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Archive for the tag “keywords”


Being Awake

Being Awake (Photo credit: Celestine Chua

My keyword for winter is awake.

awake: conscious; not asleep

A counter-intuitive choice for the time of year, perhaps. And perhaps it sprang to mind because of this amazingly, awesomely invigorating song that I’ve been addicted to for some time that just forces me to get up and dance whenever I hear it. (There are witnesses.) Turn up the volume to listen.

It’s always such a joy that you wake up in the morning
and there’s work to do.

–Jerome Lawrence, author and playwright

What’s your keyword for winter?

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Mandala #5

It’s been a year since I started this blog, which I’ve been neglecting of late. Still, Happy Anniversary to me.

On the first day of fall last year, I decided to choose a keyword and a theme song for the season. The keyword I chose was velocity and my theme song was Glad Tidings by Van Morrison. The result was kind of amusing, but the idea was a good one.

Yesterday morning, I heard Terry Gross interviewing Elton John on Fresh Air ahead of the release of his latest album, The Diving Board. He talked about his music, his years of drug and alcohol addiction, and his current life, which he described as being brilliant.

Brilliant adj full of light; shining; very bright and radiant

What a wonderful way to describe a life! Who wouldn’t want to have a brilliant life? Or who believes that having a brilliant life is unattainable, too splashy or flashy, or not a serious or respectable enough goal?

I think brilliant is absolutely the best possible kind of life to have. So that’s my keyword for fall. To go along with it, my theme song is Elton John’s version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

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‘tis the season to be buoyant

buoyant morning

buoyant morning (Photo credit: Pedro Moura Pinheiro)

With the arrival of the winter solstice last week, I needed to choose a new keyword for the next three months. The first (and last) time I chose a keyword for a season, I did it without putting much thought into it. Velocity came to me immediately, and so did the accompanying theme song, Glad Tidings by Van Morrison. Somewhere along the way, I realized that focusing on velocity without having first determined my direction was like sending a driverless race-car speeding 100+ miles per hour along a track. Nothing good was likely to come of it. So I paused to set a couple of goals.

This time, I wasn’t quite so hasty. I discarded my first choice of keyword, focus, when I realized focus is one of those things that repeatedly gets me into trouble. I don’t usually have difficulty focusing. On the contrary, what I have difficulty with is stepping back and loosening the reins of my focus. Sometimes circumstances change, you know? But I’m nothing if not persistent, so it often takes me a while to notice and then to back off or switch gears.

What I came up with for my winter keyword is buoyant. If I haven’t mentioned it yet, I really dislike winter. I dislike the cold temperatures, the noisy furnace, the layers of clothing, the short days, the gray skies, and the snow (when we get it). Winter feels heavy and oppressive to me. If I could wear shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt year around, I would. It takes temperatures hovering around 100 degrees before I comment on the heat. I’ve hiked the Sandia foothills in the mid-afternoon in the mid-90s. You just have to slather on the sunscreen, wear a hat, take plenty of water, and try not to run a marathon out there.

So the three months between December 21st and March 21st are my least favorite of the year—a trial to get through. This year I’m going to try a different tactic by attempting to lighten up, loosen up, and be a little more cheerful. Along with cheerful, lively, and sprightly, a few other synonyms for buoyant are:


All good stuff, but it gets even better because buoyant also means:


Since I’m working on a new venture right now, this sense of the word buoyant is ideal for that, too. The third definition of buoyant refers to being light and able to float on water. Large bodies of water and I are not friends, so although I love this concept, it’s a little edgy for me. But that’s OK; a little edginess never hurt anyone. And light is the opposite of heavy, which is good.

now i know how it feels
to have wings on my heels

The search for a theme song also took longer this time than it did before. A lot of songs came close, but none of them hit exactly the right note. Then I came across this one by, of all people, the Moody Blues, from To Our Children’s Children, and it’s perfect.


Floating free as a bird
Sixty foot leaps, it’s so absurd
From up here you should see the view
Such a lot of space for me and you
Oh, you’ll like it
Gliding around, get your feet off the ground
Oh, you’ll like it
Do as you please with so much ease
Now I know how it feels
To have wings on my heels

I confess to having owned several Moody Blues albums way back when, but I don’t think I had this one.  And I probably wouldn’t have chosen this song for one of my playlists in the normal course of events. But the purpose of choosing a keyword is to aim my attention in a different direction, to consider things from a different perspective, and to get out of my usual mindset. In this case, to be more buoyant!

Do you have a keyword for winter? If so, please share it.

you can’t have too many keywords

This is a post from my other blog, Nine Paths (exploring the highways and byways of the Enneagram), It’s pretty popular over there, and since I wrote about journaling here last time, I decided to rerun it. I’m currently working (journaling) with a list of keywords I’ve come up with as a result of some list-making exercises. I have to say that keyword journaling has probably been the most profound journaling I’ve ever done.

