Everyday Inspiration. Day Five: Hook ‘Em With A Quote

*Note: this post is part of an Everyday Inspiration 20-day writing prompt program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: Hook ’em with a quote.

chopped_melissa_darabian

open your baskets!

Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It is all we ever have so we might as well work with it rather than struggling against it. We might as well make it our friend and teacher rather than our enemy.” – Pema Chodron

After a full day teaching and practicing yoga, I sank into my sofa for a marathon of Chopped episodes…the teenage kid version. Flanked by a lazy kitty purring on one side, and a lazier excuse for dinner in the form of a bowl of Grape Nuts for dinner on the other, I inwardly sighed. These kids in their toques and aprons were making me look bad.

“Open your baskets!” the host demanded as four fresh-faced chefs below legal voting age peered in and pulled out a random assortment of ingredients: chocolate covered potato chips, canned rabbit, cranberry jelly, and some exotic spice I can neither spell nor pronounce. “You’ve got 30 minutes. And the clock starts…NOW!”

As they jumped into action it hit me: this moment right now, if I could allow it to be, was a friend, a teacher, not an enemy. Viewed from the perspective Chodron offers in the quote above, I could learn something from this present scene: the lousy bowl of cereal, my fatigue, the I-love-you-regardless-how-lame-you-feel-about-yourself-right-now cat next to me, the kids kicking ass in the kitchen on the screen in front of me.

My default, and maybe it’s yours too, is to draft a story around moments that make me uncomfortable. A 90-minute practice next to a yogi stronger than me, if I’m not mindful, could result in a dark tale about an undisciplined woman who ate croissants in lieu of daily plank poses and spent her bonus money on a pair of designer motorcycle boots instead of that inversion workshop she chickened out of. Watching a band of sweet kids get asked to create something edible out of a basket of total ridiculousness (they’re kids…can’t you give ’em some PB & J ingredients to work with already?) would typically have me cursing the Universe at the unfairness of it all.

But Chodron implores us to look at the present moment another way. The young chefs on my TV screen were here because they chose to test their creative chops under pressure, under the eye of a panel of world-renowned chefs (and in front of viewers eating Grape Nuts on the sofa at home). Chodron’s quote  reminds us that how we choose to receive the present moment can make all the difference in whether we’re able to cook up a new creation, or come to the party of life empty handed.

What wisdom can you gain from the present moment?

Everyday Inspiration. Day Four: A Story In A Singe Image

*Note: this post is part of an Everyday Inspiration 20-day writing prompt program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: A story in a single image.

crowd-in-transit

“Promise you’ll save room for dessert in the Village,” she quipped, trying to keep the mood light, before unbuckling her seatbelt. Maurice squeezed her hand as confirmation before stepping out to help unload her bags. If anyone would celebrate her new life over a slice of creme brûlée, it was best friend Maurice, who’d insisted on driving her here.

Stepping onto the curb to face the eternally-revolving giant glass doors at Philadelphia’s 30th Street station, she felt a momentary wave of panic: am I crazy? Everyone, except for Maurice, who self-admittedly was a little crazy himself, seemed to think so:

“but you just got promoted!”

“you two seemed so happy”

“I thought it was just a hobby”

“what if you fail?”

Too late now. They were already interviewing for her replacement (seeking PR manager to nurture strong industry network, generate enviable corporate image…). She’d said it’s over and meant it this time to her ‘it was just innocent flirting’ boyfriend. Forked over (literally) two paychecks worth of tuition money to the Culinary Institute in NYC. This was no longer a hobby.

Once through the glass doors, however, her disposition changed. Dwarfed by 80-foot columns and a coffered ceiling nudging the Heavens, she wondered – how many other fresh journeys began here? Opulent marble floors amplifying the echoes of heels conjured images of nattily-dressed ladies in gloves and gents in fedoras (before the days of ‘Athleisure’) saying goodbye without a guarantee there’d be a future hello. Leaving the past in style to somewhere exciting and new. Cathedral-like windows allowed varying degrees of light that beamed possibility – maybe she would make it as a Michelin-starred pastry chef.

Or not.

