Google Yourself – You Might End Up in Croatia

My friend Linda posted a fun idea on Facebook. Google your name and see what comes up. Are you a lead dancer with the San Antonio ballet?  An artisan cheesemaker in Idaho?  A retired music teacher in Miami?

To play:  go to Google, enter your first and last name in quotes, and that’s it. Example:  “Jennifer Wilson”

There are approximately 1,294,672 Jennifer Wilsons. Okay, I made that up, but there are a lot of us, so I took the very first entry that came up. Apparently, I wrote a book that was heralded as “Best Nonfiction Book of 2011” by the American Society of Journalists and Authors.  (Note: Please leave a comment below with your results!  A friend of mine discovered he was a 15 year old ping pong champion.)

Written by Jennifer Wilson, it chronicles the adventures she and her family had when they moved to Croatia for a year in search of her ancestral ties. She and her husband and two young children were living the American Dream in Iowa – a house they fixed up, soccer schedules, two careers, and frequent pilgrimages to Target. And, they felt they were missing something vital despite their privilege, primarily time together as a family and a simpler life that didn’t involve consuming, watching tv and playing video games crammed between errands. On the basis of a yearning and a late night of giddy dreaming (a bottle of wine was involved), they uprooted themselves and moved to Croatia for a year. As you can imagine, that year changed them all in deep and unexpected ways.

I was immediately intrigued by the book’s description because my partner and I have a similar ambition. Read more

The Strange, Silent Pull

Image“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”   – Rumi

There are many variations on this theme, such as Joseph Campbell’s famous injunction to “Follow your bliss.” Rumi’s wording has subtleties that make this one of my favorite quotes.

“Silently drawn”  –  Ah, silence. There is no shortage of advice out there from self-help books, tv shows, friends and family, business gurus, etc. I think all of these sources can provide sparks of insight and ideas to explore. Yet at the end of the day, we are responsible for making decisions based on our own values, on what we love.

When we become still and silent, our intuition can teach us what it knows. Our language places this inner knowing solidly in the quiet wisdom of our bodies.  We say we have a gut feeling or feel something tug at our hearts.  Insight arrives intact and without a surplus of words – we “just knew”, or “had a flash.” We are silently drawn to what is right for us.

“Strange pull”  –  Why does Rumi choose this word to describe being pulled toward what we love? Read more

Mindfulness and Kitchen Knives

Two winters ago, I took a meditation class and learned more about mindfulness than I ever had before.  I learned how to experience it, and how to strive for mindfulness not just during an hour of sitting, but throughout my day no matter what I’m doing, from flossing my teeth to listening to a client.

One of our exercises was to be mindful of every doorway we went through, not for any esoteric reason but simply to practice being mindful.  I learned that I am exceedingly unmindful of doorways.   Another exercise was to be mindful in the kitchen while making food.  This exercise grabbed ahold of me, and since then, I enjoy cooking in a way I never have before.  I love feeling the texture of foods, savoring the variations in color and smell, and feeling my hands work.

Last week, I was grappling with a stressful situation in my professional life, trying to  sort out the dynamics and understand how I could elevate what was happening to a more productive and peaceful place.  The plainer truth is that I felt grumpy and angry, and hadn’t reached a place of resolution or peace for myself yet.  At 5:30, I ended my work day (always a conscious decision because I work at home) and went into the kitchen to cook. Read more

Lessons from Settlers of Catan

My partner and his daughter love playing games.  So do I, of a certain variety.  Cribbage?  Yes!  Scrabble?  Bring it!  Bananagrams?  Undefeated!  Ping pong?  I’m not very good, but I’ll play!  I just don’t care for board games of strategy such as Monopoly, Risk and Settlers of Catan (no offense, devoted fans).

However, they both indulge my cribbage cravings so I willingly reciprocate by agreeing to play Settlers on occasion.  The last time we played, I was agonizing over my next move.  I didn’t know where to place a new section of road and sat staring at the board, getting more confused and tense by the minute.  I finally said, “This is too stressful!”

My partner smiled and gently replied, “You can’t take it so seriously.” Read more

A Pebble in Your Shoe

Imagine yourself walking on a gentle path on a hill beside the sea.   It’s  a glorious sunny day, warm but with a slight cooling breeze, puffy white clouds drifting across the bluest of blue skies.  Your destination is a seaside cafe where a dear friend awaits.  Perfection.

And then…

You get a tiny little pebble in your shoe.  All of your focus immediately shifts to the pain in the ball of your foot and the need to not have it hurt.  You might try to ignore it and hobble along, hoping it will shift or somehow just disappear.   After all, it’s a bother to stop and take off your shoe to deal with it, and your friend is waiting.  There’s no time to deal with this, and it’s so annoying to have this intrude on what was a perfectly good walk.  Darn it all!

Of course, it doesn’t go away but just gets lodged more firmly.  Unicorns and rainbows might suddenly appear for all you know, but you won’t notice because you’re so distracted. Read more

DIY Retreating

Retreat:  a place of security or safety;  withdrawal for a period of meditation, prayer, reflection, silence.

I think it’s a common misconception that we have to go to Costa Rica for ten days to practice yoga 6 hours a day or check into a pricey bed-and-breakfast for a long weekend with a stack of novels to be officially on retreat.

While I’d jump at the chance to stand in Tree Pose in the rainforest and encourage you to pamper yourself with room service and down comforters if you can, I’m a huge fan of the simple DIY-style retreat (do-it-yourself).  Designing your own personal retreat has the advantages of being spontaneous, free or almost-free, totally customized, and flexible.  Read more