the experience i had 27 years ago. working for the “wow, you really outdid yourself!” and “you fit in with all of us kitchen savvy magees” caused me to miss the opportunity to share myself authentically. in some ways, i didn’t bring what i really, most meaningfully, am meant to bring to the “table.” 

what do you have to contribute to the potluck that is november and december? retail establishments of all kinds will tell you that, whatever it is, it is not enough. they’ll suggest (in passive and active ways) that you “need” to supplement whatever you’ve got with an unending variety of items, large and small (take, for instance, the pilgrim/colored leaf/turkey/corn husk name card holders i saw this evening). the not-so-subtle messages are, “what you’ve got isn’t enough. more is better. in every way possible. every. single. time.” 

these are lies.

you are made to bring something specific to the community of which you are a part. if you haven’t found that community yet i know that there is one out there for you within which you play a unique role (i’d also love to help you find it). grandma magee knew that her role was to create the space and welcome people. the potatoes and stuffing were add ons. my role was to be a dodgen in the midst of magees...bringing a different kind of energy, connection, and “doreen-ness” to the family gatherings. 

what do you best bring and what might you be tempted to bring that is so far outside of your authentic gifting that it will keep you from being present? if your gift takes the form of creating ambiance and space, then, by all means, decorate. if it is cooking, do that part. perhaps your gift isn’t one that retail circulars address. maybe you haven’t even seen it as “bringable” but, when we think about it, aren’t listening and asking questions or playing the ukelele or leading the charge for a post meal game or walk or song fest all gifts? even the introverted community member plays an important part, holding the peaceful and deeply internal balance of the group. the bottom line is, if each of us were to confidently offer that which we were made to bring, our gatherings would be richer, heartier, more unique, diverse, and mult-faceted than what any picture perfect holiday table depiction could offer. culture, history, and tradition tell us that the perfect turkey is key but that simply isn’t so. the most important part of your gathering may have nothing to do with turkeys or food or even a set table.

knowing where, as fredrick buechner says best, “our great gladness meets the needs of the world” provides an incredibly important spotting point as we head into the part sprint/part marathon of the holiday months. it can free us from wheel spinning, unrewarding, fruitless, and sometimes actually harmful ambitious effort and empower us to contribute boldly.


so, this year, in a world that tells us that only the “more-than-full-meal/house/event/gathering-deal”  will do, i challenge us to open some boxes, add water, set the dish on the table and proceed to give the most meaningful potluck offering possible...that of yourself.

10.18.2014

why dorothy left kansas & jack climbed the bean stalk

i have never been accused of taking things too lightly. never. i love depth and intensity and crave meaningful experiences. i hear patterns, themes, and the unconscious and have an active imagination. it’s who/how i am. sometimes it’s all a bit much inside my head. 

when i played dorothy in my college’s production of wizard of oz i spent a lot of time wondering why dorothy would leave kansas. if it was her unconscious mind that took her to oz in her dreams, what existed in her conscious experience that drove her away? i looked for answers in her dialogue and read a variety of versions of the story to master the character. sure there were solos to perfect, dances to learn, fellow actors in tin and fur and straw to create chemistry with but what really interested me was why dorothy left “home.” especially a settled, peaceful, kansas home which smacks of security and warmth

recently i saw ashland shakespeare company’s production of into the woods which is an all time favorite theater piece for me. in it, stephen sondheim has created a world in which the capricious wishes of fairy tale characters are carried beyond mere fulfillment to places of reality and consequence. cinderella finds the prince’s charming ways to have a narcissistic edge previously unnoticed. rapunzel pays a horrific price for escaping the tower her mother has locked her within. the baker loses it all to find a role he has no idea how to fill and the tidy, familiar home under jack’s beanstalk becomes much less compelling once he’s met the “big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful giants in the sky.” wishes, it seems, come complete with entire sets of experiences that we can never anticipate.

if elements of truth can be culled from insightful fiction, it seems worthwhile to wonder, why dorothy might long to leave the warm home of auntie em and fairy tale characters make wishes that ultimately alienate them from their light hearted stories? why do they, and so many of us, long to leave the security of the familiar for the world of the unknown? if civilization provides us structure, what is it about the woods that calls to us all?

there is so much at stake in departures from the familiar. so many “big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful” possibilities in departing the homes (both real and symbolic) that we have built for ourselves and stepping into the unknown. so often the new, bright, adventures bring with them heart ache and longing and sometimes even death. even if “only” the death of innocence. and yet, we still take the risk.

at our core, i believe, is a curiosity about the worlds that exist outside of our familiar ones, the “woods” on the outskirts of our comfortable “homes” (selves). the spaces we inhabit in our embodied lives grow black and white, mundane, ordinary, or harmful over time and we long for the color, redemption, and grace of new places. we want fresh starts, adventure, release, healing or freedom. we crave something “more.” or at least “different.” we flirt with the unknown, the slightly edgy for us, possibly dangerous, usually enticing, brighter colors of the unfamiliar. sometimes we idealize these places of newness. sometimes we see them just as they are and choose them anyway. we are all suckers for experience. we were made that way. we want, at root, to feel, to experience goose bumps, and to escape the dull flat lands of our lives. even if only for a while.

