Saturday, August 31, 2013

365 Inspirations—243: Packing

On my first trek to Machu Picchu nearly 20 years ago!
"Life is either a great adventure or nothing."—Helen Keller 

 Tomorrow we leave for Peru! Yikes!  Lots still to do, but I'm going to try and find inspiration in packing today. The weather is gorgeous today and we headed out to REI to pick up last minute hiking goods for our Salkantay Glacier Trek to Machu Picchu.

I took my husband to lunch at a fusion Chinese restaurant and then he had an ice cream outside in the sun while I was doing a few other last minute things.

My goal today is to try to pack so incredibly lightly that people look at my back pack and say, "That's all you have?!"

Things I'm bringing on my trip to Peru:
  • Therma Rest Air Mattress (I heard the trekking companies in Peru have uncomfortable mats)
  • Small/Packable Sleeping Bag
  • LL Bean Down Jacket that stuffs in pocket (got in 1996 when I did hiking in Himalayas!)
  • Helly Hansen Rain Pants/Jacket/stuffs in pockets (also got in 1996)
  • Convertible short/pants (Got on Amazon for $30)
  • Hiking Boots (Gore-tex Sportivas—Got on Amazon)
  • Water Sandals (Just picked up a pair of Keen Sandals on Super Sale at REI)
  • 2 tank tops/2 short sleeve shirts/2 long sleeve shirts
  • yoga pants
  • yoga mat
  • skirt
  • gloves/hat/sunhat
  • 4 pairs hiking socks
  • sunglasses
  • Fleece jacket
  • long underwear
  • Personals—insect repellant/sunblock/etc.
  • iPhone/ iPad mini for blogging ^_^!
I got a data plan on AT&T so that I can blog without roaming charges!

Looking forward to blogging and keeping you informed on the road of our expedition!

More soon from Peru—Machu Picchu, Cusco, Sacred Vally, Puno, Lake Titicaca and beyond!

Do you enjoy packing for trips?

Friday, August 30, 2013

365 Inspirations—242: Face to Face Communication

Friends sharing an umbrella at beach in Seattle
"We maintain thousands more friends than any human being in history, but at the cost of complexity and depth. Every minute spent online is a minute of face-to-face time lost."—Daniel H. Wilson

Since Wednesday evening, we've had guests in our house. It's been wonderful. We've gotten a chance to spend face to face time with real live human beings. We've hugged, laughed, smiled, gone on walks, eaten, told stories, and spent quality time together. I think this is a rare thing these days.

Of course we have lots to do. We leave for a two-week trip to Peru the day after tomorrow and haven't thought too much about it, but I think we pretty much have all we need and are as ready as we'll ever be.

Being with friends has pulled me out of that 'list of things to do' mode and brought me into the present moment. It's made me realize that it's not the thinking of all the things you have to do that gets them done, it's being present in each moment for what is necessary that things are accomplished.

And sometimes it's good to surrender a little.

I surrendered to the time with my friends and it brought me so much joy.

Every time we are able to surrender to the moment at hand and just be with what is and even find joy in it, we open the door for more joy to enter our lives.

John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans." I don't want to be busy making other plans, I want to be here for life.

I want to spend face to face time with people. When we share the time with others, we expand our world.

Face to face time with friends brings us out of our little world of habits, plans and patterns and makes us see the bigger picture. When you add the new dynamic of another person, suddenly you see things through a larger filter.

After all, we don't live in a vacuum. Our lives are meant to touch each other. I really believe this.

It's this sharing, loving and 'live' interaction with one another that really opens us up and makes us see things in a new way.

Have you spent quality face to face time with anyone lately. Have you spent time with any new or old friends who have added a wider perspective to your life?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

365 Inspirations—241: The Wake Up Festival: A Story of Healing

“Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.”—Anonymous  

This is a post by Mae Esteban Hasse, a special person who is going through a healing time in here life and found much inspiration in Estes Park, Colorado at the Wake Up Festival. I'm sure Mae would appreciate your comments here. Here's her post:

