Let’s start a revolution

6428279173_1e08a6f632_z

Originally published at elephant journal.

Let’s start a revolution.

Let’s stop talking about what celebrities are wearing.

Would I stand on the street with a microphone asking strangers, “Who are you wearing?” Would someone be photographing it, only to put them in next week’s magazines so we can judge who looked good and who didn’t?

No. It’s weird.

It doesn’t matter.

Let’s stop it.

Let’s start paying attention to our employees.

They’re those people that work for us, the ones we hired. You know, our governments. Let’s hold up our end of the “democratic system” some of us are told we live in and actively engage in the dialogue. Maybe it will actually turn into a democracy.

Let’s talk to strangers.

On the bus. In the laundry mat. In line at the grocery store. Let’s drop our pretences because guess what, I know your secret: you’re a human just like me.

You might also have a million other things on your mind. We’ll probably never see each other again. But a smile and a shared connection rooted in the truth of our passing common experience will probably have a positive impact.

For everyone.

Even the ones too shy or burdened to contribute.

Let’s do it anyway, especially for those too shy or burdened to contribute.

Let’s buy what we need at stores.

When I buy something there’s generally a specific purpose I’m looking for the item to fulfill. Said item is generally wrapped in items that don’t add to the purpose I have in mind.

I don’t need marketing, slogans and false promises.

I don’t need packaging.

The “Three R’s” are actually a hierarchy. First I reduce my consumption to what I need. What I must buy, I re-use as something else when it wears out. I recycle the rest. Bam. Sustainable living.

Let’s look at each other in the eyes.

It’s the eyes that are the windows to the soul, not my smartphone screen.

Let’s give the muscles in the back of our necks a little break and notice the world around us.

Notice our friends, neighbours and lovers.

Let’s notice the person standing in line at the store, and then talk to them. Afterwards we can go back to the screen—we need these moments sprinkled haphazardly throughout the day to remind us we are alive.

Let’s ask our elders questions.

Every day and every year I learn more and more about how little I actually know. There are people out there that really do have wisdom. Though we generally put them in places where professionals are the ones slathering them with anti-wrinkle cream and doling out medications, there are cultures that honour the wisdom of age.

Let’s be one of those.

Let’s spend some time in our own beings.

Just for a moment, even just a sentence or two between a single round of breath, let’s watch our minds. Isn’t it neat?

There are those things again, those thoughts, just whizzing along!

Okay, and what’s deeper than them?

What is the part that is watching the thoughts? And the emotions and feelings and sensations.

That’s where we are. Neat.

Let’s be there.

Together.

Let’s start a revolution.

Advertisements

How to Hang Curtains

A step-by-step guide to home decoration.

Move into a new apartment after arriving with only the items you took with you on the plane. Arrange clothing as a mattress. Change in the bathroom since it’s dark and you don’t have curtains.

Realize there are no window coverings at all – not even a curtain rod. Realize you’ll have to get curtains.

Get distracted with other things: buying groceries, obtaining furniture, unpacking your boxes when they arrive via Greyhound. Allow days to pass.

Continue to think about the curtain thing. Go to stores and look at the window covering aisles. These are big stores, with acres of indoor space, where you could wander for a long time before finding what you’re looking for. Be glad the signs explaining what’s in each massive aisle also have English on them in small letters. Be glad that sure, you might only fluently speak one language, but thank goodness its English which is everywhere.

Leave the stores. Don’t buy anything, distraught at the amount of packaging, at all the little metal and plastic bits and pieces that were manufactured when there are perfectly good window coverings in landfills.

Go to the Salvation Army. Take the bus. Find a lamp, a container to put by the stove for long-handled utensils, a few other things. Look for window coverings. Be disappointed there is only one plastic blind contraption that will in no way cover the two nine-foot expanses of window in your apartment.

Continue to change in the bathroom at night. Or, lay out your pyjamas on the bed, then turn off the light and change so no one across the way can see you.

Do this for a few more days.

Go back to the store. The one with the biggest aisles. 

Find a contraption you hadn’t seen before. With not too much packaging and little metal bits that our precious resources were used to make when there are perfectly good window coverings in landfills. Pick up two of them. Consider the price as reasonable.

Think about shopping for curtains with your ex. That time you had a huge fight and walked out of the store buying nothing. How you just needed some goddamn curtains in your goddamn living room to block the view of the space in the house between the bedroom and bathroom. Think about how you didn’t ever end up getting curtains, but just moved the furniture around. Be glad you now would better be able to stand up for yourself and be clear with what you needed. Wonder if he ever did put up curtains.

