On New Year Resolutions and brushing my teeth


So today is the day where I am supposed to look ahead and talk about the things I want for the upcoming year. And I am tempted to do this because I have a lot of things that I want to strive for. If I am not anything else, I am a serial striver. I like to have things (ok, let’s call them goals) to work toward.

But this morning I had a kind of epiphany. I was sitting here, feeling bad from the drinking and the sugar overdose from last night as I ate a piece of cake and piece of pizza for breakfast. As I noticed the layer of plaque on my teeth I started to beat myself up a little bit for not brushing my teeth before I went to bed. I thought about how much that one small act, brushing my teeth before going to bed, affects me and my self worth. It’s kind of weird actually, how one small thing can affect me in such a big way. Last weekend I woke up in the middle of the night and layed in bed, worried about a number of things (as one does). I realized, as I was laying there, that I hadn’t brushed my teeth the night before (I fell asleep on the couch and was too lazy and tired to take that extra step). I decided to get up and brush my teeth. When I went back to bed I immediately felt more relaxed and I fell back asleep pretty quickly. I am not sure what this was all about but I realize that this small thing really makes a big difference in my well being.

So what if, instead of having these huge lofty resolutions (lose 15 pounds, eat healthier, go to the gym, etc), what if my one resolution this year is to brush my teeth every night before I go to bed?

I then thought about my meditation practice and my “goal” of meditating everyday for 10 minutes. This is a resolution but in my mind I see it as “lofty.” But what if meditating everyday is not seen as lofty and is seen as a more mundane activity, like brushing my teeth? It seems like meditation should be as mundane as brushing my teeth. It should be that simple. Maybe this year I will look at it that way.

So anyway, this is what I am looking at as i go into the next year. I like Jim Grey‘s (from Down The Road) way of looking at the new year too and I am going to think about the three themes he is going to focus on.

Happy New Year, dear readers! Best wishes for 2016!

On being goal less

Health and Fitness, Life

Last night at my meditation group I  got in a discussion about goalless practice. This is a Zen thing – the idea that the state you are in at this moment is perfect and goals imply that you are imperfect in this moment and that you need to somehow change.

This idea of not having a goal is crazy hard to grasp, especially being informed by Western, and even, American culture. Goals are such a huge part of who we are. Who am I if I don’t have goals? What kind of a person doesn’t have goals? A person who veers off in every direction. A person who has no focus. That seems like a crazy idea to me. I was born into a strict set of things I should strive for in my life. I am supposed to get married. I am supposed to be a homeowner. I am supposed to have a good job my entire life and then retire at age 65. These are the basic goals that have been instilled in me from the time I was born.

However, as I get older, I have been warming up to the idea of being goal-less. Indeed when I ask myself that common interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years” I kind of draw a blank. In fact, that question kind of scares me a little. I like the idea of life taking me where it wants to take me. I think life is more exciting that way. I think that, if you let it, life will unfold in ways you will never expect, and they can be completely amazing beyond your imagination.

Lately I’ve been saying things to myself like, “Why don’t I read ‘The Heart Sutra‘ everyday and see what happens.” Or “What would happen if shot one large format pinhole photo everyday.” Basically doing  these things to see what will come of it.  I am naturally a very curious person and this kind of experimental living works well for me.

As a result, I have found myself  more immersed in the moment, rather than focused on the outcome. And when I do notice an outcome from doing this “thing” everyday I am surprised and excited by what I’ve learned. The wisdom seems to bubble up from inside my heart somewhere, rather than it being all in my head. For example, the outcome of reading The Heart Sutra everyday has been that I have learned about self compassion – which has been what I’ve needed to learn about! The outcome of shooting a large format pinhole shot everyday was that I learned a ton about how my camera works.

So now I am thinking about how I can apply this to health goals. This might be harder. I have some specific things I want to do with regard to health. I want to lose some weight – at least 15 pounds. The sad thing is that I’ve  been trying to lose this 15 pounds for a long time. It has been an elusive goal. So maybe it is time to let go of this goal. Maybe instead I should say, “what would happen if I went to the gym twice a week?” Or “What would happen if I ate a salad everyday for lunch?”

Embracing goalless practice when it comes to health might be harder to do…


“The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.”

James shared a really great article with me in the comments of my post from yesterday.  It has me thinking about my list.

The idea from the article is to limit yourself to 5  goals. Anything else is a waste of time. I think the first thing I need to do is make some goals. So what are my goals regarding the things listed? Let’s see…

  1. write – Goal: I don’t know. Become a published Poet? Become a published short story writer? I know I don’t want to write novels. I don’t have a novel in me.
  2. Read – Goal: I have lots of reading goals. One of them is to read through all of the Pulitzer Prize winners. Another is to read through the Graphic Novel canon. I have some work-related goals as well (get caught up on newly published kid’s books so I can do book talks on them).
  3. Practice ukulele- Goal: go through that Bluegrass Ukulele book I bought 3 years ago. But why do I want to do this? I don’t have any aspirations to be a ukulele performer. I just like to play the ukulele. It that ok? To just play it because it makes me happy? Is that a good enough goal? Or do I need to attain higher aspirations?
  4. Draw – Goal: go through the “Drawing on the Right Side Of The Brain” workbook I bought 4 months ago. Again, I don’t have any aspirations to be a great artist. I want to learn to draw for my own edification.
  5. Knit – Goal: Finish a Dr. Who scarf I am making for a Twitter friend.
  6. Photography – Goal: I don’t really know what my goals are for photography! I know that I enjoy it. I know that I love Pinhole Photography. I have a blog about Pinhole Photography that I’ve been neglecting. Perhaps I should make some kind of goal relating to my blog? I have some ideas for some projects, maybe I should clarify what those ideas are and set some goals.
  7. Running/yoga – Goal: I have a goal to run a half marathon next summer. I am planning on running the Huckleberry Half.
  8. Meditate – This is just something that I need to because of my spiritual practice. There are no goals in Buddhism.

