Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer living is easy

So much has happened since I last wrote--the summer has been beautiful. One of the perks of being jobless--I can take a beach break whenever, almost!

Today it's rainy so I'm feeling more contemplative. I checked today and realized since I did the Tantric Yoga in May I've been doing two meditations for 95 days. My goal was 40 days plus, so I'm pretty happy I exceeded my goal. Maybe I'll go for 120 days. I started the Bound Lotus meditation at five minutes on each side in May--now I'm up to 15 minutes on each side. By the time I get to about 8 or 10 minutes into the second side, my feet and hands are falling asleep. But, like that girl in the TV show "Heroes" who can heal herself, it's amazing. Less than a minute after I'm out of the pose, feeling comes back into my feet and hands and everything is as if nothing happened. Is it helping me? I hope so. Bound Lotus is supposed to be very healing. When I get my blood pressure taken, it's always very good (nurses always seem surprised by it). The Tratakum, or gazing meditation, has been interesting. My mind still wanders, but my gaze is much more relaxed and steady. Sometimes I honestly see the face in the photograph (Yogi Bhajan's) seem to smile at me, as if to express something about some thought I'm having. Yes, I know. The mind can play tricks, and the eyes can too. But it's interesting, as if my subconscious is talking to me. I also added a prosperity meditation, which I've been doing for probably at least 40 days--I didn't write down when I began it.

I had a birthday in July. Nothing special but I did get a call from my daughter and she sang a little birthday song for me! That was a treat. I remember my parents always, always called me on my birthday and sang "Happy Birthday" to me. One on each extension, my father croaking out the tune as best he could. I would "suffer" through, embarrassed, but now I remember it as being so sweet. A tradition. I loved them and I miss them so much. I sure hope there is an afterlife and I can see them again.

I visited my brother in the Berkshires recently and also saw my ex-mother-in-law in the nursing home where she is staying now. She is losing it, mentally, but in many ways she's still the same. Chipper and smiling and praising her favorite great-grandchild. (Her favorite person, really.) I was glad to see her. I have missed her too.

Visited my parents' grave and brought them some flowers for a change. Who knows how long they'll last, although they are a hardy variety. Lately all I want to do is cry, and yet I see the beauty in this earth and the joy of the little things. The saying on my teabag this morning was "a smile is a great achievement." Or something like that.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The wicked witch

When I was in second or third grade, our school (the lower grades) put on the play "Sleeping Beauty." I was offered the part of the witch in the play. I was excited about it because that was a really good, significant part, much better than being a tree or a stagehand or something. But then my mother told me that one of the teachers directing the play told her they offered me that part because they knew I wouldn't complain about being the witch. It kind of took the thrill away from it. Oh, so I shouldn't be happy about being the witch? I should want to be Sleeping Beauty? It turned out, she was played by a very good friend of mine who had lovely long red hair. I wasn't envious of her for playing the main role, but I felt somehow cheated. It was because I was so docile and people-pleasing that I got the witch part. Kind of ironic.

That feeling comes up sometimes like a bad rash when I face certain relationship things, like when I make plans with a friend and she tries to rearrange them to accommodate someone else. I start seeing myself as the one who will bend, the one who will put my ego aside. I know this is a good thing, but sometimes I get mad when people expect it. It's back to the docile witch. No! I won't!

Recently I agreed to go to court with a friend if she needed support. But now the time has come and I'm seeing it as an invasion of my time (it means a trip to Boston, possibly and all day and into the evening thing? and she wants to stop at a Whole Foods on the way back). I have to be true to my word though, so I'm making an effort to go (giving up my early morning class that I loved last week). I need to just suck it up and stop feeling resentful, make the best of it, possibly take my laptop along and find a place with wi-fi, because it turns out she doesn't necessarily want me to go into the courtroom with her, just wants company on the ride, moral support, etc. She doesn't want me to go in the courtroom with her because she wants the person she's suing to view her as "strong." Whatever, as they say.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Keeping up, being kept up

Here's a picture from last summer, when I visited my cousin in Maryland we went to a special botanical garden and they had these awesome trumpet flowers. Just to set the mood.

