Holding on to the joy

The first step is feeling joy … a smile, a laugh, a sense of exuberance that that life itself can feel so very good. It is easier to experience this kind of delight, of course, when one is somewhere beautiful, or surrounded by caring people, or doing things one likes. All of the above is really good. …… and highly recommended.

food3I was lucky enough to have a vacation last week during which incredibly nice people set plates in front of me  that looked like this. It was delicious food that was healthy, and it was always followed by desserts that were the same. In fact, I got served five meals a day — so it was sort of like a cruise ship but without all the rocking motion and annoying announcements over the PA system.

Better yet, I got to eat the food while visiting with two old friends whom I seldom see, while looking at a gorgeous view of the mountains. Yeah, it was pretty hard to beat.

The best part of the food was that everything was fresh and locally grown. Maybe you don’t think that tastes all that different or matters that much, but trust me that after a week of it your palate gets pretty critical of the stuff you have setting around in your freezer.

So, I’m home now by myself, with all my family temporarily scattered. I headed off to the grocery store today to get something more in synch with the feeling of bliss that I brought home with me.

And faced this. food

Sigh …………. The second step is holding on to the joy. Clearly I’m not going to be able to do it easily with food, or for that matter with a mountain view or even cool crisp air. My front porch is too sweltering hot for even a seasoned Texan like me to enjoy.

But fortunately there are other options.  The two old friends who were with me were also on Facebook tonight, posting their photos and happy to chat about the good times that we had. We even exchanged recipes for some of the great food that we shared, and after about 20 messages back and forth I was feeling better.

food4Let’s face it.  You’re lucky if every once in awhile you get to do something that is very joyful.  You’re even luckier if you can find way to hang onto that feeling for a while longer.

For more thoughts about coming back to reality, check out my x0 blog here and my z2 blog here.

Feeling gratitude in Costa Rica

Costa Rica 2Pick something that you are grateful for.  It sounds like an easy directive, coming from the Qi Gong instructor.  Friends have talked me into joining them on this week-long retreat in beautiful Costa Rica to learn what is commonly called “Chinese Yoga”. We are entering into the meditation phase of the day’s session.

Okay. I do a little Americanized “Hindu Yoga” and I am familiar with the gratitude thing. Good stuff, this feeling of thankfulness. Perhaps it is the Chinese influence, but my first thought is of my parents. Raising me to be open minded, to try new things. Good, that’s settled. I am grateful for my parents.

My Sifu offers more clarification. Yes, I do now have a Sifu. This retreat instructor, by virtue of being my first teacher in this art, is now my “Sifu”, my tutor on this path. Oddly enough, independent western soul that I am, I am completely okay with this. “Make sure you choose something simple, with no complications,” he tells us.

Oh dear. Parents are complicated, aren’t they.  Even basically good and loving ones. Perhaps, for the purposes of this exercise, I need to be grateful for something that carries a little less baggage. That quickly eliminates my spouse, children, sister, job and friends. Let’s try another approach.

Costa Rica 1I open my eyes and steal a quick peak at the gorgeous tropical flowers surrounding the pavilion where these sessions are taking place. My sense of sight. That’s it, I am grateful for my vision.

“This gratitude should erase all worry, remove all the stress from your mind,” my Sifu says.

Oh dear. My eyes have been aging, my vision is not what it used to be.  On some deep level I fear losing my sight in my old age. Maybe this isn’t such a good choice either.

He sees many of us struggling. “Just pick something that brings you joy,” he suggests to the class. “If you really like chocolate,” he says, “be grateful for chocolate.”

Okay, I am not the extreme chocolate lover that some people are, but I do have a similar illicit love affair. Mine is with ice cream. From the almost guilt free lemon sorbet that nursed me through the flu a few months ago to the cappuccino gelato that has no equal, I am grateful for ice cream.

“We are going to use what ever you pick as a focal point all week,” my Sifu adds.

Oh dear. I am always trying to drop a few pounds. Do I really want to spend the whole week focusing on my appreciation of ice cream? Probably not.

“Now concentrate on this gratitude,” he says. I start to panic. What to pick? Something. Quick. Of all the million things I am grateful for doesn’t one, qualify as simple and stress free?

I comes to me. Sunsets. I am grateful for sunsets.

My monkey mind (of which I am hearing a great deal about this week) has not one single objection. Sunsets it is.  I imagine the beautiful colors of the sky at dusk as they burst into oranges and purples. I am grateful.

Costa Rica 3

Read more about my novice attempts to quiet my monkey mind here. Read about other changes this week has wrought here.

To learn more about Qi Gong and what I have spent this past week studying, please visit Sifu Anthony’s website called “Flowing Zen” here.

The look of joy ….

What does joy look like? Jumping (for joy) and dancing (for joy) seem to be the most common images. Here is one of my favorite from the Viva Institute.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Click to visit the Viva Institute website

Photography works too, and here is another sure to make you smile. It comes from Oprah’s blog.

Click to read 21 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy by Leigh Newman

Click for 21 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy by Leigh Newman

But perhaps humor works best of all. This image doesn’t involve leaping, but it filled me with joy all the same. 🙂

Click to visit American Kabuki

Click to visit American Kabuki

For images of hope shown on my z2 blog, click here. For images of peace shown on my x0 blog click here.

Fireworks a few days late

fireworksI suspect that I care more about accuracy in my books than I should. I write fantasy, for heaven’s sake, or at least a fantasy/science fiction hybrid, but I still like to get things right. So when my fire dancing  character from Kiribati went looking for music he liked that referred to fire, I was compelled to eliminate any song that had not come out before 2011, the year in which the story y1 takes place.

And that’s a shame because that took a few good songs out of the running. To celebrate July 4th 2013, I am letting myself revisit some of the songs I wanted to use but didn’t.

Katy Perry’s Firework had the lyrics that fit, but its late 2010 release was just a month after the scene in the book where it belonged. Sigh …. so close ……  Here’s the video with some great fireworks images to enjoy.

Firework

Katy Perry – Firework

Monarchy’s The Phoenix Alive had just the sound I was looking for, but it came out in April 2010. Enjoy the official video here.

Phoenix

Monarchy – The Phoenix Alive

For more on my adventures including music in novels, check out my xo blog here to read the rather comical saga of how and why I how I negotiated with Sony/ ATV. Check out my z2 blog here for a little fun with bubblegum music.

y1 makes it to the semi finals!

I’ve avoided entering any of my three books into contests so far, because the contests open to books not published in a traditional fashion have all struck me as mostly money makers for the contest organizers. I looked around a fair amount but entry fees were high and prizes slim. If I wanted to spend a couple of hundred dollars getting my book noticed, it made more sense to me to just advertise it.

I think the final straw came when I discovered that it costs only $50 to try for a Pulitzer Prize, and considerably more to enter most of these contests. (Unfortunately self-published works are not eligible for the Pulitzer Prize 🙂 and yes of course I checked.)

joyI was delighted to discover, however, that for a very reasonable $20 I could enter my novel y1 in the Kindle Book Review 2013 contest. I have used these folks in the past to advertise my free give-away days on Kindle and they do a nice job.

Today, they published their list of semi-finalists and I was delighted to see y1 RIGHT HERE in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category. (The list is alphabetical so of course y1 is last.) Do most entries make it to the semi-finals? I have no idea, but I’ve learned as in independent author to take my joys wherever I can find them.

Check here for news on z2 out in paperback and here for news on x0 making it onto 1670 people’s to-read shelf on Goodreads.