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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tabitha Sings

Somehow, despite the crowded dark theatre, Tabs has the ability to look directly into my camera. I was seated high up and towards the back of the theatre.
Tabby sings.
The youth choir before their grand finale.
Mist, Peter and Pip on the way to the theatre. 
Last  but not least, Pip and I make our way to the theatre to watch Tabs and the youth choir perform.

I promised pictures of Tabitha's youth choir year end concert and here they are (above). The concert was beautiful (rather long though as it included many of the community music school's students performing). Today's blog is short as I must get to work editing. A day of dog walking, Zumba class and a lunch date has stolen my work time. Soon I will leave to pick up Pip and a friend from kindergarten (play date at our house). A beautiful spring day of blue sky and sunshine so Pip's soccer practice tonight should be enjoyable. Must leave you now. Enjoy the day!

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Monday, May 28, 2012

400 Bouncing Babies

Praying Mantis Egg Sack
We're having babies. Praying mantis babies. They are waiting to hatch (within the month) in a terrarium on our front balcony. I like praying mantis insects. I encountered them often in Asia. They seem intelligent. We will set (the entire lot of) them free in our rose garden when they hatch.

Pip really wanted her own pet. We cannot get a cat because Pablo would probably try and kill it. Also, I don't believe in having a caged pet, so that limits most pets. But not insects!

Pip with Fernando(pug) and Pablo (Old Boston Bulldog) 

 I am working with Pablo to try to control all of his latent aggressive tendencies. It is work.  He is an Old Boston Bulldog. They were used around the turn of last century for dog fighting in and around, you guessed it, Boston USA. I adopted him because I love bulldogs and did not want to adopt the current popular bulldogs such as the English and French Bulldogs. I adore those breeds but they have been carelessly bred for giant heads above all else which, has made them very sickly breeds with short life spans. So, I went for a much healthier bull dog, hence dearest Pablo. I knew of their fighting dog genetics but also that they are super intelligent, loyal and athletic. My darling Pablo is all of that. He is so intelligent, alert to every sound and smell. He can open all of the doors in our home. He uses his paw like a hand to work the door handles until the door pops open. And truly,  the only aggressive tendencies he has are towards other dogs on our property and when he is on leash. He is super submissive to humans and he loves children.

Survived a busy weekend: major gardening, 2 soccer games, and a music concert at the Arts Centre.

 Hauled rocks from a recent dynamite on a close mountain. We filled the back of the vehicle 3 times to procure enough boulders for our front garden. I actually love hauling rocks. It is fun for me. We find a secluded place on the mountain with an abundance of loose rocks and haul away. Perhaps I missed my true calling--a Fred Flintstone like career at a rock quarry. But I wouldn't want to sit in a machine all day moving rocks. I like lifting the ones small enough for me to carry in my arms.

Tabs sang in her year-end music concert yesterday. The concert took nearly 3 h! Pip fell asleep during a most beautiful and relaxing violin solo. There was something magical about the young man's playing. He played seven dances in a row. One of the songs made me so relaxed that I nearly fell asleep, Peter nodded off momentarily and Pip was out like a light for the rest of the concert! Mist mentioned her love of the violinist's music too. Tabs' youth choir was beautiful too. Loved their voices and songs.Tabs sings with such happiness and passion. Will post pics of the concert at a later time. 

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

No Plan B

My Mountain Running Buddies this Morning: Pablo and Fernando
 My entire adult life I have always had a plan B. Plan B has often required much daily maintenance and often intruded into plan A.
 F plan B! I say.
For the first time ever, I have nothing but a plan A. If A fails and leaves me hanging, I'll free fall. I like the  idea of that in a way. Plan B just gets in my way. All I have are publishing my 3 finished novels. That is it. Once they are published (old school) or (and) e-book, I have zilch planned except to keep on writing. If they make me no money, I'll hunker down and come up with a new plan A at that time.
It is going to be difficult for me. My mind will try and conjure up a plan B daily. I will resist. I will say no. I refuse to allow my mind to have a plan B, ever again. It has never worked for me. All plan B has been is a distraction, maintenance.
It is plan A until I bust and then come up with a new plan A at that point in time.