I'm trying to keep up with my daily practice and to that end today I went to an early morning Hatha yoga class at the studio where I teach Kundalini yoga. Sometimes we find something that fits us so well, that answers such a need in ourselves so perfectly that we shut ourselves off to other methods or pathways. I have not ever experienced the results I seem to get from Kundalini yoga in other types of yoga classes (although, to be honest here, I haven't tried a lot of other types except for Hatha and "Power" yoga). But I loved the idea of getting up early for a class (and I get the class free). And I went with an open mind. The teacher, Eileen, is a very soothing presence. I feel like I learned a lot about my body in that class, and I was made aware of my need to improve in the balance aspect of the asanas. There's so much I don't know, and learning other forms can only enhance what I do know. So I feel like I entered the day in a good way, open minded, open hearted (if that can be a word). Now I'm at the computer, chipping away at my work, but I think I will go to the beach today and enjoy some sun.

Yogi Bhajan said the mantra for the Aquarian Age was "Keep Up" and added, "and you'll be kept up." I am letting go and turning more of my life over to a higher power, whatever that is. I have to trust, but I also have to use my head to take steps to improve my life and live my destiny.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Stay positive

I'm trying to stay positive, and let go of anything that's negative. Yesterday I took advantage of a beautiful day and enjoyed the weather and the geography. I went to the Cape Cod Canal and rollerbladed--only four miles. I would like to build up how far I go. Then in the afternoon I got to the beach--late afternoon so a lot of people were packing up and leaving. It was gorgeous. I got in the water and played, the waves were rolling along, not that high, but still rolling. A couple of ambitious or optimistic people came with surfboards. It was beautiful. The birds, the smells, the sounds. I could live on the beach.

So I still don't have my rent money, but I have faith that I will have it soon (today or tomorrow?). I live quite near a statue called "Faith" for short. How appropriate.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Full moon, solstice, blimp

It's hard not to love these long days as we approach the Summer Solstice. And though I haven't actually seen the full moon (it's waning now I guess) it sure has a pull. The party people are out early in the week, instead of just waiting for Friday night to start celebrating. The weather has been awesome, I finally got a check yesterday. Life is good. And the Good Year Blimp flew over my house yesterday. What an odd contraption--I love the strings hanging down in front that they have to use when it lands. Is this a sign from Heaven? Or at least, Akron!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Breathe from the navel

I am struggling with financial anxiety again (still). I felt that old familiar feeling of depression again today...It's a physical feeling, like a tightness at the back of my throat. But today I read in one of the yoga books that if you breathe from your navel, you "will not be depressed." I never quite buy it, depression can be clinical and severe, but trying the breathing can't hurt. Deepening the breath by inhaling and really feeling the tummy and abdomen expand and then slowly exhaling all the air out definitely is calming.

It will all be okay...I want to believe!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Forging on

Since I started the job related blog I have ignored this breathe deep blog, but really anything I accomplish in finding work or prosperity (which can be measured in many different ways) is probably due to my yogic spiritual and wellness work. I am now doing three meditations daily: the Bound Lotus, Tratakum meditation, and a prosperity meditation.

The bound lotus challenges me physically and mentally. It's kind of a pretzel situation, even though I modify it because I physically can't do it as it's supposed to be done. It's still challenging and stretches me. I'm up to 26 minutes each day. The Tratakum meditation involves gazing at a photo of Yogi Bhajan, staring into his eyes, in darkness with candles the only light. I do this for 15 minutes. This is challenging in a whole other way. My mind goes Cuh-razy! It just wanders here and there, and then I come back to that stern look on the yogi's face (or is it playful and friendly? it definitely changes) and realize I haven't been letting go of ego. Finally I do a brief prosperity meditation, chanting "Har, har" repeatedly as my hands create a circle with the sides of the hands hitting at the top and bottom.

Physically, I'm feeling much better. I lost another pound, and I'm much more dedicated to going to the gym. My food choices are better, although still not great I'm sure. This all helps to bring in prosperity and to enable me to forge onward in my day to day life.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gurmukh's class

I forgot to talk about the other yoga event I attended over the weekend--Gurmukh's class at the ashram in Millis.

