Goblin Valley

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Scuba diving in thin desert air, silent like ears underwater, with soft channels in clay earth and ancient sea creatures. I watched as a boulder fell, loudly greeting the sloping cliff below, but I heard it as though through a felted tube or plexiglass. Yet another experience of reality absorbed into my bare feet through fine dust and scrubby plants, while muted shutters clicked and children shrieked - amazed by nature’s playground, comparing it to tiny silver screens.

I’m 24 years old.

Water-worn layers of life before this one,
Exposed by wear of air and sea,
Rain and time.
I feel like a balloon in a parade of intruders.
Smiling primary colors an invasive contrast to the endlessly patient ocean floor of brown and gray.
Thank you for having me.

The planet doesn’t care for my apology. She knows well the remorse we will all feel as she draws her life force slowly towards her center and away from (us) the surface. We weren’t ready for it so in our misuse she sighs quietly and prepares to withdraw. I don’t blame her. Maybe some other time, some other humans being, or something else entirely. Why do we - the creatures best equipped to understand how precious…

The dying light and the lavender sky feel the bittersweetness in my bones.
We only have one Earth. She holds me.
Heals me.
I love her more deeply than I have anything in my life.

Poem (prayer?): the wild within

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I want to be weird and wild.
I want to be smeared in colors and dust and ash and light.
I want to dance fearlessly,
Love recklessly,
Howl at the moon until the stars come down from the sky and decorate my mane of lioness hair.
I want to be known for my ferocious beauty of eyes and spirit.
Let clarity and truth drip from my tongue like honey from a pine tree,
Or rain from the mountains.
I want to be the divine feminine,
I want to be mother earth embodied.
Alight with the magic and danger of the deep sea, the deep jungle,
Hot and heavy and singing silently vibrating with life,
I know this is who I am.
I have known I have known I have known.
Let it come forth from me,
And let me be met by those who fly on the same fire,
Who wave wind and water with the swirl of a fingertip,
Who dance and scream and stomp earth,
Roaring bones quaking connected with the rhythm of the ground beneath their feet.
I know that I am sinew and flesh.
I am liquid flowing over your naked skin.
I am the sunlight through the leaves
And the scrape of bark against your knees as you climb.
I am the ache in the small of your back that tells you,
You were not born to sit, you were born to fly.
I am the whisper of your intuition, soft and grinning.
I am the release of an avalanche and the fury of a monsoon,
Like the wail of a hurricane I will shriek through you and soak your very soul,
But do not be afraid.
I am the worn curves of a carved wooden bowl,
Arms wide I cradle you in my ocean dark and soothing,
The quiet sound of bubbles underwater.
I am the serenity of a bee resting on petal lips,
Like a satin ribbon taken by the breeze,
Glacial melt over rocks,
Sugar on fresh blackberries, dripping saccharine purple.
Divine knowing leaves a quiet smile in my eyes.
I relax back into the river of experience,
Taken by the current, arms thrown wide,
Drinking the water I become the water,
And this un-difference dissolves indifference,
There is a profound sameness.
All of these things that I am:
Weird and wild,
Smeared in colors and dust and ash and light,
Dancing fearlessly and loving recklessly,
Howling at the moon,
I am the divine feminine.
I am mother earth embodied.

Journal: Burlington in July, pt. 1

Lake Champlain, sunset before the rain

Lake Champlain, sunset before the rain

This is a sample from a stream-of-consciousness piece I wrote over the course of a few days during an impromptu visit to Burlington, VT in July. I was riding a huge wave, fueled by grandiose existential questions about where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and I woke up one morning and decided that driving 5 hours north would make it all better. It didn't, but I did manage to put words to some of the grittier emotional experiences I had this summer.

Thursday night - Muddy Waters coffee shop downtown

Feet velcro-sandaled and damp from too-cool July evening rain has the northernmost east feeling more like the northernmost west - so gray - and the drizzle has a pleasant cleansing effect on my raw ground-meat soul, jumbled dripping bloody and wrapped in acrid cellophane weakly contained by a crackling foam tray of questionable structural integrity.

