Category: reflection

The Walk.

This morning I woke up early.

It was hot overnight, yes, in early March. My windows were open, so I woke to birds chirping. Well, technically, my inner night owl interjects, it was the sharp kacking of some winged brute. Even still, I so strongly yearn to integrate more nature that I remind myself to be grateful to hear their little songs. 
Because, my tent is all “windows.” 
I’m on “vacation,” but it’s 7 am. I’m restless. This never happens when 9am call time at the office looms. 

So I grab keys and a sports bra, and hit the road.
I drive into the sunrise. The river that carries me is an eight-lane highway glittering with traffic. It reminds me of those videos that awed me in drivers’ training. They were trying to show how hard it is to see at dawn and dusk, but I was struck by the mobs of people, whiling away in traffic. 
Who does this? I thought then, and think now.
I have never commuted far for work; even in the nation’s Capitol. I didn’t even own a car for eight years. But some people do. Who gets inoculated to that? The thought makes me shudder. 
It’s one of the reasons I’m leaving.

I get to Belle Haven park, this beautiful reserve along the Potomac River. If I walked far enough, I’d make it to Mount Vernon. It strikes me that I’m taking the commute George Washington – and who know else – used to.
I once had a very powerful boss who said that if he ever lost the awe of passing by the US Capitol building lit up at night, he’d leave. I’m grateful I haven’t lost the awe of this monumental place, but I have my own reasons for leaving. 
Finally out on the trail in the cool morning air. The sun is beautiful, on my left. The Potomac is wide, and the far side is lined with trees. The silver-blue water shines. Black stumps, islands of trees break through it every so often. 
On my right, the rushing wave of morning traffic builds. Silver, white, black darts. Like fish, like wave crests. 

Another reason I’m leaving. Even the nature walks feature unnatural companions.
I’m listening to my new favorite thing: podcasts. I love music, but I love learning more. I’ve had to remind myself to turn to music, actually. Any version of me before 2015 would be shocked. 
The air feels cool on my skin. I work to protect my throat, wish I had brought a scarf. My legs burn and I start to get tired somewhere around 3,000 steps. I’d wanted to do 10,000. I plod on, breaking it down in my head: 500 more, and 500 more, and 500 more. Then I can turn around. 
Breaking things down. Of all places, the lightning bolt on this came from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She’s turning this knob and tells herself to count to 10, because “anyone can do anything for 10 seconds.” And then another. And another.
My persistence pays off. Right around step 4,000, I notice up ahead on the trail: a house. A house, on the left, where the river should be.
I’ve flown in and out of DC’s airport (the one in VA, DCA) so many times, for work or pleasure. In fact, I’ll be getting on a flight tomorrow, now that I think of it. Anyway: when we land from the south, if you look to the left, you see all these gorgeous, beautiful houses along the river. Starting with Washington’s own Mount Vernon, and moving on up. I’ve always intended to go driving, and exploring, and see them for myself.

And by just taking a few extra steps, a few more steps than I “felt like” taking, lo! I stumbled upon them.

It was this whole neighborhood, in fact, that intertwined with the Mount Vernon trail. I walked on as far as I could before contentedly turning around.

By the end of my walk, I’m actually welcoming the breeze. The sun is shining, burning off the cool air. I’m sweating under my sweater, and am grateful for the slight breeze, the view, and … 10,000 steps. All before 9 a.m.

I still struggle with body image issues, even after a year of being on a nutritionist’s diet plan. I am still in incredible pain sometimes, in my back and shoulder. But I’m grateful my body can carry me long distances, early in the morning, exposing me to nature, new things, stumbling upon something I’ve always intended to find, and letting me contemplate parallel worlds. 




Shame: The Monster in All Our Heads

 Ask Polly is one of my favorite columns right now. Sometimes I’ll flip through and read old ones, just for inspiration to keep going. I appreciate her grounded real talk.
Here’s a recent excerpt that struck me so hard I had to put it down for later: 
First, though, let’s clear away some of the noise in your head. You ask, “But if I really wanted to become my true self and live my life, wouldn’t I be doing it? Wouldn’t I be doing the work that needs to happen?” The answer is no. It takes a lot of time and work to become your true self. It’s not a small thing. Believing that you’re supposed to be experiencing desire in some different, overpowering, inescapable way — the wanting-to-want problem — is a totally paralyzing delusion. You can’t assume that other people want things more than you do, therefore they have no choice but to go out and pursue them. Those other people are just making choices and committing, just like you have to do.


That’s how I know it’s important: When I’m embarrassed, that’s a sign that I’m getting nearer to the center of things.

