Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"Accepting all offers" - or one of the things I learned in Improv

In Improv, one of the cardinal rules is that when you're playing with others, you accept every offer that comes your way. Meaning, if you are in a scene and someone names you "Aunt Beatrice," well then you play Aunt Beatrice for the duration. If someone says "how's the gout?" then you know that your character had contracted the gout, and you'd better figure out what that means and act accordingly. These things make for great humor, I promise.

What I love about improv is that it has some great applications to every day life. I realized quickly that this idea, of accepting everything that comes your way, has some wonderful possibilities. So, I have tried, really hard, over the last few years to try out things that people suggest. And, I often find that this leads to the most awesome and unexpected things.

The most recent offer of my vacation was to try Bikram Yoga. This is the hot, sweaty kind of yoga - where they heat the room to about 100 degrees and then you do 26 poses in 90 minutes. Hmmm. So I went on Sunday. And I loved it. It was fun! It was easy (I swear!) and it felt like the right thing to do. I'm going again tomorrow morning, and I hope again on Thursday before we have to head home. And! I know because of Julie and other buddies that there is a Bikram place near work that awaits me when I return.

And then the synchronicity of this event hits me. A few posts ago, I mentioned that I wanted to get back to pilates - around the time that I was asked to co-lead the "Spiritual Pilates" retreat in March. So what shows up, just when I've voiced an interest and a desire? This yoga thing.

So yes, I'm accepting this offer. And I'm really excited to see where else it leads me.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Face to face with new heroes

A long time ago (well maybe it was in 1995), I stood in line at the Virgin Megastore in San Francisco to see one of my heroes, Boy George. He was doing a book signing for his autobiography, "Take it Like a Man." He was gracious. He was beautiful. I was in awe of him, and I still am. Anyone that can celebrate life so openly, so lovingly, without any sense of self awareness, and who can be who he wants to be, well, I am delighted.

Today, I met Dr. Wayne Dyer. He is also an AMAZING man. He came from a difficult past, he has written 34 books and more importantly, this is a man who speaks a message of love. Pure and simple, has found a way to give voice to his heart, and when I read his words or hear him speak, it is as if I am hearing something that is a deep truth, a universal wisdom, something that my heart and my head knew and knows, but had not yet heard yet in this lifetime. So it's an honor and a privilege to meet him.

Dr. Dyer is genuine and open. I gave him a huge hug (well two actually), and told him that since I'd been introduced to his work that my life had changed. I'd followed my dreams and had started leading retreats. He was gracious as well, and said thank you. He signed my journal. Which may seem like a strange thing to have someone sign. But it's an important book to me. It started with me on my journey of retreats. It holds the words that I wrote that eventually married my dear sister and my dear brother in law when I was their officiant in April. It has my notes from Nouwen, Nietzche, Michealangelo, the Bible, for all my studying for my first weekend retreat. It is a book that holds the everyday, the sacred, the moments that have struck me, often times on public transportation. It is with me all the time, and now it has one more thing in it that makes it special and dear. Another dream realized. Another human met and more experiences lived.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Here today ... Gone to Maui

As a kid, we went to Hawaii twice, and Maui was one of those vacations. My souvenir T-shirt said "Here today, Gone to Maui." Which is clever and cute, as long as you don't try and break down the meaning too much. Another favorite T-shirt I had, which was blue, with a very sparkly iron on said "Never underestimate the power of a kid." At the time "underestimate" was a big word, and my mom had to explain it to me. I loved that shirt.

Onward. I'm on vacation, and I'm on Maui RIGHT THIS SECOND! It's gorgeous. My boyfriend and I decided several months ago to take the trip, and then it seemed it was all of a sudden time to go. We booked a condo over VRBO, and is amazing. We look out over the ocean from the window!

We also get to attend a three day conference with one of my all time spiritual heroes Wayne Dyer. A while back, when I was quite confused and trying to make more meaning of things, I read the wise advice of Marsha Cilley who said that you should surround yourself with people who inspire you. If someone jumps out at you, read everything they have written. See everything they have done. They will bring you joy and inspiration.

I kid you not, that same week, Wayne Dyer showed up on PBS, doing his talk on "The Power of Intention." If you have not read it, I strongly recommend it. Just like he says, when you are on purpose, the right people and the right things show up in your life. Right then, he showed up. I'd started following my heart. I was in spirit and inspired.

So, its really a treat to see him here, for three days. I'll try to report back again on the second day. We get to see Ram Dass and watch the first third or so of Wayne Dyer's new movie that's coming out in January.

