525,600 Minutes

One year

525,600 minutes

This weekend marks the first anniversary of this blog. It was one year ago today that I made one of my biggest life changes to date, and celebrated my official “coming out” as a writer. The memory of hitting the ‘publish’ button that very first time comes back to me in a rush. It’s a memory of sweat and panic, of slamming my laptop closed immediately afterwards, as if by shutting down the computer I could shut down the reality of what just happened, and go back to before. But there was no before now; there was just after.

One week

10,080 minutes

One week ago, I attended the first ever Manifestation Yoga and Writing Retreat in Stowe, Vermont, created and led by the incomparable Jennifer Pastiloff, along with bestselling author, Emily Rapp. For the first time, fittingly it seemed on this almost-one-year writing anniversary, I would attend actual writing workshops, with an actual writer and teacher. Like all new things that I couldn’t prepare for in advance, I was riddled with anxiety in the weeks (okay, months) leading up to the trip. What if everyone else there had been writing for years? What if they were all published, and critically acclaimed, and I was a complete amateur, not a real writer at all, in their presence?

What if I discovered that I wasn’t so special, after all?

Three days

4,320 minutes 

That revelation never had a shot at revealing itself on this magical three-day weekend with Jen and Emily. 

Instead, we banished our insecurities and focused our energy elsewhere: on wine and cheese introductions, and a video about Stowe that felt like one of those videos from a resort trying to sell you a timeshare (Snow! Horses! Nature! Come Visit Soon!!). We played with Chrissy, the yellow lab who loved to, with her poor displaced hips, inelegantly plop down on a yoga mat in the middle of the group, just wanting to be a part of it all, and perhaps catch a few falling pieces of food amidst the chaos. We moved our bodies together in our first Manifestation class, slowly at first, in the early morning chill, then more assuredly as the room and our muscles heated. We ignored our self-consciousness with a dance party, and pushed past our fears to do downward-facing dog atop a horse. We sang “Doe, a Deer, a Female Deer” in the Von Trapp family forest, and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” while holding a Warrior Two pose for what felt like forever.

We had less than 5,000 minutes together, yet we connected, in that way that you do when you find yourself in another person. We found each other, and we found ourselves. We cried, and laughed, and sang, and shared, and made every one of those minutes mean something.

One year

525,600 minutes

It has taken me a year to get here. To understand what the writing is. It’s sharing our stories. It’s finding minutes, or even just moments, where we feel less alone.

One week

10,080 minutes

Time is so very fluid. Last week feels like both seconds and a lifetime ago. I almost can’t tell the difference anymore. Most of us have waited to share our stories, wanting instead to steep in the feeling, in the specialness, for just a little bit longer before sharing them with the world, with each other even.

I want to whisper to everyone, write it down. Write it all down now, because you will forget. The details are already starting to elude me, writing this just 10,000 minutes later. I remember the scent of the horse shit mixed with wet leaves and the caked mud that we tracked into the house. But is the smell of burning wood real, or just in my memory, constructed after conjuring up any New England fall day I could remember? I can still see the ominous clouds hovering over the hills in the distance, barely concealing a sun desperate to break through for a precious few, perfect minutes. But were the colors of the sunrise really so vivid? Were the oranges melting into reds melting into trees real, or just what I can see in the photograph, filtered and framed and frozen until they maybe became something else entirely?  

Does it matter what was real, and what was imagined? Or does it just matter that we were there, and that we are changed?

I remember this. A poem that Jen read on this retreat, like she had on so many others before that reverberated then, but this time becomes something completely new to me. This is the first time my ears have really heard it.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson

I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V

I walk down another street.

Three days

4,320 minutes

I am here, finally. On this, my fourth retreat, spending just 5,000 brief minutes amongst the rolling hills and multi-colored leaves and the smell of horse shit, my eyes finally open. I have reached the fourth chapter. I have stopped falling into the hole.

I will forget, of course. Isn’t that what we do, learn lessons over and over again? The ease of the writing in those exercises that Emily led us through won’t last forever, I know. The support we felt in this sacred space will wane, in our minds at least. Sometimes I will think again that I cannot do this, cannot possibly be a writer. But this time, I won’t go back to before. I will stay in the after. I will make new afters. 

One year ago

525,600 minutes ago

My first blog entry was titled “Confession: I Have No Idea What I’m Doing”. For everything I’ve learned over the past year, the last 525,600 minutes, I still have no idea what I am doing. But I am walking down the new street, anxious as always that I don’t know where it will go or what’s coming next, but certain that it is better than falling into the same hole on the same old street.

One weekend

One week

One Year

525,600 minutes

This is how I measure a year.

In endless gratitude,

Katie

Sunrise at Stowe Mountain Ranch Unfiltered and Perfect

Sunrise at Stowe Mountain Ranch
Unfiltered and Perfect

Confession: I Went To Canyon Ranch, And All I Brought Back Was The T-Shirt…And A Few Life Lessons

I just left the magical enclave known as Canyon Ranch, nestled in the middle of the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts. It was my first visit; it will surely not be my last. One of my closest friends was invited to teach her famous Manifestation workshops there, having introduced them to the resort earlier this year. She was able to bring a guest with her, and I was the unbelievably lucky recipient of her generosity. It was a dream I’d never allowed myself to even have that actually came true. It was five days of relaxing, pampering, healthy-eating, centering bliss.

