Holiday Gifts For the Heart & Soul: Everyday Magic, Day 461

I believe in giving gifts whenever the spirit moves us as well as giving ourselves whatever gifts feed our souls and lift us up to live out our callings. In this tune, I want to recommend these possibilities for you to give others and/or give yourself, all of which are home-grown (benefiting the 99% and not just the 1%) and offered by people I believe in.

  • Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves & Others, an online class with Sharon Bray: Sharon is fabulous at helping people connect with their deepest truths, and she’s very experienced at offering superb online classes. She writes of this one, “What is the story you want to tell? In ‘Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves and Others,’ we begin with you. Your experience. Your story. We will work together to create a virtual community that has as its ground rules an atmosphere of safety, support and mutual respect, one that allows you to write authentically and deeply from painful life experiences. In this way, we will experience and model the ways in which writing can be healing, for ourselves and for others.” This class is offered by the Transformative Language Arts Network.
  • The Music of Kelley Hunt, Greg Greenway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leonard Cohen, and Others: Music keeps speaking through us and to us, and a gift of music goes, like the song, on and on and on. These are some of my favorites, but feel free to ask people around you who their favorites are, and then investigate! Also, Kelley has an amazing New Year’s Eve Eve concert coming up on 12/30.
  • Great Books!: I recommend these books I’ve read in the last year and loved: Chris Offutt’s The Same River Twice, Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, Harriet Lerner’s The Marriage Rules, Betsy Sholl’s Rough Cradle, Katherine Towler’s Island Light, Dick Allen’s Present Vanishing, two anthologies I edited (so of course I love these poems!) — Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, Stephanie Sandmeyer’s Broken for You, and anything by Pema Chodron.
  • Solitude & Beauty: Consider a retreat, particularly in Kansas at Shantivanam, a beautiful center just an hour from Kansas City or Lawrence. It’s a great way to recharge and relax.
  • Brave Voice: Writing & Singing For Your Life: This six-day retreat I offer with Kelley Hunt is all about recovering and celebrating your creative spirit. Past participants have gone on to write and publish books, release CDs, perform and read, and most of all, make enduring community with others who support their art and share the riches of their voice and vision. We have a solstice sale — $60 off if registered by 12/21 — here.

The Girl, The Ego & The Comfortable Room: Everyday Magic, Day 382

‎”Your goal on the spiritual path should be to free everyone else from your ego.” – Ken Wilber. That’s what my friend Scott posted on facebook the other day, which stirred some polar opposite reactions, from my “wow” to others certainly not in agreement. It got me thinking about how much am I impose my ego on others here and there without noticing. Then of course, I had to ask what constituted such an imposition. If I interrupt someone to say something funny, am I kind sort imposing my ego? If jostle for attention or avoid dealing with a mess, I’m clearly not freeing others of my ego.

And all this made me remember the best quote on the ego I’ve ever heard, from Pema Chodron:

Ego is like a room of your own, a room with a view with the temperature and the smells and the music that you like. You want it your own way. You’d just like to have a little peace, you’d like to have a little happiness, you know, just gimme a break. But the more you think that way, the more you try to get life to come out so that it will always suit you, the more your fear of other people and what’s outside your room grows. Rather than becoming more relaxed, you start pulling down the shades and locking the door. When you do go out, you find the experience more and more unsettling and disagreeable. You become touchier, more fearful, more irritable than ever. The more you try to get it your way, the less you feel at home.

I think about this often since like many of you, I love a good room: at the right temperature, with the food and sounds and smells I like best, and absolutely with the people who most please and least challenge me. Yet, as William Stafford in his poem, “Pretend You Live In A Room,” writes:


You have this world.  You wander the earth.
You can’t live in a room.

So from this girl’s vantage point, I write this from a room, a nice room in the back of the cottage, with windows overlooking the green unfolding of the Vermont woods, and inside this room, one of my colleagues quietly napping on the couch, her sneakers hanging over the arm. But I tell myself as much as I like this room, this isn’t just where I live. There is the world, and finding ways — small as nodding at someone I pass on the path to the dining room or large as deeply examining my motives in wanting to go to town over trying to change someone — to free the world of my own ego is the work. It’s what’s required for us to treat each other with greater compassion as well as to open our eyes and hearts to the other-than-human world buzzing and unfolding around us. It starts with doing this very work in whatever room I’m in at the time, comfortable or not, navigating from where I’m free from my own ego.

We Have Less Control Than The Little Control We Think We Have: Everyday Magic, Day 153

The older I get, the more apparent it is to me that whatever control I thought I had was largely illusionary. Beyond having real choices here and there (what to wear, eat, do in various moments), most of life is beyond my plans. This brings to mind two important quotes that guide me — one from my friend Shelley. When she and her then-partner received, a year after they adopted their daughter, received the phone message, “Would you like the brother?”, she quickly realized that “Life has more imagination that we do.”

The other quote comes from Pema Chodron, and I know it’s about how we humans are wired for solid ground while life is the opposite, but when I looked through When Things Fall Apart for it, I found this quote: “Impermanence is a principal of harmony. When we don’t struggle cialis online get prescription against it, we are in harmony with reality.”

Life is more imaginative. The only way to find the groove is to stop fighting change. All true, but why does thinking about this shake me sometimes, even bring me down to sad stillness? “This shaking keeps me steady. I should know,” Theodore Roethke writes in his great poem, “The Waking” (the one with the line, “I wake to sleep and take my waking slow”).

I watch the window, the sun almost burning through the clouds but not quite. The tree stands bare with just one remaining leaf shaking. A remnant of a spider web blows against the glass. It’s all always changing and even the lack of birds in the tree, something I just noticed, has been remedied. How little control we have, and yet this is the gift of being alive.