So, cutting back on Zumba teaching in the fall. I'll teach enough to keep me super fit and coast on that momentum. I taught my UBC noon class yesterday. I LOVE that class. My students are so great, each and every one a gift. No matter how blah or bad my mind might feel, after that class I feel on top of the world.

Took my dog boys on  an early morning mountain run today. That was bliss: blue sky, sunshine, wilderness and calm lake below. I passed a bald eagle sitting high in a tree. I have an entire blog dedicated to all of the mountain wild flowers along the route but I cannot find my flower ID manual and  posting the beautiful flowers without their proper names would be lame. I must find that book!

Went to a movie down town last night: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The British are so good with characterization and dialogue. Yes, it was a predictable feel-good movie but a little bit of dark comedy and a little drama balanced it. The movie was delightfully entertaining. I love the ugly truths shouted out occasionally throughout the movie. I laughed at much, the darker, the better.

A day of gardening, 2 soccer games and the beach later this afternoon. We have a guest all weekend long: Bowser. In Pip's kindergarten class each student brings home the giant stuffed dog named Bowser for the weekend and scrapbooks about their adventures. Bowser has kept us busy!

I will leave you with a favorite line from the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: It if it is not all right then it isn't the end yet. Everything is all right in the end.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dodging Garden Ninjas and Pink Ghettos

My nephew Kyran introduced my sister and I and our girls to the game of Ninja.
My nephew Henry joined us.
After the Ninja game we were treated to an impromptu concert in the garden: Nem and Tabs.
Kyran 
Mist and Kyran. Mist played David Bowie's Life on Mars?

Pictures are from the Victoria Day long weekend in my parents' back yard. Canada is the only country that has a national holiday to celebrate Queen Victoria's Birthday. So, if you celebrated Victoria Day last weekend, you know you're Canadian!

This spring is busy for me and my family. Much travel and celebrations. Tabs' grade 6 graduation, my M.A. graduation. Numerous final dance, music concerts.

Trudging ahead any way I can trying to find a decent editor for my e-books. With the publishing industry in the midst of a revolution, editing has become the author's problem. This means financially too. Thus, editors are taking advantage of this and charging a lot for what is fairly easy work in my opinion. Simple grammar/spelling editing is going for a minimum 2 cents a word.  So, for e-book publishers like me, that means shelling out thousands for each book prior to even publishing it. Everything costs so much money in my creative world. It costs much money to produce art and literature before one even makes a cent from it. And making a cent after it's ready for the public is an unknown too. Ya, I chose this crazy life, I know. But sometimes the pure financial burden of creating is enough to drive even the most driven of artists into despair.

Zumba isn't the easiest part time job for an artist/writer. It doesn't pay enough. I feel for those trying to actually make their prime income from teaching Zumba. The only way one can make a good income from it is to own a dance studio. But that requires much $ to start and open one's own studio. I do it for the love of dance and teaching.  I tell people my payment is my body. Teaching Zumba gives me a super fit, strong and lean body.

 I am beginning to see many jobs that rip women off. Women put up with little pay and crappy benefits because of sexism. We are willing to accept other payments for our work that men flatly reject. We accept poor financial pay if we think we are being payed in joy (if we love our job) or if we feel compassion for our clients (who appear to have meager means) or, like me, if it keeps us super fit. Pink ghetto jobs are rampant. If the field is dominated by women, the pay will not be as great as it would be if the field were dominated by men.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Wild Orchids of the Okanagan

