Monday, December 31, 2012


Well if it isn't obvious, I'm a last minute gal. In response to a good friend's challenge to complete 24 posts in 2012, I'm sliding into home base at just about the final hour. I don't love this about myself, but my productivity is usually driven more by deadlines than anything else. I think I'll try to repeat this goal for next year, but add the 2 posts-per-month rule, to avoid another December 31st writing marathon... and with that, a quick note to this past year:

Dear 2012,

I hate you in many ways, but am nonetheless thankful for the changes you've delivered. You brought me loss in ways I never knew before, you ushered in loneliness, you taught me bravery. You made me exceedingly uncomfortable, but made me grow. You made me face boredom to see how I'd respond, and made me confront some of the innermost caves of my being. When I stood appalled, you gave me time to learn and respond. You showed me vast ups and downs, and extraordinary companionship when it mattered most.

We've had an interesting run, but I'm so grateful for the distance I've come since you arrived 364 days ago. With that I say good ridens! ..and tell your sister 2013 to be a bit gentler please :)


The weighty and the worthless

I've a dichotomous relationship with words, spoken ones at least. At times I feel I should tip-toe around them because they hold such weight, such gravity of impact. Thoreau describes words departing from the mouth as works of art "...carved out of the breath of life itself." These carved creations are weighted with the fierce power to express the heart, or to break it. 

In this way, respecting the power of words demands great discernment and deliberation when speaking. It's as though all the language at my disposal is labeled with a "CAUTION! HANDLE WITH CARE!" sign.

But on the other hand-

Words are meaningless! What are words but the mere descriptors of thoughts and events? Words alone do not make life happen, they just describe it. I'm sure we've all heard a zillion quotes or proverbs about the value of action over words.... "walk the walk, don't just talk the talk," right?

I wonder all the time about how to hold these opposing perspectives simultaneously; how can they be so insignificant, and so supremely significant all at once? How do I treat words with such care and grace, while remembering their relative hollowness? I know there's some truth to both perspectives, but I just wonder about this often..

A dear friend sent this to me recently, and because I think as many people as possible should be exposed to the remarkable Neruda, here you go...

He who becomes the slave of habit,
who follows the same routes every day,
who never changes pace,
who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,
who does not speak and does not experience,
dies slowly.

He or she who shuns passion,
who prefers black on white,
dotting ones "it’s" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,
that turn a yawn into a smile,
that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,
dies slowly.

He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,
who is unhappy at work,
who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,
to thus follow a dream,
those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,
die slowly.

He who does not travel, who does not read,
who does not listen to music,
who does not find grace in himself,
she who does not find grace in herself,
dies slowly.

He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,
who does not allow himself to be helped,
who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,
dies slowly.

He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,
die slowly.

Let's try and avoid death in small doses,
reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.

Only a burning patience will lead
to the attainment of a splendid happiness.

-Pablo Neruda

Pep talk

This is somewhat of a pep-talk I have to give myself often, perhaps you could use it to?....

Please don't let greatness make you feel small. When others produce stunning works of truth through their medium of choice, rather than feeling useless and talent-less, let it saturate you with encouragement that there is always something new to be created, and some new way to give voice to what matters.

" man who bothers about originality will ever be original; whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." -C.S. Lewis

Just because somebody did or made something great does not mean that the world has finished, all creativity has dried up, and there's nothing left for you to do. If you don't feel you have something entirely novel to bring to the table, it's alright. Speak up for what you believe, with your words or your art or your behavior or whatever, even if it seems ordinary; if it's truth to you, then it's worth being represented. It is worth it. Say what you mean and back it with action, and without regard for how much 'better' you think others may have said it before, because ultimately- truth trumps novelty.

When I think of giving voice to something I think of advocating for those that cannot speak on their own behalf.. like children. I think that our beliefs and passions need advocacy too though. They do not speak for themselves, we must give them voice.. giving physical presence to what is intangible weights them with relevance and visibility in the real world. Our beliefs must be spoken for, or they live sadly mute inside our minds and hearts.