Lately, I can’t write. I know work will save me from the state I’m in, save me from this mood of despair that comes and goes, save me from how ashamed of myself I am sometimes, just for growing older and being largely powerless and for not being heroic enough. I have deadlines that seem unimportant, so they come and go and I do nothing. I am supposed to be reading one book and starting to write another one. But the world outside seems off-balance and sick to me, and when I take that in, I have trouble not blaming myself for all of it. The news is bad, and it’s getting worse, therefore I must be bad, therefore I must do better. But how?
I know I could exercise more, and that would help. I could try to spend more time with my kids. I could talk to my husband or my friends about how I feel. But these things don’t always bring a real breakthrough, and sometimes no one is available to talk. To work my way through this feeling, I have to slow down time.
I have to close my eyes and admit that I feel broken and that I blame myself for that broken feeling. I have to admit that I always suspect that things will fall apart at some point in the future and that it will be my fault when that happens. People will say, “See, I was right about her. She’s a fucking joke.” And other people will nod along. My future misfortunes always include a jeering Greek chorus.

Inspiration from this weekend

Alan Watts’ message in The Wisdom of Insecurity is parallel, apparently, to that of Stumbling on Happiness: Be present. – Brainpickings

I also (naturally) loved this quote:

“all is creation, all is change, all is flux, all is metamorphosis.” -Henry Miller

Then, from Chapter One of The Denial of Death, which I really intend to get through soon:

Sibling rivalry … “expresses the heart of the creature: the desire to stand out, to be the one in creation.”

“An animal who gets his feeling of worth symbolically has to minutely compare himself to those around him.”

Quote: From the opening of Denial of Death: 


Listened (& amazing light show, see below): RATATAT.

Ate: Awamat, Lebanese Taverna

Saw: Revenant & The Big Short. Leo’s trying too hard, in the first; the second, we’re not trying hard enough to ensure something like that never happens again. SIGH.

Weather: The hot tub is frozen. Winter is here.

Big fuzzy warm hugs to you all! 


Here’s what I’m listening to: 
Tim Ferris’s Podcasts with Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova, and Peter Diamandis.
Kathy & Mo’s back catalog

-Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations
-John Updike’s Travels with Charley

On deck: 
Stumbling on Happiness, Vagabonding, The Taliban Shuffle.

Thinking about: 
-How Obama mentioned the prescription drug crisis in the first two minutes of SOTU last night (but didn’t elaborate later. What a missed opportunity, with that platform. SIGH.)
-My future

4HB diet 


RIP Bowie.

I went as Aladdin Sane for Halloween 2015 … Shocked to hear the news today. He was creating until his last. Here’s to the ultimate confident creative. RIP. 

Happy Autumn! Traditional Chinese Medicine/Five Elements/Acupuncture on how to kick off the season of metal right

I learned about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Chinese 5 Elements from my yoga teachers. It treks with the seasons, with the idea that everything is born, flourishes, retreats, and finishes. This cycle is evident pretty much everywhere, from flowers to ideas, so it resonated with me.

I really like Neil Gumenick’s writings about them, because they are straightforward and applicable.

Here is his entry on Metal, or Autumn/Fall:

Cleaning out old negativity … what a time to start an inventory of resentments, old people places and things I’m clinging on to. What a time to clean out my summer wardrobe and put away the light airy clothes and shoes, and bring on the boots and layers. What a time to reevaluate my schedule, who and where I am spending my time. And, finally, to start truly examining my health (my FitBit came in last night.)

To look more closely at what Neil discusses:
“In autumn we learn more about ourselves, perhaps, than in any other season.”

Having provided the harvest, Nature now makes everything bare.

In this season Nature lets go of its abundant creation of the past year in a grand final display.

Autumn marks the end of the growing season – a turning inward, a falling away of outer-directed energy.

