Envisioning a Beautiful 2014

As I’m sure you’re aware if you follow me on social media at all, I am REALLY REALLY excited for our upcoming trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua in February & March. Shortly after landing in San Jose, we’ll be heading to the Pacific coast near beautiful Uvita, Costa Rica for Envision Festival, a music, movement & arts festival that will be my first international festival experience. (Technically I guess it’s still a west-coast music fest though, and I’ve been to plenty of those!)

Envision Festival 2014 Music Lineup

So far James and I have bought our festival tickets and booked our flights, and even recruited a few friends to share the adventure with! We will be exploring a few sites in Costa Rica after the festival before heading over the border to Nicaragua, where James’s dad is living, so we’ll have a nice home base in Managua.

As hard as it is for me, I am trying not to over-plan so that we can freely explore when we get there and go with the flow without a strict schedule. But I do have a short wish list for the trip: I’d like to zipline through beautiful rainforest or cloud forest canopy, enjoy a fancy tropical drink out of a coconut at a swim-up bar, spin fire on the beach at sunset, hike in the jungle to beautiful waterfalls and epic volcanoes, visit and volunteer at a wildlife refuge or permaculture farm or some such worthy place, and best of all SEE TIPPER LIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN COSTA RICA!!! 😀

I can already tell that 2014 is going to be a wonderful year! Please comment with recommendations for things to do and see in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, people to stay with and places we could volunteer for a few days are especially welcome!

And if you’re up for an adventure to close out this winter, JOIN US! Get your Envision Tickets here, and use discount code STmeganp14 during checkout to receive $5 off! It is going to be a beautiful trip in an amazing place… And now you know what I’m working towards all winter. 🙂

 

Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday (as long as you ignore its homicidal historical roots) and a great reminder for us to be thankful for everything we have. It’s been nice seeing people share things they are grateful for online rather than complaints, but unfortunately it’s often the only time many people even think to count their blessings or focus on what they’re grateful for. The fact that it’s followed immediately by “Black Friday” which has become an increasingly dangerous and disgusting display of rampant consumerism gone wrong makes it seem all the more trivial – how ironic is it that people are trampling each other to get into mega-stores to buy more useless crap the day after giving thanks for everything they already have?

So keep counting your blessings at Thanksgiving, but having and expressing gratitude is most beneficial when it’s done every day and is part of your lifestyle. In fact, having what I like to call an “attitude of gratitude” and expressing gratitude regularly has been proven to increase happiness. Sweet!

A few years ago, I was going through a rough breakup and a lot of life changes, in debt and broke, and felt truly alone for the first time in my life. Luckily I have always been an optimist, and I have a wonderful support network of family and friends, but it was a pretty dark time in my life when I wasn’t making great decisions or feeling good about much at all. One thing I did to help bring myself out of this slump, which I first heard about from a good friend who worked at Cafe Gratitude for a summer in Berkeley, was to start asking myself regularly, “What are you grateful for?” and keeping a gratitude journal where I write down something I am grateful for each day (or at least as often as I remember). I discovered over time that SO much of how I felt and how happy I was depended on where my focus and my thoughts were. When I made time to think about what I was grateful for, and express that gratitude by writing it down or sharing it with others, I realized just how many things I had to be thankful for in life, and I began seeing the positive in every situation. It became apparent to me that we really do create our own realities – and we have the power to shift our focus and perspective, which can truly shift our entire lives. Looking back now, that dark time in my life wasn’t a negative at all – it was a necessary and painful ending of my old life and a chance for me to forge ahead and create the new life I desired all on my own terms.

I am a much happier person now than I ever have been simply because I choose to notice and focus on the positive things that I am grateful for in life, rather than worrying about all the bad things that have happened or could happen, and seeking out or dwelling on negativity. Your thoughts and words have power, as do your actions and your choices. Why give the negative things in life MORE power by thinking of them incessantly, complaining about them to friends, and in general spending your energy generating this negativity? Why not focus on the positive and what you do like, count your blessings and tell yourself that you’re ok and things will get better? Staying positive can be difficult in tough situations, but it certainly can’t do any harm.

