50 things you love to do

50 things you love

It’s easy to focus on what’s negative. It’s how our brains evolved to work: watch out for threats (negative stuff) so you can protect yourself from them and survive.

 

But there’s a lot of positive out there.

 

Even on the rough days. And I believe strongly in honoring both the negative and the positive.

Sometimes the positive needs a lot more attention to help it stick in our brains. And sometimes that attention comes in the form of a list.

 

Today I decided to make a list of fifty things I like doing.

 

You’re invited to join me. In fact, I’d love your company. 

So here we go. Things I love doing, in absolutely no particular order:

 

1. Hugging my wife

2. Walking my doggy

3. Getting in bed after a long day

4. Speaking of which: putting on pajamas after a long day!

5. Watching Seattle’s fascinating, varied clouds as they move across the sky

6. Enthusing about how much I love Hozier

7. Singing

8. Humming

9. Tipping extra at the coffee shop

10. Writing with my favorite Muji pens

11. Baking chocolate chip cookies

12. Hosting sweet attic meditations

13. Cradling a warm cup of tea in my hands

14. Brewing my favorite tea for friends

15. Running

16. Listening to Serial (so sad it’s over)

17. Enthusing about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

18. Soaking up live music

19. Taking showers

20. Summertime swimming in lakes

21. Having deep, deep conversations

22. Listening deeply during coaching sessions

23. Getting extremely excited when people I love have good things happen to them

24. Reading Harry Potter

25. Putting on underwear that’s actually very comfortable

26. Yin yoga-ing

27. Savasana-ing

28. Finding the perfect card for the perfect person

29. Sitting by a warm wintertime fire

30. Brunching with friends

31. Exploring Washington’s marvelous hiking options

32. Opening mail from friends

33. Getting crafty (particularly when it involves sparkles)

34. Taking blurry photographs of sunsets

35. Driving across the 520 bridge

36. Going to the movies

37. Tending to my houseplant

38. Checking things off a list

39. Browsing fancy supermarkets

40. Snuggling with my pup

41. Smelling anything that involves eucalyptus

42. Smelling every perfume in a store

43. Moving and sweating at the gym

44. Hot tubbing

45. Looking at the stars

46. Sitting on the dock

47. Listening to country on the radio

48. Stretching out my toes

49. Doing restorative yoga

50. Listening to the sounds of rain falling

 

So . . . what do you like doing?

 

Feel free to share your own list, of any length, below in the comments, or on social media with the hashtag #welcomingthegood. 

I can’t wait to see more things people love and keep adding to my own list of delightfulness.

. . .

welcoming the goodIf you’re keen to cherish and draw even more wonderful things into your life, you might enjoy Welcoming the GoodIt’s a free two-week exploration of the good that’s already in your life, and the good that’s out there waiting for you to find it. Join us here.

 

1

look how far you’ve come

winnie photo

Last night, I took our dog, Winnie, on her usual final evening walk.

As we were climbing back up our apartment steps, I had a moment of realizing, with wonder, that this simple act wasn’t possible six months ago.

 

When we first brought Winnie home from the shelter, she wouldn’t climb the steps.

 

(I have to say, I don’t blame her. They’re open-backed steps, so from her height, she could see right through them and down to the concrete far below. Scary.)

I tried to coax her up with treats, to get a running start and see if that would convince her, but nothing helped.

She was adamant that she was not climbing those steps, and so I picked her up and carried her to our door after each walk. Literally.

After a couple weeks, we got to the point where if we went up the stairs quickly enough, and with enough food incentives, she’d only stop at each landing.

Now, she tries to run up ahead of us, particularly if she knows it’s almost time for breakfast.

These days, I don’t even think about how I’m going to get her up the stairs, because we’ve crossed that hurdle. We’ve achieved such success that what used to be problematic is now a complete non-issue.

 

Of course, I’ve moved on to other worries — seemingly countless ones, in fact.

 

How will we get this pup to stop barking at other dogs on walks?

Will there ever be a point at which she’ll actually walk next to me without me having to remind her once per second?

