Saturday, August 22, 2015

Outing Myself

I'm not the type of person to get nostalgic and long for the good old days. But the one exception is my longing to return to my "golden age" of blogging. Between 2009 and 2011, I was blogging regularly; I was inspired to write and felt free to post whatever I wanted, and a community of other bloggers formed that gave me a wonderful sense of belonging and affirmation.

I really miss that. And I've been thinking about it a lot lately because of this crowdfunding campaign I'm in the middle of. I feel this constant pressure and inner conflict, because I know there are things I could and "should" be doing to spread the word about the campaign and encourage people to back the project, but I have tremendous inner resistance to doing these things, and that resistance is tied in with the reasons I don't blog anymore.

I just finished reading the book, The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer. In case you're not familiar with her, she's a musician who raised over a million dollars on Kickstarter to produce an album. (The book came about as a result of a pretty amazing TED talk she gave about that.) There are many factors that contributed to her campaign's remarkable success, but what she really emphasizes in the book is that people were willing to back her because she had spent years connecting with her fans and creating a true community with them, via the Internet.

The only way I can relate to that is in the community I felt connected to when I was blogging. And reading the book made me envious, not so much of her successful crowdfunding campaign, but of the online community and her ability to consistently connect with it. My blogging community fell apart, and I've often pondered why that is.

Out of the variety of factors at play (including the rise of Facebook and the tendency we all veered towards of blip-posting and endless scrolling), the personal one most troubling to me is how much more hesitant I became to put stuff about myself out on the Internet. When I started blogging I had just moved to a new town and didn't know anyone; the people who were reading my blog weren't people I knew in "real life." It was therefore "safe." Now that I'm widely connected in this town, and am friends with many locals on Facebook, I have much more fear and self-consciousness about sharing publicly at the level I used to on my blog.

That really bothers me.

I even made this collage recently to help me try to get over myself. It now lives on my fridge.
The other major thing that Amanda Palmer talks about in her book is that these relationships she's built with fans over time are based on trust - she really puts herself out there, not just on the Internet but in face to face interactions. She allows herself to be vulnerable. And this is what I have such a hard time doing anymore.

That's why I'm writing this post. I've been feeling like a coward and it's making me sick. I used to write and post with abandon, and I want to be doing that again. Even if nobody reads it. (And of course, part of me hopes they don't, because it's safer that way, ha.)

So I'm treating this post as a confessional, I guess, just putting it out there, admitting my fears and being vulnerable in the hope that, at the very least, my courage will be generally bolstered (which it actually already is just in the writing).

And if any of my old (or perhaps even some new) blogging friends happen to read it and comment, well, that will just be a tasty bonus. I'm guessing I'm not the only one out here who struggles with such things.

Amanda Palmer's TED talk

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Into the Blue and Beyond Laundry

I'm a multiple hat wearer; I've always been that way and always will be. That's part of what makes me fit in here in Taos so well, I think. Most of us here are like that.

The hats I've been wearing for the last couple of years include being an instructor at UNM-Taos and being a celebrant, and both are things that I enjoy. However, it finally hit me this past spring that, even doing both these things, I was barely making enough money to get by. Also, a crisis in my life at that time caused me to reevaluate my sense of purpose and core values, to revisit a passion for environmental sustainability that I had pushed to a back burner for too long.

I began to think about my "green laundromat" idea again, which I first came up with in 2009. In fact, I mentioned that in one of my early posts here, The Little Flowers of St. Clare, because Clare is considered the patron saint of laundry, for some unknown reason. (Anybody know why? If so, tell me in the comments, as I'm dying to know.)

Once I started revisiting the laundromat plan, things began to serendipitously fall into place. I became aware of a free online course in social entrepreneurship offered by Copenhagen Business School, so I enrolled. Through that course, I've been fortunate to connect with an international team who I'm now working with to not only open a laundry center in Taos, but also to eventually franchise and use 10% of our profits to bring sustainable laundry systems to developing countries.

There are a lot of things I could say here about how this business plan has developed, and what all it entails, but if you want to know more, you can read about it on the website, We also have a crowdfunding campaign going on right now, and I tell a lot of the story behind this project on that page:

What I do want to say here, because even though I rarely post anymore, I still consider this blog my spiritual writing home, is that this whole plan has at its core a deep appreciation of water, not just as a natural resource, but in a spiritual sense.

This is my blue year, and once again, my color for the year has played out in unexpected and profound ways. In the collage I made for 2015, the central image is a woman diving into the blue, into a mandala of light and water, and that depicts beautifully what my experience of diving into this plan has been like.

