#VOWsave & #VOWshow (With a Bit of Tell)

I’m nearing the end of my two-week trip overseas; my flight back to the District leaves in less than six hours. But for now, I’m checked out of my hostel and nestled into the corner table of a quaint little Icelandic coffee shop in Reykjavík. I haven’t written more than an email to my loved ones while I’ve been abroad, and I haven’t posted any pictures on Instagram since I left American soil. More than one person has asked me where my pictures are, and I don’t have a complete answer for them.

It started with the meditation retreat I think. For those who don’t know, the main reason I went abroad was to attend a week-long Buddhist meditation + painting and photography retreat at a Triratna (i.e., Hippie Buddhist movement that aims to make Buddhism accessible to the West and applicable to modern life) center in the Scottish Highlands. For a week, I meditated 2-3 hours a day, took photos of the countryside, and painted with watercolors—all wifi- and cell signal-free.

I will pause for a moment to tell you a bit about that experience:

I must say I didn’t miss my phone really. Definitely not the calls or texting. Or even Instagram–I do realize how much time I spend scrolling on there. I missed emailing Sister. But honestly, the thing I ached for and had no idea I would miss: Google. Every few minutes it seemed, I wanted to look up the history of an aspect of Buddhism or the root of the word or the English slang for something. I explained this in a small group circle early on, and Amoghavera (aw-mo-gaw-veer-a), our retreat leader, said he would be my Google–I was constantly asking him to write out a chant so I could get the spelling right or about the difference between a British Pound and a Quid (nothing it turns out).

But the main thing I missed Google for, and I know Sister nearly died laughing when I wrote her this, was my symptoms. I’m apparently more of a hypochondriac than I knew. I got very ill on the flight overseas, and it developed into a good ol’ head cold. I was miserable for the first Friday, Saturday, and Sunday when I first arrived; I also looked like death. I wanted to see if I had a sinus infection and what the risks were of going without antibiotics (I’d be fine). Then when stomach stuff started (turns out I had problems with the very carb-laden vegan food), I wondered if peat in the Scottish water could make a person sick and if I should be boiling it (the water was fine). I also got curious and wondered if extended meditation periods could adversely affect the body for a bit (um, no). And, after a bit of an itchy scalp and a few dandruff flakes, which I don’t usually suffer from, I assumed I had lice (spoiler alert: I didn’t; I am quite sure the change in shampoo is to be blamed).

Yeah, so, that happened in my brain (please be laughing, so I feel like less of a weirdo), and, yes, I am now limiting my Google diagnosing since I am aware of the problem.

But back to why I have not shared a lot:

Nayyirah Waheed, one of my favorite poets, asks, in “A Question of Appropriation”, “Would you still want to travel to that country if you could not take a camera with you?” Man, let me tell you, that line sat in the back of my mind, staring at me, this whole trip. Especially after a week of focusing on being present and the art of seeing, really looking without trying to capture anything but the moment in your mind.

I took fewer pictures than I normally do on trips. I really thought about each photo before I snapped it, be it via my iPhone or my DSLR; there was a reason behind each image. And before I post anything on IG, I want to be clear in my mind about the story and how much of it I want to tell about this trip.  Also, becoming even more important to me these days thanks to yoga teacher training, I want to be able to explain why (in my head) I am posting something, because “Likes” are a dangerous reason.

I thought a lot too, about #VOWsave (last week’s verb and the main subject of this post) and #VOWshow (this week’s verb). About the things I want to keep to myself about this trip. About what I found on it. Because this has always been a completely solo jaunt that was and still is only about me, and in my heart, which is where I feel my intuition, I believe (and have for months thought) that things are going to change when I get home. Nothing particularly “magical” or “life-changing” happened on this sojourn, but I am sure it was a dot that will eventually connect for me.

For now, ellipses…

And a few photos, because this is, after all, a combined post about #VOWsave and #VOWshow:

Dhanakosa (Balquhidder, Scotland):




Edinburgh, Scotland:

Reykjavík, Iceland:


And beginning Monday, we

RISK.

