What’s in a Moment?

On my last night in Tucson I was lucky enough to have dinner at the house of some new friends. (NOTE: These are also friends of my RVA friends.) My time with them was (too) short, but it was impactful. As we sat outside discussing just about everything, I felt the need to get my anxieties off my chest.

I described to the two of them the doubts I’ve been having. Most specifically, Are the short relationships I’m making while on the road a reflection of me only wanting to have “good” moments as opposed to hard ones with friends? Am I missing out on that other side of the person to person experience? Will I ever be happy somewhere and with someone?

You get the drift.

The one friend stopped me dead in my tracks. She described to me how she had a recent conversation with their daughter, the topic of which touched heavily on my current existential woes. Her response to both her daughter, and now me, was simple. And, as many simple responses are, it was quite profound.

She described a story in which her and a friend were discussing memories and moments in life. They determined that even though they may not remember every story of their life exactly as it happened, the moments still impacted them for the remainder of their days. She encouraged me to consider this simple wisdom for myself:

All we have is a moment. Enjoy it.

Of course I am paraphrasing this friend’s wisdom which I’m sure was much more eloquent and detailed, but this sentiment is what I carried with me. As soon as she said this all the Buddhist lessons I encountered over the years came flooding back. This was the fact I have been overlooking. I felt it stir me.

When I left town the next day, I left knowing I had the support of others to encourage me onward. The road took me into the mountains to the beautiful state of New Mexico. Being from the East Coast I had no idea what to expect from this state, but to say I’m stunned by all it has to offer would be an understatement.

This emotion was underscored by the AirbBnB rental I stayed in on my first night. Unfortunately, I only had one night here, but even that was enough to fill me with comfort and inspiration. And, most importantly, it granted me the best night’s sleep I think I’ve ever had.

I pulled up to the property to find the owner, Beth, working on one of her many art projects. Here, let me share it with you:

artwork
I was mesmerized by this piece.

She welcomed me and stated I would be the first AirBnB guest to walk across this new installation. Woohoo! We began chatting and I found myself quickly recapping my anxieties from the night before. You all know how she responded:

A moment is all we have. Live it up!

I guess that was all the universe had to tell me on the topic, and I figured I may as well start listening.

I started by taking a tour around this beautiful property; my jaw dropping at every turn. This woman had the ability to make anything and everything look beautiful. Her attention to detail was simply amazing, and the feeling her work gave me was greatly needed. Here let me share the pictures already:

Mountain view
A view of the property including the mountains in the distance.
Mountain views
More mountain views.
Tree view
Views of the trees surrounding the property.
horse
There were even horses onsite.
outdoor kitchen and living room
The outdoor kitchen and living space.
Tea set
I loved this tea set.
Metal peacock.
Some art marks the path.
Cabin door
The front door of the cabin.
Desk and chairs
The workspace in the cabin.
Spiral staircase
This is a staircase the owner and an artist friend built. Enchanting!
Front of small building
The front of one of the galleries on site.
Gallery
A gallery interior. Pretty amazing, right?
outdoor living space
The outdoor kitchen and living area at night.

As I sat outside enjoying the cool mountain air, I took in Beth’s life. In this small town of maybe 150 people, tucked away in the Gila National Forest, she had people stopping by to help her with art projects or help her fix something or other pretty much all afternoon. She had galleries onsite with incredible local art which people knew to come see. I noted the dream like quality of my experience there, and also noted how much I loved the quaintness of it all.

I reminded myself there are probably just as many downsides to her life than any other life, but since I’m living moment by moment at this point, I pushed those thoughts aside and simply enjoyed the good vibes.

The next day I woke up refreshed and ready to start a new day. It was the best I’ve ever felt waking up in the morning… I have to be honest. I packed up my gear and got on the road for another 4 hours of driving up to the El Morro area. Along the way, the sentiments of the past few days rang loudly for me, and I finally connected with what my friend was expressing on that Tucson night.

These moments I experienced over the past few days were short indeed. Further, I may never experience the people or places again, but the fabric of them has shifted my perspective. Since perspective is everything, they have shifted my life.

So, what’s in a moment? Seems like everything is, no?

Making Light of My Troubles

In this second post further exploring “Tolkien’s Six Keys to Happiness” (as defined in the book The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy), we look toward Making Light of Our Troubles.

In the book, the authors tell us that the exemplars Tolkien uses to demonstrate this component are, once again, the Hobbits of Middle Earth. It is said these characters’ abilities to both “remain cheerful and unbowed in the face of hardship and suffering” and “find hope and beauty in even the most dire of circumstances” [1], is what Making Light of One’s Troubles is about.

When I read this, I reflect on my own journey. I am definitely much more light-hearted about any troubles I’m faced with nowadays. But, as I think more about these troubles I’m stuck. Although I’m increasingly light-hearted, I also recognize the insignificance of the troubles I’m faced with. Allow me to explain.

