A little Felicity in our lives

It’s been one month and without internet, I have had the pleasure to entertain myself with podcasts, books, and creative ventures (like my 3rd vision board of the year). I am taking out my expired dvd collection, which a colleague today called “vintage.” While many people have rid themselves of their dvds, I still have them, especially for moments like this. After the queue of rom coms have passed by, I landed on the pilot of the television show Felicity.

Felicity was an American television show on for four years from 1998-2002. It took place in the heart of NYC, although filmed in Los Angeles. The scene begins at high school graduation. We learn the lead character was set to initially follow in her father’s footsteps as she would go pre-med at Stanford in her hometown of Palo Alto. The character was robotic about this life planned out for her, she was following the motions.

“They say crash victims –people who lose a limb–that they can still feel their missing arm or leg, even after it’s gone. It’s called phantom pain, right? Well, suddenly, I had this horrible thought. What if high school went away but the feeling of it didn’t? I mean I didn’t feel joy… or sorrow… or anticipation. Things were going so well, but all I could feel was…. was dread.”

But shortly after this statement was made by the lead character, she asked her high school crush to sign her yearbook. Suddenly she felt life, passion, and excitement. She completely dropped the life that was paved out for her and forged to create her own. On the show, not only does she attend a school on the opposite side of the country from her parents, but she begins to major in Art.

I can’t help but still be moved by this show years later. Perhaps I am an idealistic naive romantic, but I think it’s beautiful we can shift the course of our life in a moment. If we think of our lives and the monumental decisions we have made, were they made with the brain or with the heart?

On reflecting how I have chosen various jobs or even internships during my graduate school years, many have surprised me. Logically I thought I would go for specific placements that look better on paper or are more prestigious to society, but how I chose was with my gut.

Can you think of a time you had made a decision using primarily your heart or gut? How did you feel afterwards?

I know for me there’s mixed emotions of excitement, fear, and heightened energy. Afterwards I may begin to question what came over me during that moment of choice? But I can’t always eloquently verbalize why that decision was made. In retrospect, these may have not been the best paths for me, but I owned them. The choices were mine.

A fellow graduate student used to lovingly call me “Felicity.” Perhaps this was because I was a fan of this show when we were in school together, and I was the youngest student in our cohort. But I would like to think he called me Felicity, because I tried to continue to follow my heart.

I think part of me still carries that Felicity flair. As I vacillate between various decisions in my life, I generally make lists of pros and cons in my journal. Logic, rationality, and societal expectations sometimes win out. But I know what’s truly necessary is to listen and hear the voices of that deeper gut wisdom. Be unapologetic about the choice and the potential outcomes. Our hearts shall win out in the end.

“It’s funny. Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can pretty much change your life forever.”-Felicity

Joie de Vivre

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.”-Thomas Jefferson

As I type this, I am sitting in Les Deux Magots in the Latin Quarter of Paris.  It is a café that Hemingway and his friends would congregate in almost a century ago. This isn’t my first time here.  It continues to inspire me.  At this café sat the likes of Hemingway, Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Satre, Julia Child, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde. I am in Paris for the 7thtime, and each time I can’t help but feel the essence of the city.  I am in an atmosphere that artists have gravitated towards for decades. There’s no surprise why Paris became an epicenter for writers and artists.  It makes one simply want to wander, dream, and create.

I can’t put my finger on why Paris exudes this romanticism.  I have yet to have a traditional “romantic weekend” in the City of Lights.  In the past “romance” for me equated with being attached to your love interest via kissing and holding hands.  The image of the love locks on the Pont de Artes bridge in Paris was romance for me.  Initials joined together, with keys thrown into the Seine binding one’s love forever. Romance needed a partner.

The older I get, my definition of romance is changing.  I realize you can have a romantic week in Paris alone.  What is romantic now is this sense of wanting to linger in a particular spot for hours. Romance is a state.  Generally, for me this had to be somewhere that must be exquisitely magical…the perfect cafe with the right amalgamation of atmosphere, people, background noise, and soothing music.  Yet in Paris, I have found numerous places where I have literally said aloud, “I can live here.”

The past several days the places I could linger in for hours have been The Shakespeare Bookstore, Salvador Dali Museum, Saint Chapelle, cafés in the Latin Quarter or Montmarte, anywhere overlooking the Eiffel Tower or Seine River, the back gardens of the Notre Dame, even the Jardin de Tuleries.  Everywhere you look, a romantic scene is taking place.  The mere act of strolling around the city seems to wind my sentimentality up like a music box. It’s as if I am remembering something I didn’t know I forgot.