Life is what you invest into it: Reflecting on SAVE

The synchronicity of our VOWs serve as a constant delight. We didn’t arrange for any of these verbs to fall on certain weeks, so imagine how tickled we were to discover SAVE was occurring the week of Daylight Savings time.

Historically, I make proclamations about waking up an hour earlier and getting my day off to the right start. The hour is a gift and I’m already used to waking up at that time — blah blah blah. This year is different because Josh and I have developed the habit of waking at 5:45 to hit the gym before work. That’s early enough for me as I have zero interest in seeing 4:00am at either end of my sleep cycle.

This year I feel giddier about the time change. I have no sense of obligation of shoulds or ought to’s. Instead, I get a free pass to enjoy luxuriating in bed. I’m a girl who loves her sleep and loves her bed, so this is downright magical. So in honor of that sleep, we purchased new accouterment for our bed — new throw pillows and the softest faux fur blanket I’ve ever touched.

This week we SHOW


Lin’s SOW (Song Of the Week): Sound of Your Voice by Barenaked Ladies and the Persuasions

 

Freeze Frame: Reflecting on SUSPEND

Last week was a reflection of the basics that my life has become recently: AM workouts (which I really, really despise); interviews and report writing at work — with the occasional interview for a new coworker tossed in for good measure; studying and academic paper writing at night; maybe a half hour of TV like Veep or The Good Place to reward my diligence. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I’m tuckered.

And it is interesting because I’ve felt like I’m in a sort of limbo even though I’m doing so damn much. It doesn’t feel overwhelming. It doesn’t even feel particularly negative. It’s just the schedule for my days and the routine makes me feel as though time isn’t moving as fast as it is.

But here we are, middle of October.
Already!
Gah!
I just need a minute for things to slow down! Or hurry up. Ideally one or the other.

Midterms have passed. I’m closing out investigations at work. There are things on my need-to-do-soon list that are way past expiration. This all comes as a surprise each week as I fill out another week spread in my planner. How is so much happening when nothing is going on?

This isn’t a particularly insightful post, I suppose. This time of year always catches up to me. The impasse between how are the leaves falling off the trees already and oh my god, how much longer until winter break?

This week we’ll see what continues to amplify and what will inevitably BREAK


Lin’s SOW (Song of the Week):  Caught by St Beauty (which has nothing to do with this week’s verb but is simply too amazing to stop listening to)


& check out Steph’s joint #VOWehance and #VOWsuspend post

Devotion: Reflecting on INVEST

This past week my family convened for a mini reunion in Beaver Creek, Colorado.

It was the first time I met four of my six nieces and nephews.

It was the first time I introduced my fella to my step sisters.

I gave Josh the Lindsey Childhood History Tour around Grand Junction.

I laughed with my brother.

I side-hugged my step dad while he wiggled a finger in my ear.

I talked about aliens with a 3 year old.

I was only coerced into a single heated political conversation (in which I said one sentence and extricated myself).

I listened to my teeny sweet momma tell bunches of profanity laden stories.

I ziplined over a canyon, swung off the side of a cliff, discussed my irrational fear of losing my fingers while ice skating.

I hadn’t anticipated this week to go so wonderfully. And I mean, sure, I was exhausted from kids screaming, stuffed from eating far too much meat and far too few veggies, and hungover from one too many mixed drinks on my brother’s birthday. But overall it was really fucking fun. And I was glad to have participated. Thrilled to have INVESTED time and energy and love with these people. We’re scattered all over the country but for one simple week we made each other meals, discussed our daily lives, laughed and high-fived.

I’m not as close to my family as other folks are. But it doesn’t mean I cherish them any less. And I’ll forever hold this time dear to my heart… even if we did forget to take a single family snapshot.

Join us next week as we try to HOLD on, HOLD tight, and/or HOLD steady…


Lin’s VOW mantra: “Don’t worry about the stock market. Invest in family.” ~ random fortune cookie discovered via Google

Lin’s Song of the WeekColorado by St Eugene


Check out Steph’s #VOWinvest post here!

