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Archive for the ‘meditate’ Category

On an island, I read a poem out loud and discover exactly what I want it to feel like if I fall in love.

I hike narrow & steep trails in falling light with OWL on my back because I promised him a waterfall. We make it back before dark.

I remember unexpectedly touching the lips of a friend days before he moved thousands of miles away, the experience of true a moment where the past dissolved and the future didn’t exist. A feeling that, I now suspect, may exist out there, even for me, in that shaky unknowable someday.

I tell myself it is okay to touch the tiny beautiful things that are offered to me.

I try to remember that betrayal and the willingness to stay open in light of a past that’s been undermined and a future I don’t always trust is the gateway to the present moment. That I am on the threshold.

I bathe my baby in a dish pan set atop a picnic table in the woods next to a lake.

I sit in circles and lines and listen to the breath of friends & strangers — sometimes rapid, sometimes breathless, sometimes wet with tears — and join the chorus where emptiness and form make nobility.

I promise to slow down the constant testing.

I ride my bike for miles.
20.
16.
204
5.
11.
28.
9.
(And learn the value of bike shorts & espresso goo shots.)

I practice functional.noble silence.

I bask in the richness of our friendships. Meals made by human hands. Wine in the park. An unexpected (always invited) house guest. Evenings with babies and late night with mamas. Wheels over trails. Cushions in a row. Late night / early morning messaging.

I learn the words to Little Blue Truck.

I practice transforming the many mishaps.

I write in fits & starts. In fragments with a sense of things that will never see the light of day. A lot of notes, nothing coherent. Journals and notepads and folded sheets of loose leaf paper.

I submit 4 essays and hang out with an empty inbox.

I buy a new dress & plan for a picnic.

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It is a beautiful Spring day, the kind with magic in the drizzle and almost warm air, and listening to the planes and bird songs on the walk to the co-op with the tired OWL-babes in the pack, I felt like superMama. It’s a strength I wish I could crawl inside of right now, as babes naps through the sun break and I sit here instead of cleaning. I suspect though, that it is indeed that strength that allows me to write through this tangle instead of shutting down among the brooms and mops.

Last Friday, I looked different. Like a small worry that had grown too big for itself lifted and dissolved. But the other night I noticed that it is back, and I hardly recognize myself again. The lines in my face, the shape of my cheeks, the definition of my torso and soft curve of my belly. I tried to trace all my lines, follow the turns, the rise and fall of breath inside my chest. I tried to examine the expressions, the places that no one ever sees, so that someone bears witness to all these changes, the shifts in the gravity of love and birth and loss. But I don’t know if I can, if I have the courage to study and stay, to inhabit the compassion I need. Stand like mountain, give like water, shine like the sun.

I find myself dwelling in that place of small mind, the one where I can draw a straight line through all my mistakes and fuck ups to this exact moment and say – “Aha! Of course I am here. It all makes sense and there is no way through or out of this mess!” Every little thing is attached to the storyline of never good enough, never enough. And I mean really, that well appears quite limitless.

The problem is that I cannot start where I am, at this moment in time, from this place. Because all those years of waiting – waiting for things to be okay so that they could get great – are heavy and big and I can’t figure out how or where to set them down. Because all those years of self-restricted forward motion – half steps and big slides back – are like a dam that will not hold, even though small mind is scrambling like mad to plug the holes with guilt and inadequacy and fear. But my heart also knows that the price of waiting, for me, has been non-action, never doing, and not necessarily better or wiser decisions. I’ve learned to let go of (some) outcomes, and trust that the path will provide the opportunities. But can I also let go of the path I see, the path for which I plunged myself into the murky depths of mental illness and worked my ass off to reach?

And didn’t I already start where I was when I stepped out of my skin and onto a cushion in a room full of strangers and committed to wake up, to feel and be present? The thing that’s a bitch, I see now, is that the whole point is that we start we are over and over again. OVER AND OVER. AGAIN. Small mind feels duped. And vast mind is…. on vacation? Hallucinating topographic maps and listening to birds?

I’ll write and clean and sit and wait for its return.

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It seems like forever since I’ve been on here, and I suppose the point of a blog is to actually write often. Well, I have been writing a lot, like all the time, but not posting, which is neglectful of me. But if you lived in my mind, you’d understand the absence.

The new year has already found me giddy with anticipation, distraught over false starts, curled up like a cat for hours reading, lost in my mind for days on end, obsessively checking my email for notifications, and writing page after page of words that will likely never see the light of another day.

