Posted in Inspiring books, questions

You’re the One

So. I would like to start today’s post by noting that I feel awake and alert even though I am not fully rested.  Because even though I got to bed at a reasonable hour (9:15) I wound up reading until almost 10.  That meant that this morning’s 4:30 Zen Birds were not a welcome sound, and even the cat ,meowing and pawing me for breakfast did not wake me.  I just rolled over, turned off the birds (but left the light on) and let the sharp stab of, “Ohmygod, Have I overslept?? rocket me out of bed.

I was better after coffee, of course, and my class always jacks me up, and then when I got home I changed immediately into workout clothes because the other day I read in On Fitness magazine that slow endurance cardio just ain’t gonna cut it if you want to burn fat (which I do.) Turns out you MUST do intervals.

And not only intervals, Killer Intervals.

Intervals that leave you gasping.

On Fitness featured this 40-minute Treadmill Interval Workout that intrigued me.  So, before I sat down and let my tiredness overtake me, I decided to change into workout clothes, drink my juice, and head to the gym and give it a whirl.

I got 3 intervals (out of 12) into it when my engine sputtered, cut out, and died.

Really.  Not a chance.

I am still coughing because I was sucking air so deeply into my lungs so as not to blat, I think I found a new level of alveoli, and they’re still all jumpy and stimulated and going “Whoah!  What was that?  Was that oxygen?  Oxygen has never come WAY DOWN HERE before.  *cough, cough*

So even though I abandoned this killer interval workout from hell, I did persist in a more Disney version that I invented myself: going out at warp speed (8.5) to the edge of death, then ramping back to wimp speed (3.9) to rejoin the living (and some chic on Bravo with a shoe closet the size of my living room. You ever see the stuff on Bravo TV in the morning?  Wo.  Who knew? )

Did that for about 20 minutes, then hit up the rowing machine to regain feeling in my shoulders.

Left the gym soaked, and glowing, and feeling positively TRANSCENDENT.

Why don’t I do this everyday?

This is what people often say as they leave yoga class: Why the hell don’t I get myself on my mat more regularly?  What is wrong with me?

Yeah, seriously. What is wrong with us?  Why don’t we do the things we know will make us feel better/great/fantastic:  Eat right. Sleep more.  Exercise. Meditate. Stretch. Take time for lots of mini-vacations?   Why?

(ooh! ooh! I know! I know! Pick me!)

The answer?  We are obsessed with accumulating the zeros.  Yep.  The zeros.

Let me explain.  (I read this last night in Waysun Liao’s Tao: The Way of God and I’m going to paraphrase wildly here, so stay with.)

The author said to imagine you are worth $1,000,000.  Now, take away the 1.

What are you worth now?  Zip, right?  Yeah.

Here’s what happens. In our zeal to add meaning and purpose to our lives, we tend to ignore the needs of the 1, (the “I”) and focus all our time and energy on accumulating the zeros.  We feel (and are told outright by society and our parents and teachers, etc.) that the 1 is a “given.”  So we taken it for granted.  All that matters is how many zeros we can amass behind that 1: money, college degrees, promotions, cars, houses, trophies, successful business ventures, accomplishments of every stripe.

Somehow we have gotten the message that it is more important to keep busy stacking zeros than it is to nurture and protect the 1.  But if the 1 is gone, what do all the zeros add up to?

Exaaactly.

The author was talking about meditation in this context and his point was that people say they don’t have time to meditate, or take time to be idle, or go on little retreats, or to give themselves nurturing practices like yoga or a good workout, or time off for good behavior because they are so obsessed with cranking out the zeros.  And it’s totally ass-backwards.

But when you are on the brink of death (or just feel you are) like when you come down with the flu or something, and are FORCED to self-care, it’s THEN that you clearly “get it” about the unimportance of the zeros. The zeros don’t mean a thing if there’s no 1 to drag them around.

BUT, if you have a robustly centered and enlightened “ONE” in the front of your parade, you can start amassing those juicy zeros with impunity.

From now on this is how I will justify what I sometimes think of as a very self-indulgent lifestyle: meditating, writing, the doing and teaching of yoga and spending quiet time just staring at trees or sipping a smoothie on the deck.

Yeah. It’s not self-indulgent; it’s just taking care of the 1.

