Category Archives: Inspiration

Serious color collecting happening over here.

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Spools of thread at the dry cleaners, Berkeley, CA

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Grocery crates, Berkeley, CA

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Spools of thread at the dry cleaners, Berkeley, CA

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Vivienne McMaster, Berkeley, CA

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Field trip to the dry cleaners, Berkeley, CA

This is quite possibly my favorite class I have ever created! We are just starting week 2 of the Treasure Hunt: Collecting Color e-course. If you want to jump in, you are welcome to join in!

 

How I earned my white belt in desire.

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As Ben lay his head down on the pillow, he said to me with unbridled excitement, “I can’t wait to get my white belt tomorrow!”

My immediate thought was this: He’s not getting his white belt on the first day of class! He’s going to be so disappointed when he finds this out…

“Ben, I don’t think they give out white belts the first day of class. Don’t get your hopes up, okay?” His face immediately crumbled + squished into a cry and tears pooled in his eyes. “I’m not talking to you!” he shouted. “You just ruined all my happiness!”

And this is what we do, right?

With love in our hearts, we try to protect our kids from sadness and pain. We try to shield them from what we think will hurt more – being blindsided by disappointment. It’s vulnerable to want something. Especially if we don’t know if we will get it. We would rather say to ourselves, Well, it probably won’t happen. Or, It would be nice if it happened, but I don’t really care. We get so good at protecting ourselves that often our desires never even make it to our radar.

I could see in this moment with Ben that I really was ruining his happiness. I was squashing his delight. I was telling him in some subtle way to not want what he might not be able to have. Probably because I couldn’t be with the vulnerability of it.

Could I have just let him have his excitement?

 

The next day we went to karate class. And after breaking a board in two, Ben earned his white belt. ON THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS.

And me? I earned a valuable lesson in desire. (Maybe even a white belt)

We want what we want. We will get it or we won’t.

But it takes courage to want something. It leaves us vulnerable and that’s why it feels scary.

But to desire is our birthright. And maybe even half the fun. Maybe even half the joy.

 

 

Underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

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“What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin – to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

I know it because I feel so marvelous myself most of the time. And when I feel that way everybody seems marvelous… everybody and everything… even pebbles and pieces of cardboard… a match stick lying in the gutter… anything… a goat’s beard, if you like. That’s what I want to write about… and then we’re all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is.” -Henry Miller

I have had this quote tucked away in my special cigar box for over 20 years. The cigar box is full of sacred items – old photographs of family, love notes, birth certificates… And this.

Photography is one of my ways in. It’s my superhighway into the marvelous. I see those pink petals against the fog and my heart leaps a little. I look through the viewfinder and get that zing in my belly just before the shutter goes click. Even on the hardest of days, the beauty of the world can pull me back. I can literally see the world through a different lens – one that honors the miraculous. The bright green sprig of life bursting through a crack in the sidewalk, the way the white petals fall like confetti onto the concrete, the impossibly long lashes of my boys.

Underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

For many years, gratitude practices eluded me. I didn’t feel grateful. I just felt ashamed… for all that I was blessed with and how sad I still felt.

What I was still able to do however was appreciate beauty. And this saved me. Those glittery beads of dew on the grass, the clouds I found in puddles of water, the inside of a dandelion. They saved me from being swallowed up by grief.

When we can catch glimpses into the marvelous, it is a gift. Be on the lookout today. And if you are in a place where gratitude is hard to access, see if you can find some simple beauty. For me, it was the most powerful kind of medicine.

Day-glo pink, gold + tangerine

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My painting in process

I like drawing, the feeling of the line that pours out of a wet paintbrush, black and inky.

I like day-glo pink against tangerine, with maybe a splash of turquoise, just the right shade.

I don’t like misspelled words.

I like the stars in a black sky in the country and the electric buzz of insects. I like the curve of Nico’s ear and the plumpness of his thighs.

I like extra virgin olive oil eyes and freckles sprinkled like glitter on cheeks.

I like my new pants- soft + squishy like sweats, but still stylish enough for these parts.

I like the magic hour and how the light looks just after a rain. When there are charcoal clouds in the sky and a burst of sunshine spills through. I like the streaks of pink and grey in the sky that hang over Monterey Market at night.

I like listening to (+ singing) that song from Frozen, Human, really loud in the car by myself.

I like being in the car with my boys and pulling up to our house but not turning off the radio- all of us rapt, making a silent agreement that you don’t turn off a good song even if you have arrived at your destination.

