intuition

Giving up good for great.

The only constant is change.

If we want better, we need to be willing to give up good, often really good, for great.

Sure. Sounds like a cliche inspirational meme, right?

But what about when we have to go there and face what it truly means? When we have to risk the cost, the sacrifice, the sheer terror involved in not only overcoming denial to face reality but then actively choosing to do something to change? 

It's why most people are terrified of change and avoid it at all costs. We worry about the lack of control. We fear The Great Unknown.

Maybe we resent the work involved. It's easier to do nothing new. 

We don't ever know the answers until we take action, the very action that terrifies us. So we cling, with a fierce mental grip, on things or people or places, sometimes dangerous or toxic, sometimes just uncomfortable. We stay and it keeps us stagnant and safe. Safe and stuck. Stuck and settling.

But we aren't meant to settle. Deep down we know that. We're meant to thrive. And eventually something might leave us or we decide to leave because we realize it was no longer meant for us. That it served its purpose and our clinging to it creates suffering. If it was really good, we can be grateful.

I think this as I sit in my new home which is back "home". As in the state of New Jersey where I was born and raised, but now living on the Jersey Shore for the first time. I landed here after a challenging, life-changing summer spent wandering and wondering. It was the next phase of my personal growth, of my evolution, that I live out loud as an example of the professional work I do in the world as a coach.

Walking my talk, day after day.

I sit and breathe in the salty sea air and feel the mist on my face as I jog along the boardwalk each morning, fighting with fierce compassion to bring my body back into shape after a year spent first in unintentional retreat and then intentionally adrift. 

I come home and take off my shoes. I breathe in gratitude and exhale the familiar twinge of grief. I pause and close my eyes. It was this day a year ago that I drove a moving truck through the congested highways of Boston and up the winding dirt roads of Vermont. I unpacked all my worldly belongings, significantly reduced from many moves over the last five years, into a renovated barn where I settled for the next 8 months.

I miss that barn almost every day since I left it. It was the perfect home I'd wanted and needed and every day felt like a precious gift. Every morning, I'd rise early and meditate and then trot downstairs from the loft to make a fire in my small wood stove. Then coffee. Breakfast. Music of my own choosing. Days spent doing only the work I wanted. I rose with a smile and fell asleep with a smile every single day for eight glorious months.

It was the wood stove was what called me there. From a deep knowing that refused to be ignored. With ten days left on my lease in Boston, right down to the wire, I found my perfect next place. When people asked me why I moved there of all places I replied, without skipping a beat, "my wood stove."

And then in April. a new landlord removed the stove. The insurance was too costly, he said. And when I saw the extensive renovations he immediately began on his own small house thirty feet from the barn, I understood why. I tried to reason and it fell on deaf ears. 

It was time to go. I heard the voice actually say it. "Your time here is done. You've gotten what you needed. It was good. It was wonderful. It was the long retreat you needed to heal. And now it's time to get back out into the world." Who's voice it was, I'm not sure. My intuition perhaps? Or maybe that of my friend William, who died within days of me moving in there, urging me to move up and out to shine my light in the world again.

I didn't want to go. I didn't want to leave something that had been so, so very good. But I knew in my deepest knowing that it was time. I was time to seek and find something just as good, or great.

And so I packed and grieved as I moved among the boxes, cherishing each moment I spent in solitude staring out the massive picture window. The way I'd painted the entire place with the property owner before I moved in, using colors I chose to make it feel more like mine. Decorating it to match my very heart's desire. Cooking robust meals to feed my body. Making new friends. Walks I took in the dark. Hooting owls waking me at midnight. The babbling brook that thawed in spring, and woke me in the morning through my cracked window.

The way I cried when the anger came up and out in March. Anger that had been shoved deep down for three years. Anger that finally had room to breathe and be freed into the crisp mountain air. Anger that dissolved as soon as it felt seen.

It was time to go.

It was time to give up good for great. I didn't know what would happen but I knew it was time to find out.

When something feels good and right, it is so hard to know when or how or if we should give it up. It's so hard to trust that something better is meant for us and waiting. Do we just need more tenacity? Are we being selfish? Too impulsive or non-committal?

What's wonderful is our freedom to explore these questions and find answers that feel right and true for us. We're blessed with this thing called life that's the ultimate adventure game if we'd only learn to live it that way. If we gradually released our expectations and attachments gently so we could drift more easily from thing to thing as the wisest sages suggest.

How can we embrace this?

What can we practice each day to do it better?

When can we tune into our intuition and trust, as we have so many times before in our lives, that the message is the right one?

We must practice giving up good for great, even when we have no idea what great might be.

Baking (and living) from intuition.

I'll say this: I don't follow rules well. I never have. I've written about this before.

