Monday, July 21, 2014


Sutras 2.16 is my favorite: "the pain which has not come can be avoided." It's a good reminder for me, because I spend a lot of time and energy fearing the pain that has yet to come. Maybe you do, too? Lately I've opened myself up to an ocean of pain, and with that has come a tremendous amount of fear. Against my better judgement and the advice of close counsel, I've jumped in with both feet, with total disregard for depth or temperature or even my bearings.

It's a strange world, this underwater paradise. In daytime, the waters are clear and nearly perfect, teeming with life and new adventures. In the darkness, however, the shadows are deeper, with curled fingers reaching out to pull me under. It doesn't seem fair to share space with ghosts in paradise, and yet that is what my reality has become: a desert island that isn't as deserted as I had originally thought. So I take solace in the sea, treading water for days, surfacing for one breath at a time.

Pain is a great teacher. It allows us to learn more about ourselves and how we connect with everyone around us. It pokes through the illusion that we are separate and reminds us that everything we do (and everyone around us) has the potential to create or alleviate pain (this includes you, my dear).

Teachers and writers open themselves up to painful experiences so that they can save others from pain, or at least help them chew through the tough spots (let this be the most important lesson to those of you out there considering a career change to either writing or teaching… it's a loaded gun). Fear however… fear is only useful in small doses, and only when you're about to cross the street in front of a speeding bus.

Fear is the pain that has not come, wrapped in a delicious lie. It can be impossible to resist. Fear tells you to breathe shallow breaths, because you may not surface completely and could drown if you try to take in more than you can manage.

Faith promises to fill your lungs with air.

Faith swallows fear's bitter pill and says: Tomorrow can hurt less than you think it will. It might even be beautiful.

heyam duhkham anagatam

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


I spent the last week in a parallel universe - familiar snow-capped peaks with their toes dipped in green glacial waters.

For desert creatures the rainforest offers a different kind of nourishment.

Away from cell towers and the intimate tangle of the internet my lungs opened in a way I haven't experienced since childhood. The soundtrack was a timeless mix of silence and gongs, the pace set by primeval slugs. Silent and slow and impossible to miss. It is impossible to imagine a dry time there - a crackling pace set by sun and sand. Even the dampness and the lazy morning clouds conspired to say rest.

Yin yoga has always been a powerful medicine for me. I've always kept my tail high and hidden behind me - a place to store all of The Things I didn't have time or patience to deal with. In yin, I had to relent and maybe even drop into the earth. Allow myself to be held by her restorative power. It is so easy to hold on to all of these stories, and yet so tiring to keep them from dragging in the mud.

Feminine energy scares me. I walk lightly and feel most at home when soaring through the sky (or at least wandering airports in search of tea). It's lovely to leave the story at home for awhile. The fear and guilt, the shame and distrust that is fostered in the West makes no sense in the East where it is simply an essential part - perhaps half of who we are.

When men feel stressed, they run or fight. I ran for years (and still do). Not the one foot, other foot, pavement-pounding, but the hyper-fast, ungrounded and abstract busy-ness. My main attempts at rest these past two years have been out of physical desperation, a full depletion of my adrenal glands or my kidney energy, or my spirit. How easily we transform that energy into fuel for someone else's fire. Now that my body has rested, perhaps it is time to support and nurture my own soul.

One of my favorite books as a child was Where the Wild Things Are, when Max puts the wild things into a trance by saying, "Be still!" When I practice yin yoga, it is my body that has to find stillness. Only then does my mind begin to catch up - not by running ever faster, but by slowing down. I've always described this sensation as a trance. After a week of pacifying the demons, I was hoping to leave them behind.

But they came home with me (they always do). And so I need another strategy. Do we make friends?

Do I let them consume me?

Or, like Kali, the mother of death and destruction, is it time to eat my demons?