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.

2

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.

 

2

anjal chai

homemade chai recipe

It was always such a treat. That mug of rich, milky deliciousness.

Watching Anjal grate the ginger, stand quietly at the stove, poke at the liquid in her playful way.

The wafting scent of the scalded milk, which would draw me away from Gloria Anzaldua and bell hooks and back into late evening in the dorm room.

Many of my college evenings were improved by Anjal’s chai-making, just one of the many perks of being her university roommate. That chai kept me awake long into the night, sneaking up on me with its verve because it was so sweet and comforting going down.

homemade chai recipe

Between those college years and today, Anjal Chai (as I now call it) has become one of my favorite things in the world.

So many good memories unfurl from its smell and taste. So many late-night conversations. So much enthusiasm.

When Anjal visited earlier this summer, she showed me how to make chai the way she does, which was very exciting for me (toootal understatement).

I made a lot of chai after that. And I’m extremely proud of the fact that I can now make my very own chai. (It’s the little things, y’know?)

homemade chai recipe

With Anjal’s permission, I want to share with you her method for chai-making.

It’s truly simple, you don’t need much to do it, and it’s imbued with a lot of goodness, this process.

While most chai recipes call for lots of spices, all you need for this one is ginger.

Anjal will sometimes add cardamom or cinnamon, but ginger is all that she considers essential. After you try this, I’m guessing you’ll agree.

(Anjal doesn’t measure when she makes this, and neither do I. So take this little “recipe” and mold it to your liking.)

homemade chai recipe

 

Anjal Chai

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 cups water

About an inch of fresh ginger root

2 teabags of strong black tea, or two teaspoons of loose black tea (Anjal recommends Numi’s Emperor’s Pu-erh)

1.5 cups whole milk, or whatever sort of milk you like (I recommend using the best quality milk you can find; it makes a difference)

Honey or your favorite sweetener to taste

 

Instructions:

Pour the water into a saucepan and set on the heat to boil.

Snip the tops off the teabags and empty their contents into the saucepan, too.

homemade chai recipe

Grate the ginger with a microplane or grater (or mince finely if you don’t have one of those), and add that to the saucepan.

There’s no need to peel the ginger, since we’ll be straining everything at the end.

homemade chai recipe

Chai4

homemade chai recipe

Bring this to a boil, then add the milk.

homemade chai recipe

homemade chai recipe

Whisk the mixture a bit, and watch it carefully, as milk can boil over really quickly.

Once it comes to a boil, remove the pot from the heat and pour into mugs through a very fine mesh strainer.

homemade chai recipe

Serve with honey or any other sweetener you like.

Anjal often drinks hers unsweetened; I always add plenty of honey. It’s up to you!

homemade chai recipe

 

3

let’s have a laugh

fancy a laugh?

I think we can all agree that this week has been intense in the U.S., yes? 

And even if you’re in another country, there’s always something distressing happening in the news, no matter how good times are.

Halfway through this week, I felt an overpowering urge to laugh.

So I compiled a handful of videos that make me burst into fits of laughter.

I hope they do the same for you.

. . .

My fellow House of Cards fans will, I hope, love this: House of Cue Cards.

Speaking of which, did you see Ellen Degeneres’ cameo on the show?

Barkley’s New Boots made me laugh so hard. So hard.

This shark-cat cleans the kitchen in style.

This corgi really knows how to relax for a massage.

2 Chains’ youngest fan? Quite possibly.

Behold: The ferocious armadillo pounce.

This is definitely what cats are really thinking.

Truth or Truth with Stephen Colbert.

This is a song about a baby monkey riding on a small pig. You are so very welcome.

The sleepiest li’l baby!

And this doggy kissing booth is just . . . precious. Just totally precious.

. . .

Wishing you all some giggles, and a happy, safe weekend.

 

5

sunny seattle portraits (with thekla!)

thekla richter

A couple months ago, I was lucky enough to photograph Thekla Richter, a productivity coach for parents. Because she’s so full of playful smarts, I asked her if she’d be willing to tell us all about herself and her work. Luckily, she obliged! Here’s a peek at the photographs from her photo session, along with some sage advice on the power of fun. Enjoy!

. . .

thekla richter

Thekla, tell us about you!

I’m a playful productivity coach for parents — I help parents find creative ways to get the most important things done with less stress. I live in Seattle with my husband and 4-year-old son, and we have a new little girl on the way arriving in November.

I love coffee shops + the beautiful nature in the Pacific Northwest. I’m always dabbling in new artistic + musical mediums, sometimes earnestly and sometimes just for fun. Right now, I’m learning to play the ukulele. Though I might have to pause that soon because my big belly is not leaving much room for a stringed instrument these days!

thekla richter

What made you get into this coaching line of work? And how did you decide to focus on serving parents, in particular?