with the amazing transporting capabilities of the internet and near constant access we have to it, we have more opportunities for escape than ever. wish for something to look at that’s more colorful than your embodied “black and white” reality? find it online. wish for relationships not bound by the constraints of how you look (or don’t look), your communication anxieties or shortcomings, or the limits of time and space? find them in digital spaces. feeling bored? watch something. surf the web. escape into video games. scour facebook. feeling sexually deprived? find some porn. want to eat out? use the web to find exactly what you want/expect/have had a million times before. unmotivated to set goals to get you out of the slump you’re in? don’t worry, there’s an app for that.

i have come to believe that there is a digital oz for every embodied kansas, a “big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful” cyber woods for every tangible (small) space we inhabit.

we escape when we are bored, tired, and lonely. hungry for god knows what we look to the internet to fill us up. there is a youtube video, a reddit article, a website, a game, an app, an instagram/tumblr/etsy feed waiting to transport each of us out of the known spaces we inhabit and into the world of our wishes. we seek relationships, self improvement, possessions, experiences, and places online like famished athletes after a race. we’re so tired of the ordinary (the ruts, pitfalls, mundane, predictable) and so desirous of something anything different and it’s so easy to find in spaces where accountability means nothing. 

the trouble is that in the finding we sometimes stumble across places, images, behaviors, and people that may not be healthy for us. titillating? yes. life affirming? no. captivating? no doubt. emotionally and intellectually “nutritious?” not so much. and all the while our embody-able spaces go un-explored and under-tended. while we are developing empty habits, we are also neglecting the physical spaces we live in. if kansas is good for family and wheat fields but neither are looked after, why spend time there? especially when there’s so much life in oz.

far be it from me to say digital spaces should be avoided. moderation, not abstinence, is my gig. mindless consumption and overuse, however, are a different story. i know these places and ways. i’ve been there. after seasons of ridiculously late nights resulting from boredom or worry (or any other number of emotional states) i’ve received packages in the mail from half.com that i don’t remember ordering. i’ve “stumbled upon” long past the five or ten minutes i’ve budgeted to do so. i’ve binge watched netflix and indulged stupid curiosities that have not contributed to happiness (if only i were taller and thinner and not every single way that i am). while oz is exciting, it comes with risks and consequences and some of them aren’t easily undone in the kansas’ in which we live.


so let’s explore the woods...take a trip to oz. let’s just do this with our eyes wide open and with a plan in place that is driven by life-nurturing norms not empty habits. let’s visit the embodied places of awkward, unknown, “big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, [and] wonderful” at least as often as we do the digital ones. let’s dip our toes in the water we can sensually feel every time we take a shower in cyber space and as our digital lives become increasingly a part of our real lives may we never lose touch with what it means to embody our selves.

9.23.2014

now that you've got that new iPhone 6

so...now that you have your iphone 6...and your screen is larger, your ability to store things increased, apple pay is on the horizon, and, let’s face it, your cool factor just jumped by a thousand...it’s time to take a breath.

seriously, put the phone down (even if it isn’t a new one) and take a breath. or two. or three.

if you’ve known me or read this blog for very long you know that a favorite “doreen-ism” is:

IT IS EASIER TO ESTABLISH HEALTHY NORMS THAN TO BREAK BAD HABITS.

it’s true. ask anyone who smokes or eats emotionally or can’t seem to stop accessing porn. it likely would have been easier to have never started than to try to stop. when we embark on a new behavior, pursuit, or activity we rarely do so with the intent of becoming absolutely obsessed. dependence is not frequently something we seek out. instead, it creeps up on us. slowly. without our noticing.

your brand new (or even very old) phone comes equipped with a gazillion kinds of message indicators. it can track your distances traveled, deliver push notifications that miraculously deliver starbucks coupons right as you approach a brick and mortar location, deliver stories that are right up your ally, and let you know when anyone, anywhere has tried to reach you via any number of platforms. this wonderful new friend comes ready to wake you in the morning, entertain you while in line, dim it’s screen to fit whatever lighting you’re in, connect you to the world, and, basically, fulfill your every wish. 

your body, too, comes with many kinds of message indicators. yawns when you are tired, stiffness when you need to stretch or run or do some push ups, hunger pangs when you need to eat, flutters when you feel excited or scared or stimulated, tears when you feel sad or, sometimes, even happy.