As I leisurely walk the streets of architecture perfection, I can’t help but churn the boxes of my memory. Every moment I have experienced in life becomes appreciated: moments of depression, longing, joy, excitement, curiosity, love, and regret.  All are welcome.  People save money and wait their entire lives to come to a city like Paris, and this has become my annual excursion via the Eurostar. I can’t help but live in a state of gratitude when I am here.  How can you not?  Romance is appreciation of the present moment.  It’s mindfulness. A mind full of now-ness.

They say the French exude a joie de vivre, which translated means exuberant enjoyment of life.  This is hard to explain and solely should be experienced. It means embracing each aspect of your day.  Slow down the meal, glass of wine, or coffee you are drinking.  Taste the burst of flavors in the exquisite food you are biting into.  Enjoy the moments with those that are in your company.  Read tangible books.  Support local bookstores.  Don’t count each calorie, with the nibble of croissants or macaroons.  Maybe even splurge and have a cigarette.

Look at the city with a soft gaze, as if you are seeing an old lover who only visits you in your dreams.  Hum as you walk the streets living in this sense of wonder and passion.  Paris will never be an unrequited love.  It’s always there to love you back.  Open your heart and breathe in the romance this town has to offer. Don’t have expectations of how it must be.  Allow Paris to unfold and envelop you with it’s embrace.

Frida Kahlo once said to “take a lover that looks at you like magic.” Paris deserves the title of the city of romance. I think we can mutually gaze into each other’s eyes with mindfulness, mystery, and magic.

Below are some of the quotes I have collected about this love:

You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden. -Allen Ginsberg

When good Americans die, they go to Paris. -Oscar Wilde

Paris is a place in which we can forget ourselves, reinvent, expunge the dead weight of our past. -Michael Simkins

The whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music… it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in everything. -James Thurber

 

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. -Ernest Hemingway

“You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights. I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.” – Midnight in Paris

Your Artistic Fairy Godmother Grants You Permission

“Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be.”

-Joy Page

This past week, I have been devouring Elizabeth Gilbert’s Podcast Magic Lessons. Although there have been no new episodes since 2016, I easily have listened to half of them in the past week. What is interesting about these episodes, is artisits of all sorts contact Liz with their creative dilemmas. Poets, comedians, writers, dancers, graphic designers all inquire her with their current stuck points in their creativity.

Godmother Liz will listen with an empathic heart. Often times she has felt their pain, because their issues are universal. How do you have the courage to share your work with a bigger audience with the possibility of not being embraced? How do you shift your creativity with age to bring you pleasure versus a paid audience? Can we welcome rejection and failure with open arms? Is it possible to quiet our own inner critic (or as Liz calls him inner terrorist) to allow creativity to flow ? Can we allow ourselves to make bad art?

Liz then offers personalized homework for them to accomplish in a span of weeks or months. In between the follow up conversation, Liz contacts leaders in the field to pick their brains about solutions to their creative struggles along the way. Dissecting creativity is so interesting to me. Not just the method of how to create art, but how to continue creating art despite barriers we or society place on ourselves. What is offered to these callers, is wisdom gained through years of experience, mishaps, and pain.

There was one particular episode (Episode 208 Leap Into the Fire), which stood out for me. The caller’s name was Hope, a poet from Ohio. Perhaps I have a kindred link to her, because that is my hometown state. Hope has begun performing her poems at open mic nights, but have not yet branched out to poetry slams or sent her poetry to journals for publication. What was stopping her was fear of failure. The expert Liz called in was infamous life coach Martha Beck.

Stepping into our fear was made parallel to the metaphor of stepping into the fire. Beck stated, “Go into a fire, if it celebrates you or warms you, more power to you. Find the next step that’s frightening and go into it. If it scorches you or burns you or it consumes you utterly, then you find a kindness that is so great that it can encompass the burning and from that kindness your poetry will start to ring to other people’s suffering and that’s art.”

Beck discussed with Gilbert the low and difficult times we face as humans. Sometimes it is at our most darkest moments, we are “left crying in a fetal position on the bathroom floor.” It is from this dark point that we start to unravel the self love and kindness, which is necessary to step into this next phase of our lives. If you are willing to walk toward what you fear, you will gain strength even in failure. And if that raw suffering and bravery is expressed through your art, people will relate.

