Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Feeling of Home

Yesterday I was having dinner with some friends from the States at a gastropub in Hampstead, an area of northwest London near where I'm living here. They had both gone to the loo - the woman of the couple had taken their little boy with her so she could change his diaper - and I was sitting at the table watching their stuff, savoring the last few bites of scrumptious bread and butter pudding, and taking in the atmosphere. Side note: I notice that it's slightly easier for me to "justify" being the moment and taking in my surroundings when I'm away from home since, ostensibly, my time is limited here and I might as well make the most of it while I can. So, though I'd taken a book out of my purse, I decided not to pass the time reading. There was so much to observe and enjoy - the decor, the other customers, the smells, the sounds.

Then a Norah Jones song came on. I think it was that one "I don't know why I didn't come . . . " Not sure of the exact title. And it was so comforting and calming. I felt a sense of peace and ease and at-homeness. That album of hers was one of my mainstays my senior year in college, which was another time of transition and confronting the unknown. I listened to it over and over again in my cozy room. And now here she was soothing me again, in a pub in a foreign country, as I was out to dinner with friends from home. Granted, Hampstead is known for a preponderance of Americans in its population and people speak English in London so it's not as jarring or exotic as a trip to some other foreign countries might be, but I am still away from home, away from my community, away from the city I know well.

After I parted ways with my friends, I headed up the hill to the bus stop and while I waited there I noticed the lovely evening light on the buildings, and the peaceful feeling on the street, and I enjoyed the fact that, having been here for two and a half months now, there are areas such as that very spot on the hill that are now familiar to me.

As someone who has lived in about 8 different places in the past 6 years (many of them were in NYC, but still different apartments and/or neighborhoods), I really value a feeling of home, and I'm interested in what creates that. I actually have found that ever since I left my childhood home in Maine for college (which was a tough transition at first), I have become pretty adept at creating a sense of home for myself wherever I am. It's a skill I really value, and one that I really require in my thus far rather itinerant life as an artist.

Here are some of the things that I find help me create this feeling of home wherever I am:
music (either deliberate or accidental/synchronistic like with the Norah Jones in the gastropub)
candles, preferably scented
oracle cards - Doreen Virtue's Goddess Cards and Angel Cards, for example
nice toiletries and/or wellness products, e.g., essential oils, a lovely soap, room mist
spiritual books, like Louise Hay's You Can Heal Your Life
making myself a lovely, healthy meal
bodies of water
and, of course, connecting with my loved ones, near and far

What makes you feel at home when you are traveling and/or moving from place to place?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Morning Glory

For the past few years, I've been rather steadfastly dedicated to morning pages a la Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Eight or nine times out of ten, they are the very first thing I do in the morning - before brushing my teeth, before going to the bathroom, before eating. And they have served me very well, in many ways. Wonderful ideas have come to me in my morning pages. I've blown off a lot of steam in my morning pages. I've recorded amazing dreams in my morning pages. And I often find that having that clear buffer or transition point between sleep and the rest of my day works very well for me.

But I am not a morning person and I am rarely happy to wake up in the morning, and in my continual quest for greater happiness, it occurred to me that the way I begin my day might have an impact on the way I feel when I wake up. And because I've been going through a bit of a rough patch, a lot of the stuff that comes out in my morning pages is negative. Though I have stood by my morning pages and, in fact, have felt that getting some of that negativity out first thing is good and healthy and productive, now I'm not so sure. Now I'm thinking that it could be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, at least at this moment in my life.

So, I decided yesterday as I was writing in my morning pages (ha ha! yes, they are still serving their purpose even when I'm thinking of why I don't want to do them) that I was going to try something else in the morning. So I only wrote 2 pages yesterday, instead of the customary 3, and then I went downstairs and did a little bit of yoga with the online Gaiam Yoga Club. While sipping some warm water with cayenne pepper and fresh-squeezed lemon, which is an excellent alkalizing way to start the day but I am usually so starving by the time I finish my morning pages that I can't possibly wait long enough to drink that before I eat.

I felt so centered and grounded after the yoga - it was a very small amount, but it made a difference. And throughout the day I was much more aware of my body's alignment, which felt great. Also, I was much less prone to pushing myself too hard, i.e., sitting for too many hours at the computer hunched over and creating neck tension.

This morning I did some breathing, spinal fluidity, and visualization from qi gong. And that felt wonderful, too! I remembered how much joy there is in being present in my body and its movements and my breath. Also how much joy there is for me in fine-tuned focus, such as in a visualization.

I don't know if it's because I began both days in new ways, or because I began both days with something physical, or because I'm taking a break from my morning pages - or perhaps because I am giving myself permission to be aware of how I feel in the morning and experiment with what would feel best to me. Whatever it is, these past 2 days I have felt more centered and at peace than I usually do. Also, not surprisingly, more present in my body. And gentler to myself, in general.

This may or may not be a permanent change. I feel rather attached to my morning pages and am hesistant to abandon them altogether. But I think that at this particular point, when I seem to be more vulnerable to the dangerous neighborhood that is my brain, putting my attention elsewhere first thing in the morning might be just the ticket.

I wonder if there are people in the world who wake up in the morning feeling happy and excited to be alive and wake up and greet the day. If you're one of them, I'd love to hear from you. And I'd love to know what makes you feel that way in the morning. Also, from any readers, whether they're happy morning people or not, I would love to hear about people's morning routines. What works for you? What doesn't?

And do you think that your morning does, indeed, set the tone for your day?