Mid Life Blog

My main purpose for starting a blog at this moment in time is to consciously seek and write about small and big sources of inspiration no matter what.  I have no idea if it will be of interest to anyone else or entertaining in the least – I only know I need to start something new that holds me accountable to seek hope and inspiration and “moving toward the light” of life.

The people and social movements who inspire me will be in these pages, as well as recipes that make me smile, wisdom to live by, books that taught me something, and some factoids about a single parent who finds herself in mid life just like all those others out there, making it through another day spinning through our universe.  ~ (October 2011)

By Erin W

Five Seeds to Water

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Five Seeds to Water 

  • I wholly accept you.  (Even all your choices that bloomed landmines along your path).
  • I embrace your entire being unconditionally.
  • You are resilient.
  • There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel loved.  I love you.
  • You are worthy of protection.

Thanks to work with the program set up by a teacher who started his spiritual journey in response to awareness of self-hatred, I arrived at more clarity than before.  (See: Month of Mindfulness)

I especially appreciate his offering that we can and must find our own path, not try to replicate someone else’s journey.  That said, next on my reading list is Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance.  I have read other spiritual and psychological teachers and writers’ mantras and advice for years, but arriving at my own based on my own root causes and my own journey toward self-acceptance feels most powerful.   I intend to sit with one of the 5 seeds any time I can only hear or see the self-hater.

My Inner Hater Boiled Down – Seeds to Let Wither

  • You are too broken to be loved.
  • Stay in exile.  Your physical body exempts you from life.

Gotta repeat the seeds to water.  I find saying/thinking any one of these for 60 seconds completely transforms my inner state.  Over time, I imagine the Inner Hater will be weaker, even if it does pay a visit.

Five Seeds to Water 

  • I wholly accept you.  (Even all your choices that bloomed landmines along your path).
  • I embrace your entire being unconditionally.
  • You are resilient.
  • There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel loved.  I love you.
  • You are worthy of protection.
By Erin W

Self-Acceptance: The Longest Journey

I have been blessed to encounter several people over the past few years who have spent much energy and time focused on the theme of self-acceptance.  And I have learned that even highly practiced spiritual people (monks, nuns, spiritual leaders), find themselves repeatedly faced with what can be called the “inner critic,” “the voice,” “self-violence,” despite their practices and transformational tool kits.

I finally understand self-acceptance as the longest journey.  Something that revisits even the most contented of us over a lifetime.  The why I dream of walking across the country or completing a ginormous distance on foot.  The what I am facing when I cannot sleep an entire night  with tears until I write the voice down to get the words out of my head.

The cycle goes something like this:  Meditate daily, find peace.  Learn self-care, find balance.  Go to psychotherapy, find peace.   Go to Nature’s nurturing, find healing.  Shine the light on the inner critic, endure hours of strong emotions, confusion, and give up meditating for a while because trying to hold the critic in awareness becomes too painful.  Repeat.

Sometimes my dear wise one (daughter) absolutely stuns me with wisdom/insight beyond her years.  I mentioned I was going through a period where I was really struggling with self-hatred.  She said, incredulous, “You hate yourself?  Is it mostly your physical self or your emotional self?”

I sat in silence for a bit, because I had never thought about it precisely that way.  Emotional self?  Physical self?  We talked about the ways in which our culture tells women especially that everything we are is (physically at least) wrong, which on top of my personal body-specific experiences could contribute to the sense I have.  She shared some of her experiences.  All the while I know this is “story,” “cause and effect,” and does not get at what control we DO have over real acceptance.

For me, the voice is about being too broken to be loved.  About a physically embodied “wrongness.”  I know that no matter what loving being is in my life, until I can get further along my journey to self-acceptance, another person’s acceptance will not reach me.  I will simply be deaf to it because the voice in my head is louder.

I am loving my new job of the past two weeks because it gives me opportunity to “listen in” on a wide variety of learnings.  I had a chance to hear this woman speak about her journey toward self-acceptance.  I feel I can learn from her journey toward empowerment.  At first I rolled my eyes, “not another ad for a quick weight loss scheme.”  And then I listened to her speak.

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She outlined the most reasoned, rational, no excuse plan she tailor-made for her own self by trial and error.  And she did it all from a place of trying what worked and if that didn’t work, trying something different, all the while determined she would figure out how to be healthy.   And acknowledging lifestyle change of any kind is difficult.