My poor mother had to bail me out for getting in trouble several times in school. It was a theme for me growing up. I never did it to be intentionally bad or unruly, I just always had a disposition that bucked rules if they seemed unfair or unnecessary.

I still live my life this way, for better or for worse. I think it's better, honestly. It's served me quite well to not follow the herd. 

And it especially happens when I cook, which is often now that I've moved to such a peaceful setting. Something about my new retreat-like home makes me want to cook and cook around the clock. My pots and pans are working overtime!

In all that cooking, I don't follow recipes well and hardly take notes of what I'm doing. It's why I stopped posting recipes a few years into my coaching business because I began to dread the experience of measuring and monitoring and translating so other people could do what I did. 

Know why? Because it doesn't work. Copying other people is probably the least effective to truly be yourself, even when it comes to copying a recipe. Something simple like that can be an opportunity for you to throw caution to the wind and just do YOU.

I did that this weekend when I made some pumpkin bread from scratch and WITHOUT A WORKING OVEN KNOB. I successfully baked something using hardly any rules and no certainty about the temperature of the oven. 

And the whole process felt incredibly good and freeing and I thought I'd pass it onto you and encourage you try something like this for yourself. I will add the loose recipe I used and the process only to convey the story of what happened. Do with it what you want and will. :)

So, I recently moved into a renovated barn with a good-sized kitchen and a stove that is tiny and perfect. After a year of using an electric stove in my brownstone apartment in Boston, I was THRILLED to have a gas stove again. Thrilled. With a capital T. Did I say thrilled

While giving the new place a deep clean, I realized the numbers and settings on the stove knobs had all been worn away from (many) years of use. Who needs to know simmer from low to high? I could tell by the flame size. Totally no biggie. But the oven? Hmm. Yeah, you need to know temperature to bake things.

Or so I thought!

My landlord is on the case. The knob is coming. But impatient, slightly petulant me is stubborn enough to move forward anyway. It's this quality that makes me a successful entrepreneur. I don't get stopped. 

I was already mixing up my pumpkin bread recipe when I remembered, whoops, no numbers on the oven dial. I shrugged and took it on as a practice of surrendering perfectionism. I realized it bordered on slightly ridiculous and perhaps wasteful to put all those ingredients together with no certainty they would come together to yield something but hey, welcome to LIFE, amiright??

After scanning some recipes, I realized there is no ONE way to make pumpkin bread and started combining ideas from different places. I had one loaf pan. The main recipe I was using called for two pans of a different size. I shrugged again and best-guessed my way through the amounts listed. Halving each one made pretty good sense to me. I was doing ok until I forgot to halve the salt. So, my bread is a little salty, like me. 

I used whole wheat flour when it called for fine white. I used Sucanat when it called for white sugar. I added cranberries and chocolate chips and walnuts because, #fall

I was making it up like a work of art and when it came time to put it in the oven, I wished it luck like the pieces of clay sculpture we fired in the kiln when I was in high school. Crossed fingers and no attachment to the outcome. 

I called my mom to chat and told her what I was doing, including the way I used oven matches to test it because I had no toothpicks. My mother laughs at me. She knows I always find a way. We best-guessed where the knob was and the temperature it was likely at and talked about Hillary and movies and books. When I thought it was done, I pulled my creation out of the oven and let it sit on a bamboo cutting board to cool. Do I need one of those wire cooling racks? Nah. 

Well, friends. It came out just fine. Maybe a little sunken. Not perfectly shaped. But moist and spiced nicely and FULL of tasty additions and perfectly suitable for my needs. I sliced half and froze it right away and will consume the rest one slice at a time. 

Yep. I made it up and cooked it from intuition and I'll be damned it the whole process didn't open me up a bit more to write this blog post after taking a substantial hiatus.

And with that, here's the recipe. Please play and post your own results in the comment below!

PUMPKIN8 BREAD with chocolate chips, walnuts and cranberries

* use organic ingredients whenever possible

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 15-oz can  pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix--and you're only using HALF the can)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar (I used Sucanat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • large handful dark chocolate chips
  • large handful juice-sweetened cranberries (soak in warm water for best results)
  • large handful walnuts, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat over to 350F

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a large bowl combine butter and sugar and mix well. I used a fork, you can use a hand-beater. Add one egg at a time and beat well. Add pumpkin and water and stir. Combine wet mixture with dry ingredients and fold in well but don't over stir. Add chocolate chips, cranberries and walnuts, stir until they are blended in.

Pour mixture into loaf pan lined with parchment paper. I didn't line my paper with butter and it turned out fine. The only thing I would have done differently is spread the batter out a bit more so it settled into the pan.

Bake for 65-75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in loaf pan for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside on a rack or board to cool for at least an hour before cutting. 

 

And there you have it. Perfectly awesome pumpkin bread baked intuitively. 

And there you have it. Perfectly awesome pumpkin bread baked intuitively.