This was actually kind of an interesting exercise. It makes me realize that I am generally not very goal oriented when it comes to creative pursuits. I wonder if that is ok? I wonder if those things that I don’t have goals for are the things I should cut out?

And as I was doing this I realized that there are some things I am more passionate about than others. Photography pulled more on my heart strings than writing. The goal of becoming a published poet didn’t really do much for me. Maybe that is something I can and should  let go of.

I have some other thoughts, I will continue to think out loud on this. It’s kind of helping me. 🙂 Maybe in a future post I will break down each of these things to see what exactly I want to do with them and why I am drawn to them.

How I want to spend my free time

  1. write
  2. Read (1 hour every day)
  3. Practice ukulele (go through that Bluegrass Ukulele book I bought 3 years ago)
  4. Draw (go through the “Drawing on the Right Side Of The Brain” workbook I bought 4 months ago)
  5. Knit (Already doing – in the morning with coffee)
  6. Photography (of course)
  7. Running/yoga (alternate days)
  8. Meditate (20 minutes everyday)

Can I do it? Can I fit all of this into my life? These are the things that I feel like will feed my soul. These are the things that my soul yearns for.  I need to figure out how to do all of these things.  Or am I being unrealistic? to work full time and do all of these things?

The Awesome List, revisited


Oh Look! I found these  posts from a few years ago: 100 things to do before I go. Unfortunately I only made it to 40. I thought it might be fun to revisit these.


1. Visit Pompeii – yep. Still very fascinated. I will visit someday. 
2. Visit Florence and it’s museums – Yes, yes, and yes. 
3. Visit Rome – Why don’t I round all of these up into “Take a trip to Italy.”
4. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to just spend an extended amount of time in Italy. Like several months. Or maybe a year. – Now you’re thinking, 2008 Monica. 
5. Learn Italian – Yep. Need to take that Italy trip. 
6. Learn to paint in the sumi-e style –  I lost interest for awhile there but now that my interest in doing art is surfacing I’ve been thinking about this again. 
7. Learn more about Zen (and maybe practice it if it suits me) – Done! 
8. Learn to play guitar – Meh. I’m more into the ukulele at the moment. 
9. Learn to play the banjo – Still want to do this. I got as far as buying one but it is collecting dust. 
10. Read all of the Newbery Medal winners. – Slowly working my way through them. 
11. Learn the art of glass blowing. – Not interested at all anymore. 
12. Get paid to be a photographer (travel photography would be ideal) – My dream job would be travel photographer/writer. 
13. Write a damn good poem – I will forever be working on it. 
14. Hike the Appalachian Trail. – Yes, and the Pacific Crest, too. 
15. Live at the ocean (again) – This would be nice but I am really liking the mountains lately. I think I would rather have a cabin on Mt. Hood to get away to. 
16. Learn to crochet – Done!
17.Make a fancy quilt like “Dear Jane“ – I decided a couple of years ago that I hate sewing and quilting and I never, ever want to do it again. 
18. canoe down the Little Spokane River This would be fun. I would still like to do this. 
19 run a marathon – Starting this Monday I am going to start training for 10k, so I will be on my way. 
20. Serve on the Caldecott Medal committee. – this would be pretty darn awesome. 
21. Write a Newberry Award winning book. – I’m not sure I am a children’s author. I love the idea of it but I am not drawn to this kind of writing. When I write I write poetry or flash fiction. 
22. Learn to play piano. – Meh.
23. Witness the Aurora Borealis. – YES
24. Travel to Mt. Everest Base-camp. – YES. My weird obsession with Mt. Everest persists. 
25. Go on a Yoga or a Zen Meditation retreat in India. – Not sure I want to do yoga but a Zen retreat would be interesting. 
26. Go to Tokyo. – Why I wrote that I have no idea. I wouldn’t reject a free trip to Tokyo but it isn’t the first place I would choose to visit. What was I thinking?
27. Donate a large sum of money to a good cause (yet to be determined) – This would be nice if I had a large sum of money to donate. 
28. Visit the Egyptian Pyramids – YES.
29. Visit the Mayan Pyramids – YES. I think Raf and I might do this next year. 
30. knit the Fair Isle Short Row Pullover in the book Loop d’Loop by Teva Durham. – Meh. If I really wanted to do this I would have done it already. 
31. Visit Yellowstone National Park – This would be fun.
32. Become more generous – Hmmm. I suppose I could always work on this. 
33. Eat a Pastrami Sandwich in New York City. – YES.
34. Visit New Orleans. – Would love it. 
35. Meet all of my blogging friends in person – Oh, this would be so freaking awesome. I almost want to put this at the top of my list. I seriously should make a point to meet all of my online friends in person, face to face. 
36. Drink a Pint in an English pub. – Yes. Want to do. 
37. Tour the Louvre. – I AM GOING TO DO THIS IN A FEW MONTHS!!!
38. See Stonehenge – Should just plan a trip to the UK. 
39. Learn to surf. – Not really interested in doing this anymore. 
40. Read all of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels. – I am totally working on this and have gotten through quite a few in the past few years. 

I think I will work on a new list that incorporates and condenses some of these things.

I also thought of some new things that I will add! I will put all of that in a new post since this one is kind of  long.