What Were We Thinking Turned into So Glad We Did

Last Friday Laura and I flew to Los Angeles. Four months ago we had signed up for a two day Dramatist Guild workshop held in Culver City. On Thursday it was one of those “this seemed like a good idea at the time” commitments. Laura had been out of town and flew back on Thursday morning. She had the day to sort things out at her office. I was busy moving sprinklers around my garden every thirty minutes trying to save parched plants. It’s been really hot and dry the last couple of weeks on the Eastern Shore.

Laura had arranged for a driver to take us to the airport on Friday morning. Getting dropped off at the Southwest gates saved a bunch of time and parking hassle. A smooth flight to Los Angeles and we Ubered to Culver City where we had a reservation at the Culver Hotel.

The six story hotel was built in 1924 and considered a sky scraper at the time. The Wizard of Oz was filmed nearby and locals know the Culver Hotel as the Munchkin Hotel as many in the Oz cast stayed there. The hotel was essentially abandoned by the 1980’s and slated for demolition. But by the 1990’s it had been partially restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The renaissance was completed when the hotel was bought and fully restored in 2007.

Today it’s a charming hotel where historical touches remain.

Culver City used to be a down and out area, but has been revitalized. The center of town is full of shops and restaurants. The entertainment company, Sony Pictures, is nearby and fueled the renewal.

The first night we were at the hotel we dined on the outdoor terrace. The weather was gorgeous. We’d left east coast temps and humidity behind.

We had a wonderful breakfast every morning. Tiny croissants, little ramikens of butter  (with a sprig of dill on top) and raspberry jam, fresh fruit, Greek yogurt and granola. And of course, lots of coffee for Laura and a selection of teas for me. That’s my breakfast below. Laura is not a breakfast eater. She had half a bagel with cream cheese. Typically her breakfast is a diet coke at McDonalds that she takes to the office.

We could walk to the Kirk Douglas Theater where the conference was being held. Just 50 participants. We were the only people from the east coast. Most Dramatist Guild workshops are held in NYC but the DG is trying to extend learning and networking opportunities to its west coast members. If you are a member, check out their online classes.

Right away I met Bradetta. See my previous blog. I still can’t fathom the odds of that happening. Add to that the fact that I am a true introvert, so the fact that I actually struck up a conversation is remarkable.

 

The first day of the conference was terrific. Lots of information, good handouts and engaging instructors. The morning session was The Artist as CEO – Marketing & Social Media. The instructor was Zack Turner. I was thrilled to learn that the only social media he uses is Twitter. I, like lots of other writers, get overwhelmed with social media.

After a boxed lunch, the afternoon session was a panel called Playwrights in the Writers Room. They were all much younger than I, but it was particularly interesting to hear the experiences of the two women panelists in a man’s world. I guess some progress is being made.

That evening we walked to dinner where we met my daughter who lives in the area. What fun to see Kira and connect in person. She had asked a friend, who knew Culver City, for a restaurant recommendation and made reservations for our group at Akasha. We ordered a variety of delicious small plates. (I always forget to take food photos until we’ve made a dent in the items. There were way more shrimp to start.)

Sunday morning’s conference session was a continuation of The Artist as CEO – this time focused on the Business of Writing for the Stage. The instructor was Ralph Sevush. He’s an attorney with years of helping playwrights and was an engaging and knowledgeable speaker.

The afternoon was a Masterclass on Structure, taught by Gary Garrison. What a fabulous teacher! So much of the material also applied to writing fiction. We felt like we were double dipping.

That evening we had dinner with our friend, Shar McBee, who used to live in our area of the Eastern Shore. After years of speaking about nonprofit leadership (because of her book “To Lead is to Serve”) Shar just launched a new project “Leadership & Yoga.”  She is starting with workshops and train the trainer events.  Maybe it’s because she’s in California where there is a yoga studio on every corner, but Shar says she’s stunned at how people are responding to her new material.  It has opened up a whole new path of activity.  The week we were there, Shar had five speaking engagements about “Leadership & Yoga.”  www.JoyofLeadership.com

If you live on the Eastern Shore, you may remember that Shar organized the Leadership for Women Conferences that benefitted Chesapeake College.  Even then, she was including yoga sessions led by Freya Farley.

