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

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

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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

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 had a chance to learn from this woman 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 approach.

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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!