The Stuff I Found Oddly Compelling This Week

This week, in addition to trying to nail my four foundational practices every day, and planning and teaching my classes, and training little Stella Bella in the fine art of Sit and Come, my attention has been pulled toward:

Marie Kondo

 I’ve decided to start folding my clothes Marie Kondo-Style.

I like it. Even though it takes a little more time, I can now see all my clothes all at once.

My tops

I used to just make piles in my drawers, but I could only see the top two shirts in any one stack. I had to paw through to get to what I wanted. Probably not a coincidence, but what I wanted turned out to be the top two shirts on each stack.

 

But now I can see everything, all at once. Colors, too. 

My pants drawer isn’t as colorful as the shirt drawer, of course, but I still like seeing all my bottoms at once. It makes it easier to pull myself together in the morning.

(It made me laugh to write “pull myself together.” As if selecting the right top and bottom to wear could do that.)

And, bonus, I find myself  wearing more of my clothes.

Socks are the things that have been most problematic thus far. Especially my no-show little pedi socks. No more pairing them by turning them inside out into each other. Now, they need to be rolled, and they won’t stay together. Marie says I need some small boxes for them. 

As I was hunting for such a box in my bedroom cupboards, I came across my old I-Ching cards.

Cards and Runes

 I had not looked at them in ages. I opened the box and read how to use them. (I used to know how without reading.)

But I put them away. 

Too complicated. I don’t want to build hexagrams. Takes too long.

Then I found the Runes. I like these stones. They’re hard, tactile, with a watery smoothness. 

I especially like the clicking sound they make in the velvet bag as my fingers root through them. (So does Stella. She came running.)

 The interpretive guidebook for them is also good: concise and aimed at the spiritual warrior. 

I brought them to the Space Chair shoved my hand inside the bag and picked one.

Today it was Dagaz. It’s the Rune of Transformations and Breakthroughs. “A major period of achievement and prosperity is often introduced by this Rune.”

Hot diggedty.

I used to be so entranced with this stuff.  Especially card decks. 

Part of my collection

And I still like cards. My friend Zee turned me on to Inquiry Cards recently. They’re especially handy when I need a question to riff off of for that day’s writing. I also give them out in my classes, sometimes. They make great mantras for guiding a yoga practice.  I especially love it when someone in class says: “This is totally my question today.”

Right on.

And then there’s my NVC Feelings and Needs cards. 

My emotional vocabulary was so limited before them. Being able to say, “I feel so frustrated,” instead of, “I’m so pissed,” is game changing. I only wish I had found them sooner.

But other cards like the Tarot, no longer have much appeal for me. Is it that my internal, intuitive guidance system is stronger now? And I don’t need them? 

Who knows.

But I’m playing with the Runes again, which is curious. Something to watch.

Planners. Plural.

I’m still spending a little time with my planner everyday, writing down and reviewing my goals. I got another one recently after reading and watching YouTubes extolling its virtues. It’s the Hobonichi Techo

I don’t need another planner; the Circa is working just fine, but the reviews of the Hobonichi were intriguing so I ordered it.

Comparison open

Comparison closed

At first its size surprised me. I am a cow who likes a big meadow for planning and hatching schemes, and this was a very small holding pen indeed.

But its size is growing on me. It forces me be concise. I like it much more than I thought I would. In addition to its size, I also like its pebbly black cover, the Japanese lettering in gold, the thin, lightly gridded paper, the small moon-phase icon on each page.

It feels friendly, companionable. 

Throw it in the bag friendly.

Doesn’t take up much room companionable.

So I decided to not let it go to waste and I’m now using it to track my health metrics: alcohol, drugs, water, meditation, yoga, walking, and sleep. I also want to list out, in the back, all my body products: toothpastes and rinses, cleansers and bath bubbles, moisturizers, make-up, and deodorant. I want to get all my products to be clean, green, and minimal.

So now the Circa is functioning as the catch-all, the fat compendium of addresses, passwords, birthdays, Sprocket photo reminders, as well as a daily, weekly, and monthly planner. 

The Hobonichi will be just for health. 

I think there’s room in my life for both. 

Books

There’s a teetering pile on the bookshelf, but currently I’m toggling back and forth between Circe in the mornings, and My Life with Bob at night, both of which are engaging in different ways. 

