01 December 2010

Light, Life, and Love

Dang, the holidays come faster every year! It’s hard enough seeing Christmas decorations in the stores before Halloween is even over. But this year even Hannukah comes early. It starts tonight: December first. Have you noticed how everything feels speeded up?

Thank goodness we don’t have to fall lock-step into holiday madness. One of the biggest secrets to a happy holiday season is staying conscious – making choices based on our values instead of automatically doing what we think is expected of us.

Of course, this sounds easier than it is. Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas and haven’t done so for 25 years, I feel myself drawn – nay, sucked in – to the consumerist vortex. I drive past the Christmas tree lots and think “Oh, I’d like to buy a tree!” Never mind that I have nowhere to put it and nothing to decorate it with; never mind what the cats would do to it if I did have decorations; never mind that I’m Jewish – I see the trees and start wanting one. The same dynamic occurs with shopping for presents. It’s a challenge to avoid being consumed by consumerism!

And yet, if I am to remain true to my values, I must resist spending money I don’t readily have on things that my loved ones don’t really need. For me, this time of year is about the solstice, about feasting our way through the dark nights and celebrating the return of light and life (which, some propose, is also what Hannukah and Christmas are about). It is about illuminating the love we share.

I realize that many of my readers do celebrate Christmas, though, that checking out of the holiday altogether isn’t a desired option. For those of you who love Christmas, I encourage you to ask yourself what’s most important to you and then focus on that.

May this be your most joyous holiday yet!


Claire Josefine

Tip of the Month

Think about past years – what went well during the holidays, what didn't, and what you'd change if you could. Then make a list of what you most want to do this season. Sit down with your calendar and write it in. Be realistic, and don’t overextend yourself. The consequences are rarely worth it!

Also, start a holiday binder. Put a calendar in it and note what you did, when. Include lists for holiday card recipients, gifts given (and to whom), invitations sent, and menus. You may want to keep your holiday recipes here, too, as well as any notes for next year.

Quotes of the Month

There is no use pretending that the sun is always bright; there is no use pretending that the moon is always full. It is only by recognizing the season of darkness that we know it is time to light the candles, to sow a seed of light that can sprout and spring forth, later in the year.
– Arthur Waskow Seasons of Our Joy

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
– Wendell Berry

The universe is a constant explosion of Light. Every moment of kindness, compassion and forgiveness is a new star that's being born.
– Marianne Williamson

Recipe of the Month

Grandma said, with a thick Yiddish accent, “You grate some potatoes and onion, add egg and flour and salt – try not to grate your knuckles – and fry it up in oil.” That’s pretty much it, although some folks prefer to use matzo meal to flour and, of course, Grandma’s recipe is a bit shy on measurements. So here’s the recipe from Sara Kasdan’s Love and Knishes (parenthetical comments are mine):

2 cups grated potatoes, drained (I use Russets)
1 yellow onion, grated
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded Tablespoon flour or matzo meal
pinch of baking powder (I never used this, but it would give a nice bit of leavening)

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Drop pancake mixture by the Tablespoonful onto a hot skillet generously greased with butter or shortening. (I use canola oil.) If you like thin, crisp pancakes, flatten with the back of a spoon. Fry on both sides until brown. Serve piping hot with sour cream, or with applesauce.

And then she adds a note: “This recipe should serve 4 to 6 people, but when some people see potato latkes they act like they haven’t eaten for a week. They will want to make from latkes alone a meal. When you have people who enjoy so much, so you won’t mind grating potatoes all day long.”

15 November 2010

Giving Thanks

Every Thanksgiving before sitting down to eat, my friends and I gather in a circle, hold hands, and say what we’re grateful for in that moment. I know, it’s kinda New Age dorky, but I like the ritual. I also give thanks before my daily meals – thanking “everybody and everything that has given of its life energy so that I may have this abundance before me”* – and at night after I’ve nestled under the covers. And, of course, I do my best to express my gratitude throughout the day when people are helpful and kind.

We appreciate being appreciated. And we feel better about ourselves when we are appreciative. Conveying our gratitude makes the world a better place. It is one aspect of Tikkun Olam (Repair of the World).