 That's a quote that I recently saw on one of the many images that is shared on Facebook.  It called to me.  Why? I'm not sure.  But I guess it has to do with Katherine's recent question to all of us.  “What inspires you?” When I saw that, I quickly answered, “The Wake Up Festival.”  And so I reflected on this some more and what I came up with is what is written here.
First off, what is the Wake Up Festival?  To quote from their website: “When we touch a limitless sense of being – vast, open, undivided – we paradoxically become more uniquely ourselves, more empowered, and on fire to bring forward our unique gifts.  We wake up to our courage, to our authenticity, and to claiming our own value in the world.  The Wake Up Festival explores this awakening from a wide range of different perspectives, and is an event like no other.”  Sounds pretty amazing, right? When I first heard about it last spring, I knew I had to go.  Different teachings all in one place.  I LOVE learning about spirituality in different traditions and this was a smorgasbord of traditions.  So I registered and booked my plane ticket to the beautiful location of Estes Park, CO where the festival was held from Aug 14th thru Aug 18th.  There was no way I was going to miss this.
Well, it turned out the Universe was taking care of me.  Why? Because up until about three weeks ago, I thought I had the closest to perfect life one could have.  (I'm a realist; I know there's no such thing as perfection.)  I have a wonderful life with two beautiful children, a nice home, a fulfilling career as a hospice nurse, and I get to travel now and then, with my most recent trip just this past spring visiting Belize.  I also had an amazing husband.  Yes, I used the past tense of have.  My husband of almost 9 years recently told me (in the middle of a date!) that he wanted a divorce. Suddenly everything went dark and there was limitless silence and stillness.
Approximately two and a half weeks after getting this devastating news, I boarded a plane and headed out to the festival with a lot of heartache. Of course, I still wanted to go but to say I was lacking enthusiasm would be an understatement.  Up until that point, I was literally taking life one moment at a time, one breath at a time.  There was no other way to survive.  But this is when the miracle happened.  This is when things turned around.  During the five days I spent approximately 8000 feet above sea level with some of the greatest teachers, I was given the profound gift of starting to heal.  I cried a lot and I laughed a lot.  I began to understand that this was a path that had to be taken.  I came back to my home with an open heart and an open mind.  I received many messages from the Universe, the Divine, the Spirit-That-Moves-in-All-Things, God, or whatever you want to call it.  I was beginning to transform.  So what exactly did happen there? I will try my best to capture the magic. 
First, there's the teachers and the teachings.  So many intelligent, honest, and beautiful souls.  So many wise words.  Many of the presenters were so down-to-earth and approachable. They each gave me a gift in their own  way.  There was Rumi.  He wasn't at the festival but for several days beforehand, I felt like I was being wooed by him and was getting messages from him through the space and time continuum.  Heck, I completely freaked out when I was in the Denver airport about to walk out to catch my shuttle bus and there on the airport wall was a quote from him.  Was anyone else seeing this?!? So I shared this with the sufi teacher Salima Adelstein.  She has a radiance about her and while talking and reflecting with her, I realized that I needed to open my heart more to the my Beloved. 
There was poet, writer, and spiritual teacher Mark Nepo.  He held a workshop about finding our authentic voice and understanding stories.  During it, I realized that maybe I got too comfortable with life.  Maybe I just let the fire within die down because, well, I had it good.  Silly me.  But Mark Nepo made me rethink what was/is my authentic voice.  What IS that fire in me? Sometimes, as Mark says, there's a huge difference between the story we're in and the story we tell ourselves.  Is that what was going on with me? I don't know.  There's a lot of things to consider. I shared with Mark my own current story and thoughts and he was such a compassionate listener.  Many times throughout the rest of the festival, whenever I saw him, I would receive such a comforting hug or hand squeeze.
An especially powerful workshop that I did was a yoga class entitled “Yoga for the Broken Hearted” with the passionate Seane Corn.  Now let me remind you that I registered back in the spring when I thought life was close to perfect.  I didn't have a broken heart.  But I've always enjoyed Seane's classes and so I signed up for this one.  Little did I know that I would actually be needing it.  Part of the class was spent talking, with Seane leading the way and telling us about her own grief from the loss of her father.  We all shared our stories, me included.  I shared the deep pain I was feeling of not only losing my husband but of also losing the dream of staying with the one man after marriage, after children, and gracefully growing old together.  It was one of many powerful moments during the festival where I learned that I didn't own pain or grief.  No one does.  By hearing others' stories, I could feel my pain mixing in with theirs and suddenly we were all in pain.  It became a community pain and we all held it for each other and honored it for what it was.  I am so grateful to Seane for her work in trying to normalize grief and to make the world understand that it is nothing to be ashamed of.
There were many other presenters and teachings that touched me.  David Whyte read some of his poems to us one evening and I felt like he had written it just for me.  Tears rolled down my face as he read about the journey, the pilgrimage we all take.  He read about being left with nothing but a narrow piece of ground to start anew and how we need to start close in.  Snatam Kaur's angelic voice sang about being carried across an ocean to find peace.  Wyoma taught us African dance moves that mirror life – one small step back followed by one large leap forward.  Sandra Ingerman led us through two shamanic journeys where I received incredible messages from my spirit guide and power animal.  Donna Eden, with her radiant joy, blew my mind with her introduction to energy medicine.  All these presenters and teachings were so unique and yet they all carried the same messages.  And what I loved about this festival was that not one presenter said their path was the only true path.  They were all so encouraging and respectful of each other.  I even saw one of the presenters attending another's workshop.  I loved seeing the beginner's mind in a master.
The message of love that Rumi started went even further during the festival.  There was one day where it hit me again...and again...and again.  I am God.  God is Me.  You are God.  God is You.  I attended a couple sessions with Rabbi Rami Shapiro and during one of those sessions, I learned that one of the ways that God's name is written in Hebrew looks like the stick figure of a man.  He had us work in partners and draw the lettering on each other's bodies.  Then he shared one of the most beautiful stories I heard from the festival.  According to mystic Judaism, we are each assigned an angel.  Not a guardian angel to tell us what to buy or not buy.  But an angel who's sole purpose is to walk before us and yell, “Behold! Here comes Divinity.”  And our homework in life is to listen for those angels and to see the Divine beings before us.  For you see, the more you are able to do this, the more it will reflect back to you and you will see your own divinity.  
After hearing this, the rest of my day went on to reinforce that I am God and God is Me.  I listened to author Sera Beak's story of finding her own divinity as she spoke about her autobiographical novel entitled Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic's Love Story.  She has quite the love story with her Red Lady.  Immediately after her talk, Seane Corn was on stage sharing her story about how she found God at the age of 17 in a gay sex club called “Heaven” located in Manhattan.  I would not do her justice by repeating her story but suffice to say that she learned that we individuals are all God.  My heart began to swell in ways never imagined.  Through the broken cracks, love began to pour in.
But I have not yet spoken about the community, the other attendees who were also searching.  Despite the fact that many of us were strangers to each other, we all shared an openness that I had never felt elsewhere.   After Seane's workshop, a woman I never met came running up to me to share that she found out that her husband was cheating on her after years of couple's therapy and she was afraid to go back to the “real” world after the festival because she said no one knew.  I held and honored her pain and I think that was all she truly needed and wanted.  We hugged, wished each other well, and parted.  In the middle of a different talk, someone called my name.  I didn't recognize her but she recognized me again from Seane's workshop and as she squeezed my hand, she wished my a peaceful path.  One day during lunch I sat with a stranger named Ed who so happened to also be going through a divorce.  Even one of the presenters (whom I wish to keep anonymous out of respect to that individual) shared during one of the presentations that his own marriage of 30 years was dissolving.  I cried as I watched and felt the pain on his face.  I am so grateful to this community of strangers, who became my sisters and brothers, for allowing me to be vulnerable with them and for sharing their vulnerability with me.  I truly believe that it is only through vulnerability that we are able to deeply connect.
Some of these strangers I became friends with and we exchanged email addresses and reconnected on Facebook.  Monica from Victoria, B.C. and Tommy from Hawaii both shared with me their fears during a Tara Brach workshop.  Don from Maine became a kindred spirit whom I shared heartfelt stories and deep conversations with.  And David, dear David, danced in ecstatic joy with me during the Cosmic Mass (an event that deserves a different blog entry all on its own) and he held my hand and cried with me during a meditation exercise led by Jack Kornfield.  The Wake Up Festival community, but these individuals specifically, helped me both grieve and heal in such a deep, profound way that I did not expect.  I am thankful to them beyond anything words can convey.
There are many other stories from the five days that I could write about but I think it's time to go back to Katherine's question.  “What inspires me?”   The Wake Up Festival inspires me
….because it was a diverse community that respected and honored the many traditions towards Truth.
….because it was a community of strangers that became One and held each other's hopes and fears.
….because it showed me that we all have stories and that those stories can change at anytime, and that our stories are connected to the One Story.
….because it showed me that I was a person of faith, believing in the inherent goodness of the Universe and therefore able to see the light with my heart despite the outward appearance of darkness.
….because it showed me that I am God and God is Me.  I am my Beloved.  
….because it showed me that I still love my husband and that I will grieve for this loss at different times and different places until eternity.
….because it showed me that I also love myself and that there's a Phoenix Process going on.  I may not know what it is exactly, but I feel it and it's exciting.  There is hope.  There is trust.

