The Solace of a Well-Nourished Practice

Yesterday, while I was having a whole battery of shots needled into my gums and the roof of my mouth, I wondered this: What do people in these kind of situations do if they don’t have a practice?

My periodontist is pretty cool. As he was shooting me up, he led me into a little guided relaxation, (which I didn’t need) but which was, nevertheless, very sweet and thoughtful of him.  This procedure apparently freaks the hell out of a lot of people, and he just assumed that I was going to freak out, too.

But I had already led myself into a very calm state on my drive to his office.  I can get myself into these states very easily now, and I’ll tell you, it’s a source of amazement and great joy. Granted, it’s taken me years of practice, but I have it down cold now.  I don’t dissociate with what’s going on, and I don’t “zone out” or go to a “happy place.” Rather, I stay with exactly what’s happening, and simply let it be, and  breathe into it without making up a story about it.

Yesterday, while I had the roots of my teeth scaled, I heard sounds, I did a lot of  spitting, and there was some wonderful light streaming into the room. The event had a certain duration, and then it was over.  I drove home in the same state I drove there, the only difference was I couldn’t feel the left side of my face.

I know everybody comes to a yoga practice for a different reason: stress reduction for some, more flexibility and balance for others, the hope for some toning and weight reduction for still another subset of practitioners.

Lots of people dabble in yoga and meditation, doing it for a while, then letting it go and moving to some other exercise modality. Sometimes they return and sometimes they don’t.

And that’s fine.  But yesterday I really wondered: what do they do?  What do they rely on when they have to encounter something uncomfortable and hard?  Something that hurts or causes an extended period of angst and turmoil?

What do they do if they don’t have a well-nurtured practice to fall back on in these times?

It must be pure hell.

Fun Meter

My “Fun Meter” has been trending heavily toward “Empty” lately, and this sad state of affairs has been bringing my Vibrometer readings down into the “Getting Things Done” range, rather than keeping it up in the “Radiant” range, where I like it.

So in a desperate  attempt to break this trend, G and Fred and I went to Darien Lake on Saturday for some thrills and chills and high adventure on roller coasters.

I love roller coasters!  The scarier and more extreme, the better. Darien Lake has a few rides that are quite decent.  Here’s my review:

First stop: Sky Coaster.  Sky Coaster is a kind of bungee jump.  They take you up 180 feet over a pond and then someone (in this case, me) pulls a rip cord and you fall straight down to your (imagined) death, but just before death, you fly out over part of the park.

There’s a YouTube of it here.  Fred, G and I went up as a trio.  I thought it would be scarier than it was.  It was a definitely a rush, but not terrifying.

Next: Ride of Steel.  This used to be called “Superman: Ride of Steel” but they apparently had a copyright issue, so now it’s just “Ride of Steel.” It’s the best coaster in the park and therefore it had the longest line.  It’s a little over 2 minutes of ride time and we waited about a half hour to get on.  It was good, though.  A well-designed coaster with just enough time between “thrills” for your mind to comprehend the thrill before the onset of the next one.

Unlike the Mind Eraser, which is just a mess of a coaster: up down, twist right, twist left.  It left my spine a wreck, and my mind, sadly, un-erased.

The Viper is a nice old-fashioned coaster, modern and smooth with a bunch of nice thrills and a tunnel to scream through to boot!

G won a hard-fought game of Whack-A-Mole, we played multiple games of SkeeBall, and we wagered some woman that she couldn’t guess G’s age and she won yet another stuffed thing.

We looked at the Sling Shot ride, but nobody screamed on it, so how thrilling could a ride be if it didn’t make anybody scream?  So, pass.

A little disappointing for me was the absence of the photo booth where you get to take those little photo strips for a buck.  Also, there was no Fortune Teller Marionette in a box.  What is up with that?

When I got home, my neck was totally whacked out and I needed a chiro appointment, but my “Fun Meter” was back on track and trending toward “Full.”

Summer fun, done.  Almost….

Friday Gratitude

Today was a good day, so let’s start with some gratitude.

First, a big shout-out to the sun. Thanks for everything you’ve done for us all summer and dude, keep up the good work.

Second, to my alarm clock for not going off this morning at 4:30.  **this is me blowing kisses from dreamland**

Third, to the serendipity of taking Boomer for her noon walk just in time to catch the MU Marching Band playing outside of Straughn prior to Convocation.  I love marching bands in general, but the MU Marching Band is one of the best thing about the whole school, and  has always been.  I loved it, but it was a little loud for Boomer.

