Monthly Archives: September, 2010

Off to See the Wizard!

Well, I’m just about ready to head out to my cataract surgery.  My friend Blythe will be here in about 15 minutes and then the adventure begins.  I did discover that it is significantly darker at 5AM, when I showered this morning, than it is at 6AM.  However, I showered under a panoply of stars with the moon peeking through the trees and that was pretty fantastic!  It has been ages since I’ve seen the stars since until recently, I both went to bed and got up during daylight hours.  Anyway, today I will get my questions about the surgery answered, have the surgery, and return home.  I shall post again when I’m able to let folks know how it all went, but I’m sure it will be great.  Just being able to see out of my left eye will seem like a true miracle.  Have a great day!

Balance

This morning as I was showering in the dark (outside) and doing (or attempting to do) tree pose and eagle pose, I thought a lot about balance (which I didn’t seem to have!).  I’d noted in a post a few days ago that when I attempted these poses in my shower in the dark, poses which I’ve been doing easily in the shower in daylight, I ran into real difficulties but that I didn’t know if those were because it was harder to spot or because it was just a non-balancing kind of a day.  Well, after three days of this I can confirm that I have a new challenge, balancing when I can’t see the fence post clearly.  I have no trouble with these poses even with dimmed light inside, so it has to be the darkness.  This would also explain why the elderly especially have more balance issues, falls, at night.  So I think this is definitely something I want to be able to do.

But the issues of physical balance also got me thinking about balance in general.  And I realize that if I can stay present in the moment, if I can focus on mindfulness, that it is much easier to maintain my balance when life throws the inevitable curve balls.  I am new to the concept of being present and I have  a lot to learn, but that is what meditation and yoga are helping me with.  The present is all any of us have, after all.  The past, for better or worse, is cut in stone and can’t be changed.  The future is yet to be written and I have no guarantees about it at any level.  But I have this present moment and if I can learn to practice mindfulness and staying fully present in the moment, I will have a lot!  Staying focused on the moment will help my emotional and spiritual balance just as focusing on my fence post helps my physical balance.

Labeling

As I was getting my second cup of tea (Dragonwell Superior Green) and thinking about my day I heard my mind saying that I am not really a morning person.  I stopped short on that one and rethought it.  I’ve always labeled myself as not a morning person but lately I’ve found a fair amount of pleasure in getting up at 5AM and starting my day more slowly.  That got me thinking about both change and how easy it is to label and categorize everything.  I may not have been keen on early morning rising in the past, but maybe I’ve changed.  Or maybe what I like now is that I know I have this time to myself.  I keep the house quiet (as I no longer feel I have to have my stereo, iPod, tv/dvd, whatever on constantly).  I move at my own rhythm and get things done (or not done) in whatever order makes sense to me.  

In any case, whether or not I’m a morning person isn’t really the issue.  What matters is how quickly I was ready to label myself, to slide myself into a narrow box, and how quickly I do that with life in general.  We all know that labeling is “bad,” when it is done without thought, or knowledge, or respect.  But I suspect a certain amount of labeling is also necessary for survival at various levels.  So as is true of most things, the motive behind the labeling is what matters.  Do I limit myself unnecessarily by saying I’m not a morning person?  Yes!  Does this limit my ability to try new things?  Probably yes also!  Is this a way of keeping myself closed off from life?  Again, probably yes!  So I shall just try to be aware of when I tell myself things that begin with “You are not . . .,” or “You always . . .,” or “You never . . .,” as absolute statements are rarely true and rarely helpful.  Have a great day!

Showering in the Dark

I was in the mood for a slightly different routine this morning.  The pets were all blissfully quiet–Poosa and Thackeray being the only ones to “help” me get out of bed and they settled back down to sleep, and the others were not yet awake, so I started with my morning meditation and yoga.  While I was doing my yoga I wondered what it would be like to shower in the dark (since it was 6AM and the sun doesn’t rise now until 7:12AM).  I decided it would be fun to try so out I went (with Poosa, of course).  It was absolutely delightful!  Thanks to my purple boardwalk I was safe and could see my way out to the shower.  I got to play a variant on the old game Name that Tune with Name that shower gel (and I got them both–Divine Calm which has a strong lavender scent for my first choice to use with my scruffy sponge, and Strawberry as my second selection with my poofy applicator, but then those are easy scents to id).  It was also raining gently, which made the experience just that much nicer, in my opinion.  I did find that my balance was off when I did Tree Pose and Eagle Pose–I don’t know if that was because of the darkness, although I could see the fence post I use for spotting, or if my balance just isn’t as strong today, but time will tell.  But I figured since Thursday I will have to be showering in the dark (as Blythe will be picking me up at 6:30 for my cataract surgery), it would be good to try it out on a day when I had nothing on so if there were any glitches to iron out I could solve them before Thursday.  But it all worked perfectly and it gives me a variant to my morning routine, which is always nice.

