Tag Archives: meditation

Water, Words, & Grief

The simple sentences from these grieving parents touched me like poems. From The Daily 360° from nytimes.com

Miguel:
I’ve had a lot of problems
on the water and the land.
I recently lost my daughters…
I used to think only of fish when I came out here.
Now I see my daughter’s faces in the water.

Juana:
This beach is my home.
I leave my problems in the sea.
I watch my husband fish
and we support each other to leave everything behind.
I focus on my work and it relaxes me.
I’ll never leave this beach
because I forget about my problems here.

Miguel:
I live for the water
and I try to move forward.
There is no other way.

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos

 

 

A New Year Dawns

I’ve been grumpy about the unseasonably warm weather – over 70° leading up to Christmas just didn’t feel right. But heading into the end of the year, Voila! And it’s so crispy cold that the bay has frozen.

There is a beauty to the frosted morning, a certain chilled pink and blue glaze over lawns and hills. White clouds lift from chimneys like weightless cotton candy. I don’t think of the water as noisy, but the hush when the bay freezes is palpable.

I love winter. It has it’s place in the cycle of life, for hibernation, rest, reflection. It’s a time of meditation, reading and stirring a cauldron full of veggies to warm the belly. For a cat in the lap. For contemplation and planning, for reviewing and resolving to move ahead.

skatersWelcome, winter. Thanks to the Solstice we know your time is limited. I will enjoy you while you’re here.

My Horoscope this week

from Rob Brezhny, Author of Pronoia and by far my favorite weekly enewsletter. Every week I am inspired, entertained and uplifted, and challenged to think much much bigger than my daily grumpiness will reduce me to.

This week it went like this:

SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21):

I have taken a passage from a letter that Henry Miller wrote to Anais Nin, and I have chopped it up and rearranged it and added to it so as to create an oracle that’s perfect for you right now. Ready?

This is the wild dream:
you with your chameleon’s soul
being anchored always
in no matter what
storm, sensing
you are at home wherever
you are. You asserting yourself
getting the rich varied life
you desire; and
the more you assert yourself,
the more you love going
deeper, thicker, fuller.
Resurrection after resurrection:
that’s your gift, your promise.
The insatiable delight of constant change.

Walk the Beach on a Moonless Night

 

On the beach at ebb tide, in this moment of darkness, there is no moon and no fanfare. Look into the wet sand as the wave retreats. In the starlight, watch the water drain from around each tiny grain as the sea runs back into herself. Notice the stars reflected in the wet sand, a light you would never see at a brighter time.

Ask yourself:
What else might I not be seeing?
What other lights are within me?

 

photo credit: ‘The beach at Tjørnuvík, Faroe Islands’ cc 2008. by Hans Juul Hansen

Floating in the Garden

fig treeMulberry and fig trees, heavy with shade and fruit, hung over the luminous turquoise pools as liquid light wrote sinuous patterns on the pool floor, the water and the bodies within. It was meditative bliss to float in the Warm Pool at  Harbin Hot Springs.

Harbin is a ‘take the waters’ resort in the hills north of Middletown, CA. You can find it by driving North through the Napa Valley, through the beautiful vineyard vistas and small towns north of the Bay Area.

What a beautiful place! in the apex of an increasingly steep valley the mountain gives forth her waters in a cool spring, a mineral spring and a very hot hot spring. There are a variety of pools from 113ºF/45ºC to the cold plunge at barely 60ºF/16ºC, with a full size lap pool that’s comfortably cool and a warm pool for silent soaking that’s big enough for dozens to share. There is an elven quality to the place, with lovely metalwork, tile, stone, gardens. There are cottages, dorm rooms, cabins and lodges as well as a campground. When you’re not soaking you can dance in the temple, stroll in the labyrinth, read in the library, snack in the cafe . And the dining hall serves delicious vegetarian food with a few fish & chicken options as well.

For Harbin pictures I refer you to their lovely web site, for the pools are clothing-optional and few opt for clothed bathing. There is a no-camera policy that forbids phones, iPads & iPods and computers in most areas of the resort, thankfully.  Really unplugging from technology is but a pleasant side effect. Harbin offers in impressive palette of bodywork with world class therapists, everything from reflexology to scalp massage, deep tissue and lymphatic massage to Watsu, a waterbourne treatment in addition to all its other restful qualities.