the trouble is, many of us are habituating ourselves to being more attentive to the message indicators that buzz and chime and alert us via phone than to those that come from our bodies. we have a hard time letting an external message indicator go untended and yet we ignore our yawns and pangs and feelings for days on end. the more we do so the more we live into the habit of letting the locus of control for our actions, thoughts, and emotions live outside of our selves. while there are some positive outcomes in this way of living i believe that the negatives far outweigh them. is being hyper available and having a well developed ability to task switch (otherwise known, in my thinking, as being distractible) worth the boredom intolerance, self centricity, and dis-embodiment that results from being more connected to the thing in our pocket than the person who is our self?


so think carefully (or even just for a minute) about the norms by which you would like to interact with this shiny new bff. consider, how might you keep tabs on the way in which you attach to it? ponder, in what ways will it make your life better and in what ways might your engagement with it put you in harms or habits way(s)? as you do so, be mindful of how you might develop norms before habits evolve. set limits before boundless engagement sets the course. find ways of letting the message indicators of your body, mind, and soul be at least as loud as those coming from that brand new retina hd, high contrast, dual domain pixelated, 4.7/5.5 inch screen.

9.01.2014

[frantically preparing for] the first day of school

a few days ago i sent out a reminder to stop and breathe and be present as our country headed into the last three day weekend of the summer. my message today is similar. if you are a parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc), a student, a teacher, or a person who knows anyone who fits into one of those categories...read on.

school starts for many this week. this means that there are thousands of people rushing to gather school supplies, find the perfect first day outfit, put the finishing touches on lesson plans or classrooms, and, generally, look toward kicking off a “whole new year.” 

for some this is a time of immense relief. tomorrow can’t come soon enough. i am exhausted of summer and the lack of routine. it’s about time for some me time. i can’t wait to meet my students/teacher. fall is the best.

for others this is a time of immense worry and fear. how will we get out the door in the morning? how will i make lunches for a year? what if my child cries when i leave her at school? what if my child cheers when i leave him at school (indicating he’s so relieved to be done with me from the summer months)? what if my child’s teacher hates me? what if my teacher hates me? what if my students hate me? what if my classmates hate me? what if i can’t handle the challenges of the school year? how will i ever manage all that fall has to hand me?

for everyone facing into the changes that school brings, this is a time to stop and breathe. just as before, i’ll give you some space here to do so. 

seriously. take some space to sit down, feel the ground under you, and just breathe.





from this place of grounded stillness ask yourself what is important right now. not, what am i supposed to do right now? instead, what is truly important right now?  again, here’s some space to do so.  what is important right now?




without taking time to really listen to your self you might be addressing all the wrong tasks today. your classroom might seem “perfect” with that one final finishing touch that you feel tempted to spend the whole day on but the exhaustion of doing so may leave you emotionally unprepared to greet your students with your full and rested self. your first day of school breakfast and packed lunches may be worthy of gracing the cover of “world’s best parent” magazine and yet the time you’d spend creating them may steal you away from the important work of cuddling up in the way your child needs you to before heading off for a whole new year. of perhaps the exact opposite is true and that classroom “pop” and the traditional amazing breakfast might be the very things that will give you and your students/child life.

the point is, all the racing and rushing and feeling and cultural frenetic-ness can pull us off track, redirecting us without our even realizing it. and we can stop it. when we do so, we offer ourselves the opportunity to live life with greater intention and with attention to what really matters to us personally (and our children and students and teachers). the culture is happy to provide us with what it believes is important but do we really stop and determine, for our unique selves and the unique selves of those we share space with, what is important to us as we begin a new school year?

if you’ve known me for more than five minutes you know i am a huge believer that IT IS EASIER TO ESTABLISH HEALTHY NORMS THAN TO BREAK BAD HABITS. 

norms provide us with structure and a spotting point of sorts. without sitting down on the ground, breathing deep, and attending to what is important to us personally we may never know which norms we want to choose to live by as we begin a new school year. when i finally realized that i didn’t really care how my kids looked when they went off to school but that i cared immensely that they hop out of the car feeling loved by a mom who believed in them, it helped me establish school morning norms that we thrived within. i stopped sending them back to their rooms to find clothes that matched (pure habit) and simply saw past the clothes to the inside of who they were (new norm) leaving us with extra time for morning connection. 

there are a million ways of living by habit and very few of living intentionally. this lesser taken path involves a lot of sitting, breathing, and taking a minute or two (seriously, it’s all it takes) to make conscious choices about how and what you attend to. it feels odd, when there are a million things to tend to, to drop to the floor and breathe but it might just save your day and the days of those around you. 

so, with that all said, breathe in and then breathe out. ask yourself,

what’s important now?

what does my habitual self feel tempted to tend to?

if i were intentional about what i need and what those around me genuinely need, how might i spend this moment?

what do i need to let go of in order to be more fully present to myself and others right now?

and, most importantly, how can i return to and live from this grounded place more consistently as the chaos that is september ensues?


just as “only you can prevent forest fires,” only you can set the tone for your day. in so doing you set the tone for the days of others and for the cumulative days of the year. this is best done sitting on the floor, breathing in and out, and finding your self.