Simply outstanding. Her reputation precedes her, of course; she's kind of a star of Kundalini yoga, and she teaches celebrities out in Los Angeles at her Golden Bridge studio. There's a reason she's a star. She teaches kick-ass classes with spiritual underpinnings. When she finally arrived (about 25 minutes late) the sea of yogis parted as this tiny woman in silky whites approached the stage. A woman sitting up at the front gave her an armful of beautiful roses, tied with a silk scarf. Gurmuckh graciously thanked the woman, asked her name, and asked for the flowers to be put in water. Then she began talking to us about love and coming from the heart, rather than the brain alone. Basically, her message was a kind of combination of the "love thy neighbor as thyself" Bible thing and the Joseph Campbell "what are you waiting for, follow your bliss" concept. Gurmukh talked for about a half hour. I was getting kind of hypnotized, kind of settled-in feeling. And then the yoga began. She said, "I think Massachusetts needs the shakies." And shake we did--for I don't know how long, shaking our whole bodies, arms raised in a seated position, then standing up and shaking and hopping some more (8 minutes). There was more. Much more. And she doesn't let up. She keeps exhorting you to keep hopping, shake harder, shake everything, etc.

At the end of the physical part of the set, we did a meditation with soothing, low male and female voices singing "Hallelujah." I remembered doing this same meditation and set at Summer Solstice Camp in New Mexico last year, and I remembered tears came pouring out of me at the time. I thought, "Hmmm... I'm not crying this time." And then I cried. It just came out, like a release. There were other meditations, a relaxation while Gurmukh's husband played the gong, and dancing. It was late by the time all was done, but the crowd was ebullient. I was exhausted, sweaty, and very mellow.

I recommend anyone who gets a chance to attend any class that Gurmukh teaches. If you don't feel strong enough--the energy will keep you going. I was sore the next day. But I was happy to be able to keep up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Self discovery

The weather is beautiful to look at- the days are bright and shiny with blue skies, twittering birds, and lush greens as the foliage emerges. But the temperature is still cool to warmish--highs in the 60s. I'm ready for the full-on, 70-80 degree days of summer.

I attended two wonderful yoga events this weekend at the Guru Ram Das Ashram in Millis, Mass. The first was a full moon gong meditation event. We join together and are led through a preparatory yoga exercise set (kriya) and then we lie on our backs, covered with a light blanket or something, and just relax and experience the gong. The gong takes us to different places: some people fall asleep in a deep, dreamless restful sleep; others (me) have a trancelike experience, with some awareness of the surroundings lapsing into little dreams. And I'm sure there are other experiences as well. The whole purpose is to recharge or rejuvenate the parasympathetic nervous system.

After the gong, we are led through a series of meditations to open up the heart and connect with the energy of the (almost) full moon. Then there is time for refreshments and a little socializing before we head for home.

My spiritual name is Ananda, which means bliss. I told it to someone I met there on Saturday. People often smile when they hear my name, and that is a gift to me, but I often think what a thing it is to live up to. But in response, this person told me, "Be yourself."

I have been pondering that since. Be myself. What do I want? And what would truly make me happy so that I can keep body and soul together? The point is, don't ignore the soul. Find your bliss, Joseph Campbell used to exhort. I need to figure this out, now, at this time in my life. It just goes on and on. What a voyage we're on!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

White Tantric effects

I notice that I am feeling the effects of the White Tantric Yoga I attended a week ago. It's amazing. It could have a lot to do with the season, of course. Birds are singing more, daylight is more pervasive, and the greens, yellows, reds, and purples of spring are bountiful. However, it's still cold by my standards. Usually it's in the 50s or low 60s each day, and we've had some dreary, rainy days.

Still I'm feeling energized.

White Tantric is a form of meditation we Kundalini yogis like to put ourselves through as a kind of tune-up. It's a daylong (usually) structured event, facilitated by a woman who leads us by describing the posture and/or mudra or mantra that we have to do for each exercise. This woman then holds the space and absorbs much of our good (and bad) energy. The whole thing actually is led (if that's the right word) by someone called the Mahan Tantra, and that was (is) Yogi Bhajan. However, since his physical body is gone, it's his subtle body that we're counting on (the yogis believe the soul and the subtle body go on after we've passed from our physical and other bodies). So there is often a real sense of the presence of Yogi Bhajan in this event, and there also are the videos he made to continue the practise of White Tantric long after he died. So we watch a video, he tells us what to do and gives us a little spiritual message to go with it, and we do the meditation for (usually) 31 or 62 minutes. Some of these can seem excruciatingly long. If you can't do it or you have to leave to go to the bathroom, you raise your hand and a monitor comes along to take your place. You are never supposed to break the lines. Oh yeah, we're sitting in straight lines facing a partner. Men on one side, women on the other. There are never enough men though, so there are often women on both sides. Also, we're all dressed in white, with head coverings to protect the crown chakra at the top of the head.