Thirteen Wild Orchids Bloomed.
Each Orchid, a Sacred Gift From the Universe.
These gorgeous wild orchids are native to the Okanagan mountains. It is a miracle that amongst the tall grass and shrubs that surround a steep slope in my front yard, these lovely orchids found a place to grow. What started out as one orchid, over the seasons has now become a cluster of thirteen flowers this spring! I treasure these orchids as a lovely gift from the universe. Their scent is fresh, sweet and gentle heaven.
I am considering moving home locations in the near future and when I saw that my lovely wild orchids had all bloomed today, I felt a pang of despair. How can I protect these flowers from future owners? How can I ensure that they leave a small patch of the grass long and unkept and the bushes untrimmed so that these lovely orchids may survive and bloom again and again? And that they never use yard chemicals?
I can leave a house, a shelter, but the wild plants, the majestic magnificent trees and rose bushes. I feel it is my duty somehow to protect these plants from other humans and their careless destructive ways. And don't get me started on the mole that lives in our back yard--the giant, chubby Townsend mole. I have never seen it but it leaves giant mounds of earth all over our yard each and every spring.
I actually feel heart sick and concerned for all the humans out there who refuse to share the earth, and specifically their yard with wild flowers, and wild life. If one poisons the ground and destroys all dandelions, kills all ground creatures--they destroy all possibility of ever having a lovely gift such as a bunch of wild orchids, ever grace their land, their lives.
Toss aside the need for a manicured, artificial yard and embrace the nature that will begin to appear and bless you with its grace, beauty and wonder.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Life is Stranger Than You Know



I cannot tell you the details simply because I respect that my husband is a fiercely private man. But I can provide the basic facts as they intruded into my existence.
Only days ago, 4 a.m. looked like something out of a crime scene. I discovered my husband face down, unconscious in a pool of blood.
911
He was out cold. What had happened to him was a mystery. He only began to regain consciousness after ten minutes when the paramedics arrived.

Somehow, one just reacts as calmly as possible as though it's real but not quite believable. And although I leave out the most interesting of details for his sake, I will say that the only lasting injuries he came home from the hospital with were a broken nose and a concussion.

Such is life. Sometimes it changes instantly. For example, only 48 hours before, 4 a.m. looked quite different. We were on the Vancouver Harbor front as the sun was rising, waiting in line with Tabs for her Next star Audition. 48 hours later, he was lying face-down in a pool of blood.

The reality of the impermanence of life can be terrifying but I like to think of it as the opposite, that it can be thrilling. Thrilling in reverse. Instead of thinking, "Oh-no, I was on top of the world one day and the next, lying face-down in a pool of blood." I like to think, "Only yesterday I was face-down in a pool of blood but look at today, I'm lying on the beach in Bora Bora, about to go on a sailing adventure in the South Pacific." Both seem unfathomable as something that might happen out of the blue tomorrow, but I have learned that both situations can and do become instant and surreal realities. I am fortunate to have had the odd amazingly, wonderful opportunities seem to fall out of the sky. This keeps the odd horrific nightmares in perspective.

Here's to a little bit of wonderful falling out of the sky onto your lap one day.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Pacific Rim Fairmont, Vancouver, BC

Pip and I in our room at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
Peter demonstrating the television in the bathroom mirror. You can watch from the comfort of the huge marble tub.
Pip and Tabs
Pip strikes a pose.
That's me in front of our hotel in my orange dress.
Peter carrying the newly rented keyboard from my favorite music store: Tom Lee! They have the best sheet music and the best equipment rental :)
Pip and I at Joey's, downtown Vancouver.
Peter and Tabs at Joey's.
Me biking in Stanley Park.
A stunning Mother's Day morning in Vancouver. 
Early morning Starbucks near the waterfront. I love down town Vancouver. We travel there often and it has become like a second home.
Our weekend in Vancouver was exciting and fun. The car trip home exciting and not so fun in parts. Pip projectile vomited all over the car before we'd even exited Surrey, Tabs had upset tummy too--many stops!