Look for garden products to start your garden. See bamboo poles for $1.99 and reconsider the curtain hanging contraptions, whether the price actually is that reasonable.

Buy them anyway.

Walk home.

Attempt to begin putting up the contraption. Curse the fact that you don’t own an electric drill to actually install it. Attempt to make a hole in the wall with a combination of a nail and screw that you hammer in with a shoe. 

Notice how the neighbour upstairs stops playing the piano when you begin to use your shoe-hammer.

Continue installing the curtain contraption.

Reach an impasse. Be unable to cut the wire the right length. Try to use a scissors. Google if there are any better ways to cut wire without a wire cutter. Give up—all of your kitchen chairs are now employed as a walkway along your window to reach the height of the curtain contraption.

Think you need help, that you can’t do this on your own, that you’re trying your best but it’s clearly not good enough because you can’t even hang some goddamn curtains to cover your goddamn windows.

Consider asking the guy you went out with the other night to come over and help you.

Notice the pattern your mind wants to play out of going to others instead of relying on yourself.

Realize that it would probably give the wrong impression and decide against it.

Use your office chair when you eat meals at your table.

Change in the bathroom at nights.

Go back to the Salvation Army. This time, walk. Find curtains to hang on your contraption should you ever get it up. Pack them into your backpack. Walk home.

With renewed purpose go back to the large-aisled store.

Buy a hammer. And a wire cutter.

Come home, cut the wire. Tighten it onto the secured mount on the wall. Be surprised when it falls apart.

Give up.

Continue to eat at the table using the office chair—all other chairs still being used as a walkway along your window.

Have a realization. Switch which curtains you were planning on putting in the bedroom and living room. Have this be somewhat meaningful, as if it tied together all the struggle and the failed attempt when it fell apart. How it just needed to be done a little differently.

Be grateful.

Put up the curtain again. Notice how it doesn’t fall apart this time.

Close them. Open them.

Smile.

Know it’s not a perfect job, but that you did it on your own.

Be happy.

20140519_125231

 

 

What Happens When We Learn to Receive

3028620509_3cfa69118b_z

Originally published on elephant journal

“I’m not usually like this.”

Furtive words to the acquaintance in the passenger seat beside me.

The back of the truck we inhabited: a 10 foot square box full of furniture we’d been picking up at various parts of the city and were taking to my soon-to-be furnished abode.

Earlier that day I’d felt the stamina of adrenaline from entering into a new city/province/country/life begin to quietly fade. Just how was I going to get all these things I’d networked my way into ownership of into my apartment? A moving company was out of the realm of my limited budget. I could rent my own U-haul, but who would help me in this city of 3.3 million faces I know less than 10 of?

The inventive part of me wanted to scrawl a sign asking for help and walk around a busy area.

The intuitive part weighed in, knowing I would refuse an offer if it didn’t feel right and I fed the thought forms as they began the subtle process of manifesting into reality.

Finally, the nurturing part won over with strong evidence I currently needed to be gentler on my introverted self than that. I’d made a last-ditch effort and asked the person with the extra futon frame for me, someone I’d met in person only once four years ago and who floats in the same yoga teacher circle as I do.

What is it in me that is so tormented when asking for help? Introducing the word “receiving” has this way of evoking such feelings of anxiety.

“No problem” came the reply. Help moving came with “no problem.” My request had been received. Maintaining a relaxed attitude and receiving the help is entirely different.

I began the trek on my own, manoeuvring a giant truck through roads full of drivers known for their inventive style of transportation. This is where my handy-dandy device comes in: GPS at a touch of my fingers. Oh smartphones, where would I be without you? Well, probably still trying to figure out how to navigate all these one way streets, actually.

I discovered an interesting thing about GPS.

It’s incredibly yogic.

There’s no judgement about where I am or where I’m going. There’s only complete acceptance of my position, and assertive encouragement sending me in the direction I express I want to go. I aspire to be so present and unassuming, to be so accepting of exactly where I am, wrong turns and all.

Okay, so where I am? Yes, in this new city. But where am I, really?

I’m learning to receive.

I’m a giver. It’s been trained into me whether socially, biologically, or everything in between. It’s also something that comes naturally. It’s something that I’ve had to learn the boundaries of just as I’ve had to learn that withholding genuine desire is equally as damaging as giving too much. It’s about finding that middle way.

A lover once softly coaxed me at an (in)opportune time to “relax.” Little did he know just how difficult it can be to embody that simple word at times. How difficult it can be for me to receive.