My experience this last time (I've done it possibly 20 times? Definitely more than 15.) was a little different. The whole thing seemed much more laid back and easier than most. Everyone was commenting on it. But at the very end, I found out I had been hurting my partner with the mudra- gripping her too tightly. Since we had our eyes closed at this point, I didn't know, and she didn't tell me until after it was all done, when she lashed out at me. My spirits sank and I felt that old familiar guilt and shame. I wanted to crawl in a hole, and I should have been jumping for joy.

We talked it out and both apologized, but I still felt bad, going home, that night, a lot of tears, which I realized were tears of grief for other losses in my life. I asked myself what Yogiji or my father would have told me. They both would have said that I didn't know I was hurting her, it wasn't intentional, and there was nothing I could do about it now since it was in the past--so don't feel bad. I took a hot bath at home and began a 40-day meditation on Yogiji's picture. The next day I also began doing the Bound Lotus (an adjusted version) meditation for 40 days. I talked to a few people and felt better.

Today, a week later, I feel fine. I feel energized, and I'm really into these 40-day meditations. I'm not drinking any alcohol for 40 days and I'm exercising more and (hopefully) eating less.

Today doing Bound Lotus I could almost touch my toe. (In Bound Lotus your arms are crossed behind your back and your legs are crossed as your feet sit on your thighs and you are supposed to grab your big toe with each opposite hand. I just do an amended version of this, with a scarf looped around my foot, one side at a time.) I am feeling lighter by a few pounds, and more energetic. White Tantric works, even if you have challenges with your partner (or yourself).

Now if the weather would only improve!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Dreaming of mothers

It's almost Mother's Day, an annoying holiday for some, especially those who: A. no longer have a mother living on the planet; B. have grown children who are geographically or otherwise unavailable on Mother's Day; and/or C. think of the holiday as a sentimentalist's fabrication which unfortunately still tugs at the heartstrings, despite a cynical view of the whole idea. I guess all of the above apply to me. I want to turn off the radio or TV whenever there's a Mother's Day advertisement-they're so patently, saccharine-soppy, even when they attempt at humor. How can you not want to tear up-or throw up-when you see or hear these promotions?

That said, I had a dream last night about my mother--who's been gone almost two years now (I can hardly believe that). In it she was old, like she was before death (so often we dream about family and loved ones at different times in their and our lives). I was touching her face lovingly and talking about how soft her wrinkled skin was. It was a very sweet moment. Of course that's all I remember of that dream. I value each moment I can spend with my deceased parents in this way.

I had been thinking about her a lot this week-- possibly because of the emphasis on Moms from the commercials. But it came to me that after my Dad died, she was really thrown for a loop, and despite her physical and emotional disasters (a major stroke, the loss of her husband, cancer) she showed an ability to laugh and keep up like I wouldn't have expected. One side of her body was basically paralyzed after the stroke. She lost some mental ability also-- the words she tried to push past her tongue just wouldn't come, or would get mixed up with other words, and her face, smoothed strangely by the stroke, would look baffled and annoyed by this trick her brain or tongue played on her.

And yet, confined to a nursing home, she still had her humor and was cheered whenever I came to visit her. We didn't have to talk about much or do much. Often I just sat with her watching old movies in black and white on her TV, holding her hand. My brother said she'd lost so much weight that holding her hand was like holding a handful of finger bones. But she had a sweet smile, and when she turned it on me I felt love and forgiveness for whatever wrongs either one of us had ever done to the other. I also felt she was a trouper: she had always depended on my father and told me she expected to "go before him." Yet she hung in there, attending the AA meeting she started at the nursing home, going to bingo and other events she'd previously scoffed at.

Some might say (and I think it) she was a captive with little choice as to her behavior in that institution and with he physical limitations. But she made some choices. She insisted on not having her hair pin-curled like so many of the other little old ladies around her. Instead it was cut relatively short and blown out, giving her a surprised, windblown look. She started the AA meeting at the nursing home on Sundays. And she held onto one of the traditions she had with my father: at each meal, her dessert was ice cream with maple syrup.