We all have been there at those darkest moments, and people forget this. People believe they are suffering solo on their misery. But artists remind us, we are not alone. They help lift us up through their wings of song, dance, books, poems, paintings, jokes, or whatever the modality may be.

The metaphor was explored even deeper. We fear the fire because we feel it will not only deeply wound us but kill is. Beck adds, “Everytime you go into the fire, you come out with a new life. And it’s better than the last one.” We must die to give birth to a more fierce, courageous, and creative self. This happens continuously, if you are willing to take the chance.

What Liz and her creative gang are doing are giving people permission to walk into the fire. Take the chance to create.

Liz reminded Hope of the freedom she has to share her poetry with the world. For generations, the women in Hope’s family didn’t have a voice due to their role of being overburdened with having numerous children to care for or due to a lineage of slavery. Liz stated she reminds herself frequently to take the chance for the women in her family who never had the opportunity or voice to have a presence in the world. “That’s a tax I am willing to pay to be a woman who presents her soul’s work into the world. In honor of those who never could and those who still can’t. “

I highly encourage you to listen to the entirety of the podcast. Reflect on what your fears are currently, whether creatively or simply in your life at this point in time. What’s stopping you from taking that step?

And now here’s your chance, leap into the fire.

Link to podcast episode :

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/magic-lessons-with-elizabeth-gilbert/id1138081319?mt=2&i=1000375383843

Patience: the companion of wisdom

Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears. Barbara Johnson

As I warmed up to teach yoga today, I felt slightly hyped up and a need to release stuck energy. I played Fiona Apple in the background. Generally I practice and teach with no atmospheric music. Therefore listening to fiery Fiona as a warm up probably acclerated me to high gear too quickly. I flowed through some quick sun salutations, a pincha mayurasana (forearm stand), prep for handstand, and I felt warmed up for sirsasana (headstand). Perhaps I got a little too excited, because as I positioned myself into headstand something went wrong. I cared more about getting my feet in the air, than the transition into it. I felt the moment when too much pressure was placed at the top of my head instead of the majority that should be on my forearms. Yoga injury in the making. Automatically, It limited the range of movement in my neck.

I am a yoga teacher, I should know better. But I am still human, and got ahead of myself.

Because I am a yoga teacher, I am not free from injuries. They still occur. Perhaps there is a greater awareness at the moment it happens. I knew right then, this was bad and to slowly transition out of the pose.

I have the knowledge of how I can prevent or deter this, as I encourage my students to take it slowly. St. Augustine once said that “patience is the companion of wisdom.” Today I was lacking that wisdom.

I take responsibility for my injury, but I blame it on feeling rushed. There were little things that were exciting me. My car has been fixed after a week of being in the shop. My Cambridge Satchel purse has been mended after three weeks of being sent away. My energy is returning after having a weekend off. But today I needed to slow it down.

Errors, injuries, and missteps occur when we are impatient. Injuries serve as a reminder to our bodies that we must transition with intention. Each minuscule movement is felt with every turn of my neck.

This is the second time I have done this in a headstand, although it has been several years. This neck tweak is also a reminder that I need to allow myself the privilege to slow down and take care of myself. I have been on the go for weeks, serving others. Perhaps it is time to go inward. Self soothe. Reach out for help. A trip to the acupuncturist is most likely in my near future. Physical ailments are our bodies way of talking to us that we need to decrease the pace of our lives.

Injuries also heighten my awareness of other people’s physical limitations. My empathic radar is on high beam. When people’s faces may grimace in my classes from a slight movement, I am there. It serves as a reminder how to honor where our bodies are at today.

It may be helpful for you to take some reflection time after your next injury, however big or small. What are the lessons I can take from this? How can I hold compassion for others at this time? How can I offer compassion and love to myself ? Breathe in the opportunity and space that has been made available for you to slow down.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. Leo Tolstoy

Comfort in my artist friends

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”-Pablo Picasso

Yesterday I went to visit Banksy. No I don’t know who Banksy actually is or how many people may constitute Banksy. But I visited Banksy’s work, and I felt comforted in that. I feel the same way when I visit any artists’ work.

It’s like getting coffee with an old friend. There’s an ease and familiarity that exist when I visit a favourite artist’s piece. I have seen this person’s work in various museums, art galleries, or walls throughout the world. It always delights me when I go to a museum and see a Rodin or a Picasso. I travelled numerous miles and they are waiting for me in the gallery.

