DIY Meditation Retreat

February 22nd’s livestream of Just Sit: The Meditation Guidebook For Those Who Know They Should But Don’t featured the 2nd half of Chapter 4, DIY Meditation: Do What Works For You.

How great is that? What other ‘instruction manual’ touts that you actually already know what you need to know? Not that the book doesn’t offer options or guidelines, but it’s really great about acknowledging that, in most cases, we don’t give ourselves and our intuition enough credit. There’s something in our culture, and evolution, that encourages us to look outside ourselves for instruction, validation, approval. Chapter 4 is all about presenting options and ideas, but encouraging you to be curious and figure out really and truly what speaks to you. If you have 25 minutes or so, I encourage you to give it a watch.

What I wasn’t able to fit in on the video was the full DIY Retreat steps:

  1. Decide how many days you want to do this for. Then free up your schedule as if you were going away for real.
  2. Are you doing this solo or with a friend or a group? Plan accordingly.
  3. Decide what kind of a retreat you would like to do: all meditation, meditation and exercise, yoga, silent, moments or times of silence, a dance party, a retreat with wine-and-cheese breaks, or the opposite, a 3-day fast.
  4. Is it going to be in your home or somewhere outside: a cabin, a tent, a beach, your basement, or your sister’s backyard?
  5. Decide on food. Will you be vegetarian? Vegan? Starving? Where is the food coming from? Do you need to prepare it before the retreat? Or order it in advance? Do you need to do a big grocery trip?
  6. Set an intention for the retreat: What do you hope to get from it? What’s the purpose? Don’t be vague.
  7. Decide how much interaction you will have with the outside world: Will you have designated times for cell phone, computer, electronics? Or turn them off all together? If all together, then let people know. Do an automated response with your email; call your mom and tell her.
  8. Then, after all the big decisions are made, plan out the days.

If, like me, you got overwhelmed just reading that list, take note of that feeling. Don’t give up automatically, but take note. Maybe you need to get used to the idea a bit more before you actually go through with the plan. Maybe that feeling is an indication that you need some of that external assistance with something so far out of your daily routine/comfort zone. As noted several times in this chapter, what works for you is what is important.

Time for a meditation habit?

Today’s reading breaks down an exercise week by week: 8 Weeks to Build A Practice. Tips include: Keep it Simple. Make it Stick. Make it Doable.

As we approach the end of the calendar for 2020, many are looking at 2021 to start a new, positive habit. I invite you to join me for the next 8 Mondays – we’ll continue reading Just Sit, but also check in on how we’re all progressing through the Boot Camp. And like the book says, just because it’s an 8 week plan, it’s not really about the 8 weeks. It’s about getting started.

Want an accountabilibuddy for the next 8 weeks?

Second Circle Body

Full body scan – one minute clip. (Recorded December 6, 2020)

This is from page 53 of Presence, by Patsy Rodenburg.

If you have longer, here’s a floor exercise you can do to engage in Second Circle energy. (Recorded December 20, 2020)

Pges 57 & 58 of Presence by Patsy Rodenburg.

On-Demand & Personalization

On-Demand is a catchphrase of our times. No need for a TV Guide to tell you when your favorite show is on – just turn on whatever streaming choice you prefer and watch what you want whenever you want. Don’t have to wait for your favorite song to come on the radio if you don’t want to – find if instantly with any number of music services.

And of course, once those services know your favorites, they can recommend what the algorithm thinks might be your next favorite – personalized to you, based on your activity.

These pandemic times have been teaching me a lot about the pros & cons of on-demand and personalization for me, but not quite in the same context as the situations above. For example, meditation. I have many (many) on-demand meditation options. Some of my favorites include Tara Brach, Meditation Minis, and Daily Breath.

However, the only thing that actually got me to stop and meditate was the online offerings of KAM Meditation and now Tula Meditation. These are live sessions with people leading a meditation of some kind, whether it be Vedic, Present Moment Awareness, Transcendence, or Calm Focus – or whatever style/type happens to be being presented that day.

From Tula Meditation Instagram

Maybe it’s the Obliger in me (The Four Tendencies anyone?), but knowing that I had signed-up for a class (sometimes paying, sometimes free) and that there was a person depending on me showing up, it became much easier for me to commit to pausing in my day and meditating. Don’t get me wrong, I had scheduled pauses before and even blocked myself time on my calendar to engage with one of the fabulous apps mentioned above – but inevitably when that time came, I would find an excuse or reason or distraction that kept me from using the time for what it was set aside for.

This phenomenon was part of my impetus for starting Interdependent Study. I’d been thinking about the project for a while, but knowing that I might be able to provide this sort of accountability for someone who needed it proved to be the push I needed to get my own butt in gear (even though my just wanting to pursue it felt like it should be enough).

And that’s just the thing. Often we know what we want to do, what we should do, what is best for us…but actually making those choices is an act of will. And having an unlimited supply of on-demand everything, we don’t frequently engage our will (or will-power!) – we let the algorithm choose for us. And just like any other physical, emotional, or mental muscle – when we don’t use it, we lose it.