I think it was Buddha who said “What we think, we become,” and he’s right. Our thoughts inform our speech, our actions, our beliefs, and our lives. We have the power to manifest anything we put our minds to. Focusing on positivity leads to more positivity, while focusing on negativity leads to more negativity. It really is that simple. Being constantly down and dwelling on what’s wrong, comparing yourself to others and complaining about what you don’t have is only going to lead you to more of the same – negativity. Smiling through your tears, thinking of everything you do have to be grateful for, and focusing on the silver linings and celebrating small victories in life will bring more positivity and more happiness. Having an attitude of gratitude leads to living a happier, more fulfilling life. Or at least it’s working pretty damn well for me!

So, what are you grateful for?

11.12.13

11.12.13… Mathematical! Today is our 6-month anniversary. Thank you for everything, James, I love you and I look forward to many more adventures together! <3

James and I riding the wheel in Seattle Me and James at Enchanted Forest 2013

Love IS All We Need

Love is All You Need

The Beatles really were on to something, love is all you need. But not necessarily romantic love, the cheesy perfect boy-meets-girl scenario we see in the movies, just the very basic benevolence and compassion and connection that is the core of who we are and why we’re here. Love comes in many forms and from many people in our lives, and when we expand our definition of love, we expand our capacity to receive and see the love in our lives.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I can say that from my personal experience, the more love I give, the more it grows, the more I get, the more I see it, the more it blossoms… The more love I have within, the more I am capable of receiving. And when you really think about it, aren’t all the problems plaguing the world — war, greed, corruption, hatred, destruction — really just a lack of love and understanding? If we all truly loved ourselves, and truly loved each other as equals, and embodied that love so that our every action, word, and thought came from a place of love … war, inequality, famine, greed — all of it would be unable to exist. It really is that simple. Or it should be, at least.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I tell people that love is my religion, it is this sort of love that I am talking about: the love of having compassion for other beings, seeing that all life is connected and that we are all one. This love is the way of the pure heart: it gives effortlessly and continuously and expects nothing in return. This love is unselfish, nonjudgmental, and always kind. A lovely article I read recently called A Freeing Love describes it quite eloquently:

Love at its very purest state, is an energy, a vibration and a way of being. We come from love and it is love to which we will return. Our earliest impulse is to love and our last fleeting moments will be spent in a state of love. Love cannot be bought or sold. You cannot own love, you cannot acquire or lose it. We cannot look for love in the hope that it will complete us, because we are made of love – it is, at our very essence, who we already are.

Since we are all born knowing how to love, it must be that we simply forget over time as life drags us through the muck of the world. So returning to that state of love requires remembering. I think life is all about remembering how to be love, how to live love, and how to align our lives with love so that we can truly be happy and whole. Once we remember this, we will know that we can’t go out looking for love like it’s something that we’re missing, seeking another person’s love to complete us. Remembering and returning to the source means we are already complete, we are love, and there is nothing we lack. The hard part, of course, is this remembering who we are, this returning to source, this forgetting all of the troubles of the world and just BEING LOVE.

Maybe someday we’ll get there, we’ll remember why we’re here and the world, once full of nothing but love, will heal itself. Until then, all we can do is love ourselves, love others, spread love, be love, and change the world by looking within and changing ourselves first. I know it’s ridiculously optimistic, but I believe it. I believe in LOVE! As the most powerful force on the universe, love will prevail, once we learn how to let it.