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Marcel Proust in 1900

Marcel Proust (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before starting this post, I went into the closet in my office in search of three plastic sandwich bags full of folded slips of different colored paper with words typed on them. I’ve used those bags (and words) in my own creative writing exercises as well as in writing workshops. I found one bag full of lime green nouns, one bag full of fuchsia verbs, and one bag full of teal adjectives. I opened the teal bag without recalling what kind of words were inside and pulled out newNew is good—and so apt for the beginning of a post!

I’ve been playing around with individual words and phrases for decades. My Stance Keyword Comparison Checklist was an outgrowth of a long-term fascination with arranging and grouping words that seem to evoke a concept or a mood or an attitude or a way of being. Sometimes it’s easier to gauge your reaction to a list of keywords than it is to read through narrative descriptions. A single word can send you off on a journey, much like the madeleine that sent Marcel Proust off in Remembrance of Things Past.

When I was a substance abuse counselor, I used a two-page handout called “How Do You Feel Today?” It consisted of 140 words that described feeling states, each one illustrated by what was essentially an emoticon (although I’m pretty sure the handout pre-dated emoticons). It wasn’t in color, but it looked a little like this example (without the misspelling).

Then I came across a laminated poster based on the same concept, but with far fewer than 140 feeling words and emoticons. It was standard practice at the beginning of group sessions at the clinic for everyone to take turns checking in to let the group know how they were doing and what had transpired since the previous week. I wondered what would happen if we switched to using the feeling words poster in place of the usual check-in. So one day I stuck the poster on a wall and asked everyone to take a long look at it before sitting down so they could find the word that best represented how they were feeling or the state they were in at that moment.

The results were amazing and quite profound. Check-in took a fraction of the time. No one felt compelled to elaborate. And we all agreed we had a much better sense of what was going on with each person than we’d had with the standard check-ins. My take was that having to come up with a single word caused them to really focus and get in touch with how they were doing on a deeper level. It helped them make a transition so they could be fully present at the start of the session. It seemed that previously it had taken the entire check-in period before everyone was “present.” So, by unanimous agreement, we stuck with the feeling words check-in from then on.

Keyword Journaling Exercises

Keywords can be incorporated into a number of different journal writing exercises and techniques. A few suggestions:

  • Use a single keyword or a string of keywords as a prompt for timed flow writing.
  • Mind-map a keyword (as an option, when your mind-map is complete, finish with a period of timed flow writing).
  • Make a grab bag like my plastic sandwich bags by cutting out slips of paper and writing keywords on them. Pull one out at random to use as a writing prompt.
  • Create a sentence or a question around a keyword to use as a writing prompt.


glad tidings

When I lived in Michigan, where I was born and grew up (more or less), autumn always felt like a beginning to me, not a harbinger of the end. Maybe it’s because I was born in autumn, but that was always my favorite time of year. It was a relief from the heat and humidity of the summer, for one thing. I never liked summer all that much.

Then I moved to Northern California where autumn just wasn’t the same. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It just doesn’t smack you in the senses with smoldering foliage, crisp temperatures, and startlingly blue skies. It’s a subtler thing. Maybe my appreciation for subtlety is lacking.

I lived north of San Francisco for 27 years before discovering the Southwest and unexpectedly falling in love with it. Open skies. Lots of sunny days. Not too much snow in the winter. And hot, dry summers. Oh, my! I’m a convert to summer in the High Desert. But living in New Mexico has done nothing to bring back the sense of expectation I used to feel at this time of year.

enter Dawn

And then something happened. Well, several things happened, but the turning point was getting invited to #JournalChat Live by Dawn Herring. She was kind enough to  feature a post from Nine Paths titled Keywords: The Madeleines of Journal Writing. So many good and interesting ideas were exchanged, but the one that made the strongest impression came from Dawn when she mentioned choosing a keyword for a year to help focus on our goals.

A year seems like a long period of time for me to try to stay focused on a single thing. But I love the concept. So in honor of the autumnal equinox, I’ve decided to choose a keyword for the season. I’d already developed my own list of personal keywords and have been using them in my journal writing. Picking one for autumn was easy. And that keyword is . . . velocity.

We also talked about using meditation, poetry, music, and art along with keywords. Therefore, I’ve chosen a song to go with my keyword. My theme song for autumn is Glad Tidings by Van Morrison.

My running start on autumn 2012 includes getting this blog off the ground. It’s been in the idea stage for too long, and with velocity as my keyword, the time to launch is now.

Don’t it gratify when you see it materialize
Right in front of your eyes
That surprise
La, la, la, la      la, la, la, la     la, la, la, la

Thanks so much for the inspiration, Dawn! I hope I can return the favor sometime.

Does anyone else have a keyword and/or a theme song for autumn? If you do, please share in the comments.

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