I then thought back to how much has changed for me lately, primarily because I’ve allowed change in.  There was a comment on one of the blogs I follow (The Rambling Taoist) about how we are all attached to our beliefs and this attachment stops us many times from taking a different look at the world.  The writer said: When we become attached to particular ideas, concepts, objects and people, we neglect others. Some are given favored status, while others are eschewed. We overlook the opportunities presented to us because we focus too exclusively on what we already have.  I realized how very true this is and how limiting.  My daughter once said that I had to have things my way and didn’t really see other perspectives.  Well, I think at some levels she was quite correct.  I used to criticize, for instance, those who said they needed lots of time to get up and going in the morning.  This was at a time in my life where I could be up and out the door in 15 minutes (which now I find mind-boggling that I was even capable of that!).  It seemed to me that those who required more time were just disorganized or had strange priorities, etc.

But now, I’m finding that in the first place there is no advantage and in fact many disadvantages to trying to move at mach speeds all the time.  I’m finding that for me, getting up earlier so I have more time for a gentler start to the day makes a lot more sense.  And of course I knew nothing about things like Body Butter, and if I had I would have said they were silly and weak.  But now, being able to enjoy healing my dry skin and myself with the liberal use of body butter, and at the same time enjoy the lovely scents and to accomplish some yoga poses which I can’t quite get to normally but which I can manage with slippery skin, that all seems to be a very good thing.  To be able to take time to savor a new flavor of tea (my friend Mary introduced me to a variety of new types of tea the other day and now I’m having my first cup of Ancient Pu Erh, a black tea which is grown in a cave, and it is very nice and very different) as I type a blog post or read an e-mail, etc. seems a very good thing as well.

I’m realizing that being open to new experiences and being willing, as the blog writer went on to say, to be inclusive and not exclusive, is a liberating and freeing concept.  I am now trying things which I would never have dreamed I’d be trying.  I’m exploring in little and bigger ways, being willing to discover whether or not something works for me.  And even if it doesn’t happen to be something that “floats my boat,” being willing to see that it could very well be something that would be wonderful for someone else.  And so, showering in the dark, outside, in the rain, was a fantastic way to start this day!

Clarissa’s School

One day Clarissa was out working in her garden when she saw two dragons approaching, a mom and her teenage daughter.  Clarissa realized that her mountain home had been discovered and she wasn’t sure if she was pleased by this or not.  The mom was quick to apologize for their intrusion, but she had a favor to ask of Clarissa.  The mom quickly continued to say that the dragon community wasn’t the same since Clarissa had left.  Of course, most of the dragons were happy to see her gone as she’d never fit in as a proper dragon, whatever that was.  But in fact, the younger dragons, especially those who were already being bullied, were very unhappy with her departure.  The mom asked if Clarissa would be willing to mentor some of these younger dragons, to help them find their own path, so that maybe they wouldn’t also have to feel they had to leave the community.

Clarissa was touched by the mom’s appeal and asked if she might have some time to consider the request.  Clarissa then turned to the daughter, who was a lovely lavender dragon, and asked her what she wanted.  The daughter, Allysa, replied that she was having a hard time in school because she just didn’t get math and her teachers all said she was dumb because math was so easy for dragons, and she just hated it.  This made Clarissa angry!  She remembered how she herself had been treated as a child and immediately her heart told her that as much as she enjoyed her isolation and having her own home away from everyone else, that at that same time, she was an excellent teacher and she needed to do what she could to try to ensure that other dragons didn’t suffer as she had.

And so Clarissa decided that she would do her best to help.  She told Allysa that she would become her teacher and that if Allysa wished she could study with her in exchange for helping in the garden.  Clarissa went on to tell Allysa’s mom that she would open a small school, which would be run as an independent study school for dragons needing a more individualized form of instruction.  The students could do chores and run errands for Clarissa as their tuition.  Classes would be held from 10-2 three days/week as a starting point.  The students would continue to live in the dragon community with their families and the families would have to agree to this change and the parents would be expected to provide a supportive environment.