Finding my Flow(mily)

Ever since Earthdance in September 2008 when I purchased my first hula hoop and began my journey into hooping, spinning, and the flow arts, I have been slowly connecting with and becoming a part of the wonderful flow arts community I call my “flowmily.” Flow arts is a relatively new art form that draws together influences from a variety of related movement art forms: martial arts, dance, juggling, circus arts, ancient cultural dance forms, and all kinds of object manipulation meld together and influence flow artists. We’re all seeking and sharing a love of the state of flow that comes from the concentration, movement, and discovery that learning the variety of forms of “movement meditation” provides.

Flow Temple beautifully describes the “flow state” that we can arrive at by many means, and which seems to come naturally with the flow and movement arts.

Flow is the state of relaxed responsive focus that you feel when you’re “in the zone” and ready for anything.  Flow is the state of optimal experience that occurs when your body, mind, and spirit are in dynamic balance. It’s what’s happening when the Now is so compelling that everything else fades away. Ego and fear dissolve in the perfect moment, time slows down, and whatever you are doing becomes a meditation. Flow tows the fine line between controlling your actions and obeying your commands.  You know when you’re in the flow, and flowing is half the battle. Where will and physics intersect, we hone our own flow.

My first introduction to fire spinning was seeing people spin fire at Okanogan Family Faire, a fall barter faire in northern Washington that I began going to in 2002. Seeing someone dance with fire was one of the coolest things my 19-year-old eyes had ever seen, but at that point, I never in a million years imagined that I would ever be able to do it! A few friends of mine were into hula hooping, but it was something I was never much good at until I finally bought a BIG, heavy rattan hula hoop from Holistic Hooping at Earthdance in 2008. I had always felt klutzy and uncoordinated, so hooping did not come naturally to me and I had to push through the awkwardness and keep spinning even though I didn’t feel graceful with it. I started practicing with that big hoop despite the bruised hips and failed attempts at grace, and soon was having hoop groups with my friends and exploring the world of hoopdance.

Through festivals like barter faires, FireDrums , Burning Man, and in my local community in my new home on the Mendocino Coast, I began seeing more and more hoopers and spinners. I haven’t always had the time to make regular practice a big part of my life, but the more I have gotten into it, the more amazing, inspirational, open-hearted and brilliant people I have met through the flow arts. A few of my good friends and I began hooping on the beaches and the bluffs regularly, and we all encouraged each other and shared as we learned. One of those hooper friends, Kelsie, started making hoops, and she now runs a hoop company, Sacred Shape. We launched her web site in fall 2013!

I have made and deepened so many friendships through spinning. Some of my fondest flow memories brought me full circle back to OFF barter faire, when 5 friends and I performed together as Kushi Tala and spun fire for our barter faire family in 2010. We were asked to come back again in 2011 and performed both Friday and Saturday nights to an even bigger, more enthusiastic crowd. I had only been spinning fire for a year in 2010 (my virgin burn with a fire hoop was at the same barter faire in 2009) but I was with friends who had been spinning for years and with their support, I felt ready to share my newfound love of this art form with the world. I have had the opportunity to perform at several small events since then, and though I don’t consider myself a professional performer yet by any means, it is always really rewarding seeing people’s response to the flow arts. It has even become a tradition for me to spin fire for my family when everyone is gathered for the holidays.

At FireDrums in 2011, my first fire spinning focused festival, I expanded my object manipulation universe past the hoop and began picking up fire fans and flow wand (or levitation wand). Flow wand has quickly become my favorite prop to dance with. It feels so natural to me that even though hooping will always be my first love, I feel that flow wand is my “native prop” – it is truly an extension of myself and it’s a very accessible way to reach the flow state. My first wand was just a simple practice wand from the wonderful company my friend Erik works for, FlowToys. When I got their LED flowlight wand for Christmas, it became my constant companion, and it’s still my favorite flow toy to take to shows or concerts or anywhere I may not have the space to hoop.