I decided to become a coach because I love helping people live the life they want to live. And I decided early on that I was primarily interested in helping people do that through the lens of productivity + time management.

To me productivity is really not about getting more done. It’s about making your dreams happen in super-practical ways one step at a time.

Every single potential client I’ve talked to, and I bet every single person reading this, is getting a LOT done already, though they might not realize it because we can all be so hard on ourselves and take our own efforts for granted.

Sometimes productivity can actually be about getting less done and creating enough space for the most important stuff to fully blossom.

We all have the same number of hours in the day and week, so getting done what we want usually means letting some things go. That’s not easy.

The parenting aspect of my work arose naturally when I had my first child and discovered how all the tools I’d developed for managing my life needed a major overhaul. Everything was so different when a small child was in the mix. Tons of my tools + structures suddenly didn’t work for me anymore.

That first year was a time of rebuilding + discovery for me. I noticed that there’s lots of tips for parents on the finer points of how to be more efficient or organized, but the advice out there typically focuses on the small details– little tricks for how to get more done, and advice about how to be a good parent.

To me, little tweaks weren’t enough. I needed to shift the whole way I approached productivity + life balance.

I wanted to offer other parents the chance to change their whole mindset on getting things done and taking care of themselves + their family, not just optimize the bits + pieces.

And I wanted advice that was about the parent and their own needs, not just the role of parenting but the actual person doing it. So I set out to bridge that gap.

thekla richter

Since you’re also a parent, what have you found to be the coolest thing about parenting? What’s the hardest?

The coolest thing is the pure joy of getting to love someone as much as I love my son. There is nothing else like it.

I’ll sneak in some more cool things, if I may: getting to listen to all the mind-blowing things that come out of my kiddo’s mouth. Getting to see through his eyes as he learns about the world, and learning about myself in the process. Getting reminders every day about how to play.

The hardest thing is getting my need for peaceful downtime met. I’ve always needed a lot of solo time to be my best self, and some of that time needs to take place when I’m not totally exhausted or else it’s not very replenishing.

Quiet downtime when not exhausted is in low supply for a parent! I’ve learned a lot about how to be super creative + persistent in taking care of myself.

thekla richter

What’s the wackiest/oddest/randomest exercise or homework you use with your clients?

Probably the thing that surprises people the most is that I’ll offer them homework that’s purely about fun.

Clients will come to me with super serious big goals that they feel stalled on. And I honor how important those goals are, but I often will first encourage them to set aside some time for the things they love that maybe don’t feel so productive.

It can be counter-intuitive but generally if we are exhausted or procrastinating a lot, the first thing to do is figure out how to replenish ourselves from the core outward. And that can mean getting homework like taking dance breaks or going for walks or blowing bubbles or doodling, whatever helps that person feel vital + less rushed. Because that’s got to be there first before you can get the most out of time spent working.

Wholehearted play makes wholehearted work a million times easier + more effective.

thekla richter

What’s your very favorite resource that you like to recommend to your clients?

It can be a dry read but I really encourage anyone interested in being more productive to read David Allen’s book Getting Things Done.

Understanding how we can process the STUFF that comes into our lives is super valuable. It’s really easy to get emotionally bogged down by loose ends and put-off decisions, and David Allen’s workflow for incoming information + tasks is a brilliant approach to addressing that challenge.

The system itself is not for everyone, but the ideas behind it can be used to help anyone bring more clarity + real choice into their life.

. . .

Big, big thanks to Thekla for stopping by and offering up her wisdom and heartfelt smile. You can learn more about her and her work at theklarichter.com.

1

how i started to like myself

dandelion

Kylie’s note: Today’s post comes from Joanna L K Moore, a lovely Brit who helps shy girls gain confidence.  I’m really grateful to her for sharing her story here, and I hope you’ll love reading her thoughts as much as I did. Enjoy!

. . .

If you don’t like yourself, it’s hard to see how you ever could.

 

People with swooshy hair and flawless skin in magazines always seem to be telling you to accept yourself warts and all, and while that’s alright for them — their problems seem to be solved by things like curling tongs and tweezers — you can’t imagine their advice will ever work for you and your nasal laugh/chronic illness/”extra” ten kilos.

You just can’t like something with flaws as big as yours. End of story.

But as someone who last year felt exactly the same about her habit of talking about herself too much, her see-through eyelashes, and her slight resemblance to Matt Lucas, I’m telling you that it is possible.

Over the last year, I have learned to like myself.

 

This is my journey.

 

About this time last year, I began to realize that, although I and the other girls in my mastermind group had the same goals (starting our own businesses, enjoying our work) and were interested in the exact same things (personal development, entrepreneurship, travel), we had radically different tastes when it came to learning about those interests and achieving those goals.

Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map turned my mastermind friend Iris from a depressed workaholic into a relaxed but productive dreamer. The Desire Map was amazing, she said. I had to read it.

So I rushed to get myself a copy.

But although the concept – living according to your core desired feelings rather than your goals – made complete sense to me, I just couldn’t get into it.

You see, Iris loves beautiful, poetic language. She’s into meditation and morning routines. She likes feathers and the fluidity of French.

I, on the other hand, go for writing that’s straight to the point and fun. My favorite language is German — it’s logical and has genius words like Handschuhe (gloves) — which literally translates as “hand shoes”. We have completely different tastes.

 

A few months after the Desire Map situation, my mastermind friends and I were walking through Portland, Oregon together when I realized how different we all looked.

 

Iris was wearing pale colors and had this calmness about her. Kate was bouncing along with her tattoos on display and beads on her arms. I was looking all casual in my Converse, cornrows, and denim jacket.

Suddenly it clicked: We have completely different styles.

Although on paper we are united by similar dreams and lifestyles, we’re all completely different because we have radically different tastes and styles. We’re made of similar substance but in different flavors.

 

While I adore my mastermind friends, their styles aren’t right for me.

 

I found myself feeling grateful that I was the one dressed in Converse because, out of the outfits there, mine was my favorite (of course it was – I chose it!). I was suddenly able to get a hold on what “me” was, and once I did that, I was able to appreciate it.

I liked me.

 

Now that I have this grasp on what “me” looks like, I delight whenever I spot it.

 

Writing this article, several of the phrases I typed made me smile because they’re so “me.” When I was trying to figure out how to phrase the sentence about German and couldn’t think of the word I wanted, the German equivalent popped into my head instead.

Often, when I buy a t-shirt, I’ll get home and realize it’s exactly the same colors as all my other t-shirts.

Now that I know who I am, whenever I see myself being me, I’m all, “Awww.”

So, in true “me” style, I want to make this article super clear and draw out the lessons I’ve learned from my year of liking myself, so you can apply them to your own life and start to like yourself too.

 

1.     The first step to liking yourself is working out who you are.

 

Until I was nineteen, I told people I didn’t like cheese, simply because I’d never really eaten cheese before.

Once I tried it, I realized I liked it, and it became one of the three Cs my student diet was based around (along with chocolate and cereal).

My point is that you can’t start to like yourself until you know what “yourself” is. Get to know your tastes, strengths, weaknesses, and funny quirks.

 

2.     Comparing yourself to others isn’t always bad.

 

The usual advice is to stop comparing yourself to other people because it’s futile to compare your insides with their outsides.

But when it’s used as a tool for getting to know yourself, comparison can be useful because it can help you to spot the differences between you and your friends, and to work out what makes you different (and wonderful).

 

3.     Sometimes it’s about flavor rather than dramatic differences.

 

Whereas in books and films characters can easily be identified as “the clever one,” “the girly one,” or “the sporty one,” in real life, most of us aren’t all that different.

Don’t feel like you need to be this wildly unique person. Instead, focus on identifying the style or preferences that make you “you.”

 

4.     Try seeing yourself as a brand.

 

If you’re like me, and like things to be clear cut, try seeing yourself and your friends as different brands.

Think about which colors you’d each be. Which fonts you’d use. Which words you’d pick for your slogan.

This technique makes it really easy to see how different you are to your friends.

 

5.     Once you know what “you” looks like, keep an eye out for it.

 

This is the fun bit. Once you start to spot bits of yourself everywhere, it turns into a bit of an in-joke.

It’s like when there’s a recurring joke in a film and the audience laughs every time it comes up because they’re in on it.

It’s you and yourself being yourself. It’s cute.

 

Even if you can’t see how you could ever love yourself, know that it is possible.

 

Believe it enough to try. Start by getting to know yourself. Find out what makes you different.

Because it’s what makes you different that makes you special.

 . . .

joanna l k mooreJoanna L K Moore (Jo) runs Twisted Sleeve, where she helps shy girls get the confidence they need to do whatever they dream of doing. She writes about confidence, identity, shyness, and introversion, and has just published the self-study course DIY Self-Esteem: How To Start Liking Yourself. You can find out more about Jo here.

0

heart-centered portland portraits (with pace!)

pace smith

When it comes down to it, I moved to the Pacific Northwest for two things: the people and the nature. I’m lucky that my new-ish hometown places me close to lots of my favorite West Coast peeps, two of whom are Pace Smith and her wife, Kyeli.

Just a few days ago, Pace debuted her brand new, beautiful website (designed skillfully by Margie Merkevicius). Since I’m now on the West Coast, Pace invited me to take the photos for the site, and I got to head down to Portland a couple months ago for a day of photography fabulousness and laughter with Pace and Kyeli (who shares my name, if not its spelling).