As I was sitting on the plane on Thursday night, delayed going back home to Los Angeles, a friend asked me what I learned in my time at Canyon Ranch. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to answer her, by how much I had learned in such a short time, by how profoundly I was touched by this place.

Life Lessons from Canyon Ranch:

I cannot resist cookies. Even gluten-free ones, which I was cajoled into trying, and which were surprisingly tasty. I simply could not say no to this dessert after dinner. And after lunch. And after breakfast. Healthy, gourmet food never tasted so good.

I am not as open to new experiences as I would like to be. I really don’t enjoy exercising, if I know that I’m exercising. Disguise the workout in a yoga class, or a picturesque walk and I’m game. Anything with kettleballs, squats, or that dreaded word, cardio? No, thank you, I’ll pass. I’ve come to terms with it. What I did realize, however, while I was avoiding every non-yoga class that Canyon Ranch offered, was that sometimes I do need to push myself more, and to try more new things, or I may really be missing out on discovering something I love. Sometimes, I need to put myself out there and be open to whatever happens.

I am too cautious. I signed up for “Arial Adventures” on Wednesday (aka trying new things), which consisted of a short zip-line and the “giant swing” (essentially a harnessed leap and free-fall off a raised platform). I stood atop the platform, hesitating. I didn’t look over the edge, down to the ground, in fear. The hesitation was not rooted in fear of crashing to the ground. Instead, I stared off in the distance, eager to know what I was facing, struggling to see through to the end of the road before I embarked upon the journey. Watching others before I took my turn. The fear was in not knowing what to expect, in not being able to prepare before leaping. I do this everywhere, it turns out. I prefer to tiptoe into the unknown, so as not to be caught off guard. I prefer to have a map, and clear directions for every route I take. But life’s not like that, is it? There isn’t a map for every situation, there is no way to always be perfectly prepared, and sometimes you just have to take whatever knowledge you do have, and just jump without knowing precisely where you are going to land.

I am not as great at relaxing as I had previously thought. I watched women scuttling around all day, clad in their Lululemon Luon gear, schedules packed with classes, lectures, meals, activities. I thought that I was so much more relaxed, with all of my time spent in front of the fireplace, with a book in hand. But I noticed how much less reading I actually got done on this trip. I saw how distracted I’ve become. I acknowledged how reliant I am on my mobile devices. I understand how imperative it is for me to work on changing this, in getting back to a place where I can put down the phone, put down the tablet, put down the computer and just be.

Restorative yoga is a wonderful aide in being present. Allowing someone to guide you into relaxation is quite effective. Slow, sweet, gentle…you can actually measure your body opening, and relaxing. You can feel the space between the beats of your heart lengthening, and the depth of your breath expanding as it flows all the way down to your toes. You have nowhere else to be, no agenda other than listening to your body, and your breath, and allowing yourself to be present in the moment.

It’s astonishingly easy to be there for the people you love. My friend Jen, the one who brought me to Canyon Ranch, was suffering through the hell of an ectopic pregnancy while we were there. Beyond all of the emotional turmoil that this brought, she started experiencing severe physical pain as soon as she arrived in Massachusetts. Ultimately, she ended up in the emergency room at 5am on Tuesday, facing an insensitive nurse and the fear that her fallopian tube had burst.

I worried that I would not be able to help her. That I wouldn’t know what to do, or how to do it, or if it would be enough. But when it really counted, it was the easiest thing in the world to pick up the phone, to pull the car around, to show up. It meant not always knowing what to say, or what to do, or even if you’re helping at all. But showing up anyway. Because that’s the best of what we can offer each other: showing up.

Most people are searching for something. During one of my visits to the cozy library, I met Cindy. The same age as my mom, she was knitting furiously while whispering the steps to herself. Somehow we began talking. In under an hour, she confided that she wasn’t truly fulfilled or happy, that she didn’t know how to put herself first, and that she just felt there should be “something more” in her life. I could have echoed every sentiment, at half her age and with completely different life circumstances. We are all searching. We are all looking for something. Acknowledging and sharing our search makes us feel less alone, and more likely to make changes that lead to happiness.

There are some truly wonderful people in this world. Like the woman working at the café, who remembered how I like my tea, and snuck me extra cookies when I left. Or those who asked, every time they saw me, how Jen was feeling, or offered to bring her food or read to her. Or the ER Doctor who we called awesome, who told us he was just there to get the job done—but he’d take the awesome, too. Or my fellow Arial Adventurers, who encouraged each other to take that leap off the platform, who cheered as we all flew down the zip-line, strangers who had become a team. Fantastic people come to this special place.

From the fog rolling in over the distant lake, to the trees changing colors all around us, to the rain that blew sideways in the wind, it was an almost unreal time. There was a dreamlike quality to it all.

Thank you, Jen, for making this week possible. For pushing me to dream bigger. Thank you, Canyon Ranch, for far exceeding any expectation I could have imagined, and for bringing together everything and everyone to make this dream a reality. I am truly blessed and grateful.

CanyonRanch

PS-see the pictures and videos on my Facebook page for more insight into this incredible place!

https://www.facebook.com/katiedevinewriter

xx,

Katie