Have you ever been to an event or festival that changed your life?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

365 Inspirations—240: Expanding My Horizon

"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."— Christopher McCandless

I think it's good to venture out beyond the comfort of ones familiar surroundings or spend time with a new person or one we haven't really had the chance to get to know.

Yesterday, on a whim, I had the impulse to stop into a travel store that I've only visited maybe one or two times in my life. It's not an area I frequent and I usually have very little reason to pop in. However, I'm going on a trip soon and thought I might find something travel-related for my trip.

I browse through the travel bags and money belts, made my way through a few racks of comfy travel clothing, contemplated buying a neck pillow for my almost 30-hour day of travel on Sunday and then, thought about buying a travel-related book for the trip.

In front of me was a wall of travel books and I was surprised to see my own book, Lessons from the Monk I Married, right there in front in the Women's Travel section facing out!

"Look at this!" I said to Yoon, "They have my book!"

I don't know why, but it made me happy to see it in the travel section. It was a journey afterall. I pictured someone buying the book for a long flight. Maybe it would spur him or her to have more adventures in life.

Stopping in this store, a place I rarely visit, expanded my horizon.

Today a friend, who has been on a whirlwind adventure of his own, recently came back from Japan and showed up on our doorstep. I have always known Benjamin, but I've never really had a chance to talk with him one on one for any length of time. We took him out for Korean food and then Yoon had to head out to yoga class, so I spent the rest of the day with Ben walking around Greenlake, talking about everything under the sun, and enjoying the nice weather. Ben decided to go for a dip in Greenlake and I sat back on the grassy hill, closed my eyes and took a rest. Later, he took me out for Mexican food and we had fun catching up.

This expanded my horizon even more and I realized how important it is to do new and different things and meet new and different people. If we always do the same things and meet the same people, how can we ever expand our horizon of life.

Do you tend to meet the same people and do the same things or do you often meet new people or try new things?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

365 Inspirations—239: Are you an Actress?

My true namesake, Katharine Hepburn
"Each of us has that right, that possibility, to invent ourselves daily.  If a person does not invent herself, she will be invented.  So, to be bodacious enough to invent ourselves is wise."—Maya Angelou

 I had one of those surreal moments at the bank today. Yoon and I had just walked around Greenlake, dined in Wallingford for lunch and made our way up to the bank so that I could deposit a royalty check from my agent.

I handed the banker my check and he said, "I see that you have a royalty check there. I don't see many of these. Are you an actress or something?"

I had to just stand there for a moment and soak those words in.

Am I an actress?

Could I be an actress?

After staring off into space for several seconds, I came back to the task at hand.

"No, I'm not an actress, " I heard myself say, "I'm a writer."

I'm a writer.

A writer.

I let those work sink in. Did I say them? Is that what I am? Is that how I would define myself?

And then it dawned on me that yes, you are a writer. You have an agent and published a book in North America, Croatia and soon Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. Who knows where else?

Sometimes this just doesn't seem real to me still.

"A writer?" The banker said in amazement, "That's not easy to publish a book I mean."

"What's the genre?"

"I write memoir...nonfiction."

"What's the title of your book?"

I wrote the title of my book and my name on a piece of paper and handed it to the banker who said he'd check it out. For all I know, he may be reading this blog post right now.....

Just before I left the bank I said, "My name's Kathy, what's yours?"

"Chase," he responded.

"Chase as in the bank Chase? As in where we are right now?"

"Yes, that's right."

I looked at his name tag and sure enough it read CHASE. And right behind him in big letters on the wall the same word was there.

"Well, I guess I won't forget your name, have a good day..."

And with that I left the bank and joined my husband who was across the street peering into a shop window.

"That was an interesting encounter," I exclaimed as we journeyed down the street arm and arm.

I sucked in a deep breath and whispered, "an actress" on exhale.

"A what?"

"Oh, nothing."

Have you ever had an interesting exchange with a stranger that made you think about your life in a new way?