Gratitude works wonders on many levels. Not only does it make us feel better about ourselves, it helps move us out of scarcity thinking (the belief that there isn’t enough, which can lead to cluttering out lives with objects “just in case”). It can shift us from feeling whoa-is-me funky to a sense of, if not joy, at least contentment. It can also help to create the life we want. I’m not sure how this works, whether it’s because of a magnetic energy responding to the increased energy of gratitude (like finding like), or because we are more likely to see and respond to that which we are focused on, or some other reason. But years ago I heard someone rephrase the Serenity Prayer from “Grant me the Serenity” to “Thank you for the Serenity,” and I realized how right this change was. I didn’t need to ask for serenity, it was already in me. I only had to recognize it, which I could do through gratitude.

Before embarking on my journey in search of home, I wrote to a friend about what I was looking for, what I wanted my life to look like. The description began with “I want.” Once I landed in Humboldt County, I looked at that list and remembered the Serenity Prayer lesson. I rewrote it from a place of gratitude, understanding that all these things already existed, I just may not have caught up with them yet. This Thank You vision is posted on my fridge where I read it most days. And you know what? Just about everything on that list is an active part of my life these days. I know I will meet up with the rest in due time. Here is my vision:

• Thank you for my perfect country cottage with organic flowers, herbs, veggies, and fruit trees, chickens, and cats.
• Thank you for a home in which to cook and arrange flowers.
• Thank you for the ability to see stars at night and to hear running water.
• Thank you for green valleys surrounded by trees.
• Thank you for community and family, for wonderful neighbors and friends and joyous gatherings with them.
• Thank you for the ability to live my life in synch with the earth and her seasons in a life-nurturing way.
• Thank you for the opportunity to do Tikkun Olam.
• Thank you for daily walks outdoors and senses with which to delight in Creation’s beauty.
• Thank you for dancing and laughter and love making, for passion and play.
• Thank you for a husband who is conscious, affectionate, honest, dependable, kind, prosperous, grounded, joyous, monogamous, healthy, physically attractive, playful, communicative, wise, gentle and strong, who sees me truly, finds me beautiful and loves me deeply, and is committed to spending his life with me.
• Thank you for a life rooted in love and faith, knowing we’re all one and there’s nothing to fear on this path of compassion, joy, and kindness.
• Thank you.

How do you practice gratitude, and what are you grateful for?

Tip of the Month
This month, make a practice of saying “Thank you” to someone every day. If you’d like, keep a list of whom you thanked and why.

Quotes of the Month
“Take full account of the excellencies which you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.” Marcus Aurelius

"Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." Margaret Cousins

“Instead of looking for love, give it; constantly renew it in yourself and you will always feel its presence within you. It will always be there smiling at you, gazing on you kindly.” Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov

Recipe of the Month

Pumpkin-Cranberry-Pecan Bread
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar (or 1/3 cup honey)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add:
1 egg
1/2 cup oil (or ½ cup melted butter)
1 cup puréed pumpkin

Mix quickly to combine wet and dry ingredients.

Fold in:
1 cup chopped cranberries
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped pecans

Pour into bread pan or muffin tins.

Bake at 350° for about an hour. (I use the top-is-cracked-and-browned cue to determine doneness. Inserting a toothpick and having it come out clean works, too.)

*The grace continues: “May I use this energy to do good, and may we all be blessed. So mote it be.”

01 October 2010

Making Room for the Bounty of Harvest

I’m watching some of my friends undertake major purges right now. The circumstances inspiring their decision to finally dig themselves out from under years and years of accumulated detritus are difficult, but their response is admirable.

One friend recently found himself no longer in relationship with a woman he loves, partly because of his hoarding tendencies and having not dealt with his mail for the past two years. He is finally letting me help him with his backlog of paper, and has moved a large pile of boxes that were hiding a couch and table I never knew were there.

The other friend’s housemate died suddenly, and she discovered just how serious a hoarder the housemate actually was. The process of hiring a dumpster, enlisting her friends’ help, and clearing out the deceased’s belongings so that the room could be rented shed light on her own self-defeating relationship with material objects. She has continued the momentum, begun because of her housemate’s passing, into her own space, clearing out the broken and unwanted items, making room for the life she does want. Every time I see another posting by her on Freecycle, I give a silent cheer: Way to go, girl!