Yet at the same time I am acutely aware that the blood doesn’t drip, but flows through lubricated veins accelerating past a heart too tired to notice that it’s working too hard.

Can you have a conversation with a tightly caged organ? Can you have a conversation with a body aching from the influence of the mind, exhausted by questions that the soul knows we could just release back into the darkening gray sky from whence they came?

My legs shake, heel pounds undetected on a hardwood floor with hardwood walls. I want it to smell like coffee, but I can’t smell anything. I’m sneezing. Maybe it does smell like coffee. I bounce my other knee. Maybe better bounce both. What’s trying to get out through a shaking of my legs, my feet, arrhythmic like the heartbeat I had to train back to normal with the sheer force of my hopeful mind? I’m hopeful that filling a rectangle of pixels lit up white with pixels lit up black will find me some sense of relief, of release. Is this poetry? Is it journaling? Is it descriptive writing or train of thought? The varnish on the table chips like a cheap old dresser abused by leaky perfume bottles. I’m pouring little mugs of mint tea from a heavy iron kettle. I want to dance but it’s 8:30 on a Thursday night in Vermont, and I’m not hopeful. I had an opportunity, a live concert in Battery Park that sounded like it had the potential to pop but it got drizzly so I bailed nervously. I want to crawl into someone else’s bed. This energetic space is the lily pad to rest and heal and that’s okay but I don’t want to be here long. I don’t have time to face resistance like this. My home is a mess and so is my mind. I want to move but I don’t know where I want to go. I know that realistically I’m going to end up sleeping in my car tonight and that’s weird and unnecessary when I have 5 beds or couches within 30 minutes of where I’m sitting. I have friends and family and I keep choosing to be alone, and then I complain of loneliness. Over and over, I do this. And now my plan is to uproot from everyone I know and love because I’m lonely and want to go on an adventure and make new friends? Is that a fucking joke? What am I thinking? I keep saying that I’m called to the desert and the mountains.

Last night I wanted to suffer. I didn’t care what kind of pain it was. I know I’ve felt that before, but I think last night was the first time I had the courage to name the feeling.

I feel like I’m retreating into a cocoon that isn’t any safer than the outside world. What am I running from?

What am I running from?

What am I always running from? I have this cute “I’m a tumbleweed! Adventurer! Restless wayward wanderer!” persona that I throw on with an oversized hat and a pair of mirrored sunglasses and I take to the highway – but I would be a liar and a fool to say that I’m not doing it to avoid where I’m coming from, a liar and a goddamn fool. What am I avoiding? What am I afraid of? My mind screams at me in annoyance, “NOTHING! You fear nothing!” but how can that be even remotely true?

I whore myself out for a warm body and a cold beer. Close my eyes and stop feeling the heart in my chest, I choose the beat of the bass, not the blood. Is this what they meant by lose yourself to dance? I’m still sitting in a café, the rumble of the music, but it’s not a rumble it’s a roll - rhythmic tapping on the inside of my ears like water dripping from the ceiling above my bed. I’m too comfortable to bother rolling over but the steady tap, tap, tap between my eyes… Isn’t this some sort of torture? I don’t think I care.

Eyelids heavy with the boredom of experience. HOW COULD THAT BE!? I live in a world of wonder and delight. Awe appears at every turn, every sensation every piece of data perceived an opportunity for rapture.

I’m colder than necessary, the goosebumps feel like pine needles pricking my legs through my jeans. Jeans squeeze my body and remind me of my form. So I’m not just a cloud of existential crisis? Weird. Physicality pervades, shins still prickle with cold air, a shudder wracks racked shoulders hung neatly on the wall. No wait, my thighs and pelvis press assuredly into a wooden chair with a cloth back. I don’t feel the back, though, my spine is straight, a bending hemlock trunk.

The music came back to my body. I just want to move. But I also just want to lie down. 20 minutes until I have to decide which is happening tonight. This café will close and I’ll be back in the rain. I have to move my car by 11 or else.

Who gives a flying fuck?

