Thursday, January 27, 2011

Embracing change, saying YES, and what ISN'T working

Living a simple and meditative life, originally uploaded by B℮n.

By acknowledging the existence of what’s not working for us,
we can begin the process of change.

"The hardest thing about saying yes to the universe is that it means accepting everything life puts in front of us. Most of us have a habit of going through our days saying no to the things we don’t like and yes to the things we do, and yet, everything we encounter is our life. We may be afraid that if we say yes to the things we don’t like, we will be stuck with them forever, but really, it is only through acknowledging the existence of what’s not working for us that we can begin the process of change. So saying yes doesn’t mean indiscriminately accepting things that don’t work for us. It means conversing with the universe, and starting the conversation with a very powerful word yes.

"When we say yes to the universe, we enter into a state of trust that whatever our situation is, we can work with it. We express confidence in ourselves, and the universe, and we also express a willingness to learn from whatever comes our way, rather than running and hiding when we don’t like what we see."  ~DailyOm

A born people-pleaser, I may have said yes too frequently in life.  But that yes usually ended in a question mark.  Church lady eyes me, her eyes spinning like a slot machine that lands on double Preacher's Daughter:
Rebecca, will you teach the most difficult. largest and rowdy group of church kids? 
Me: Yes? (Cut to a kid fight with a bible and a little girl with a fresh black eye.)

So for me, learning to say yes to the universe means to do it with confidence, by choice, knowing that I will learn from what comes my way, even when it's painful, or makes me look bad.  Not that I have to say yes to everything.  I'm slowly learning to cut short what ISN'T working for me, and that feels equally empowering.  After another botched attempt at this thing I call dating, I quickly defined what I wasn't willing to put up with, and, as chipper, cheerful and firm as I could be, communicated it to the man in question. And, as my sister reminded me, every time I am clear with what I want, the Universe hears me.

Now I'm trying to get clear on a career.  Hear that Universe?  Writing stories about real people.  My resolution is to get out and get lost more in Portland, to talk to strangers.  To clear my head of society's expectations and enjoy this moment, as this is all I've got.  A clear, blue Portland sky in winter, The Cure on the radio in a warm cafe, a grey cat across the street who's trying to find a way in to the chiropractic clinic. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Tattoos and TV

Trinities, originally uploaded by Kevissimo.
While I debated butterflies and dolphins and favorite lines of poetry, hipper friends of mine have found the art of ink. Like Mandy, photographed here by our wildly talented friend Kevin Rolly. I've often wondered if a colorful tattoo would distract from my blinding white, SPF 45-guarded skin, but as a dedicated commitment and needle phobe, I'm still lily-white.

So when a tattoo reality show needed someone to recruit artists here in Portland, I was OBVIOUSLY the woman for the job. Asking friends and Yelp for the best up-and-coming artists, I google-mapped my way around the studios of my new home, Portland.  Some artists were obvious camera whores, ready for their close-ups, many just wanted their craft to be represented well, while others informed me ever so gently of the horrors of reality TV.

But, as a fellow L.A. transplant to Portland told me, everyone here is so NICE. And despite my mother's fears that I'd be talking to bikers in chains, most of the artists are just that, artists. They spend hours consulting with clients and sketching, helping bring about a shared, creative vision.

One artist and I talked about how to balance life and work / creating art.. He's started scaling back, after being booked 7 days a week, to do a little more living. "I can only be inspired in my art if my life is inspiring." Great advice. I'm going to try to find some inspiring (and free) things to do in Portland in the coming weeks. I talked with another about moving where life takes you, traveling abroad, and trashy TV. He had me crying-laughing as he tried to justify his "Rock of Love" addiction, which, by the way, UNjustifiable, and told me of a few good places on Belmont to check out.

I'm still not ready to commit to any body art, (as one tattoer told me, if you're not sure, put it on a t-shirt), but I feel even more connected to a community here in Portland. And learned that no, they won't pay me to practice their tats on me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


The word settling has such negative connotations in my mind's eye.  The image of sitting across from some man at a breakfast table with bad coffee, nothing to say, wondering if there is someone better somewhere else.  I want to begin again.  To imagine settling into a place, settling into a community, people who read books, watch movies, think 30 Rock is hilarious and believe in fairies and woodsprites.

I've posted the poem before, when a rainy day in L.A. reminded me of Oregon.  But I'm reminded of Settling again, now that I'm living in Portland, surrounded by bare branches, puddles that reflect grey skies, now that I'm considering what it means to settle in somewhere. 

I was welcomed here — clear gold
of late summer, of opening autumn,
the dawn eagle sunning himself on the highest tree,
the mountain revealing herself unclouded, her snow
tinted apricot as she looked west,
tolerant, in her steadfastness, of the restless sun
forever rising and setting.

                                   Now I am given
a taste of the grey foretold by all and sundry,
a grey both heavy and chill. I've boasted I would not care,
I'm London-born. And I won't. I'll dig in,
into my days, having come here to live, not to visit.
Grey is the price
of neighboring with eagles, of knowing
a mountain's vast presence, seen or unseen.