One recent example of making light of my troubles is when a project got canceled 3 months ahead of schedule thereby causing me to lose three months of planned income. Instead of diving into the depths of the “how am I going to make money” despair, I saw the comedy in the firing. This opened me up to seeing an opportunity for much needed rest and rejuvenation. This rest and rejuvenation opened me up to understanding how toxic the project was in the first place, and reminded me I need to be more careful about the work I choose. You see, remaining cheerful and unbowed certainly helped me through this one.

Another example involves me seeing the beauty and maintaining hope in some whacky circumstances. Here let me share that beauty with you:

desert landscape
A Joshua Tree Desert View
desert landscape.
Another shot of the Joshua Tree Desert

Despite the fear I had while driving alone through the “High Wind Speed” areas and roads of sand that is Joshua Tree, (NOTE: I likened these road conditions to those of snow covered roads… just without the slipping. Another example of making light of my troubles? hmmmm.) I remained upbeat, humble, and grateful for the opportunity to meet up with friends in such an amazing place. This allowed me to be incredibly present with the people surrounding me when I arrived, instead of stressed from the drive.

These are seemingly all good points. However, the trouble for me is the unimportance of my examples. They are so small and so very inconsequential. Yes, of course they are important to me, but as I write them all I can see is how limited my thinking is; how self-centered and selfish. I feel guilty for celebrating such small, self serving accomplishments as examples of keys to one’s happiness.

I feel ridiculous, actually.

As I sat down to write these thoughts, I questioned whether I should share them. I thought of the judgement I had for myself and how I perceived others would judge me. That judgement sounded something like:

Really, Lis? You’re ‘making light of your troubles’ story involves finding enough “courage” to drive over sand in the desert? That’s not exactly life changing. Further, if it is, what kind of small life are you leading? Certainly not one I want to continue reading about!

I then asked myself what a Hobbit would do. (NOTE: I’m SURE this sentence redeems me. How could it not?) They’d make light of this trouble, of course! They’d write the post, chuckle at the stories, and let go the guilt their ego bestowed on them. They then would practice this act as bigger troubles and circumstances entered their life. In fact, they’d practice this cycle of looking their troubles in the eye, laughing at them, then letting them go so much that soon the idea of taking life or its troubles seriously at all would scarce cross their mind.

Reflecting on it now, I see this as the point Tolkien was trying to make. In the end, no matter what your troubles look like, you look them back in the eye and laugh. And, when you do, that’s when you free yourself from their phantom embrace.

It’s only when we do this that we’re free from the anxieties and what ifs that hold us in place. Sure, most of the times we glimpse this freedom only in the short burst of a moment, but oh how sweet and happy, that moment is.


1. Bassham, Gregory and Bronson, Eric. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy. Open Court, 2003. Print.

Balancing Leading and Being Led

I awoke from the dream with a start.

I knew I had to act, but I also knew too much action, or the wrong action, would only perpetuate the problem. I considered this conundrum as I got out of bed and took care of the pets. When I was done I settled in for my yoga practice; for a venture inwards.

As I flowed, I reflected on what might be the cause of my internal discomfort. I recalled the new mantra I developed while here in Templeton; Be Led. I put this mantra to use because over the past weeks I witnessed the more I tried to push anything forward, the less the result of the pushing fulfilled me. If I instead let go and allowed the universe to take over, I usually found a better result.

For example, when walking the dogs I could try to get them to go the way I wanted, or I could follow their nudges. Following those nudges usually amounted to moments like these:

Sun rising over the hills.
Another beautiful sunrise.
Rose
I stopped to smell the rose.
Close up of a dog's face.
Buddy requests a break.

But, it didn’t always amount to these types of moments. In fact, I believe the discomfort that led to the dream was the result of going too far in this “Be Led” direction. I need to lead at times as well. At the very least, I need to take action. Which brings me back to the morning in question.

As I continued my practice, I softened and admitted this “going too far in the ‘be led’ direction” was the message the dream was sending me. Well, the dream and a few other resources. The universe, or your subconscious, doesn’t just deliver a message to you once, after-all. It will deliver it gently at first. Then, the message will get louder and louder until you finally listen.

The message I was ignoring was one of getting out of my comfort zone. Now, I realize this may sound crazy coming from someone who is on the journey I am, but I assure you, I’ve made myself far too comfortable here. I don’t leave the house. I don’t explore the area. I just haven’t ventured out all that much.

At first I told myself this was because of all the traveling I did in recent months; which was in part true. But, there is a bigger reason. I’m scared of what I might find beyond myself.

The message started as a whisper in the back of my mind. Then my friend emailed a group of us asking about manifesting a state of flow. Next, I read this line from the book my friend loaned me.

“Risk taking is one key way to access this flow state…”

This was followed by an episode of the Codependency No More Podcast telling listeners to take more risks in order to build up self confidence and worth. In the same episode, the guest encouraged listeners to curate skills to access and listen to their subconscious. One way he suggested to do this was to keep a dream journal, as often times our subconscious speaks to us in our dreams.

THEN came the dream.