Monday, August 26, 2013

365 Inspirations—238: Chaos

The chaos of items for my trip, dirty laundry and other random things....
"You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star."—Friedrich Nietzsche

I know that many people don't find chaos to be inspirational, but out of chaos comes clarity.

 I'm in that in-between time. I just finished a quarter at school and I'm about to go on a big trip. I have lots to do before the trip, but didn't feel like doing much today. I allowed myself to "just be" in a disorganized state. I didn't tackle much on my list because I needed a day with 'nothing but whatever calls you' to be on the agenda.

I only left the house once to go to the pharmacy. Other than that, I was home ALL day doing little odds and ends, but nothing of great importance.

I go through phases like this. I think they are healthy phases. If we are always going full throttle, we never get to see where we are. Who knows? We may be going full throttle in a direction that is not right for us.

As a writer, I've learned that there is always a 'gathering time' as I like to call it. A time when I collect little bits of information or jot down ideas. I make lists and goals. I've got lots of them.

After gathering, I start putting foundations under the ideas that take seed. Some ideas fizzle away, but others come to full fruition. There is a time of focus when I run all the way with an idea or dream.

So today I'm okay with the chaos because I know this is just a phase. Tomorrow I have a feeling I'll start to pull the pieces together and get ready for my trip.

The photo above is what the chaos looks like from where I sit. Not too bad.....

Do you ever go through disorganized or chaotic phases in your life? Do you see these as a positive thing?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

365 Inspirations—237: Making Travel Plans

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."—Robert Louis Stevenson

My husband Yoon says I should be a travel agent because I love making travel plans! On Sunday we are headed to Peru. I can't believe it. We are taking a group of yoga students with us.

I've enjoyed booking our plans for our yoga retreat and organizing the trip. I often organize many details of our yoga retreats and trips.

I still feel like there are a lot more details to work out. I've got the big ones down—flight, accommodations, Machu Picchu trek, but there are always little details. Sometimes it's good not to plan everything, so I like to leave some space in our plans for what adventures might pop up.

For sure, we know that we will be staying in Sacred Valley for four nights and trekking on the Salkantay glacier to Machu Picchu for five days. The caretaker/driver of the place where we'll be staying in Sacred Valley will be helping us with many plans once we get there.

We also plan to go to Lake Titicaca and the Island of the Sun.

I spent the evening drafting a letter to the yoga students about our trip and creating a packing list.

It's going to be fun and I can't wait to write about it here...stay tuned.

Do you like making travel plans? Do you have any fun trips planned?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

365 Inspirations—236: A Wedding on Puget Sound

"But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."—Khalil Gibran

Today we went to a wedding on Puget Sound on Tulalip Indian Reservation. It was very nostalgic for me because I lived there when I was ten years old for about a year and hadn't been back since then!

I wanted to find my old house and show Yoon, but there wasn't time. I promised we'd come back and I'd show him.

Yoon was the officiator at the wedding and he was great! He chanted a few Buddhist chants from his monk days and even told a few great jokes. Everyone laughed.

The most wonderful part of the ceremony was the tide that was slowly coming in. The bride and groom's sandals were completely submerged in water, but it felt the merging of two worlds—the land and the sea and the worlds of these two people. Yoon was on a platform so his feet were not in the water, but after he finished the chanting, there was the slight dilemma of how he'd get from the platform to land. One of the groom's friends said, "Yoon, hop on Eric's back and let him bring you over to the shore." And without further adieu, Yoon hopped on the groom's back and was taken safely to land!

The day consumed with food, drinks, good conversation, acro-yoga, a fire in a fire pit and a burning sunset. Just gorgeous!

 But the best part of the evening was a dozen huge paper lanterns that were lit by the wedding guests and set free to soar up above Puget Sound,  the tree line and beyond. At one point I wasn't sure which were paper lanterns and which were stars.

It was a beautiful day with lots of love.

Have you ever been to a memorable or unique wedding?

Friday, August 23, 2013

365 Inspirations—235: A Clean House

"My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?"—Erma Bombeck

A clean house is my inspiration today. Truth be told, I don't clean house as much as I'd like to. It's low on my priority list. However, if guests come for dinner or a barbecue, I do a thorough clean.

I love having guests over not only for their company, but also because I know I'll clean house and it makes me feel good to clean. I am able to focus better when things are clean and organized in my home, but they only seem to be really organized when people are coming over. Isn't that funny?

I also love dreaming up menus for guests. My favorite one this summer has been to prepare Korean Kalbi on the grill. I like it because not many people make Korean ribs for guests and they are absolutely delicious.

Besides cooking, I washed the bed sheets and all the linens, cleaned the bathroom, mopped, swept, organized. I see that there is still so much to do, but it's a step in the right direction. Now that the house is clean, I'm inspired to dig deeper into the closets, etc. and clean more. We'll see how long that motivation lasts.

Do you clean your house frequently or only when guests come for dinner? ^_^

Thursday, August 22, 2013

365 Inspirations—234: Accepting Kind Words and Actions

"It's really important to be able to receive love and receive compassion. It is as important as being able to give it."—Pema Chodron

  For this past week I've been the recipient of kind words. I have no idea why these words are coming and I feel humbled and a little undeserving, but I'm accepting them.

When someone gives a compliment or thanks us for something, it's easy to say, "Oh, it was nothing!" or "It's not that great."

I don't know what it is about us humans that causes us to downplay compliments and/or thank yous.

Perhaps it's because we don't want to seem too arrogant or too proud.

English is not my husband Yoon's first language and some of his responses to compliments or kind words are often the reverse of what would be an acceptable response from a native speaker here in the States.

When someone gives him a compliment or tells him that they enjoyed his yoga class, he sometimes responds by saying, "I know, it was a great class, right?"