Strawberry Mango Smoothie with potted Lantana

 

 

Posted in Lists, Reading

Summer Reading List

Oh, Summer Solstice.  I both love you and feel sad at your arrival.  Your arrival means that summer, my most favorite season, has officially arrived, but it also means that from now on the days start to shorten.  Not shorten enough to notice–at least until late August, but we’ve hit the peak now, the apex, and there is no where to go, but…

(sorry, I’ll stop this Debbie Downer tirade now.)

Let’s change the subject.

SUMMER!!  WHOO-HOO!  Long days of warmth, and vacations at the beach, and kayak rides, and picnics, and berry-picking, and bike riding, and strawberry dacquiri-making, and grilling and gimlets on the deck and all manner of outside adventures.

And in between all that, the Summer Reading List.

There is this “Illusion of Summer” I think, in which we all get sucked into believeing that that there is going to be ample time for all the stuff on the above-mentioned list, PLUS time to lay in a hammock and devour books and be totally IDLE.  (I read Mary Oliver’s A Summer Day  in my class this morning, and whereas most of the time I focus in on the “one wild and precious life” line, this morning what I pointed out was her celebration and sanctification of “idleness.”

“Yes,” I thought.  “To be idle and blessed.”

So here’s what I want: I want back the summers of my childhood. Those summers overflowing with time.  Those summers that actually felt heavy with time.  Summers where there was almost too much time.

Summers where I would bike to the library and check out the max amount of books allowed, and then go home and gorge on them, returning the next week for another haul.

Even though The NYTimes always puts out a Summer Book Review supplement edition, do people still make summer reading part of their vacations?  Or do we now just play on Facebook and Twitter our summers away?

I don’t know.  What I do know is that I spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME messing around in social media, and I need to get back to reading again.

So the other day I compiled my list.  Here’s my stack, piled next to my Space Chair in my room.  I hope to be reading most of them in a Lafuma chair on the deck, though.  Or stretched out on the couch. Or under an umbrella at the beach.

Space Chair w/Summer reading
Summer Reading 2011

I’ve started with Tao: The Way of God because that book is a borrowed one.

I wonder if my reading will inform these posts?  We shall see.

What I would love to know is this: Do you compile a Summer Reading List?  And if so, what’s on it?  Feel like sharing?  And if any of you have read any of the titles on my line-up, what did you think?

Happy Summer.  (Really.)

Posted in Uncategorized

American Death Rituals

On Thursday G and I went to Vickie’s mom’s viewing. These American Death Ritual things are…oh man, where do I start?

Here’s how it goes: we embalm dead bodies and then dress them up in their best clothes and put makeup on them and entwine rosary beads in their fingers–and in this case we even put their glasses on them.
Then we line up the family of the dead person and have them greet people who are at a total loss as to what to say. The grieving friends cry on the shoulders of the grieving family, and the family winds up consoling THEM.

It’s not a good ritual–at least for me.

(G and I had a deep and meaningful talk on the way home about this.)
I think people DO need some kind of venue to express how they feel at the loss of somebody they love, somebody who has been part of their community, their tribe, their family, They need some organized, ritualized venue for this expression, but not this.

Good god, not this.

First, in my humble opinion, they probably do not need to see the dead body of their loved one all made up to look like they are still alive, only sleeping.

Who’s kidding who here, people?

BUT: They most definitely need to EXPRESS how they are feeling.  They really do need to stand before the people who are most affected by the loss and say something, or just give a hug and get one back. They need to be seen, and counted as part of the community of people who are feeling this loss.
So, despite not liking this “viewing” ritual, and believing that it is totally bizarro,, and creeptastic, G and I decided to go anyway. To be counted. To express. To give a hug. There was a need, most definitely a need for this, and this was the only venue.

As we got closer to the funeral home, G started taking big in-breaths followed by long audible sighs.  I was feeling pretty okay, because I didn’t know the deceased, or the family, except for Vickie, her daughter, and I only know Vic as a person I once spent a raucous week at the beach with.   G is her real friend and much closer to the family.

As we are going in, coming out are 2 men in polo shirts and shorts. They look like they just finished playing 18 holes.

Inside, there she is, in the box, all duded up, complete with glasses and rosary beads. G touches her, and frankly, I am creeped out by this.

