Dreams Happen

I always revert to a kid the first night I come down with a cold. The scratchy throat, cacophony of sneezes, and mismatched energy like today's springtime in winter temps make me want to drink my orange juice out of a sippy cup. It's only a cold and no big deal. (Swallows post nasal drip.) This is true.

I missed two parties tonight. One, a 40th birthday celebration of a dear friend. The other, a goodbye-I'm-off-to-LA-sendoff for someone amaze. A young writer turned digital editor at a major publication. Her life a mirror of what I once thought mine would be like when I was her age (minus the social media/digital component bc it was the early 2000s and I wasn't that prescient). Her party, one that I've imagined I would someday throw myself. 

Yet New York keeps me here still.

Curled up on my couch with Charlie to watch the Oscar nominated film Moonlight was hardly a bad way to spend the night. (I mean, if I'm going to be sick.) I long to create a film so powerful in its simplicity and brave in its subject matter. I loved the pacing, I loved the performances, and I loved the score. 

As I am coming off this retreat, I can't help but pause and sit in silence, which I am fortunate to have in my NYC apartment. It is the strangest impulse but not in the context of what I did over the last week -- sit in SILENT meditation for 5-6 hours a day at an ashram. The periods were either 24 minutes or 48 minutes at a time. A few of the meditations were walking barefoot in a small room, but most were sitting or lying down in shivasana. The tradition was Shamatha, which means "calm abiding," and Vipashyana with the occasional Tantric influenced guided visualizations thrown into the mystic.

The sounds were Breath. Birds. Water. (Also the voices in my head, but we'll save all that for another post.)

When I closed my eyes each night, I gave myself permission to dream. Notebook under pillow I laid down ready catch their meaning at any point before the alarm clock interrupted my narrative. When I woke at 5:45am each morning, I forgave myself for not remembering much. I did know from the feeling whether they were pleasant (often they were not).

All night
the dark buds of dreams
open
richly.

In the center
of every petal
is a letter,
and you imagine

if you could only remember
and string them all together
they would spell the answer...

-Mary Oliver, Dreams

If you are not searching, if you are not seeking, if you are not questioning, are you really paying attention? If you are not giving yourself space to explore, then whose life are you really living? She asks her Self. 

I want chicken soup minus the noodles. Instead, I will go walk Charlie and sleep this off before it gets too late. 

Oh, and happy new moon solar eclipse in Pisces, heyyyy! It promises to bring a good renewal, I am told. :D 

xo, LBD

Out of Social

The spirit world appears to be of vast luminescence. -Michael Newton, "Journey of Souls"

I recently took a risk. Without knowing much about where I was going or with whom, I joined a group of retreaters to spend 7 days and 6 nights at Ananda Ashram in Monroe, NY. With only a few days notice, I took time off work and made myself completely unavailable to the outside world. I vowed to stay off social media and limit my texting, emailing and web surfing, which was part of the retreat protocol.

The purpose of this blog post is not to talk about the experience I had, one that was so powerful and impactful I know it will affect everything I do for the rest of my life, including (gratefully) my writing.  I got home less than six hours ago and have been up at 5:45am for the past week  in immersions of mediation, study, yoga, nature and meals until 9:30pm each night. Now is not the time to describe what this all meant because I am too tired to do it justice. 

What I do want to do with this post is simply acknowledge that I am following my own lead of taking myself out of certain spaces and into others. In other words, I took myself out of the city and put myself into nature. Out of work burnout and into rest. Out of virtual community and into deep, real human connection. Out of stress and into relaxation. Out of egoic self-seeking and into contemplative surrender. Out of running from myself and into acceptance. Out of running my own show and into following the leader. Out of the constant motion and into stillness. I took myself out of the world of the material and into the world of spirit, energy, love.

And, following suit, I am taking myself out of social and into this writing space. For years I kept a blog and it brought me fulfillment, not only through the honing of my own writing voice but because of how I touched my readers. I wanted to express myself, so I did. It snowballed into other forms of expression. My nourishment came from getting my voice out, and knowing that my words and intention behind them landed.