Fourth. The “Cute” is back on campus (finally!!).  For the whole summer Boomer and I have been walking an empty campus.  No Boomer fans at all; no one gushing, “Oh what a cute dog!  Can I pet your dog?” It’s been hell.  But now the students are back, and the Cute Walk is back in full parade.

Fifth.  A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield.  I started it this morning and it is totally beautiful and totally inspiring and exactly what I need at the moment.

Sixth.  The Mansfield Growers Market.  Really, it gets better every week. Best thing about Mansfield. Tonight’s sweet corn was scrumptious.  But mostly, I love the people.

Seventh. Happy Hour Yoga with so many of my favorite people.  Some weeks yoga is super spectacular and this was one of them.  A big, warm “welcome back” to Bob! (MSY: Another “Best thing about Mansfield” thing (if I do say so myself.)

And finally to the most comfortable couch in the world for supporting my ass, and to my electric wine chiller for taking tonight’s zinfandel up to a perfect 59 degrees and holding it there while I prepare to watch City Island, the Redbox pick for this evening.

Have a fantabulous weekend everyone! See you Monday!

My Sister Doesn’t Have a Computer

She never had a computer, she’s afraid of computers, she can’t afford a computer, what use could she possibly have for a computer?

My sister has very parochial views about things–most things.  She hates gays and blacks and is suspicious of people who prefer cats over dogs.  Every time I see her or hear from her (which is rare) she needs money.  Every time I hear from her I wind up “lending” her money.

I haven’t seen or heard from my sister in a long time.

I do think about her sometimes.  I wonder how her life is going, but I sorta know.

Sometimes I wonder if she’s ever broken down and gotten herself a computer, but I don’t think so.  I think if my sister had a computer the first thing she would do is send me an email and ask me for money.  So since I have never gotten an email from her, I assume she doesn’t yet have a computer.

I haven’t heard from her in a while, but somehow I think that’s for the best.  That way I don’t have to fight with her about gays and blacks and cat people.

Tonight I was trolling on Facebook and Adrienne posted this funny YouTube video and I thought about my sister and how she probably doesn’t know what YouTube is, nor does she care.

Somedays I think it would be better if I didn’t have a computer either.  Sometimes I think of all the “real work’ I would get done if I would take all my Facebook and email and Twitter time and devote it to something more worthwhile.

But then I think of how happy this video makes me feel everytime I watch it, and what fun it was today to submit a piece of writing to this website and discover that I write like Cory Doctorow.

I feel sorry for my sister.  Not sorry enough to call her, but sorry because her world seems so small.

Some thoughts about aging

I can remember the exact day my mother became old. One day she was walking around in stylish clothes, sporting a nice haircut, and the next day she came home from the beauty parlor with short hair and a hideous perm.

She suddenly started to talk about “acting her age.”   I heard her say “change of life” a lot to her girlfriends on the phone. My young vibrant, youthful mother turned old and dowdy in the span of a few months.  She stopped doing her nails, wearing makeup, plucking her eyebrows.  Her clothes started looking dowdy and matronly.  She was a yo-yo dieter her whole life, but now she completely stopped caring about what she ate and how much. A French cruller from the bakery was a scandalous treat one day, and the next she was polishing off a dozen donuts all by herself in front of the TV.

She stopped going out, and her whole life  became consumed by TV– mainly old movies and roller derby. She had always been an avid reader, and then, for some peculiar reason, she just stopped reading books.

I got an email forward today about aging.  It was by a woman talking rhapsodically about the freedoms of growing old and of how she was now eating desserts everyday and she didn’t care that she had a belly, or gray hair.  She had seen too many people, she said, become obsessed with chasing after youth at a time in their lives when they should have been relaxing into life, not fighting against it.

A big part of me wanted to champion that point of view, but then I thought about my mother and her ugly perm.

Back then there wasn’t HRT, or any herbal support for women going through what my mother’s generation called “the change.”  There were few, if any, models for how to negotiate the territory between old age with its inevitable loss of vigor and vitality, and what my mother was going through which was, as I now see it, a period of readjustment.  A person doesn’t have to surrender to old age like my mother did.  My mother’s aging wasn’t a function of time or birthday candles, but of choice.

Granted, back then there weren’t many role models for how to gracefully negotiate the new territory she found herself living in, but nobody has to get a perm, or eat a dozen donuts in one sitting. She just threw in the towel.