I think I do, probably

Trying to use a stupid app to find a bed for the night. Do I walk into a bar with a backpack and a heavy-lidded red-lipped smile? Or will they see through my thin white sweater to my purple sports bra and know the truth that my sexuality is a skin that I wear half-heartedly?

Theoretical becomes real with sensation (and isn’t that always the case?). I’m sitting in a coffee shop in a town where I won’t sleep, where I don’t live, where I won’t live, writing poetry that might not even be poetry (what constitutes poetry? I’ve never quite known…), drinking water still cold from late morning… What’s my end game? What’s my point on the horizon? What’s informing these decisions?

I remember sitting in a pagoda on a hazy hot dirty campus in September, four falls ago and a half a world away, thighs probably stuck together, sweat probably dripped between my breasts and down my belly. I sat and wrote and wrote. I coughed out lyrics and questions as I have so many times, though now the music is more my own.

This afternoon I drove through the mountains that felt more like home than any other road trip in the northeast and I listened to songs I’d written. And the pervasive thought was a cackling recognition of my ability to make music, “fuck, this is pretty good,” a weird thought to have. Songs I forgot that I’d written made me want to compile them and I noticed that I had a sound – why not make an album? Also weird, because if I could choose a sound, that wouldn’t be the sound that I’d choose, but I guess the wand chooses the wizard, right?

I want to go buy cigarettes and sit outside a bar - I just remembered I’m wearing tevas what am I doing? I wish I’d brought an instrument. Or a toothbrush. Oh, I did bring a toothbrush. My legs are bouncing again.

Where’s that kid that was in Nepal - can he teach me how to say more than “I love you,” or is that all I really need to know?

That’s probably all I need to know.
 

Reoriented

Sunset over the Canyonlands, somewhere in the desert west of Moab, UT

Sunset over the Canyonlands, somewhere in the desert west of Moab, UT

Since last we spoke, three months ago, I have been reorienting. Shortly after my first reflections on freedom, my little snowglobe (life) was all shaken up, and for a while, I couldn’t see for the glitter in my eyes. I flew on blind faith and now, all of a sudden, I’ve been living in Utah for two months. Utah. That’s a 2,300 mile plot twist. The how’s and why’s that led to this moment in this place, while a fun tale to tell, aren’t important right now. If you live in Salt Lake City (or if you want to Skype/FaceTime), I’d be more than happy to sit down over coffee and share all. Send me an email and we’ll set up a date. Otherwise, I’m going to skip the nuts and bolts recap and instead give you the quick version of the soulwork that’s been happening since July.

At the end of July, I got curious about a few things. We’ve already talked about my inquiries into freedom, and that was the catalyst. Shortly thereafter came a cascade of inward-facing exploration centered around overcoming resistance, creating and sharing experience, tapping into my own wildness and intuition, and devoting energy to (finding/building) my tribe. I found way more questions than answers (as offers the path of yoga), and I’m grateful for that, because the trail of breadcrumbs led me here. In this moment, I feel more grounded and more confident in my path than ever before. In this moment, I know that I’m not only where I’m supposed to be, I’m where I want to be. Over the coming weeks, I’m going to begin to share more with you about what it’s like to exist in this body at this time. While a more regular spot for insight into my articulation of my own experience is probably my Instagram, I have known for some time that words hold great weight to me and I want to open that faucet wider on this platform. I’ve flirted with sharing my words in other places, but here I’m going to get into the thick of it. I’ve gotten more and more feedback lately that the way I describe my life holds meaning not only to me but to the people who come across my writing - and so I’m open to the inquiry of sharing in this way.

I didn’t know that my eyes were closed until I started to open them. Thank you for joining me on this Path.