I’ve enjoyed naked swimming before in different settings. There is always a code: Growing up in Michigan skinny dipping always took place at night, since our cottages were crowded together at the river. At the Ithaca reservoir swimming itself was forbidden, so why not dispense with attire? Suited swimmers were greeted with suspicion.

Harbin Hot Springs takes great care to preserve the healing and peaceful experience, with three of the pools  dedicated to meditative and sacred space,  silence requested. It’s against the rules to proposition someone, so it’s not a cruising spot.

But I will say, as an artist, the people-watching is amazing. So many sizes, colors and ages, I wished for a painter’s day, when bathers would give permission to become inspiration for artwork. How I wanted to sketch and paint those figures in repose, surrounded by the Edenic beauty!

Was I self-conscious about stripping? A bit, at first. I was with friends whom I don’t often see, and hanging out naked with them brought us closer, faster. The trickiest part for me was shopping for spa-wear: what to wear when you’re not wearing anything! Sounds silly, but the linen big shirt I draped myself with, and the sarong I purchased, had to be just right.

In daily life I often feel like an outsider because I’m quite fat. At Harbin I experienced being a body amongst bodies, a goddess amongst gods and goddesses, connected and human, as if our differences, instead of being revealed had been shed like skin. We were in the garden, eating from the trees of life, and we did not notice our nakedness at all, except to feel that it was right and good. So mote it be.

 

The Bay Area is Amazing

What more can I say? After our long journey across America in all its splendor, California’s Bay Area hardly disappoints. Jose’s new home is in Pleasant Hill, a dense suburb with rapid transit and all the comforts of American excess. The neighborhoods are more compact, the homes smaller than I’d expect with this level of affluence, and that’s grounding. It is a pleasant and convenient place.

Last night we drove in to the Oakland hills to visit friends. The route took us through and under some of those spectacular steep grassy hills that look like golden suede, or the hide of a Sharpei. Popping out on the western side, there is The Bay, shimmering like a mirror. Said friends have a complete urban farm that runs on solar power and collected rain water. On a small lot they grow fruits, veggies, flowers and herbs. I’m enjoying one of their luscious lemons in my water.

Today I got to visit the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland for a lovely lunch in their cafeteria, a browse in the bookstore. We peered into the large auditorium, dim and scented with years of devotion, then meditated in the temple, a tented garden where the flowering vines are working their way in, as if to receive blessings. What a beautiful place. Not just the surroundings but the pervasive aura, calm and loving.

Golden Gate Bridge

After the Ashram we set sail for the Marin Headlands, which took us on a magical tour over the Bay Bridge(s), across the Embarcadero, through some neighborhoods and onto the Golden Gate Bridge. I remembered how the first time I saw it I gasped “It’s RED!” I had assumed the bridge itself was golden.

San Francisco Bay

The topography of the Marin Headlands is mind boggling. Climbing up above the GGB gave me serious vertigo – the sensation that I was going to fall down, down, down.

I’ll leave the rest to pictures, and Josephine.

Friday evening, May 3rd

We’ve now been in Pleasant Hill terra firma for just a little over 48 hours. I oscillate between open-hearted wonder of being here, gratitude for sleeping in the same bed — for two nights now! —  and a certain anomie. I am not altogether rootless, and yet, it will take time to grow those roots that makes this home. So when I’m experiencing that not-here-yet, I have my free-floating fearful moments. They pass. They rerun, sometimes in dreams.

Today, open-hearted delight in taking Patrise to my beloved Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland for lunch, and after, a brief tour of the place. I was welcomed by Swami Siddhananda at the front desk, an old friend from years back. The very energy of the whole place welcomed me, as well as Patrise. I have arrived, I am home.
Our next destination was the Marin Headlands, where Patrise, Tango and I ritually touched the waters of the Left Coast. Connecting and grounding of another sort. After 10 days and 3,550 miles of patiently curling himself up in a small corner of the car, Tango –off leash — joyously galloped full speed up and down the beach, a bit shy of salt water, and ran and played with several other pups.
I have arrived. I am home. I will need to repeat that mantra more than once.
Tango and Patrise in the surf

We have completed our #coast2coast project. Touching the pacific, feeling its chill foam slosh around my legs, touching the salt to my lips, the mission is complete. The journey, however continues, with no less wonder.

