Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Desert Sadhana

2:30 in the desert – tucked in between the witching hour and the dawn, while the fairies are still making magic and leaving stardust on the wind, we awoke. And so did the sliver of the moon, red and weary, but rising to conduct her motherly duty. Crossing the Milky Way, she was tired for us, as we danced our morning rituals in the warm desert breezes, sagebrush scraping our knees.

The wise people talk about the sacredness of the early morning hours, as a time when god draws closer, or the veil becomes thinner, or perhaps we are simply delirious and can no longer distinguish the voices in our own minds, and the echo sounds like god. But this morning I felt it, surrounded by the desert dwellers and the sacredness of pre-dawn prayer in a language I don't speak, from mouths of strangers on the same path. In line to receive the same download.

We practiced. Chanted. Napped. God whispered tangled messages into my sleeping ears – something about someone in San Francisco needing my help. Whale songs. Mysteries of the universe from a future time, yet to hatch. Seedlings and solutions, and somehow it all mixed and melted into the deepest sleep I've had, snuggled in on concrete with 2000 magic makers in turbans.

Singing the same song.


Hoping the god we pray to is real – hoping she hears us over the mele in our own minds, the sandstorm down south, the thunder, the fire that crackles and gives birth to ash and smoke. Whose essence is the same truth that we once were, before we forgot that we are perfect.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Thank God for Blue Carpet

Thank god for blue carpet.

Today was the hardest day in a long time. The Universe, it seems, is keen on teaching me many things.

That if I tell people that they can treat me a certain way, they do.

That I'm not a beautiful blonde woman, and never will be.

That men should not to be trusted.

That when the going gets rough, and I feel like this, it's better to channel my ferocity by tearing out carpet while blasting Magic Giant than it is to drink or act out in other destructive ways.

Thank god for blue carpet.

When I first moved in, I had thought it would be the first thing to go. That I would quickly replace all of it with some form of lovely wood flooring. Something eco-friendly. Something that would increase the resale value. But I'm glad that the economy tanked and the value plummeted, that we lived off of the money we thought we would invest in flooring, and that I don't currently have the financial flexibility to hire someone to deal with it.

Also, that I have some inner rage and ferocity that is on the warpath and looking for blood.

So it's me all day, old shoes and jeans, and a Barbie sized crowbar pulling carpet and tack rail or whatever the fuck Bob Villa calls it. Scrubbing and vacuuming, prying and crying (and bleeding occasionally). The karma yoga is the thing you do when you can't manage to meditate or salute, when your Sanskrit studies are worn out and you have to somehow live through this emotional weather pattern. It is second only to Bhakti yoga, which in my case, is where you sing along with Magic Giant (or perhaps, more classical chants) as you devote yourself to work.

I'm so tired of feeling less-than, and I'm most exhausted by the fact that I put myself in that godforsaken gauntlet anyway. I don't even need someone to manipulate or deprecate me any longer – I'll gaslight myself by convincing my own reflection that it is inferior to everyone else on the internet, the the TV, and even 36 year old carpet padding. Maybe you've never had this experience, whereby you compare yourself to imaginary or unknown others for the sincere practice of self-flagellation, but my guess is that maybe you have. It's so tiresome for me, particularly because I know I'm doing it to myself.

So the ripping is a metaphor as much as it is a tangible action. It's a way of slowly peeling back the layers of belief and misguided misunderstanding. Methodically rolling it up, and getting it OUT of the house.

The guest room is empty, now – bare to the bones – ready to reincarnate.

But I'm still raw and seething. Still working. And luckily for me, the are stairs and the ground level. The master suite.


Thank god for blue carpet.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Magic Giant Voice of God

Are you ready for this one?

I considered not writing one this year – just letting the day slip by while I do my best ostrich impersonation, but I just couldn't help myself. I have a few things to say.

Somewhere in my teens, I cleverly decided to give up prayer for Lent, as a tangible offering of my release of the very concept of faith.

(God finds this idea hilarious).

I didn't go back. Once confirmed, I really almost never set foot into a church. And now I'm not sure I belong, because of the marriage and divorce and the staunch feminism that just cannot keep her mouth shut when people pray for all of the “unwed mothers.”

HA.

