Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Good Stuff

A friend posted on Facebook that she has rented a dumpster and is cleaning house.

I found that inspiring.

Although I am surrounded by many things that I love, I also feel trapped by many of the things around me. What a different life I would have if it weren't for all the stuff. (And the mortgage to pay for housing all the stuff.) Yes I need a place to live, and my house is modest, but I can't help but think that I could find a great deal of happiness in a smaller house with less stuff.

How liberating it would be to simplify down to the essentials, or at least to have fewer non-essentials, to scale it down to the truly good stuff.

What is the good stuff?

For me, the best stuff is both beautiful and functional. Items that are a pleasure to use. Items that inspire. Treasured books. Photographs. A cast iron skillet. A well made coffee mug. The perfectly placed lamp. Things that are made by hand. Things made with good materials. Things that are made to last.

I hold onto other things because I think I will use them someday or because I once thought they were the good stuff. But we keep changing and stuff that used to be the good stuff for an old self, is now, just stuff.

I write about this because I think that that our stuff has an affect on our well being and the balance of our lives. I am not proposing an ascetic life, one bowl and one spoon, although it intrigues me. What I am suggesting is to be thoughtful about the things we bring into our lives. Stuff matters. The things we surround ourselves with can add buoyancy or add weight that drags us down.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunset Meditation Epilogue

My sunset meditation project has drawn to a close. It didn't go exactly as planned. Perhaps I should have looked at the weather report before promising myself seven nights of sunsets. In reality, I got seven nights of observing the sky get dark. Only three of those nights were sunsets. One night was pouring rain and three nights the cloud cover was so great that the setting sun was not visible.

My hypothesis was that taking the time to watch the sky each night, as the sun set would be a powerful experience. And as it turned out, even though most nights didn't deliver a sunset, my hypothesis was spot on, and in more ways than I expected.

I expected to be delighted by the beauty of the sky. And on the nights with the vibrant colors, I was. On the nights that were rainy or overcast, I made my pilgrimage to my viewing spots anyway to see what I could see. The first rainy night I felt a profound sense of disappointment in the sky. The sky had not delivered. And the next night, it made only a meager effort. From my vantage point on top of a hill, I could only see the narrowest band of pink between the low hanging clouds and the city skyline. I watched anyway, feeling a little ripped off.

The following night it was completely overcast. By now I was feeling pretty discouraged, but my sense of commitment kept me going. I drove out to the lake, sat on a pier and watched the sky. No sunset, but the sky was an incredible purple gray- simply beautiful. I watched a pair of swans floating around on the water. And when lightning flashed in the distance, for the briefest moment, the sky shone pink. That night my attitude started to shift. My annoyance at the sky made way for acceptance. Sunset or no sunset, I found that I was enjoying my nightly excursions.

Seeing a sunset is a treat, but because I wasn't able to see one each night, the ritual became more about saying goodbye to the day and feeling a connection to the transition into nighttime. This transition would happen with or without my participation, of course, but taking part in it made me feel a sense of grounding and a sense of place. I am, after all, one small being, on an immense planet spinning through space. It is nice to be reminded of that.

Observing the sky each night was a practice in paying attention and letting go of expectation, in taking in an experience without judgement or preconception. Life doesn't always deliver to us what we want. Nor does the sky. And of course, it is futile to be angry with the sky. So, after a few days, I stopped judging what was happening and I started experiencing it. There is a lesson there.

Now that the project has ended, I will miss this nightly ritual and the solitude and sense of peacefulness and awe that accompanied it. I am certain that I will devote more time than I used to for sunset gazing and the project, of course, is always there for me to repeat. I am looking forward to my next project, in a few weeks time, when I watch the sunrise each morning for one week. It will be interesting to see what that brings.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunset Meditation

I grew up in the land of open sky. My parents still live there and every night my mother stops what she is doing for a time and goes outside to see the sunset. She has a great view just steps from her door.

Living as I do in Western New York State where there are hills and trees a plenty and too often a cloud cover hanging low in the sky, I see very few sunsets. I have often said that my life would be different if I saw the sunset every day.

Yesterday. I was feeling under the weather so a dear friend drove me way out of the city, to a small town with a quaint park. After a picnic dinner we set up our folding chairs and watched.

The moment when the sun slipped into the water was pure magic. I was filled with such a sense of calm during the ride home that I decided that it was time to test out that hypothesis. Would I be a different person if I watched the sunset every night? So, tonight I went out to the lake again- I picked a spot closer to home and I was by myself this time. But the experience was just as profound.

Tonight's Sunset

I plan to carve out time for this ritual every night this week. I will let you know what I discover, what it brings me.

You may wonder why I am writing about it here, in a blog dedicated to the wisdom of the body and a balanced life.

Watching the sunset, if you give it your full attention, is meditation. Noticing and honoring the natural cycles of the day is a way of balancing oneself. So, I will see to it that I notice. It will be an experiment, one that will offer up a different-than-my-usual way of interacting with the earth, the sky, and the self.

Friday, July 17, 2009

More On Balance

In my first post I posed a question about what it means to be in balance. (You can read that post here. Or just scroll down.) I wanted to share the response I got from my friend Vicky. Vicky and I studied massage together. We are like shipmates that weathered the massage school storm! I really can only speak for myself, but my year in school was far from balanced!

Anyway, here is what she wrote:

hmmm....what is balance to me??? balance seems to be in a different place everyday for me - which is why it is always a challenge! everyday, and maybe even every 2 hours as shiatsu would imply, (ki is stronger in different organ systems during different times of the day, according to Chinese Medicine) i am a bit of a different person, and must adjust accordingly. maybe balance for me in that moment is singing along in the car, or putting on a coat at 11pm in the middle of a snow storm in my pajamas to get chocolate from wegman's! i believe the balance is always achieved when i am listening to what it is i really want or need, and even if i don't, it will find its way eventually! the body is constantly healing and restoring from imbalance, so if i "stay out of its way" by living the best way i know how in that very moment, whatever that may mean, balance will be achieved - even if it's only perceived!! :)

Am I the same person I was when I was a child? Am I the same person I was just one year ago? We change from moment to moment, hour to hour. Throughout the months, years and throughout our lifetime we continue to evolve into the person that we are at any given moment. And that person gives way to the person we become in the next moment. There is no recipe for balance then. No list of instructions to follow that work for everyone. To achieve balance then, we must listen, like Vicky says, because the answer keeps changing.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Body In Balance

So many of us would use the phrase "out of balance" to describe our lives. We seek balance. But what exactly does it mean to be in balance?

To me it means-

To be fully present in one's body and in the experience of the world.

To live in a manner that nurtures the spirit, body and mind.

To breathe deeply and fully with a sense of ease, willingness and expansion.

To collaborate with gravity, allowing the body to be aligned, rather than holding oneself up using the tension of the musculature.

To move in a way that is easy and free.

A Body in Balance also implies that the systems are in harmony. The energy is balanced, allowing the body to strive towards health.

I invite you to think about what balance mean to you. It would be an interesting conversation to have. I would love it if you wrote your thoughts down and sent them as a comment on this blog or email them to me at