In case you're wondering what the weird contraption under the diver is, it's actually the center of a bicycle wheel I placed over the whole collage. And it spins! And that thing poking out is a chopstick holding it to the wall.
I will continue to wear and enjoy my other hats, but Beyond Laundry (the name of my new company), has finally become the central focus of my work life, as I've wanted it to be these past six years. I can see now that when I first envisioned it, I wasn't ready, for a variety of reasons. Timing is a funny thing. I learn to trust it more and more.

And in really putting myself out there with this new business in a way that sometimes takes me way out of my comfort zone, I'm also learning to trust the water, the source. I came across these words of Jesus recently: "Out of your heart will flow rivers of living water," and that speaks to me in a new way these days. It occurred to me that rivers flow from mountaintops, and to do something so bold in my life means occupying the mountaintop of my heart and then letting the rivers flow, and as they flow, they pick up speed and force. They are pure, and they have a destination. When I allow myself to connect with the poetry and mystery and spirit of water in this way, I find the courage I need to keep diving into the blue, the clarity to identify the flow and the trust to go with it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Backdrop and a Blanket, but not Boring

2015 is the fifth year in a row that I've chosen a word and color for the year, and I've finally come around to blue. I feel like I've kind of been putting off blue, because frankly I've always been a bit bored by it.  All my past yearly colors have stood out to me in some significant way, "popped" so to speak, and I've enjoyed researching and exploring their symbolic associations.  Blue doesn't inspire me in this way, and now I understand why: it's the backdrop.

This was uncannily brought home to me the night I made my collage for this year.  I gathered up all my materials, sat down at the dining table, and turned on Pandora on shuffle.  Believe it or not, the second song that played was "Blue Lips" by Regina Spektor.  (As a side note, this is why I generally prefer radio over playlists, and also one of the reasons I love collage; there is magic in randomness.)

Ms. Spektor sings that "all the gods and all the worlds/began colliding on a backdrop of blue," which is actually a poetically fitting description of the collage process. And indeed, as I sat there browsing through a (randomly chosen) stack of magazines, I found that the blue images I was picking were more for the backdrop rather than the collage's featured images.  Here is the final product (which I'm going to post more about in the near future, since there's a lot going on with it that I feel the need to discuss):

Another line of the Regina Spektor song says blue is "the color of our planet from far, far away."  As I sit here at my desk and look out the window, I realize that it's also the most ubiquitous color from the perspective of the planet's surface, at least my little portion of it, because of the sky, of course. (And here in northern New Mexico that sky is an intense and vivid blue more often than not.)  Perhaps it's this ubiquity that's influenced my previously unexamined feeling that blue is boring.  I've taken it for granted; it's just the backdrop.  But embracing it now, the blue blue sky feels more like a blanket enfolding and warming all of my life, keeping it safe and cozy, and walking out into the big wide world is so much easier with from this perspective.

This all ties in very well with my word for the year, which is "innocence." This word came to me like a breath of fresh air one day, and I immediately knew it was the right one for the year.  Throughout my life I've struggled with feelings of guilt, sometimes warranted and sometimes not.  In the past few years, I've made great strides in terms of growth and personal evolution, which has made the guilt issue that much more obvious as something that still needs to be healed.  And so, rather than try to make those feelings go away, I will spend this year consciously connecting with the quality of innocence, embracing it within myself.  One of my first lessons in this regard has been that in order to embody innocence, there must be a deep and childlike trust, a feeling of safety.  At this point, I still can't fully articulate why this is so, but on a visceral level, I've experienced it to be true. And feeling enfolded by the sky, this living blanket of blue, is currently doing more to develop in me the sense of safety, trust, and innocence than I could have ever imagined.

The overall effect, which is already profound only 17 days into the new year, is a level of peace and relaxation I've never known before, at least not on a consistent basis. Blue is elemental, associated not just with the sky, of course, but also with bodies of water, and I feel like I'm floating: surrounded, supported, and upheld.  Floating in the sky, or floating in the water, in trust I dive into the blue and am pleasantly surprised by the intensely vibrant tranquility it offers in response.

I realized just now (although this may not make sense to anyone else) that my blue year experience so far is comparable to listening to the Enigma song, "Return to Innocence," which is powerful not so much in its lyrics detailing the meaning as in its power to effect the felt experience of innocence. When I searched for this song on YouTube, I ended up watching what I suppose is the official video, which I'd never seen before.  It definitely adds a different dimension to the experience of the song:


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