Tag Archives: Geography of Now

February Upgrades

Hello, lovelies.

Go ahead. Pull up your equivalent of this green velvet armchair we spotted at Ikea. Let’s chat. Today I’m sending you lots of love and five ideas for a February upgrade.

01. Think of a mundane task as a date
In August DP and I will be moving to the Japanese city of Karuizawa and we’ve recently learned that there are no closets in our apartment (!) so we need to sort out some storage solutions. On Saturday, after lunch, DP and I were chatting about this storage conundrum when he asked if I wanted to go to Ikea. To be clear, that’s not a quick trip. It’s two trains and a shuttle bus away from our apartment and it was definitely going to be busy at Ikea. Also, I’m not a very spontaneous person and this trip was not in my plan for the weekend. In that moment, I made a decision to think of this as a date and to say YES! We were out the door within 20 minutes. At Ikea we sat on about 50 different dining room chairs, earned the equivalent of a PhD in wardrobe configurations and I fell in love with the green velvet chair above (which we don’t need) and a gorgeous orange dresser (that we do need). DP bought me swedish meat balls for dinner and we held hands as we sat outside on the wooden bench waiting for the shuttle.

Your date doesn’t need to involve a partner; it could be a date with a friend or a date with yourself. The idea is simply to enjoy and savour the regular moments of our lives.

02. Replace “I have to” with “I’m going to” or “I get to”
Here’s the thing… the words we use matter. It’s so easy to get stuck in the energy of “I have to” ~ especially when you’re having a no-good, low-energy January, The trouble is that the yuckiness lurking below “I have to…” is kicking us in the ass, spiritually speaking. While it’s true that we do have obligations, they are mostly to people we love and who we’ve chosen ~ the people we gave birth to and the people who gave birth to us. So rather than saying, “I have to pick my kids up at school” you could try, “I’m going to pick my kids up at school.” This is such a small shift but it feels SO much better. When you’ve mastered “I’m going to”, try “I get to” for even more gold stars.

03. Buy yourself flowers
There’s no need to wait for someone else to give you flowers. In fact, that may not be how your people show that they love you. If fresh flowers would bring you joy, go ahead and decorate your office or your dining room table with a bouquet of floral loveliness. We have a friend here in Japan who has bought herself fresh cut flowers once a week for almost a decade; the joy she derives from the beauty and fragrance they bring to her home far outweighs the cost.

04. Throw yourself a Dance Party
According to this article dancing really is good for us.
Dancing ~
* raises the heart rate causing a release of feel-good endorphins into the bloodstream
* reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol
* helps us reconnect with our body
* frees up the body and allows it to move
* may produce an emotional release that’s cathartic – a letting go of pent-up emotions
* raises spatial awareness
* improves problem-solving skills after just five minutes of dancing (I could not make that up if I tried)

So have yourself a little dance party. Choose some tunes that make you happy and get your sexy groove on. I LOVE the opening credits to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 which is also a dance party.

05. Join us for Geography of Now (Note: This course has been cancelled)
A few days ago, a friend posted a photo of some light pink blossoms she spotted in Tokyo. I’m not sure what kind of blossoms they are. Possibly plum. It’s still too early for cherry blossoms but whatever they are, I felt a wonderful feeling in response to this photo. A kind of opening up.

That, I think, is the secret of Geography of Now. It helps everyone in the group open up creatively. There’s no place you’re supposed to be at the beginning of the course and no place you’re meant to be at the end. You’ll play and explore at your own speed in the company of other generous people.

If you’re craving an opening up… an opportunity to practice creativity, noticing and gratitude, this is your course.

Here’s the trip:
Week 1: Knowing yourself
Week 2: Noticing
Week 3: Photography
Week 4: Writing
Week 5: Gratitude + Skinny Prose
Week 6: Being at home where you are

“The Geography of Now course offers a daily dose of beauty and insight. The assignments are thoughtful and creative, with a little something for each participant’s inner poet and photographer. My favorite aspect of the course was that it gently encouraged me to get outside the box of my desk and computer monitor and to really look for beauty – in my prose, in my house, in my life, and in the people I love. Monna is an insightful teacher who gathers lovely people around her and encourages them to share. I highly recommend the class for anyone who is looking to jumpstart their creativity or just to explore their inner landscape.” ~ Mara Gorman, freelance writer and publisher of The Mother of all Trips, Delaware.

Note: This was originally shared as a Sunday Reader. To receive these love letters directly in your mailbox, subscribe here. I’d love to send you these letters. xo

Ideal Conditions for Thriving in Winter

January was a bit of a month.

I’m not even sure why it was rough. It could just be that it’s winter. Whatever the reason, I’ve been more emotional than normal (and, to be clear, I’m normally quite emotional) and I’m tired deep down in my bones. I suspect I’m not the only one.

