Step Out of the Personality Pigeonhole

I recently heard myself say to a friend, “I’m just such a Type A.” That was code for “I am a perfectionist,” but even as I said it I questioned the truth of it.

I leave dishes in the sink (sometimes for days), I often put my hair up rather than style it, and I’m more interested in trying new things for work than being a career-driven achiever.

That doesn’t sound very Type A, does it? Is there a Type B? And where did this whole system come from anyway?

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A Moment of Silence With 400,000 People

“Silence is a source of great strength.”  —Lao Tzu

I wouldn’t have thought you could get 400,000 people excitedly waiting to begin the largest climate march in history to stop, become still and silent, and raise their hands in solidarity. But it happened—and it was powerful.

As we lined the western edge of Central Park with a cushion of quiet, we had a moment to access that place beyond words, to get in touch with the bigger picture, to tap into the mystery that transcends but includes us all.

After filling up on the love, peace, joy, connection, or whatever each of us found in that moment of reflection, we brought forth that energy in a roll of sound that moved through the crowd like a wave in perpetual crest.

It was a roar of hope and frustration, of joy and anger, of optimism and sadness. It was a roar of love—the sound of a mother bear protecting her cubs and a parent whispering, “I love you” to their sleeping baby.

It was the sound of the Earth itself, saying, “I will not be denied.”

We’re All One Tribe

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The People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 was significant for many reasons, but for me the most important was its inclusiveness. The causes represented spanned everything from labor rights to veganism to water protection to nuclear disarmament. But underlying all the concerns is a love for our home, our precious planet, that is strong enough to get people off their couches and into the streets.

I have loved nature for as long as I can remember. I spent hours romping through the woods and exploring my dad’s vegetable garden when I was a kid, and our vacations happened in an 6-person Coleman tent that included cots and a 100-pound St. Bernard.

As an adult, I have struggled to find a place where I felt at home in the “environmental movement.” Who is my pack?

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Eat With Your Hands

227050_1987359533718_4482011_n“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
—Plato

Playfulness is one of the things that seem to disappear from life as we grow up. We get pressured to be serious, deliberate, and mature. We tweak and trim our behavior until it fits what we think it means to act like a grown up. We never feel like one, though, and we look around and wonder how everyone else is so grown-up and if we’ll ever feel that way, while they secretly wonder the same thing.

WikiHow, in an article called How to Know When You Are Grown Up (I am not kidding), claims the hallmarks of reaching this mythical grown-up land include seriousness, thinking about the future, focusing on career, keeping the house tidier, using “sir” or “madam” instead of “dude” when addressing someone, and having to wear glasses to read. Oh, and no more “aimless meandering.”

Seriously?

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Living for the Future is Bad For Your Health

In a talk at the Mindfulness & Education Conference at Omega Institute in 2013, Lama Dawa Tarchin Phillips asked the audience how many of them do what they do to create a better future for our kids. About a third of the group raised their hand, which he said is about average.

He explained that from a Buddhist perspective, the challenge of imagining a better future is that you will accept collateral damage along the way.

Sometimes the collateral damage will involve others, but often it involves you.

In order to get to this mythical future where everything is better, you become willing to accept things that are harmful to you, like overworking and excessive stress, and you ignore the relationship with the one person you’re really here to take care of—you.

Interesting. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

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Masses of Beauty and Horror

Some things are perfect en masse.

In fact, their sheer abundance is what stuns our senses and freezes our minds in a moment of wonder.

Swaths of flowers. A cascade of falling leaves. Herds of animals. Mounds of rolling clouds. Amber waves of grain. When it’s beyond what we can count, or even estimate, we find ourselves suspended in a pocket of stillness, beauty, and potential.

One flower alone may be remarkable, but combine it with thousands of others, and we’re in the presence of something far beyond the sum of the parts.

Our minds attempt to find the patterns, noticing subtle differences in color or shape that create vaguely detectable variations. It may be an ocean of blue flowers, but over there it’s darker, and under the tree it’s brighter, almost purple, but we’re not sure how.

We are humbled.

And sometimes we’re horrified.

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Find Pockets of Stillness

“Wonderful things happen when your mind is empty.” —Maira Kalman

I’d been struggling for many months with what to call this blog. I’d tried out a couple of names that either felt too ambitious or too obscure. I’d even written a handful of posts, but the blog (or maybe I) was suffering from Failure to Launch.

Then, as these things happen, I took a moment to watch this video where Maria Popova, the brain child behind the website Brain Pickings, talks about 7 things she’s learned in 7 years of blogging.

I was so curious about the person—or the force of nature—behind that prolific blog, I was busy marveling and barely paying attention by the time she got to #4.

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