17 Jan

The trouble with blog writing

I decided to take a break from the 40-day challenge this weekend.  I could have knocked out a post on Saturday night (and Sunday, too), but… why?

Well, because I set a goal, for one thing.  Because I made a commitment.  And I am nothing if not accountable, especially to my own high standards.  But Rachel’s words were still echoing for me – what she’d said about the things we do only because we think we should, and later, her question to me about writing every day (simply, “why?”).  I’d answered her with what I know to be true – a blog needs content, and I want to write content that resonates with people who share my values, people with whom I hope to do business someday.  (Geez, I hope that doesn’t sound too commercial.  The thing is, I find great value in writing for my own reflection and self-examination, but with little exception, I wouldn’t feel the need to post my writings online without a broader purpose.  Let’s be honest: the blog is ultimately here to support my work.)

And that is exactly where I’m feeling the most stuck with my business right now.  I want to connect with people – that’s what Retreat Austin is all about.  I believe that real, personal communication is essential to making those connections.  And for me, social networking – Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc. – seems more like a threat to building real connections than a tool that fosters them.

You can see my dilemma, right?  Here I am, trying to build a business that brings people together, to be present with each other face to face – and the best way to inform people that this awesome business exists is by way of a website.  Grr.

So what did I do in the face of this struggle?  I decided to face it head-on.  Stop avoiding the enemy.  In fact, spend some quality time with it.  Write to it every day.  Talk to it.

Only, I don’t really have that much to say on an every-single-day basis.  My interaction with this blog seems more like the small talk I make with the barista every morning than the kind of substantive conversation I have with a friend over dinner.  That’s my relationship with the blog (and by extension, you) right now – first date, when I’m shooting for old pal.

I suppose I hope that keeping it up like this – at least for a while – will make things more comfortable.  That the relationship will become more familiar over time.  But then, I’m trying to trust my gut, too, and recognize that every single day is probably not necessary.  It’s okay to take a break.  Sometimes that’s how you know you’re getting closer, right?  When the silence is comfortable.

How do you use social networking to build relationships?  Is the internet bringing you closer together, or does it have you feeling a bit disconnected?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

10 Jan

You just never know when someone’s going to want to see your website

I had an awesome chance meeting with another creative business owner this afternoon, something that made me realize it’s time to stop procrastinating on a handful of items relating to my own business.  Some of that is related to this website, so I’ve updated the Retreat Austin page, and I’m working on (re-)creating that dreaded About page.  I would love to hear your feedback on the site.  Seriously: what’s working and what’s… just not?  Let me know in the comments or drop me a line.

Thanks for your patience.  Back to our regularly scheduled 40-day programming tomorrow.

08 Jan

Some women who didn’t give up on writing today (unlike some people)

I am tired, and not drunk but a little tipsy, and still a wee bit grouchy from my Day of Yoga (it’s one of my teacher training weekends, perhaps I will say more about that on another day), so rather than bore you with my I-don’t-have-anything-interesting-to-write-about, perhaps I can direct you to some way better content, and we can both walk away winners.  Deal?

With that, here are my all-time favorite people on the web:

Andrea Scher (SO much inspiration)

Maggie Mason (I think she invented the internet.  Also, life list.)

AB Chao (Decorator extraordinaire, and the woman who said the thing about the bong water.  You decide what’s better.)

Kelly Rae Roberts (creativity and biz sense)

Brene Brown (… especially for the perfectionists out there.  Ahem.  Not that I’d know anything about that.)

Mimi Smartypants (Ha.  Hahahahahaha)

Jen Lee (A writing retreat with Jen almost two years ago just totally changed things for me.)

I hope that counts as a post.  Valuable?  (Ha.  Probably the most valuable thing I’ve written so far.)  Whew.  See you tomorrow.

06 Jan

I can’t resist putting in a plug for the long-form article. Long live the printed page!