XO, Spencer

Freedom: part 1

Photo by  Srna Dabikj

Photo by Srna Dabikj

When I sat down to write this post, I originally titled it “Ghosting,” with the intention of addressing the fact that I have been known to disappear. I sometimes go days without responding to texts, calls, or emails. I often duck out of parties without saying anything to anyone. The people closest to me sigh and/or roll their eyes, or sometimes even laugh about my tendency to sneak under the radar from time to time. I'm generally fairly upfront about the fact that this is a thing that I do, so mercifully, no one has ever confronted me about it (though they might be well within their rights to do so). Given that I haven’t posted a single thing that I've written or filmed in two months, you may have noticed that this time of year, my habit of radio silence is particularly strong. To spite how I’m setting it up, this post isn’t an apology, and it actually isn’t even really about the fact that sometimes I don’t like to talk to people or make my departures a big deal.

This is about freedom.

Over these last two months, I have spent an incredible amount of time on the road thinking about freedom. It’s been a massive wooden crate sitting quietly in the back of my mind that I’ve been dancing around for quite a while. I’ve been meditating on top of it, hitting it with sticks, spray-painting graffiti on its sides, and generally staring at and all around it without ever really interacting with the idea in a meaningful way. Since I’ve more or less refused to address the idea of freedom directly, the universe cleverly tricked me into picking up a crowbar and, thinking that I was just going to write about my vaguely unacceptable social habits, made me pry open the crate labeled FREEDOM in big red stenciled letters (a label that I conveniently missed, given my aforementioned mental graffiti project). 

So here we are.

I have spent the last two months proudly declaring myself a tumbleweed, rarely sleeping in one place more than two nights in a row. When asked where I’m going or where I’ve been, I answer that my travels are influenced only by the wind. I answer to no one but myself, the earth, and the sky. I go where the breeze blows me, where the sun shines or the rain falls, wherever I can find places to live and give and receive love. I walk out the door and listen for the music and that’s the direction I turn. I laugh freely about living out of my little red wagon (my sweet lil' Outback named Tilly - short for Matilda). I run, I dance, I sing, I make mischief and art, and I regret nothing. I keep saying that I want to be a restless wayward wanderer, a wild woman howling at the moon, fiery-eyed and full-hearted. I cackle into the storm and boast of the lightning in my soul, fearless and sleepless but never tired. My bare feet are filthy, my long brown hair is tangled and lit up blond from windows down and sun bright, and my fingers are calloused from climbing and playing. I wear a leather cord tied around one wrist (an old shoestring) and wooden beads wrapped around the other (a mala from my sangha). Perhaps most importantly, I smear the evidence of all of this all over my social media - posting words and images to back up my claims. And you know what? People f*cking love it. You’re eating this stuff up. I’m defying the 8-5, rejecting the norm, the expectation, and everybody loves a free-spirited rebel.

This is not an apologetic declaration that everything in that last paragraph is bullsh*t. It isn’t. All of that is real and true for me. It’s who I’ve wanted to be for a long time and it’s who I’m becoming, and I’m excited about that. I’m proud of that. I’m living in accordance with my beliefs. I’m maintaining my integrity. I’m living exactly how I want to within my means, I’m chasing my dreams, and that feels really good. But there’s a shadow side to this thing that I’ve been calling freedom.

In the late summer of 2013 on a plane to Shanghai, I read Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild for the first time, and in one of the letters written by Chris McCandless I found a paragraph that radically influenced the way I view my life:

“I’d like to repeat the advice I gave you before, in that I really think you should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and incredible beauty.”

Each day, a new and different sun. I’ve been telling myself for the last two months that I’ve been running joyfully toward an endlessly changing horizon. When I cracked open the big FREEDOM crate in the back of my mind, I had to acknowledge the shadow side of that truth: I’m not just running toward - I’m also running away.

Today, my pursuit of freedom is inextricably linked with an attempt at escape. I know that they aren’t the same thing. I can feel that there’s a difference, and I can feel myself slowly pulling them apart. I imagine that from the outside, they look the same, but I’d be lying to tell you that it’s just one and not the other.

Freedom: part I is just the beginning. As always, there is so much more to come.

XO
Spencer

Soul Sessions: What if you DID know?

This is a conversation for when you find yourself in the midst of indecision. It doesn't have to be like that. Use yoga and mindfulness as tools to learn how to listen to your inner knowing that will allow you to continue to walk the path of your highest self.