The challenge has been to take good care of myself without completely hibernating… to nest while also continuing to grow.

I love metaphors. Like, I ADORE them. In these first days of February, I imagine myself as a tulip bulb buried eight inches below the surface and even though we’re in the deepest days of wintertime, I need to continue gathering all of my power for my emergence in Spring. I have faith that Spring will arrive and that means that I need to stay aware, curious, and focussed. At the very core of me, I need to stay green. I need to be ready to push when it’s time.

So I asked myself what conditions I could set in place in order to thrive.

Here’s my list for Winter 2018:
* Eight hours of sleep every night
* A cashmere sweater for both warmth and comfort
* Gentle conversations with Damien and as much laughter as possible
* A gentle soundtrack for my days: Kina Grannis, The Band Joseph, Joni Mitchell’s Blue
* Before I open my eyes each morning, I name the things for which I’m grateful
* The heated floor in our living room
* Saying yes to some work with the amazing teenagers at my former school
* Poetry by Naomi Shihab Nye, nayyirah waheed, Rumi and Mary Oliver
* Moving my body every day
* Looking at things from a new perspective
* Making lists of things to do and things NOT to do
* Writing {which is like breathing for me}
* Podcasts: Rob Bell; The Creative Penn; The CREATE Series
* Deep breaths with an emphasis on the exhale
* Leaving myself lots of time to do things well
* Revisiting Edinburgh + the Isle of Skye through memories and photos
* Upgrading tasks like washing the dishes by listening to music or podcasts
* Connecting with friends over coffee, Korean BBQ, Skype, FB and email
* No drama
* Preparing, little by little, for our move to Karuizawa
* Simplifying. Using less of almost everything.
* Yummy television: The Good Place, iZombie, and Orphan Black
* Declaring my priorities
* Eating more fruits and vegetables
* Doing things even though I’m afraid or anxious or not ready
* Putting my devices away at least an hour before bed
* Wearing bright pink lipstick {Really. It helps.}

I’m thinking good thoughts and looking forward to Spring.

What conditions would help you to have the best possible February? What could you say yes to? Or no to? Go ahead!

Note: This was originally shared as a Sunday Reader. To receive these love letters directly in your mailbox, subscribe here. I’d love to send you these letters. xo

The Sunday Reader: Sakura Edition

The cherry trees in Yokohama and Tokyo have been slow to blossom this year. According to the people who know about such things, the trees may not blossom as fully as in other years because our winter was not cold enough and our spring has been very cold. I’m no scientist and I’m certainly not a cherry blossom expert but I feel enormous gratitude to these trees for whatever blossoms they offer us.

A friend and I were texting about the blossoms the other day (we take this stuff very seriously in Japan) and I wrote: “It’s okay if full bloom looks different this year. The trees don’t owe us anything.”

The truth is that I don’t always blossom fully.

In late March I started a writing course with Martha Beck and here is the poem I wrote In response to our Week #1 writing prompt:


There was this time that I felt sad
but somewhere in that sadness
I suspected that my feelings
(my own precious feelings
that I’d spent a lifetime
learning to trust)
were lying.

How could that be?

With one eyebrow raised,
I turned towards my thoughts
which sometimes congregate
like a gang of thugs in the
darkest corner of my brain.
They looked embarrassed
as if they’d suddenly looked down
and found themselves naked
in Biology class.

Not so tough now.

I reached in and found
the sadness thought.
My inner wise-woman
held this thought up to the light,
pulled out her magnifying glass
and squinted, all truth-seeing.
That’s when the cracks showed up.
The fissures.
The fear
that caused the thought
that caused the sadness
in the first place.

For some time I carried
my Fearful Thought,
a small pitted seed,
in my pocket.
Several times a day
I sent it tiny love notes.
“Hello, dearest one.
I know why you’re afraid
and I know why you lied.
Patience, love.
Patience and peace.”

Walking home
from school one day
the Fearful Thought rustled
inside my pocket so I picked it up.
It was larger and had grown
a new green dress of moss.
The Fearful Thought whispered,
“I’m ready to be true.”

I planted the thought
at the base of a hill
where I could see it
every day and it grew
into a sapling and I sang
love songs as I went by.
“You’re doing such a good job growing.”
And the sapling drew
on all those good things,
the love and the sun and the rain,
and grew into a cherry tree.

At the end of March
each year, that tree
explodes with soft white truth.
The cherry blossoms dance
in the wind, each one connected
to the branch, each one surrounded
by joyful sibling-blossoms
that groove and sway
and call my name
as I walk home from school.

So I grew my truth like a sakura tree
and came to love my fear.

Of course, my hand was shaking as I hit “Post to Forum”. I wondered if anyone would read it or comment. I was seized with “not good enough” feelings which grew into regret which then morphed into something that felt a lot like panic.