When others are able to take what is inside of them and make it known, make it real! when someone makes a work of art that they can stand by proudly and declare it's the truth as they know it, be thankful that people are out there producing and pressing forward. That people are pursuing what matters to them is not meant to drive you further into your bed, hiding from your own talent. Do not retreat at the gifts and talents of others, but be emboldened to use your own.

Because until the Good Lord says we're through here, there is always more to be done, more to seek, more to learn, and more to tell.. so uplift your neighbors in what they do well, pull yourself together, roll up your own sleeves and get working.


There's a reason that everyone says you must be disciplined if you ever hope to be a good writer. Because taking extensive vacations away from your pen and expecting to return to the craft with instantaneous brilliance is just about as absurd as being a couch potato for seven years and expecting to wake up one morning and run a marathon.

Discipline and continual productivity is what builds your voice and your ability to deliver good ideas and stories in a compelling way. I think of discipline as a preventative medicine. It keeps you fresh, and ensures you'll be present and prepared when that brilliance decides to pay a visit.. but if you neglect your medicine, you begin to lose your voice, little by little. It's not necessarily irretrievable, but perhaps more like the bronchitis of the art of writing. Trying to form sentences slows to a hacking cough.. spitting up fragmented bits, it feels forced, uncomfortable, leaves a sour taste in your mouth. I used to speak through the written word so fluidly, but now it's feeling hoarse and scattered..

Ideas stack up in my mind and, without giving them proper release, they become trapped pressure and my head begins to swell. Now I've got bronchitis of writing and a sinus infection of ideas. Fantastic.

I wish there was a magic pill to cure what ails my stuffed up, congested writing, but it turns out the only way to reverse the condition is to sit down and commit to the process, over and over again. Because to regain your voice as a writer, you simply need to use it more often..

Sunday, December 30, 2012

“Understanding, as well as truth, comes not only from the intellect, but also from the body. When we begin to listen to our bodies, we begin to listen to reality through our own experiences; we begin to trust our intuition, our hearts. The truth is also in the 'earth' of our own bodies. So it is a question of moving from theories we have learned, to listening to the reality that is in and around us.” 
-Jean Vanier-

A paper I wrote for my philosophy of movement class this past semester incited a great deal of thought about my understanding of, and relationship with, my physical body. To come up with my position on the topic of aesthetics and identity in movement experiences, I confronted questions like "what constitutes perceptible beauty?" "what can our bodies teach us?" and "how do our bodies reflect our identities?" ..some complex questions with unclear answers..

Without having come to any conclusions, I became much more attuned to the value of the body, and the profound relationship I ought to have with it. The body is not just a limiting container we've been forced to occupy, it is the very medium of self-expression, the means of showing others who we are, visibly reinforcing or refuting our spoken claims about ourselves. 

As our bodies carry us through every lived moment, we too carry the body- proudly, shamefully, aggressively, meekly... we are given these shells and then elect to wrap, shape, color, and manipulate  them in myriad ways. How we perceive ourselves influences how we care for and represent ourselves, and what contexts we place ourselves in, but the reverse is also true; what we do with and to our bodies impacts our self-perception. 

I have a tendency to view my body as an opponent. It looks different than I wish, and we are often at odds because of this. But the older I get, and the more in tune I become with this physical shell I'm bound to for better or for worse, the more I understand what a sacred space it really is. The body is a home, and amidst all the changing cities and houses I pass through, this is the constant home I travel in. And though I still struggle to accept all aspects and limitations of my physical self, I'm trying daily to acknowledge the extraordinary abilities of the human body and to be thankful for the function it affords me. Though it binds us and limits us, the body also gives life to what is inside and unseen.. and for this, we ought to respond with deep respect and care. 