October is a strange, transitional time of year. On the one hand, the farmers market is brimming with a regal abundance and variety of produce. On the other hand, autumn is in the air, auguring the dead of winter. Leaves are turning and dropping, nights are getting colder. I have a Native American friend who says October is the time of loss and that it often intensifies as we near Halloween when, some people believe, the veil between the worlds is at its sheerest.

Culturally, we shun loss, we call it bad and grieve it. But loss and death are an intrinsic part of life’s cycle. The Eleusyinian Mysteries use the story of Persephone – who was abducted by Hades to be his queen and who, because she ate a few pomegranate seeds, must spend part of each year in the Underworld – and the symbolism of grain, which is planted (buried) only to be reborn again each spring – as reminders of life’s death-and-rebirth cycle.

We mourn our losses. But we can also embrace them as an opportunity to make room for change, to create space in our hearts and lives for new blessings and joys. Nothing is permanent; the only constant is change. The more gracefully we learn to recognize that change is as natural as the waxing and waning of the harvest moon, the better off we’ll be. And the more we let go of, the more room we’ll have for something wonderful and new to appear.



Tip of the Month

What really matters to you? And what stands between you and what matters most? Let it go. Beliefs, commitments, objects – if it’s holding you back from what you hold most dear, out it goes. No ifs, ands, or buts – out.

Just remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. Sometimes renting a dumpster is in order. But “slow and steady” can be equally effective. If the job feels too big, do just a little piece each day. Every tiny change you make takes you toward the larger goal of an authentic, meaningful life.

Quotes of the Month

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps

Barn’s burnt down –
I can see the moon
-- Masahide

15 September 2010

An Interview with Claire and Kim

If you're interested, here is a new online interview with me, conducted by Kim Caldwell (who wrote a book about how green smoothies saved her life). The sound quality is a bit uneven, but the content is good. Enjoy!

Can Organizing Be Spiritual?

09 September 2010

September 2010 Newsletter

September 9th is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. A time for renewal, Rosh Hashanah is also a time for reflection, for making amends, paying our debts, and changing our behavior in an on-going effort to become a better human being. The holiday is celebrated with apples and honey – with wishes for a sweet year ahead. Its observation also includes Tashlich – the casting of one’s sins upon the waters. (Usually this is done by emptying the lint or bread crumbs from one’s pockets into a body of running water.)

While the obvious theme for September would be “back to school,” I just couldn’t bring myself to write about anything quite so predictable. I admit to being tempted when I saw “chickens” listed as a September theme on a themes-by-the-month web site, but not everyone loves chickens as much as I do. Besides, how would I tie chickens into organizing advice? But renewal, that’s an easy fit.

Anyone who knows me knows that I encourage clients to live a conscious, examined life, and that I believe the greatest advantage to being organized is that it allows us to share our gifts toward making the world a bit more lovely and whole. Rosh Hashanah is an opportunity to look at ourselves – our behavior, beliefs, and belongings – and to make changes. If a behavior, belief, or belonging is bringing you down – if it does not support your highest good – let it go like bread crumbs cast upon the water.

And then make amends to yourself. The saying goes that “amends is changed behavior.” Take a look at what you’ve chosen to release. How did it come into your life in the first place? What was your part in bringing it in? What can you do differently the next time you’re in a similar situation? And how will acting differently improve you and/or your life?

I was reflecting the other day on the cycle of life. Walking along, seeing the bushes lining the trail laden with blackberries, I started thinking about the sequence of the seasons, how the blackberries will be gone soon, followed by barren trees and winter rains, and then the plum blossoms will arrive, then asparagus, then… And the plants and foods cycle through each year, but why? Why do they, and we, continue on year after year after year? To live. Perhaps there’s more to it than that – I’d like to think so – but from a purely biological perspective, life perpetuates for the sake of living.

And so, our lives come full circle. Here’s my favorite honey-and-apples recipe, with wishes to all of you for a sweet new year!

Lukshen Kugel

Boil 8 ounces of wide egg noodles until just tender. Drain, butter, and set aside.

2 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Add in
1/2 cup raisins
2 to 3 peeled, cored, and chopped apples

Mix noodles in with the cheese/fruit.

Add the whole kit and caboodle to a well-buttered 9 x 13 pyrex.

Crumble about 1 cup’s worth of (organic!) Corn Flakes over the top.

Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes.