Gently I called off my anxiety-induced take-off. I breathed deeply {inhale ~ exhale} and then followed my own damned advice.

“Hey, Monna. It’s not about how ‘good’ this poem is or how many people like it. This is you bravely and gently exploring your own inner life. This is about expressing what’s inside you. This is about making meaningful connections with other people through writing. As Brene Brown said, ‘The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me too.’ Your writing is about ME TOO. This is about you blossoming and there’s absolutely no way to do it wrong.”

There’s no way to do it wrong.

I spent a couple of hours reading and commenting on the gorgeous and astonishing writing of my fellow light-writers, more than 400 of them. It felt like dessert, like a hug, like sleeping in on a rainy Sunday morning.

There’s no way to do it wrong.

That’s also true about the Geography of Now.

Geography of Now begins Monday April 10th

Sunday is the last day to register for this online course and this will be the last time I offer the course in this way.

This course is for you if:
* You need an injection (or inoculation) of creativity in your life
* You’d like to pay more attention to the beauty all around you
* You want to take more photographs and go on some lovely photo-walks in your own neighbourhood
* You have a deep craving to write. (Please note that you can respond to the prompts with poetry OR prose.)
* You’d like to share your photos and writing in a super-supportive environment
* You want to practice gratitude

If you’re looking for a reawakening, here you go.

This piece was first published as The Sunday Reader. If you’d like to receive these letters, sent every second Sunday, directly in your email inbox, you can subscribe here.

Join me in the Geography of Now


Hello, lovely one.

Two years ago I created my first online course, Geography of Now. I’ve decided to run it one last time this Spring.

Geography of Now is six weeks in length and will run from Monday April 10th until Friday May 19th. Every weekday you’ll receive, via email, a lesson along with a photography or writing prompt. It’s completely up to you to decide which ones you’d like to complete; you’ll find the pace that’s best for you. All you need is the camera in your phone (or a fancier one if you wish) and your favourite combination of writing implements: journal/pen or computer. We’ll have a secret + private Facebook group where people can share their photos and writing + comment on the work of your classmates if you’d like. My very favourite thing about both Geography of Now and Poet Laureate is the community created by the people in the course. The cost of the course is 75 USD.

If you’ve been itching for a CREATIVE PROJECT,
if you’ve been feeling a little blah and need an INJECTION OF JOY,
or if you want to spend more time NOTICING and FEELING GRATEFUL,
this would be a lovely course for you.

This will be the last time I’ll run the course in this way. It may be available as a self-study but I think the magic of this program is in the alchemy the participants and I create in our shared space on Facebook.

Pop on over here to learn more about the course + sign up.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the course.


What is the Geography of Now?

What is GON

Registration opened today for the Geography of Now.

This six-week eCourse begins on Monday 11th of May. There are 25 spaces available in the class.

In the end-of-course survey, I ask participants to define what this course is. The responses to this question have made me giddy with joy and, more importantly, I believe these insights may help you if you are thinking about taking the course.

The Geography of Now is…

“An amazing 6-week online course where you get an email Monday to Friday with a short discussion and an assignment to photograph things, write about them, think about them and become more aware of your surroundings.” ~ Mary Wallace

“The yoga of creativity.” ~ Cheri Rauser

“A safe and thorough exploration in gradual, thoughtful, do-able exercises to stretch and explore different themes in writing about self, other, present moment, photographs, beauty, aspiration and play. A very well organised, fun journey of self exploration and online community support. Hats off to Monna for her beautiful design, and effervescent vigilance with our March 2015 group. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience.” ~ Jenna McAsey

“The Geography of Now is a course in daily reflection and mindfulness. It helped me to look at my local area with new eyes – kinder and more adventurous.” ~ Anita Wadsworth

You can learn more about the course and register here.

I love this course; it’s the online class I’ve always wanted to take!


Geography of Now starts March 9th


To be at home
where you are,
to notice,
to photograph,
to write,
to feel grateful.
To fall back in love
with your life.

That’s the Geography of Now.

The course starts on Monday March 9th.

Learn more here.

Letter to My Inner Editor


The thing about you,
Inner Editor,
is that you always say
you’re just trying
to help.

That’s your story.

But you arrive
way too early
for the party.

You barge right in.
You never ring the bell,
take your shoes off
at the door
or use the lovely slippers
I’ve left out
for my guests.

You walk through
my writing house
{that fragile little space}
with your muddy boots
and your six pack.

I watch you
grow big
and bloated
on my writing fears.

Shame is your favourite dessert.

But you are not welcome here.
Not yet.
Take your beer and get out.

After I’ve finished my novel,
my glorious first draft,
I’ll invite you back
but we’re drinking champagne
and you will have to wear those slippers.

My writing house,
my rules.