I miss her, I loved her, I'm past the rancor I used to have for her. I hope to visit her again soon in my dreams. Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Another rainy Monday

It's Monday. I'm working at the relatively quiet coffee house in town. There are a few stragglers from an AA meeting, a couple of unemployed (or self-employed? like me?) middle-aged men hanging out. I like it. The radio music is thoughtful and pleasant without being sickeningly sweet or elevator-ish. I have enough room for all my stuff. I feel like I'm out in the world without actually having to "engage" with anyone. This is when I like freelancing.

But that said I'm going to an interview with a major franchise so I can get a crummy minimum wage job that will give me the opportunity to buy health insurance at a reasonable price. Will they hire me? It's ludicrous. I've seen some of the people who work at these places. They don't even smile. I can smile at people and be nice and do my work. How much more do they need to know?

Sitting here and listening to people, it seems like so many of them are so certain. They make statements with certainty. I wonder what it's like to always feel so sure of yourself. I'm sure of myself about many things, but so much mystery remains.

I got to see my daughter yesterday. When I first see her it's like a pogo stick under my heart, I feel so happy. I love her so much and she's so beautiful and smart and talented. She's also very sensitive (like me I guess). I would like to put a bubble around her, but it's too late for that. She's already been attacked once (in Tucson) and mugged once (in Philly), not to mention the pain and heartaches that come with just regular living and dealing with other people.

It was a nice visit. I took her to her train in Providence. As we entered the downtown area she said. "Providence is interesting. A college town with gangsters and dirty politicians..."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Springing forward

It's spring but the depression has been dogging me on and off, although this week I feel better. There have been many financial clouds over me lately, and the loneliness is crowding me too. I take walks on the waterfront and find that there are already tourists proudly parading their dogs and babies on the sidewalks. They are usually with someone else. But I am feeling better, and I have to say it has a lot to do with yoga.

Also I went to hear Snatam Kaur this weekend at Kripalu in Lenox. Despite the fact it was only her, Guruganesha, and a random drummer, the concert was awesome. I was in the second row, right at her feet. That kind of radiance that she has just spreads, and everyone just feels better. I met a woman, Dona, who seems to be into Buddhism among other things, and her friends, Jeb, who has Parkinsons, and Shenandoah, who does hula hooping for a living (!) and another friend who was some sort of healer, Judy. Dona let me sit with them up front, since her friend had a disability. It was great.

The next day I took R out to breakfast. It was a short visit. I mentioned having a budget to plan his spending and he said we can talk about that later. I'm learning that means "never." I sure do give him his space, but that is how we were brought up. We always gave R his space.

Drove home in the middle of the day--beautiful over the Mohawk Trail which is now looking much more springlike. Had to fill my car up with gas and it went over $50. This is too much, this economy. Not good for us poor slobs.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pulling out of depression/anxiety

Well, I intend to pull out... I realized over the past couple of days that I'm experiencing a feeling I haven't had for some time. It's a tightness in the back of my throat, and a feeling that I could start crying at any moment. I find myself thinking back to times when (in retrospect it seems) I was happy or content. I remember thinking "I have a nice life." Not always, but I did used to think this. I try not to dwell on loss, but I am dwelling on the future these days. I got a mailing from Rosie's Place, a shelter for women in Boston. The letter told of a 76-year-old woman who ended up out on the street. (She was a teacher, retired, and got very sick. Her pension ran out. It can happen to anyone was the gist of the letter.) Do I think I'll be out on the street? Not immediately. But I am well aware of the homeless men in town who walk past the row of houses where I live and stop by all the garbage bins, checking for cans or bottles. This morning a man, bearded with funky, 70s style sunglasses on, was empty handed. Later today I saw him on another street with a bag that was pretty well filled.

But anyway, to the point of all this. I'm going to yoga class tonight with my wonderful first teacher, Anne (Prabhjot is her spiritual name). I fully expect the class to offer some healing. Something about doing Kundalini yoga, especially in a group, really uplifts me. Yogi Bhajan, the dude who brought this yoga to the West from India and began teaching teachers, would have said that the yoga teacher is a forklift. You have to lift up your students, he said. Your students should be 10 times better than you. I am a teacher, too, and I struggle with sparsely attended classes, but I still feel it's important for me to be there and uplift my few students.