Last year, right around Mother's Day – the day before, in fact – I had added hope and joy to the graves straddling my dead and buried faith. Love was on the war-path, like a goddamned zombie who just REFUSED to die despite my best attempts at burying it. I was so mad. Knee deep in the pit of despair, the cement of self-pity swallowing my ankles. Former friends and lovers launching spitballs at the back of my neck, kicking me while I was down. The internet was rife with people bitching about being mothers to heathy children.

Because it is hard.

It is. It is the hardest.

Well, no.

It's probably harder to be the mother of a sick baby. Or a dead baby. Or an imaginary baby.
Right? If we think about it? I know we don't want to, because we smell grief and bolt off of the nearest cliff, but even if you get a whiff of it you acknowledge that your life is better than that, even if you have banana pudding in your hair. Even if you haven't had banana pudding since Tuesday.

So there I was, sinking. People still saying THINGS about me not being a mother. Like it was a personal failure. Like it was God's Plan. Like I had so many babies from other people, or so many bags in my arms already, how could I possibly take on one more? Like I had missed my chance, like The Fates had moved onward.

And faith and hope, joy and love, all dead and gone. Just love wandering around emaciated and bloodthirsty, hand in hand with jealousy, chasing after their dog resentment.

And instead of starting to drink heavily, like a normal writer, like a well-adjusted person, I just started to sink into an empty, early grave, my own thoughts poisonous enough. I had the kind of angry, yelling-into-the-canyon conversation with God that ended in tears and back turning. I speak for both of us now (and spoke for both of us then, I suppose, as the canyon never yelled back) - and made sweeping statements about how difficult it had been to endure God's silent treatment – the lack of foretelling and magical symbolism. The true lack of magic, in fact, as life simply got more and more unreasonable, and I remained less and less pregnant.

There is a profound loneliness in infertility, as there is in partnership with an addict, as there is in your life, too, I imagine. Loneliness is strikingly common – frighteningly universal. God is literally laughing at every single one of us who peers at our toes and feels aloner than anyone else in the world, and yet is as alone as anyone could ever be.

We are supposed to give up on the fact that another person will make us feel less alone. That a partner or a baby, or a great job or tight ass will somehow elevate us from the condition of feeling alone. But in fact, everyone I know feels alone at some point, even the prolific and polyamorous entrepreneurs with butt implants and wickedly popular instagram accounts.

Sometimes they are the alonest.

But I did. I felt abandoned in the worst way, even though everyone who has a sense of faith tells you that God is always with you (unless you're a dinosaur). Rumi said something about god always singing your name, but Rumi often pisses me off because he is so right about things, and also because he was a man. And also because his god sang to him, and Rumi heard and wrote some amazing things – the sorts of things that echo for so long you imagine there must be a cosmic looper somewhere, instead of a big canyon in your mind.

It had been twenty years since my last confession, and a good 32 or more since I had last heard the voice of God with my actual awake and sober ears. Yoyo Ma had this cello, and through it, God had a channel straight into my heart, like a tractor beam of love with sparkles and unicorns. There was only one concert, but it was all I needed to remember part of what brought me here into this body this time. Since then, God and I had played this dance whereby she was always on the way out as I was on the way in. I could see her coat tails around the corner, or her shadow as the sun set, but she was always going away, and I couldn't ever quite make out what she was saying.

And then the silent treatment.

So last Mother's Day (the day before) I sat in the bath writing a scathing blog post about how hard it is for basically everyone on Mother's Day. It was me giving up on motherhood and life, with a voice of resignation, not surrender. It is different, to resign oneself and give over the hopes and dreams.

To drown love in the bathtub.

And I went through the motions of life, making no more plans. Wrapping up. Fulfilling commitments.
Waiting for the booming voice of God to give me some direction. Or lightning.

And one month later, she did.

(both)

Sometimes I work at yoga festivals, coordinating things like outdoor tents with music (and lightning)? After my partner left me alone for the millionth time, to head to spend the evening celebrating his birthday with other friends, I did the things – the motions of getting ready for an evening concert with the Big Band.

I kept calling the band Big Magic, because of the Elizabeth Gilbert book, and also because I had run out of spoons and fucks and was just trying to fulfill my commitment so that lighting could strike me dead PLEASE GOD. But they were called Magic Giant, and they were three guys with a whole lotta equipment and smiles and bouncing.

The violin caught my eye.

Sound checks are usually one instrument, one voice at a time. People plucking and clucking and saying “check” and counting incessantly. And that happened. And then they wanted to check balance, so they started into a piece of music.