Allysa and her mom thanked Clarissa and headed back to the dragon community.  Clarissa then sat down, shaking, and wondering what she had gotten herself into!  But as she sat quietly, listening to her heart, she realized that the decision was a good one.  She’d suffered and she’d had to work very hard to find her path, and now, it was time for her to provide an alternate roll model for young dragons who were finding that the traditional path didn’t work for them either.  Clarissa realized she needed to walk her talk–she honored diversity and differences and found that all creatures deserved love and compassion and now she had a chance to show that by her actions.  Egads, she realized as she sat there, “It is Friday which means I only have the weekend to get ready before my new school starts!  I’d better finish in my garden and get to work!  What should I prepare for my first lessons?  How many students would show up?”  It was frightening but also exciting!

How I Start My Day

I just read one of my blog feeds about how the author starts his day (Zen Habits) and it got me thinking since I too have just changed my morning routine.  I liked what the author suggested about sitting, reading, and then writing, and I may try it, but for the moment, my morning routine has changed to something which is also gentler than what I used to do, but more random.  For more years than I can remember, I simply dreaded getting up in the morning and I had a large span of time where just the fact that I was awake was a source of depression.  However, I’ve changed and so has my life, so that my days are for the most part full of wonderful adventures.  Still, the getting out of bed part was the last demon to be conquered.  I used to wait until the last possible moment and then I’d end up rushing and hurrying and feeling really stressed.  I also had pets to deal with–lovely pets, but first thing in the morning having Poosa’s paw in my face and Thackeray meowing and demanding attention, and Laoise’s gentler insistence on her right to petting all just made me crazy.  So now, I’m actually setting an alarm (a lovely Zen alarm that just emits a single gong), and I’ve moved the time back (up?) to 5:45AM, so it is still dark (but then before we know it, it will be dark at 8AM so I’ll just be used to it!).  Poosa no longer sleeps on my bed, which is a plus in a variety of ways as her 37lbs of Cocker body was always across the middle of the bed leaving very little room for me!  For whatever reason, she also does not like dinging sounds, gongs included, so when the alarm goes off, she just scampers off to the living room (she doesn’t like the timer on my steamer either, etc).  Thackeray is still there and Laoise as well, but they are smaller and easier to attend to, and I have two hands so I can pet two, but the third was the challenge.  Lest you worry about Poosa, she gets lots of loving once I’m vertical.  

Anyway, I find that I’m more willing to get up this way, especially knowing that even on days where I have a 9AM appointment, I still have a couple hours of my own to putter around, read blog feeds, read my e-mail, write a blog post if I choose, have my tea (Exquisite Oolong this morning), and watch the sun rise.  At my own rhythm, I then do my meditation (15 min.) and my yoga (10-15 min) before heading out to my shower (where I do shower yoga).  I have plenty of time then (usually) for my “body butter yoga” and dressing for the day.  It seems, for me, at least, that it is all about choice and not having to rush.  If I am willing to get up earlier, and that does, surprisingly seem to be working for me, I can have enough space to choose my activities, to take my time doing what I want and still allow enough time for me to do what I need to do (tending the pets for instance) without raising my stress levels.  Gentleness and going with the flow are extremely powerful, I’ve found.  And with that thought, I shall end this post so that I can continue gently through my day and not end up rushing because I dawdled for too long (that also happens, of course!).  Namaste!

Clarissa’s Dream

Clarissa had a wonderful dream in which a goddess dragon spoke to her and said that she would grant Clarissa anything she wanted, she would change Clarissa’s life instantly into whatever Clarissa chose.  Wow!  Clarissa was overwhelmed with having a goddess speak to her and the thought of having her wishes fulfilled seemed at first to be perfect.  But then Clarissa remembered the Buddha saying that it is better to journey well than to arrive.  And she thought about all she had learned and how much she had grown, especially since she’d moved to her mountain.  Clarissa quickly realized that even though she wasn’t the most patient of dragons and she really liked overnight deliveries, etc. that nevertheless the journey was more important than the destination.  So Clarissa thanked the goddess dragon very carefully and tactfully, explaining that she thought her life was working just fine overall now and that she might miss out on some of the lessons she needed to learn if she just jumped ahead.  She also has realized that what she thinks she wants isn’t necessarily what she really wants and it takes time to learn that as well.  The old adage be careful what you wish for is very apt.  But Clarissa also hated turning down such a generous offer and so she also plucked up her courage and asked the goddess if this was a one time offer only or if there was a way to contact the goddess later on if she changed her mind.  The goddess dragon smiled and told Clarissa that she lived in Clarissa’s heart and soul, that Clarissa had always had the power to access her and always would.  Clarissa just needed to listen to her heart and she could call on the goddess at any time.  The goddess added that Clarissa’s choice was already one she had made from her own heart and that it was a very good choice indeed.  Clarissa realized the truth of the goddess’s words and held them in her heart.