I like the ritual of vacuuming the house and setting the chairs out on Thursday mornings before writing class. I like setting out the mugs for tea, burning the sage and saying a special blessing to prepare the space.

I like painting on Wednesday nights with Mati and noticing how girly I’ve become in my art making – flowers, gold doilies, hot pink and polka dots.

I like the way I have softened over the last year, how I am learning to take in the love coming my way; how I am learning, slowly, how to allow more and more love to move through me.

 

You are beautiful.

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This sign sits on the wall next to my bathroom mirror. It’s the first thing I see when I get out of the shower in the morning and as I dry off I read those words- You are beautiful.

Sometimes a voice in me says, “Ha! Yeah, right.” Other times it makes me smile. Some days, I make a practice of trying it on. What if that were true? What about that feels true? 

When I was 9 years old, I remember my gymnastics coach telling my mother that my legs were chunky and that I needed to lose weight. (I was a competitive gymnast and was as strong + athletic as can be)

I remember a close family member calling me thunder thighs, maybe once, maybe more? And I remember the warm wash of shame that flooded my cheeks and the immediate desire to hide my legs. Like, forever. (Which I mostly did)

I remember when my best friend in high school told me about something revolutionary she discovered - If you eat too much, just throw up! and it’s like it never happened. Then she showed me exactly how to do it in the school bathroom stall. It made me feel relieved, like no matter what, there was an escape hatch. There was no mistake you couldn’t undo.

I used to think that if I was just perfect enough, I could be worthy of love.

Yours truly, photo by Sasha Wizansky

Me, La Paz, Mexico, photo by Sasha Wizansky

My body has changed since the above photo was taken 15  years ago. My washboard tummy has been replaced by something much more smooshy and mama-like. There is an extra layer of flesh that never disappeared after boy #2 and I find myself sucking it in for photos. I even suck it in for myself in the mirror! (How funny to deny my new reality even to myself)

And then there are the disappearing boobs. The ones that were once perky little scoops (a term my friend and I affectionately coined upon discovering we were boob twins) and now are, well, slightly melted scoops.

But here’s the irony.

Those words – you are beautiful- have never felt more true.

How is that even possible? How can I be feeling beautiful for the first time in my life?

At the beginning of last year I had a remarkable angel reading with Laurel Bleadon-Maffei. She shared a lot of wisdom with me, but the thing that stuck was when she said this – If you want something new to come through you, you have to stop looking back at what you’ve done in the past. If you could take the next 6 months as a kind of sabbatical, I would suggest that, although I know that might not feel realistic on this plane. But think of the next 6 months as such – Daydream. Walk in the woods. Sit at the beach. Allow the next thing to find you. What is it that you want to bring to the world? Let your higher self and your knowing speak to you.

For me, this was an entirely new approach to creativity. And it required a kind of trust I wasn’t so sure about. Really? Walk in the woods for the next 6 months? Daydreaming sounded so flaky. The part of me that tends toward Type A felt threatened- everyone is going to get ahead of me! I’m going to fade into obscurity! I’m not going to make any money! I’m going to WASTE. SO. MUCH. TIME.

But here’s what I discovered. Walking in the woods allowed the words to come when I sat at my desk. Going to yoga class made space for great ideas to find me while I relaxed in savasana at the end. Having coffee with friends sparked inspiration + helped me shape my fledgling ideas. Having little adventures made space for delight, rejuvenation + fun stories to share.

There is a way that putting a little yin in my yang helped my creativity find me. I didn’t have to pursue it so much as be awake + alive + ready to receive. It also made space for a deeper knowing to come through. It felt like a distinctly feminine approach to creativity.

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Putting a little yin in my yang helped me to integrate my feminine. I learned to embrace my softer side. The part of me that wants to wear pink. The part that is willing to be vulnerable. The part of me that can hold things with so much more compassion.

It’s compassion that has helped me embrace my imperfect, very  human self. It’s compassion that has turned me from feeling unlovable (broken, damaged goods) into something beautiful + cracked + holy.

Self-compassion (and the wisdom of age) has allowed me to see my own beauty. Not the perfect, magazine kind of beauty, but the real kind. The kind that stays with you a lifetime. The kind that is your essence. Your magic.

 

*In honor of Susannah Conway’s birthday a collection of us have come together to talk about aging in empowering and beautiful ways. So honored to be part of it!