We go through the line. First up, Kevin, the son. He doesn’t recognize G at first and then goes all, “Of course!” on her, and  totally breaks down.

We work our way down the line: sisters, sisters’ children and spouse, and then finally, Vickie.

Vic sees G and totally and utterly loses it. When I see this, I lose it too.

Life and jobs and time and geography have distanced these two friends, but they’ve stayed in email contact and their connection goes back quite a way, and Vickie’s mother (the dead person) always loved G.

Vic starts to say certain things, like how her Mom always told her that G was so “grounded,” and told her that she (Vic) needed to keep G in her life and a whole lot of other things straight from the heart, and then Vic totally loses it and starts sobbing uncontrollably on G’s shoulder. The appearance of G has clearly brought up a whole slew of forgotten stuff for Vic. This interaction touches me deeply, and I start to cry.

Oddly, I felt really happy that I felt something, that I was touched to the point of tears. I haven’t felt genuinely touched at one of these things for a long time. I didn’t even cry at my own mother’s funeral. But the moment I saw Vic’s face when she saw G, I felt something shoot right through me. It felt like a bullet.

And I bawled.

I did.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Trust 30: Day 3: Close Friends

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

I don’t think I could have a “closest friend” that didn’t share my “strong beliefs.”  Family, maybe, because you can’t pick your family (sadly), but close friends?  What are close friends if not people who share your strong beliefs?
And what would be examples of strong beliefs, anyway?   God or no God?   Fracking or No fracking? Democrat or Republican? Pro Life or Pro Choice? Carnivore or Vegetarian?
If I held a strong belief that was not shared by my “closest friends”  could they really be my “closest friends?”
This is a curiously worded prompt.
Let me take out the word “closest” then, and just say “friends,” because I definitely have friends who don’t share a lot of my strong beliefs.  What happens in these relationships is that we decide, consciously or unconsciously, that because of other stellar qualities that we truly DO admire about one another, we will “just not go there” when these “divisive” issues come up.
This allows us to fully enjoy each other’s humor, or generosity, or kindness, or whatever, and overlook the heavy things that divide us.
This makes the relationship much more pleasant, but it’s not anything like the deep, rich, fudgy-deliciousness of relationships with our “close” friends– those with whom we share a Zeitgeist, a worldview, the same priorities, the same hopes and dreams and enthusiasms.  With those “close friends” we can be who we really are and relax and enjoy each other and come into our fullness as human beings.
Lately, this Marcellus Shale fracking issue is not only creating cracks in the bedrock of the earth, but in some of my relationships that had formerly been of the rich, gooey variety and have now switched over to the happy, but “shallow” side.  A big schism has opened up between us.
Before, we would “cuddle up” together. Now I find myself “yelling over” this issue to them “way over there.” A deep crevasse has grown between us.
It was not a deliberate decision on my part to do this. It just “happened” as a result of my attachment to my “strong belief” in the complete wrong-headedness and irresponsibility of this activity fueled by nothing but corporate greed and stupidity masking as “the need for energy-independence” and their inability to see things the way I do.
I frequently ask myself: Why the hell isn’t everyone seeing this when it is so CLEAR to me?  What don’t they see things the way I do?
And then I laugh hysterically.  hahahahahahahaha.
Because this is the 25 Million Dollar question, isn’t it? This is the cause of all wars and strife and disagreements in the world from time immemorial, isn’t it?  “Why can’t everybody else see things MY WAY (i.e. the correct, the right, the sane, the rational, the responsible, the compassionate and intelligent way??)

I find myself surprisingly okay with having these shallow, careful relationships with people who I have to pussyfoot around when this topic comes up.  Turns out I’m a good pussyfooter.  We talk about the things we have in common, and avoid the giant elephant in the room.

But when panic wakes me up in the middle of the night, or when I’ve read one too many emails or articles, and I am sweating and worrying and ready to put the house on the market, close up the studio and bolt, I curl up with my “close friends” and we comfort each other, and sooth each other, and support each other.

And it will be with these people that I will link arms and walk  into the future, while all the others disappear into the mist.

Posted in Uncategorized

Trust 30, Day 2:The Day in One Sentence

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

Today I stood on my head on the newly installed wall-to-wall carpeting in the yoga/computer room and loved the upside down color of it.