This conversation began in earnest for me when my good friend and teacher, Cheryl Larson, asked, "what if you DID know? Then what would you do?"

The question gave me the space that I needed to listen and take a guess. It takes some of the responsibility off of the one who needs to decide. If I can first make the disclaimer, "okay, well, I don't know, but if I did..." then making a guess isn't as scary. Perhaps a subtle difference, but for me, a total game-changer.

XO, Spencer

Don't wait until January to set your resolutions. That's bullshit.

A few days into 2016, I pulled out my journal, sat down at my desk and, almost from instinct, wrote my New Year’s resolutions. When I set my pen down and pushed my chair back a half an hour or so later, I was somewhat surprised at what I had written. For the first time, I hadn’t said things like “eat healthier, stick to a workout plan, try to be nicer, manage my time better.” In retrospect, the experience of writing my 2016 New Year’s resolutions was my first real brush with setting life-affirming intentions. I didn’t just think about what I wanted to do, but how I wanted to be.

This list of ten goals, of ten affirmations, has become somewhat of a framework by which I try to live. Call it a secondary mission statement, maybe. (You can check out my primary mission statement here. It all fits together.) When January of 2017 rolled around, I thought about sitting down to write a new set. I did sit down, in fact, but nothing more came. I couldn’t outdo what I had written last year. Inadvertently, 16 months ago, I defined a set of my values that, today, require no revision. The things I was trying to do and be 16 months ago are still relevant to my life today. I guess this isn't all that surprising. Making a paradigm shift takes time, so if I’m being honest, they will probably still be relevant in 16 months. Or 16 years. Maybe. Who knows? What I do know is that - right now - they feel pretty damn good. I often refer to them when I’m trying to make a decision or if I'm experiencing some doubt. I ask myself: does [this thing I’m thinking about] fit my ten resolutions in some way? Does this thing line up with these other key things I’m trying to invite into my life?

These ten resolutions have become a crucial piece of my experience and pursuit of intentionality. Whenever I’m faced with something that feels like a dilemma, I worry less about the individual decision itself, and more about the implications of what the decision says about who I am as a person. I have wasted a lot less time hovering in procrastination and indecisiveness since taking this approach.  Focusing less on what you want to do and more on who you want to be makes the action that much easier. It is the perspective shift from outcome to process. I’ll write more about that another day, but in short, if I view myself as the kind of person who gets things done, then I get things done. If I want to be the kind of person who gets up with the sun and drinks warm lemon water, does some gentle stretching, and meditates to prepare my mind and body for the day, then I’d better get my ass out of bed and do it. I can’t be the kind of person I claim to be, or want to claim to be, unless I do the things that that kind of person would do. It’s a subtle shift, but for me, it’s been very effective.

I believe that the first step on that resolution/affirmation/intention path was, for me, this list. Since writing it, I have come to believe that saving resolutions for the new year is absolute bullshit. It’s that “ehhh I’ll start on Monday” mentality. Let me give you a little spoiler alert: tomorrow never comes. It’s an idea. That one junk drawer in the kitchen where you put things you feel like you should keep but don’t really want to deal with. So pardon my tough-love approach to this (or don’t, I don’t care), but enough with your tomorrow’s and your next year’s. Don’t wait until January of 2018 to set your intentions. Do it now. Write a manifesto. Write one down every night before bed. Write down what kind of person you want to be and what that would look like and then every day, strive to live in accordance with what you’ve written. If you forget? Begin again. It doesn’t matter if today you were rude and impatient and ate too much pizza. Right now you can drink a glass of water and stretch and go to bed on time.

Tomorrow never comes. Practice being the person you daydream about being right now.

You already have everything you have ever needed to be the person you’ve always wanted to become.

With that in mind, here are my 2016 New Year (Life) Resolutions:

1. MARRY MYSELF: I might even throw a party to celebrate the commitment. I will love myself and support myself and take care of myself. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health. Richer or poorer. I will congratulate myself on good days and lift myself up after bad ones. I will be proud of myself. Honor myself and keep the promises that I make. I will be honest and open, patient, kind, caring, generous, supportive, respectful, true. I WILL LOVE MYSELF.