I’m in a state of absorption and exploration. A state of getting cozy with my craziness, inviting it to tea and dinner with a tablecloth and 3 courses and dessert and a bubble bath. Observing it as it fans out across the steam. Watch it rise and fall over years in a matter of minutes. I’m learning to be still as the chaos swirls around me. And it is very sad. There are times when I wonder if…. Those are the thoughts I interrupt. Because I have to believe that I can and that I will, even if the time hasn’t come.

Here’s the short of it. I’m finally reading Anne Lamott’s bird by bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and it illuminated quite a few things, connected some dots.

Perfectionism. It stands the way of my everything. Writing. Mothering. Connecting. Now, let’s combine that with Jealousy, the belief that everyone is ultimately better than I am, and that their lives are ultimately better than mine because they are so great and wonderful and their parents loved them right so of course their spouses and children and pets love them too and they engage in meaningful careers or shitty jobs that allow them to live meaningful lives and they have great hair and…. REALLY? Yup. It’s all in there.

So the winter rains illuminate my darkest corners by leaving raindrops on the spider webs that catch the tiny glimpses of light. I see I see I see. But I still don’t know how to change it, how to turn things around, make those connections, find work, get a date that isn’t already dating someone else and eating bagels with her when I show up for lunch with my son, how to be the first in line.

People always ask what I’m writing about, or what I want to write about, and I always come up with some thoughtless rambling answer and they inevitably ask if I blog and I say “yes, but that’s just to get me started and not very serious” (yes you can laugh your ass off at that, please). I leave these conversations feeling even worse than when I started because I should know. I should have some grand answer that is well thought through, has direction and holds the map to my future (remember that future that is right around the corner with so many doors just waiting to open since so many slammed in my face or hit me in the ass as I tried to exit with grace…). But I feel like a child. With questions I don’t know how to ask, hoping that someone will hear the gem in my ramblings, point to it, and I can say “Yes! That’s it! Thank you so much.”

But here’s what occurred to me. I have no idea what I want to write. None. And, that feels good. That’s my insight, that’s what I hear in my ramblings. And that’s the exact answer that was drowned out by my perfectionism and my jealousy. My little Virgo moon is in ecstasy over this, because it can fucking relax for a change. Breath in fresh air. Maybe it can focus on helping me find work now. Here is what I do know. I want to write, and I need to write. Since the 3rd grade this has been of the utmost importance, although along the way I’ve had many occasions to doubt it, to bail on it, to start and stop, to hide it and share it. And the fact that I want to write and need to write is what really matters. And I do it everyday. The subjects, Lamott’s book has assured me, will emerge from the act of writing. The characters and genres and subjects will reveal themselves. All I can do in the meantime is sit down everyday and write and type.

And my meditation practice is a big part of seeing this. Of finding this place. Of listening and observing and exploring. Which brings me to the second reason I’m hibernating with books.

(a day when it was fun work)

On February 6th, I’m taking my refuge vow. I don’t have words for this right now, at least not tonight. Because I decided to apply for grad school with less than 2 weeks until the application is due, and I’ve moved from this cozy one woman party to full on mental illness over this pursuit. So I’m writing shitty first draft after shitty first draft for my statement of interest essay (13 handwritten pages to 2 typed to 4 typed to a restart with 6 handwritten pages to 4 typed), day in and day out.

I am exhausted. And depressed. And a little worried that I may actually be crazy and destined to occupy these empty rooms for lifetimes. Because even though I managed to leave the house for a spell tonight and have a great dinner with a beautiful friend and her sweet son, I came home and went back to work and still feel like there is nothing to show for the 6-1/2 hours of writing I did today.

So it is off to cold sheets and an early alarm so I can begin again bright and early, before the light of the sun.

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(mountain-eagle-warrior-flying)
(into 2011)

I have not been writing.

It is December, and I think something like this happens every time this year. There is a still quiet, a silent revolution of words and ideas rumbling around with no exit, and no desire to go anywhere. I write beautiful things in my head then quickly scribble flattened words after hours of procrastination and fall asleep.

My mind turns over this year, my first year, and I see it was characterized by loss and the depth of my experience of what was lost. How I leaned in to its sharpness, the cold metallic feel of its reality, the emptiness of bed and home and speech. How I sat and sat and sat again in practice, letting the tears and aches have their place and days.