The Ace of Wands: Reflecting on SPARK

I began reading tarot cards about four years ago. I’d always been curious about them, ever since my first viewing of the movie Now and Then, when Janine Garofolo’s gyspy-esque character pulled the 10 of Swords and instantly knew that a little boy had been murdered in the town many years ago. I sneakily procured my first deck when I was 11 but not understanding anything about what tarot is or what it’s meant to be used for, I became fearful of my deck’s assumed “occult powers” and I ended up throwing them in the garbage later that night.

But in 2013 I was drawn back while visiting Charlottesville, VA. A friend and I were attending a conference there and during one of the breaks, we took a stroll down a nearby outdoor shopping center. At the base of a tree by one of the walkways, a man in a tie-dye shirt sat with reading cloth, crystals, and a deck laying before him. Jeri suggested we sit for a reading; I readily agreed. During the passing hour and a couple of jarringly insightful spreads later, I knew that I wanted to learn the language of tarot. I ordered a deck shortly thereafter; to date, I have accumulated about 35 more.

During my studies, I learned that tarot is, in fact, NOT an occult instrument used for the practice of devil worship. While it is common for pagans or wicans to use them for spellwork and fortune telling, those folks are among many populations who appreciate them. In fact, there are a lot of tarot decks which are marketed to and utilized by Christians under the name of angel oracle cards.

I have found tarot to be a wonderful tool for self discovery, rich with symbolism to help uncode and unpack life’s questions or challenges. The cards can tell you more about your path, your mental state, or ways you can direct your energy.  For some folks, tarot is essential to their spirituality. For others, it is completely independent of it. For me, my practice lies somewhere in between.

With this week’s verb being SPARK, my mind immediately connected with the Ace of Wands.

ace of wands

Image by Jessie Durhaim

Each card in the tarot deck has its own meaning, its own lesson to draw from. Like in a normal deck of playing cards, Aces start the numerology of the tarot. They are all about potential, beginnings, and creation. Wands are a suit of the tarot, akin to hearts or spades. Wands represent the element of fire and thus indicate passion, power, and charisma.

For me, the Ace of Wands typically represents all the potential of a just-lit match (see the wrist tattoo in the image above). The Ace of Wands is the SPARK of a creative venture, a passionate love affair, the beginning of a joyous new hobby.

But a match is short and unless it is used to light something else, it will quickly snuff itself out. It needs connection in order to develop and progress.

We must always been cognizant of a match’s power as well. Because as we all know, a SPARK can start something comforting, like a campfire for friends and family to gather around. But it can also be the start of extreme devastation, like a forest fire started by an arsonist.

SPARK, it seems, is really all about what comes next. The path we choose to follow. Because inaction leads to wasted potential. Malicious intent leads to chaos and disaster. I suppose so can positive intent sometimes, too. But most often if we can control our SPARK and direct it in a meaningful direction then beautiful, comforting, wonderful things can grow from it.

This week we experienced the astrological shift from Cancer to Leo. Leo is a fire sign. And I am most definitely a Leo baby. So this Ace of Wands energy, representing the start of our most fiery season, is coursing through me. It is this week that I am spending with friends and family, this birthday that I am feeling the most at home in my life, and this season that I start a new degree that I anticipate will set ablaze a whole new future.

Join us this week as we INVEST


Linds’ VOW mantra: “From the little spark may burst the mighty flame.” ~Dante

Linds’ VOW song of the week: We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel


Be sure to catch Steph’s #VOWspark post.

 

Save

That’s the Secret: Tribe (#VOWcheer)

Every time I think about leaving the District and starting over somewhere else, it sounds invigorating. Daring. Lovely, even.

However, on nights like the eve of this past Wednesday, I can’t imagine leaving this place—

The Capitol Hill community I have become a part of.
The church family I can’t bear the thought of missing.

It’s important to note that I do not attend services.
That I believe Universe Buddha God is best found beyond four walls.
And that when I say church, what I mean is a three-story used bookstore where we eat of the flesh and blood every second Saturday, but God is confined to the Religion and Philosophy sections.