I've been talking to God a lot lately too. For a long time I would cringe at even hearing someone else say the word "God." I guess it seemed linked with fanatic extreme, fundamentalist types to me. Lately I feel as if I'm moving toward my god, like a salmon inexorably swimming upstream, or migrating birds or butterflies. It's like this need to come home to something.

I'm hoping my god-directedness and keeping up with Kundalini yoga will help pull me out of these sinking feelings. I can't afford a shrink or anti-depressants right now. That is a luxury for the few, I'm beginning to realize.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Financial anxiety

I've been out of work for over a year. A year and three or four months now. I'm not the only one, I know that. I do freelancing to survive, although last year at least there was some help from unemployment insurance. Last week I met with my tax lady. She's a genius, but I'm still going to have to pay big bucks this year. I'm kind of getting into that mode of anxiety, will I make it? Can I make it? I'm planning on living on a very small amount of money per month, unless I can get other work. The whole healthcare issue is another thing. I've been sending out resumes right and left and trying to apply for local "stupid jobs." They are stupid in that no one can possibly live on the pay (minimum wage or a little more.) But I need the healthcare the stupid jobs can offer me. However, even the stupid jobs aren't hiring me. The job I applied for that would have been a $5,000 cut in pay in December turned me down.

I really need to do a lot of yoga to fight off this financial anxiety. A good, easy and doable exercise is just standing up, putting your arms out horizontally and moving them like a seesaw as you inhale one side up, exhale the other side up. The arms have to stay in a straight line from each other. The breath should be deep and full. A couple of minutes of the exercise will relieve anxiety.

Sat Nam (Truth is my identity.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Skinny is as skinny does?

I'm on and off obsessing about weight. I just don't want to be as fat as I am, which is definitely overweight but still at the point where I can look at other women my age or younger and think, "I'm not that bad, yet!"

So the fact that I think that makes me wonder how my skinnier friends look at me. Do they make a moral judgment on people who are heavier? I tend to assume so, but maybe that's just me being paranoid. I know when I see someone with bigger rolls than mine I say (inwardly) "But for the grace of god..." It's not that I eat that much--of course every overweight person says that. And as I have aged (in my 50s) I notice that everything sticks to my body like it never did before. I think I eat pretty healthy, although I do like sweets--honey in my tea and brown sugar in my oatmeal and a cup or so of ice cream at night or a few chocolate chips. But all in all I do eat pretty healthy. I'm staying away from meats except for occasional fish and I honestly don't eat that much bread. I hardly ever eat chips. Well, there is the popcorn thing... when I take myself to a matinee that popcorn smell is so seductive. I have to have it.

So anyway, I feel armored against my skinny friends. I told one of them that I was doing the President's Challenge. It's this free thing where you sign up on the web and just log your activity every week. You are supposed to do at least one half hour of exercise for five days a week. I thought that was pretty manageable, and so I signed up. I find that I end up doing more than the half hour, too. So that's a good thing. But getting back to my skinny friend--she told me to keep it up. Am I being too Woody Allenish if I read into that, she's thinking I'm a blimp and I better do something? Of course this is a woman who ate nothing but black garbanzo beans for 40 days in an extreme cleanse. So there is a whole other level there.

Anyway, I would like to get skinnier. I would ultimately like to lose 20 pounds to reach my "happy weight." I may have to bite the bullet and join Weight Watchers. It has worked for others I've seen and the one time I tried it with my husband I was successful (of course I had his moral support or fear of disapproval if I cheated.) But for now I'm three weeks into the President's Challenge and I haven't lost an ounce. I feel better about exercising, it's becoming more of a habit, something I need to fit into my day. But clearly the food has to be looked at.

I don't usually count my yoga as exercise, even though you can count it. I have been doing yoga every day, at least 15 minutes if not 45 minutes a day, and so I'm mainly just counting the stuff I do at the gym and the walking. We'll see...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Health care

I'm applying to the Peace Corps--it's been an ongoing process of over a year now. They tell you they need all these medical exams done, and you can have them done at a federal facility (like a VA Hospital) that PC pays directly, but that will take a long time. Or you can have them done yourself, paying with your own money and/or insurance, and receive set reimbursements for your out of pocket expenditures from the PC. Being unemployed--or self-employed--I have no insurance. But I thought it would be good to try to get this done and receive the (rather paltry) reimbursement from the Peace Corps. I'm really suffering from sticker shock. I found out, for one thing, I have a heart murmur. So I'm supposed to have an echocardiogram--to the tune of $925. I can't afford that (that's like my month's rent and gas bill). God knows what a mammogram will cost, and I'm also supposed to get some exam by a shrink since I have seen a psychologist in the last 10 years. They really seem to want to weed people out in this process. Understandably, I'm sure. We are representing the United States and they don't want us sick or dying over there when we're supposed to be helping villagers dig wells or learn English. I guess my next gambit is to look into the options for using a VA hospital. I tried to contact my PC medical services representative, but am still waiting to hear back from him or her.

