January Report

2017. Equal parts shitshow and best year ever. When the news gets overwhelming, I like to take a quick look at what’s going right, because we are not our circumstances. I took on a few things back in December (since I like to get a head start on my goals around my birthday) - and have to say, I’m pretty pumped. Here’s what I’ve learned so far this year:

Sleep is the best.

My big goal for last year was sleeping better. My goal for this year is to sleep like a boss. My favorite hacks so far are (if you happen to be scrolling Insta til 4am and trying to compensate with coffee and maybe vitamin C serum):

Sleep With Me podcast. I don’t know that I’ve ever made it past the intro and into an actual story. As soon as he says “ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, friends beyond the binary…” I’m lights out. Like white noise, but better.

Raw honey. A tablespoon before bed (with a tablespoon of MCT oil if you’re into this ketogenic thing with me) gives my brains good energy for repair while I’m sleeping. And the kind with honeycomb in it that I get from Florida Raw Apiaries makes me happy.

Magnesium. Given what I know from acupuncture school about heavy minerals grounding your chi - this makes sense, but 500mg before bed makes me all mellow and relaxed. (Also, Vitamin D in the morning plays a role in sleep quality.)

Turn my phone to airplane mode at night (but make sure I download my podcast first). Having a cell / wifi signal by your head just seems like it would mess up your sleep. Also:

Night shift from sunset to sunrise and f.lux on my laptop. Keep that blue light away from me. But also also:

Use my phone like a mofo during the day. As in, be smarter about apps.

Headspace. 20 minutes. I’m in the middle of a thirty day creativity pack and it’s awesome. If you've wanted to start meditating, but don't want to fork out a grand for the TM training or can't seem to get away for a 10 day Vipassana retreat (seriously, get your life together!), Headspace is a killer way to start. 

Aaptiv. Workouts and (surprisingly) great yoga! A home practice has been a goal for a while, so for January I committed to not paying for yoga (since at this point, I should know enough) and on the days I don’t feel like teaching myself, I follow along with some of the teachers at Pure Yoga in NYC. A couple of times a week I do a sprint workout. Definitely worth $7 a month.

Other things I am super excited about:

Butter coffee. The Five-minute journal. This dancing plant. Moving back to Boulder!

 

 

Onward.

 

the big bounce

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus recently, friends. And I didn’t want to write this morning. And I didn’t want to meditate. Really, I just have cramps, the weather is garbage, and I wanted to stay in bed and watch Sherlock.

But I made myself sit for just 15 minutes, and now I’m writing. The creative process at work.

And as I sat this morning, and set my intention, Interesting Thing # 1 came into my head. I usually sit to make more space for me to be me, and thereby for you to be you, but today it changed a little. I’ve been thinking a lot about what's happening in the world - politically, environmentally, socially - and while I obviously see destruction, I also see creativity. And it feels like a bit of a which-came-first situation. And that left me wondering: is creativity inherently destructive? 

I get Notes from the Universe in my email every morning, and today it read:

It's quite the paradox, Catie, but the more one pushes themselves into areas of discomfort - gently, just a bit, from time to time - the more comfortable they become.

And vice versa.

Thunk it, who'd of?

- The Universe

Yeah, Catie, that's a wicked vice versa, if you know what I mean.

As I’ve also been thinking a lot about how creativity can effect great change in the world, I realized that The Universe had just mirrored my process back to me: The more comfortable I am, the more okay I feel with making myself a bit uncomfortable in the name of growth. And the more I make myself uncomfortable in the name of growth, the more comfortable I am in general. Live to grow; grow to live. Or some such pithy quotable.

However, to have a solid starting point takes effort. To maintain the “comfort” that supports creative expansion, I have to take care of myself. I need routine: meditation, exercise, journaling, sleep, good food, coffee, community. And from that base can I push myself outward and take the risks that I believe need taking in order to create what I want to see in the world. And, in so doing, I destroy a bit of what was before. I create. I grow a bit. Then I rest, but not quite as who I was when I started, and whatever was holding my vision back is destroyed. Maybe I even take up just a bit more space in the world...

And this note from The Universe got me thinking about The Universe - and I imagine creativity to be like its expansion and contraction (or maybe I've been watching too much Cosmos). When it contracts, it's never quite as small as it was before expanded. And when it expands, it goes a little past where it went last time. According to some oscillatory universe theorists (and Wikipedia), the Big Bang was simply the beginning of a period of expansion that followed a period of contraction. In this view, one could talk of a Big Crunch followed by a Big Bang, or more simply, a Big Bounce. 