In a Land Far Away

In a land far away there lives a lovely purple dragon named Clarissa.  She lives in a warm snug cave on the side of a tall mountain overlooking an azure blue lake.  Clarissa is friends with all the surrounding wildlife and they know she will protect them against any marauding humans or dragons who venture into this remote land.  Did I mention that Clarissa is rather unusual in the dragon kingdom for a number of reasons, primarily because she is vegan.  She has her own garden and she just loves beets and Brussels sprouts!

Clarissa’s life has not always been as pleasant as it now is.  For much of her life, Clarissa tried living with other dragons in the neighboring dragon kingdom, and she really did her best to follow the rules and do what she was supposed to.  She believed her elders who told her that she was stupid and ugly and clumsy, that she had no talents of any kind and hence that she could only survive by working harder than anyone, always struggling to do more, try harder than everyone else.  She lived her life with lots of negativity–being told that she couldn’t draw, she couldn’t write, she couldn’t make music, she couldn’t do this and couldn’t do that.

Having grown up with all these negative beliefs, she thought that was the Truth, whatever that meant, and she began imposing her own set of what she couldn’t do on herself as well.  Soon she was really burdened down and her world lost its color.  Clarissa realized that she would not survive if she continued to live like this, so one day, Clarissa packed up her belongings, slung them across her back, and took off on a long flight.  Oh, she knew all the other dragons were laughing at her because she wasn’t the best flier and she lacked endurance, speed, and height, but she didn’t care.  Anything was better than staying where she was.


That was the day that changed Clarissa’s life.  She found “her” mountain, as she called it, and on that mountain, not to far up, she found a lovely cave which was just the right size for her.  She set about making that cave a home that reflected who she really was and as she worked on her cave she discovered lots about herself.  She discovered that in fact she could do lots of things!  She discovered that life is good and that she can enjoy it, that she can make friends and that she is also ok on her own.  She likes her own company.  She now plays her wooden recorder and the nearby animals enjoy her music.  She has found the beauty in silence, discovering that she can sleep in the blissful quiet without having to have the snores and “music” of other dragons.  She has discovered her own art, different from anyone else’s, unique, and joyful.  Color has come back into Clarissa’s life and that is a very good thing indeed.

A Little Girl is Growing Up!

This is the story of a young girl who was raised in a highly critical environment where she was constantly told what was wrong with her and what she couldn’t do.  She survived by developing her not inconsiderable intellect, so her academic nature bloomed and developed, but unfortunately her heart and soul did not mature.  She nursed the dream of one day becoming a mother herself where she would nurture her offspring, and to this end she married (the wrong guy, but the first job offer to come along) and eventually had two lovely children whom she raised with all the knowledge she had, along with heaping helpings of love and nurture.  Of course, she made lots of mistakes, but then all parents do.  And of course, her children had their own agendas–none of us comes into this world as a blank slate, and their own work to do, but nevertheless when both children became adults they had to make heart-wrenching breaks.  She has learned that this is very common in close-knit families when the children reach adulthood and need to individuate and find themselves, but at the times of the breaks she was only horribly wounded because she still hadn’t grown up emotionally–emotionally she was still very much a little girl herself.

And this little girl was convinced that if she just had a “normal” family, whatever that was, she would finally be happy.  In the meantime, she moved herself to a lovely island, a small liberal rural community and here she began at long last to grow and mature as a full person, to get out of her head and to start listening to her heart, to discover who she really is.  No longer was she striving to be what others wanted or what she thought others wanted.  Instead, she was finally giving herself permission just to be who she is, whatever that might mean.  

The son was married and once he was “settled” in his own situation, he decided to start writing his mother.  This pleased the girl who was now starting to mature and find herself as an adult on more than just the intellectual plane.  The son and his wife had a beautiful daughter and the girl thought, “Ah, now my dreams of family and being together may finally come to pass.”  You can see she still has a lot of growing up to do!  She does now get visits twice/year from her son, his wife, and the lovely granddaughter, which she really appreciates.  But for awhile, part of her felt the world was not just as the wife’s parents spent lots more time with the granddaughter, doing all the things the girl had always dreamed of doing.