What I especially love is in the subtitle “PLAN FOR SELF-ACCEPTANCE”.   She arrived at a formula I intend to follow using my own trial and error as guide:

70% food, 10% exercise, 10% planning, and 10% sleep.

It dawned on me, this is part of what I need.  A plan.  Not just letting myself be blown over by emotions or attached to story, but a plan.

So I am continuing my longest journey with a next step to lose 45 pounds (for the 3rd time in my life) in order to experience the best health this body can and start to maybe this time feel differently about my “embodied wrongness.”   I know I need to do something different than the other times I’ve lost the weight.  The good news is, I’m already halfway there, having given up dairy and alcohol and meat– intuitively following what I know my body needs.  The bad news is, I know in order for me to be 45 pounds overweight as a vegetarian for 30 years/vegan for 1, I must need to change other habits, other figuring out what works in order to once again be able to stand comfortably in my own body and experience greater overall health.

A Look Around

So many thoughts these days wanting to bubble to some boiling point and turn into steam.  Something great lies ahead.  Meanwhile I am here.  Scared out of my wits at moments, depressed at moments, meditating moments, having a good laugh.

I started to write a seriously serious post but was reminded when all is serious, the ego is usually in charge. ; )

So instead I sum it up thusly.  images

1)  CONGRATS AND RELIEF:  This week is my final days of doing medical transcription – work I have done day in, day out (with the exception of 9 months of my child’s inpatient cancer treatment, and even then 10 hrs/week) – for 22 YEARS, most often 50+ hours per week, most often including weekends without vacations for years.  I calculated average number of weekly patient hospital records I completed from around the US over this period of time is equivalent to 1% of the US population (1% of 317 million).  No worries about confidentiality folks.  I trained myself to forget everything I hear.  With the exception of a few emotionally charged cases I remember years later, I succeed in forgetting.

In some ways, it feels like a strange secret honor to have been a “fly on the wall” to so many people’s medical struggles, emergencies, and even death notices.   In other ways, it was a job I started 22 years ago thinking I would try for half a year, so what happened?  Setting aside most recent job for a small hospital where I have been treated very humanely and sadly leave a certain spine surgeon without his favorite transcriber, I learned a ton about what it is like to be at the bottom of the totem pole of multi-billion dollar corporations, and I can say I am glad this chapter of my life is closing.

2)  FREELANCING FEAR:  Other than 1-1/2 days per week of known work for a client and starting to train for another client for less than minimum wage next week, I have no idea how I will earn income.  Strangely, this alternately terrifies me and does not worry me at all.  If anyone needs a whiz-bang transcript made of a recorded interview, meeting, focus group or lecture, please contact me via the Speedyfingers tab at the top of this blog.

3)  CAREER COUNSELING:  Why on earth would a person who spent 14 years aiming toward a music performance career, 3 years of biology courses, 2 years as an immunology research intern, 2 years of education study, 2 years ecopsychology study, an English degree with minimally creative writing involving horrible sentence structure like this, 40 years knitting, 7 years visioning some kind of healing program for people living nature-disconnected lives, and 22 years transcribing hospital records need career counseling?  I have been told this might be a good idea.

4)  HEALING PROGRESS:  I want eventually to be able to offer unconditional love and/or healing to others.  What keeps me from doing so?  While completing 11 of 13 lessons in an EcoArt Therapy course titled “Healing a Relationship”, I had a personal breakthrough.  Like lightening flash in a dark room, I saw the relationship I need to heal is with the me that did have an open heart and open dreams, the one who slipped away in the shadows during a time of crisis, intense responsibility, hard work, and a trail of disastrous relationships or attempts to seek love.  I flew over the past 15 years with clarity in a single second.  I laughed that the redeeming qualities of years of fruitless dating and more years alone have been learning I can be mildly attractive in the right light and downright hilarious, especially when I am the only one getting the joke.  I know the next time my pendulum of mind tells me I am exempt from healthy connections with people because of who I am, I will sit inside the presence of the woman who remembers an open heart and give her a hug.

I remain grateful for Nature’s nurturing and total acceptance of all of who I am.

Look deep into Nature, and then you will understand everything better.
~ Albert Einstein

I know loving supportive relationships among humans of all kinds exist.

For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment, that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.
~ Geneen Roth

Unconditionally loving, accepting human beings capable of embracing all of humanity have existed through time and will continue to exist.  Comforting.  That is where my attention will be.

Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something and has lost something.
~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Sun’s Glory

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As if in answer to my last post of the split soul, I watched a hawk chase an invading bald eagle from its nest for miles of circles against a brilliant blue sky and read this passage from Mark Nepo’s book “Endless Practice” on New Year’s Day:

Ultimately, the human in us must accept that it will never transcend this life into what its heart knows is eternal.  We can feel and taste what is limitless but never stay there because being human by definition is to live here with limits.  And the spirit in us that glides like a hawk, which we can also call our being, must accept that what carries it walks; must accept that while it lives in the sky, the life it is incarnated to help lives on the ground.

Ebey’s Landing, New Year Day 2015

IMG_3509Mt. Baker beyond cabbage(?) field

IMG_3518Looking South

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IMG_3505Looking North

Balmy 55-degree bluff and muddy trail
despite ice-covered ground outside bluff

IMG_3513A step into the secret woods

IMG_3516Famous Ebey’s sitting log along the trail

IMG_3517Perego’s Lagoon

In this New Year moment, I was among the greatest number of folks from infants to elders I have ever seen hiking this amazing spot (1000+?).  Did my heart good to see everyone including myself starting the New Year away from screens, answering the call of the open.

By Erin W

One Whole Split Soul

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
~ Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909)
2014 has been probably the most productive year of my life and also filled with the most grounding quiet.  Through meditation.  Walking.  Knitting.  Hiking.  Reflecting.
  • I published two small books.
  • I met beautiful souls, mostly online as that is where I mostly reside.
  • I learned about self-mentoring.
  • I learned in months of Eco-Art therapy courses how to understand Nature as Artist.
  • I set up shop to sell my handknits and completed more creations in the past 6 weeks while working full-time than I have in my entire life.
  • I participated in 6 OM healing/chant sessions and benefited from the healing sound energy.
  • I watched my daughter thrive in her sports, music and outdoor explorations.
  • I learned of an intentional community I would like to be a part of, even if the practicalities seem impossible.
  • I dove into two incredible solo day-long 10+ mile hikes, one in Oregon coastal old growth, another to and from Lost Lake near Bellingham.
  • I took nature photographs for the first time and relished that way of sharing what I experience in my nature-connected solitude.
  • I discovered a monthly group I can attend focused on themes close to my heart.
  • I experienced deep inner peace, awareness and clarity about my true nature.  I also experienced great grief over how I live and how few real alternatives I see in this moment.

On this final day of the year, my continuous soul split feels intensified.  Between the me that works to support heat, rent, food, health and car insurance for self and child by sitting at a computer screen moving fingers fast over a keyboard and foot over a foot pedal most waking hours.  And the me that spends an hour in the woods and feels my entire self disappear and become the wind in cedars, the gurgle of the stream, the deer, ferns, wrens, sparrows, spiders, mosses, lichens, sky and earth.

The image I have is of a person trying to walk forward with one foot on one path, the other on another.  The paths incrementally grow farther apart in distance, so going forward becomes impossible unless I run between two paths and carry on for short distances on each, or stay on one path 100%.  Or split in half.  Which is not viable for one whole soul.

A few 2015 intentions:

  • Do Foraging Fridays where I learn about a different edible plant each week.
  • Weekly meditation hour in sanctuary, whether anyone joins me or not.
  • Monthly group meditation with teacher.
  • Walk a 25-mile pilgrimage for a friend. Jan18Walk
  • Write down a concrete plan for my dream of walking coast to coast for half a year. . . whenever that may happen.  What my needs are, how I will meet them, how I will use the walk to raise funds for a charity.
  • Leave medical transcription after 22 years.
  • Continue to explore and research both knitting and nature connection as paths to healing from traumatic stress and develop workshops around these to share resources with others.
  • Finish all the required reading for the Nature Therapy Certificate program at http://www.sacredfuture.org and journal about my learnings in nature, but postpone entry into the program until I can pay for it without undue stress.
  • Reduce my dependence on plastics anywhere I can and pick up discarded plastic wherever I walk.
  • Explore NAET and insurance coverage for my severe animal allergies.
  • Find that 1:million place to rent that has not had a cat/dog in it prior and move.
Years of the Modern
by Walt Whitman
(1819-1892)
Is humanity forming en-masse? for lo, tyrants tremble, crowns grow dim,
The earth, restive, confronts a new era, perhaps a general divine war,
No one knows what will happen next, such portents fill the days and
nights;
Years prophetical! the space ahead as I walk, as I vainly try to
pierce it, is full of phantoms,
Unborn deeds, things soon to be, project their shapes around me,
This incredible rush and heat, this strange ecstatic fever of dreams
O years!