Tip of the Month:
Designate one day of the week as a money-free day, a day when you don’t spend any money. Not only can this help reduce your expenses, it can minimize the stuff you bring into your life. Also, having one day each week on which you spend no money encourages you to be more aware (and creative) about how you are spending your time. (Thanks to my sister Jessica for this idea!)

Quotes of the Month
"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
– Howard Thurman

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the "atomic age" -- as in being able to remake ourselves."
– Mahatma Gandhi

"We will be known forever by the tracks we leave."
– Dakota proverb

"May the sun bring you new energy by day, may the moon softly restore you by night, may the rain wash away your worries, may the breeze blow new strength into your being."
– Apache Blessing

30 August 2010

February 2010 Newsletter

Heart Connection

Where would we be without the many people who make our lives a bit more lovely and whole? Whether they're our best friend, our lover, our neighbor, or the grocer who goes out of his way to help us, our lives are richer for the people in them.

This month, let people know how much you value them. Thank them for the gifts they bring that make your world more wonderful.

For more ideas on organizing, please visit my website at www.ClaireJosefine.com. And if you haven't had a chance to see the 5-minute snippet of me discussing the spiritual aspects of being organized, check out the video on YouTube:

Tip of the Month

People think I have a great memory because I send them birthday cards on time. While once upon a time my memory was sharp, these days I depend on a couple of tools: a perpetual calendar and a tickler.

Here's what I do. I write birthdays, anniversaries, etc. into a perpetual calendar. Then, at the beginning of each month, I go through the calendar and pull cards for everyone I wish to celebrate. I address the envelopes and place them (cards inside) in a 1 through 31 tickler/sorter in the slot for the day I plan to mail the card. When that day comes, I mail the card.

Quote of the Month

"The ultimate prayer, the prayer that comes from deepest wisdom, is thank you!"

– Sylvia Boorstein

March 2010 Newsletter

Wind & Breath

I’ll bet you’ve never thought of taking a deep breath as an organizational technique, have you? Usually we associate conscious breathing with mindfulness. But mindfulness is an organizing tool. By slowing down and paying attention, we bring intention back to our actions. Being aware helps us to maintain focus and make clear decisions.

In fact, studies have shown that meditation practice helps people with AD/HD. One of the easiest forms of meditation is to focus on one's breath. So this windy month, be aware of the rhythm of your life's winds -- your breath.

And if you need a fresh breeze of hands-on organizing to sweep through your space, give me a call:707-268-8585.

Tip of the Month

When you find yourself starting to “spin out,” or hear yourself saying “I’ll just” or “for now,” –- stop. Take a deep breath. Exhale slowly, then take another deep breath. Keep breathing until you’ve come back to the present moment. Now, notice your surroundings and your situation, calmly choose your next action. And keep returning to your breath as needed.

Quotes of the Month

"Breathing in I calm my body and mind; breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment."
– Thich Nhat Hanh

"The sin of inadvertence, not being alert, not quite awake, is the sin of missing the moment of life — live with unremitting awareness."
– Joseph Campbell

April 2010 Newsletter

Facing the Inevitable

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

T.S. Eliot introduced this classic poem, "The Waste Land," with a reference to Sibyl who, when asked what she wanted, replied that she wished to die. You see, Apollo had granted her eternal life, but she had forgotten to ask for eternal youth, too.

I think of this poem every April, when the earth is readying itself to be reborn from winter's darkness. This is also the time of year my mother died -- goodness, it's been ten years ago already!

When my mom passed, I discovered the importance of an organized estate. Even though she had written her will, showed us which file cabinet held all the crucial papers, and discussed her wishes with us before she passed, my mother’s estate was full of surprises, including discovering her best jewelry hidden in a box labeled "Old Sheets."

I realize that most people probably don't want to think about the inevitable day they meet their mortality. But preparing ahead has its benefits, including:

• Peace of mind from knowing everything is in order
• Renewed awareness of what your assets are
• Opportunity to review and update information, beneficiaries, and instructions
• Smoother transfer of information and responsibility for assets
• Fewer expenses – administrative, legal, and accounting
• Fewer taxes
• No search and discover fees
• Less stress
• Less bureaucracy
• Increased efficiency in handling the estate proceedings
• More money and assets retained by your heirs

Of course, we all probably think of taxes come April, too. As good ole' Ben Franklin is famous for stating, only two things are certain: death and taxes. And in some odd way, they do go together. So, now that your taxes are (almost) done, I encourage you to get the rest of your financial matters in order. As always, I am happy to help if you find you need assistance.