Our successes have faded quickly from my mind, replaced by new problems and concerns with varying feelings of urgency attached to them.

 

I, and my clients, do this everywhere in our lives.

 

A former client of mine is now making a living with the passion work into which she was transitioning when I first coached her. She’s had huge successes — increased income, thrilling media coverage, and growing expertise in her profession.

And she wonders, sometimes, how she’ll ever reach her next income goal. It seems impossibly far away.

Because I’ve gotten to witness her astonishing achievements over the past couple years, I reminded her of how very far she’s come. Perhaps it sunk in deeply, perhaps it didn’t.

I hope it did. She’s done such incredible work, and I want her to take credit for that.

 

I want each of us to give ourselves credit for all that we’ve done, regardless of how far we still have to go.

 

There will always be more mountains to climb. That’s one of the sweet truths of being alive — there’s absolutely no final destination, no matter when or how we die.

There will always be more ground to cover. But gosh, look at yourself! You’ve come so very far.

 

2

noticing. appreciating. welcoming the good.

welcoming the good

The first week of my Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy class, our homework was to notice and record a few pleasant things we noticed each day.

 

We were looking for tiny good things. I mean, really tiny.

 

The class was meant for people who, like me, were dealing with depression, so any experience of pleasantness, no matter how slight, was considered a win.

 

I was so depressed that week. Which was the whole reason I was in the course.

 

I needed it.

 

Surprisingly, it wasn’t hard for me to find pleasantness in my day-to-day life, despite my overall state of distress.

 

There was so much pleasantness everywhere. Even in (generally drab and smelly) Midtown Manhattan, where I worked at the time.

 

There was the grand, echoing main hall of the Midtown post office. The delight of getting to choose which stamps you wanted to buy.

 

The warmth of the sunshine on your face when you stepped out of the buildings’ shadows.

 

The crazy earrings the security guard always wore, a different pair every day.

 

The welcome opportunity to stop and breathe at a red light.

 

I was surprised, because there were more pleasant moments filling my life than I even had time to record.

 

On their own, they weren’t much. Unnoticed, they were nothing.

 

But those little good things, when noticed and appreciated, strung together like buoys on a line and gradually, almost imperceptibly, helped to lift me up, up, up into a fuller, more engaged life.

 

Every single day, no matter how happy or sad we feel, opportunities present themselves, inviting us to step into joy.

 

Of course, we don’t always notice them. Often, they pass us by, unseen, unseized.

 

But they’re always there, available. Waiting.

 

In Welcoming the Good, we’ll notice and cherish these wonderful little moments that are all around.

 

Together, we’ll search out and savor what’s good, and what matters.

 

If this piques your interest, I heartily invite you to join us.

 

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what our places value (and what it means about us)

BrooklynBridge

Over my holiday visit to Brooklyn, I realized with new clarity just how much New Yorkers value efficiency.

 

It feels as if distance from NYC living is giving me new insight into what that humming machine of a city is really about.

 

New Yorkers, I can tell you, value a quickly-moving queue.

 

At Christmas Eve dinner with a friend’s family, my dear Brooklynites praised the speed with which the Court Street Italian pastry shop filled orders this holiday season, quickly ticking through an out-the-door line of customers buying Christmas cookies.

 

There’s great appreciation, too, for the New York traffic merge. Mary doesn’t mind letting me know that Seattleites are terrible mergers in comparison. As she says, “You can’t stop when you’re merging! You have to keep moving!”

 

On the tail end of our trip, the line at JFK Airport’s Delta terminal moved so swiftly that I hardly had a chance to rest my bag. Airport workers processed travelers through constant movement, like we were toys on a life-sized assembly line.

 

When I’m in New York, I encounter lots of people who really value efficiency, because New York is a city of things happening quickly, of stuff getting done and checked off the list.

 

It’s a city that excels at moving millions of people around a tiny island every single day, and doing it quickly, because these people have places to be.

 

New York attracts people who value what it, as an amorphous being, values.

 

Like any place, its inhabitants’ beliefs shape it, and it shapes them.