My favorite part of Caitlin Flanagan’s book review of  Joan Didion’s Blue Nights, in this month’s issue of The Atlantic:

I don’t like writers.  I like Carly Simon and Elton John and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.  I like getting out of Berkeley altogether, driving through the Caldecott Tunnel and going to the Sunvalley Mall, where they have a food court, a movie theater, birds in cages, a Macy’s, a J. C. Penney, and a Sears.  I am trying to make a life very different from the one I’m growing up in, which is filled with intellectuals and writers and passionate ideas about long-dead people.  I’m growing up with people who take a dim view of America (many who come to dinner parties at our house hate America), but I love America, a place whose principal values and delights are on display at the Sunvalley Mall.‘  (Flanagan, Caitlin.  “The Autumn of Joan Didion.”  The Atlantic Jan/Feb 2012: 95-106.  Print.)

Oh, to grow up in a house like Caitlin’s.

Gin and magazines, the best kind of Thursday night.

02 Jan

40 Days

I’ve decided to start off the year with two 40-day commitments.  I’ve done this before, with positive results; along with the habit-forming part of it, I’ve found that it’s a good way to mark a new chapter, to set a new foundation for things to come.  This time, I want to get back to a daily yoga practice (I’ve taken a break due to a sore knee and a bit of burn-out, truth be told) and I’d also like to make writing a bigger priority.  So, with that, my 40-day challenge…

1. Daily Sadhana

Okay, not the 2 1/2 hour kind.  I realize I haven’t said much (if anything) about my Kundalini yoga practice on this site, so might as well just jump in with the crazy and let you decide if you’re into it.   The word sadhana refers to a daily spiritual practice.  Many people follow the Aquarian Sadhana, a practice that takes about 2 1/2 hours, and is usually performed at 4:30 in the morning.  You can read more about sadhana here.

I’ll occasionally practice an Aquarian Sadhana, but it’s typically only for special times of the year – I’m just not ready to commit to the whole enchilada.  Here’s what my daily practice looks like:

– Tune in with the Adi Mantra

– 10-minute warm-up series, which includes stretch pose, a counter-pose where I’m rolled into a ball, and ego eradicator

– 11-minute meditation

I’ll often use the 11 minutes for silent meditation, but this time, I wanted to get back to a prescribed meditation.  I settled on the Sodarshan Chakra Kriya.  Here’s the brief description from 3HO: ‘One of the greatest transformational meditations, the most effective way to clear your subconscious garbage.’  Sounds good, right?  I’ll practice that for 11 minutes, and follow it up with 11 minutes of silent meditation.

Wow.  I had a little more to say about that than I thought I would.

2. Write (here, on this blog) every day

Yes, every day for 40 days.  Huh.  I was going to say, “it’ll be like my own NaBloPoMo, without the ‘Na’,” but apparently we’re doing this every month now.  Who knew?  Okay, well, add that to the list of prompts that will help me along here.  Some of it will be great!  Some of it will not be great!  But like I said, I have some help, which also includes:

No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, by Margaret Mason

Prompts from the Dream Lab class I took over a year ago (I was a bit delinquent in that one, and have been meaning to get back to this work)

Mondo Beyondo Dream Generator questions, available when you sign up for the mailing list (Am I a Jen Lemen and Andrea Scher superfan?  Yes, I am.)

Prompts from my coach, Rachel W. Cole

So.  That’s all I need, right?  Oh, and um, time, and commitment, the willingness to be vulnerable, and something to say.  Just that.  I’ll be fine.  Can you tell that this is way harder than the yoga thing for me?  And this is precisely why I’m ready for the 40-day challenge.

Okay… go!

01 Jan

New Year’s Resolutions

Planner and goal-setter that I am, I’m not really one for making resolutions.  I think there’s plenty of information out there on the downside of overhauling your life on January 1, so I’ll spare you that discussion here.  I do have a new year’s ritual, though – one that works for me, and maybe one that will work for you, too.