My mind wanders over the people who filled this time of darkness with the most delicious richness and texture – OWL’s warm nuzzle under my arm and his sweet sing-songs from the back seat of the car, the warmth of mittens knitted by a new mama’s hands and the cooing and laughter of her foxy little babes as we talk-cook-sit-listen, tree-shaded walks through rabbit holes with wounded animals and talks and coffees with the children running ahead or lagging behind, the rise and fall of a lover’s body next to mine in sleep, the soft coat of the cat against my bare leg, acoustic guitars melodically joining teenage voices and hand-crafted gift tags, the growing bellies of mamas-to-be, falling asleep on a boat in the May heat of Florida and hot spring swims, the ballet and dinner, late night phone calls full of tears and laughs and love….

The freeze up of loss and loneliness is not so solid after all. The lake is full of the cracks and fissures of a continuing life, a current below the surface. A slow and steady breeze winding through the constriction picks up speed.

Open-eyed in yoga, I move through mountain to eagle to warrior 3 to standing split with my hands wrapped around my ankle, finger tips gently tap and sweep the floor with grace to regain balance as I laugh out loud. My heart  fills with green grass and a sky painted golden and pink by the rising sun, a light blue sweater tossed off to the side. A lotus blooms in the mud as the sun warms my face and arm through the southern windows. I see and feel and know the openness of the coming year, and greet that mystery with curiosity. With a smile that knows the transformative power of the eagle, and that starting fresh is not the same as starting from scratch.

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NOVEMBER 11th

Time moves slow.  The ache of the heart a long slow cracking after the initial break.  Thousands of aftershocks that travel across a year, add months, count the days.  New mistakes stream in and stretch out inside the ravines, touch the canyon walls, and flow on top of the scars.

Take stock of the present.  Orange lamp hangs overhead and casts its familiar glow on the pillow and couch, on my fingers as they move over keys and trace lines in my journal.  Silent apartment, save the passing the planes and occasional scuffing of boots on the sidewalk or wheels turning over wet leaves.  Yesterday’s breakfast pan soaks in the sink.  A cold beer on the windowsill.

From my ledge I see other people in the open sky.  The vast space around them as they touch hands, unwrap gifts from tissue paper, smile in ways that communicate the complexity of joy and sadness and living.  I see what I hoped for in my life and my family and my love, and know that it didn’t complete me the way I thought it would, the way I wanted and needed, because I wouldn’t let myself be whole.  I cannot imagine building a new life, although I know I’m doing it everyday.  Dish by dish, word by word, moment to moment.

2010 harvest moon photographed by chris updegrave

Notice that my body marks its own time, with signals that fall outside the calendar of dates and anniversaries.  Another harvest moon rises and pins me to the spot, to the moment.  Memories stored in the quality of light, released by the Fall chill settling in the air.  The memory of organs swell the body.  The well of sadness opened by the senses and the body’s recollections.  But this time there is a quiet joy marching alongside.  It’s new and weak at times, but gaining strength and momentum.  I stand on this edge and my lungs clench.  I see the size of my wounds, so long in the making and don’t know if I can cross to the other shore.  If the scars can soften and stretch and let in the light and air.  I hear another bottle break on the sidewalk outside through the closed window and know there will be something to clean up in the morning.

Time moves fast.  OWL’s growth, so ordinary and so exceptional, impossible to track.  Loose notes on the calendars waiting to be transcribed into a baby book.  The feel of those moments so vivid at the time hardly seem describable now.  Watch as baby C, now 4 months old, gorillas sits with his fists on the floor as he slumps forward, and marvel as he pops up.

NOVEMBER 7th

In the morning after a previously amazing day and an evening spent writing in tears, I lay across my bed and mark what is right.  What is going well.  A two page list in columns, turquoise ink.

OWL is healthy.
He talks & talks & signs.
Trots around with little stroller.
Sleeps clutching books like The Secret Life of Plants and Crime & Punishment.
We have heat.
The cat snuggled me through last night’s sadness.
I can read.
I have a practice.
I write.
I walk and run, and sometimes cartwheel.
OWL stomps through puddles in frog rain boots.
OWL & baby A hold hands.
He kicks a ball.
I laugh, cry & feel.
Sweep the floors that ground us.
Cook the food that nourishes us.
We ride buses.
Have teeth to brush.
Bodies to wash.

On the cushion later that morning, the sangha shoulder to shoulder in staggered rows, I open without cracking.  I carry myself back up to that eye-level view of Mt Rainier, and sense my presence among the other mountains, my icy peaks rising above the blankets of green.  The sky passes and mingles, the clouds appear and dissipate.  And I think, I could do this anywhere.  On my feet.  In a courtroom.  At breakfast.  I can be this mountain among mountains anytime.  Struck by the sheer confidence of the open sky.