Hotel Review: Pacific Rim Fairmont, down town Vancouver, BC


Fairmont Hotel's have a great points program, so we try and stay exclusively at Fairmonts when we travel. If there's a Fairmont at our destination city, that's where we'll stay. I must say, Fairmont really needs to hire me for PR. We have stayed in all four of Vancouver's Fairmonts: Airport, Water Front, Hotel Vancouver and The Pacific Rim. I enjoy them all and Hotel Vancouver has always been my favorite because it feels like a second home. We've been staying there since we first moved back (since I moved back, Peter's first time)  to B.C.--since the girls were teeny-tiny, wee babes. We know the dogs: Mavis and Beau well and we've even walked them. However, although my love for Hotel Vancouver still exists, I have a new favorite. Pacific Rim wins out.
 It wins because it is the most luxurious with the most friendly, helpful staff ever. They try to catch your eye constantly just to smile and say hello. The rooms are high-tech and so quiet. The windows, lighting and blinds are all computerized. The windows are floor to ceiling with great views and open to the outside. The beds are super comfy too. And the bathrooms are huge, luxurious with spa lighting and of course that TV in the mirror (above pic). The pool is also dreamy (see previous blog). Although, they must do something to stop the fruit bombings. I know just how to stop them too. Trust me, they will be receiving a letter from me this week.
Another perk is that if one is a platinum member, one has free access to BMW mountain bikes and a BMW car with a chauffeur to take one anywhere within the city.
So there you have it, my new favorite downtown Vancouver Hotel: The Pacific Rim. I highly recommend it for great staff and luxurious rooms. It's a little more expensive than the other Fairmonts but worth it in my opinion if you want luxury and super comfort.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

You Won't Believe It's Vancouver!




The above pictures were taken this past weekend at the Pacific Rim Fairmont Hotel pool. It was mid
May in Vancouver and yet it was so sunny and warm. The Pacific Rim has the best pool. It was dreamy. Pip even had a complementary Shirley Temple drink delivered to our lounger. We all agreed that  the afternoon felt more Hawaiian than Vancouver. Peter and Tabs left early and Pip and I stayed a little longer to swim and sun ourselves.

How can something so right go so wrong?

Instantly our afternoon changed. I heard a loud bang and then felt something hit my leg. I smelled oranges. I thought the waiter had dropped a glass jug full of orange punch. But no, we discovered someone from one of the 17 floors above us had dropped an orange off the balcony. It hit the cement like a bomb. The impact would have killed someone if it had hit them in the head. I was just trying to comprehend that explosion when suddenly, on the other side of the deck another orange exploded. Some insane idiot was bombing the pool deck with fruit from over fifteen stories above us. I wasted no time waiting for one to hit again. I demanded an unaware Pip get out of the pool immediately and we left. Not before demanding security be called. Some complete moron was acting like a terrorist for fun--perhaps too stupid to realize that the fruit hit with such impact they would kill someone.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Next Star Vancouver

Tabby Cat Meets Adamo Ruggiero, Host of The Next Star on YTV
Vancouver Harbour Centre Early in the Morning, Where The Next Star Auditions Took Place.
Mom with Tabs. A cruise ship just docked . Many of the passengers came out onto their balconies in their PJ's to check out the screaming kids.
Peter, Pip and Tabs in Line Awaiting Audition Number for Tabs.
Adamo chatting up Pip and Tabs. He asked Pip if she knew what a "hazard" was. She shook her head, no.
Adamo chatting up his new little co-host.
Tabs practices shouting, "That's a HAZARD!"
Tabs and Adamo move down the line up through the crowd.
Filming. They loved Tabs.
Many takes of "That's a Hazard!"
Tabs awaiting her first audition.
Pip exhausted beside Tab's giant keyboard.
Mom (me) making sure she was OK. Out of all of the people in this line up, Tabs was the only one to make it on to the second round.
Tabitha was amazing this weekend in Vancouver. She auditioned for The Next Star. She made it to the third round before being cut. Her determination, maturity, passion for music and performing blew me away. The entire weekend was a whirlwind of "out of the box" amazement. Thank God Peter agreed to join us this weekend. I could not have done it without him. I had no idea the "small" keyboard I rented was as big and heavy as a Baby Grand! Peter was also the one to stand in line at 4:30 a.m.  (as he is always a super-early riser). Tabs, Pip and I joined him at 5:45 a.m.
It was worth it to be up early as the day was excruciatingly long and demanding and Tabs was #37 to audition.

Tabs organized the entire audition herself. Months ago she asked me if she could audition. I told her, if you can accompany yourself on the piano to the song you're singing, I'll take you. So, the little darling learned the entire score to Journey's Don't Stop Believing. She downloaded all info on the audition and organized everything. I looked after the hotel and car ride.