And everything changed.

The violin had caught my eye earlier, but now it caught my ear. I stopped.

Everything stopped.

The first time it happened, I was nearly three years old, and my deranged parents took me to a YoYo Ma concert. It was 1983, the first time God sang to me.

And here she was again, on the violin, in the wind.

The vocals: I'm not leaving you alone.

It was the song of my soul.

Have you heard the song of your soul, my darling? Have you heard it from outside, from the mouth of another? Fully accompanied by the electronic magic that blends and loops in a way that man alone cannot? They were so happy. Singing my song. I'm not leaving you alone. As if God had placed them down in front of me and said:

“Try me now, bitch.”

God, on a looper.

Faith, hope, and joy, like the three wise men, singing a song of love.

(The lyrics are maybe a touch stalker-ish, but that's ok. God loves the stalker in you, too).

My life did not magically transform because of the song of Magic Giant, but the insidious mantra in my mind had been re-set as their words and melody took root in my mind and reminded me that I was not alone.

I would like to tell you that after that day, I never felt sadness again, that from that day forward, everything unfolded perfectly, but the reality is that life continued onward, in her steady chaotic way with car accidents and hurricanes, early unfathomable loss and plenty of tears and harsh words. Motherhood continued to evade me, love ran rampant and directionless. But the mantra remained, and miracles unfolded, too.

I have a lot of grief, and I'm all set on shame, too. Grief and I have a lot of work to do, because we are partners in this absurd three-legged race of life, and while it's easier to give up and lie down, we can also work together.

I've learned to mother my grief – let it nap when it's tired, tantrum when it doesn't get it's way. Sing to it, the way I encourage new mothers to sing to their babies. Charm it, like a snake who is mostly just heavy and occasionally deadly. And sometimes I leave it with a babysitter and fly across the country to hear the song of my soul.

To re-set my mindset, because life goes a whole lot better when the voice in my head tells me I'm not alone. To seek out joy, hope, and faith.

The voice of God, in three voices and a violin.

Sat Nam

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Participation

A few weeks ago I was at an ashram in the Bahamas – the same ashram – the famed ashram, where I had once felt like a prisoner. This time it was different, because work, because age, because I knew more about myself and what I was getting into. A Karma Yogi – a young American woman – was filming a presentation I was attending, and when the opportunity presented itself to participate, she hung back. She sat, slumped in her chair, watching.

I could relate.

I've spent a lot of time slumped. Slumping. Protecting my heart from the risk of opening it up and letting anything in.

Or out.

Last November in Costa Rica, the sha(wo)man broke me open in, after Hurricane Otto and the travesty of the election, the abandonment and the scorpions had had their chances. She took me the rest of the way, and Shonda Rhymes told me that I could maybe say yes sometimes. That was the series of events that shook me down.

A few days later, I found myself slumping. Day two of a retreat. I wasn't behind a camera, but I was sitting out, not fully in. Holding space.

Avoiding.

I love sitting on the fence. I should have been a cat, or a squirrel. Observing one side, the other. Never quite putting a foot down, because the grass. The grass is emerald green on one side, and jade on the other. Sometimes I think I'll die perched on top of this fence in my life – never making a decision one way or the other.

Gentle confrontation from a trusted teacher pushed me off of the fence. She didn't actually tell me to participate, she just suggested I choose. Like my friend AVT used to say: Shit or get off the fan.

Shit, or get off the fence.

(Or really, just get off the fence).

So I jumped in. Participated. Decided to speak, even if clumsy, even if inexperienced. To ask the questions I had, even if they were stupid, to share my opinion even if it was lousy. To say the words on my heart rather than hold them in, waiting for the moment when they were arranged perfectly. Because most of the time I can't arrange them quite right, especially when feelings or time are involved. I prefer to practice. Script.

Write.

So I cried and laughed, made friends and mistakes. But I participated when I wanted to hold back.

And I have since, too. Mostly. I've gotten on planes and trains and boats, tried the Korean spa instead of staying in and watching out the window. I talked with a woman in a loud, gay karaoke bar about grief. And again, I opened my mouth when the Korean grandma touched my naked belly in jealously and told her I would happily trade my flat tummy for a baby in a heartbeat.

So in the Bahamas, I did the unsolicited advise thing. To the slumping Karma Yogi I said - I don't like it when people give me unsolicited advice, but I'm giving you some now.

