Big Sur Heart

September 20, 2011

When I head north to Big Sur my heart swells knowing that I’ll be rhythmically winding around the edges of cliffs that drop off into a rocky mountain landscape. Around each bend an enchanting view reveals itself without noise. No imagery shouts at you, it just welcomes you. The water’s edge invites you to breathe, the mountains remind you of your size, and redwoods create a canopy of protection that keep out any agendas you brought with you. Big Sur is a place that calls me when I need healing.

Some days the morning fog settles over your soul and gives your heart a new story to tell. Seeing landscapes in layers can mimic the complex layers that we carry within us. When nature reveals her layers to us, bathed in morning light and dripping in heavy fog, the contrast of emotions can leave us breathless for a moment. For me, this is a moment of meditation that breaks through all our layers of  emotional crust. This is how I heal. It may only be a brief glimpse of a ray of sun casting light off the mountain and into the sea but it can change something in us.

This summer has been really hard. I’ve struggled creatively, professionally, and personally. I can feel paralyzed when all three circles overlap and show signs of stress. I think most people experience this feeling at one time or another. The pressure to have a career is intense. It’s double  intense when you haven’t a clue what you’d like to do in life. It’s triple intense when you’re 35 yrs old and everyone you know is a success. It weighs heavy on my heart. This summer I felt like it was the heaviest it’s ever been. It became near debilitating.

My creative life has suffered for a while. In my current job I teach art. I teach kids to trust themselves and their creative choices. I teach them to own their art and create with confidence. I then come home with great ideas and no action. Sometimes there are obstacles blocking my path that just need money and time. Other times it’s just me blocking my path. The more unhappy I am in other aspects of my life the more my creative life suffers. When that outlet closes up, I close up. I think this is true for many artists and creative types. It’s our life blood. Work is just a means to support creative life. It gets tricky sometimes because if that work drains us it can affect our creative life. For me, the two circles have lots of overlap.

My personal life overlaps with both of the other circles all the time . It’s been stressful. On the one hand, I have the greatest husband, friend, and supporter. I’m so lucky in that department.  I’m grateful every day that I get to wake up next to him. For everything that I’ve done wrong in my life, this was the one thing I did right! He knows me at my deepest core. On the other hand, I’m just pretty miserable with other aspects of my life now. I don’t like living in the valley. I hate my commute. I’m pretty stressed everyday . It’s taxing for everybody and on my body. Getting older isn’t easy. I’ve spent tons of time at the doctor getting poked and prodded and having tests done. This has added a whole new layer of anxiety to everything.

I know I’m not the only one out there that feels the heaviness of these three  areas of life overlapping and making life hard at times.  I do yoga, I meditate, exercise, eat right, and try to land on the side of optimism. Sometimes, it’s not enough to break through our layers. The healing process is different for everyone. For me, it was nice to hit the road with friends and wind through redwoods and listen to water crash on rocks. I may not have broken through all the layers but I was able to start cracking them open.

My suggestion for anyone needing a reboot ni life is to take a road trip. It would be awesome if you could go by yourself or with a trusted partner. Unfold into nature and peel back the layers of anxiety and stress. A great place to  start is in Big Sur, Ca. Drive up Highway 1 and visit the elephant seals in Sam Simeon. If they don’t make you laugh you’re not human. Continue on up to Big Sur and go camping in the redwoods. Take day trips to all the beaches and visit local businesses. Have a drink at Nepenthe and a coffee and pastry at Big Sur Bakery. Take photos, write, draw, paint or just look out into the sea. As Big Sur reveals itself to you, you will recover a piece of yourself in the process.

Happy travels!

i was listening to NPR a few weeks or months ago and the segment was about this woman named cassie boorn who was creating a blog for other woman to write letters to their 20 yr old selves. i was very inspired by this project and wanted to join in. i highly recommend it as a cathartic mental exercise. there was so much more i wanted to say to myself and to other women but you have to let certain parts of life just be. i want to thank cassie boorn for coming up with such a great idea. what a wonderful way for women to share their experiences. you can learn a lot about yourself and connect with all women in the process of reflection. i recommend it for men too.

dear 20 yr old carol,

i sit here, a 34 yr old woman wondering where time went. there is so much i want to tell you. most of all i want to tell you be braver, bolder and more open to the ebb and flow of life. you’re so insecure and angry and i just want you to know that your family loves you. you’ll have a lot of decisions to make about your future and most of them will be wrong.

writing isn’t the only art you’ll grow to love. living in words will always support you when you feel the pull of the extreme moods that you’ll face for the rest of your life. i want you to know that there are so many more outlets for you to process your emotions. you’re creative, insightful and incredibly emotional. you’re also more stubborn than most mules. your passions can be blinding. you’ll internalize a lot of fears that others project onto you. those fears will be your greatest obstacles. fear of success. fear of small talk. fear of judgment. fear of being yourself. fear of being loved. fear will be scary until you learn how to harness it into experience. that takes a lifetime.