I asked Pace if I might share some of the photos we took together here, as well as an interview, because I admire her philosophy and wanted to share a bit more of her wisdom with all of you. I hope you enjoy her words just as much as I do.

 . . .

pace smith

 

Pace, tell us about you!

I’m a geek! I used to be all up in my head, and now I lead with my heart . . . but I still get to be a geek. (; I love to play Dance Dance Revolution, and I’ve recently acquired the odd hobby of carrying my friends. Like, literally picking them up off the ground. (Kylie’s note: She’s not kidding; here’s evidence!)

I know your work is incredibly meaningful to you. What makes this work so important, both to you and other people?

My work is Pathfinding – finding your heart’s calling. It’s deeply meaningful to me because when I’m on my path, I feel fulfilled and purposeful, like I’m making a difference, regardless of whether I’m reaching thousands of people or simply acting kindly toward one person I meet on the street. And that’s also why it’s so important to me to share this work with others. I know how much it’s meant to me to find my own path. Now I want to help others feel the same way.

 

pace smith

 

What were you doing before you started down your current life/career path?

Ha! I was a computer programmer working for an artificial intelligence company. I fell in love with the dream of truly intelligent artificial intelligence. I wanted to be part of changing the world. But now I feel that it’s more important to change the world by bringing more heart into it than by solving brainy problems.

 

pace smith

 

How has your life changed since you’ve started doing this work?

I’m more compassionate. I’m more open. I feel more complete – I used to have this “Is this as good as it gets?” feeling every once in a while, and that’s gone now. I cry more — but it feels pure because I don’t resist it. And my life has gotten WAY more interesting.

 

pace smith

 

Do you have a favorite practice that brings you back to yourself when you start feeling lost? If so, what is it?

It’s called Remembrance. It’s a practice I learned from the Sufis that helps me center myself in my heart whenever I feel jankety or stressed out.

 

pace smith

 

What is your absolute, hands-down favorite resource that you like to recommend to your clients and students?

The Wisdom of the Enneagram, by Riso and Hudson. I’m a total Enneagram fangirl; it’s such an amazing tool for self-knowledge and personal growth. I send a copy of this book to all my Pathfinding clients before we start working together!

. . .

Pace, thank you so much for sharing your story and your gorgeous, smiling face. To find out more about Pace and her life-changing work, visit her at PaceSmith.com

 

2

sometimes you’ve gotta fail to succeed

stand up paddleboard

I’m in the bay, being pushed backward by the current.

I’m paddling as quickly as I can, one side, then switching hands to the other, but no matter how quickly I switch, the current is quicker than I am.

I wonder if I’ll just spend the rest of my life in this New Jersey bay. I think I could probably handle that. As long as I don’t fall off.

 

I’m stand up paddleboarding for the first time.

 

You kayak past enough stand up paddleboarders in Seattle’s Lake Union, and you begin to wonder what the fuss is about with this wildly popular water sport.

And then you visit family on the Jersey Shore, and you decide that you’re gonna do this thing.

Which is how you end up being swept backward by a strong current, wondering if you’ll ever get back to shore and hoping you don’t fall in.

 

I did, eventually, escape the current.

 

It took a bit of pulling on behalf of our instructors to set my classmates and me free and to then escape into a calmer channel, sheltered from the wind.

At that point, I began to more fully understand how to paddle, how to stand, how to stay standing and also paddle at the same time.

 

I still didn’t want to fall off.

 

I wobbled timidly, bracing myself against slipping off the board.

After a while, I started to gain confidence.

I began to actually move forward, of my own volition!

I started to (sort of) pick up speed!

I stuck my paddle in the water, using the pull of the water to turn around, and the force pulled me off-center.

I tumbled frontwards into the saltwater.

 

It was actually rather refreshing. And fun. Barely cold at all.

 

I hoisted myself back onto my board, and almost immediately realized that something had changed.

I was suddenly, dare I say it, good at paddleboarding.

(Well, maybe good is overstating it a bit. But certainly significantly, and surprisingly, better than I had been mere moments before.)

I realized why.

It was because I was no longer afraid of falling in.

I’d already done it, and I knew I could do it again, and it wouldn’t be a problem.

 

My strokes were stronger, more confident. I felt more solidly rooted atop my board.

 

All because I had fallen in, and I was no longer trying to avoid it.

 

I learned a few things from my first paddleboarding experience:

 

First, paddleboarding is a lot harder than it looks.

Second, it makes your quads really sore.

Third (and, I’d argue, most importantly), having the “worst” thing happen can actually be really, really good for you.

 

“Failing” at the thing can make you immeasurably better at the thing. 

 

It sure did for me.

 

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