~Denise Levertov, "Settling"

(Photo: NYMag)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Dalai Lama and L'engle: Reconciling religious pluralism

Chrishall wilderness 3, originally uploaded by davieunited.

"This still leaves unanswered the question of how we should relate to the divergent and contradictory doctrinal teachings of the religions. From the Buddhist point of view, the belief in a transcendent God, with its emphasis on the idea of a first cause that in itself is uncaused, amounts to falling into the extreme of absolutism, a view that is understood to obstruct the attainment of enlightenment. In contrast, from the monotheistic religions' point of view, Buddhism's nonacceptance of God and divine creation amounts to falling into the extreme of nihilism, a view that is dangerously close to an amoral and materialistic view of the world.

"But, on the other hand, from the theistic religions' point of view, if one believes that the entire cosmos, including the sentient beings within it, is a creation of one all-powerful and compassionate God, the inescapable consequence is that the existence of faith traditions other than one's own are also God's creation. To deny this would imply one of two results: either one rejects God's omnipotence — that is to say, that although these other faiths are false ways, God remains incapable of stopping their emergence — or, if one maintains that although God is perfectly capable of preventing the emergence of these 'false' ways, He chooses not to do so, then one rejects God's all-embracing compassion. The latter would imply that, for whatever reasons, God chose to exclude some — in face, millions of His own children — and left them to follow false ways that would lead to their damnation. So the logic of monotheism, especially the standard version that attributes omnipotence, omniscience, and all-embracing compassion to God, inevitably entails recognition that the world's many religious traditions are in one way or another related to God's divine intentions for the ultimate well-being of His children. This means that, as a devout follower of God, one must accord respect, and if possible, reverence to all religions. ... Given the need for upholding the perspective of 'many truths, many religions' in the context of wider society, while the dictates of one's own faith demand embracing the 'one truth, one religion' perspective, I believe that a creative approach is called for here... One might, for instance, make a distinction between faith and respect as two distinct psychological attitudes in relation to the world's religions." ~ Tenzin Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama)from "The Challenge of Other Religions" in Shambhala Sun.

Having been raised in the American protestant church, I can already guess some of the pat answers with which people might respond to the Dalai Lama.  Pat answers, perhaps, but not easy, for even the easy answers of some Christians are more multi-layered and complex than some care to explore.  To say we cannot understand God's will or that God gave us free will and choices so that we choose the "right way" isn't acknowledging all of the Dalai Lama's dialectic.

For the last seven or more years I have been in a place of searching, questioning how to reconcile all that I DON'T believe and/or agree with in the Christian tradition (especially the American church) and the idea of one truth, one religion, with what I've learned, witnessed and experienced in the broader world.  Questions about translation issues, culture, the original meanings, and the beauty of metaphor reminding me of the differences between what is fact and with is Truth.  Reading as much as I can from different traditions, being open to the truth I gather, knowing that God is LOVE, one of the key points of Christianity I do agree with, and I believe gets buried far too frequently.  Reading and re-reading Madeleine L'engle, my childhood mentor, she reminds me that faith is mystery, and love is wild. And that we've lost a great deal of that mystery and wild love.

"The sects and fundamentalists are growing because they offer black-and-white answers to all the unanswerable questions. ... The damnation of others seems to be a large part of the pleasure of accepting the answers to the unanswerable questions. X and Y cannot be saved unless Z is in hell. ...What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians, because a tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God's love, a love we don't even have to earn."  ~Madeleine L'engle, Penguins & Golden Calves

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Arrive in style

Dammit Chrysler - you got me.  Their new commercial bemoans our general lack of style today, showing images that take you back to the golden age of film stars, well-cut suits, flowing dresses, the days of the Hepburns (Audrey & Katherine).  When did it become acceptable to run to the store in pajama pants?  Why shouldn't you put some thought and creativity into how you present yourself?

I know that we can't all afford designer duds - in fact, I'm the first to argue that our culture is far too focused on appearance, and should put more of our money toward a world where children don't die, daily, from hunger.

But I still love to see people express their personal style, whether it's the perfectly fitted suit (hello Don Draper!) or a combination of colors and thrifted pieces.  Life can be pretty dreary, why not add some color and interest?  Which is why I drool over the street style blog The Sartorialist.  Here are a few of my favorites - showing that Chrysler is wrong.  Some people still know how to arrive in style.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Daydreaming rainy Portland

At Costello's Travel Cafe on Broadway, taking a break in my tattoo artist finding weekend (reality casting has followed me north).  It's so very Portland outside and in, steady rain, people in fleece and waterproof jackets drinking coffee, reading books, talking knitting around a table full of colorful wool.  A 20something guy in a newsboy hat and round wire spectacles is writing furiously in his journal. 

A girl sits at a table by the window, backlit by the grey light outside.  She sits motionless, her hands cupping her chin and appears to be simply watching the rain fall, and I'm reminded that sitting in a cafe, watching the rain is very important and something that is missing in my life lately.  It seems something my poet guru Mary Oliver would approve.