But finally, the light bulbs started going off!  The little girl took some major leaps in her emotional and spiritual development (high time, you say and I’d agree!).  She had learned lots about herself, including her fundamental nature as an individualist, an artist, and an introvert.  She’d learned that there was nothing wrong with her–she is just fine just the way she is–not perfect, but then no one is and those who strive for perfection are only doomed to failure.  She also started looking at her life-long dreams only to realize that if she actually got what she had always thought she wanted, she wouldn’t be able to handle it and it wouldn’t suit her now at all.

Of course, she still has a strong family sense and a very strong maternal/grandmotherly drive!  But those need to be put into an appropriate context for her nature and her health.  She realizes now that the granddaughter is extremely fortunate to have the wife’s parents to do what she herself always thought she’d do, but which in reality, wouldn’t work for her, at least at this point in time.  Meanwhile, receiving her son’s monthly letters, which have grown in depth and details, is an incredible gift which she treasures beyond price.  She is also able to get some “real time” moments with them through her son’s Twitter posts, which she hopes he is ok with her following (she would stop if he asks).  And while she would rather have more visits, say quarterly, still, an afternoon visit with lunch and time to play with the granddaughter is just perfect–enough but not too much contact, and she is now able to respect both her needs and theirs in this regard.

The girl (dare we call her a woman now?  I think so) still misses her daughter horribly and wishes that she could have some sort of direct contact with her.  She does write her daughter every month now and sends the letters and small gifts through another person, and she has recently found a brochure describing an orchestra that her daughter has founded, is the artistic director of, and the conductor for, and having this information and knowing where her daughter is located has helped enormously.  She even has a current photo, and for now the woman is content.  Again, she would love to have more of a relationship, but she is realizing here as well as with her son and his family, the relationships that would suit her best are not the same as what her friends have with their families.  And why should they be?  She is unique (as are we all), and so what works for her wouldn’t for work for someone else, and vice versa.

The woman is maturing emotionally and spiritually as well, following her own path, exploring yoga and Daoism, staying true to herself.  Her maternal and grandmotherly drives are nourished with her quilting, her tutoring, and her scholarship fund.  As an introvert, she watches carefully how much time she spends with others, realizing that even a few hours can drain her energy levels, and she is being much more respectful of her body’s needs.  In addition, her medical condition (Hashimoto’s Thyroid Auto-Immune Disease) causes her energy levels as well as her mood levels to fluctuate radically, and so she has learned to respect this and to “go with the flow,” without pushing herself.

The woman finally realizes that it pays to take a good look at what she thinks she needs to be happy and to evaluate that frequently, checking in with who she really is and what her heart says.  She is learning to listen to her heart, to take the time to check in with her feelings, to see what is working for her (which is now really a lot!) and what might not be working (actually very little), and above all to honor her instincts.  That little girl will always be a part of her, and she has learned to listen to that little girl and not abandon herself.  The woman still has a lot of maturing to do, but then isn’t that called life?  She knows that she alone has to find her own path and as Joseph Campbell has said so eloquently, to Follow Her Bliss!  As she is able to do that, the doors will continue to open!  Namaste!

Thoughts Generated by a post from The Soul Sanctuary

The stronger the belief you possess,
the more you waste your energy to keep it intact;
and the more you are blinded from what is.

The less you cling to one,
the more carefree you become;
the more wonders you can discover from life.

Have none;
only Bliss remains.
I just read this post as I sip my first cup of tea (Farmer’s Choice Oolong), and it certainly resonated with me so I thought I’d share it.  It is from one of my favorite blogs: The Soul Sanctuary.  It struck me that we tend to hold tightest to our beliefs when we are living in fear.  At least this has been the case for me–whenever I’ve been terrified of something happening or more often someone I love being hurt, I would hold rigidly to beliefs which in the end were either irrelevant, wrong, or even hurtful.  I’ve lived most of my life in fear, as is true for much of our culture, and the news is full of horrible stories of those who cling radically to their beliefs–clinging to the notion that they have the “right” answer, the “real truth” and anyone disagreeing with them needs to be eliminated/changed, etc.  But as the writer of this powerful post states, the less we cling to a belief or beliefs, the more wonders we can discover from life.  So I shall go through this day with an open heart, open to whatever possibilities come my way, beginning with my meditation and yoga and a lovely shower in the rain and heavy fog!  What could be better than that?