J. Sarano says it beautifully in his piece "The Meaning, or Dimension, of the Body"...

It is in and through our bodies [that] we ultimately witness to that which we are 
and that which we want in our most profound verity. 
It is in and through my body that I bear witness. 
It is in and through the body that one sees the man.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gratitude or not?

As Americans, the vast majority of us are part of a highly privileged population. Although some of us may feel we are lower or middle class, this is perceived in reference to supposed upper-class Americans. But by world standards, we are most certainly privileged. So why, then, is it so easy to focus on what we do not have? I continually remind myself how important it is to remain grateful. Gratitude is critical, and despite its seeming simplicity, it's also inevitably layered with impressions of culture, social norms, and personal perspectives. Though there are countless reasons to be thankful, it's also, unfortunately, easy to be clouded by insecurities or social pressures or a slew of other factors that make us forget to be grateful for what we do have. Among the most powerful of these factors is comparison. Consider a most innocent example- a kid gets an ice cream cone and is thrilled. Then another kid comes and sits next to him with twice as many scoops; suddenly kid #1 is disappointed with what he was just excited to have. This is a prime example of gratitude being shrouded by comparison.

I think of how prevalent this dynamic is in our society, and in my own life. Any time I find my mind wandering to the things I wish I'd accomplished, the resources I wish I had, or the way I wish I looked, it nearly always seems to be heavily influenced by what I've seen others possess or do. After all, how could I feel 'less than' unless I've seen examples of what I consider 'more than.' Though it's subconscious 99% of the time, it's still a tendency that needs repair, and I believe genuine gratitude is the most powerful opposing force to such discontent.

I've written before on this topic, about how one makes gratitude a personal lived truth, rather than a mere statement. I've talked about how it is a chosen perspective to be thankful, despite being aware that there may be something 'better' out there. What I wonder today though, is this concept of comparison and how it taints gratitude altogether. I assume nearly everyone has experienced this train of thought, whether deliberately or not- "I wish, I want, I need... etc." followed by "there are people much worse off, I should be grateful it's not THAT bad for me, at least I have a home, a car, a job, whatever..." We live in society surrounded by the possessions and behaviors of others, so it's natural to be aware of what you have in reference to others, indeed it's often what causes discontent in the first place. But does bringing yourself back to a state of gratitude based on the awareness that others have less constitue genuine gratitude? To determine this, I suppose we would need an operational definition of 'genuine gratitude,' and I believe this can only be done subjectively, if it can be done at all. For me, I don't know that I'm able to define it, and for that matter, the dictionary can't either. They liken it only to thankfulness or appreciation, but lack any further description of what it reflects, where it comes from, and where it is directed. 

For me, in the absence of a definition against which to qualify my gratitude, I know simply that it reflects thankfulness to something, namely, the God I find responsible for creating the earth and everything within it, myself included. Based on this, I don't find gratitude-by-comparison to be sufficient. I feel it's somehow inauthentic or incomplete, and I wonder if it's even valid. For as I've previously written, I think gratitude should exist regardless of what's around you, be it supposedly 'better' or 'worse.' 

I wonder how others would define or at least frame gratitude, how vital it's found to be or not be, and whether gratitude by way of recognizing 'I could be worse off' constitutes real gratitude at all.... 

Friday, July 27, 2012


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cuando estamos ante una perdida, 
no vale de nada recuperar lo que ya se ha ido, 
es mejor aprovechar el gran espacio abierto, 
y rellenarlo con algo nuevo. 

-el aleph-

Saturday, June 30, 2012

graffiti + green is good:

One climbs, one sees.  One descends, one sees no longer.  But one has seen.  There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. 
– Rene Dumal
To be a person of heart, governed chiefly by logic, is an unceasing battle.
HOPE should produce a current joy, not just the dim acknowledgment of a possible future one.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Simplicity's Line

Simplifying is a good thing. If it's possible, it's usually good. Why do with more when you could do with less? The less clutter the more you can see, and this applies to numerous settings.  But I wonder- where is the line with simplification?  Chosen minimalism often implies a gratitude and respect for resources, and for that it is admirable. But sometimes, the frivolous extras are the spice of life! Sometimes, the superfluities are what show our unique personality and style that exceeds mere practicality or functionality.