 

When I realized all of this over vacation, I got curious about what it is that Seattle values.

 

Because I so longed to move here, I wondered whether these values would align more closely with my own. Here’s what I found:

 

  • Intellect: Seattle reads a lot of books. The Seattle Public Library System has the highest percentage of cardholders per capita in the United States. Being brainy is considered pretty darn cool here.

 

  • Nature: Since moving to Seattle, I’ve met a lot of people who work in Earth sciences, volunteer their time to promote environmental justice, and/or take composting very, very seriously. People here tend to spend a lot of time in nature, to be reverent of it, and to know a lot about it.

 

  • Time for Recreation: According to my own biased observations, it seems that people here tend to leave work closer to 5 than New Yorkers, and to take weekends really, truly off. Workers take their vacation time here. They get out and about when they’re not at work. It seems like this city values leisure and quality of life pretty highly.

 

After making this little list, it’s even more clear to me why I moved here.

 

I value learning, I’m mildly obsessed with libraries, and I’m a great proponent of time off.

 

When I lived in Brooklyn, I desperately yearned for more time in nature. I adore rain in a way that few others do. To me, the subtle, haunting beauty of the Northwest is like magic. And much to Mary’s chagrin, efficiency isn’t always the highest value on my list.

 

As I get ready for Who Am I Now, I’m starting to ask more probing questions of myself on a regular basis:

 

Where do I feel at home?

What is it about the things I love that draws me to them?

What does this location I’ve chosen have to teach me about myself?

 

In learning about what Seattle values, I’m learning about what it is that I value at this point in my life. What I yearn for. And also where I might be headed.

. . .


Who Am I Now? begins in five days. Hop over here to join us.

 

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you’re invited: who am i now?

who am i now? blog post photo

I wake up, and it’s dark outside. It’s quiet except for maybe a car starting or a crow squawking.

I no longer wake up to the muffled yells of our apartment neighbors, scrambling to get ready for work and school.

I wonder what they’re doing right now. Whether they still yell the same amount, or less.

Sometimes I miss the hubbub.

 

Here, the air is wetter.

 

My hair has grown out quite a bit, and it curls in the damp air. I haven’t figured out what to do with it yet, mostly because every couple weeks, it calls for something else.

Different products, a different process. A new curl where there wasn’t one yesterday.

 

It’s dark, dreary, and damp. My favorite sort of weather.

 

Every time I take a walk, I pause to look at the mountains, and the foggy clouds seeping down to embrace them. No matter how many times I stop walking, pause to look and listen, that view never fails to startle me into reverence for this place and this moment.

A year ago, I had no idea that I’d be here now. I wouldn’t have believed it if you’d told me.

This isn’t a place I need to “cope with.” I’m not managing my interactions to prevent overstimulation, the way I was in New York.

There are no weekend train schedules to dread. Instead, I can hop in the car to drive to the store, literally moments away.

I can buy a twelve-pack of toilet paper and store it under the bathroom sink. (It’s the little things.)

 

This is all new and different and, even after several months, sometimes surprising.

 

People ask, “When did you move to Seattle?”

I find myself waffling when I respond, “March.”

Because I feel like I don’t know how to fully be in this place, not yet.

Even though this is a good, good place for my soul to be.

Who am I here?

What do I want?

What do I need?

What do I yearn for?

Who am I, a week, a month, a year after the last time I checked?

 

Who am I now?

 

I’m going to be exploring this question, and the multitude of others it contains, from January 5th to 18th.

You’re invited to join me.

We’ll be going deep, getting curious, letting go and returning to ourselves. All through daily emails containing prompts for inquiry and action, plus a private Facebook group to support each other and evolve in community.

Who am I now?

Who are you?

Let’s find out together.

2

i wonder what would happen

big basin redwood forest

“I think I’m going to join a gym,” she says.

It’s been too long since she’s had a place to move and sweat. She can feel her body aching to lift, to stretch, to writhe.

“The gym is good for you,” he says. “You’ll feel strong and able. You’ll be really alive.”

