Archive for the ‘practice’ Category

It is late considering how early I have to be up and out tomorrow, considering that OWL didn’t feel well at bedtime and what the night holds is unknowable. And yet, here I am with a freshly carved potato stamp transcribing lines from Adrienne Rich poems onto pieces of paper and discovering that intimacy is derived from the same root as intestine, trying to remember my most true self, to locate those pieces that were misplaced along the way, the ones that splintered and marched off at age three, five, eight, fifteen. Do I only flow in one direction, or in many?

I sat for 10 minutes, staring at the thing I will offer up tomorrow when I take the Bodhisattva Vow, the thing I will let go of, the thing that stands between me and my ability to see what is. Specks of gold glimmered in the candlelight. Its heft was visible and I realized that it could not be folded as I’d hoped to do. I will have to present it as is, not made into a generic shape that can hide its interior.

Khyung Nyi-ö feels so foreign and yet familiar. Too big and yet tailored to my shifting body.


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My essay In Falling is published here, through the Shambhala Publications 35<35 project, personal essays from Buddhist practitioners under the age of 35.


PS’s & dedications:

*so so so much gratitude to the lovely Ms. Meredith Arena for loving me through this madness

*loves to my sister Cindy for listening out loud at the EXACT right moment

*congrats to my brother Chris for the courage to share and be himself in the world

*and always to OWL, for saving & enriching my life

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Breathing into the sidewaist, outstretched, shoulders back, all I want to do is draw boundaries around everything. First I just want to cordon off my roads, then obscure all passes. Obliterate my landscape. Rest deep inside the numbness, unseen. Unknown.

I want to unmake the map.

Instead, I uncover some unhealed pieces. Through these sides that surround my core, I feel armor chip off.

“I lost my warrior,” I admit in yoga class. “I had it for years, and now it’s gone.”

“It’s not gone,” AP assures me, “you’re warrior’s probably in transition.” She looks at the other women in the room and asks if anyone else has gone through this. You start practice and it’s a challenging pose. Then you really find it, and it’s easy. Then it transitions and it’s challenging again. They all nod, some laugh gently.

If you’ve ever been divorced, or became any type of parent, or lost your job in a fucked economy or your house, maybe you’ve had the experience of thinking transition is total bullshit, a lie people tell you so you’ll just buck up, or to alleviate their own fears. Or it feels like a false promise you fall for again and again. Or maybe that’s just my view on this particular day of this particular month.

But I work with it in these untouched sides of my body. I let my teacher readjust my heel, the length of my stance, my hip points. I flow through the movements as if they can erase lines, erase meanings, make me visible. I wonder what it is like to feel beautiful. I think about miles and cannot remember the route I walked home yesterday or exactly where Vermont is on a map.

I wonder who I am really trying to protect, OWL or me?

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Walking with lightness across the past week, down sweet avenues of promise.

Fall asleep to the heartbreak of harshness, how we diminish and mistrust ourselves so deeply, how we salt our wounds at every turn. How we can love anyone but ourselves.

Awake in the courageousness of my heart, aware that I am good enough to be the mama I’ve become, the mama OWL needs. Aware that in this moment, perhaps that’s all there is, and that is enough. I awake aware that the unwavering presence of goodness that is so hard to touch still resides inside, and I am grateful that the week has illuminated it so vividly. But there is more work to do, always more do to.

And so it is just not time. Not for this.

With breakfast tea in hand, discover this quote, posted by the dear Mrs. Marit:

LOVE: when your energetic heart expands out of your body so far it explodes joy and color all over the world around you in such a way that all your beauty is reflected back at you. then your spirit says ‘Ahhh… that’s the purpose.’*

And so it goes, a cross town train and latitudes, into laughter and forgetting.

Regard all dharmas as dreams. Flip a card. Abandon all hope of fruition. Shuffle. Be grateful to everyone. Shuffle. Begin the sequence of sending and taking with yourself. 

(*from a Mountain Sage Medicine postcard picked up at Mother’s Market Pace in Hood River, OR)

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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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I light incense on the shrine in gratitude of these recent experiences and chose a lotus stick as a reminder of non-attachment, to reconnect with my Thursday yoga practice where it unfolded again and again in my heart space, rising pink and cream from the mud. Then without even a tiny bow I promptly retreat to the kitchen where I don’t have to see it or think about it or breathe it in. I chop the drained tofu as the zucchini simmers in butter. The lingering touch of kissed lips held for days fades quickly. I dig out a leftover red onion wedge, slice it and add it to the pan.

Funny how openness applies to the potential of beginnings but not to the possibilities of a short life, the arrival of an ending.

I add the sauce and tofu, stir and season, set the lid in place and reduce the heat, and walk into the living room, the air heavy with the scent of my life in motion. OWL quietly watches the PBS NewsHour from his mushroom perch at the foot of the couch, giggles at me and nods his head as I walk by. A small smile cracks in my tightness. The sweetness of sadness without a storyline, the joy of OWL’s happily crinkled nose, of coming back to the simmering food on the stove, the rising smoke of the lotus. The sweetness of Practice.

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