Last night, Dr Dyer encouraged us to "let yourself be lived by it." Let it be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lenten Retreat scheduled for March 13-15!

Father Rusty out at San Damiano called on Sunday and asked if I'd help with the Lenten Retreat for next year. The theme is "Spiritual Pilates" - with the focus of finding and strengthening your own spiritual core, which should be a lot of fun, and I'm very excited to be working with him again. I've been meaning to take up pilates again (I know, not the real focus, but what a reminder) so I might have to do that when I get back from vacation!

I've now got four! (four! I can't believe it!) retreats on the radar for the next six months. I'm totally delighted and overwhelmed. God is definitely putting me through my own paces, and I sure hope I can keep up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Unbridled Joy

The last few days have been filled with much joy. My boyfriend returned from Ohio, after being gone for two months. It is a blessing to have him home again. Now he is in search of a new job, but we are hopeful that we have a solid lead for one and he is going to be following up on that tomorrow.

Last night, my dear friend Cris got married to Steve. It was an amazing event, beautiful in the way that weddings are and can be. It is always a joy to see two people so very in love, surrounded by friends and family who are overcome and happy with the union. What I loved most was the details these two chose; from walking in to "Groovy kind of Love" played on a single violin, to promising to provide dessert, and share the last piece of sushi in their vows; it was truly a unique event. The most amazing and truly delightful moment was their first dance.

After the bridal part was introduced, the DJ introduce Cris and Steve. And then "Jungle Love" started to play. What started as a normal ballroom dance then turned into a full on choreographed pop dance routine with the two of them. The guests were on their feet laughing and cheering as these two newlyweds wowed us with break dancing moves, moonwalking and an endearing dip at the end. Who knew they'd surprise us with that? Who knew they'd taken lessons together to master the moves? They had kept it all to themselves, a surprise to everyone until the moment it happened.

There was a lot of unbridled joy last night. With Cris and Steve paving the way, the rest of the guests took to the dance floor and danced as I had never seen a group of wedding guests dance. It was beautiful and amazing. People forgot to be self aware. People were themselves, enjoying the moment, playing and laughing.

I'm delighted to have been a bridesmaid and to have taken part in their very unique and lovely day. What I'll take away from their wedding is the reminder to take a chance and surprise people every once and a while.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


"We are called to be fearless people in a fearful world" - Henri Nouwen

I like to read on BART as I'm headed into work each day. I like that it gives me time to think and time to be alone with my thoughts. Today I thought about what it means to be fearless, really fearless.

Nouwen's quote made me think about a lot of things in today's world. What happens when people act in a totally fearless manner? How would the world change? If each of us could act without the fear of being judged, without being afraid of failing, without the fear of violence or betrayal, without the fear of others being greedy - how would we act? How would the nation or the world act if it was truly free from all fear?

I feel like Nouwen's quote is so profound, such a concentrated version of Christianity that it is hard to get my head around the totality of what he's suggesting.

It also seems like a powerful charge, to each of us, to take stock in what we'd do if we were not afraid. Of how we would live if we had no fear. Of the choices we'd make if we knew that every one of the decisions we made were based in love and met with love from others.

And so, for my part, I will try to live fearlessly. To embrace the things I love, the things I want to do, the people I adore, and to make the right choices. I will reject fear wherever and whenever I can, and I will choose love, every time, above all things.

Special Poodle
Paula and Joseph, the Italian Greyhound at Pescadero Beach, CA

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bookish notes: You're Nice and "Lottery"

Meg, over at Hobocamp, recently posted a very lovely and touching entry about a gentleman in her town. It's about a man who loves to stand by a bridge in town and wave at passersby. The town named the bridge after him, after some in town criticism. Meg's closing sentence has stuck with me over the last week:

"Because, though it happens rarely, sometimes the stars align and the moons are lucky and somehow, for a brief little blip, people just get their priorities straight, and show the best little part of themselves, all together, at the same time."

Interestingly, I read her entry just as I finished "Lottery" by Patricia Wood. In "Lottery," the main character is Perry, and he has an IQ of 76. He was raised by his grandmother and grandfather and works in a store at the marina. Perry loves Hershey's kisses and playing the lottery, is happiest when he's out sailing a boat, he has a huge crush on a pretty girl named Cherry and without fail, he follows the wise advice of his grandma. He also finds himself surrounded by some faithful friends, his co-worker Keith and store owner Gary.

One week, Perry realizes that he has won the Washington State Lottery. The introduction of a large sum of money brings greedy family members out of the woodwork, all of whom want to use Perry's IQ as "proof" that he is not competent enough to handle his own affairs.