don’t trust boys until you truly know who you are. most boys who know you before your twenty will only know who you’re trying to be for them. they will hurt you. they will humiliate you. they will make you feel sad. many of them will say things that aren’t true about you. many will think your pretty but that’s it. you’re going to hurt a lot of people too. search for your depth. depth will help you mine your soul and elevate you to a more conscious being. until you can connect with a positive and radiant light in your own life you won’t be able to connect with others in a way that makes you feel confident and content.

you don’t have to be so angry. it turns out your angry because you’re not living your truth. your quiet and that is okay. you’ll find your voice. that anger is going to poison you for a while. it will bring on stress and sleepless nights for many years. the truth is you live for love. don’t mistake this for living to be loved by others. you’ll never want to be surrounded by many. you’ll spend a long time looking for friends that are supportive and loving. even when you find that niche, it will always be tested.

yoga will breathe life back into you. it will start as a physical activity that you become slightly obsessed with. stick with it. a great spirit will form in you that gives you the ability to connect where once those feelings were weak. it will help with the constant inflammation you’ll feel in your body for a lifetime. it will help your anxiety. however, there will come a time when you have to stop doing yoga and start being yoga. treasure that transformation. it’s a lifelong journey.

be brave. be honest. try not to be so intense…it scares people. pour your intensity into art. try writing, sculpting, painting and sewing all your fears, ideas and observations about life into your work. sometimes it’s the easiest way for you to speak. you’ll never feel heard. that will never change. there are ways to combat all the noise and to find a frequency and a medium that support you. live in your truth. love from the deepest and scariest depths of your heart. open your ears to listen and eventually you’ll be heard.

also, you’re going to meet this guy named peter. your life is never going to be the same.

love and light,

34 year old you

california love

June 24, 2010

the crusty tight layer of the city that feels like paper mache around my heart begins to crack and shed layers  when i drive up  highway 1. i look forward to my annual pilgrimage to big sur.  you can imagine my heartbreak when i woke up the morning i was to leave for a family trip with terrible stomach pains and flu-like symptoms. the roads i look so forward to winding around began to take whatever wind i had in my sails out.  its hard to have a sunny disposition when you’re going camping with flu symptoms. while this trip was not one i’d put at the top of my favorites due to my nausea and tummy pains i still managed to see many beautiful vistas and spend time with peter and my family.  we’d never gone on a trip with my family so i was really looking forward to it.

we camped at plaskett creek which is close to the town of lucia. the campground wasn’t bad  minus the outhouse situation. it’s pretty far south of big sur and if you’re into camping with amenities this may not be your place. you can cross highway 1 and walk to sand dollar beach which is incredible! i heard jade cove is nearby but we couldn’t fit it in.the next campground up highway one is kirk creek and it looks awesome. it’s right on the ocean cliffs. it could be a wind nightmare or the most beautiful camp spot in california.

camping south of big sur was beautiful. it was a different experience than camping in the canopy of trees in the north. it has more sun and beaches.  i think i prefer the camping in big sur only because i love the culture of the hippies and artists that make their living in the redwoods. big sur is just such a magical and inspiring getaway. nature just can’t help but climb up into your soul…even if you have the flu!

ebb and flow

May 4, 2010

“Unlike humans, wolves do not deem the ups and downs of life, energy, power, food, opportunity as startling or punitive. The peaks and valleys just are, and wolves ride them as efficiently, as fluidly, as possible. The instinctual nature has the miraculous ability to live through all positive boon, all negative consequence, and still maintain relationship to self, to other.”   –women who run with the wolves,  by clarissa pinkola estes, phd

love. it confuses people. it confuses both those who are falling deep into it and those watching it happen from a distance. sooner or later those who are lost in the boon of love are challenged by others to reframe or reshape that love into something that suits them better. the quote above reminds me that, for humans, to ebb and flow is life. my heart hurt a little recently. i felt like little bruises were left on my heart. in processing my experience i cried a little, i ran a little, i wrote a little and i remembered who i am a little. the bruises began to shrink and my breath returned to me.

i spend a lot of time alone. i love to write, express, ponder and curate my emotions. as i get older, more time is spent here, in this  contemplative world. i found some pictures i took a few weeks back. i was driving home from my grandmother’s house when i noticed we were between rainstorms and the wind was picking up. i was right by the beach knew i had to stop. these photos speak to me in ways i can’t communicate in words. it is moments like these that heal the unintended bruises that life presses onto your heart.

optimal enchantment

April 25, 2010

it’s been a tough week. i’ve been living in this very emotional and stagnant place for too long. this past weekend i hit the wall with my thoughts. we really can become prisoners of our own minds. the cycle of repetitive thoughts, thinking about tomorrow instead of today and projecting fears onto ourselves. worst of all, this stagnant crust begins to grow and it  paralyzes us from being positive. i knew what i had to do. i had to seek optimal enchantment.