Normally this would sound funny, but when he says it people laugh and find it endearing.

Perhaps we find it challenging in this culture to fully embrace and accept words or acts of kindness. It can be easy to say, "Oh, you shouldn't have!" but why not simply say, "Thank you" or "You're welcome" or "Thanks for your kind words."

At least with these responses, we are fully accepting and acknowledging the kind words or actions of another person and we are allowing ourselves to receive those words and actions as well.

My boss, who has retired now, used to put all her thank you cards and notes on a wall in her office. It was covered with thank yous. I was in awe of her wall and said, "That's amazing." My new boss has a similar wall. She said that when her day is not going well, it helps her to look at the wall and be reminded of the gratitude people have displayed to her. It helps her get through her day.

I now save thank you cards and notes. I think this is such a wonderful idea. Giving thank yous and kind words seems natural, but being able to fully receive them is also a BIG part of this circle of gratitude.

Do you easily accept or receive kind words and actions? How do you respond when someone pays you a compliment?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

365 Inspirations—233: Letting Go

"Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go."—Hermann Hesse

This post comes to you from fellow blogger Amanda of ARTiculation. Check out her blog here.  She's got lots of wonderful words to share and she's on a journey of her own that has been interesting to follow. I read this post and there was so much heart in it and such a powerful message that I asked her if I could repost it. Please be kind and leave a comment or visit Amanda on her blog. Here's her lovely post:

The other night, after working all weekend and going to a much deserved vegan buffet with a coworker, I came home to see a couple neighborhood cats stalking my walkway. This was strange, as it hasn't really happened before, but I pet the cats nonetheless, and began to head inside. As I was about to go through the gate, I looked down in front of me at a blue bird on its back looking up at me. I was stunned, literally stopped in my tracks, as I looked down at this bird, still fluffy with youth, bleeding from its leg, crumpled and badly wounded.

I threw my things down in my apartment and came back to look him over. He was still breathing, very much alert, and without doubt in tremendous pain. I scooped him up with cardboard and moved him away from the swarming cats. I was desperate to save him. I called three or four animal clinics, but considering it was about 7:00 on a Sunday night, my calls met answering machines and the resounding realization that I could not save him. My neighbor came out to walk her dog, and she sympathized and advised me to put him out of his misery.

That was my first thought, as well, but... I've never been the one to have to make that call. I've never had to be the executioner. I sat for a few minutes just staring at him while mosquitoes devoured my blood, unable to move for fear that there would be no good decision. I was paralyzed with sadness over the inability to help him. I still don't know how it happened. My theory is that this teenaged bird, ready to fly (or to try) leaped from the nest and was unable to make the ascent, plummeting to the concrete where feline foes hovered over his body.Or, as my neighbor informed me, one of the cats, a boy named Sasha, is an expert bird killer, and he likely was the culprit in bringing him down.

 Either way, I can't be mad at the cats—this is what they do. So what could I do? All I could do was bury him. He would try to move his smashed legs, to stand, to fly, to show me 'Look! Look! I can make it! I can get better!', but he could not move. He could not fly. He would not get better. My neighbor offered to do it for me, but knowing that I'd have to learn how to let go, I took on the task.

Alone now, I funneled the bird into a paper bag, and began sobbing as I looked into the bag at his crumpled body, his eyes still blinking, his heart still beating, and I just sobbed. I sobbed as I dug a shallow grave for him, and sobbed as I pressed the bag, warm with his fading life, into the dirt, his bones likely breaking as surely as my heart with each heave of my hands. I sobbed for him, apologized that I couldn't save him, and asked God to let him die quickly.

To most people, this experience likely seems trivial and inconsequential, but to me, it was like The Tell Tale Heart. I wept as I washed dirt from under my nails, distraught that this bird with dreams of flying will never know the rush of wind between his feathers or the comfort of a nest ever again.

Despite all of the sadness, the experience taught me that no matter how painful, sometimes, we just have to let go. We have to forgive ourselves, bury the past, and move forward with the understanding that we did the best we could with what we had, and that the rest is left for worms.

Have you ever had a similar experience of letting go of something or someone? What did you learn from this experience?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

365 Inspirations—232: Facing the Fear of Falling

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Last night I dreamt that Yoon climbed the highest diving board in the world and promptly put on his fins (don't ask me why he needed his fins for diving) and leapt into the air with a deep, deep lake below him.

It took him a very long time for him to come down and my heart was in my throat watching him. He was falling and I did not know if he would make it up safely from his plunge. But it was too late for worries and there was nothing I could do to help him land safely.

 While mid-air, the wind picked him up and caused him to spin and twirl with legs splayed out and fins like bird wings. Sometimes he was head-first and other times feet-first. He struggled to keep himself straight in the air, but then just surrendered and ended up taking the plunge head-first.

I held my own breath as I waited for him to come up for air. On his landing one of his fins flew off his foot and bounced across the lake. He finally came up and said, "I'm fine...that was GREAT!"

I stared at him in disbelief and said, under my breath, "No way would I do that in a million years."

I have absolutely no desire to dive from the highest diving board in the world. I jumped from the high-dive on Lake Washington this summer and that was enough.

I think this dream has more to do with the fear of falling in another sense—falling from grace, falling from one's position or imagined security, falling or failing in the eyes of others, falling from a relationship...maybe even falling in love?

It's the unknown, isn't it?

What if we lose our position, our security, our loved one, our relationship, our freedom or anything else?

There's the fear of what will happen to us. The thing is—nothing is really known. We have no idea what will happen in any given second, so why not live?

One of my biggest fears is not about falling, but failing. I'm afraid of what that might look like. I spend a lot of time focused on the positive and inspirational and it's really served me well to have this outlook on life, but I still could fall or even fail at any given moment. I could lose everything.