Each year, I take stock of what’s happened over the past 12 months, and I meditate (think/write/talk with friends and family) on what it is I’d like to bring into my life in the year to come.  It’s simple, takes only a couple of hours to do really well, and never involves dieting.  Oh, and it works.

This practice has evolved over several years of collecting advice from people I trust on the matters of personal planning, intention, and success (I’ve linked to my favorite resources at the bottom of this page).  And over these years, I have seen magic happen every time: new friendships, home sales, personal growth, good jobs, … the list goes on and on.

This year, I stuck pretty close to the Mondo Beyondo script – it’s what felt right this time around.  I’ve decided not to share all of it here – for one thing, my list of accomplishments and challenges are probably not that interesting for most of you, and for another, I think the pressure of an audience sometimes takes away from my ability to be totally honest with myself.  I will share the second half, though, since it helps me with accountability, and perhaps it helps you to see an example of how this works.

With that, I wish you a very Happy New Year!

3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?

2011 was a very good year – better than any in a long time.  Part of it was fun, and part of it was relaxing, part of it was really hard – and almost a full half of it was downright shitty.

What made it so good then?  I took risks.  I listened to my soul more closely than I ever have.  I had to practice this – and a lot of 2011 was about that practice.  I got enough sleep.  I expanded my boundaries.  I challenged my definition of myself.

When I look at the list of things I have to grieve about 2011 [Question 2] – the disappointments, the shortcomings – my first reaction is that it is long.  Immediately, my second reaction is a feeling of guilt because, of course, they are all first-world problems, not a one of them resulting in injury or homelessness.  Still, they are real to me, and I know it’s good to acknowledge what has caused me to stumble throughout the year.  After that – and this is what it’s about – I’m grateful (honestly).  This is a good list to work on.  There are things I did not succeed at this year.  And that’s what next year is for.

Thank you, 2011, for all that you have given me.  I declare you complete!

4. What is your primary intention or theme for 2012?

2012 is my year of FREEDOM.

Freedom to be whatever my soul desires.  Freedom to find new love and new friendships.  Freedom to travel.  Freedom from self-judgment and criticism.  Freedom from material trappings.  Freedom from “what will people think?”.

FREEDOM.

 

Resources:

Mondo Beyondo – Completion Worksheet, Class

Andrea Scher’s thoughts on her word of the year

Chris Guillebeau’s instructions for conducting an annual review

Christine Kane’s Word of the Year Discovery Tool

04 Dec

Weekend Update

Over the past few weeks, I have been working a different creative muscle (wow, that could be taken in the completely wrong direction) (ahem), which has kept me a bit removed from Retreat.  (On a side note, my friend, Spike, suggested that my choice in business name is having the unfortunate subliminal effect of literally causing me to retreat.  She offered up Sally Forth as an alternative.  She may have a point.)  I certainly don’t want you, dear readers, to think I’ve forgotten you, though, so let me provide you with a brief update.

Retreat Austin is alive and well, albeit in a state of… incubation, shall we say?  I’ve taken a little break from the full-on, what-is-my-true-purpose-and-how-will-this-all-happen search to let some of those ideas breathe and see which ones hang on without my intense, control-freak-y life support.  I am a bit amazed at the results.

I’ve set a goal to have some really clear information on my business out in the world by January 1st, and that information will certainly be accessible here.  Please (please) stay tuned.  That’s not to say that I’m signing off until the end of the year, but sparse and infrequent posts will likely be the norm.

I should also say, in all honesty… it’s feeling a lot like the week before finals around here.  As in: the house is clean, all of the dishes are washed, laundry is in the dryer, files are organized, and I’m thinking of driving to Office Max to get those pens that I really need.  Anything to avoid the important things, work to build my business and writing to feed my soul.  That’s okay, I know, it’s all okay in the end, it’s just funny to me that this is always how it seems to work.  Oh well, the house needs to be cleaned from time to time anyway.