Flow has brought so many wonderful experiences, insights, and people into my life, and I am eternally grateful for the inspiring community I am becoming a part of. But there is one connection that stands out in my mind as the greatest gift the flow arts has ever brought me… and that is my sexy poi-spinning sweetie, James (Flicker). Around Halloween in 2012, James and I were asked by a mutual friend to spin fire at the Fuzzy Nights Halloween party at The Caspar Inn. We’d known of each other via Facebook (and it’s a very small spinning community in Mendo) but we hadn’t really spun together or hung out until that night. We had a little impromptu fire jam outside the party that night and became friends pretty much immediately. I was excited to find someone locally who was as excited about spinning as I was, and it helped that he was a DJ who happened to have very similar tastes in music as me, so our paths continued to cross and intertwine and out of our friendship blossomed the most beautiful love I’ve ever experienced.

After local hoopers spotted me LED hooping on Halloween, I began going to a hoop group at a dance studio that fall, and soon we had opened it up to other forms of spinning and flow arts and I began helping to organize weekly spin jams. Of course I invited James to come spin, and despite being the only guy and the only poi spinner for the first few months as we generated interest, he stuck it out and helped recruit people, and we now organize spin jams twice a week together. Having a partner in flow that helps me nurture and grow our local flow community has been amazing, and this is just the beginning! We make a wonderful team and I am so grateful that circus arts and playing with fire brought us together and gives us something to continue growing and learning in.

Flicker and Twisty Gypsy Spinning Fire

I am grateful for many many things in life, but especially for the gifts that flow arts and my beautiful flowmily have given me. One of my new life missions has become learning and absorbing everything I can about circus arts, practicing and tuning my body, mind, and spirit so that I can best express myself and share the love of flow arts with others. It has truly transformed my life and I’ll always love the world of flow.

I close this long rambling love letter to the flow arts in my life with a beautiful video FlowToys released wrapping up their 2013 festival season. There are many familiar faces in this video and fellow flow ninja Jonathan Alvarez put it together. Let it be the first of many inspiring flow videos I share here!

A Creative Paradox: This Explains A Lot

10 Paradoxical Traits of Creative People sure explains a lot. Like how I’ve scored as an ENFP half the time and INFP half the time I’ve taken personality tests, or that I’m not right brain or left brain dominant, but somewhere in the middle. I’ve always known I’m a little different, ok, so more like weird. I’m just grateful that I had a family and community surrounding me that recognized my weirdness as imagination and creativity and helped me nurture those traits, rather than making me feel like a freak.

The article explains how creative people are often living paradoxes: both intelligent and naive, responsible and silly, energetic yet at peace, proud and humble, simultaneously an extrovert and an introvert. We walk the line between extremes because we know that being, and staying, creative has a lot to do with experiencing both the highs and the lows, taking everything life throws your way as an opportunity to grow and to create something. The creative process varies for everyone, but however you create, in whatever art form you express yourself, you are participating in a process that is at the very core of what it means to be alive and to be human. Life is full of contradictions and contrasts, and likewise so is art and creative expression. It makes sense that creative people are similarly complex. I believe anyone can be creative and everyone is an artist, it’s an innate part of us that might just need to be remembered and practiced to be maintained.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
—Pablo Picasso

It’s About Time

I am a web designer, but my web site hasn’t been updated much since I designed it in 2005. Sad, I know. What was that saying about the shoemaker’s kids having no shoes again? 😉

Anyway, it’s about damn time I revamped this thing. And I think I’ll just start fresh, with a boring ol’ WordPress template, and build from there with my own child theme and all that. Maybe I’ll end up refreshing my identity for the blog, or maybe I’ll just let what I share here speak for itself. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve been learning more about designing with WordPress, so this will be a place to put what I learn into practice, as well as a place to bare a bit of my soul, since I can do that on my little corner of the internets. That’s what the internet is for, after all. Gotta use it as the last bastion of free speech while I still can!

Stay tuned. Things may look worse before they look better. But this site will be a constant work in progress, so at least it won’t be boring and stagnant (like the site I designed in 2005 when I was graduating college that I’m finally replacing). Life is full of change, here goes another! 🙂