I used to believe that in order to manifest what one wanted in life one should wipe out all thoughts of falling and failure, because if we focus on it it just might happen. I still think this is true, but I also think it's good to make friends with the other side of things.

I'm reading a book called The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You are WAKING UP and CHANGING the world by Arjuna Ardagh. It's a 500 plus page book, but the author writes about things I've never considered before and I'm starting to view things in a very different way.

I love this quote:

"Only when we are willing to be both good and not good and everything in between does our feeling of being separate relax and all the goodness of all life begin to flow through us."—Arjuna Ardagh

There are many things I fear, but I'm ready to face those fears. Falling and failing are two of those fears...maybe dying is in there too. The thing is, we all have to die one day, so why not face the fear of falling or failing and actually LIVE while we are still here. I'd rather take risks to fulfill my dreams than die with my dreams and hopes still in me.

Are you afraid of falling or failing? Do you take risks in life?

Monday, August 19, 2013

365 Inspirations—231: Making Best Use of Time

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."—Carl Sandburg

 There are only so many hours in a day and I can't say I use all my hours wisely. I spend plenty of hours daydreaming, scheming, planning, making lists, or surfing the internet. I do think it's important to have some unstructured time, but I love it when I am able to make best use of my time and stay focused.

Fortunately, I am a fairly focused person and when I put my mind to something, I tend to get things done.

Today I subbed for a friend's morning class at the college where I teach ESL. Luckily, it's exam week and all I had to do was proctor a test, soo I sat in the classroom and graded over half of my own students' tests. I did that from 10:30-12:50.

From 12:50-1:30 or so, I prepared for my evening class that I usually teach 6-9pm.

On the way home, I stopped to get a bite to eat. My husband was at home, so we decided to do a three-mile walk around Greenlake. The sun was shining and people were out and about.

"Why aren't all these people working on a Monday?" I said to my husband.

"What about you?" He replied.

It's true, I often have my days free because I work in the evenings.

After our walk, we stopped by PCC, our local grocery store in Washington State, and bought two salmon salads for dinner. I also bought a Kombucha.

I went home and changed into a summer dress because the temperature was pushing 80 degrees at 4pm!

I left home at 4:30pm and arrived at school at around 5:10pm. I ate my salad, chatted with co-workers and then went to class to proctor another exam from 6-9 and was able to do some paperwork there as well.

Now it's 10pm. The end of the quarter is always busy and I have to try and stay one step ahead of the students in order to make it through. Still lots of paperwork, but I'm using my time wisely and should get it all done by Wednesday or Thursday.

And then it's FREE TIME!

Do you use your time well? Are you a focused person or do you tend to be scattered? 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

365 Inspirations—230: A iPad mini from a Vending Machine

"Change is inevitable—except from a vending machine."—Robert C. Gallagher

I've bought gum, soda, chocolate and even a coffee or tea from a vending machine, but a computer?


Until TODAY! Actually my husband bought it. He wanted an iPad mini, but wanted to buy it at Macy's on his card. They don't really have an Electronics Department, but they have an Electronics Vending Machine!

We must be on an Apple kick, because just yesterday we saw the movie Jobs (see post here) and today my husband bought a new Apple Computer.

It was the weirdest thing to watch. He swipped his card and selected his purchase on the vending machine and just like a package of gum or candy bar, a mechanical arm or lever moved his iPad over and it slid down where he could retrieve it from a door flap and just like that he had a new computer.

No sales person, so hassle, no lines, no nothing.

Just insert money, get computer, receipt and go.

I'm not sure how often these things get used. Probably not as much as a candy or soda machine. After all, how often do people really need to stop by the vending machine on the way to the bathroom to pick up an iPad?

But you just never know? Maybe this is the new wave of the future!

What would you like to see in vending machines?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

365 Inspirations—229: Steve Jobs Movie

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."—Steve Jobs 

When I heard that Ashton Kutcher was playing Steve Jobs in the movie Jobs, it was hard for me to picture it. Kutcher has played, for the most part, in comedy roles and this wasn't really a comedy. However, I have to give the guy some credit, he did a good job as Jobs.

He got the voice, mannerisms, stare and even the walk (though a bit exaggerated at times) down.

So I ended up liking Kutcher as Jobs and it did make the movie enjoyable for me. After all, the movie is about Job's life and if you don't like the main character, then the movie is not going to be good either.

I found this movie to be inspirational. There were many things I did not know about Steve Jobs before the movie. I did not realize how determined and focused he was to succeed and how unwilling he was to sacrifice any of what he believed in for any amount of money. He was against following the status quo and believed, according to the movie, that each person must follow their own passions, no matter what those look like to anyone else.

He was fired from the very company he created and was later hired back as the CEO after the company floundered without him.

What I took away from this movie was that to make a difference in this world, it's important to stay focused on your passion, otherwise it is easy to just simply be living or existing. We all have gifts to offer, but very few people are fully offering their gifts to the world.

The movie made me want to keep on writing and creating. And yes, I am writing and creating on my MacBook Pro, created by Apple Computers. Apple was Job's vision and dream that he started in his parent's garage with some friends. He perfected it and continued to shape it and it was his gift to the world. It was his passion.

What gifts are you offering to the world? Have you found your passion(s) and are you living your dream(s)?

Friday, August 16, 2013

365 Inspirations—228: Get Away

Coming home to Seattle after our getaway
"He who returns from a journey is not the same as he who left".—Chinese Proverb

It was raining when I pulled up to my friend's house yesterday. I parked near her house on a city street and dragged my bags to the foot of her cement steps and left them there. Then I walked up to her front door and rang the doorbell. I was greeted by her dog and twins.

We had a plan to get away. It would be me, my friend, her twins and the nanny.

That morning, we escaped from the city to my family lake house. The rain didn't hold us back...what's a little rain in Seattle anyway.