I may be a stranger to a country, visiting alone, and not being able to talk to a soul due to language barriers. But these pieces of art can communicate to me. I’m not alone when I am with them. There are certain artists I connect with more than others…Rodin, Picasso, Dali, Kahlo, Banksy. These would be my five closest friends. They seem to speak to my soul a little louder. Although I have never taken an art history class, I still find joy in recognizing artists’ work that I am only vaguely familiar with. There is such pride when I can name a Monet, Degas, or Cezanne.

If i visit a gallery alone, I will actually take time to sit down and simply gaze at the pieces. My journal will be pulled out and it’s our time to reflect together, dream, or simply be. Being surrounded by greatness therefore inspires greatness in my life. And I want them in my environment.

Museums can be draining for me, not because they are boring but the opposite. There is so much there, it blows my mind. And therefore it’s nice to simply pick a few pieces to converse with.

My questions I may ponder with an artist internally are …

What were you thinking when you did this piece?

What did your creative space look like?

Who was the muse? Who is my muse? Who am I a muse for?

Who was in your creative support system?

What else am I missing here?

The questions no doubt are endless. And the images stay with me for the week. After seeing an admirable piece of work, there is a tiny nudge that seems to push me to create something. I don’t always allow space to listen, but today I hope I do.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”-Thomas Merton

Angels in Disguise

“Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.”

This quote entered my head this morning, after a stranger drove by and gave me friendly Sunday morning smile. Initially I was unclear where I had heard it, or why it was arising right now. But it began to make sense.

It is strangers that comfort me in some of the most difficult times. The other day my car completely broke down at work, it would not shift to reverse and the electrics on the dashboard went blank. Someone assisted me for two hours, ensuring I got the support required , transported me with where I needed to go, or reminded me who I may need to call. He wasn’t 100% stranger, I had seen him before. But he was a stranger to me. The process of getting a car fixed, towed, and an appointment at an auto shop took at minimum four hours of phone calls and days to complete. It was insanely stressful, but so beautiful how this stranger and then later other colleagues assisted or showed how they cared.

I am always surprised who assists in times of need. And aren’t we all called upon that from time to time to be there for other humans?

We don’t always recognize the magnitude the smallest gesture we make to anther can do. A smile can go a long way, as does holding the door, or being present when having a brief conversation.

Throughout the day it is easy to get caught up in thinking only of ourselves…our issues, plans, lists, worries. We are so preoccupied with our own internal worlds that we forget we have the potential to be there for another. Taking the time to be there for another is a valuable skill we all are capable of.

How can you express this to another today?

Ps the quote was taken from the upstairs walkway at the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris.

Gaze towards the open door

“If God closes a door AND a window, consider the fact that it might be time to build a whole new house.” -Mandy Hale

I heard this quote above from a recent podcast (see the link below). A listener contacted the host questioning why God is closing doors on her. The discussion centered around how our life purpose may not be what we think. Yes, there are struggles in life, but if we are aligned with our life’s purpose, doors will open.

The problem lies in if we are focused on specifically one door instead of many.

Sometimes we may become too attached to what that life purpose looks like. We may be using microscopic vision for what our “job” must exactly be, or the city we must live in, or the partner we must have. In reality, perhaps we need to broaden our horizon through a wide lens camera. The essence in how we serve others may look different in reality, than as it appears in our heads.

Or maybe you have grown out of your current situation.

Who is to say that we are supposed to stay at this one specific job/city/person for a lifetime? It fit for that specific amount of time. We learned the lessons and skills from this experience, but perhaps this must end to allow another opportunity in.

The podcast offered another quote by Helen Keller, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

These words of advice have been ruminating in my head, because I have friends who are currently undergoing transitions with jobs, cities, and relationships. At our most difficult times, these changes are forced upon us. We may look at the experience differently of we are the ones taking the initiative to change, but when we have no choice, we feel powerless.

But we can reclaim the power.

I often ask myself, am I too attached to my dreams that it keeps me from appreciating the possibilities? Being so attached to the ease and joy of my current life keeps me from dreaming bigger. Sometimes we need a push to catapult us to the unthinkable. What does the lay of the land look like outside our comfort zone? Are we willing to allow ourselves to peak at it?

Below is a link to the podcast of 48 days:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/48-days-to-the-work-you-love-internet-radio-show/id178145160?mt=2&i=1000416243739

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