When life gives you the opportunity - participate.

If you need a nap, rest. Fuck fomo. Forget it. You can't miss out on your life if you participate fully where you are. Sometimes the face of God that looks like you needs a time out. Napping fully is a sincere form of prayer, just ask the Dalai Lama.

But you can't nap on the fence, you have to be vigilant. And that's no good at all. Vigilance and unnecessary guarding isn't participation. I have done this - grown weary weighing the options.

And I haven't always made the right choice. But god won't let you make the wrong choice more than 50% of the time, even if all you do is flip a coin.

The thing about the fence? Most of the time, the other side doesn't cease to exist because you chose one.

Most of the time, life gives you more chances.

So flip a coin. Participate.




Saturday, February 18, 2017

Normal

When I was three years old, a member of our parish community was kidnapped and held hostage in Beirut for seven years. Each day his picture was on the front page of the local paper, along with a count of how many days he had been missing.

That was my normal.

When he was released, he came to my elementary school and talked with all of us about his experiences. Which was also my normal. I'm not sure if long-term hostages typically make the elementary school circuit, or if God just has a tremendous sense of humor and thought in her infinite wisdom that I could use a few more things to front-load my impending mid-life crisis. Regardless, I recall everything he told us in excruciating detail.

The worst day was the day his glasses broke, and he could no longer see.

He was in solitary for a significant amount of the time.

He made chess pieces out of cheese and played with another man once they were in the same cell.

He said that what kept him alive was remembering – absolutely every single thing he could. Stories. Nursery rhymes. Songs.

Facts.

This memory struck me tonight, as my yoga teacher shared a little quote from a book about the holocaust. Perhaps yoga theming based on desperate moments in history strikes you as bizarre as Tom Sutherland doling out hostage survival tips to elementary school students, but the two made peace in my mind as I realized that this kind of work is now essential.

We are currently in a hostage situation – the man at the helm of this great nation has no use of facts, and so it is incumbent upon all of us to remain vigilant. Yoga teachers need not get political, as that ship has sailed, but we can – should – must – keep the lessons of history, of science, of liberty alive as the sanity of the masses erodes in the wake of lies and abusive behavior.

Now is the time to study and speak.

The most radical and responsible thing we can do

is remember.



Sunday, January 29, 2017

Air

In the tormented weather of the USAFA, there is always an eye of stillness over the cemetery, as if God is holding her breath

(Or at least there is every time I've been there.)

Eight years ago tonight you watched your final sunset – or maybe you missed it – maybe you were watching cable or still at work. Did you know that you would soon join the darkness that was rolling in around you?

Tonight I watched my shadow hold vigil above your grave. I watched it get taller and merge with the shadows of the forest around the artificial clearing. The memorial section forbids flowers and flags – any visible token of memory, as these service members died in service, and in uniform they remain. Forever, together, separated only by the thin whispers of time between the dates on their headstones. Their weapons and likenesses etched and cast in stone. It is comforting to know that they are with you each night, the trees and dwellers within them, your fellow men at arms – that you will never again face alone the darkness who drowned you.

I snuck in an espresso for you, poured it into the earth, hoping that the flavor might somehow trickle into your ashes – knowing full well that it won't. But maybe it will mix with my tears, the deer droppings and the wind and some day a molecule that was once you – that became me - will rejoin the surface of the earth. Maybe it will rise from the roots of the trees who surround you.

Maybe I will live to see it.

As I struggle to sleep at night, to pull myself out of bed each morning, to rest peacefully, I occasionally think of you. I'm grateful you don't have to work in support of this administration – or live with us beneath it's oppression. Your spirit is with the deer people now, which is, perhaps, the safest place to be.

Hearts are funny things. Mine seems to be well-tethered to the men I've loved, keenly aware of their movements and subtleties. The cords that tie me drag me down and lift me up, while also pulling my attention to the four directions – the four chambers of my heart.

Earth.
Air.
Fire.
Water.

I have a name for each of you – a need for each of you. An unanswered question in each chamber that keeps my love alive, even when I wish it would simply fade so that it would not keep me up at night. I don't have room for any more – my heart is full of stone - relics – stuffy emptiness - shrines to those departed through death or choice. Those dwelling in caves and tombs.

You died eight years ago tonight, dear Jon, and by now it must be time to rest. There is irony in knowing I can never call you, never hear your voice, never feel the warmth of your presence, and yet I know exactly where to find you. You've done all the leaving you can do, and the rest is up to me.