We arrived late in the afternoon and the everyone, except me actually, swam in the lake despite the clouds. I was late to join them–feeling the silence of my room at the lake and enjoying their sounds of laughter and fun from afar. My father was there too. He's in town from Florida and I'm sure our parade definitely broke his peaceful silence, but I have a feeling it was a welcome break.

That night we dined outside on the deck and the clouds had completely disappeared by this time and we even had a bit of a sunset.

The moon and stars came out and the next day we awoke to more sunshine.

More sun meant lots of swimming, dining on the dock, jumping in the lake, taking boats out, resting between swims, and just plain relaxing.

After we had all showered off the last traces of lake water from our sunburned bodies, we had time to reflect and relax on the ferry home. The sun was slowly sinking and it cast a magnificent light on the views all around us.

Since our car was parked in front of the ferry, we stood up on the bow of the boat and watched as the city got closer and closer. We stood up there right until the boat docked.

Now I'm home and sleepy from our wonderful two-day summer getaway. Time for sweet dreams....

Have you gone on any getaways recently?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

365 Inspirations—227: The Glass Half Full

"For myself I am an optimist—it does not seem to be much use being anything else."Winston Churchill

Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of person? I tend to look at the glass half full side of life. I choose to see the positive in things.  I wasn't always like this. I used to focus on the negative side of things. I saw everything from that angle. I used to think of what ifs and imagine all the things that might go wrong with an idea or situation.

I don't know what changed me. Perhaps I just got tired of looking at the negative side of things. I got tired of being a downer.

Sometime between being negative and being positive, I took up yoga and meditation and these really helped me to see things as they are and not as I'd like them to be. Things were neither good nor bad, they just were what they were.

Now I see things with a slightly positive angle. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and I look on the bright side of things. This has changed quality of my life immensely. I am writing 365 Inspirations this year on my blog and this has helped me to focus on the things that are positive in my life.

How about you? Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

365 Inspirations—226: Free Your Inner Child

"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."—Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943 
  Another post from my 365 Lessons from 2010. I like this one a lot. Here it is:

Floating, swimming, frolicking in the woods, eating cupcakes with stars on them, swinging on the swings even though there are only children on the swings with their mothers or fathers pushing them. What made us become serious adults who say, "Oh, I'm too old for that." Is there an age limit to floating, swimming, frolicking in the woods, eating cupcakes or swinging on swings? When given the chance, I don't hesitate to do any of these.

When you let your inner child out, the one inside you that liked to play and was always game for anything new, you free yourself. The picture of me on the swings was at my best friend's twins second birthday. All the kids were running all over the place with cake smeared across their faces. They climbed ladders, slid down slides, played in the sand box, walked over the rope bridge, but not me. I made a bee line for the swings.

I have so many memories of being on swings when I was young. I remember moving my legs forward and back, forward and back to try and get as high as possible. Sometimes I got so high that the poles supporting the swing seemed to come out of the ground. A rush of fear would spread throughout my body for an instant as I thought, "What if I break the swing?" and then I'd let go and close my eyes, let the swing rock me back and forth and feel the wind blow my hair back and touch my cheeks and nose. There's something soothing about the rocking motion of a swing. I'm sure it comes from the time when I was a baby and was soothed in this fashion by my parents. Once the swing would start to slow down, I'd jump out onto the sawdust.

Yesterday, when I arrived at my parent's lake house in Washington, I didn't hesitate to go for a swim. I didn't care if the water was warm or cold. I was going in. I don't think my family believed me and followed me down to the dock. I walked down the ladder and found the water to be surprisingly warm. Once in the water, I tread water and blew bubbles with my lips just like when I was a kid.

I also ventured off on my own around the lake. I walked slowly looking at all the houses and trees along the way. I heard young girls scream on a inner tube out on the lake. I caught a glimpse of them high up on the road through the trees. Their laughter was contagious and I couldn't help but laugh myself at the good time they seemed to be having. While walking I felt so happy and free I decided to take my self portrait. I wanted to remember my feeling.

Today my sister and her kids arrived for my father's birthday party. I was sorry I couldn't stay longer, but I needed to make it back to Seattle. They made chocolate cupcakes with different sprinkles on them. My dad got the one with dinosaurs because, well, I guess he's getting up there in age, but he is still young at heart. He was very pleased, however, that his cupcake only had one candle. He said, "Wow, look, I'm one!" and then blew it out.

My cupcake had stars on it. I licked the frosting and ate the whole thing in about four bites. After our cupcake eating session, I sat for a little while longer with my sister and family outside on the deck and we told stories about when we were young. We have so many.

It's always great to reminisce, but instead of just remembering all the fun times I had when I was a kid, I try to keep that part of me alive. I want to keep the flame burning. There's an innocence to the way children are. Often times I feel it's a shame that the child in us gets bottled up once we become adults. There's a tendency to become reserved and fearful of doing anything that might embarrass us. When I let my inner child out, I find my spark for life. It keeps things exciting, spontaneous and fun!

Do you let your inner child come out to play? Have you don't anything spontaneous and fun recently?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

365 Inspirations—225: Tree Art in Carkeek Park

"These painted trees express my deep connection and admiration for our natural world. They encourage the viewer to walk in and appreciate the natural environment. They are meant to be part of nature, not separate."—Richard Metz

Today we hiked down a trail on the Northwest side of Carkeek Park in Seattle and were surprised to run into this owl with human legs and a moose, both painted on trees!

I was worried for the trees until I found out that they will not be harmed because the artist used natural pigment and dyes to create them. The artist's wish is for people to enjoy his art in nature, which will naturally disappear within six months. He does not believe in accumulating art, he believes it should be temporary and enjoyed by all. The tree paintings are part of a Heaven and Earth art series at Carkeek Park. The artist is Richard Metz.