In the cleansing process of simplification- whether it be in our homes, our clothes, our minds or our obligations- At what point are we ridding ourselves of the details that actually color our world? When does simplification move from being a healthy reduction of clutter, to the stripping of expression?

Monday, April 30, 2012


How do things become dusty so suddenly? Not just the books in the corner of my room, but also the goals and ideas in the corner of my mind. Ideas are either whirlwinds of opulent inspiration, or fabulous dust-collectors.


If our supposed social ideals were corruption, destruction, and death, do you think then the news might emphasize stories of brotherhood, growth, and health?

Write drunk;
        Edit sober.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In 2010 a team of psychologists from Princeton University published a study in the journal Cognition, testing the hypothesis that presenting new information in a difficult to read font could lead to more thorough retention. Their aim was for practical application in the education system, but I think their findings connote a much broader life-theme...

The researchers had two groups of students study made-up facts about aliens (to ensure there was no advantage from prior knowledge). The control group read the information in a clear font, while the test group read the same information in a more obscure, lightened font. Upon quizzing the subjects later, the group with the more obscure font did approximately 14% better. Thus, the researchers concluded that "more cognitive engagement leads to deeper processing, which facilitates encoding and subsequently better retrieval."

On reading this I wondered- outside the classroom, how else is this reflected in human existence?
“For anything worth having one must pay a price; and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice-- no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.” -John Burroughs
I remember studying in Spain and adjusting to life as a foreigner. Despite my textbook competency, I lacked the conversational mastery of the language that would allow me to speak with fluidity and ease when I first arrived; communication consisted of well-constructed yet emotionally hollow sentences. I remember wanting to shout: “I have a personality I swear! I know I sound like a vapid 5 year old, but in my language I have interesting things to say!” It was like some bizarre trap being so restrained by my inability to articulate thoroughly.
When speaking a second language before fluency, your words are few and as such, more precious. Without the luxury of myriad words at our thoughtless disposal, expression must always be deliberate. Language can be such a gorgeous thing, but we can (and often do) take advantage of or abuse it when allowed unbridled access to it. In the aforementioned research, the hard-to-read fonts prompted more mindful reading and improved retention, just as being reduced to the elementary basics in a new language demands deliberation, producing thought-full communication.

This is obviously not a novel concept, it’s woven throughout a legion of stories, quotes, and proverbs; nevertheless I continue to find the broad-sweeping relevancy of this idea so intriguing. Reducing the accessibility of something inevitably forces increased effort to obtain it, and therefore produces more meaningful or valuable outcomes: So are we promised a measurable payoff if we intentionally seek experiences that require work? Certainly not. But whether or not we are met by great reward at the end of any great effort, there is merit, dignity, and always a soul-benefit, if not a tangible one, in choosing to pursue things that demand your attention and energy. Endeavor to chase something greater than what is handed to you freely, do not settle but strive, roll up your sleeves and undertake the mysterious work of living.

Monday, March 19, 2012

DISCLAIMER: If you prefer stability and ease over growth, then this has nothing to do with you.

If you have made a decision that requires separation from stability and certainty, and you find yourself second-guessing, or doubting whether you chose rightly, be reminded- this is the brave world, not the safe world, that you have chosen. This is what it feels like to pursue movement and truth.