With your taxes done and your estate in order, you can close two doors behind you on winter's darkness as you emerge into the joy we know as Spring.

Tip of the Month

Is your will up to date? How about your Advanced Health Care Directive? For the month of April, I’m offering my comprehensive checklist for organizing your estate for free. Send me an email requesting the checklist before April 30, 2010, and I’ll email the e-booklet (which usually retails for $6.95) to you at no charge. You may also want to check out my colleague Maggie Watson's excellent workbook, "A Graceful Farewell: Putting Your Affairs in Order" (ISBN 978-1879384-68-2).

Quotes of the Month

"What is life, but one long risk?" – Dorthy Canfield Fisher

"If each own sweeps before his own door, the whole street is clean." – Yiddish Proverb

May 2010 Newsletter

April showers bring May flowers...

I have a confession to make. I love having a garden. I love being able to pick flowers and arrange them in vases around my house. I love being able to pick herbs and veggies and fruit and cook them up right then and there. I love growing enough food to be able to share with people who are hungry by donating to my local food bank. But I really don't enjoy gardening.

Okay, I like some of it. I like planting seeds in starter pots and watching them grow. I enjoy planting the starts into well-prepared soil. I certainly love the smell of the earth. It's just all that work -- the hoeing and weeding and picking of slugs -- that I find painful and not at all fun.

Where I live, May means lots of work in the garden. The rains have finally let up enough that the clay soil is dry enough to work, but they've also nourished vigorous growth of wild radish, sheep's sorrel, plantain, and thistle. All of which is fine out in the pasture, but is unwanted competition for my cultivated plants (flowers and veggies) in the garden. And so the mowing and weeding and slug picking begins...

But guess what? Basic organizing principles apply to the garden, too! Keep It Simple, Sweetie reminds me to tackle only small areas at a time, rather than try to weed the entire garden in one day. Create (and use) Habits reminds me to weave the watering and slug patrol into my daily chores. Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude helps me to see (and appreciate) the garden I have instead of the work that still faces me. And Ask for Help encourages me to call my gardener, who takes care of the mowing and weed-whacking (and some of the weeding) for me.

Whether you're organizing your garden or your home, the basic principles serve as a helpful guide. If you need a reminder of the principles (and want to see what some other organizers have come up with), read my article "Organizing by the Numbers" on my website. http://www.clairejosefine.com/art.htm#organizing%20by%20the%20numbers And, as always, let me know if I can be of any help.

Happy spring!

Tip of the Month

Get ready for your garden by discarding old seeds, sharpening and cleaning your tools, and recycling broken and excess pots. Then organize: put your hand tools together into a bucket or caddy and hang your larger tools (shovels, rakes, etc.) on the wall of your gardening shed or garage.

This year, I've organized my seeds in order of when I'm planting them, so that the ones due to be planted next are on top of the bundle. You can also organize them by type -- flowers, herbs, veggies -- or alphabetically, or by shade vs. sun. However you think of them and want to access them is how you should organize them.

Quote of the Month

Our life is shorter than flowers
Then shall we mourn?
No, we shall dance
Plant gardens
Dress in colors
And teach our children
To make the world more beautiful
Because our life is shorter than flowers.
— Toltec fragment

June 2010 Newsletter


The simple life: warm bread baking in the oven, laundry drying on the line, veggies fresh from the garden, chickens contentedly exploring their yard, finches and grossbeaks at the bird feeder, cut flowers placed in a vase by the bed, cats curled up in the sunshine.

Idyllic, yes? And yet the simple life is not necessarily easy, if by easy we mean requiring a minimum of work. Simple means both easy, effortless, and natural, unadorned. When we daydream of "the simple life," I think we are longing for a life stripped down of pretension and complication, a life of connection and meaning. But because simple also means effortless, we don't consider how much work is required to "live simply." Unless we have servants (at which point the work is deferred to someone else, but it hasn't gone away), we need to make the bread dough that's baking, hang and fold the laundry (which smells delicious, as good as that baking bread!), tend the garden and the chickens and the cats, cook meals from scratch, and so on.