Circe is on loan from Linda Rashidi. I was happy when I saw that it was written by the same writer as The Song of Achilles, which I really enjoyed. It’s a fictional story about the life of a mythological woman (Circe) who falls in love with a mortal.  Good times.

My Life with Bob is a memoir about a woman who tracks her personal development by the books she reads. Fascinating and funny.

It feels so good to be out of World War II.

I haven’t started Digital Minimalism yet. I like to read the book group book closer to the discussion so it’s fresh in my mind. I have a little time before I need to chow down on that one. 

Dot

Emily sent me a book where you use dots to spur your creativity.  I don’t know about this yet. I like to doodle and I have a few go-to doodle patterns I learned during my short infatuation with Zentangle. 


 I still like Zentangle, and it’s something I always say I should get back to because I find it oddly compelling, but I don’t. 

This Dot book could get me back to Zentangling, either that, or launch me into a new whole new world of dots.

What do all these things have in common? 

Don’t know. 

Need to connect the dots.

Happy Noticings

I’ve started a “Happy Noticings” section to my daily planner to keep me on the alert for things that please me during this season of drek.

Shoes.

I’ve been especially appreciating my shoes lately. Especially these Gore-tex trail runners from Brooks I got in the fall. They keep my feet warm and dry out on the trails with Stella. I wear them every day unless there’s deep snow. (They’re the pair on the right in the picture above.) I’ve splashed through muck and water and slush in them and my feet stay completely dry.

Love them

https://www.brooksrunning.com/en_us/brooks-running-shoes-ghost-11-gtx-womens/120276.html

I also love the pair on the left, but sadly, I don’t think Adidas makes them anymore. They’re insulated boots that keep my feet super warm in snow. I don’t wear them in deep snow, and they don’t have terrific traction, but even still, I do love them and they look stylin’ to boot.. Bonus.

On dry days, for going out, or to-and-fro from the studio, I love my Allbirds. I have them in charcoal, black, and red. They’re made of wool and I can wear them with or without socks. They are coziest shoes I’ve ever owned. Stella chewed the laces on my new black ones the other day and I was NOT PLEASED. A few months ago a woman in the Verizon store asked me about them and I took them off in the middle of my iPhone transaction and let her try them on. I can get a little too excited about stuff I love.

https://www.allbirds.com/

Blogs

Actually, just one blog. This one:

https://fromthepencup.wordpress.com/

This is pen porn. And paper porn. And planner porn. When I first found it, I lost 2 hours in her archives on a day when I did not have 2 hours to lose.

If you love pens and stationary stores and notebooks and planners and pencils and ink, ohmygod.

I now follow her, but part of me is afraid to go into my Reader each day for fear she will have posted something new and I will be sucked down the rabbit hole again. Nobody should get this excited about pens.

Not a blog, but this article in the NYTimes made me so happy. It was so funny and so true and so wonderfully written I immediately went on Amazon to see if I could pre-order her next book, How to Raise A Reader, and did. Then while I was there, I also ordered her memoir, My Life With Bob. She’s the editor of the New York Times Book Review and this piece about boredom, and her advocacy for it, is terrific.

And it’s going to pair so well with the next book my book group is reading, At my suggestion we’re going with Cal Newport’s latest, Digital Minimalism. I haven’t started it yet, but I was a part of his Digital Declutter experiment last year. I blogged about it and gave a my weekly Recap HERE.


So those are a few things that have been making me happy this month. What has been lighting up your life? Please share! I so appreciate finding wonderful things, especially now, when winter seems like it will never end.

This Blog Is Ten Years Old

This blog is 10 years old this month. 

Who knew??

I didn’t even realize it until yesterday.

I was reading through the archives of a blog I just discovered. The author’s archives went back to 2012. 

It made me wonder how far mine went back, so I checked.  

And lo and behold, February of 2009 was my debut here. And I have amassed close to 700 posts. 

When I first started, the idea here was that I would be on the lookout for things that inspired me, and then write about them. Thus the title, Inspiration Location. 

That didn’t last long, though. After a while I just found myself writing about whatever I was obsessing about at the moment, inspiring or not. 

Now the idea is to chronicle my thoughts as I tend my streaks and develop my projects. 