29 Sep

About page, check.

Posted the About page over at retreat-austin.com today – this is an accomplishment! (Inner Perfectionist, you hush. I needed to get this out there.) And now I’m off to the pool to celebrate…

In other, related news, please forgive me for switching around the design here and there, possibly on a daily basis, for maybe an extended period of time. Shocking reveal!: I am not a web designer. It is taking me a while to figure out how to make this space (these spaces – ugh, another problem) look like something that is not held together with masking tape and bubble gum.  I know it can be annoying for my loyal readers, but there are, like, three of you, and I know you’re all very adept at managing change. My apologies, in the meantime.

22 Sep

10Q, and real reflection

I love everything about this.

“Thanks to new technologies like texting and Twitter, people have more
opportunities than ever to express themselves, but fewer than ever to
express themselves well,” said 10Q co-founder Ben Greenman, a New Yorker
editor. “What 10Q wants people to do is what people should want to do
for themselves — to reflect on life without worrying about status
updates.”

As I’m taking the small steps each day to get this business up and running, I feel like a lot of the actions are running counter to the goals that are driving them in the first place. Nowadays, blog posts and Twitter updates are the way to “get noticed” or “build a following” – and they are free – so I’m doing them, using them to plant seeds of ideas or connect with other like-minded folks. But it doesn’t feel like connection, of course, since there’s so much chaos in all of the talking going on, and those like-minded folks never come over for dinner or anything (they’re online). And there’s this pressure, to post-post-post, and do it ever more quickly, saysomethingsaysomethingsaysomething, to the point where it feels like there isn’t time to think.

Anyway. I’ve rambled enough on this topic for today. I think 10Q looks like a great process for slowing down and spending some time with your own inner knowing. Check it out for yourself, won’t you? More information about 10Q here; sign up here.

And thanks to @rachelwcole, who of course alerted me to this great project via Twitter.

14 Sep

What I believe (and why Retreat just has to happen)

I think it’s important for you to understand my motivation in building a space like Retreat. Today, I want to share with you some of the beliefs that are guiding this business:

* I believe that everyone – EV-ERY-ONE – has the capacity for creativity. Creativity is the ability to create – to make stuff. Have you ever made something? I bet you have.
* I believe that people spend too much time interacting with their phones and not enough time interacting with each other.
* I believe that rest is necessary for all of us, and in a quantity that is larger than most of us allow in our day-to-day lives. Rest does not have to mean laying down for a nap (although those are good, too!). Rest is slowing down, stepping away from the activities that drain you, and refueling.
* I know that it can be hard to find real connection – especially with new people – in these fast-paced, Facebook-friend times.  I believe that building true, deep, soulful friendships is still possible.
* I believe that learning something new – together – is a great way to build that friendship.
* I believe that arts like embroidery, knitting, and sewing persist not only because they add beauty to a home but because they add connection to our lives – to ourselves, to our past, and to each other.
* Ditto for writing.
* I believe that making something with your own two hands builds confidence in a way that few other things can.
* I believe that we are all connected through one universal spirit, and that our individual actions – large and small – have an impact on the whole.
* I believe that practicing yoga is one effective way of growing our ability to connect with that spirit, and by extension, with one another.

I have been learning to listen to my heart. This may sound trite, but
it’s a big deal for me nonetheless. As this business has taken shape
over the past weeks and months (and really, almost years now), I have
tried to listen ever more closely to my inner guidance, to worry less
about what I think will work, and more about what matters
(to me, at least). What will work is still important, of course, but
there’s a realization here that I cannot control all of the factors that
must come together to make a business successful. What I can control
are the steps I take each day toward having a positive impact on the
world.

What that “positive impact” looks like is defined by my own
values and beliefs, ideas that I’ve had to get really clear on long
before Retreat opens its doors. With this studio, I want to build a home where like-minded folks can hang out and build friendships in person. I hope that includes you!