Nature instructs us about our own cycles of creating and letting go: Trees in autumn don’t stubbornly hold onto their leaves because they might need them next year. Yet how many of us defy the cycle and hold onto what we’ve produced or collected – those decayed leaves, that old negativity? How can we hope for a harvest next year unless we let go of the old and start afresh?
The energy of this season, more than any other, supports our letting go of the waste, the old and stale in our lives, leaving us receptive to the pure and new, granting us a vision of who we are in our essence. Autumn returns us to our essence, moves us to eliminate what we no longer need, reveals again what is most precious in our lives.
Communing with HP
Outlining values
Where am I grasping?
Grief! I had an epiphany after my meditation intensive that my sadness and the day-after depression came because I have a lot of stored grief, fear of the pain, lack of understanding of how to deal with it.
We all experience loss, separation, and “letting go,” and we appropriately feel grief at those times. Grief cleanses us of what is no longer needed in our lives.
He then goes into some overview discussion about the colon and lungs, not yet discussing the acupuncture points.
The Colon – at first I wanted to wrinkle up my nose: please no more discussion of cleanses or fiber or, ick, elimination. But he’s so eloquent: The Colon, one of the two organs in the Metal element, has the function of eliminating what is unnecessary or toxic from our bodies. But we are more than just physical bodies. Think of the daily onslaught of “garbage” directed at our minds and our spirit. We need to eliminate mental and spiritual rubbish, lest our minds become toxic and constipated, unable to experience the pure and the beautiful that also surround us. The Colon function on the mental and spirit level enables us to let go of all this waste.
This treks with what I learned from Max Strom: if poor sleep is an epidemic (acc’ing to the CDC!), if you are anxious: stop reading the news. Stop drinking caffeine. Acknowledge the source of heightened emotions, and question their necessity.
The Lungs
it is also a time to take in the pure. That crisp autumn air is a favorite, and again, my FitBit pedometer’s arrival is perfectly time.
In classical Chinese medicine, the Lung is described as “the receiver of the pure Chi from the Heavens.” How beautiful is that?
In, Out: The Lung and Colon work together as a team, one taking in the pure, the other eliminating waste. […] But what happens to our mind and spirit if waste keeps building up and we are unable to take in purity? How are we apt to feel? Instead of tranquillity and inspiration, spontaneity and freshness, we feel depression, stubbornness (inability to “let go”), isolation, negativity. We see the dark side in everything, all the things that could go wrong. Of course, we would not choose to act and feel that way any more than we would choose to have constipation – but in this condition of imbalance, that is how we must be.
we can see how foolish it is to simply treat a symptom. We must find the cause. […] we must first restore that function. Then the resulting symptoms will improve, regardless of how they manifest.
Just as metals give value to the earth (gold and silver, minerals and trace elements), the Metal element within us gives our sense of self-worth. Each of us is a miracle of creation, more valuable and special than anything we could ever pursue; each of us has a unique and priceless contribution to make. Yet when our Metal energy is imbalanced, we cannot sense our value; so we compensate by seeking what we think will add to our worth: status, money, power, conquest – none of them bad or wrong of themselves, although our pursuit of them can be a symptom. Once we have acquired these things, however, we remain strangely unfulfilled. Persons with a Metal imbalance seek respect, quality, and recognition from the outside because they feel the lack of worth within. These are people who have difficulty “letting go” because they identify their own worth with “things” – achievements, attachments, collections, possessions, attitudes stored in the cluttered attic of the mind. And the key to this season is letting go ~ or in yoga terms, Aparigraha.
Restoring our Metal
In the season of autumn, the Metal element is at its peak and particularly amenable to treatment. Fortunately, using the system of Chinese medicine, we can resurrect and rebuild the Metal within us – in its physical expression as well as in mind and spirit. Acupuncturists help restore our Metal using needles and their knowledge of energy. We also can help ourselves by learning about the nature of the season and then acting in harmony with its spirit.
As Nature moves into a period of rest, we too must be cautious not to overexert. The time for “putting it all out there” – the summer – has passed. Now is the time to contain ourselves, acting and speaking only when necessary, behaving with economy, exerting our will quietly and calmly. Those of us in the “autumn of our lives” must protect ourselves from the extremes of hot and cold within this season.
His analysis of the meaning of the acupuncture points is quite poignant, further down in the article.

Finally, some suggestions for living in harmony with the autumn season:

  • Declutter and organize physical spaces: I’m going to do this in my clothing and shoes, and could also do it in my personal paperwork, front closet, cupboards, and at-work office files. Donating can bring good to others. Minimalism is best!
  • Mental decluttering: Do a mental inventory: Examine attitudes (prejudices, envies, hatreds, jealousies, resentments) stored within your psyche. When possible, contact those with whom you harbor old “stuff.” Attempt to resolve the hurtful old issues, and then let them go. Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve properly done a full inventory like this. I spot check resentments daily, but I like this.
  • Resolve any outstanding issues | Lord knows I have enough to-dos, but there’s some old attitudes I could resolve.
  • Write unresolved issues on paper and burn them | This seems easy enough! As usual, it’s the “doing the work” part that’s annoying.
  • Inhale some of that crisp autumn air daily. Exhale the old, inhale the new and pure. Then contemplate briefly who you are without these identifications.

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