Back in 2016 I self-published a little book called The Project-Driven Life. It’s basically tips and tricks for finding out who you want to be when you grow up. It involves tending streaks and completing projects. 

 My next project is a book called The Yoga of Everything and I have  started maintaining some streaks that will help get it finished: writing 1K words daily, reading, meditating, and blogging here once a week.

But, back to that new-found blog. 

Whenever I find a new blog, the first place I go is to the About page.

I want to know: Who is this person? Where do they live? How old are they? What do they do besides blog? Do I have anything in common with them?

I want to see their picture. I want to know a little of their backstory.

I don’t have an About page currently. I changed WordPress themes recently and forgot to include one. 

Maybe that’s a lie. 

Maybe I didn’t forget. 

Maybe it’s just that I hate writing About pages. They never seems to fit me and they keep going out of date as my life morphs and changes.

For example, if I say I’m a 66 year-old yoga teacher living in northern Pennsylvania, is that an accurate description? It’s true, of course, but is it my true deal? 

I don’t think so. 

What if I say: I’ve been writing every day in personal journals for over 40 years?

 Now, that might be getting closer.

I think it’s because if you’re the kind of person who writes down your thoughts every day, and keeps doing it obsessively for decades, you’re defined by that activity.

We are what we repeatedly do. ~Aristotle

 And you also find out that you’re that weirdo that needs to write down your thoughts every day. 

But seriously, a journal is a place you go to describe yourself, analyze yourself, contemplate yourself. 

In words. 

And then, if you do a strenuous amount of editing, take out all the gibberish, remove the nonsense, and give your words a beat to dance to, voila, you have yourself a post. 

Which is basically what I do here.

And have been doing for 10 years, apparently. 

If you’ve been following along here, for however long. Thank you. It makes me really happy to have readers.  So onward!

Persistently. With reverence. For a long time. ~Patanjali

The Yoga Of Dog Training

Shortly after we got Stella, I had an epiphany watching some corgis on an Instagram account I follow called Alfuku. 

The owners of these corgis are Japanese, and naturally they talk to their corgis in Japanese. 

When I heard them interact with these dogs, I had no idea what they were saying. But these corgis sure did. 

These dogs are beautiful and funny and trained. They know all kinds of tricks. They even dance in competitions with their owners, weaving in and out of them to music. It’s amazing.

But my epiphany watching them respond to commands in Japanese was— and everyone who has ever trained a dog, will go, “Duh” when I say this,— is that these dogs don’t understand the Japanese language, or any other language, for that matter.  They’ve just learned to decode sound patterns.  

They’ve translated what sounds to me like: ichi washi goobahya into: Bring the rubber chicken here, and drop it at my feet.

Once I fully grasped this, I consciously started monitoring my speech for brevity and consistency when I talked to Stella. No color commentary, no reasons, no verbal expressions of exasperation or complicated feelings and needs.  I needed to shut up, keep all that to myself, and just say,  Come! 

Same with body language. No dancing Shiva arm movements, no fancy footwork. If she was trying to decode me, I needed to send as clear a signal as possible.

One thing that makes Stella easy to train is her attentiveness. She makes eye contact. She seems to be trying to read me. 

When I ask her a question, or, more accurately, when my voice goes up at the end: “You wanna go for a walk?” She cocks her head to one side, as if to say, “What?” 

Then, if I put on my shoes and grab her leash, and always repeat those same sounds every time before a walk, “You wanna go for a walk?” is basically ichi washi goobahya except instead of fetching a rubber chicken, she gets to go outside with me.

My latest project is trying to train her to know the distinction between “Stay With” and “Stay Close.”

I want her to understand that when I say, “Stay With” she should stay within a close proximity to me, maybe 30 yards. I should always be able to see her, and she, me. 

I use Stay Close to mean what most dog trainers mean by “Heel.”  I want Stay Close to mean, “keep exact pace with me.”  

This training has been eye-opening. I have to be totally present and aware of what I’m doing in order to be effective.

 It’s a lot like practicing yoga. I can’t multi-task. I can’t make random, mindless movements or jibber-jabber to her in meaningless paragraphs of mouth noise. 

If I want the signal to be read, I have to reduce the noise. I have to breathe, slow down, make eye contact, be patient, be willing to fail, and try again. And again. I have to make it fun. I have to have treats on me at all times.