Accidental Leadership

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As I work to enroll in a learning program focused on qualities of leadership, I am aware that most examples in my life of leadership feel accidental.  In the right place at the right time.  For the most part my life has been a “behind the scenes” kind of life.  My invisible job from home or small group office, my passion early on for nature connection, making music and meditative endeavors in solitude.

The few exceptions stand out in strong relief because of the rest of my life’s background.  Like when I wrote and gave a speech in front of 600 of Seattle region’s elite, MC’d by a star TV anchor in a hotel ballroom to raise funds for a charity who had given me so much.  I borrowed all clothing and got shoes at a thrift store.  I was quite literally shaking the entire time.  But even though I am unsure who I pray TO, I prayed immediately before the speech to be used as an instrument for the cause.  My voice was steady and the fundraising over-the-top successful.  Following that event, I was given accolades by a former speech writer for a Seattle mayor and asked to join several volunteer committees providing leadership in that way.

Recently, a seemingly innocuous event happened in my household that made me aware of one quality of leadership– standing firm in the face of opposition to a deeply held moral principle– in this case nonviolence.

My child requested me to buy a holiday gift for a friend.  A video game with a violent title (includes the word assassins) and content, despite its otherwise good qualities of problem solving and even historical education.  I refused, saying I understand people by age 13 in our culture have watched untold numbers of murders in all forms of media, but that I was not going to spend my money on something that includes it in a form of entertainment.  I provided alternative gifts, but there was no deterring this willful person.  I do not mention this to embarrass my teen or claim moral superiority over anyone.

It feels important to me to observe the arguments:

1)  “The good guys are doing the killing of people in history who have done bad things.”  (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?)

2)  “You are not the last peaceful person on Earth, so it doesn’t matter.”

3)  “Everyone I talked to thinks you’re crazy, Mom.  It’s not more violent than any movie I see.”

I would like to acknowledge I am not perfect in screening every last thing my child watches, nor do I have the illusion I could be with all the devices available to her.

It seems to me sometimes a firm NO is a leadership quality, and something in me feels validated by standing my ground for what I believe.

For anyone interested in learning about possible links between violent video games and behavior, reading this was enlightening for me:

Why Do People Deny Violent Media Effects?

These studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in. So the question then becomes why people and journalists repeatedly shrug off this compelling body of work.

 

If you would like to support me toward funding my leadership learning, I invite you to check out and/or share my campaign here.  Thank you!

My Dream to Learn and Serve

Intentions Toward Honoring Self and Others

Chodronmandala

Up early again to work on a Sunday.  And the Saturday that was yesterday.  And the entire week prior.  And last Sunday.

Everyone I work with and for puts in 10- to 12-hour days 7 days a week.  Because that’s what it takes these days.  Maintaining the infrastructure of our lives has become untenable for so many IF at the same time we want to live in balance with our nature.  No matter the consequences, I do not care to continue the insanity.

My 2015 intentions:

1) Meditate.

2) Wednesdays off to be at food bank garden work parties.

3) Knit for my fledgling business and Etsy page setup: Conscious Knits.

4) Explore Habitat for Humanity housing, low-income HUD apartments and keep praying to manifest something I have never seen – a 2 bdr rental cottage in the woods with no prior cat/dog.

5) Cut hours in half each day that I listen to medical traumas (medical transcription).

6) Walk each day outdoors and live more of the freedom walking provides me.

7) Learn about vulnerability, letting go, living with state aid or whatever is required to put self-care first and stop the intense pressure to provide.

8) Remember my FILTER LIST.

FILTER LIST

I am walking.

I am serving others.

I am creating.

I am outdoors.

I am traveling.

I am now and forever a magnet for all the good and abundance that is mine by divine right.

All Miracles?

No More Want.  Is it possible to not want?  That question rumbles around inside.

Of course my favorite escape dream visits of living off land, immersed in nature most of my days, a tiny cottage with a music room and desk, but I don’t feel willing or able to throw out everything and my responsibilities to get there.

What if where I am is a miracle?  Every breath, every word, everything unfolding?