I thought these two were the only ones in the park until we hiked back up the trail. 

We then realized that there were more paintings on the other side of several trees.

These painting were life-like and surreal. I loved the paintings themselves and I was inspired by them, but I'm still trying to decide if I liked them on our beautiful trees in Washington State. I feel the trees probably don't need the paint job. They have personalities of their own.

But since the job was already done, I decided to admire the art that would eventually wash off with the rains.

There were other sculptures in the park as well. Here are some of those:

You don't need to go to an art gallery anymore I guess. You can just take a nature walk in a Seattle park and see all the art you can imagine. The art is inspiring in and of itself, but nature's natural art is even more inspiring in my humble opinion.

Do any parks near you have art sculptures, paintings or tree art? Do you like to see these in nature or do you think nature is better left alone?

Monday, August 12, 2013

365 Inspirations—224: Feeding the Fish

“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”—Charles Darwin

We are housesitting over on Puget Sound. We love coming here. One of our tasks is feeding the fish. The gardens here are amazing and the owners have three large ponds that are connected by a river that runs along the side of the house and drains into another pond outside our bedroom. The sound of water is so soothing here.

These ponds are full of brightly colored koi. When I come close to the ponds the fish get excited. I know they are expecting food. Actually, I don't really have to feed them because there is enough algae in the ponds for them to live off of, but it's nice to get a treat every now and then.

Not only do we feed the fish, but we also feed the cats (all four of them) and the birds! There's lots of wildlife and nature here. It's a little oasis of peace.

At our home in Seattle, we don't feed anyone except ourselves. We don't have kids, dogs, cats, birds or fish. We have quite a number of plants, however. My husband's theory is that if a plant dies, you don't feel so bad about it.

Actually, to tell you quite honestly, I feel very grateful for my life and wouldn't change a thing. I haven't felt the need to add a kid, dog, cat, bird or fish to the mix, but I still love all of the aforementioned.

I feel happy to see the faces of children and the touch of newborn babies, I love cuddling with cats of any size or personality, a dog is fun to throw a stick to or even a frisbee, birds are fascinating to watch as they eat from the feeders or gather sticks for their nests, fish are beautiful to see effortlessly gliding under the water. I feel so full of all of these.

It's a treat to be here. We get to feed fish. Love is meant to flow from one being to the next, it's everywhere and it can never be owned. Feeding the fish reminds me that all creatures great and small are worthy of our attention.

Do you pay attention to all creatures great and small around you? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

365 Inspirations—223: Breakthrough

“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”—Thích Nhất Hạnh 

We just came back from a yoga/writing retreat we led at the Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island and the word that comes to mind, for some reason, is breakthrough. 

Perhaps it's because my husband said, on numerous occasions, during our yoga practice, to "just move through it." I think what he was saying is not that we bring ourselves to pain or injury, but that we don't become fearful of what we are capable of and we don't run away when things 'look' difficult.

I believe each and every human being has incredible strength within. We are all warriors. We all have the ability to breakthrough any hardship and come out on the other side with an entirely different view.

This is exactly what happened on our yoga and writing retreat.

Yoga and writing (and we threw collaging into the mix) are such powerful tools to access what's inside.

Yoga helps one to go inward and feel every single part of the body. All tensions or past traumas one has endured are actually first felt in the body and stay there until one has worked through the body and allowed them to be released.

Writing and collaging help to take that energy that is inside and bring it out. Both of these activities use the right side of the brain. I teach intuitive writing. I believe that 'first thoughts' contain the most energy.  They can often lead us to clues about ourselves. When one does intuitive writing, the inner critic takes a back seat and the writer allows whatever is inside to form words on the page or images on a collage.

Collaging at The Yoga Lodge
I've used both collaging and writing for a good part of my life as a means to access what is inside. I use 'first thoughts' for this blog and much of the 'meat' of my book Lessons from the Monk I Married came from intuitive writing. Intuitive writing is the act of moving the pen across the page or your fingers over the keyboard without stopping. Later you can go back and read what you have written and I guarantee you will find more than you ever thought you'd find. There are lots of golden nuggets in intuitive writing, but it is a practice and to be fluent in it, you have to practice it.

I really believe that the combination of yoga, writing and collaging was what caused many breakthroughs on our retreat. People moved through things and arrived at higher ground. This was so beautiful and amazing to witness.

I was happy to be a part of the transformation of our entire group and can't wait to see how each person's life blossoms in the coming years!

Have you ever used yoga, writing or collaging as tools to breakthrough something that has been holding you back or keeping you in a place that no longer fits who you are?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

365 Inspirations—222: Everyday Enlightenment

"Each and every animate and inanimate being and object feels full of light today. It's everyday enlightenment. Nowhere to go but right here."—Katherine Jenkins

I'm sitting on the deck off my bedroom at the Yoga Lodge on Whidbey Island. A lawn mower hums in the distance. People are scattered on the grass, on picnic benches, in lounge chairs, under trees and they are writing and resting! I led a workshop today on intuitive writing or free flow writing.

I encouraged the people on our retreat to let go of the inner critic and just write. I can see they are doing that and each one of them feels full of light to me. In fact, each and every animate and inanimate being and object feels full of light today. It's everyday enlightenment. Nowhere to go but right here!

Here are some pictures from our retreat:

Have you ever joined a yoga and writing retreat? Would you be interested in joining one?

Friday, August 9, 2013

365 Inspirations—221: Going on Retreat

"Nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than his own soul."--Marcus Aurelius

No Internet here so this post will be short! I'll try and flesh these posts out when I get home! Hard to do posts on my iPhone! We are leading a yoga/writing retreat on Whidbey Island at The Yoga Lodge! Here are some pictures from today:

Have you ever gone on a retreat? What kind of retreat did you go on and what did you do there?