How can creation and destruction not be linked when we're talking about something called the Big Bang? 

Later in the meditation, as I began an exercise of recognizing my own creative spark, cultivating it within my body, and then attempting to expand it outward as far as I can, Interesting Thing # 2 came up. The meditation guide says to imagine your creativity as a spark in your chest, but when asked to find that spark within my body, I noticed that I always feel it in my head. That’s where it seems strongest and where I guess it lives. However, when asked to expand it out into the world - or just the space around me in the room - I can't do it with my mind. But if I imagine that little ball of light that I've created behind my forehead, and I drop it down into my chest, I can easily grow it outward from there. With each exhale it shines a little brighter and grows a little bigger, and with each inhale, it retracts and dims, shrinking slightly back but still bigger than it was when I started. Do I create in my head and grow with my heart?

I breathe out, and grow a little bigger, glow a little brighter. I breathe in to absorb the change, pull my light inward, and rest but a little further away from where I began. And the cycle repeats itself over and over, until, by the end of the exercise, I am holding the retraction very far out away from myself. I have grown my spark into something that can include my whole world. And then I slowly bring all that energy back into my body, into my heart, and it radiates clarity and warmth all around me that lingers even when I store it back in my head. And the next time, when I begin again, it is less retracting and dim on the inhale, and easier and more expansive on the exhale, and the final phase is bigger and brighter than it was the day before.

Interesting Thing #3 is that this internal visualization of creativity is exactly the same as the external exercise of making ourselves uncomfortable in the name of personal growth.

The more we are willing to push ourselves, the easier it gets. The easier it gets, the more we are willing to do it. We feel safer taking risks as we grow and our edges expand. And when we rest we are more than we were before. It's uncomfortable sometimes but we are okay. We take care of ourselves, and nurture that little spark, and keep pushing - physically, creatively, spiritually - and we grow together.

This is how we get our work out into the world. This is how we connect with others on any common mission to create change.

We hold that spark in the mind and we push it outward with the heart every time we are brave enough to ask another to believe in what we’re creating. Because creativity bows to courage - our bravery is always rewarded with more bravery, our love with more love - and that little spark will continue to grow so long as we stand in service to what we believe that the world needs from us and take action toward that end at every opportunity.

So take the risk of putting your art out into the world, and know that the very act of its creation will destroy the things that no longer serve. And every time that you push yourself a little further, make yourself a little uncomfortable, it gets a little easier, and we all rise.


Onward, y’all.

Welcome to the Monkey House

I ended my last post by saying that there’s more for us every time we choose to make room for it. And, after what I’ve seen happen in the last week, I want to emphasize the choose to make room part of that sentence.

When I got to Seattle, I wasn’t really planning on selling all my stuff. I wasn’t planning to cut ties with the things that I’ve carried with me through every move since college. I had no idea what the future looked like and I certainly didn’t anticipate what my next move would be. That left me feeling a lot like this: 

All I knew was that I wanted to feel free - physically, emotionally, financially.

Getting rid of my furniture and most of my stuff kept me from having to rent a place, pay for storage and hire movers. Free.

Breaking my ties to all of those things gave me the physical option to go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go there. To work wherever the job and the notion moved me. Free.

For a minute this was all a bit overwhelming, but as I took carload after carload to Goodwill, and gave things away, and waited for craigslist people, this thing began to build momentum. The more I chose to break free, the easier it became. The things that I wasn’t ready to give up on Saturday had lost their hold on me by Tuesday, and out the door they went. But, I re-emphasize: it was a choice.

And this was all somewhat terrifying, because I didn’t have a clue where I wanted to go and maybe it would feel better to at least have my stuff while I figured it out? But I kept purging and made it out of Seattle on schedule and with minimal drama.

Friends have asked “what’s next?” and I have no idea. This has never been a comfortable place for me. Not having a plan feels a lot like this:

Science is working for and against me here.

The Primary Law of Cartoon Physics (that's def a proper noun) states that gravity does not work until you look down.  

Also: Aristotelian physics argues that a vacuum begs to be filled. The universe does not like a void. And so, when we get rid of something to create space in our lives, there is tension and pressure. 

If you’ve ever let go of an open balloon or popped your ears on a plane you understand what I'm talking about.