“I feel so good when I sweat in the morning. I feel awake. I’m happier. I sleep like a puppy.”

(I say it because it’s true. Not because I do it every day. I don’t.)

I notice how much our culture admires people who go to a gym to sweat. People who wake up early. People who do both, on the same morning, before even getting dressed for work.

 

There’s so much cultural enthusiasm floating around, available for people who start an exercise habit, or people who lose weight. The latter more than the former, really.

 

And I wonder what would happen if more of that enthusiasm were available for people who were learning to listen to their hearts.

(Listening to your heart can, of course, overlap with having a good workout. Sometimes your heart tells you to go to the gym. Mine sure does.)

 

What if, every time someone cast off a social construct that had been oppressing them, everyone cheered, asked them how they did it, threw them a veritable party in honor of their glorious, sparkly personal agency?

 

I wonder what would happen if our culture supported the risky, scary leap-taking not with caution to have a Plan B, but with the hearty, “Good for you!” reserved for those who are newly devoted to “clean living.”

Can you imagine if, each time you upheld a boundary you set with your family, a portable cheering section of friends and acquaintances said, “Way to go, you!”?

That would be . . . different.

 

It isn’t that there isn’t enough enthusiasm to go around. There’s plenty. Enthusiasm is a renewable resource.

 

There’s no need for it to be doled out only to folks who are pursuing culturally-sanctioned goals and dreams.

Everyone’s goal, everyone’s dream, is different.

And each and every one of us deserves that sort of excitement and support when we learn something about ourselves, or when we take an action that leads us closer to harmony with our deepest self.

 

We deserve the hopeful support of our community whether our dream is culturally sanctioned or not. 

 

Whether or not what our soul wants happens to overlap with the primary ideals of our civilization.

So until the day comes when we can expect to receive the same enthusiastic support for our dream-chasing as for our exercise or weight loss efforts, know this:

I am cheering for your sacred communion with your deepest self.

I recognize that it is hard, and it takes work, and it is scary.

I am impressed with every single time you listen to your own needs and wants over what society has dictated to you.

You have a  cheering section. It’s right here.

I am proud of you.

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i admire you.

spiky flower

I admire you.

You, who dares to stray from what others expect of you.

Who listens to the murmurs and calls of your own heart.

 

I admire your faith.

 

You maintain a belief in unseeable notions, even when life tries to deter you.

You take risky leaps in service of what matters to you.

You’re in it for the long road, which is sometimes rocky and treacherous in the middle.

Still, you press on.

 

You don’t settle.

 

Even when people say that you should.

You know you deserve better. You know everyone deserves better.

You iterate, you journal, you make art, you contemplate.

You seek communion with yourself, your purpose, your something-bigger-than-you.

 

You show up.

 

You step into cafes where you know no one, uncertain of what you’ll find there.

You reach out, you ask, knowing that you might hear, “No.”

You wear your favorite shirt, stand taller, roll your shoulders back.

Even when all you want to do is go home and nestle yourself beneath a blanket with a book.

You dare to show us who you are.

 

You dare to detail how you feel.

 

And you don’t always know if we’ll offer you the compassion you need.

 

I admire you, and I am grateful for you, and for people like you.

 

You make it worthwhile to be in the world.

Eye contact,

And hugs,

And absorbed conversations,

With people like you.

That is what fans the flame of my well-lived life.

4

your desire matters. truly.

community meditation photo

These days, all I wanna do is hang out with people.

I want to co-work with friends and make them highly-caffeinated chai.

I want to take meandering walks with my love and our pup, crunching over fiery-colored leaves.

I want to be there for people when they’re crying, and try to be vulnerable enough to let them be there for me, too.

 

Desire is serious business.

 

I take these sorts of irrepressible desires very seriously. 

I consider them the blinking lights coaxing me (and you, of course) closer to my sacredest and most essential self.

When I ignore them, I get stuck. Very stuck, indeed.

And so when I remember to heed them, I do.

The wonderful thing about my current enthusiasm for spending quality time with others is that I’m realizing how many of us feel this way.

We want to gather with others who care about connection.