The morning started out well, at about 9 a.m., the host Adamo and film crew of The Next Star arrived. After strutting around filming this and that and interviewing the odd contestant in the line-up, they approached Pip and Tabs. Tabs was asked to accompany Adamo out of line and  parade around with him for the cameras. She was given a megaphone and asked to scream "That's a HAZARD!" every time they passed anything remotely in the way of their path. She had a great time and really belted out her lines. One of the producers said to me, "she is so adorable!"

For her first audition, she was assigned to a group of about 10 or so other performers. The directors took them away from the auditorium (where the parents waited) to audition. After awhile the entire group returned except Tabitha. She was the only one to make it from her group. Then they took her to the second audition. Again, she made it through. The third step was paper work and a video interview with the performer (no singing involved). After the third interview, we were told they'd call us by 11 p.m. if she made it to the next step. No phone call in the night so that is where her Next Star audition ended. I am just so proud of my little darling that she was able to keep her composure and perform under such stressful, exhausting and overwhelming conditions. Way to go Tabby Cat!

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sleep Tight My Sweet

At 1:30 a.m. I hear the patter of little feet down the hall. So does Pablo, he starts to bark. My bedroom door opens and Pippi enters. She crawls up on my bed. "I'm scared of Harry Potter, the Dementors and the Minotaurs," she says. I lift the blanket and let her slide in between her parents.
"It's OK. Dementors and Minotaurs aren't real. They're make believe so you'll be fine," I say. She settles herself down between us for a several minutes of peace. 
I feel little arms reach for me, hug me and then sweet kisses on my face. "I love you Mom...and thank-you for the information," she says, struggling out of the covers.  "I'm going to go back to my own bed now," she adds, as she steps to the floor and pitter-patters out of my bedroom.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Go With The Flow Fernando

 Fernando's Sexy and He Knows It
My life is new. New, in that now I am no longer a student. I am also no longer the mother of preschoolers. I was nervous to see how everything would transpire once I had finished my thesis, Pippi entered kindergarten and I was ready to focus on the next step of my career. The most wonderful thing that has transpired is that I feel as though I am on a moving fluid career path and I follow along where the road leads.
In the past, this freedom might have frightened me. I wanted more stability. I suppose because I was young and wanted the security of a decent nest for my babies. But I am OK with this freelance career--doing what works in the moment. It fuels the adventure-junkie side of me in a way I never expected. It seems I plot my career in segments of about six months. I focus on tasks to achieve in this time period, reevaluate and begin a new segment. Such is the life as a writer/artist.
What has helped me immeasurably with being able to focus and be happy in this new fluid career (writing, teaching, painting--doing what works in the moment and leads to an income and work satisfaction) are three simple things. Three things that bring metta (Metta means happiness in Pali--an ancient Indian language spoken by The Buddha).

#1 Evening meditations (yes, every night unless I am beyond knackered!) at home, alone, in front of my fireplace.
#2 Community meditation. Whether my schedule allows me to meet once a week or once a month, simply having the outside spiritual community gives me peace, connectedness.
#3 Following my schedule. I write a weekly schedule of all I want to accomplish each and every day. It is not overwhelming. It is a balanced life schedule that gives me the time to dabble in all pursuits: career, home up keep, personal fitness and health. It seems silly, but honestly, I often quit following my schedule religiously, believing it is only a schedule. But when I do this, mindfulness slips way. It is the simplest way I have ever discovered to keep one mindful and thus metta. Just stick to the schedule, don't doubt the power of following simple daily rituals religiously.

I hope these three tips for mindfulness and metta help someone, anyone, out there feel the freedom of enjoying a fluid, evolving life without fear and doubt. Because for those of us who don't have a 9-5 institutional job to cement us, we need to let go and go with the flow...

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring

High up in the meadow,
Amongst the balsam root, 
Her soul finds spring
Consciousness awakened
Curiosity in beginnings
Anticipation of joy
The birth of beauty
Delight in youth
Dance in her morning light 
Nurture delicate growth
Reach for sweet kisses of life
Rest amongst the awakened 
Breath upon blades of tender
Smile on open wings 
Text and photographs by Mix Hart

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