If you’ve ever gone through a breakup and had that no-one-to-text empty feeling when you just stare at your phone, willing it to do something, then you definitely understand what I'm talking about.

And I’ve certainly made plans to fill that void before - just to make myself feel better in the moment - but now it's important to me to find more than  a placeholder. To do that, I have to keep the space open and that can be very uncomfortable because I am literally defying the laws of physics. 

So I left Seattle with no plan, and it was hard to dismantle the life that I’d built for myself, to watch it get carried, piece by piece, to other apartments across the city, to Goodwill, to the dumpster. I created a void in my life, and that was by no means easy, but it was very necessary. 

It was necessary because I couldn’t take the next step until I was willing to let go of the last one. And though I had no idea what that would be, as soon as Seattle was taken care of things began to fall into place. Opportunities began to present themselves. I said ‘yes’ to some things and ‘no’ to others - maintaining space - and I was able to ask myself what I really wanted before committing to anything.

And this feels amazing. I can go where I want, when I want. Everything I own fits into my truck. I took my life apart so that I can put it back together in a way that feels good for who I am now. This is exactly the kind of freedom I’ve been looking for.

And it is weird and challenging and a bit scary.

Life is full of unknowns right now, but at least it isn’t full of things I know I don’t want or need anymore. At least it’s mine to create as I go. At least the things that are in my life now are there by choice.

And it’s all a choice. Jump. Don't jump. Stay. Go. Keep it. Toss it. Up to you, really. 

 

Just don't look down. 

 

Onward. 

 

An Urban View

Y’all, I’m writing this from the floor of my Seattle apartment, carting the final few bags of donations to Goodwill and waiting for Craigslist buyers who, in true west coast fashion (no offense), may or may not show up.

And as I sit here, among all that annoying stuff that you never want to deal with at the end of a move, I am certainly writing this as a means of procrastination, but it’s as good a time as any to examine what we go through between the end of one thing and the beginning of another.

A chapter of my life is closing here, and with that closure comes a host of emotions. I’m a bit disappointed that things didn’t work out. I am a bit shocked at how little attachment I feel to this place. I am a bit nervous about what comes next. I am a bit sad to say goodbye to a dream. But nothing that happened while I lived in Seattle was what was expected, and it all started the day I got to my apartment.

When I signed my lease, sight unseen, I had a good idea of what I was getting myself into. Most new-build “open floor plan” one bedrooms are the same: partition walling off the bedroom from the rest of the space, sliding door of some sort, galley kitchen, in unit laundry, floor to ceiling windows. Sounds pretty good and they’re usually clean, free of bugs, and easy to deal with. When I asked the landlord about the location of the apartment in the building, she told me it faced East, toward the city, with “an urban view.”

Now, I know enough about the layout of Seattle and have seen enough episodes of Sex and the City, to know that on the third floor an “urban view” means I’m likely looking at the wall of another building, a power line, an alley full of dumpsters, or some combination thereof.

I got all three.

But I didn’t care. When I moved into this apartment, all I could think about was my new life here. There was nothing in my head besides optimism and excitement. It was the same when I moved to Boulder (both times), Bozeman, and almost everywhere else I’ve lived. Every time I pack my stuff, I’m stoked for the adventure, so my “urban view” wasn’t really a a big deal.

What my landlord didn't tell me, was that there is an insane roof deck on our building. And once I found that place, I saw what I wanted to see: the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle and a panoramic view of Puget Sound. No one was ever up there so it was basically my private patio.

 

I made the choice to go up there every day. I made the choice to see what I wanted to see. And I choose now, as I sit on the floor, staring at the wall of another building and the power lines right outside my window, to see what lies ahead. Sure, I’m in the throws of transition, deciding which paperbacks mean enough to pack up and which ones are getting tossed, lovingly wrapping my last few knick knacks in bubble paper, throwing caution to the wind and giving away things I will undoubtedly need to replace someday, but that doesn’t mean I need to focus on what is passing on.

I recognize what I learned from this move, what I learned from my time here, what I learned about my friends and the people that I worked with - and I am choosing to move forward, lessons in tow, eyes open to the possibility that comes with any new adventure. And that is a valuable form of freedom.

Letting go.

Letting go of things. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of a dream. Letting go of the past. 

It’s freedom.