2. NEW THINGS: I will reject the nature to be a “creature of habit”. I will distinguish between ritual and practice and complacent habits. I will embrace newness on all levels and at every opportunity. From things as simple as trying something new on a menu or turning down a new street, to more daring things like attempting new ways of thinking or shooting for new levels of emotional growth or travel to new lands. I will embrace a true spirit of adventure. “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” (Chris McCandless)

3. WISE AND BOLD: I will act with wisdom and fierce conviction. I will be daring without being rash. Adventurous without naivety. I will call on both my ferocity and intellect to make decisions.

4. MAKE NOISE: I have words of value. I will see them heard. I will not swallow the important things I have to say. Sometimes spoken, sometimes sung. I am a being of music, and this year, I will make it.

5. RELEASE: There are things in my life that no longer serve me. I will let them go. I will also release some control. While I am a co-creator of my reality, I am not the sole creator. Some things are beyond my power. I will let them go. I will release negative emotions. I will no longer harbor ill-will. I release some people, some memories, some feelings. There is freedom in letting go. Like a leaf in autumn, I will have no fear as I release my hold on the the things that hold me back. I will never know that I can fly if I’m too afraid to fall.

6. EDUCATE: It is my responsibility to educate myself. It is my calling to educate the people who cross my path. I will vigorously pursue new knowledge. I will take online classes, read books, talk to strangers. I will take in new perspectives and broaden my horizons. I will sort through the infinite amount of information available to me and seek truth. I will use it to filter and explain my experience, and so help shape the experiences of other people. I cannot contribute to the world if I know nothing about it.

7. HONOR: I will honor myself. I will honor the earth. I will honor every being that I encounter. With great humility, I will respect the interdependence of everything. I will revel in the glory of all things.

8. RADIATE: I cultivate my energy so that I may share it. I will fill myself so that I may help to fill others. “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases from being shared.” The greatest good that will come out of the soul work that I do will be to bring that same work to other people. Pay it forward. It is my goal to uplift the people I encounter simply in encountering them. I will radiate compassion and lovingkindness. If I am to put anything out into the universe, let it be positivity and light.

9. WALK THE TALK: I’ve been on about these life-affirming practices, this conversation about mindful living, for ages. I’ve been slowly incorporating these things into my life, but this year I’m going to ramp it the fuck up. I’m going to escalate. I will practice what I preach. I will live in a way that I can be proud of. I will accept the consequences of being myself. I will live deliberately. I will engage. I will un-clutter my space and my mind. I will treat my body well. I will treat my heart well. I will develop practices that suit me and my goals, and I will stick with them.

10. BE: Sometimes, I will give myself permission to just be. To just be alive. To step back from the self-analysis and just immerse myself in my existence.

Propel yourself in the direction of your dreams. I'm rooting for you!

XX
Spencer
 

#nofilter: unapologetic authenticity and the creative process

Earlier today, this picture popped up on my Instagram feed:

Image from  Elephant Journal  Instagram account - click image for original post.

Image from Elephant Journal Instagram account - click image for original post.

It served as a powerful reminder. As I’ve been getting started on this journey of owning and running a website and blog, I keep catching myself getting caught up on putting exactly the right thing out there. Choosing the exact words, making sure there are no errors and no spaces for misinterpretation. I’ve been worrying about cultivating a specific image, a brand, an ideal. The result has been that I actually haven’t been posting much at all - and that bugs me.

I speak often about the power of vulnerability. I believe strongly that when we show up as our unapologetically authentic selves, we give others permission to do the same. I dream of a world where we all feel free and empowered to be exactly who we are without reservation or shame - a world where self-love, self-respect, and self-care are encouraged. Confidence doesn’t inspire shame. It inspires confidence. When I see someone who feels good about who they are and what they’re doing, it reminds me that it’s okay to feel good about who I am and what I’m doing too.