After breakfast  on Monday, we Ubered to the airport, boarded our flight and got home a little after eight on Monday night. A driver picked us up and took us across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. It was a whirlwind trip, but surprisingly relaxing, fun, full of connections, and crammed with learning.

It turned out to be an “I’m so glad we did this” trip.

 

NeuroMindful Meditation

A week ago I completed a six week course in NeuroMindfulness Meditation. (I just typed mindful medication in the headline and then did it again. Maybe because if I could take a pill to still my roaming thoughts it would be easier to meditate.)

meditating dreamstime_m_27989060

The course was taught by David Mercier whose book “A Beautiful Medicine” is now required reading in at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. David spent two years in Sri Lanka practicing meditation as a Buddhist monk. He is also a skilled acupuncturist. And he lives down the road so the class was held at the yoga studio where I practice five mornings a week.

At the first session we had to commit to meditating at least seven minutes a day. How hard could that be? David recommended getting an app on our smart phones that could be set for various lengths of time and would signal the end of a session with a chime or gong (there were a number of sounds to choose from). He said the chime was to reward us for taking time to medicate. Jeeze, did it again. I meant meditate! Turns out getting the app set up proved challenging. I’m sure any one of my grandchildren could have done it in 30 seconds. But I did finally get it set up. Oh, my! Seven minutes seemed like a long time.

But that was just at first. Within a couple of days I set a timer for fifteen minutes. It seemed it took me seven minutes to get settled.

“Breathing in, I am safe. Breathing out, I am safe” was the mantra suggested by David. His belief is that we are all in a constant state of awareness based on the primal need to survive. We are always on the lookout for saber-tooth tigers and grizzly bears. I think that is not so far from the truth. I have an amazing startle response. I tell my husband that if I’d been a black belt he would have been dead years ago. Even my cleaning lady learned to knock on my open office door after I shot out of my chair one day when she came in to see if I had trash in my office trash can.

Here’s the best thing I learned from David and he taught this in the first session. The goal is not to get your brain to stop, the goal is to notice the intrusion and name it. Thinking, thinking or hearing, hearing or smelling, smelling, or feeling, feeling. The focus is not so much on the breathing. Something different in this training is that we share our experiences with the process. That has been enormously helpful. Once the class was over I wondered if I would continue, but most mornings I’m sitting cross legged on my bolster setting my phone alarm for fifteen minutes. I would not have anticipated that result.

 

 

Yoga in the A.M.

I go to a five morning a week yoga class at The Studio in St. Michaels. It starts at 7, but we all get there about 6:45 so we can hang like bats from slings, use the inversion benches and stretch out our backs with straps. This class is NOT Power Yoga. Most of us are “women of a certain age” who have knee, hip, back, shoulder, neck and wrist issues. Our instructor, Paulette Florio, is keeping us limber, flexible and strong.

I sit to write, but get up from time to time to put in a load of laundry, take a turn around the garden and find some Japanese beetles to kill, or root through the freezer to looking for dinner. But it’s the sitting that makes me stiff. Yoga class keeps me moving.

Sometimes for fun I go on line to see the different poses. This is always good for a laugh because there is no way my body is going to do those things! Disclaimer…photo below of a woman in the plow pose is not me.

plow pose

The first time I did this pose in this class I had to call for help. Seriously! I got myself folded in half and couldn’t get back up. This morning we were in plow pose using a chair as a prop and it was actually restful.

Paulette helps us be better yogis by using props. My hamstrings are tight so I use really big yoga blocks. That has made a huge difference in my practice. We use the walls, folding chairs, blankets, blocks of all sizes, short and long straps, big and small balls, and bolsters. (I’ve probably forgotten some.) Paulette also shows us how we can use the props we find in our homes so we always have a studio – even when we’re traveling.

There are no mirrors in Paulette’s yoga studio. That’s by design. She wants us to focus on our own bodies and is always walking around making corrections to our poses. It’s my early morning yoga class that sets me up for another day of writing, but right now it’s time for a turn around the garden. The day lilies are glistening after an early morning rain.

day lilies