“Swapping press releases for puff pastries, are we?” her snarky but lovable colleague joked as they clinked champagne flutes and nibbled on devil’s food cake (a subtle omen??) at last week’s going away party. She’d miss justifying the cost of a pair of Louboutins or Chloe pencil skirt as work wear. It was aprons and toques from now on.

And maybe it was innocent flirting. He was a TV sports anchor after all. Naturally he’d get attention in public. Was she being overly clingy? Didn’t matter now. She’d ended it clearly enough by moving her stuff out of his apartment into off-site storage. And sure she’d graduate, but what can a novice pastry chef, at age 45, honestly expect to earn?

Taking one final look around the lobby as the platform announcement came across the speaker, she relaxed. Confidence took over. I’m not crazy, and I’m ready to begin anew.

One rolling pin and pie crust at a time.

Everyday Inspiration. Day Three: One Word Inspiration. HOME

*Note: this post is part of an Everyday Inspiration 20-day writing prompt program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: One word inspiration. HOME.

My truck’s nav system has a handy shortcut feature on its screen. Hit ‘home’ and it’ll map out a route to send you there. Nice feature, if you can remember where ‘home’ is. I’ve moved six times in as many years, and hitting the ‘home’ button on a nav system is likely to be an address or two past due.

But that’s not really the point. Or perhaps it is…

During the not-so-merry-go-round of multiple moves from Seattle to Jersey to Philly to Boston, a new definition of ‘home’ has begun to take shape. Not a shape sprouted from architectural renderings, mind you. No, home is not simply some lifeless structure with four walls and a few weeds or where I currently lay my head at night. It has little to do with which closet I pluck a well-worn hoodie from, what familiar countertop I fire up my turbo-engined Vitamix upon, or which surrounding windows rattle as breakfast grinds into a smoothie I enjoy atop a Crate & Barrel bar stool that’s followed me through six U.S. states.

home on my mat. 2013.

home on my mat. 2013.

No, home isn’t inanimate. It’s alive. Home is a feeling I get when wherever I am, I know I’m welcome. That could be atop that Crate & Barrel bar stool at my kitchen counter, sure. But it could also be halfway across the world nestled in a tapestried banquette at a Barcelona coffee shop, as it was last summer, when after charade-ing my way through a cappuccino order, a lovely barista welcomed me home with a frothy hearted concoction and smile that said: Stay. Make yourself at home.

Example by life example, I’ve learned that home resides in my heart, and is fueled by love. Love for others, love from others. It took me some time in my 20s and 30s to recognize that going home doesn’t necessarily feel like home. And I’ve dwelled in a few homes to salivate over. A ‘home’ with a beach just steps below and blue herons circling up high. A ‘home’ with a central gallery – yes gallery – roundabout driveway and wine cellar big enough to mask the two-buck-chucks needed to fill all the racks. Nice homes, yes. But a period of heavy heartache kicked me to the curb without a key.

Falling in love again six years ago at 41, with an amazing man, and more importantly, with myself again, led me back home. To several places. Some with a front door, others without:

  • Bigelow. A one-year rental I crammed an estate’s worth of black lacquered Fortuni-upholstered chairs into an 800-square foot jewel with views of Seattle’s Lake Union in. A year re-learning the art of independence, eating Grape Nuts for dinner because I could, falling in love with my now husband.
  • My orange Jade yoga mat. A single decision to come back to a long-dormant practice has since turned my yoga mat into a welcome mat. Moving and breathing on my mat is a direct route into my heart, revealing whatever aches, joys, fears, and miracles reside within it.
  • In the presence of my husband, mama, sister, papa, brother, niece, cat, friend, mentor, student, elderly man on the street I gave a buck to, trash collector I flirted with.
  • In front of this keyboard, sharing a bit of my soul with you who are dear enough to read.
  • Accepting the sales associate’s offer to help with choosing a pair of jeans I don’t need because I’ve since learned where to get the best taco in town. And made a new friend.
  • On my Crate & Barrel bar stool…in a new home that this time, feels like HOME.

When and where do you feel at home?