 

 

Relax, a favorite poem by Ellen Bass

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Magnolias outside my door, Berkeley, CA

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.

Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.

No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.

There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.

So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Relax, from Like a Beggar, by Ellen Bass

 

Artist dates + How to find the fairy doors in Golden Gate Park

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Fairy door in Golden Gate Park, SF

This is a fairy door.

Left by magical fairies in Golden Gate park. Don’t you love it?

I had been searching for it for months (unsuccessfully) when a friend told me a hilarious story. “I was changing Owen’s diaper in a little woodsy area near the Japanese Tea garden. You know, for privacy, right? When suddenly I looked up and I was surrounded by a team of Segues. They were all looking for a fairy door precisely in the grove where I had stopped. It was disturbing and surreal.”

She gave me the best instructions she could, Along the side of the Japanese tea garden, there is a fence, a path, a log, etc… but I was still confused when I went searching again last week. I had an artist date with my friend Danny Gregory who flew out for the Hockney show. After marveling at the paintings for hours, I proposed we get some air and search for the mythic fairy door. (I have a history of taking Danny weird places. Last time he was in SF I took him to the Pyschic Eye for a chakra healing)

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Inside were wishes and bells, rocks + shells, love notes + acorns. Fairy stuff. Next time I will bring my kids + some glitter.

If you’d like to find the fairy door, here are some simple instructions:

  • -Head to Golden Gate and try to park near the Arboretum or the Japanese Tea Garden

  • -There is a paved pathway that lies between Stowe Lake and the Tea Garden.

  • -Walk up the paved pathway for about 100 feet (Stowe Lake will be on your left) until you see a big eucalyptus log (approximately 18 feet long) that is broken in two. It will be on the left side of the path.

  • -At the end of this log is the fairy door!

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Paved pathway between Japanese Tea Garden + Stowe Lake, Golden Gate Park, SF

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The eucalyptus log with the fairy door, Golden Gate Park

 

 

 

It’s time to own it.

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Painting in progress

When I was in my early twenties (and just starting to paint and sell my work) I lived in Santa Barbara with my dear friend Chris. I was in a fearful place around money, my talents and my ability to make a go at a creative life. My inner critics were having a field day. I’ll never forget when Chris stopped me, looked in my eyes and said (more frustrated than I had ever heard him), “When are you going to take for granted that you’re an artist? And start creating from there? Stop trying to prove it!”

He said this in a moment of utter exasperation – probably tired of hearing my fears and self-diminishing chatter.

If he was Madonna, he probably would have said, “Darling, just fucking own it.”

And all these years later I can see it. Of course I’m an artist. Why all the drama? Why did I waste so much time trying to prove it? It’s all I’ve been doing since I was a little girl – drawing, painting, making jewelry, choreographing dance routines. How could I ever have questioned it?

And yet. We do this.

Even now, I can see that I’ve owned being an artist, but as a writer? I still need to own it.

How about you? Where in your life would owning it shift things in a profound way?

Is it your beauty?
Your talents?
Your ability to write?
Your voice?
Your ability to be a leader?
Your joy?

Take a moment and consider where in your life you need to own it.
Where have you been trying to prove your worthiness?

What if you took __________________________ for granted and started to create from there?

(Fill in the blank in the comments)

 

The dinner nanny + other Mondo Beyondo dreams you might have thought were impossible.

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Ben’s happy toast.

Sometimes you hear a story that you will never forget. It rearranges you and changes how you think forever.

During the Opening the Creative Channel retreat in October, we played a round of Storybowl. As we passed the bowl around, everyone got a prompt to tell a spontaneous true story from their life. Nicole’s prompt was this: A wish that came true.

She thought for a moment. And then told us the most awesome story.

First, I should mention that Nicole is the mother of two small kids. She also has a big time corporate job where she works long hours and is in charge of a lot of people. At the time when this story unfolded, she was so exhausted at the end of each day she could barely move past 8pm. Some nights she would sleep on the couch downstairs so she wouldn’t have to make the trek all the way to bed. It was so extreme that she and her husband started to wonder if their was something medically wrong with her. But after rounds of tests the doctor simply said, “You have a demanding job and two small kids.” Ah yes, that.