optimal enchantment can be found in a room on the second floor of a building on santa monica blvd in santa monica. i call it optimal enchantment because of the sign that says that inside of the building. i think that is what it says. regardless, it is what i wanted it to say in that moment. the real name of this place is santa monica power yoga. about ten years ago i stepped foot into this space nervously. what the hell was my friend making me do?

smpy has a lot of lovers and a lot of haters. people love it or hate it. for me, brian kest changed my life. he was my first yoga teacher. smpy is his donation based studio. when i started there, they had one location. a weird room upstairs that always had a crazy line around the corner for yoga. it’s a smelly room with no frills. its kinda what i love about it. some people don’t like the crowded room but i feed off it. the energy of people coming together to level out. there is nothing like it. some people don’t like his teaching style because it’s so physical. i argue what starts out as physical seamlessly evolves into a mind and body practice.

when i first started doing yoga, i was in a job i hated and had a lot of personal anger towards the world. i’m the shy and quiet type but my anger had just kept growing over the years. it was this cycle of anger and anxiety that found me in my first downward dog. when i first entered into my practice i wasn’t sure what was going on and didn’t totally know how to listen to my body. all i knew was that i was working some shit out. i noticed that i was calmer at work and my body didn’t hurt when i was on my feet all day. i actually even took up running for a while because i learned how to breathe.

i was lucky, my back corner spot was open. it was like no time had passed. my heart instantly began to feel full and we hadn’t even started class yet. it was a nice reminder that making the extra effort to level out and find balance is always worth it. i wasn’t even upset that brian wasn’t there to teach. travis took his place and i welcomed it. it was hard to remember to listen to my body until i tried to lift one leg in the air and realized i had a muscle pain in my leg. the kind that could rip if not listened to. this was a reminder of how important it is to move our bodies daily. that emotional and stagnant feeling builds up in our muscles when we stop caring for our bodies.

i stand on my feet all day on concrete floors, half hunched over teaching children or cleaning up their art messes. my muscles begin to forget that they need opening up. that crusty layer of ick began to peel itself off as soon as i entered into my first child’s pose. it was amazing. i left class and i felt like i reset my mind. i felt like i connected with that moment after my very first class,10 years ago, when i emerged from this room and everything was crisp. leaves on every tree were vivid and alive. i felt open and ready to heal. next time i feel like fear, anxiety and my own thoughts are cocooning  around me, i will remember to seek optimal enchantment in that special little hidden stinky room above the radio shack on santa monica blvd. namaste.

cultivating patience

April 2, 2010

it’s  that time of year in southern california when the weather seems unseasonable compared to other parts of the country. early spring hikes, premature wearing of flip-flops and our first pair of shorts find their way into our wardrobe rotation. its invigorating and exciting to watch our natural world wake up. leaves unfurl themselves, pesky bugs begin snooping around my plants and the farmer’s markets begin to fill with tantalizing fruits and veggies.

last year we began growing our own fruits and veggies in our garden. many were a success and some went to that farm upstate where bad plants go to live out the sad end of their lives. this year we are trying again to be our own farmers. allow me to preface this by saying that we’re growing all our veggies and fruits in containers. we have a small yard and no room to plant in ground, so we’re going the container route.

peter has started many seeds inside the house, while we already have some larger plants growing outside. the picture above shows his sprouting seeds from hatch, new mexico. peter grew up in el paso ,tx  and often drove through the chile fields in hatch and has quite fond memories of fresh delicious sun-kissed hatch chilies. that being said, we were sadly informed that hatch chiles can only be called hatch chiles if the are grown in hatch, new mexico. so we are calling them our hatch inspired chiles! they are doing great so far, probably because I’ve had nothing to do with them!

we’re also working on sprouting some carrots, peas and radishes. outside we’ve planted swiss chard, eggplants, strawberries, jalapeños and grapes. many people may say “why bother?” i say, because it feels so good! i love being connected to my food. whether we get to harvest all these plants or not, we get to watch them evolve and learn about the process of growing food.  one day when we have a larger garden it will be so rewarding to be able to plant rows or chard, lettuce and chiles and perhaps know what we’re doing. these are all test rounds. farmers aren’t great farmers overnight.

the other aspect of growing your own food that is nice is the meditative process of cultivating patience. peter has taught me that, by tending to his baby seeds everyday. it is amazing to watch another person connect to the process the way he has. patience is everything with gardening. perhaps that’s why i’m not the most talented gardener!

if all goes well, we plan on having a nice harvest party at the end of the year. we’re vegetarians and also live a gluten-free lifestyle. this makes it so hard to join dinner parties or even accept an invitation anymore. i think people feel that we’re a pain in the ass. this is true. we’re a pain in the ass. we can’t eat a lot of things! hopefully our harvest bbq will show that we can be social and eat at he same time. we also hope to showcase some delicious gluten-free and vegetarian foods complete with recipe book! it should be fun and enlightening experience for everyone!

lets hope our plants all make it to harvest!