Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blogging & Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within

This quarter, at Edmonds Community College, I'm teaching a new class called Blogging and Journaling: Freeing the Writer Within. I gave my students the challenge of writing everyday for one week and I was surprised to discover that many of them are doing just that!

 I received so many benefits from blogging and journaling over the years. I wrote 365 blog posts for two years straight. One year was in the form of daily lessons (2010) and another was in the form of inspirations (2013).

I was surprised to discover that one of the students in my class started her own 365 daily posts in the form of reflections. Here is a link to her first post that describes our first class meeting and her inspiration for writing everyday:

I learned so many things during those two years I blogged daily. Here are a few things I learned:
  • I can stick to a goal and complete it. Even a goal that is every day for an entire year!
  • There's always something I can write about and in keeping up with the practice of writing every single day, I learn so much about myself.
  • The writing that comes from my daily blogs and journals does not need to be perfect. Sometimes there are spelling errors or grammatical mistakes. The important part is to get the words out and I can go back and edit later.
  • The daily act of writing is important part of freeing the writer within. Without this daily act, one becomes rusty and out of practice. 
  • I was surprised to discover that my daily posts actually attracted a following. Some came just to see if I had kept to my word about blogging everyday.
  • Writing every day on my blog helped me to free the writer within and enabled me to write my memoir, Lessons from the Monk I Married, which was published by Seal Press in 2012.
  • In blogging everyday, I became part of the blogging world (the blogosphere) and was excited to meet new people and find other bloggers with similar interests. I have met, both online and in-person, so many!
  • I realized that you don't have to carve out hours and hours to blog. You can set a timer and create a post in 10 minutes. Then add a photo or a quote to spice it up and....Voila! Everyone can spare 10 minutes in their day. If I did it for two years while writing a book and working, you can too :)
  • When you write everyday, the real YOU cannot hide. I call this 'intuitive writing'. You don't edit or judge, you just write. The important part is to keep typing or writing without stopping. Let the words flow out, later you can go back over what you've written. In both my blog and book, my strongest writing has come from intuitive writing. 
  • People ask me how I built up my blog. It was the joy of coming here daily to WRITE. It wasn't about seeing how many followers I had or how much money I could make. It was simply about showing up here. From there, things began to happen organically.
I know there are dozens of other things I have learned in the hundreds of posts I've created here. Now I feel confident enough to teach classes at colleges, retreats and in-person about my experiences. It brings me joy to share my journey and be part of other people's journeys to blogging and journaling OR freeing the writer within, as I like to call it :)

Have you every written every single day for any period of time? Do you blog daily or regularly?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Perfection is in the Eye of the Beholder

Reading outside in the sun today!
"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's."—J. D. Salinger

I watched a documentary on J.D. Salinger on Amazon Prime, which I get free with my Amazon Prime membership. I've been watching lots of documentaries lately, especially about authors.

J.D. Salinger was a recluse. He lived in his own world and did things his own way. On the outside it might have seemed crazy, but to him perhaps it was perfection.

I had never read The Catcher in the Rye. It was never required reading for me in high school or college, even though I studied literature/writing in college. Suddenly, after seeing this documentary, I had to read it. I immediately ordered myself a copy of The Catcher in the Rye from Amazon.

It was a tiny paperback book with the title in a 50s-looking font. It had an orange cover with a carousel horse on it.

At first, it was hard to read and I couldn't understand for the life of me why this book was a sensation. Every other word in the book was goddam. But then something happened. I let go of my ideas of what this book should be and entered the scene. I went for a ride with this author. I was part of the story.

For the last few days, I could not put the book down. It was a coming of age story of Holden Caulfield. Nothing was going right for him. He got kicked out of school, he got beat up, he didn't fit in, but he could only be and think who he was at that time. He definitely could not pretend to be anyone else. In fact, the entire book was a comment on how people in society, at that time, were just pretending or acting out their parts. The word phony was used dozens of times.

Yesterday I had so much to do, but I didn't do anything I was supposed to do.

I pulled two chairs together and made a makeshift lawn chair. I got myself a drink from the kitchen and I sat in the front yard in the sun for two entire hours reading The Catcher in the Rye. 

I forgot where I was.

I forgot who I was.

I forgot I had things to do.

A good book will do that to you.

Finally, I pulled myself together. I got my wits about me and got to work and taught my classes and it went really well.

But I wouldn't have done it differently. It was perfect. A perfect afternoon in the sun with an excellent book that took me awhile to warm up to.

It made me want to read more and write more. So here I am.

Have you read a book recently that made you feel good, made you think or made you change your mind about something? What was it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Prescribing Love

Love just may be the best medicine
I had a profound experience at the doctor's the other day.