May I take you back to the time when things were safe and comfortable? Go back in your mind to when you were in the midst of something that needed to be changed, but had yet to budge. Maybe it was a wretched job, or a relationship that had lost its guts, became vacant and fruitless. Then an awareness developed in you, whether gradually or almost instantaneously, that where you were at was wrong, and you needed to move on. Maybe it wasn’t blatantly wrong, but had just lost its rightness. Either way, you knew things needed to change, but you didn’t yet want to face the dramatic consequences of such a shift. You didn’t feel prepared to undergo the physical and emotional adjustments necessary, so you waited. Maybe you even did what I have done, and what many humans are wired to do, and you tried to rationalize why you were fine and why things didn’t need to change.... why the job was satisfactory, or practical, or why the relationship wasn’t really that bad. Maybe you tried to return to ignorant bliss, but I’d wager that you quickly realized ignorance is not something that one can return to. It is quite literally impossible. And so you returned once again to the internal tension of knowing things were actually not ok.

Think hard about that precise place you resided for awhile- knowing you needed change yet unwilling to initiate it for fear of the resulting discomfort. If you are or were anything like me, that feeling was so much worse than anything felt in the aftermath of change. Don’t get me wrong, change incites some gnarly emotions, particularly relational change, but those feelings are at the very least productive.. they reflect a progressive existence. But the pit-of-your-stomach feeling of knowing you need to move on from something unhealthy, and yet not doing anything about it, knowingly living in wrongness, is exponentially worse. Worse because it perpetuates stagnancy. It is a conscious decision to live backwards, to ignore your internal discoveries and the associated call for growth.

So if you feel insecure or aimless or empty in this time of transition you’ve opted for, remember the inadequacy of that former time. Remember that pit-of-your-stomach feeling, and hold your head high because you found that kind of mediocrity to be intolerable.

You chose the right and powerful thing to do, and whether easy or hard, you are better for it and will continue to be so.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The brilliant and hilarious George Carlin:

“The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work forty years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol, you party, you get ready for high school. You go to grade school, you become a kid, you play, you have no responsibilities, you become a little baby, you go back into the womb, you spend your last nine months floating..... and you finish off as an orgasm.”

No matter how humble or selfless we can try to be, we still exist wholly and exclusively within our own shell, and perceive the world accordingly. And so it follows that we often find ourselves frustrated or stressed over difficulties, and respond with a seemingly proportionate amount of energy. It isn't our fault, as we're only capable of forming responses in the context of our own experience and knowledge. But this is what perspective is for- though we cannot actually see from another's eyes or understand what life feels like from their vantage point, we can, at best, continuously remind ourselves that contexts exist outside of our own.

The other day, I heard someone liken the human lifespan to the small act of placing a single bolt into the golden gate bridge during its construction. An entire life, reduced to a singular act within a massive process, nearly undetectable at the finish, yet still essential. I kept thinking about that analogy and couldn't figure out how to feel about it..

In some way it might feel belittling- the realization that all your days and breaths and thoughts, when rolled up and finished off, amount to nothing more than a nearly-invisible contribution, a minute blip on a broad screen. But by the same token, there is encouragement to be found in that image. To highlight the analogy's point let's imagine we are born, we put a bolt in the bridge, and we die. Sorry to be curt, this is not meant to diminish any individual's significance or worth, but the truth is that our lives are finite, singular pieces of an expansive saga. Remembering this simple fact puts into perspective the weight, or rather the lack thereof, of most momentary and circumstantial woes, and I'm pretty sure that a failure to do so will inevitably result in constant concern for things that are universally and eternally meaningless.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

We are so silly, us humans, always busy trying to tie the knots that keep our hearts feeling anchored, trying to weave the fragmented strings of our life together, and usually overlooking the frayed ends sticking out here and there. We sure seem to notice those raw edges though when our knots start slipping and the whole damn thing unravels. Then we actually care to look at the ends where the unraveling began, tracing it back to the source. We're so silly, thinking that we ever have a tight grip on those strings, when really it is but a temporary privilege to hold any of them.

Hold your strings earnestly, but loosely still.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The benefits of losing benefits

As of tomorrow, I will be benefit-less. As of tomorrow, if I fall and break my leg or catch pneumonia, I am officially fucked.

