25 April 2011

a personal retreat: It's not about what you do, it's how you live

This past weekend, I decided to listen to my heart and go on a personal retreat in Montecito (Santa Barbara).  It was the perfect gift to myself, a way to embrace my darkness and experience my rebirth with Easter.  If you've never been to the Immaculate Heart Center for Spiritual Renewal, go.  It's quite a find.

As soon as I walked into my room with the antique furniture, hardwood floors, and mustard colored curtains, I felt at home.  The walls were covered in original artwork by Corita Kent, the screenprinting artist who inspired me to make my own posters.

I opted to stay in the main house which is a turn of the century estate manor with beautiful architectural details.  Meals were provided, the kitchen was up for use, and Theresa, the chef, made the most incredible wholesome organic meals according to your dietary restrictions.  It was like Chez Panisse meets retreat center with a whole lot of hand made love.  At one point in my stay, I popped a Hershey's special dark chocolate nugget into my mouth and ran to the trash can to spit it out because it tasted so fake.  The food at the center had ruined my palette in a most wondrous way.  One of the highlights was the homemade granola in the mornings--it was so nutty and chewy and mindblowing--I didn't know granola could taste that good.  At dinners, I couldn't help laughing when I would take my first bite of dessert because it was so amazing.  Larry, one of the other retreatants, would break into a laugh too, and we would just look at each other in disbelief.  When I called J. to tell him about my time, he said, "Stay another day if you can.  It sounds like heaven."

I sat at my desk for many hours, journaling, reading, writing and praying.  I took hikes in the San Ysidro trails.  I met with a spiritual director, walked the labrynth, sat by the fountain, and had communal dinners with other retreatants.

Montecito was lush and green and in the mornings, the marine layer would sprinkle mist on you as you walked up the hills.  As I walked up the dirt hiking paths and heaved into the trees and rocks, I became transformed.   I was so anxious and worried about making the right decision and feeling utterly befuddled and heartbroken and discouraged by my inability to see what to do and as I hiked, the books I had brought with me, the words my spiritual director had spoken to me, my own prayers--they converged and hit me.  I realized I had been so focused on what to do with my life that I had completely forgotten how to live.  A mantra emerged--It's not what you do, it's how you live.  As I started to think about how I wanted to live, with joy, with authenticity, with creativity, and with lightheartedness and humour, a path cleared before me.  I asked myself, "Where am I being invited to be authentic?  Where am I being invited to be creative?  Where am I being invited to take courage?" And in an instant, I knew.   It was an experience of grace.

 J. asked me when I came back, "So, you made a decision, huh?" And I said, "It's not so much that I made a decision.  It's more like I just came into being."  I suppose some of the best decisions in life happen that way.  You live into them.  You find simply, that that is where you are.  In gratitude for wisdom and love gained, may you find what you are looking for this week.  xo, h.

19 April 2011

Today's Blessings

A great conversation with a co-worker on learning how to be true to yourself in the workplace and navigate complex interpersonal relationships.  Best takeaway question:  What do you need to do to move forward? 
Another great quote:  What do you need to do to own your own soul and not let an organization or someone else own your soul?

Homemade Mole from Melania.  Oh my goodness.  Rich reddish brown sauce dribbling down my mouth.  Mmmmm.

A compassionate conversation with A.  She gave me wonderful listening and wisdom as well as a packet of meditation cards for self-affirmation.

A fortune cookie dessert with my lunch buddies.  Mine said, "A ship in harbor is safe, but that's not why ships are built."  How apt!

15 April 2011

Dreams change

I remember gulping when reading Mireille Giuliano in Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire: Business Sense & Sensibility when she said something along the lines of , "Dreams change. You move on.  You get new dreams."

I used to think dreams were this true spiritual thing that never changed, that was part of our soul makup, and that we needed to achieve them no matter what in order to be true to ourselves.  I lived in fear when my dreams seemed so out of reach.  I'm learning that Guiliano was right.  Dreams do change.  And it's ok.  In fact, it's wonderful.

I've been feeling that keenly this year.  I dreamt so much of far off lands.  I wanted to be a world traveler and be a writer and live in the most beautiful French provinces with patisseries around the corner.  Of course, I'd still love to.  But strangely enough, I feel content, less afraid that I'm missing out and less eager to just pick up and leave with abandon.  And when I look back, I see that indeed I was a world traveler although it may not have been for years on end like I imagined being a world traveler to look like.  I have tromped around India, traipsed around East Asia and Southeast Asia, visited friends all around the States, lived in England, spent the most beautiful white Christmas in Norway, visited France multiple times, caravaned around South Africa, spent a week at the United Nations, and went to a glorious wedding in Italy with some of my best friends, and ate salty chips and got drunk off a shiny red goblet of le Spritz in Venice.

Through it all, I've learned a lot about myself and life.  I've learned that when it comes to the States, I am a West Coast girl at heart.  Plunk me down in any major city along the west coast and I will be incredibly happy.  Vancouver BC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego.  I've learned that true friendships don't die even when years and distance passes by.  And I'm learning that dreams that seemed so urgent at one time can fade to contentment and new dreams can emerge.  Dreams that seem so far from anything I thought my bohemian spirit ever wanted.  Dreams that involve close family and friends, a community, being grounded in a place, and taking root.  My dreams are about creating a home and daily life that nourishes me and gives me what I need to be happy, healthy, and work on creative projects.

Funny how dreams change.  Funny beautiful.

14 April 2011


Spaciousness.  Rest.  Love.  Forgiveness.  These are the graces I ask for in my day today.

Yesterday at the train station, I found an ipad.  I looked down at my feet and there it was.  At first I thought someone must have dropped a cover but when I nudged it, it had definite heft.

I was of course, tempted, like anyone else to think maybe this was my lucky day to welcome an ipad into my life.  But when I opened it up and saw the person's name that it belonged to, I knew I needed to find a way to reunite her with it.

I emailed her and we decided to meet at the train station on my way back home.  She greeted me at the cafe with gratitude and awe and gave me a gift bag with lifesavers, two pens, and a card.  When I opened the card, she told me about how the ipad was more than just an ipad; it had been a gift given to her by a leadership development program at her work and symbolized much more.  And then she went on to praise me for my honesty and my integrity and ended by saying, you are an angel.  Along with a $50 note.

That encounter with a woman I would have never met taught me so much.  When I found that ipad, I was worried and anxious about money in particular, about scarcity and uncertainty.  And at work, I had a hard day, one of a string of hard days where praise is few and it seems like my work is constantly misunderstood.  She praised me and it felt so good to be recognized for something so simple.  It felt like the most lavish gift.  And the money--it was like a sign--that sometimes in life, we are given what we need from sources that we can never imagine.  It comes to us as gracefully and abruptly as finding an ipad by your feet.