Dog training means paying attention to what I’m doing, and what she’s doing, and finding ways to connect.  I have to witness myself and I have to witness her. I have to create a relationship.

When I’m walking alone, without the dog, it’s different. I can and do carry on long conversations with myself, out loud. 

I used to get embarrassed if anyone caught me doing this, but now, in the age of wireless headsets, everyone appears to be talking to themselves as they walk along, anyway.

Yesterday Stella and I were walking on the Hike and Bike trail.  This is where I like to practice stay with, and stay close with her. She had her short, lightweight drag-along leash attached to her collar but I wasn’t holding on to it. 

 It was sunny and warm and I found myself striding along, happily talking to myself about my usual nonsense when I realized I’d lost track of her. And myself.

But thankfully she hadn’t lost track of me. There she was, up ahead, waiting for me to catch up. She was doing a great job of staying with. Whereas I had strayed. I had lost her. And myself. To thought.

Dogs teach us so more than we teach them, if only we would stop thinking and just observe them.

A long time ago I wrote this poem to another dog:

Shasta

My dog knows the universe with his nose,

sips the air for the scent of leaving

after the doorlock clicks.

I spend each day practicing to do

what he does:

Follow my senses,

observe the wind, 

respond to the sense of soil

and not to the flowering of each

fantasy, each upturned rock

of memory.

My pet, 

my guru, 

my teacher on a leash.

From the passing pick-up

it looks as if I am walking you,

but I am the student

following you each morning

from tree

to bush, 

probing the world of gravel

and weed, 

learning the proper response

to air, the infinite 

logarithms of light,

the script of sound

far beyond my range.

What I Learned When I Started Decorating My Planner

I’ve been messing with my planner. Messing with, as in decorating it. 

I’m into washi tape at the moment. I’m creating little borders around my To-do lists, and ornamenting my Goals. 

 I’m really not this person. I don’t have the patience for decorative crafts. So what’s going on here?

I think it might be procrastination. It’s a lot easier to put a washi tape border around my List of Things To Do than it is to actually do those things. 

 But there might be more to this than simply work avoidance.

It takes time to stretch a decorative border around a group of words. And some focused attention. It’s not a hard thing to do, so I can relax, and in that relaxed space, muse on those words, give them time to reverberate.

While I’m ornamenting a page, I have to consider how to segment it, and where to adjust. I often flip back to other days, compare this page with that, and peruse other lists. This allows me time to reconnect and review all the stuff I was planning yesterday, last week, and as far back as I want to go. Then, with that info, I can consciously design this day .

Right now I’m trying to customize a Daily Goals refill template I got from Levenger. The category set-up of this page is just not working for me, so I’m using wahshi tape to make different sized and labeled rooms to fit my particular content. 

For example, I need a special space of honor to inscribe my foundational practices everyday: Writing, Reading, Yoga, and Meditating. 

Then I need a small box to list appointments.

After that I need a long piece of vertical space to list my Ta-Das, my actual accomplishments.I know To-Do Lists are default in all planners, but they only make me feel worthless and depressed. 

And finally, I need one small, eye-catching area to hang a target or two, —some daily achievable thing that will make me feel like I moved the needle forward, if only a smidgen.

But here’s the thing. A few days ago I didn’t even know I wanted to track these things. I didn’t even think of my day this way, as something I wanted to monitor and measure.

 I only discovered this by playing around with markers and washi tape, creating layouts, dinking around.

Now I spend the first ten or twenty minutes of my business day ornamenting my planner with washi tape and markers.

My planner is starting to look more colorful and inviting. I want to hang out with it. And the more I linger, the more I think about why some things are on there and others not. Some days I try to imagine what it would feel like to actually do those tasks, and how my life would change if I did.  

I think this is a good use of my time. Especially at the start of the business day. It feels almost like a meditation. Or if not a meditation, at least a mindful ritual.

 I’ve always been a bullet points and arrows kind of girl when it comes to writing down goals. Lots of big angry asterisks, lots of exclamation points and heavy underlining. Mine is a no pain, no gain philosophy when it come to goals. So it’s a shock to open my planner now and see dancing paisley elephants cavorting around my big hairy goals.

It’s funny, this, and it’s causing all kinds of cognitive dissonance.