The better I get at authentically giving, the better I get at authentically receiving.

Authentically giving means seeing what needs to be done and doing it if I have the resources to. It means I have to be clear with what I have—time, money, or any other form of energy—and clear if I expect to receive from the interaction. If I’m giving out of hopes others will return the favour for me, or to feed an identity of myself as a giving person, then it isn’t coming from an authentic, unconditional place.

Back to that question, where am I, really? I’ve moved back to my home country to a province I’d never been where I don’t speak the language. I’m recovering from emotional upheaval that shook me in ways not even my divorce did. I’m about to enter back into school after a six year break, have spent the last five nights sleeping in an empty apartment and have asked someone I barely know to help me haul around some furniture.

Where am I? I’m crawling along downtown rush hour traffic at a snail’s pace late to pick up a couch. People are helping me, and all of these anxieties are channeling into not feeling comfortable receiving.

I know what I can do. I can relax. I can stop thinking others are annoyed at the fact that I need help and they’ve (willingly) agreed to offer it. I can breathe. Into every tense cell of my being I can bring in breath.

Of course all of these things are great to talk about, but also require committing mental energy toward them. I know what happens when I learn to receive, I work through all the things I’m facing lately. Let’s look at the facts: we’re receiving all the time.

Since my brain sends signals to the muscles in my diaphragm that would override any attempt to stop breathing by mental power alone, I’m going to be taking in air whether I want to or not. I even receive new oxygen when I’m sleeping.

Since my senses are all fully functioning biologically, I take in information all of the time. I can’t help it. Okay, this is a good step. With all this information I take in, I can get my mind out of the way and accept that people truly are willing to help, to give.

We make it to our next pick-up spot, a friend turning his office into a virtual one and getting rid of the furniture, too.

He’s there early, generously taking time away from his family, and taking the legs off my soon-to-be kitchen table. I breathe for a moment (yes! It’s working!) and comment that receiving help from people is giving me anxiety. He stops and looks at me with his usual bubbling warmth and positivity that I am in awe of during a time with difficult health issues present in his family. “Well you know why we are” he says, truly expecting me to see it as obviously as he does. “It’s because we care about you.”

So its true, I’m not usually like this, a bumbling mess of unawareness with an underlying shakiness: forgetting where I left the screwdriver and needlessly going down to the truck to look for it, thinking I’ll multitask by sliding out the couch to put its legs on, forgetting the table is leaning up against it, or walking out of the apartment leaving the door unlocked and my wallet on the table.

I’m not usually like this, and when I am I know that it’s okay, that there are people who care about me that will accept me and want to give to me with whatever of my personality aspects want to reveal themselves. It may be frenzied panic as I load furniture, or fear that people are giving when they don’t actually want to, but through it all, true generosity inevitably makes its way into my life.

And that’s something not even I can help but receive.

Moved

A man on the 105 commented on my Fender, one of the three large bags I was heaving around the city, “Here for some gigs?”

“Nope, I’ve just moved.”

“Where from?”

Hmmm. Where have I moved from? I’m not really that sure. I know where I’ve been, but I’m not too sure where it is that I’ve been living. One of the various provinces/states/countries I’ve been the last three months? Maine? Alberta? British Columbia?

What I did know is that I was navigating the Montreal public transit system like a champ, having this low-grade sense of familiarity with it from February’s trip.

I’ve arrived. And it wasn’t without bumps. I learned, however, that I am much more equipped to handle the inevitable bumps that life and travelling dole out than I was last time I attempted the exchange between Calgary and Montreal.

Today I walked right past the spot I stood in the airport where, two months ago, my seemingly hyperbolic, “This is the most stressed out I’ve ever been in my life,” was actually honest. Okay, maybe I needed to add “while travelling” to that sentence uttered on the phone, but I was in no space emotionally to have any resiliency to mistakes I made. The sentence stands, and my ability to deal with today’s setbacks are a far cry from those tears springing out of me with such force their gravity-defying prowess landed them on the inside of my glasses lenses.

Today I brainstormed in my mind as I rushed to the airport later than planned: “Just what would happen if I don’t make it in time?” and the solutions springing before me gave me a place for my mind to rest when it dealt with that very problem.

Being late for a plane is something that can easily be recovered from. And, as I learned two months ago, so is being a whole day early (that’s what happens when you book tickets when Mercury is in retrograde.) Life’s going to throw all sorts of things at me, and it’s my choice how I deal with them.

I’m happy to have my strength back, even if, like the rest of me, I’m not really sure where its most recent origin is.

images-16