being present

Play life.


This photo is from a dance event earlier this month, at the Creole Tomato Festival in New Orleans.  That's me in the white top, blue skirt and polka-dotted scarf. I love two things about this photo - my happy, relaxed expression (caught mid-clap) and the Louis Armstrong quote in the background: "What we play is life."  I imagine he was talking about jazz, but I love the quote as applied to everything:  "What we play is life."  Yes.  Louis was using the word "play" as in "play an instrument", but you could as easily use the word "play" as in "enjoy, have fun, laugh, romp, etc." What we play is life.  This is it.  In all of its beautiful, intricate amazingness.  I feel like our purpose in this round on the planet is to do that.  Play life.  Show up and be present.  Taste the ice cream while we eat it.  See the person in front of us.  Practice, practice, practice, and then dance, dance, dance!

And when we ease up and show up, things work out beautifully.  I love this picture too because I've been practicing this dance on and off for months.  The first times I performed it, I missed steps, I thought so hard, I was tense and stiff and very un-relaxed.  I struggled to smile; I was concentrating and counting so hard. Each time I performed, though, it got better.  In this photo, I'm breathing and dancing at the same time.  Relaxed and present.  Playing life.  Even better, afterward at a meal with fellow dance mates, I unexpectedly landed a speaking gig.  I was just showing up, having fun, unworrried, ungrasp-y, and opportunity fell into my lap.

This is the era of distraction. Of doing a dozen things at once.  Of FOMO (fear of missing out) and "compare and despair".  There are a million different ways to stop paying attention to what's truly in front of you.  There are a zillion things to worry about.  There are so many details you could lose your mind - like when you first learn a dance and can't ever imagine keeping track of all that complexity.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  It's summer.  And that means time to slow down.  To savor.  To really "play" life. What might happen for you if you back off on control, engage your senses and enter the moment openly and with curiosity?  Or if you focus on that one important thing and make some real headway so you can finally relax and enjoy?  How would that feel?

Need some help savoring, or getting focused on getting that one thing done this summer?  Check out Pie in the Sky, my quick and fantastic summer class that will teach you how to savor summer and get some stuff done, too!  It's all recorded and ready to go for you, with lots of goodies!  Spend just one hour and gain tons of savoring ideas. Details here.

Everything's a miracle

My friend Debbie taught me this.  She said that when she gets stressed or harried, she says to herself, "Everything's a miracle."  Then she looks around to find evidence and always does.  If she's in a car, well, that's a miracle right there that two tons of steel moves around so easily -- and that she's sitting in climate-controlled comfort, perhaps with lovely music coming through the radio.  In the supermarket, she's surrounded by an incredible bounty of food.  Often, she's near her family members who she loves dearly. I've been trying it lately.  I've noticed beautiful bubbles forming in puddles while I strolled in the rain.  I've stared at clouds and birds and trees and happy children.  My cat is definitely a miracle!  As is this computer and the incredible technology that lets me send my thoughts all the way around the world.

And here's one of the best miracles of late which will make sense if you read the previous post, "Arguing with Mother Nature". The magnolias are still blooming!!  My mom got to see dozens of trees still in pink perfection.  Oh, me of little faith . . .

Give it a try.  How many miracles can you find within ten feet of you right now?

Arguing with Mother Nature

The magnolias started flowering in mid-January.  And I got sad.  And then I started making calculations, and wishing.  Wishing for things to slow down.  Wishing for time to stop - for the trees to stay in their pink and white spangled glory.  Wishing for the flowers not to fade, for the green leaves that follow the flowers to wait a little longer.  You see, my mom is coming to visit in about ten days.  And last year, around Valentine's Day, our star magnolia tree in the yard was full of fragrant, saucer-sized blooms that looked like this: And the city was awash with pink.  And I wanted my mom to get to see that this year. But everything is too early - it's going to be over by then.

So, a couple of weeks ago, when I drove past a tree in crazy full-pink bloom, I would argue with Mother Nature in my head.  I thought things like, "Can't this just wait a little longer?"  or my favorite - a simple, "Nooooo!"

Not a great way to enjoy one of the most spectacular annual natural treats in the city.

Then I realized what I was doing.  I was refusing to enjoy something beautiful because I wanted it to happen at a different time.  I was seriously arguing with reality.  No matter how hard I wished or what kinds of imagining I did, the trees were not going to suddenly go back in time to fuzzy buds.  They weren't going to wait.  And I could be present and enjoy it, or miss it completely.

How many times do we do this? We do it with the weather -- it's raining right now as I write this -- will it still be raining for the big parade tonight?  Who knows, but I don't think I can mind control it to stop! We do it with people we know and love.  How many times do we find ourselves trying to change someone else with our thoughts- convincing ourselves that everything would be fine and we could enjoy ourselves if they would just act differently, for heaven's sake!

The truth is, the only thing we really have the power to change is our own viewpoint.  Our own lens.  Life gets a whole lot lighter when we aren't trying to get other people to be different or make the weather the way we want.  It gets lighter when we stay in our own business - taking care of what we really can do something about.

So the past few days, I've been admiring the trees.  Smelling the blooms.  Enjoying the fallen petals.  Remembering that this blooming doesn't last, and reminding myself to enjoy this beautiful, rainy, flowering, present moment.

When my mom gets here there will be plenty of lovely, special, and perhaps even surprising things to enjoy, even if they aren't pink magnolia blooms.