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

Last Post From The 3-1/2-Year Time Capsule

Synchronous with my domain expiring, I have decided to make this my final post on this blog.  The blog will be completely deleted by May 2015.  I will focus instead on private journaling for a while to remind myself I can still write with pen on paper.

I will happily make available any of my piano/harpsichord recordings since that person doesn’t exist anymore, and she would love to share the talent that was.   Just contact me to receive an mp3 by Google Drive or Dropbox.  Great background music for mowing the lawn, brushing your teeth, reading a book, or thinking something.

Highlights of the 3-1/2-year journey:

  • My favorite post:   Oh, The People You Meet
  • My favorite recipe:  Persian Ratatouille
  • Most magazine-like blog post:  7 Tips on Preserving Health and Sanity While Working From Home
  • First post: Double Rainbow.  Shows me how little and how much has changed in about four years.  My neuroses have remarkable integrity across time : )  But it is reassuring to know I now partake daily in all the joys mentioned in the post (knitting, music, reading and writing).
  • Conversations with Trees, October 2013:  Almost daily writeup and research about a tree in my neighborhood for a month
  • Daily blog post challenge, November 2013 on BlogHer.com:  NaBloPoMo
  • Most of my poems stored in this blog were published into a book available on Amazon in 2014 with assistance of Alex Mill.  Gratitude!
  • Special thanks to my most consistent blog fan (you know who you are Tom) who is an admired writer in his own right and a great encourager of fellow bloggers.

You can find me at http://www.healingoutdoors.org where, despite being unable to obtain further hands-on training in ecopsychology at the moment, I intend to keep walking the walk and reading nature-connection resources.

I will never give up my dream to walk West to East Coast someday to raise funds for childhood cancer research.  With any luck, that journey will be the next blog I publish.  Maybe at age 55.  I want to know what it is to live life on my own two feet.

Possibly the biggest change over this time capsule is my child was an adoring 10-year-old when I started posting and is now 14.  Life with a teen snapshot:

Monday:  “Do we have to eat dinner together again?”

Tuesday:  “I don’t want to have conversations with you anymore, because all you want to talk about is thoughtful stuff.”

Wednesday:  “Mom, what do you think consciousness is?”

Thanks for reading, adios amigos, and take care of yourselves.

 

 

 

By Erin W

Reaching Nirvana

Ta da!

Ta da!

The metaphysical description:

First I wanted to reach Nirvana ever since I learned of it.  Then I found it.

I lost all sense of time.  I did not eat or drink, only moved forward.

“Let me know if you find it,” said a man on the path– a man I would never see again.

I did not have a map, and after several hours started to fatigue.  Will I reach it?  Surely I will.  The moment I trusted I would, a map appeared.  Nirvana was closer than I thought.

In order to reach Nirvana I had to pass Something, but signs for Something had become nothing.  I never found them at either end of that path.  In order to know I reached Nirvana, I had to focus all my attention above eye level, above the crown.  And then I was there!

Nirvana was like a steep climb and a patch of dank, dark tunnel until suddenly all manner of color and light appeared.

After reaching Nirvana, I came out upon a magical sunlit space called Limbo.  I could have stayed there forever.

Suddenly I was hungry and knew I should head home.  Six hours into my journey, I returned.

The physical description:

What is Strong

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What does strong mean?

Dictionary definition:

  • able to withstand great force or pressure.
  • having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks.

Because I have been told I am strong at many points in life, I started to meditate on what strength is.  In what ways have I been strong?  When people see strength, what are they seeing?  Do we need to have the rug pulled out from under us to know our own strength?

Quite soon, my mind went to the paradoxes of Strength/Weakness.

And that led to awareness of the paradoxes present in every single piece of being human.  Fear/No Fear, Intimacy/Separation, Clarity/Confusion, Action/Inertia.

All aspects require both to exist.

Just ask Brene Brown, and she will tell you vulnerability is a person’s greatest strength.  And consider the martial arts wisdom that flowing with an adversary’s energy rather than resisting it can overcome them.

Some qualities I experience as strength:

  • Endurance
  • Focus
  • Physical stamina
  • Acceptance of what is
  • Living from inner (heart) wisdom
  • Quiet sustained power (as opposed to aggressive domination power)

I believe my greatest natural strength is ability to focus.  Focus is what I use every day in my job, listening intently to capture spoken words accurately. Centuries past, I might have been a scribe to famous or infamous story-makers, processing their wisdom through my body and out on a page.  I also use this strength in focusing my awareness and creating anything from complex knitting structures to making music to continually learning.

It occurs to me what others see as “being strong” in me is often opposite what I admire as strength in others.  For example, I have been viewed as strong by many because I have lived all but 5 years of my adult life going solo – outside intimate relationship.  And I have been viewed as strong because I was tested by some dramatic life experiences and survived.  (I don’t think anyone has the luxury of escaping this, and there are as many variations on the theme of surviving challenging experiences as there are humans).

