21 January, 2011


I have recommitted to blogging once a week. I miss the act of writing and I long for that emotional stretch that comes with thinking about what to write and then sitting down and, Wham! Letting it rip.

Here goes.

I have taken these 2 1/2 months to finish up projects (including my big annual conference -- this time in Athens) and then help my bulldogs recover from surgery. During that time, I let the brain operate on a low simmer, and I tried not to sabotage or judge whatever was going on in there. I am learning to practice the art of the float: letting thoughts float by, not judging them as they pass. 

And here is what I want to write about tonight. The art of living a simpler life. We read about it. It's a bumper sticker. It's a tee-shirt. It's an Oprah thing, maybe. "I'm learning to live the simple life," says some unbelievably successful person who has checked out of life in the fast lane (or at least on weekends) and is now the proud owner of hundreds of acres of land in a place like Mendocino or Taos. 

Hey, what the hell do I know? Maybe that IS living a simple life. 

Here's what I know about my simple life. It is not simple!  In fact, there is absolutely NOTHING simple about it. Simplifying does not mean stripping something down to absolutely nothing but the most base concepts -- a life that lacks nuance and complexity. A life of string beans and composting and one handbag. Okay, that is NOT me. When I say simple I most definitely do not mean the total and political rejection of all things material. I wear Christian Dior boots. And I LOVE them. 

For me, what it means is learning to live a life that is simply about my priorities and my values. Simple means it's clear. Simple means organized according to principles that make sense to ME. See the difference? My priorities and values are simple, once they are articulated. So, for the record, here they are:

1. Authenticity: No matter how difficult, I am who I am. And I own my story. And that is what I bring to the world. I am enough. 

2. Generosity: Live in gratitude. Be thankful. Say thank you. Mean it.

3. Compassion: No judgment. The antidote to shame.

4. Love: And in the end, the love we take is equal to the love we make. Thank you, John and Paul.

5. Curiosity: Wanting to know what it is like to stand in THOSE shoes. Understanding and believing and accepting that different is different, not wrong, not less.

6. Humor: And we start by laughing at ourselves. Kindly. Compassionately. Fully.

7. Connection: Because ultimately it is all about connection. E.M. Forster said, Just Connect. He was right. Everything else will fall into place once we connect with just one other person on this watery globe.

Does any of this have to do with my yoga practice, I wonder? I believe the answer is yes. I am getting deeper and deeper into the yogic way of life -- appreciating that single breath, followed by the next breath, followed by a series of connected breaths. All meaning life. I remember my mother and how she was at the very end of her life: it came down to the breath. One day she was breathing and then she stopped. And then life stopped. It is about the breath. We breathe and we are alive. It is fundamental. It is often unconscious. With yoga, we are aware of the breath. We use it for the energy-giving it provides: the prana. We live with our breath. 

I struggle to keep it all present. I hear about friends who are making hundreds of thousands of dollars consulting with this organization or doing this project and I instantly think, OMG, I should be doing that. I should be earning that. I should "positioning myself" for this or that. But the truth is that one of my key strengths is that I am one person: the same person at work as I am at play. There is no "consultant's persona" with me. And the opportunities that most interest and fulfill me are the ones where my real personality is fully present and there's a shared sense of fun, intelligence, creativity and compassion.

And when I start to struggle, I think about the word "simply" and all that it implies. Simply living a life that feels right and honest and real to me means doing good work. It also means making time for friends. Being a great friend. Being a devoted mother to my bulldogs. Taking time to learn something new every day. Taking time to say thank you every day. Practicing yoga. Breathing. Believing in the power of imagination and living in gratitude. Believing in love. Dancing. Dreaming. Breathing. Simply breathing. Until there is no more breath.

I told a friend today that I no longer describe myself as a consultant. I'm NOT a consultant. I am simply me. Simply. I am a collection of skills and stories and beliefs. I am living according to a set of principles and beliefs and working hard at remaining true to what really matters to me. 

This is a time of great discovery. I am grateful to be alive and aware. Simply. 


  1. Well -- and simply -- put. And glad to have you back blogging. We have missed you. Welcome home.

  2. Many thanks, Joan. It feels great to be writing again.

  3. Simple is what I call my Yoko Ono period. White on white. I have been finding that at this stage of the championship, I need less, want less. I no longer crave the titles and the long hours. I would rather be recognized for my fabulous flower arrangements than my spreadsheets. I loathe the word "execute." I know so many women that will end up with fifty cats, old power suits in a dank apartment with frayed 90's furniture. I Thank God for my redundancy's and my search for re-invention. I still want to be a pirate and write the great novel.

  4. 50 cats -- my word -- that is quite an image Amy! I still want to travel the world. As for that novel, it's on the list but may have been overtaken by the photography. it's a tug of war.

  5. Beautiful post. I love the list. I'm in a very similar place with my thoughts on all this, and I've been making changes in my life to live more authentically and put my values and priorities at the forefront. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Stumbled upon your blog via Facebook, and greatly enjoyed this and your previous posts. Recognized your name from having crossed paths at Cornell (so many lifetimes ago, it seems...). Many, many odd parallels and coincidences, too many to go into at the moment, but made me stop and think. Examples: Harvard / Cornell connection. Former consultant. Formerly married to a former professional ballerina, who, as a child, was told similar things affecting self-image. Coming to realization that it's pointless to try to be something you're not; much better to figure out where you belong where what you already are will be appreciated, rather than disparaged. Anyway, really enjoyed your blog posts, and am yet again amused and enlightened by seeing the evolution of another soul on their journey through life. -Jon Shields (Cornell Class of 1980)