Perry is more than capable of managing his money and his life, and as the story unfolds, we start to see Perry as the wisest, truest, most humane character in the book. He does what is right and he follows his heart. And doing those simple things that bring him joy, just like the man who had a bridge named after him, Perry finds the key to happiness and a life full of many blessings.

A Day of Reflection: October Day Retreat

Our October Day retreat was full of wonder and amazing moments. I was privileged enough to lead two Labyrinth sessions with Marc, and was graced by the presence of God as we walked the labyrinth in groups of seven. There was such power and peace in joining six other people in a walking meditation, especially when we all reached the center and sat in in silence.

We were also fortunate to have Earl J Rivard join us for the day - his voice is always memorable, and I especially loved his "Ode to Joy" at the outdoor altar as we closed the day.

Here are a couple of images and sounds to remember the day by. A special thanks to all those folks who attended. We had an amazing time!

The labyrinth:

A morning glory in the garden:
Morning Glory

Friday, October 10, 2008

Welcoming Music: Girl Sailor

Every once and awhile, there's a song you just can't get enough of. "Girl Sailor," by The Shins, is one of those songs for me. Even now, at the ripe old age of *cough* I have been known to play this song on repeat and listen to it 4 or 5 times in a row.

And why do I love it? There's something so reminiscent of who I was, oh, four years ago in this girl that they sing about. There's something haunting about the second verse, speaking of the strong and capable person I would become, after I had been through a divorce and learned to live on my own. I know I have become the girl that can "shake things off in flight" now.

And yet, in this same verse, The Shins do a remarkable job of capturing the sentiment that each of us decides, every day, if we are to be happy or sad, victorious or defeated, full of loss or full of love. And truly, it is in a moment's decision that we can each make this decision. The song speaks to that, in both a serious and light manner. Every day each of us decides if we will "sail" her or "sink her" this time.

So go ahead, give it a listen or five:

"A stronger girl would shake this off in flight,
And never give it more than a frowning hour,
But you have let your heart decide,
Loss has conquered you"

Which have you decided today?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leading a retreat in May!

Great news just came in - a Young Adult group from San Francisco has selected me to lead their Spring Retreat in May of 2009! I'm delighted and thrilled and so honored to have been selected. Thank you to Dave and Mauro and the whole team over at St. Dominic's! We're going to have a great time!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Retreat Preview: Renewing and Recycling our Spiritual Connection

I'm getting excited about Saturday's retreat. The team has been working hard to come up with a day that is relaxing, reflective, and have a good balance of alone time vs group time. That's always one of the challenges, especially when looking back at the reviews after the fact - to make a day that appeals to a wide array of people, but still offers something personal for each participant.

Our day will be focused on reconnecting with nature, the creation, the Creator, and each other. We've got some great break out sessions planned, along with time in the chapel, some larger group opportunities, and some time to spend outside in nature.

Here's a little preview of what's to come:

The team is really energized and ready to have a great retreat! If you'd like to come, feel free to register at the San Damiano site.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Grace, In all Situations

I got to go visit my parents over the weekend - they live in Kansas City now. It's always great to have a free Southwest ticket and a couple of days off of work to use it. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so visiting my parents is not quite "going home" since I don't know the town that well. I do love KC. My parents always plan fun things, and I have long admired the big sky and friendly people in the mid-west.

We went by the Applefest in Weston, Missouri and had some great food. I love visiting Weston, and I particularly love stopping by the candle shop "5B&Co" - originally called "5 Blessings," and named so because of the owner's five children. It's a cool shop, with great original scents (they pour all their own candles), and a very friendly owner.

We also watched "Meet the Press" (a favorite of my Dad) - which included Peggy Noonan this week. She's the author of a book entitled "Patriotic Grace." Ms. Noonan's take on patriotism is truly refreshing, and I feel it has a place on a blog that explores the Spiritual nature of today's world.

"What we need most right now, at this moment, is a kind of patriotic grace—a grace that takes the long view, apprehends the moment we’re in, comes up with ways of dealing with it, and eschews the politically cheap and manipulative. That admits affection and respect. That encourages them. That acknowledges that the small things that divide us are not worthy of the moment; that agrees that the things that can be done to ease the stresses we feel as a nation should be encouraged, while those that encourage our cohesion as a nation should be supported."

Ms. Noonan has addressed something that is at the heart of the matter for me. Each of us should be called to look past the petty moments of life, and to find the common ground. If each of us could take a stand to be mature, to be caring, to look for ways to come together, this world would be taking a step in the right direction.

How can you attempt to take a step in towards Grace?