Of course, there's the saying that "Work is love made visible." Some of us feel deep satisfaction and pleasure in doing the work of creating and tending. There's a connection to Source that comes with these labors, if we can remember to be aware of it.

My own challenge comes with this month's tip: to make time for fun. I get so caught up in the daily chores of my simple life that I forget I'm choosing them, I forget that connection to Source and to enjoy my life. And so my response to the tip is two-fold: one, to recall the joy in the work of simplicity and two, to go play!

Anyone want to join me for a play date on the Trinity with Redwoods and Rivers Rafting?

Happy June!

Tip of the Month

As summer approaches, simplify your time commitments so that you have time for fun, whether that’ s reading a novel, BBQing with the neighbors, or swimming in the river. Declutter your time the same way you would a room, by looking at each activity and asking: Does this make me smile, or is it useful (supporting my goals)? If not, let it go.

Quote of the Month

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.
– Charles Mingus

July 2010 Newsletter


My sister-in-law recently told me that she’d read an article in the French Elle about feminists who’ve gone back to the land, and that it made her think of me. Did I know that I was avant-garde? she asked. No, I replied, I just thought I was an oddball trying to live life my way, and grateful that I live in a time and place where that’s possible.

We are blessed to live in a relatively free society. While I won’t argue that we are a long way from what we could be, we are (for the most part) free to be ourselves, to pursue our unique versions of happiness.

As an organizer, my aim is to help others be the best version of themselves. What’s organizing have to do with freedom? Bear with me here. I know that the “free spirit” sort tends to think of organizing as a restrictive straight-jacket, a set of rigid rules, too much oppressive order. I encourage them to instead see organization as a life jacket, a tool that supports us as we navigate our way down life’s river. After all, the better organized we are, the more easily we can share our gifts, be it teaching children, feeding the hungry, creating beauty, defending the downtrodden, tending a garden, or otherwise making the world a bit more lovely and whole.

And, just as there are many talents to share, there is more than one way to organize. What works for one person might not work for another. Along those lines, I’m teaching a new class in August. Here’s the blurb:

Not everyone thinks alike. Some people are great at making lists and plodding methodically forward in a straight line toward their goal. Others find their mind full of ideas and their energy drawn in a number of directions at once. If you tend to be better at brainstorming than getting things done, “Playful Planning for the Creative Thinker” is for you. Learn creative techniques for turning those great ideas into a plan of action.


Speaking of taking ideas and making them happen… Last month I wrote about needing to play more. I’m pleased to report that I spent a peaceful day under blue skies and redwoods along the Eel River (at Women’s Federation Grove), reading a novel while my friend taught the puppies to swim. And in a few days we will be enjoying a combination camping and river-rafting excursion.

What fun do you have planned?

Tip of the Month

Free yourself from expectation. “The word “should” often puts undue pressure on you to conform to standards that probably aren’t even your own.” (Jennifer Koretsky) Rather than thinking that you “should” be more organized, celebrate your creativity and individuality – your strengths -- and ask for help with your weaknesses.

Quotes of the Month
I didn’t belong as a kid, and that always bothered me. If only I’d known that one day my differentness would be an asset, then my early life would have been much easier. – Bette Midler

Certain defects are necessary for the existence of individuality. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Resistance to the organized mass can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself. – Carl Jung

August 2010 Newsletter

Lazy Days of Summer?

Message on one of the local school’s marquee: “Enjoy your summer, but be ready for the first day back on August 30!” What? Already? Nooooo…

Does anyone else remember summer break being longer and more luxurious? I don’t mean luxury like a fancy cruise, more like long days kicked back reading novels and hanging out near (and in) water. Plenty of time to be with friends, walk in the woods, go camping, star-gaze, feel like life is easy and carefree.

And yet, here it is, August, with the end of summer looming. Only a few short weeks before school’s back in session, before the crispness of autumn creeps back into the air. I am not ready, physically or emotionally. Which I suppose isn’t very Zen-accepting of me, but sometimes I just don’t feel like going gracefully into that dark night.

Still, the seasons sing a natural rhythm, and we’re probably better off if we can live in harmony with them. It’s harder to tune one’s life to nature’s rhythms when our lives are conducted by the cultural calendar: arbitrary dates of school sessions, unconscionably short vacations from 40-hour workweeks. Even our modes of building and transportation separate us from nature’s rhythms. But it’s do-able.