We want to feel accepted and heard and understood.

We want to meditate together and write together and talk to one another.

And we want all of this so. very. much.

 

An in-person gathering in Seattle.

 

Thanks to my highly scientific findings, I’m starting a meditation/journaling/sharing group here in Seattle. You can find all the details right over here.

I know that, because of the location, those of you who are far away won’t be able to join us.

But! Those of you who are in town or are visiting are so totally invited to the (introspective) party.

We’ll be having our first session next Tuesday, and continuing for three Tuesdays after that. I would love to see you there. If you can make it, please register through Meetup so I know you’re coming, and feel free to invite friends.

Whether you can make it or not, I want to know:

 

What is your most irrepressible desire?

 

It matters. 

It matters so deeply and fully and completely.

And it will not be ignored.

0

none of it was a mistake.

roadside flowers photo

No part of your life was wasted.

 

Every moment of it, waking and sleeping, molded you into who you are today, and who you will be.

 

So you went to medical school and discovered you didn’t love medicine?

 

Now you know more about yourself. You can try something else. Choose differently.

 

So you spent eight years in a relationship and then broke up?

 

Now you have eight years of knowing what you’re like in a relationship.

Eight years of conscious learning and evolving.

Eight years of kissing practice, which you might share with someone new (or not).

And you’ve discovered that this one person isn’t right for you.

 

So you worked on a painting for three weeks and ended up hating it?

 

You got to paint for three weeks straight.

You worked hard at figuring out a puzzle, and that work, in and of itself, can be so satisfying.

You can paint over that canvas.

Start anew.

Maybe this next one will flow.

 

The time and energy you’ve invested in a path does not require you to continue something longer than feels right to you.

 

It doesn’t work to make life choices based on projected ROI.

Life isn’t a balanced equation that can be solved.

 

Sometimes your gut tells you to change directions, and you’ve gotta do it.

 

None of it was a mistake.

7

no mud, no lotus

kylie and winnie photo

For the past six months or so, I’ve been mired, to varying degrees, in the stickiest, stuckiest stuck I’ve ever experienced.

 

Everything has felt stuck.

 

Sometimes all at once, sometimes one thing at a time, sometimes with stucknesses piling on top of one another.

I’ve felt wretched about myself. I’ve thought the thought, “I don’t deserve to be here.” 

I’ve thought, “I am worthless.”

 

Even though, as you know, I believe everyone deserves to be here (including me). I believe everyone has worth.

 

This has only compounded the stuck, pressed it down into itself until it becomes dirt, wood, heavy stone.

Immobile.

My inner critics have raged. “How can you feel this awful when you have such privilege? How can you claim to suffer when your dream of moving to Seattle came true?”

 

Meanwhile, the stuck has become more and more dense.

 

Most of all, my work has suffered. I’ve wondered how I can possibly coach people when I, myself, feel like such a massive, monstrous, unpresentable mess?

How can I make a living as a photographer when I’ve never had formal training?

A friend of mine mused the other day about whether this was an unspoken secret of the life coaching industry: that we coaches feel so much pressure to look perfect, to have it all figured out. To be on the other side (the shiny, joyful side) of suffering, and never look back.

That’s certainly how I’ve been feeling, though I’m almost certain the pressure to look shiny comes mainly from myself.

 

And then, I remembered.

 

(I remembered because I had a session with my former therapist, and she reminded me.)

My strength as a coach, a photographer, a writer, a friend comes from my vulnerability. 

It always has. That vulnerability is what has led me to the best places in my life: to my wife, my profession, my dearest friends, my beloved coaching clients, the gloriously real people I’ve photographed.

Even now, in my unshiny state of stickiness, my strength comes from my vulnerability. 

 

No mud, no lotus.

 

There’s this one Thich Nhat Hanh quote that I really love. He says,

“There is the mud, and there is the lotus that grows out of the mud. We need the mud in order to make the lotus.”

In my meditation community, this is shortened simply to, “No mud, no lotus.”

I think this period is a bit of my mud.

And who knows? Maybe this blog post is a lotus.

 

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