 

Everyday Inspiration. Day Two: Write a List of Things I Like

*Note: this post is part of an Everyday Inspiration 20-day writing prompt program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: Write a list of things I like.

tree pose

tree pose

  1. I like lists, and how they help unsnarl the tangle of thoughts and emotions roaring through my brain. How they help distill life down into manageable bits.
  2. I like the minimart owner who greets me every morning with “go get em’ girl!” as I run past at 5:30 AM.
  3. I like rescue dogs and cats and the humans that rescue them.
  4. I like finding typos in published material. Gotcha!
  5. I like crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles and how the worries of the day disappear into the little boxes and pieces.
  6. I like pizza, french fries, margaritas, and the discipline I maintain to keep these occasional indulgences from destroying a body I love and work at.
  7. I like catching a glimpse of a little league game unfold just past my train window en route to NYC. It’s like I’m on the bleachers cheering my big bro on, all over again.
  8. I like relenting to the warm, snuggly purrs offered by my lazy cat stretched across my lap. I’ll get to whatever needs getting to later.
  9. I like mama’s who hold their little girl’s hands. And not just crossing the street.
  10. I like pedestrians without ear buds or phones to faces.
  11. I like yoga, running, bicycling, swimming, cartwheeling in the park, kicking a ball, throwing a frisbee, dancing like a dork, anything that requires one to move and have a wonderful time doing it.
  12. I like smiling at my late papa, arms stretched to the Heavens, mid-tree pose in a 90 minute yoga class. I look up, he looks down, assuring me all is well and he is well.
  13. I like a little bit of superstition, and never stopping on the number 13.
  14. I like kissing my husband’s bald head.
  15. I like getting lost in a new city and relying on smiles and hand gestures to find my way back.
  16. I like falling in love with a budding author’s debut novel and sharing it with everyone I know.
  17. I like Great Blue Herons, and if reincarnation is real, I want to return as one.
  18. I like going to bed earlier than your grandmother.
  19. I like getting wiser, even if it means getting older.

What do you like?

Everyday Inspiration. Day One: I Write Because…

*Note: this post is part of an Everyday Inspiration 20-day writing prompt program I’m participating in. Today’s Prompt: I write because…

why I write, even on my yoga mat

why I write, even on my yoga mat

I write because it makes me a better human being.

Writing harnesses my energy. Since childhood I’ve been told I have an unusually high degree of energy. Evidence suggests this: broken springs on a rocking horse that gave up before this jockey in pig tails said whoa; an occasional spot of bourbon in the bottle when grandpa needed me to get to sleep; crunchy joints that couldn’t keep up with an insatiable heart that had to run just one more marathon; myriad scars and emergency room memories from road cycling spills chasing a kind of high that only a 20 MPH pace line could provide. Writing keeps it from spiraling out of control and sending me into an exhausted heap wondering how I got there, and how to find the life reset button. Once I settle atop my pink velvet chair, plug in and tune my earbuds to a Spotify or Pandora piano concerto playlist and begin tapping keys, a sense of calm and focus begins to emerge.

Writing forces me to be with it. To be with whatever it is I want to run away from. To be with restlessness – to stop squirming and keep digging for just the right metaphor, anecdote, or verb to underscore whatever thought I’m trying to capture and immortalize on a page before it flies away. To be with heavy emotions – and through whatever pain, fear or joy I’m experiencing at that moment, I can spawn a placeholder for others experiencing similar feelings to reference and contribute to. Good for them, good for me.

Writing reveals hidden treasures within my own brain and heart. I used to grind my teeth midway through a topic or assignment every time my heart jumped over a guardrail and took me off task with another thought or idea, until I eventually realized what a gift this was. Instead of fighting the inevitable detour, I now keep a pen and pad next to my laptop and jot down the out-of-bounds thoughts and list them under a “save for later” heading. My “save for laters”, more often than not, result into future posts or stories that keep the process of writing ongoing for me.

Writing spills over into every other area of my life. I prepare for the yoga classes I teach by practicing at home with a pen and paper next to my mat. Recording what’s happening in my body, and heart, lands on the page and informs what I share later with my students. Writing has widened my social circle and kept me close to those I no longer live near. The posts I shared about my time volunteering at an animal rescue in Pennsylvania has established an eternal tether line to a community of angels and animals I will hold onto forever. Writing forces me to pause, consider, and respond instead of react to whatever life might be tossing my way.

This is why I write, how about you?