For me, working only 10 to 15 hours each week, living in the country, and having a garden have strengthened my connection to nature’s cycles. But even city-folk who work full-time and have black thumbs can build a relationship with natural time by nurturing their awareness of it.

Which brings me to this month’s invitation. I invite you to start noticing the little details of the season. What is special to this time of year in your region? In the coastal river valley I call home, the blackberries will be ready to begin picking by the end of the month, and the spider webs are sparkling with dew. This is the month when the Farmers’ Market is bursting with produce and variety. When the river is barely a creek. When the hay has all been bailed and moved, and the Jersey cows cross that trickling river to graze in the pasture outside my kitchen window.

I’d love to hear what you notice about the natural rhythms of August in your neck of the woods!

Tip of the Month

Replace the word “routine” with the word “rhythm.” The goal in time management is to create a gentle flow to our days, not a rigid structure. Think of your life as a float down river. What do you need to do in the morning before putting in? What do you do when you take out (end your day and prepare for bed)?

Quotes of the Month
"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor." – Paul Hawken

"I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world." -- Old Innuit Song

29 January 2010

January 2010's Weekly Quotes

January 4, 2010
"There is no easy formula for determining right and wrong livelihood, but it is essential to keep the question alive….We have to stop pretending that we can make a living at something that is trivial or destructive and still have a sense of legitimate self-worth. A society in which vocation and job are separated for most people gradually creates an economy that is often devoid of spirit, one that frequently fills our pocketbooks at the cost of emptying our souls." – Sam Keen

January 11, 2010
"Joy is not in things; it is in us." – Richard Wagner

January 18, 2010
"…when we remove ourselves from direct and wholehearted participation in life…emptiness and boredom creep in. It is then that we begin our search for something or someone that will alleviate our gnawing dissatisfaction. Yet the search is endless to the extent that we are continually led away from ourselves and our experience in the moment. If we fully appreciate the learning and love that life offers us in each moment, then we feel less desire for material luxuries that contribute little to our well-being and that deprive those in genuine need of scarce resources. When we live with simplicity, we give ourselves and others a gift of life." – Duane Elgin

January 25, 2010
"They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price." – Khalil Gibran

18 January 2010

Want to hear a great talk?

I just discovered that the talk I gave a couple years or so ago at Many Rivers Books and Tea in Sebastopol is available at this site: http://www.manyriversbooks.com/Audio/FollowingRavenFindingGround.mp3.

I listened to it again tonight and was wildly pleased. It was a really good talk, based on my book Following Raven, Finding Ground: A Road Trip in Search of Home, that discussed the importance of facing your fears to find the life you want. As an added bonus, I remembered how much fun that night was, sharing my thoughts with that room full of people.

The talk comes in at a little over an hour. If you'd like to hear a shorter version (24 minutes), recorded over the telephone specifically to be available as an mp3 (instead of recorded live and then uploaded to the internet), visit my website (www.clairejosefine.com).

02 January 2010

January 2010 Newsletter - Get Organized Month

It's January, a new year, and the perfect time to clear out the old, bring in the new. Take a look around you and ask, "Why do I have all this? Is it still of value to me?" If not, perhaps it's time to pass it along.

If you would like help determining what to keep and what to pass on -- or how to organize the things you're keeping -- please call me. I can be reached at 707-268-8585. (And to help motivate you, I'm offering 20% off all client sessions for the month of January.)

For more ideas on organizing, please visit my website at www.ClaireJosefine.com. And to view a 5-minute snippet of me discussing the spiritual aspects of being organized, check out this video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KKFzZqJK2I

Tip of the Month

Instead of asking how recently you used an item, ask yourself, "Does it make me smile?" If not, and if it’s not fundamentally useful, put it back out into the world so that it can bring joy to another.

Quote of the Month
"The more he gives to others, the more he possesses of his own." – Lao Tzu

Final quotes for 2009

December 21, 2009
“I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.” - Eckhart Tolle

December 28, 2009

"Our lives are also fed by kind words and gracious behavior. We are nourished by expressions like “excuse me,” and other such simple courtesies. Our spirits are also richly fed on compliments and praise, nourished by consideration as well as whole wheat bread. Rudeness, the absence of the sacrament of consideration, is but another mark that our time-is-money society is lacking in spirituality, if not also in its enjoyment of life." – Ed Hays