I think that sometimes we worry that there won’t be another. That we’ll never find another apartment that will have as nice of a view. That we won’t find another partner that did for us what the last one did. That we won’t find work that means as much or pays as much. I think that we get stuck in a mindset of scarcity around a lot of things in our lives, but if there’s one thing that I’ve learned through all the crazy twists and turns, it’s this:

There is always more.

It might not look the same or feel the same or pay the same, but there’s more for us every time we have the courage to make room for it.

And as I clear out my place and take one last look through the floor to ceiling windows at my urban view, I am choosing what I want to see. I am choosing to see more. 

As always, here’s to the adventure.

Onward!

 

Born Under A Bad Sign

If you know me at all, then you know that I tend to wander. I’m a seasoned road-tripper. An impulsive maker of cross-country moves. A corporate tourist. I have “wanderlust,” they say. “A free spirit,” I’ve been called (today, even.) It’s not my fault, I’m just a Sagittarius. It was written in the stars long before I was born...or something.

And I’d just accept my fate and chalk all the moving around up to The Universe having bigger plans for me if I weren’t a firm believer in this thing called personal accountability. I like free will. I find it empowering.

I’m all for chasing down whatever incites my curiosity and inspires an adventure. But, at 36, I’d be a fool to not recognize that my situation - whatever it may be - is entirely of my own creation. For better or worse. While I learn through fascination and am always on fire for the excavation of hidden knowledge - wherever that may take me - at a certain point, even I feel the pull of home and a strong desire to feel connected to a place.

When I moved to Seattle last spring, what felt like a calculated and well-thought out change, a chance to put down roots, was anything but.

I had a plan. I had direction. I had a W-2!

What I didn’t have was any friends, any idea of where to live, any community. And, for the first time in my life, I was as far from my family as it is possible to get within the confines of the contiguous United States. I had a new commute. A new paycheck. A new gym. A new climate. I was traveling so much for work that I hardly noticed, but when I returned to the Pacific Northwest in October, after almost two months on the road, and no more than three weeks in a row in the city since May, I was struck by how lonely I was in the midst of so much motion.

I was finally at rest within my surroundings, and I was actually scared of how unfamiliar it all felt. This beautiful city, my fantastic apartment, the places I’d been moving through for the last six months - they all felt foreign. And I was at loose ends.

I desperately dug in - worked hard, worked out, went about my business, hoping that something would click, that it would all fall into place and I’d find the ease inherent in routine.

But it didn’t happen, and I had to take a hard look at how I was doing things. Yes, I had a schedule and a sweet pad and a good job, but it all felt forced. And just weird.

Fortunately, a friend in the city invited me to a random yoga class one friday night - and I only say ‘random’ because, inexplicably, I hadn’t even thought to go to yoga in the six months I’d been living in Seattle. After two years in Montana, I’d forgotten about yoga. The one thing that has always protected me from the weirdness of life - I hadn’t even thought to look for. And then, there it was again, waiting for me.

That friday night, as I unrolled my mat, and stretched my lanky self out into the first dog that I’d downed in years - in that moment, I placed my hands on the mat and closed my eyes, I was comfortable. I went through the class, knowing the movements in the very cells of my heart, inhaling and exhaling as I expanded into the space, and, finally, into something that felt familiar.

I didn’t realize how much I had been powering through holding myself up in the face of everything that was new. There is always a necessary amount of posturing when you’re in a new place - exude confidence, hold your head up, say yes to things even though you just want to hide out in bed all day and try to get your bearings - and I was exhausted. I was in fake-it-til-you-make-it mode, and in dire need of a place where I could just be myself.

While that yoga class felt good, it didn’t pull me right back into my practice. I was still shaky in my new surroundings. Just as I was beginning to recognize this need for the familiar, for something that felt safe and recognizable, I decided to learn how to ride a motorcycle. And as much as I love that sh*t, at that point it was just more new that I had to manage. And then I dropped the damn thing and picked it up with one hand in a moment of baby-under-the-bus adrenaline and stupidity.

As a result, I pulled a muscle in my back so hard that I couldn’t get out of bed for two days. I could barely stand. I physically could not hold myself up anymore.