I was playing with the dogs in the Templeton house when the doorbell rang. I answered it and there stood a man surrounded by many dogs. The two dogs I was sitting ran out to greet the others and I began my usual schtick of “they are friendly enough, though the little guy is anti-social.” The entire time the man, who looked mesoamerican in decent (or so I thought in the dream), stared me in the eye without blinking. He spoke. “There are 3 things causing you to withdraw.”

“What?” I replied. Though I knew what he meant.

He repeated himself while continuing his stare. I knew the 3 things he referred to were the pets I was watching. They were my recent excuse for staying in my comfort zone. Acknowledging and accepting the thought, I looked the man back in the eye and communicated the following through thought, “I see. You’re an angel. Thank you for coming to me.”

He smiled, and I awoke.


It took me a few hours to fully accept that I’ve been holding back, but once I did, ideas for how to spend my Saturday arose. I got into a flow of balancing leading with being led.

I landed on visiting the small beach town of Cambria. It’s been drawing me in since the West Coast Road Trip days, so I decided to give it a whirl. I was happy I did!

First, I took a walk by the ocean:

Moonstone Beach
These driftwood tent structures were all over the beach. Any ideas what they are?
plant
Plants at the Beach
Bench and trees
A bench through the trees.
Ocean and rocks.
The waves come crashing in. The coast reminded me of Ireland or Scotland.
Ocean
More ocean views.
Thistles
Seeing these thistles really made me think of Scotland.
Ocean and rocks
I couldn’t get enough!
Gradient on a rock.
How cool is this rock?
Lis by the ocean
I realized I never take pictures of myself… so here one is!

Walking for only a few minutes cleared my head, heart, and body. I felt completely new! Next, I decided to head to town to grab coffee and to pick up a few things for dinner.

Cambria Coffee
The coffee and muffin were awesome!
Town
I loved the pines and hills so close to the ocean.
Houses in the hills
More houses in the hills.
Quote
Loved this quote!
Fairy garden sign.
Who stumbles on a fairy garden? I do!
Signs in the garden
I love these signs.
village
A fairy garden village? I’m all in!
Unicorn statue
A fairy garden would not be complete without a unicorn.
Fairy statue
One of the fairies :-).
Lis in the garden
Me in the surprise Fairy Garden.

When I got back to the house, I was SO happy I had taken this small, yet big, step forward.

backyard with a buddha.
My view as I reflected on the day.

Ever since, my brain has been going a mile a minute with new ideas and insights. Plus, my soul feels one size larger.

Thank you, Subconscious Self! See? Further proof we already know the answers to our troubles could not be more apparent. We ARE being led by ourselves. We simply need to lead the charge inward to surface said answers, then accept them.

Lightening the Load

I write to you from the appropriately named town of Seaside, CA.

A shot of the bay from a distance
Check out Monterey Bay in the distance.

I arrived here yesterday for a house sit. I was here a day early to meet the homeowner and get introduced to her cat and her house. It was another arrival filled with joy and comfort. I was welcomed into a lovely home by both the owner and her pet. I felt a deep sense of belonging and, along with it, a deep sense of gratitude.

I also arrived with a ton of work. In fact, no more than 30 minutes after our introductions, the homeowner and I parted ways so that we could get back to our respective workdays. I set about preparing for several months of upcoming research related to a project that has been more than challenging. Along with its challenges, it also has been taking up the majority of my waking hours. To drive this point home, the night before my arrival I could hardly sleep thinking about how I would balance the project with the travel. Turns out, I won’t have to.

As I lamented to the universe my inability to get out and explore due to the commitment I made to the project, I also decided to give up trying to control the next few months of my time. It simply seemed out of my hands, so why worry about it right? With this thought I finally fell asleep and awoke to the day and arrival I described above.

Here’s the crazy part. I arrived at the house yesterday around 10:45am. Around 2:45pm I got the text. “Project cancelled. Cease all work immediately. Your Statement of Work will be honored”.

Hallelujah!

It was clear to me that I had broken a worry cycle by giving up the false control I thought I had. In return I cleared my path for a few weeks and can return to a normal-ish life. Yes, no project = less money, but no rent = less need for money. See the magic?

When I woke up today I could feel the anxiety draining from me. I had nowhere to be. No one to meet with.

I could breathe again.

I noticed myself trying to fill up my time throughout the day, and was diligent about not giving in to this anxiety. Afternoon came, and I had zero “things to do” so I decided to take a walk to the local coffee roasters. Along the way, I was able to see that Seaside is quite a cute town. There are flowers everywhere! Plus, Monterey Bay beams in the background. Here allow me to share some more of today’s sights with you.

Flowers
Flowers everywhere!
The front of Acme Coffee Roasters
Acme Coffee Roasters
Plants in the backyard
A view from the backyard.
backyard
Backyard sitting in Seaside.

So, for the foreseeable future, I look forward to more days of exploring, wandering, and wondering…. or maybe even more time to write. Who knows?!

Whatever I decide to do, I recognize now I’m being helped and guided along this path (as I think we all are). I also see that when I keep my load really heavy, I become too weighed down to see and trust in this fact. Knowing this now, I have to tell you, I’m oh so grateful the load has lessened.