Turtle Steps

IMG_1059I always swore that I wouldn’t be one of those blog-creators who mysteriously disappear and then return a month or so later full of apologies and promises to be more consistent in the future…  But here I am.  Luckily, I believe in the philosophy of wabi sabi–that nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent and nothing is finished.  That most certainly includes this website.

But I have exciting news to share–this year, I am fulfilling a long-standing dream to become a Martha Beck trained life coach.  The program begins in 2 weeks, and is a 9 month, intensive training of Martha Beck’s life design methods.  As you may have noticed from reading these posts, I am a huge fan of Martha Beck and her work, and I recommend her writing very strongly.

One practice that she advocates is “turtle steps,” that is, taking goals and breaking them into small pieces until they are so simple you just can’t help but accomplish them.  Most people tend to set huge goals, particularly at this time of the year–to lose so many pounds, to begin a massive workout program or to achieve some other high and lofty goal.  These goals, while commendable, are also daunting.  They tend to scare us out of accomplishing anything.  It is far preferable to set a smaller, reachable goal, and then continue to build on it.

For the past several years, I have kept my New Year’s resolutions small and interesting, rather than large and frightening, and I am happy to say that I have had a lot of success with them.  Last year, for example, my goal was to scatter light.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, all I knew was that I had been reading and studying wonderful ideas, and I was ready to share them, in one form or another, with the world.  In March, I created this website; in July, I published my e-book; in September, the book came out in print.  None of that was a stated part of my goal, but it all came naturally and organically from the desire to simply scatter light.  If my goal had been “to publish a book,” I’m not sure I would have accomplished anything.

So this year, I am interested in deepening my meditation practice, but setting any kind of specific meditation goal feels too daunting.  Instead, I have determined to read A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations by Daniel Ladinsky.  Hafiz was a Persian poet who wrote about the sacred–something that can slowly and surely encourage and deepen my own meditation practice.  Who knows where these turtle steps will lead, but I know I’ll be further down this path a year from now than I am today.  Of course, by the end of the year, I’ll also be a trained life coach, but that feels less like a resolution and more like the beginning of an adventure!

Wishing you your own turtle steps,

Jennifer

P.S.  If you’re interested in the science behind using turtle steps to achieve goals, check out Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live or The Four-Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace, both by Martha Beck.

Loving Now

Would you be happy?  Then love where you are now.  Not later.  Not yesterday.  Not if only something was different.  Now, as it is, in all its imperfect perfection.

Wherever you are, however you feel, there is something to love.  And when you focus on that, rather than on what you think is wrong, you allow your awareness of love and beauty to grow.

When we focus on the love and beauty that is in front of us, we stop sending our energy into the past or future.  We do our part and let the Universe do the rest.  We accept the abundance.  We get out of the way.

The future is not under our control.  But in this moment, we have a choice.  We can appreciate what is, or we can push it away.  What will you choose?

Trust love.  Know that all you have is all you need, and that if what you want does not appear, it is because something better will.  The shadows of the past and future are not real, but this moment is.  This moment is sacred.  Choose to fill it with love.

Journey Into Stillness: Meditation & Wabi Sabi

I have practiced meditation for years, for many reasons.  Most often because I am tired, or anxious, or because it seems like the right thing to do after yoga.  Most of the time, it feels good.  Afterwards, I am calmer, more centered, more balanced.  And besides, all the wisdom traditions of the world counsel us to practice meditation–they must be on to something.

But because I have devoted these 40 days to a more intense meditation practice, I have begun to ask myself:  why meditate?  Because it feels good and makes me kinder and calmer are all good answers, sufficient on their own, and yet because it is the focus of so many different religions and spiritual practices, I want more than that.

So this morning, as I meditated over a hot cup of coffee, I asked the wind:  why meditate?  And heard this answer:  Because it is an opportunity to stop and see, feel and hear a moment that will never come again.  Because it allows you to embrace the wabi sabi nature of the world and your life.

Meditation is not another project for your to-do list.  It is not something else you need to do or obtain to prove yourself spiritual.  Many people meditate to be calmer, more patient, more enlightened–and this may be the result–but the real reason to meditate is simply to allow what is to be.  To allow yourself to be.  To rest in the now.  Not so that you can check “enlightenment” off your list.  Not so that you can achieve some standard of perfection you have set for yourself.  But rather, so that you can learn to embrace imperfection.

Wabi Sabi teaches us that everything is imperfect, impermanent, unfinished.  We spend most of our time ignoring or denying that fact.  We either cling to what is before us–our relationships, our possessions, those things we think we want–or we push it all away, hold it at arm’s length, because we know it cannot last.  Meditation is an opportunity to practice a different way, a way that neither clings to what is nor denies it.

When we meditate (which is to say, when we are firmly rooted in the present moment), we allow ourselves to experience what is before us.  We really hear the birds sing; we feel the wind through our hair.  We taste the blackberry melting on our tongues; we allow the colors of the grass and flowers to flood our eyes.  No moment will ever come again in quite the same way, but when you allow a moment to fill your senses, when you experience it fully, it becomes a part of you.  You may not remember it later, but you don’t need to.  It is you, and you are it, forever.

This is why it is not important how you meditate.  How long, where, with what tools–those are all just guides to lead you into the here and now.  What matters is that you open, and open again, and again.

We forget, in the rush of our lives, to be present.  We fall back into our old habits of clinging and pushing, clinging and pushing.  With meditation, we practice being, accepting, allowing.  We train ourselves to see the world differently, to experience our lives differently.  We learn to delight in the changes, rather than fear them.  We learn to love what is, even as it moves and transforms.  And finally, we allow ourselves to merge with time and space, forever entwined, a dance without beginning or end.

Wabi Sabi

Nothing is perfect.  Nothing is finished.  Nothing is permanent.  But everything is part of Love.

The Japanese art and philosophy of Wabi Sabi teaches us to embrace and celebrate the imperfect, the unfinished, the impermanent.  To notice that it is the crack in the vase that gives it character and beauty; that lets in the light.  We suffer when we deny this, when we try to make things fixed, permanent, perfect.  Those of us who reach for perfection, who want to capture time and hold it motionless, miss the glory of change, the gift of evolution.  The magic that lies in the mystery of transformation.

There is no reason to fear change, no reason to force motionlessness on a dancing world.  If you would be happy, learn to appreciate what is unique, what is changing, what is still left undone.  Instead of trying to capture the world, learn to dance with it.

It is the hidden beauty that connects us most powerfully to what is true and divine.  For who can ever know what is perfect and what is a flaw?  A closer look often reveals that a flaw is actually an object’s–a person’s–greatest strength and beauty.  What we call a flaw is merely an invitation to look deeper.

Can you be sure that what you see, hear and feel is a flaw, and not the very essence of beauty?

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