All my serious targets, festooned with shiny gold stars and blue polka dots? What is going on here? Is it possible that goals can be contemplated in a spirit of whimsy? With color and light and ornamentation?

Maybe.

3 Things That Sparked Joy This Week

I like that phrase “sparked joy.” It comes from Marie Kondo. She’s the phenomenal Japanese woman convincing people to de-clutter. And apparently she’s so successful that landfills are starting to overflow, and even shut down, because people are getting rid of their stuff in such a big way.

So here are my 3 joy sparkers this week.

1. My circa system planner from Levenger.

It’s not perfect, but I like it. The only bad thing about it is the fragility of the holes, or notches in the paper. You have to be gentle with them,  pull them straight back towards you, and gently nestle them back onto the disc, two or three at at time.

But the thing that makes this whole system magic is the hole puncher. You have to get the hole puncher or else it’s pointless.

With this system I now have an easy way to deal with all my papers. And as the taxman approacheth, it’s been nice to go through my papers, punch them, and put them in notebooks. 

Ever since I started with it it a few weeks ago, I’ve punched up all my class plans, workshops, and inspirational readings and now I can actually see what I have, and move things around to suit my needs. This has made class planning so much more enjoyable.

2. The Sprocket printer. I asked for it for Christmas wondering if, and how much, I would actually use it. Turns out, quite a bit. I would never have guessed that a tiny 2×3 inch sticky picture could have so many fun uses.

I send these pics in cards to the kids. I’ll take a picture of Stella, put a caption under it, and send it off with a stamp. The kids like getting mail, and Emily said it’s like Instagram for them.  Insta Gram? Get it? Heh.

I’m also using them in my planner. I put pictures of the books we’re reading in the book group, for instance. And to commemorate the snow day, I have one of G pushing the snowblower after the storm.

G snowblowing

Another use I thought of but haven’t done yet is inclose a small pic of me using or wearing a gift in a thank-you note to the giver.  That would be cool.

 3. The third thing that pleased me was an essay I read on Medium called,How to Seem Like You Have Your Sh*t TogetherIt was really good. I wish I had written it. She described 20 areas of your your life to look at to see where there might be room for improvement. Some of her points were obvious, but still insightful. 

It made me think I might need to pay more attention to Medium. I’ve been a member for a long time, but I don’t check the feed much, so I’m glad this piece broke through the noise.

What’s been sparking joy for you? Please share in the comments. I love hearing about stuff that makes people’s lives more fun and efficient.

The Yoga Of Shoveling

We just got a big dump of snow. Everyone’s buzzing. People here like snow. Especially since it’s only snowed once, back in November. 

Snow days, when the snow is actually falling, are slow days: soup, hot chocolate, movies, naps, games.

But that’s only when the snow is actually falling

When the snow stops falling, and clean-up begins, that’s when a lot of people tend to lose their zen.

Here are some things you might want to keep in mind in the aftermath of a big snow dump.

1. Take your time. There’s no rush. It’s not a race. Do a little bit at a time and focus on your bio-mechanics. Lift with your legs, take a lot of breaks, and do some counter-stretches. Shoveling is a continuous act of forward bending, so you need to counter that. So stop. Take a breath. Look at the sky.  Then take a slow, shallow, little backbend. Do this at regular intervals. 

2. Ta-Da rather than To-Do If you have a lot of snow to shovel it’s easy to get discouraged when you look at what you have left to do. Switch your perspective. Look at what you’ve done thus far instead. Give yourself credit for even a modest effort. Don’t get discouraged. Just keep going, slowly, one shovelful at a time.

3. Become one with the machine.If you’re using equipment, it’s important to pay attention to how your equipment is operating and how you are operating your equipment. Take your time. Pay attention. Don’t get sloppy and go barreling through on momentum. Be deliberate and careful. It’s better that way.

4. Pat yourself on the back.When you’re done, admire your work. Even if it’s not done. Admire what you did. Take some more counter stretches. Then take a hot bath, preferably with epsom salts. Soak away any soreness. 

5. Enjoy a reward. Find some soft clothes to snuggle into and make a nice beverage and get comfortable and do something relaxing: read, watch a little TV, cook, take a nap, look out the window. 

The clean-up after a storm can seem like a daunting task, something you definitely don’t love. But it’s easier to fall in love with your reality if you can find little ways to make your reality easier to love.