Always Weaving a New Story

Yesterday I did a cool one-day workshop called Storyweaving, which is a unique method of working our creative subconscious to reveal and retell the stories we live by.  The workshop leader is Carol Burbank, my dear friend, and I’ve had the privelege of watching her grow as a teacher and healer (and I helped her create the web site. **iz proud of her & me**). Check out her site for upcoming workshops, classes, talks and more.

We gathered in the morning and got started with some meditation. It was a nice group of four, all of us women of a certain age who are moving bravely into life changes.We worked with group story-telling and then made ‘self portraits’ to discover images, themes, tools to help us with our current transformations.

I took this workshop before, back in December

Dec3SELFPORTRAIT

At that time my art piece revealed a protective angel-self who held my hurt and depressed self. You can see her, held in the angels’s heart, at left, curled into a tight dark ball.

At the time, I judged the self portrait as ‘art’ and was embarrassed by the sugary fairy angel. But in time I became very grateful for her energy watching over me. It was a tough year last year, and there was much healing to do in the dark of winter.

This time I made two images.

MAR2storyweaving1

In the first,  I wanted to get the literal idea of the body as temple (in Hawaiian: hei’au) out onto the page.

I was obviously working with feeling large and heavy, going for a sense of sacred and ancient goddess. Hawaiian is one culture that honors the fat body as beautiful. I have a pretty hard time doing that, but in working on this I began to enjoy the lumpy lava body, her serenity, and all the lush gifts that were brought to her.

 

 

 

 

Mar3storyweaving2

Once I got that idea out, it was easier to work more dreamlike way, less cerebral control. I chose colors and drew without looking for about half of the picture. This one reveals a flowing, evolving bright rosy energy.

There’s a sense of moving hands, red with life energy, and growing embrionic and vine-like growth. It’s luminous, expansive, moving. No more hiding now, it’s all about unfurl and grow.

BIG changes in three months!

Since we are always writing our story, it’s important for me to resist the old gloomy myths that hold me back from all the good I can do.

Watching the Moon

cc 2008 by iceberg273 on Flickr

Friday night the sky was clearing as the post-Christmas heavy weather lifted. I watched the full moon rise through a veil of hazy snow. Our luminous satellite, la belle Lune, marks time for our world, counts out the days, turning the tides and illuminating our nights.

Full Moon marks an apex, a peak expansion, and a pause before contraction begins. Like the recent Solstice (literally ‘sun stands still’) there is an implied coming to rest. It is a good time for contemplation, meditation and prayer.

It’s traditional: a great deal of reflection and recounting the old year is swirling around us now, and of course it’s good to review and reflect. Then it’s time to put away that which doesn’t serve us going forward. This year we make our year-end lists and New Years vows under the light of the waning moon, gently moving forward into the dreaming dark.

Why not bundle up the disappointments and regrets of the year passed and release them into the night sky? And as you make those vows to-be-do have more in 2013, wrap them in lunar light and set them aloft as well. Make room in your heart for the tide of change to move freely.

From now until New Moon 1/11/2013 is the time to complete and clear away whatever is not needed for the fresh plantings of the New Year. Let the Moon lead you into the New Year, luminous with possibility. Feel the divine support inherent in the flow of time, as marked by the light of the Moon.

Spring Awakening

Patrise on a Rock

Fifteen years ago I climbed this hill, carrying only a bedroll, a sheet of plastic, some twine and a gallon jug of lemon-maple cayenne water to carry me through a three day fast. Today I am sitting on the rock that I slept on back in 1997, listening to spring awakening the mountains. Here a hawk, there a crow. Further down in a valley, an owl calls, a fox barks.

The wind comes, I hear it chasing along the ridge through bare branches, coming closer until it passes overhead like a wave. Last time I was here it was July, mountain summer sweet and green. I slept in the forest with no roof and no tent for the first time in my life. When the sky showed first light the air began to stir and the sound of birds began, like the wind is coming today, first faint from afar, then moving closer riding the edge of sunrise. Theoretically I knew about this everyday miracle: Continue reading Spring Awakening