I'm taking the reigns of this cord, in this section of my life, and asking you to become an inspiration – to lift me up – to guide me in matters of life and heart. To guard me against the darkness that calls to me, that engulfs me each time the earth leans away from the sun.

Because I am not done living yet.

Because there is work to do.

Become the air I breathe – the words I speak.


The wind.


Friday, January 20, 2017

We the People

Five years ago I was full of hubris – the overconfidence of my youth glinting in the sunshine as I basked in the glow of a steady marriage, financial security, and a president who had a lot of good years left in him.

My, how things have changed.

As I write this, I'm alone in my Joy room, overlooking the twinkly lights in the canyon, a helicopter hovering in the distance like the Star of Bethlehem, a bed full of notebooks and journals and iProducts. My roommate is downstairs cooking something amazing, but I'm otherwise fully wrapped up in the aloneness as my ex-husband wakes up in Taiwan, Peter wakes up in India, and the other relevant men in my life prepare to depart into their own spiritual journeys to the Far East. 

I felt quite lonely yesterday morning as I put finishing touches on yet another email to end all emails. Probably one I won't send, because it always feels risky to bare your heart and soul, say what you mean, ask for what you want.

And need.

I don't like admitting that I have needs. I'm some kind of maniacle endurance athlete who tries to deprive myself of love, food, rest, fun. It was about five years ago that I started to punish myself in as many ways as possible, which is ironically the same time I started teaching yoga full time. I'm embracing that hypercritical nature I seem to have, where I advocate that you spend some more time and money on yourself – that you let yourself sleep in and treat yourself to a massage or a cup of tea while I figure out just how much more work I can do so I don't have to think about how alone I feel.

Which is my own fault.

A few days ago a friend posted a quote on instagram that caught my eye – she said it was a question her father used to ask:

“In five years, do you want to be five years older, or five years better?”

Shit, dude. That's a loaded question. Because in five years I would like to be five years older, and also, I would like to be five years better. I would like to feel better, have pictures of my journey along the trail that led me to higher ground, that let me see the valleys below, call to my fellow wanderers and give and receive key information – like where cool water is, the hanging vines, the best spot to view the sunset.

This is going to require a sizeable shift.

Yesterday I burst into tears in my therapists' office. Like literally burst. That has never happened to me – ever. Normally there is a surge of emotion that I try to swat away or push down, or swallow back into the dark hollows, but this? This was a tidal wave that came without warning.

Progress, right? 

Crying in front of strangers is progress, yes? 

Taking a moment to feel emotions and let them move through, rather than sitting tight.

This is not a year for clenching.

I've spent a significant portion of the last five years in despair. While the world got softer, I closed in, destroying relationships in every way I could think of. No matter what happens in the world, the White House, the remaining chambers of my heart, I am not willing to spend another five years mired in the darkness, catalyzing destruction.

In five years I will be five years older, five years stronger, five years better. I burned up the cushy years feeling sorry for myself, dissociating from my body, resenting my story. So I feel quite confident in telling you that it's not worth it. I've been down in those caves, and while their siren's song is tempting, it's really just a fancy black hole without friends and fellowship.

A dangerous person is driving the national bus, yes. But he's not driving your bus. You are. Not your children or your partner, or the people in the magazines and billboards who live in a fantasy world of perfect lighting and post-processing. 

In five years, we will be one year into a new presidency, the softer times will come again.

So let's prepare for that now – today.

Small, incremental change in a positive direction. 

A catalyst for good.

For the next five years, and beyond, God willing, I am going to do one great thing for myself and one good thing for someone else. Every day. It doesn't have to be feeding the homeless, but that's a good one. It doesn't have to be painful or hard. Using the life force within me for good does not have to be hard, no matter what else is happening in the world.

So if this inaguration makes you want to escape, do it. But don't do it by drinking or accidentally marrying a Canadian, by beating yourself up in the very special ways that only you know how to hurt yourself. Lie down. Turn off the things. Notice where you are.

Is there a floor?

Am I on it?

Am I breathing?

Then something is going right.

Start from there.

We the people are here to form a more perfect union. 

But let's start from the inside this time? 

Rather than fixing them, let's heal us.

And now, and now, and now.

Now begins the practice of yoga.

Atha.

Amen.

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