I’ve been kindly offered much help on defining what I want and how to get there.  My head spins.  Living with want feels like a stranglehold.  Yes, road maps can be constructed and realistic steps a person can take to get from Point A to Point B.  Simple cause and effect.  This begets this, that begets that.  I know there is work one can do to bring oneself from poverty to affluence, from soul-deadening work to joyful work.  Everyone will tell you it begins inside of yourself.  It’s all you shifting.

And then a course on how to bring compassion to the parts of you that have been blocking miracles.  I listen in and feel uncomfortable, because I wonder, what if it’s all miracles?  Self-compassion is fabulous, but who’s to say miracles are blocked just because a person does not live everything the way they might think is ideal?

What if every moment up to now is a miracle?  Is it possible to not want, but simply unfold like a leaf?

Dreams that live in me are always just a someday away and maybe dreams are better like that.

What about now?  What about the miracle of being here, thinking these thoughts, breathing in this time, doing these things?

I have created in many ways during 2014, more than in my entire adult life.  Drawing, learning, photographing, publishing, knitting, writing.  Some days I have felt urgency like a plant that flowers like crazy before it dies.  Pressure to create a new vision because same old, same old feels worn out and uncomfortable.  Maybe a new way forward is unfolding.  I am starting to think it may all be miracles, even the discomfort, losses, worry, financial struggle, even the not knowing.

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By Erin W

How To Videos

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My dream focus has been quietly for years on creating a way to do work I love in the world.  The need to work 50-60 hours a week for most of the past 15 years to maintain roof over said dreaming head places limits on the speed of my trajectory toward heart-centered work.  Plus I am challenged by simple technological advances such as e-mail lists, subscribe buttons, and online marketing.

One successful marketing strategy is to create How To videos on YouTube as a way to introduce people to you and increase your e-mail list.  After all, each of us has something unique to contribute to the world.  Some piece of knowledge, talent or innate gift that we have to share.

Upon hearing this tasty bit of strategy, I came up with the following list of How To Videos.

HOW TO:

1.  Live Like a Monastic Without Leaving Your Day Job!

2.  Become the Neighborhood Crazy Cat Lady.  Without Cats.

3.  Knit a Sweater in 10 Years

4.  Transform Unfinished Knitting Projects Into Yarn

5.  Create Delectable Vegan Meals From Other People’s Gardens

6.  Release Your Inner Nemophilist

7.  Meditate and Do Yoga While Working at a Computer Without Anyone Noticing

8.  Become a World Class Nature Photographer Without a World Class Camera.  (Redefining World Class – Step #1).

9.  Be an Armchair Activist.  Save the World from the Comfort of Your Couch.

10.  Survive Kookoo Doodoo Mountains Life Throws At You and Keep Your Mental Health. Sort of.

Distance Pain and Daily Practice

A list on Facebook clued me to German words that cannot be translated into English clearly.  As I remember my German grandparents’ frustration over this countless times, it gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling that different cultures express a broader range of emotions than might be available in my own language.

This is one term that jumped out at me:

Fernweh (Distance pain). This gem describes the feeling of wanting to be somewhere else. It’s kind of like a reverse homesickness (Heimweh in German).

Suddenly the fact I experience “distance pain” most days of my life in some way ever since around age 11 was a flash of insight into WHY I feel compelled to have a daily practice of meditation, a daily physical practice, and a daily mental practice.

I need to practice constantly remaining okay with what is.  Don’t most of us?

All the times I would rather not be in my physical body, all the angst about my paid job, all the angst about where I would like to live, all the times I fall in love with people who are unavailable to me and don’t trust what love I have.  It’s all perfectly described as FERNWEH.

It is easy and free as the air we breathe to practice gratitude and say daily I am grateful for my body, grateful for my job, grateful for the roof over my head and grateful for the people in my life.

It is also a challenge to go in the direction of one’s dreams simultaneously.  Especially when there is no clarity of the dreams.

Recently I participated in a visioning exercise that was to write a letter to yourself describing in great detail the emotions and practical details of your “ideal life” 1 year from now, 2 years from now, etc., each year up to 5 years from now.  I have had lifelong issues around money, but it became crystal clear to me how small I allow myself to dream when I found my future self writing “I now weed people’s gardens in exchange for organic produce, and this allows me to stop relying on the food bank.”  Are you kidding me?  That is the biggest dream I can dream?

This helps me remember to trust Life:

Be gentle with yourself.  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

~ Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

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This helps me believe in possibility, even when I don’t see how it can possibly unfold:

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

~ C.S. Lewis

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