BTW – I had a similar experience with exercise that I’ll tell you about later – I have a yoga session booked in 20 minutes and I don’t want to let my teacher down! 🙂

Third Circle Example: Classic Shellstrop

For those of you following along with Interdependent Study on Twitch (and now, somewhat accidentally, on FacebookLive!), here’s an example of textbook Third Circle behavior.

Kristen Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop in The Good Place:

Specifically in this clip, she is trying desperately “to be felt and seen, not reduced and ignored”. This display shows examples of cards1, 2 & 6 from the presentation.

(or in this case, don’t notice and don’t care!)

Can you think of any other fun Third Circle Energy examples? How about First Circle?

This Sunday (11/1/20 – can you believe it’s already November?!), we’ll be looking at Second Circle Energy – or, Presence. Join me live at 11:00am CT or check out the replay (Twitch keeps the video live for 2 weeks).

Rehearsal as Meditation

I’ve spent much of the pandemic dipping my feet further into meditation & mindfulness. Today, my meditation teacher mentioned something his teacher said to him:

This struck me as it reminded me of something my voice teacher would also say to me: You don’t rehearse to craft the perfect performance; you rehearse so your performance can ‘be perfect’.

Of course, by “perfect” I don’t mean doing the same actions & vocal inflections in the same, one-and-only, right way every night (speaking for stage performances, here). Rather, I’m referring to allowing yourself to be open as the perfect vessel to tell the story that the show was created to tell; allowing it to live, in the moment, on the stage. By rehearsing the words, the blocking, the entrances & exits, the quick-changes, the lighting & sound cues and every nuance of a show, the performer can then let go for the 90 minutes (or God forbid- 3 hours!!) of showtime. The performer can step into the reality of the given circumstances of the story and truly ‘live’ the life of the character. It’s when you can let go of all the technique you used in rehearsal and simply be.

Similar with meditation & real life – by using specific breathing techniques to practice meditation, you are creating a physical & physiological anchor to how you want to be in any given situation. So in the middle of an argument with a loved one, you don’t need to stop and think about the technique, but rather you can be (and hopefully behave like) the calm, centered person you are during meditation, despite the heightened stress of the situation.

I’m a big fan of finding the tools that work for you. For acting, I’m not much on Meisner, but I’ve found some Viewpoints to be extremely helpful. Folio technique is a tool I come to & step back from, depending on many factors. For life, I love inspirational podcasts, but I need a rotation to keep me engaged. Meditation & medication both have their place for me. When offered a new tool, either as an actor or simply as a human, I highly recommend approaching with an open mind, and an open heart; give it a solid go. Observe. If it works, keep it handy. If it doesn’t, set it aside, knowing that it might work again in another situation. Or it may not.

Luckily, metaphorical toolboxes are super easy to carry around.

Presence – The Three Circles


Chapter 3 takes us through the definition of the circles of energy. I read through it last week and was able to then play with editing & images & fades to create this 90 second take. Not the best editing job, but I’m pretty proud anyway!

Recorded Sunday, 10-11-20

This Sunday, 10/18/20, I’ll be reading further into Chapter 3, getting more in depth into The First Circle (that’s my habitual favourite!) and attempting to add the slides live!

Join me at 11:00am CT

Presence by Patsy Rodenburg

The subtitle of this book is “How to use positive energy for success” and the quote on the cover:

I am an enormous fan of her work. What is wonderful about her is the directness and clarity of her teaching and her enthusiasm.

is from Dame Judi Dench

If I recall, I bought this book at a combined theatre audition in Tennessee about 15 years ago. Or I bought it at a combined theatre audition in Florida 18 years ago. Either way, I have a distinct memory of being at one of these cattle calls and checking out the various ‘merch’ tables. The normal assortment of William Shakespeare’s Complete Works, monologue books, and probably a couple of Michael Shurtleff books were on display. My budding interest in all things ‘energetic’ drew me to this book. The Dame Judi endorsement merely sealed the deal.

I’m pretty sure the book was included in these offerings as a voice work/breath work guide. Patsy Rodenburg was a voice & speech teacher for many years. I definitely found value in this aspect, but the crux of the message is learning to use our breath/voice to exchange energy. And I find this message most useful. Over the years I have loved reading the theory parts of this book. It is easy to follow and lovely quotes from a variety of teachers are interspersed, including my personal favorites: Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, and one of my all time favorites:

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

from The Dalai Lama

There are, however, a number of “Do this exercise” and “Answer these questions” parts, as well as sections for Daily Application and Daily Workout which I have never completely committed to. Until now!

I’ll start with some bits from the Introduction, about what Presence is, and chapter 3, The Three Circles of Energy. To give you an idea of what we’re diving into, this is how the introduction starts:

This book will transform your life. This book will invigorate every aspect of your life. It will awaken your full human potential.

No small feat…but nothing we can’t accomplish together. 11:00am CT Sunday, October 11, 2020

Just Sit

Owen & I visited Ravenswood Used Books yesterday and I believe I found the perfect book for my first episode of Interdependent Study.