YET I view friendships and intimate relationships as entities that require great strength.  To sustain them one needs to accept that all the goodies involved (vulnerability, catharsis of shared emotional burdens, physical intimacy, day-to-day practical support, acceptance, shared joys) come hand-in-glove with serious juju (potential for deep heart wounds, guaranteed miscommunications and misunderstandings, psychological minefields from attempting to connect any two people’s inner worlds).

I have met a few physical challenges to prove strength to myself.  They make great stories (“I slayed the dragon!”), and are the most important to society’s definition of strength.  YET they are the least important to me personally.

In this way, each person may need to define strength for themselves.

We all find ourselves as little droplets suspended inside a solution of circumstance.   The paradox is we can choose what to focus on inside that circumstance.

The strongest I have felt recently is in working with my own insights and habit energies to embrace the life I have.  To go deep into appreciation of being alive.

Walking to Being Okay

My go-to way of nurturing myself is to walk.  I was rewarded for my climb of steep hills yesterday by finding these great quotes posted by other walkers on a bulletin board in the woods.   Too good not to share.

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All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

IMG_3966 Above all, do not lose your desire to walk.  Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness.  I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.

~ Soren Kierkegaard

And here’s a personal favorite, while we’re at it:

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

~ Steven Wright

Walking is the one place I can go where I feel okay in my body.  I have been doing everything in my power to lose weight these past months and the scale has not budged a hair after an initial 7-pound drop.  So I decided to walk and smile at my 35 extra pounds (50 if I consider a standardized health chart rather than my internal compass of health).  There must be some reason you are staying with me.  I am doing everything I know how to let go of you (no temporary starvation or fad diets), so all I will do is smile and wave.  It will have to be okay.  I cannot leave you, my body, and therein lies the “wisdom of no escape.”  I can either hate you and my discomfort of being inside you every waking moment or I can walk and sit with you.

The past six weeks, I have been working my way through these books.  Walking every mile of the Pacific Crest Trail in my mind, practicing being free where I am, reminding myself over and over the benefits of self-care, grounding of meditation, and “inviting the bell” of the moment.  (Medicine Cards found their way to a relative in ill health, but they are a beautiful way to remind ourselves of our connection to the natural world).

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And then I was loaned the book pictured below.  I cannot recommend this highly enough and will gladly write a review on Amazon.  It is the clearest instruction manual on working with boundaries I have ever seen.  Being the good English major I am, I will list insights I could not have arrived at without this book.

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1)  Sensitive people and people who are keenly aware of others can tend to have the most difficulties setting boundaries.

2)  Boundaries take care of us.

3)  Self-care is the path to teach us where our boundaries lie.

4)  Setting boundaries can bring up strong emotions, but boundaries themselves are Yes and No.  They are not emotions.

5)  If you have an “extreme challenger” in your life, you can learn specific extra super-power tools to maintain your boundaries.

6)  Only you can know what is Yes and No for you.  Therefore, you are only responsible for setting your boundaries, not the boundaries of others.

7)  I recognize the Sacrificer, a bit of the Workaholic (though I work more than I’d like because I need to meet basic needs for two people, not the definition I have always associated with a Workaholic where the go-to escape is working), a bit of the Caregiver.

8)  The period I lived through a few years back I like to coin “PTDS” (Post-Traumatic Dating Syndrome) makes perfect sense when I learned how after trauma or dramatic life change, boundaries are at their weakest.  It would have helped me tremendously to have had this clarity at that time.

In general, absorbing this fabulous book shows me I have learned a ton about what I need to nurture my being over the past few years and I am living in a balanced way more than ever before.  Right hand on left shoulder.  Left hand on right shoulder.  Pats on back.

7 Days of Happiness, 6, 7

These are extraordinary days for Planet Earth and therefore probably for its residents.  Total solar eclipse.  Vernal Equinox.  Strong solar storms.

No wonder the cashiers at the grocery store yesterday told me everyone coming through their lines complained of exhaustion.  And stories of freaking out pets at night were common.  (Possibly they were taking in the aurora borealis while I slept).

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Now for pursuit of Happiness on International Day of Happiness that prompted this 7-day challenge I completed.  I like it so much, I plan to use each of these 7 themes over and over as a practice.

Day 6:  Focus on your three most positive attributes.  And the ways you use these attributes now and can in the future.  I gotta say, this was tough for me.

First I tried using humor.  Only 3?  Are you kidding me?  How can I limit it to 3?

Then I realized in an average day, I probably spend about 90% of my waking hours focused on my worst attributes.  No wonder I have self-esteem issues!  So I decided to focus on how a friend described me for an entire day.  And by the end of the day, I was on Planet EuphoriaFuture’sSoBrightIOughtaWearShades.

