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Get Curious

Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living.—Liz Gilbert

Greetings from DC. I’m back from two trips out West: one to the Northwest for a wedding and one to Taos for a writer’s retreat.

I’ve been back in the swing of things for a week now—teaching mindfulness class, seeing clients, walking the pups, taking personal and professional meetings, practicing yoga. It’s grounding to be back to routine despite the thrill of travel.

In a recent post I mentioned that I’d be away for the month to take time out to disconnect. Although I released podcasts, penned a few blog posts, and posted pics on Instagram, I found myself craving more and more space. While I’m not sure what this will look like, I’m getting curious about what’s bubbling up.

When I released HTC10 last December, I shared five lessons I’d learned since writing Hip Tranquil Chick and wrote in the Conclusion:

“Over the next decade I picture myself reading more books, writing more books, sipping more tea, taking more baths, and hitting the pause button on a regular basis. I plan to work to shift our non-profit’s mission to animals and complete the University of Tennessee Veterinary Social Work Certificate program. I hope to return to Paris multiple times and host inspiring retreats around the globe. I intend to simplify my businesses: clothing line, yoga studio, and Tranquility du Jour offerings. And how all of this will unfold? Now that I don’t know yet. Although no five-year plan is in place, I do have an inkling of how I want to feel.”

So, basically, I’m curious. I’m asking myself questions. I’m noticing how I feel. I’m observing what wants attention.

While I let this unfold, I may continue to take time out as I did the past month. I’m still here, still sharing, still loving this community and, also, getting curious about what’s percolating within. Bisous. x

Tranquilosophy: Our Evolution

Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

I recently snapped this photo in my new therapy room. Being among the blues, grays, and neutrals of this sweet space encourages an exhale. This journey to private practice has been an interesting, winding one and here’s how it all began . . .

In 2009 Tranquil Space was turning 10, so I planned to take a month off in the fall to celebrate and contemplate. What did I want the next 10 years to represent, I wondered? I planned 10 days in Paris—a city I hadn’t visited since backpacking post-college—and the rest of the month deliberating.

While on a break from leading a Costa Rica retreat that same year, I was lying in a hammock between two shady trees sipping a coconut and reading Paris in Mind. I kept stumbling upon references to Sarte, DeBeauvior, and Camus’ concept of existentialism. Although I understood it to be what we make of ourselves is our responsibility, I wasn’t clear on the full picture.

Kristin, a retreat participant still in yoga clothes, came to the cabana where I was hammocking and sat onto the pink, blue, and yellow striped one next to me. I looked up from the book, ready to rest my mind from the deep reading. We exchanged banter about the weather and the morning’s class. As the conversation lulled, I laid my book onto my chest and asked, “Do you understand existentialism?”

She shared her interpretation. An hour later I was unaware of anything else around us—birds, tropical foliage, other retreaters—they all blended into a muted background as I found myself more and more intrigued. Not just with existentialism, but the workings of the mind and the numerous theories to help better understand it and ourselves. This exchange reminded me why I studied psychology in undergrad and started a business focused on helping others.

As Kristin and I continued to talk, we learned that we’d both been considering a return to school to become therapists—a career I’d planned since junior high. In between yoga classes, massages, and meals, we spent time researching social work and counseling programs in the D.C. area. I felt my future unfolding from a simple question, asked of the right person, at a ripe time.

Over breaks we’d share our research results: programs, tuition, application deadlines. The rest of the retreat was a mixture of excitement about my new 10-year plan and anxiety about returning to years of academia, internships, clinical hours, and licensing exams. Kristin and I chose different schools, yet packed our bags to become students again that fall.

I’m often asked, “Why social work?,” so I penned a blog post about it in 2012. Another question I get is, “How long did it take?” Ah, I answered that one in a recent podcast. Three months ago I took a grueling four-hour licensing exam and shook as I pushed the “finish” button. When it read “pass,” I felt my body relax for the first time in weeks.

Nearly eight years later, we’re both yogis in private practice and I’m so grateful for this journey. It began with a coconut in one hand and a book about Paris in the other. Our lives are an ongoing evolution. One foot in front of the other. Bisous. x

The Lotus

Whenever you should doubt your self-worth, remember the lotus flower. Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.—Suzy Kassem

Monday night I peered at my phone before slipping into bed and saw that a friend’s father had passed away. While I knew he was in the hospital, I didn’t expect it to be his last visit. When I reached out, she described feeling exhausted and numb. Ah, those familiar waves of grief.

Monday was also the five-year anniversary of losing my beloved Gramma and Facebook sends regular memory photos of my dear pug Louis that fluctuate between a punch to the gut and nostalgia. Today’s was a photo of us at the local dog park enjoying the snow two years ago.

As I type from a desk overlooking Costa Rican flora, a butterfly skirts past. These beautiful beings’ lifespan is an average of two weeks. Yet they fly with all their might, unaware that they only have a matter of days.

Loss and change are two constants in life. And it’s during dark times that our resiliency is tested. Will we break or will we bend?

When I snapped the above lotus in the fountain on Monday morning, I was mesmerized with the way the sunlight hit and how the lotus seemed to be growing toward the light. In the afternoon, I stopped back by and another lotus had bloomed. That evening, both had closed and returned to buds.

The lotus is a symbol of perseverance—the rising from a dark place into beauty. It grows in muddy water and yet produces delicate, fragrant blossoms. The murky environment allows the lotus to bloom. Chinese Philosopher Confucius said, “I have a love for the lotus, while growing in mud it still remains unstained.”

While most of us seek clarity and would prefer less “mud” in life, using the lotus as inspiration may help us have patience during the murky times. Could it be that the darkness is paving way for some sort of light? Possibly deeper self-understanding, the shedding of something that isn’t working or we’ve outgrown, a reminder of life’s fragility, or deep gratitude for what’s been lost.

Maybe the murkiness serves a purpose after all. By providing us with a ripe environment to pause and plant seeds, we’re given the tools to bloom.

The lotus reminds me of a Victor Hugo quote, “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” May our blooms be a precious offering to the world. Bisous. x

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