But my aspirations for the Peace Corps are fading fast. I'm starting to think just surviving here and maybe doing some volunteer work might be my best option.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Kundalini happiness

It is about as easy to describe why I like Kundalini yoga so much as it is to describe color to a person who has been blind since birth. Maybe that's an exaggeration. But you get the idea. Last Saturday night I went to the local ashram (local means it's about an hour drive) for a gong meditation. In a spacious room with beautifully polished wood floors we lined up on our mats and sheepskins. There were several very large gongs at the front of the room, and a raised stage for the teachers. This was very near the full moon, which I think had been the day before. It was also just after the vernal equinox, so the days are getting longer and there seems to be that renewed energy of spring, despite the continuing cold New England weather.

We did a Kundalini yoga set--Surya kriya, to welcome the sun energy. Then we all laid down on our backs, covering up with blankets, and experienced the gong. The kind of relaxation that I get in a Kundalini yoga class is unlike any other. My mind was busy at first, but then my body started feeling the huge gong vibrations and relaxation crept in. I went through some dreams--I couldn't tell you what they were now. Some people fell asleep.

After we came out of it, we did two meditations with chanting and mudra (hand positions). One was for the full moon and the other was for our creativity. At the end of the class I felt as if I had been bathed in that moonlight. This is what it was like: I remember this feeling as a little child. A feeling of connectedness and yet of my own individual presence. A feeling of safety and completeness. Like the way I used to feel in the summer when I sat in a sunny field across from my house with my arm around my dog, Poochie, who was perfectly content to just sit there with me. That's about the best way I can describe it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

visiting my brother

Yesterday I drove the 3 1/2 hours out to Western Mass. to take my brother out for lunch, in kind of a half-hearted recognition of Easter, a holiday that has hardly seemed relevant to my life for years, since my children were too old to really "need" an Easter basket. But, the world seems to recognize it as a holiday, and knowing the loneliness that accompanies these world-recognized holidays, I tend to want to show some support for my brother and in turn, receive some back from him.

We took a trip to WalMart. He felt he really needed a new vaccuum. I don't relish going to WalMart, but it was surprisingly easy with R. He walked purposefully through the throngs of seemingly stupified people hypnotized by the glitz of material things. I followed him, noticing his worn sneakers with the holes in them. (He assured me in the past that he has other shoes, he just likes wearing these ones.)

As an aside, I should mention that my brother has a mental illness, although I'm not sure what his diagnosis would be today. Over 30 years ago it was schizophrenia, but it might have changed. He seems very normal in most ways, except for the fact that he is reclusive, wears cotton in his ears all the time, and has hardly ever held a job.

Anyway, we got the vaccuum and I persuaded him to pick up a new toilet seat as well. We were in and out of WalMart in record time, and I was amazed. Usually such trips are drawn out and uncomfortable.

Then we went to his favorite diner--pretty much the only place I can persuade him to go out to for a meal. It's a 50s style diner, with posters of Elvis and James Dean on the walls. We ate quite a bit, since I'd decided this was our "Easter dinner." He got a hot roast beef sandwich with gravy and fries and a salad. I had "Veggie linguini" which involved a lot of butter and pasta, but tasted okay. And a salad too. We mostly ate in silence, with comments here and there initiated by me.