I consider myself creative. Maybe even an artist. As much as I love painting and drawing as a means of processing, my true medium is the word. That is what I feel called to share. I’m curious about the power of words, and I'm particular about their meaning. When it comes to my writing - be it blog posts, poetry, or music - I liken the creative process to water running from a faucet. When you turn the on the hose spigot outside the house for the first time in April, there’s sometimes some rusty water that comes - dirt and grime that have built up over the course of the winter while the pipe was dry. In order to get clean water, you have to let it run for a little while. You can even compare the creative process to physical fitness. In the fall when I transition from the cardio and flexibility training experiences of hiking, trail running, and yoga to the more strength-intensive dryland training before ski season, I usually have a week or two of jello-legs. At first, I feel weak.

When I walk away from writing for any length of time - for lack of motivation or for fear of how I’ll be received - coming back to it is a slow and somewhat painful process. My mental writing muscles are weak and the words that come are rusty, muddy, and awkward. I have to commit to trying and trying again as I get warmed back up to articulating my experience.

I share this with you to make a promise both to you and to myself. I will not hold back for fear. I will share my experience. I will show up unapologetically as my authentic self - regardless of whether or not I feel articulate. I feel no shame in my process, and neither should you. I am showing up with honesty, vulnerability, and transparency - #nofilter.

Beginner's mind: It's nice to meet you - again and again.

Beginner's mind, or Shoshin, is the Zen Buddhist practice of setting aside prior knowledge and expectation for the sake of experiencing the present moment without your preconceived notions and judgment. You can read more about it here, or here. There are myriad benefits that can come from the practice, but today, I want to focus just on what beginner's mind can do for your relationships.

Are you the same as you were yesterday? A week ago? A year ago? Five years ago?

Maybe, but probably not.

I can remember, as a kid, meeting friends of my parents who would croon, "I haven't seen you since you were this big!" while holding up their hands like they were clasping a large loaf of bread. I can remember thinking, somewhat indignantly, "okay, well obviously I don't remember you if I haven't seen you since I was an infant, and I'm obviously not an infant now, so I don't really know why we're even talking about this." Even now, as an adult, when I see people that I haven't seen since I was a kid (childhood neighbors, distant family members, etc.), I can't help but sigh inwardly a little at the exclamation that the only version of me they can call to mind is a vision of me wearing too-big high heels, my dad's sport coat, and a bright blue feather boa around my neck. It's sweet to be remembered in an endearing light, sure, but I like to think I have a little more to contribute now than the "cute" I brought to the table as a five-year-old.

Every time I think about posting content on this blog, or anywhere on this website for that matter, I always feel that it's an introduction of sorts - and in a way, it is. We actually don't know each other that well yet, you and I. If you've followed me on Instagram for any length of time, you'll know that my internet presence has grown more and more transparent over time. This is especially true of the last year or so as I have become more deliberately interested in the conversation of vulnerability and full-disclosure honesty. But even if you diligently read everything I put out in social media, I still hope that we would show up for each other without assumption, without expectation. Just because I share lots of details about what's true for me in a given moment - that's just it, it's true in that moment. Now, that isn't to say that as soon as I hit "share/publish/post" it isn't true anymore. But, like everyone, my inner world is in development and in flux just as our outer world is. Inner seasons and tides change just as outer ones do.

In the context of relationships, Shoshin means you’re present for someone without clinging on to who they were yesterday or the day before. It leaves space for someone to change without fearing judgment, or to have a conversation without assumption of how it’s going to go. How many times have you not started a conversation because you “just know what they’re going to say”? (Notice if you’re thinking, “ok but you don’t understand, you don’t know this person.”) What if you could enter a conversation without anticipating the outcome? It opens this tiny window of opportunity for the person you’re talking to to speak their truth. In the context of my moral framework, it’s important for me to allow people the space to be exactly how and who they are. I hope that in doing so, I help to create a more authentic relationship where I get to be myself as well.

Maybe I always feel like I need to introduce myself because I hope that you are willing to receive my words in fresh new light every time. Or maybe it's because I want to give you the space to meet me as whoever you are today, in this moment.

However you are right now, whoever you are right now, it's nice to meet you - again and again.