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Either my friend is as perceptive as a rock or some of the descriptors are true.  But either way, focusing on positive attributes does improve one’s inner sphere of influence. : )

Day 7:  Practice an act of kindness and share the happiness.  

Done.  Aside from completing a hand-knit sweater for my kid, I am surprising her with something unexpected.  Reminders and nagging to clean room and pet cage and finish homework replaced by only kind comments for 24 hours.  Perhaps she will think an alien abducted her mom. : )

7 Days of Happiness 3, 4, 5

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Day 3:  Find something to laugh and smile about
.  That was easy when with two nephews under the age of 1 that day!  Don’t want to publicly post photos, but take my word for it, they’re adorable and fun(ny).  Especially when one realizes he can touch the other one and goes for the eyes.  And the other one sits still and lets him.

Day 4:  Meditate.  Need I say, I got this one covered?  That day the sky cleared and the air was warm enough for me to sit outside.  So I meditated with back soaking sun, letting my weight rest into the grassy earth, becoming aware of a crow couple in cherry tree limbs, birdsong and voices of passersby, my body relaxing, my mind just being.

Love this passage by Pema Chodron from “When Things Fall Apart” about how to approach meditation.  

UNLOCKING A SOFTNESS

Even after many years, many of us continue to practice harshly. We practice with guilt, as if we’re going to be excommunicated if we don’t do it right. We practice so we won’t be ashamed of ourselves and with fear that someone will discover what a “bad” meditator we really are. The old joke is that a Buddhist is someone who is either meditating or feeling guilty about not meditating. There’s not much joy in that.

Maybe the most important teaching is to lighten up and relax. It’s such a huge help in working with our crazy mixed-up minds to remember that what we’re doing is unlocking a softness that is in us and letting it spread. We’re letting it blur the sharp corners of self-criticism and complaint.

Day 5:  Positively reminisce.  Focus on a positive experience from the past in great detail allowing yourself to feel emotions wash over you for as long as possible.  “Research suggests this creates powerful positive emotions that then assist us in the present to build an even better future.” 

This one was an eye opener for me.  I’d always learned keeping the mind’s attention too much in the past can be detrimental.  Especially as one gets older and experiences more disappointments, more traumatic events, more sense of “where the hell am I?”  and “who the hell am I?” as we look at our own hands and see outward signs of aging.

I could have focused on positive adulthood memories, but my mind immediately went to positive childhood experiences, so I stayed with what came up and each had a message for me.

  • Times with my grandmother.  Common theme in all was a sense of being truly seen.  Seen as my truest self, highest self, inner self.
  • Botany class with Native teacher in high school.  I walked about 6 miles each day roundtrip across a desert mesa next to a freeway for high school, and I never saw what was around me until her class.  True revelation and favorite homework ever in history of homework to identify and preserve over 70 species of desert plants.  She taught me how to see tremendous variety and life force where other people saw only dry landscape.  Great metaphor and training for Life.
  • Walking several miles to elementary and middle school a few days a week with my dad from about 3rd through 8th grade.  His place of work was on the way to my schools.  What I remember most about these times was his patience when I had asthma on cold winter days.  His empathy from his own asthma, willingness to stop, coach me to breathe, even risking being late to work.  And his patient listening to me about whatever I was rambling on about.

7 Days of Happiness

Why Not?

Days of Happiness

I don’t think it’s too late, if you care to sign up!

Thought I’d post the challenges here as I complete them.

Day 1:  Vision board of future.  Things like this and things like that below.  Dream of dream would be to find someone to apprentice to learn how to physically build my own tiny place.  Plus music, writing, knitting design, long walks, space for adult child to visit me.  Possible companionship, though that is my biggest challenge to vision being successful.  Oh, what the hell.  Yes to companionship.

And routes to more funds if any of this is gonna fly.

Day 2:  Taking care of body.  Walked several miles:  Check.  Ate healthy things:  Check.  Got 8 hours sleep:  Check.   Meditated:  Check.  Tough time for breathing lately, making meditation focused on breath interesting.  Jumped through bureaucratic hoops to get asthma medication refilled for “only” $50 copay:  Check.

logcabin tiny house

tinyhouse

tiny-house-in-the-mountains1 biogarden1 companion-planting_opt companion-planting11 permaculture

Shinto shrine

Travel Paucity

Rhymes with Travelocity. And for the members of Travelholics Anonymous, it’s been:

  • 9 years since my last airplane flight.
  • 16 years since my last travel outside the U.S.
  • 18 years since my last travel inside the U.S. but outside the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, California.
  • 20 years since my last trip across the Canadian border just a hop, skip and a jump north of me.
  • 25 years since my last trip to Asia.