I got the point. And I booked it to the first yoga class I could find. And that class was all about finding ease, looking for places to soften, and letting the universe hold you, trusting it to catch you. I’d been trying to muscle my way through everything, and it took pulling one to snap me out of it. And I remembered the work that I’d done establishing my yoga practice - why I’d been so dedicated to creating something that would shelter me from the shitstorms that inevitably hit - and I was back on the mat with a vengeance. This is exactly what practice is for - whatever yours may be - it’s what fishing was for me in Montana, what yoga will be for me always, what riding my motorcycle is when the weather’s nice. It’s the thing that grounds you no matter where you are, and it’s the one thing that we all need to feel centered, safe, and like ourselves.

I never thought that I’d say this, but there is such a thing as “too much new.” And I’d pushed right up into and over the edge of what I was comfortable with. A boundary I didn’t even know was crossable. But as I got reacquainted with my yoga mat, I started to reposition the rest of my life so that The New wasn’t so overwhelming. I cut out some things that I was interested in but were crushing my energy, and reinvested in what I knew would support me. I wrote on the ferry. I focused on my relationships, near and far. I prioritized self-care so that when things went a bit awry, I didn’t lose my footing.

And now, on the road again, I travel with a mat and a pen and sense of place that supersedes my geographic location. I know where I stand with me, and while it’s easy to get lost in the otherness that is the world around us, I’m making a point to keep house wherever I go - because what we create internally will always give us a sense of direction. A true north. A sense of the familiar when the newness gets to be too much and a place to come back to no matter how far we roam.

Here’s to the adventure. Here’s to the familiar. May they always bring you home.


Onward.

 

 

Root Down

My teacher Gina blew into our Monday class a couple of years back, breathless and wild haired. “Ok, y’all” she called us to our feet. “There are days I come in here all yogi and zen and there are days I come in and…” she looked around the room as we begrudgingly stood up, having expected a mellow start in child’s pose. “And it’s just fucking monday. So we start standing up. Because life doesn’t catch you in child’s pose, it drags you from wherever you happen to be standing so you better be steady. Goddess pose.” We widened our feet and lowered our hips into a standing straddle. Breathing slowed. Pulses mellowed. Hands to hearts. We began. Gina has a way of keeping it real, of keeping the practice of yoga grounded in life. “What are we doing, really?” She’ll ask. “Because, if we’re being honest, we’re just a bunch of grown ups rolling around on the floor in neon spandex - kinda pointless in the grand scheme of things, you know?"

At first, I’d been taken aback - how dare this woman demean my practice in this way? This was my sacred space, my safe place, my opportunity for true devotion. But the more I practiced yoga with her, the more I realized that it’s just that, a practice. And you’re not even practicing poses to get better at them. You practice yoga to get better at life. When I’m in dragonfly, and I’ve got a slippery foot on the back of my arm, nose inches from the floor, worried that I might fart on the person behind me and that would be all it takes to send me face first into my mat, I remember to breathe and just try to keep my shit together. Because that’s the goal really - keeping your shit together. Really.

If you lose it in the studio, no biggie. So you didn’t stand on your hands with your foot on an elbow and your ass in the air tonight. So what. But you did pull in to your center, pressed down through your hands, out through your legs, felt your strength and drank in your breath. And maybe, just maybe, you got better at that, so the next time you’re in traffic and you get cut off and spill coffee in your lap as you realize you’re out of gas and you left your wallet on the kitchen table, maybe then you pull to center, feel your strength, take a breath and keep your shit together. And you get through it. And you move on. 

The more I’ve practiced, the more I’ve spent time in this body, the more I’ve learned to listen to it. And though yoga teachers say all the time, “listen to your body” - what they mean is this: pay attention to how the yoga feels. Pay attention so that next time you remember. Pay attention so that you can detect the change that will undoubtedly come. Pay attention to what’s happening right now so that you can notice the difference between this and the infinite that that exists within this moment, and know where you are. 

As we practice, the body becomes our compass. The poses just bend us different ways to measure balance and strength and presence and focus. When we are in any pose, notice where you're headed. Measure. Move on. Bend the other way, and again, measure - subtly, intentionally noticing and letting go. Things change and notice, take a breath, let go. Things move and notice, take a breath, let go. Maybe things feel easier and notice, take a breath, and let go. Or they feel more difficult, but do the same. Let the body speak, so that as we move through our practice, or through the world, we are aware of how we feel in this moment, without judgment, but conscious of all the other options, should we decide to take a different tack. And, for the record, it is always a choice. You can hate this moment, or spend your energy breathing through it, noticing, so next time, you see the difference and take another step in a new direction, into the ever expanding world of what is possible.