What’s Interdependent Study? I’m glad you asked! I’ve learned that I achieve more, grow more, and enjoy life more when I’m living ‘in community’ with people. I love reading – I listen to audiobooks while I work; I typically have 2-3 library books (the physical kind) checked out at any time; I like fiction, non-fiction, inspirational, self-help, instructional (mostly theatre-related for this genre); 7 of the 8 shelves on our ‘shared bookshelf’ are filled with my books that I simply won’t part with (even the ones I’ve read multiple times). So, I’m starting a community.

My goal is to post about books I’m reading, but also, gather people to a community where we can hold each other accountable for the books we want to read, but never seem to find the time for. Interdependent Study will be a sort of ‘reading gym’ for those books that have “next steps” or “try this” sections. I can’t tell you the number of books I’ve read with lesson sections that I tell myself I’m definitely going to do…someday. Or with easy-to-do exercises that are not actually easy to do, by yourself anyway, at all. I especially noticed this problem with theatre technique books and yoga instruction books I’ve had over the years.

Step 1 – sit in a comfortable position on a chair.

Step 2 – close your eyes…

Obviously, since my eyes were now closed, I never made it to step 3 and beyond.

Just Sit, by Sukey and Elizabeth Novogratz is a perfect example of just such an experiential book about meditation. It’s fun (great images by Niege Borges) and relatable, and has some of those amazing exercises that are nearly impossible to do alone! Unlike some other books, they have their own website and a lot of great resources. But I’m going to offer myself as another resource!

Join me on Twitch (a free live streaming platform) on Sundays at 11:00am Central time. We’ll spend a few minutes connecting, I’ll read, and then, we’ll go through one of the exercises! This week, let’s read about Bruce Lee and do some Dragon Breath! (pages 55 and 32 of Just Sit)

Language as Agreement

“Language is the code for understanding and communication between humans. Every letter, every word in each language is an agreement. We call this a page in a book; the word page is an agreement that we understand.” – The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

When I was a kid, I used to wonder if the color that I thought was blue (like the sky), was the same as the color that other people thought was blue. Turns out there are a lot of things tied up in this particular thought (color-blindness not being the least of them), but for now, I’m going to concentrate on the idea of ‘language as agreement’ that Don Miguel Ruiz describes.

I dated a guy who used to joke that if he ever had kids, he wanted to raise the child in a ‘bubble’ and teach them the ‘wrong’ word for everything. Then at the age of 10, release the child into the world and study the outcome. (Social experimenting at its ethical worst, to be sure!)

Check out this bright pink chandelier…

The idea that a combination of sounds or letters (i.e. words) means the same thing to me as it does to everyone else (that speaks the same language anyway) is a societal agreement. And according to Ruiz, these agreements are not innate, but rather, learned & passed from person to person, generation to generation. To say the above image is a pink chandelier is not ‘wrong’ -but it is certainly not in agreement with what most people would see as a blue table & chair.

In recent years, the human rights revolution regarding sexuality & gender identities, new(ish) words are popping up all over popular culture. As a white, cis-woman over 40, I attempt to agree with what my friends and acquaintances tell me their chosen label is. It’s hard to say if there is ‘agreement’ quite yet, even amongst the various terms, but the introduction of such words allows for a better understanding of the variations of human experience. However, when a single attribute is extrapolated to be the meaning of an entire human experience, or one way of being is agreed to be “right”, while all others are “wrong”, we create a fertile ground for racism, misogyny, bigotry, and worse.

ie Is being a Caucasian, British comedian the whole of Eddie Izzard‘s vicissitude? (defined as: vicissitudes, successive, alternating, or changing phases or conditions, as of life or fortune <– took me a minute to find the ‘right’ word for this so I’m happily sharing the definition!) Short answer: No.

Actor, activist, long distance runner…just 3 ‘agreements’ used to describe Eddie.
(I knew I had to get trans-whatever, the language has changed over the years, into society as part of the world because we are citizens. <–Eddie Izzard)

A friend of mine and I recently had a conversation about whether Eddie Izzard is a transgender person or a transvestite. In his own stand-up, Eddie has referred to himself as an “Executive transvestite” (from Dress to Kill, 1998). In interviews, he has referred to himself as “a transgender person” and even “trans-whatever”. (Also, chosen pronouns are “he” or “she” –> If I am in boy mode then “he” or girl mode “she.” People get confused, but thank you for asking. ) My friend (who happens to be white, homosexual & Jewish) wants his name to be definition enough.

Part of the issue is that 8+ Billion people in the world means 8+ Billion experiences and attempting to create, learn, share and agree on 8+ Billion definitions (ie names) is as close to impossible as I can currently conceive. Per Britannica, “the human body sends 11 million bits per second to the brain for processing, yet the conscious mind seems to be able to process only 50 bits per second.” Categorizing, sub-dividing, and, yes, labelling is how we are able to experience the world utilizing our current ability to process information (and not go insane).

What my friend and I ended up agreeing on was that as long as no single aspect or definition was used to judge Eddie’s character & humanity & existence, it didn’t really matter. The agreed-upon language is great for a sense of mutual understanding, but it should not be seen as the complete understanding of who or what it is describing.