My mother never heard the word “prana” or “life force” in her day.  It wasn’t in the air then, like it is now. Nobody went to the gym or did yoga in my mother’s world. Good Housekeeping magazine didn’t run stories about how to stay vibrant into your 60s, 70s and 80s back then.  My mother never dreamed that she could maintain youthful vitality into old age with moderate exercise and a good diet.

So when I read this email today from the happy, self-satisfied woman with the big belly and the gray hair who is now free to eat  desserts everyday if she wants because aging has given her the freedom to be unconcerned with the opinions of others, I kinda recoiled.

This is not for me. The new paradigm of how to age, doesn’t involve being self-indulgent and self-satisfied.

The new paradigm says, in effect, “Hey, let’s see how long we can keep this party going!”  If we practice a little self-control with our food, get moderate exercise, reduce stress and keep our minds sharp, aging doesn’t really mean anything.

This new paradigm is built on staying mindful and taking responsibility for  “energy management” and being  meticulous about our fuel, whether that fuel is food, sleep or fun.

If I just throw in the towel and say, “Well, I don’t have to watch what I eat anymore, or exercise, or get enough sleep, or feed my mind because I am coming to the end of my life anyway so now I can coast and enjoy the ride,” what that says to me is that you had the wrong idea about what life is about in the first place.

Life isn’t about practicing painful austerities for most of your life, and then cutting yourself a break at the end.  Life is about amping your vibe.  Period.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80.  If you want to amp your vibe and then keep it jacked up, it’s going to involve putting enough, and quality “fuel” into your tank everyday.

This means quality food in modest amounts, enough sleep, daily exercise, and daily fun.

I’m going with Dylan Thomas on this one:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And for goddsakes, whatever you do, don’t get a perm.

What I Believe (a partial list)

My all-consuming project these past few months is this Manual of Me I’ve been putting together.  The idea behind this is something akin to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations in which he wrote down things in order to keep reminding himself of what he believed, what he stood for.  His Meditations were never meant to be published, but to be a place where he would write, and by writing, practice himself.

What I find happening with me, is that I know things about how I am, and how I roll, and what cures me when I get whacked out, but I tend to forget these things.

I know who I am and what I stand for, but sometimes…I forget.  Thus, the need for The Manual.

Today I uncovered a piece I started a while ago that desperately needs to be added to. It’s an “I believe” exercise I did for Zee.  I think it’s something that’s important to do, and to keep doing…  So here it is, a work in progress:

I believe…

I believe the key to a vibrant life is kale.

I believe in stories. I believe I can change mine.

I believe I can only go as far forward as there are people standing behind me.

I believe travel transforms.

I believe that I am about 78% brave.

I believe in the power of the meditation cushion.

I believe in the power of persistence.

I believe in the power of expressed gratitude.

I believe in the wish-power of birthday candles.

I believe in the power of flowers.

I believe every day whispers a little secret in your ear and that’s why you need to meditate (so you can hear it).

I believe a long hot bath can cure anything.

I believe there should be a chilled bottle of champagne in the fridge at all times.

I believe work is the question.

I believe sleep is the answer.

I believe when you find happy, inspiring people you should move next door to them.

I believe if you step on a crack, nothing at all happens to your mother.

I believe if you walk long enough everything will figure itself out (solivtur ambulando).

I believe in the predictive powers of groundhogs.

I believe in holding hands.

(to be continued.)

My Future Self

(Day 4 of staying faithful to my fundamentals (aka my “fundies.)

This morning, after yoga, Kate led me in an guided imagery experiment where I had to imagine my “future self” 20 years down the road.  I had to envision “her,” see where she lived, what she looked like and I had to ask her if she had any advice for the present day me.

I thought it would be an interesting thought experiment, and it was, but it was also sad.  My “future me” was old and tired and finished, though deeply  serene and peaceful.

I came out of the imagery session feeling melancholic and wistful and frankly, a little depressed.

The really great thing about Kate is that she knows just how to probe to get at the real issues behind the symbolism of such an exercise.  So, what I might have mulled over and gotten depressed about, I now saw reframed in hope.

What we decided as we discussed this was that it was not so much that I saw my “inevitable” future self, but a “potential” one in which, in the words of the great Led Zepplin, “there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

I also felt a little like Ebeneezer Scrooge when he wakes up and discovers that he didn’t miss Christmas, and that he still has time to do good things and avoid the scenarios the 3 ghosts painted for him.

I still have at least 20 years to change the road I’m on.

I don’t want to go out all serene and finished.  I want to be working towards a grand project till my last breath.  I want to learning and probing and growing as I take on ever more projects.  I want death to catch me deeply involved in something fresh, new and brave!