At one point I looked at my brother's profile--he was looking out the window. And I noticed his nose hairs--too long. I thought it might be something that could bother me, but it would never be something I would mention to him. He's too sensitive for that and sometimes I feel he doesn't trust me. Then I remembered my father. His nose hairs were long too. I remembered distinctly his nose, large and beautiful to me, and his hands, with the beat-up fingernails--I thought from hammering and building the house I grew up in. I could almost smell my father then, smell the comfort of him. And I was grateful to my brother for reminding me.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sunday out

I own a copy of the Woody Allen movie, Manhattan. While watching it can be a little -- what's the opposite of deja vu? Presque vu? -- anyway, it's weird because it was way before Woody decided to make his adopted daughter his mistress and then wife. And in Manhattan, he's a 40-something writer having a "fling" with a precocious 17-year-old, Tracy, played by Mariel Hemmingway. He obviously crafted her role to be a middle-aged man's fantasy woman: she's beautiful in an innocent, almost virginal way, but she's sexually rambunctious--"How many times can you do it in one night?" he asks, and she answers, "Well, a lot.." and he snaps back, "A lot is my favorite number." She's also smart and perceptive, and this kind of backfires on him when, since he's fallen for the attractive, neurotic Mary played by Diane Keaton, he attempts to break up with Tracy in a "let her down easy" kind of way. He tries to convince her that their age difference means they could never be a serious couple, and that she has a whole lot of other options. He even starts naming off some of her high-school aged possible suitors, "Biff, or Tommy, or Scooter." She's not buying it. They're, quaintly, having this break-up scene at a soda fountain (probably one of the last existing ones in Manhattan in the 70s). She asks him why he's trying to make it sound like it's to her advantage. He persists, asking how can she think she's in love with him, and what is love anyway? Her answer--so simple and wise-- stands out: "We have laughs. I care about you. Your concerns are my concerns. We have great sex." At one point he tells her to stop being so precocious. He's patronizing and paternalistic, but we know that she is the only "real" character in the film, the only (and how I hate using this word now, it's so overused) authentic person.

There are other lines I love in that movie--it's one of the best for witty dialogue. In another break-up scene, Diane Keaton is getting dissed by her married boyfriend, played by Michal Murphy. She knows what's coming and she won't even look him in the eye. She seems to have a permanent smirk on her face, kind of a wise-guy defense to rejection. He tells her they should stop seeing each other, and she says she knew this was coming. She could tell by the tone of his voice on the phone. "Very authoritative, you know, like the Pope, or the computer in 2001." I have heard that voice, and I'm sure many people have, maybe not in the same context of this kind of relationship, but as a foreshadowing of things to come (usually a loss of some kind.)

And then there is the sad line that I think was possibly a mistake left in because it worked. Diane Keaton has called up Michael Murphy to see if he can come out for a walk. It's a Sunday and she's bored and lonely, but of course he has a wife and has plans with her. Diane Keaton, who obviously usually doesn't take the initiative, says she called him because, "It's Sunday out..." I think she mean to say "It's sunny out," because the day significantly turns rainy when she's finally out walking with Woody Allen and they get soaked. But how sad and plaintive is that "It's Sunday out." She needed to fill up her Sunday and was trying to get out into it, leave her apartment container, and pretend for a while to be "normal." Sundays can be the loneliest days (for me it probably goes back to the discomfort of getting ready for church, my mother's tension around that, and the forced, uncomfortable family dinner in the middle of the day). And "it's Sunday out" seems perfectly descriptive.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Breathing deep--again

Well.... It's been a while since I posted, I haven't felt the need. But today I'm keenly aware of my need to breathe deep. I'm in the throes of writing a business document as a freelance project. I need the money, don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for the work. But in spite of the fact that I do yoga and meditation on a daily basis, I am feeling quite overwhelmed. I keep finding I have to remind myself to breathe. I just squeaked through a month of diminished funds--I've been unemployed for over a year now, and my unemployment benefits ran out. I am happy to say I paid my rent though. I'm grateful that I have enough to get by, but this is a learning experience. I wonder what it's like to always have more than enough. Actually, I used to always have more than enough so I shouldn't even say that. I'm not homeless and I have food and shelter and heat.

Right now I'm in the downtown of my town, at a funky little coffee shop that serves the best chai -- much better than the chains like Borders or Starbucks. A whole Mommies club is here with their babies. They must come every week, they're like an established thing. It's strangely not annoying, and kind of fun to listen to, as is the jazz on the radio. I can get some work done here.

I need to start checking in on a more frequent basis, I'd like this blog to sort of come alive.

What I want to talk about:

Unemployment at age 55+
Kundalini Yoga and meditation
What I want to be when I grow up
Missing my parents, even though it was their time to die, I was never going to be ready for it.

At least that's it for now. Later we'll see.