Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Things We See When We Look

I am studying the no: a simple two-letter word easy to learn at two yet perhaps the hardest to say at forty-something.

I exist in a culture of yes: the Dallas Arts District alone represents over a billion dollars worth of infrastructure in just the last few years: Dallas is a city of yes, we can. This luxurious ether of possibility seeps into my days: openings and receptions, dinners and galas. Eighteen years later and a chardonnay at the entrance to an art exhibition became the practice.

A week ago I declared a new chapter for myself by creating a 100-day period of mindful re-construction of "me" down to the cellular level. I am "going dark" as they say in the theater world: studying how to replace desire with giving and noise with quiet.

I'm looking for ways to create a balance between the silence of emptiness and the glorious symphony of creating something new. Somewhere in this work is that little word: "no".

Matthew 5:37: But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your "No', 'No'.

My curriculum is the traditional elimination diet, and my textbook is me. Building new practices of "no" when it comes to gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine and alcohol is making a clearing for a new meadow of "yeses": lower blood pressure, less inflammation, more clarity in thinking and more energy. Maybe elimination diet is the wrong word.

The etymology of eliminate:1560s, from L. eliminatus, pp. of eliminare "thrust out of doors, expel," from ex limine "off the threshold," from ex "off, out" + limine, abl. of limen "threshold." Used literally at first; sense of "exclude" first attested 1714; sense of "expel waste from the body" is c.1795. 

As I study the antonyms I see words like "begin", "give birth", "welcome" and "accept". By eliminating these five things (things I think I love) I am ratifying a different future for myself. And this kind of mindfulness, to change a future and be peaceful in the process is teaching me just how beautifully the mind works when paired with intention.

It hasn't been easy, but it has been joyous. In the first few days I faced the toughest challenge with a Members' Preview launching a new exhibition followed by a splendid dinner at one of Dallas' best restaurants. I started with a lesson from the late Princess Diana: she often ate a small healthy meal before going out to formal dinners in the evening.

Just before the opening, I drank a frothy, earthy Mark Hyman shake while I worked on my remarks. At the reception, I said "no" to the plump Chinese dumplings and "yes" to a sparkling water, savoring the moment of seeing the will in my will power.

Following the talk we ventured to the restaurant and I stayed present with my intentions and my goals: I delegated the wine selection and ordered a sumptuous tea: savoring the hospitality that comes with tea: cup, saucer, tea bag, tea pot and kind companion offering to pour. I paused to admire the ritual, so different in gesture from the pour of a bold cab.

I watched as the server brought little ellipses of butter to each bread plate at our left. Intention, Intention I murmured in my head, present in both my want of the butter, dappled with rose-colored Himalayan sea salt and my want for health and a future I empower. I studied the butter's glossy surface and salt crystals, the shimmer of wine in the wine glasses around me, the laughter of a room wearing a cloak of cocktails.

I worked my "no" muscle again when the cadence of dessert items flowed from the server's mouth. "Gibberish to me" I thought: I'm taking myself on, yes, water is a beautiful thing. I drank it slowly sending Hydrogen and Oxygen to every cell.

It was a different kind of evening for me: calm and relaxed, sitting with my "beautiful monsters" as Tsoknyi Rinpoche taught me at a workshop at the Omega Institute. I soaked up the conversations with our donors, our visiting artists and new friends. I fell asleep easily and was back at the office early the next morning, awake, alive and clear headed: cells happy.

With this practice of making a decision: when a "no" is a no and "yes" is a yes, something changes in my being. I am freed from the anxiety of wanting. No is a no and yes is a yes. I'm employing little mantras to remind me of my new "yes"

For well being: to every cell

For finding beauty in unexpected places: little alleluias everywhere

hen I feel the liminal response to a tray of champagne flutes: be like a monk. 

Be like a monk: minimalist, sensible, modest and practical. I am working to replace desire with acceptance, worry with peace and judgment with love.

The no is my threshold, the yes is my sanctuary.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Chapter of Mindful Intention: Under Construction

I woke up today in a new future. I've been planning this day, March 1st for almost a month. I've been working up to this day, March 1st for years.

Last fall the museum started looking at 2017 as a year of quiet: I called it a cocoon phase: dark, quiet and under construction.

The museum is close to announcing the plans for our physical transformation and construction: a sizable expansion, a re-brand and a launch as a museum in the public trust. I didn't realize as all of these conversations evolved that I, too am preparing for my own cocoon phase: I, too, am going under construction.

I've been working on myself for a few years now with the wake-up call of a diagnosis of thyroid cancer six years ago and remission twelve months later. I've learned that well being is a journey: moments of incredible focus and intention, moments of learning and leaving,  moments of straying and distraction. Today I woke up in a new moment. 

At the museum we've been studying existence: getting rigorous about how the work of work happens: promises and commitments and tracking it in places beyond the vast expanse of the brain. A new moment exists today and today is different from yesterday. Today is day one of one-hundred days. For the next one-hundred days I will engage in a practice of mindful eating in an elimination diet: no sugar, no caffeine (save for one green tea daily), no dairy, no gluten and: no alcohol. 

This Chapter of Mindful Intention as I am calling it includes creating new behaviors in joy, simplicity and minimalism. I will focus on who I am becoming in this future: a person who is clearer about the world and all I am to be in my being here. I will feel better:  I will give away 100 things and document them via social media. I will work hard and pursue happiness. I will strengthen my capacity for compassion. I will stay focused and intentional. 

As for well being I am creating a me that will flourish in 

lower blood pressure 
more fitness and exercise 
more energy 
less inflammation 
more capacity for yoga 
more clarity in purpose and thinking 

Writing this puts it all into existence: me in this future of health and well being: leading in contemplative work and heading up an art museum that celebrates the compassion that happens when art meets healing. I am my own best experiment, and I am taking myself on to be someone who is stronger, wiser ready for the good work ahead of us. Pardon my dust and please hold me to account every day.