 

 

5 ways to smooth the transition from summer to fall – Baptiste Yoga Boston

sbradywone

welcome the fall season with open arms

Struggling to let go of summer? Visit the Baptiste Yoga Boston website for my tips on how to welcome the fall season with open arms: 5 ways to smooth the transition from summer to fall.

Then explore the site further to inspire your practice and sign up for a workshop or class. See you on the mat!

Describe a scene: a beach in north Seattle

One of my biggest fears with growing older is getting stuck on memory lane with no off-ramp in sight. Yes it’s a cliche, but the phrase going down memory lane gives me shivers. I’ve seen it imprison many a loved one, who begin every sentence with “do you remember when?” and end every conversation with “that was so much fun back then.” Or something along those lines.

describe a scene: a North Seattle beach

describe a scene: a North Seattle beach

But memory lane can afflict anyone, at any age, at any moment. Especially when visiting a long ago place from the past. A visit to my hometown of Seattle last week required a steely sheath of willpower at every corner: the marina where my ex and I once moored a boat I never felt welcome on; the tucked away neighborhood park with a backdrop of Seattle’s skyline I practiced cartwheels on; the dive bar that used to pour cheap strong bloody mary’s now turned hipster joint serving frilly overpriced whatchamacallits. Horrors…

So when I considered visiting a favorite beach of my younger years, I hesitated. Am I gonna cry? Pine for the old days of gossiping with girlfriends atop neon beach towels over who stole whose boyfriend and how did that space cadet ever make it into the honors program? Would I wish for a way to get back here more to watch my nieces grow and cuddle with my mama’s new 7-pound Shih Tzu? Stare at the distant ferry and reflect back on past training rides around hilly Bainbridge Island? Actually I did all that. But I also recognized exactly what I was doing: going down memory lane. And then I sought a way out. And what resulted has since inspired a new category for my blog, that aligns with my overall theme of And Pause Here:

Describe a scene: a beach in North Seattle”

nature's art

nature’s art

Getting present, or living life as it is happening, as opposed to playing dead by ruing over what already happened (memory) or anticipating what has not yet happened (future) and may actually never happen, requires conscious attention. Seeing what you see in front of you. Hearing what you hear around you. Smelling what you smell near you. Feeling what you feel physically. Yoga is an incredible conduit into presence. Through action in the flow of the poses, through conscious breathing and drishti (gaze). If you teach, through observation and giving tools to your students in the moment based on what you see.

drifting to wherever...

drifting to wherever…

But writing a scene as it unfolds in front of me is also, I discovered through this exercise, an avenue into presence. I didn’t have a pen and paper handy as I typically do, but the Notes app on my iPhone worked fine. The phrases that emerged through the exercise isn’t of much importance to me, because looking back at the result now is really just another trip down memory lane. But the very act of recording my experience got me more present than I recall being in a very long time, and for that I’m intrigued and inspired by how describing a scene can be a huge awakening into my life as it is unfolding right now.

 

see what you see

see what you see

Here’s what I recorded, and remember, the purpose here wasn’t to create some poetic masterpiece or generate any oohs or ahhs, but to simply describe life as I saw it in the moment:

  • dried seaweed mottled shades of pickled green underfoot giving off an odor most would pinch their nose at but made me flare my nostrils wider with remembrance
  • a familiar marine breeze tickling my skin on this late August afternoon – neither dry nor humid, something else entirely, specific to this northwest corner of the world
  • rogue doggy turds here and there that missed the scoop bag
  • driftwood turned sculpture via nature’s moods
  • small laps of Puget Sound waters curling at the rocky edge
  • giggly kiddos bent low foraging for interesting rocks minded by back packed parents not quite warm enough to ditch the sleeves
  • multi car freight train competing with the water’s symphony. Not sure who won…
  • pointy-topped evergreens providing the backdrop behind me
  • stiff bottom atop a splintered half log I can’t yet bring myself to leave…it’s become this morning’s silent narrator of the magnificent scene surrounding me, keeping me present, and protected from the past
  • off-kilter seagull happy to let the tide drift him to wherever
  • shadowy, ghostlike mountain range peering back at me, only revealing a silhouette of its soul
  • my own shadow reflected back at me through the meandering foundation of sand, seaweed, stones and wood particles – so that’s the shape of me knee, my elbow..