I never thought I'd allow myself to be in such an undefined transition with a professional vacancy as this, but that's probably because nobody mentioned how euphoric it can actually be. Of course, the logistical headaches like losing your benefits and a fat, consistent paycheck can take their toll, but ultimately, it all boils down to what the epic TV series Friends so poignantly identifies as the fear:

Rachel: I'm training to be better at a job that I hate. My life officially sucks.
Joey: Look Rach, wasn't this supposed to a temporary thing? I thought you wanted to do fashion stuff?
Rachel: Well, yeah! I'm still pursuing that.
Chandler: How... exactly are you pursuing that? Ya know, other than sending out resumes like, what, two years ago?
Rachel: Well, I'm also sending out.... good thoughts.
Joey: If you ask me, as long as you got this job, you've got nothing pushing you to get another one. You need the fear.
Rachel: The fear?
Chandler: He's right, if you quit this job, you then have motivation to go after a job you really want.
Rachel: Well then how come you're still at a job that you hate, I mean why don't you quit and get "the fear?"
(Chandler and Joey both start laughing)
Chandler: Because, I'm too afraid

Well folks, I went out and got myself the fear, and I must say it tastes pretty good. This is the taste of movement, this middle ground where things are unknown and guarantees are not given, this is where the work is done and growth results. I've been propelled into this uberproductive yet somehow simultaneously restful place. I feel more at peace with myself and my decisions, and more congruent with my priorities than I have in a very long time, and this- all in the absence of pragmatic responsibility. I have moved on from a fantastic job because it had become painfully obvious that it was a terrible fit for my strengths and passions, and for that, I couldn't be prouder.

In this time of empty space, loose-laid days, and sleeping in, I've begun the most aggressive pursuit of what matters most to me, and I don't think I've ever been so thrilled to be smack in the middle of that vicious and glorious place called uncertainty.

My occasional scribblings on mornings..

Have your mornings.
have them.
Have them on purpose, in purpose,
they are newness, delivered by hand from some saint in the night.
Remember they're gifted, not guaranteed.

Have them with spirit fresh and eyes half-open
untarnished by day and unmet by night,
take heart in the morning
for the possibility
and the light.


3 times before, I've woken up in this ethereal, inexplicable state of peace. Upon waking I felt an immediate and undeniable air of peace so thick and saturating, inescapable. The first time it happened was easter morning in 2008. My mom and I got up before dawn to attend the Easter sunrise service on Mount Helix, so as tradition dictates I woke around 4:30. The moment I opened my eyes I could tell something was different.. as I got ready and spoke with mom I could tell I was perceiving and responding to my environment in a new way. I remember feeling unweighted by the burden of rational thought, like all my words and motions were dictated solely by ideals, rather than the selfishness or impatience that typically seeps into the human day. Something about this state of being felt so pure and genuine, almost monastic; it was a curious and alluring thing. But as the sun rose, caffeine and loud voices and traffic seeped into me, and the simplistic bliss of my early morning dissolved.

Whenever I think of those rare mornings, I wonder if simple discipline could bring me to that state more frequently. I find such opportunity and wonder in the mornings- something happens during sleep that resets the mind and heart, and regenerates the chance for change. If daily I could wake in peace, ease into being, and create a nurturing space to mold a purer me before the muddle of life makes its own mold of me, then after enough time I wonder if that mold might just stick.


Mornings are not to be taken lightly, they are not to be passively moved through, but rather responded to actively. Mornings hold such untainted richness, refreshment of the highest form; there's a sound and a feeling at the start of day that'll sit you up a little straighter if you pay attention to it.

Even the most hungover or depressed mornings hold a bizarre kind of hope and renewal. I'm telling you it's something in the air, before the atmosphere's been cluttered by gossip and deadlines and critiques and heartbreak..