I recently stopped going to "regular" doctors. I was just another number at those places. Just a pile of flesh to probe and poke and stab and write up tests for. I was prescribed all kinds of things that were probably deadly. I was told there was nothing that really could be done. Unless, of course, I was dying.

So I sort of gave up hope.

I'm not dying. But I have had serious digestive troubles since traveling to dozens of countries in my youth, some cleanlier than others.

I picked up different bugs here and there along the way and it was all finally taking a toll on my system.

A few friends recommended Seattle Healing Arts.

"Oh, this is not like going to the DOCTOR'S office," a friend assured.

She explained how they had naturopathic doctors, Chinese medical doctors, massage, Ayurvedic doctors and even a few regular MDs sprinkled into the mix. She told me about how "un-clinical" the place was. There were beautiful paintings, buddhas and they played soothing meditation music while you waited.

I started seeing a doctor there and he's changed my entire view about "going to the doctor."

On our first session, he spent TWO entire hours with me. He let me speak and he listened.

He just listened.

Occasionally he'd ask me a few questions, but he was really very present with me.

I felt a very soft, gentle energy flowing from this doctor.

On my last visit, he had dozens of acupuncture needles stuck in me. Now you have to understand that I really dislike needles of any kind and hate to draw blood.

But I felt so at ease with this person and hardly noticed what was happening. We talked about life while he was giving me this treatment. I felt genuinely cared for.

After the acupuncture treatment I received, the pain in my stomach is now gone.

After being with this doctor for about two months, I've had a profound healing experience like none I've ever experience in a doctor's office before.

What was different?

It was love.

Genuine love and care about another human being.

Of course I believe that proper medicine, herbs, treatments and supplements all help, but all of this is nothing if you are just a number.

I finally feel like my body is really healing.

I'm not just a number anymore.

I'm a human who has been the recipient of the best medicine of all: love.

Have you ever been healed by the love of another person? 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Coming Out Of My Shell

Swimming with enormous sea turtles helped me open up again
"At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself."—Alan Alda

Winter was a long, hard haul. I wasn't here at all. I agreed to teach a split schedule at the college where I teach ESL and that just about did me in. The result: I was sick with the flu for an entire month.

I haven't been sick for an entire month since I don't know when.

Obviously I had taken on too much and was out of balance because of this choice I had made.

Never again.

My body and intuition are strong and always give me clues as to what feels right or wrong for me, yet sometimes I choose not to listen to my gut, intuition, hunches, instincts.

Fear is usually what causes me to go against these.

Fear of not enough money. Fear of what others may think. Fear of losing something. Fear, fear, fear...

Fear of death.

I went to Seattle Healing Arts and met a doctor who changed my whole view of things. He told me I needed rest. He said I was under stress.

Me?  Under stress? Someone who practices yoga and meditation? Someone who knows when too much is too much?

But I listened to him. I listened hard.

My digestive track was also out of whack. He prescribed me herbs and a round of antibiotics to get rid of parasites. He gave me a food allergy test and recommended I take a vacation or get a massage.

So that's what I did.

Actually, my husband led a yoga retreat at a private farm in Kula, Maui for 7 days and I was there leading the writing/collaging part of the retreat. We just came back yesterday.

It was so healing for me and those 10 days (7 for a yoga retreat and 3 for our own retreat) changed my life.

I partly went to this retreat to research my next book which I'll tell you more about later, but I mainly went for the healing aspects of being on this island.

I ate fresh veggies and fruit everyday, I did yoga almost every morning, I hiked in a bamboo forest and near waterfalls, I swam in the warm ocean, dug my toes into the sand, felt the sun on my face and the healing hands of my husband on my body (he now does energy healing massages in addition to yoga).

I swam with enormous sea turtles. I felt the power of their beings. These ancient creatures healed me.

After the retreat, we visited a friend in Kula and stayed at her place for two nights. She made the most delicious food straight from her garden: a salad of kale, spinach, arugula, basil, etc. And she made a seafood pasta dish that was so tasty.

I listened to the wind through the sugarcane fields.

I listened to bird calls.

I heard the ocean.

I saw the new moon.

I saw the sunrise from the top of Haleakala.

I listened.

I really listened.

I know what I need to do. It's deep in my soul, but I am not sure why I sometimes work against myself.

A new quarter starts on Monday. I am a bit scared of losing all that I gained while away. I want to keep myself in check and tune in when I have free time. I want to write here on this blog and I am working on a new book.

I'm back. I'm coming out of my shell. It was a long winter, but I'm ready to swim the gentle waters again.

Did you ever do something that went against your instinct or intuition? What was the result?