I’ve just finished a storytelling course, the product of which was a final showcase where eight of us took the stage in front of small swarm to bear the fruits of our labor. Many people had one of two members of their tribe there; on Wednesday night, mine was ten strong.

Charlie Chaplin once said that the secret was that you have to believe in yourself, and I think that this is vital. But I think the real secret is that you have to find your tribe, love them hard, show up, and, sometimes, let them cheer you on.

This week, we…

spark.


Steph’s Cheer Mantra: “Courage, dear heart.”

Steph’s Song of the Week: Live While We’re Young by Johnnyswim

& Don’t Miss Lin’s #VOWcheer post 

Cartographers: Reflecting on MAP

Social psychology.
Program evaluations.
Social stratification.
Deviant behavior.

This week I MAPPED out my future. This week I was accepted into grad school.

So I’ve been looking over classes. Figuring out how I’m going to work full-time, manage a relationship, lose a significant amount of  weight (more on that in a future post), and succeed in school.

Y’all, I feel very, very daunted.

But I’m also very excited.

I’ve always tried to wrap my head around cartography. Because for reals, there seems to be some sort of magic to it. A way to look at the word and transcribe the landscape, to track the lines of a river or the edges of a canyon in a two dimensional way. How someone could recreate what the saw in real life onto the page is beyond my comprehension.

But what I do know about cartographers is that they manage to figure things out. To do the impossible, even when the act is beyond my understanding. So that’s what I shall do — I can do my best to anticipate what lies ahead but I need flexibility, creativity, and an agile mind.

I am the maker of my own destiny.
I chart my own path.
I am the illustrator of my own MAP.

Celebrate with us because this week we CHEER.


Linds’ VOW Mantra: “I’ve always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going — in a sense it’s three tenses in one.” ~ Peter Greenaway

Linds’ Song of the Week: The Straight Mile by Barton Carroll

& Don’t Miss Steph’s #VOWmap post

#VOWrepair: The Journey of the Warrior

The thing to know is that, for me, repair does not mean to make whole. It does not mean to complete. It does not mean to make anew.

Repair means to fix or mend (a thing suffering from damage or a fault).

I like that.

You fix things you care about. You mend things you need in your life. Sometimes you just work on things, refurbishing them, for no other reason than love.

And sometimes you don’t do those things for all the same reasons. You walk away because you care, for no other reason than love.

I sat on the beach early on in the week. Or rather I lie there. And I didn’t try to fix or mend anything. Nor did I try to walk away. I was simply still.

The day after I came back, I saw Glennon Doyle speak on Thursday night, and it was completely perfect.

That’s the thing I’m learning to trust, by the way, that the Universe Buddha God, sometimes brings beaches and books and bold fucking females to you exactly when you need them.

Anyway, she talked about the thing that I highlighted and underlined (yes, I do both—highlighting is a for passages that speak, and underlines are for points within that do) when I first read Love Warrior.

She was writing about Bikram (something I have a close personal relationship with) and a Pema Chödrön passage about the journey of the warrior:

So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that   restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.

Glennon reflects:

What if pain—like love—is just a place brave people visit? What if both require presence, staying on your mat, and being still? If this is true, then maybe instead of resisting pain, I need to resist the easy buttons. Maybe my reliance on numbing is keeping me from the things I was born for: learning and loving. I could go on hitting easy buttons until I die and feel no pain, but the cost of that decision could be that I will never learn, love, or be truly alive.

That’s #VOWrepair.

It’s about caring enough about what you went through to let it cause you pain. And valuing that experience and loving yourself enough to be worthy of what that pain could teach you.

As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote, “Ruin is the road to transformation.”

And as you know, Sister and I are big fans of that road and the women who have helped us learn how walk it (Brené first and foremost, followed by Elizabeth and Glennon and Cheryl).

And this week, we continue on with the journey of the warrior as we…

REACH.


Steph’s EXPLORE mantra: We are not meant to stay wounded.

Steph’s Song of the Week: Hard Feelings/Loveless by Lorde

& Lin’s taking a bye week for #VOWrepair but meet her back here for #VOWreach.