By nightfall, I slip back down.  Self-arresting, I land not at the bottom, but catch myself in a point of utter aloneness that is sad but not sorry.  It carries me a ways outside the room.  To a place without walls.  All I want is OWL in my arms, in this room, among these friends.  Wait anxiously as the openness battles the rising fear of seeing the ex in the coming exchange.  The fear of directly seeing the embodiments of my failures and success from the open sky where my heart beats raw and tender.  I feel exposed by the moment where everyone around me seems transformed and held by something that I’m not even sure I get.  I feel quiet.  OWL arrives and my world tumbles together and in to pieces all at once.

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It’s been a day.  A good one, mind you.  But short short short naps.  Wailing, screaming, pillow-over-the-rail-of-the-crib tantrums & tears.  At least 47 minutes of it, from when I started tracking the time.  And this surprising rage welling up from somewhere deep inside me.  Mind travels a million miles an hour over that talk that I must have immediately with his father, who, I think, should maybe even come and pick him up for the night.  Because if OWL had a bed over there, if he napped OWL when he was supposed to nap and didn’t feed him to sleep and so on….  Well, my little prince would be sleeping soundly on his own.  All bullshit, I know.  At least 93% of it.  Truth is, I was unable to maintain our boundaries around sleep.  I chose comforting the achey mouth with 4 new teeth and molars pushing the pink gums to white and the runny nose.  In my bed.  Instead of letting him cry it out.  Alone.  In the dark.  In the walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom with no window or heater (not that my heat is on either).

All struggle.  Can’t get a word in edgewise.  No calming.  My requests for him to lay down so I can rub his quivering back unheard.  Rage seeping up from top of my rib cage and the bottom of my lungs.  And I look and see this glow in the dark skeleton, with an enormous head in proportion to its green glowing bones, throwing fits and weaving and stomping.  Laugh and cry, hand over mouth.  Another example of farce disguised as tragedy, although in my laughter I still feel the seething rage.  That forever feeling saying I cannot handle these moments.  The humor and anger holding the space, each looking at the other.  Not competing, but not giving way either.  Each holds its presence.

Meditate my way through the anger.  Put on water to boil and steep the tea.  Light evening blessing incense, thinking that the night could use any sort of offering.  And I sit.  The rage emerges so strong it burns and radiates from my chest.  Like throwing a rock through a window.  But only for a moment, and it quickly dissolves into a sadness.  A deep sobbing sadness that reaches back through the years, the decades even, and finds me as a frightened child.  An unworthy daughter.  An untrustworthy friend.  A never-to-be artist.  An unloveable lover.  An average student.  A failed wife.  A struggling single mama.  This moment so alive and far-reaching.

I desperately need to do my homework, which I’ve been trying to do all weekend.  A last-minute drop opened my wait list space in a UW program – great news.  But I missed the first class, and I have that wrong side of the bed feeling about that.  Quite a task just getting the books that evening, hauling a sleepy OWL out in the cold in the big stroller after dinner.  Next night he won’t sleep until I lay down with him, lights off, my book away.  Mr. Short naps these past 3 days.  No time no time no time.

In sitting, this is what I see.  This program is the first thing I am doing for me, just me, in a very long time.  It’s new.  Going through with it, I am committing to the discipline of learning, to working on my work.  Honing my craft that means so much to me I spent years ignoring it out of fear.  Not just first thought best thought not good enough stop trying.  I’m stepping out of my OWL bubble and in to a world where there are – imagine this – people.  Which means opening myself up to who knows what.  Our world treats the homeless shopping cart radio man the same way we treat our friends and the co-op employees we see everyday.  OWL embraces each leaf and rock and tree stump and utility vault cover as spectacular.  He babbles and I endlessly explain the world.  The difference between trees and bushes.  Why we don’t run in the street.  He makes his own version of signs for meat, butterfly, cracker, cookie, and juice.  I reinforce with praise, and make the sign properly but without correcting him.  It is so sweet, so humbling, so tender a place to inhabit.  But in my recent glimpses of the so-called real world, I experienced such hostility.  Degrading chatter disguised as humor.  Possessive body language slamming the doors of connection.  And now I see my task ahead.  To carry out the simplicity of knocking letter magnets off the refrigerator.  Maintain that openness.  Hold the space for the tantrums and wonder.  Remain awake.

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