Travel requires more-than-basic-needs resources, which have been slim pickings in my world of late.  But whenever I think I’d like to ask the Head Honcho for a do-over of my last 25 years, it occurs to me that if today was my last on Earth, I am filled with gratitude for the variety of experiences I have had and the places I’ve been.  Even though I would love opportunity to travel more, it feels enough.   My life is Enough.

I’ve met people who’ve never left their 2,000-person town in their entire 90-something-year life.   And I’ve met people who travel weekly across continents for work and complain constantly, never even seeing the places they are.

The best part is, there are many forms of travel.  And many of them are free of charge.  Think about it.  Are we ever 100% fully where our physical body is?  Isn’t our mind usually off thinking about X, Y, or Z in some other locale?   Even if only envisioning shelves of our local grocery store as we make a mental list?  Visiting a friend from days past in their living room? When I hear people in spiritual circles mention the phrase “multidimensional being” I agree I am one, but you don’t have to astral travel, see ghosts or channel Tibetan masters who lived hundreds of years ago to be multidimensional.

There is much to be learned by inner travel.  What I’ve learned by staying put the past years is:

  • Having enough to subsist can be a celebration.
  • Becoming your own exploration is rewarding.
  • There are many zones of awareness you can tap into if you take the time.
  • Knowing the difference between you and your mind is something best learned by staying put, following that breath as far as it can go.

My luck is changing.  Things are slowly shifting in the resource department.  Working harder than ever before, taking new contracts offered, after taxes, medical and sports fees and endless stream of unexpected costs involved in supporting two people, by the end of 2015 I may be in a position to travel once again. Places I have traveled only in my mind:

  • Ecuador and Peruvian rain forest
  • Ireland (it’s my namesake even though I have not a drop of Irish blood; my allergies/asthma exempted me from joining a college semester group there)
  • Scotland
  • France (five years of French classes ought to come back to me, c’est vrai mais peut-etre pas)
  • India
  • Kenya and Tanzania
  • Thailand

Reminiscing. Best of Japan photos 25 years ago scanned to preserve ancient technology to digital format.  Even though I went to Tokyo several times and visited large urban centers, the photos meaningful to me were from weekend solo train trips to various temples and group hike meetups with other foreigners.  Have watched every one of Miyazaki’s films that capture the country landscapes so beautifully.

Questions For Life

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As long as we ask questions, Life provides answers everywhere.  I have been feeling a strong longing to dive deeper into spiritual exploration for a long time, and am seeking sessions with various practiced teachers of different wisdom lineages.  For years, I have wanted to drop everything and just slip into an alternative life focused primarily on spirit.  So I read voraciously.  I listen to interviews with spiritual teachers.  And I keep my own daily meditation practice, that like the weather sometimes feels like crap, sometimes feels completely untethered to any grounding, and sometimes like pure bliss where I go to another realm for what feels like 60 seconds returning to find my clock moved a full 60 minutes.

It’s darn inconvenient to find a teacher to work with that meets my need to balance the hours I need to work with my lack of funds to travel to Seattle often that feels a “good fit.”  And that’s one of Life’s biggest teachers – inconvenience.  Do you work more hours to earn more money to travel, making travel harder to arrange?  Do you work with guides who are in near proximity even if they don’t feel like a great fit?  I’ve read all sorts of people’s experiences of utter knowing when they find the right teacher.

I want to focus on recurring questions:

1)  Who am I?  (at a soul level)

2)  Can I heal my heart enough to exist in service to others and myself?  (Can I serve without fear and exhaustion or is that too much to ask and need to align with fear and exhaustion?)

3)  Can I know a deep sense of belonging in this human family?

But then it occurs to me how Life teaches us beautifully.  I badly want a “guide” I believe I have never found, but then I wonder if I have all the guides I need.

Like, as I am going through a phase– lasting years– of feeling cut-off from people and all that feels right is to be with trees.  Then someone in my family suffers a crisis, and I am brought back to ways I can be of service, ways I can connect to what is most definitely in the trenches humbly human.

Someone in my art therapy online class I am completing on fumes (having let my involvement in the class dwindle), wrote me the most beautiful words I have ever been written.  I don’t want to betray confidentiality here, but the words are about how she sees me, how the difficulties I have arrive with a specific gift that I may not see until the moment I am ready to use them.  And English is not her first language.  There is a powerful teacher for me.

I recognize I have been seeing my own value in the shadow of a hero’s quest – my dream to walk across the entire country, feeling I’ve failed it if I have not transmuted my painful experiences completely and with enough confidence to serve others.  Maybe my value is more subtle than a hero overcoming great odds to be applauded.  Maybe I can learn a different value.

I want the universe to know I am earnestly trying to move past wherever I am stuck and deeply appreciate the love I have been shown thus far.

For now, it’s improving the little habits – how I eat, how I work, how I walk, how I speak to my teen.  Maybe that’s all the value my character needs, all the answers necessary.

Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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