I have grown accustomed to updating a lot on Facebook/Instagram, and while the platform has many benefits (#beyou #dancevids #notmypresident) ultimately it exhausts and distracts me from my work and myself. I find newsfeeds to be incredibly overstimulating. I get fatigued, yet find it hard to detach. If you are a writer, you will likely be drawn to updating on social media and that is a beautiful thing. We tell stories after all. But if you are sensitive it can feel like plugging holes in a leaky dam (your emotions being the water and the dam being your conscious mind-body). 

Try taking a blank page (like this one) and pounding the keys without an emoticon button the bottom of the field. It is peaceful to write in a space that is not concentrated with so many other voices. A little distance from the LIKE button is a good thing. It feels different. 

None of us have a guaranteed stay on this planet, and in the grand scheme of things our visit is brief. It could be an adventure in angst or a journey filled with inspired energy and goodness. Sensitivity. Tears when you feel sad, unapologetic expression when you feel bold, belly-deep laughter when the silly spirit moves you, hedonistic pleasure when desire rings its bell, and joy. Joy in the utter importance and insignificance of it all. 

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living...follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. ~Joseph Campbell

I was there and now I am here, looking down on my baby Charlie and listening to him snore. (For any new reader, welcome, Charlie's my dog.) I hear his breath as I heard my breath for so many hours this week. It was the first time in my life I was ever so present to this element of my life force. I found a safety it its refuge, the kind of feeling you get when you are wrapped in the arms of someone who loves you and wants to prove they will never let you go. I found love in my body through my breath, a love so abundant in me that it almost rose in defiance against all the moments I felt like I had stopped loving my life or myself. 

In this capacity, we move more freely. We are lighter. We sing Prince and George Michael at the top of our lungs or under our breath (both more than acceptable), we let go of trying to control all the details in our lives. We stop trying to compete for a prize,  and cease to strive so tirelessly in pursuit of wealth or status. We settle. We let go of grudges and resentments.  We stay away from the darker energies. We attract the people who love us and we choose to love them right back. We live. Oh, how we live. 
 

Connections

Writing has always been my instrument of clarity. In the darkest times when my thoughts felt like they had a will all their own, I could still sit down and bust out pages that made sense. I write for me. This grounding practice of putting words on a page does not need to go viral, "going viral" always sounding rather ominous anyway. It only needs to bring me home to myself.

This year has sent me deep sea diving into my soul for answers. The questions bubbling up about my life are not from anyone else. There is no pressure, no attention and no persistent need to explain my choices. 

When I moved from my apartment of five years in Chelsea to the UES, I packed all my books. I made room in my smaller studio for these words on paper, and decided to take one out of the archives and onto the subway for my new, longer commute. It was a collection of essays by Montaigne. I have not touched that book in over ten years but this week I read three, including ON FRIENDSHIP, which draws comparisons between friendship love and the love shared between partners in marriage. 

Yesterday, I saw my dad and he told me I MUST read David Brooks's October 7th NYT Op Ed called 'Intimacy for the Avoidant'. Ok, dad, I will check it out because you do know what I like to read. This piece was about the "profoundly unsatisfying" addiction we have to social media. It is a call to action, really, an invitation to say no to "a thousand shallow contacts for the sake of a few daring plunges". 

While I can relate to this and am on Team Brooks, what struck me most is that he quoted Montaigne in the Op Ed about friendship. He writes:

When Montaigne was describing the accumulating intimacy he enjoyed with his best friend, he described an emotional interaction that was full and progressive: “It was not one special consideration, nor two, nor three, nor four, nor a thousand; it was some mysterious quintessence of all this mixture which possessed itself of my will and led it to plunge and lose itself in his; which possessed his whole will and led it, with a similar hunger, and a like impulse, to plunge and lose itself in mine.”

These little connections are more than happenstance or coincidences. I have not touched that book in years. David Brooks does not oft quote Montaigne. My dad does not point me to too many articles these days - I can't remember his last suggestion.

I don't even know what it all means. I just know that I feel so powerfully that my love of words is finding its way into the world again. My passion as a writer is unlimited. I can sit and do it for hours, despite what it does to frustrate my desire for perfection. I love other writers even as I also feel unworthy in their presence. I see myself in the words that come out on the page -- they unmask me to myself, and often to you, my reader.

Whatever you find in your day that reveals more of yourself to you, I hope you do more. You are worthy of being seen.

xo, LBD