And then she had an idea. She wrote a Mondo Beyondo list and created a new dream called “Dinner Nanny.” In Nicole’s words below:

I am a dreamer. I love to dream about my ideal life and then make that happen. All of the wonderful things in my life started as detailed dreams. Andrea and Jen’s Mondo Beyondo class made my dreaming even stronger. And it was after taking Mondo Beyondo that I created a new dream that I called “dinner nanny.” Because the #1 thing in my life that I liked to do the least was making dinner during the week. Not just making dinner but shopping for and thinking about dinner. Especially thinking about dinner.

I thought, what if I hire a culinary student to plan and shop and make our dinners during the week? But then I pushed the dream further. What if I hired someone to take care of dinner and the laundry? What if I hired someone to take care of dinner, the laundry and tidying the kids’ rooms after school? Who could pick up the kids from school when I’m traveling for work and give my husband a break? Who could allow us to go on a date night once a month? Who could dogsit when we’re out of town? Who could drop off the library books and dry cleaning? Who could get the oil changed on the car every 3 months? Who can water the plants so they don’t die in the summer? Who could ask me if I ate lunch that day or exercised?

I made a list. I showed it to my husband. He said “There’s no way you can ask someone to do all of this.” I said, “Let’s see what happens.” I posted my job description on a site called Barefoot Student, which is like Craigslist, but for college students.

I hired the first person I interviewed. Her name was Deirdre and she had worked in a restaurant. Deirdre knew her way around the kitchen. Deirdre made delicious food. Deirdre was really great with my kids. Deirdre instantly made life better. Our friends said, “You look different.” My husband explained, “It’s the dinner nanny.”  

The dinner nanny transformed Nicole’s life! It freed her up to play with her kids when she got home. It gave her more energy and vitality. It allowed her to be more present for the parts of her life that mattered most.

The dinner nanny has become a symbol of ease for me.

Of asking for help and actually receiving it. Of allowing ourselves to imagine what we might need, articulating it, and possibly even getting it. But you know what? Letting ourselves want what we want is its own muscle. Can we allow ourselves the full breadth of our desire?

Getting it or not is an entirely different matter.

Can we allow ourselves to want what we want, whether we get it or not? This is a big edge for me. And probably why this story inspires me so much.

Maybe having a dinner nanny for you is someone who comes in to cook dinner twice a week. Maybe it’s deciding to have pizza delivered every Tuesday night so you can play with your kids. Maybe it’s just having company more often so that the evenings are more fun…

Dinner nanny has simply become shorthand for, how can I bring more ease + joy into my life?

Kids or not, where would you like to invite more ease + joy into your life? What would your version of the dinner nanny look like?

 

P.S. The next session of Mondo Beyondo starts January 6th! Join us.

 

 

 

All feelings are mutual

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Been finding seaglass in my pocket

For the last several weeks, I have been plagued with a question.

The following refrain has been playing over and over in my head. All feelings are mutual. All feelings are mutual. All feelings are mutual.

I can feel the truth of it in my bones.

And yet, I can’t figure out what it means. Why is this message is coming to me now? Why does it feel so important to wrap my head around it?

And so I did something really smart –I reached out to one of the wise teachers in my world and asked. What the heck does “all feelings are mutual” mean? Turns out she was exactly the right person to ask.

Here is Karen Maezen Miller’s beautiful response below:

Dear Andrea:
How nice to hear from you. You approach me with gratitude for my words, and I respond to you with equal gratitude. That’s what it means. We all know what this means by our own experience:

If I am cranky, the world reflects my crankiness.
If I am angry, the world returns my anger.
If I am critical, the world returns my small-mindedness.
If I am non-judgmental, the world accepts me.
If I smile, someone smiles back.

And so on.

We see and receive whatever we project.

And just so we don’t feel as if we are carrying the blame for all the negativity, just observe and respect that everyone is suffering. That’s what we share most of all!

This is not a philosophy. It really works like this.

But we have to see it for ourselves and take responsibility for ourselves. If we are the least bit aware, we will be careful with what we give to the world. It will always return to us, because of the physical reality of the universe. Although it looks like we are separate, we are not. We share everything; we are like waves in an ocean. If an ocean is poisoned, every wave carries the poison, no?

I have read her message over and over to myself. I have read it out loud to a friend and to nobody in particular. And I’m just now beginning to understand it in a deep way. It feels as if spirit has been smiling down on me, whispering in my ear, and then leading me to the perfect interpreter.

With her permission, I wanted to share it with you. Does it resonate for you as well?

Thank you Karen for your generosity + wisdom. A thousand times thank you…