Friday, January 30, 2009

A Pause

So, chances are good that if you're reading this, I'm also a reader of your stuff. Probably your blog.

I'd like to just say that I wish I'd had more to say lately. I read your posts you know. I soak them in, I reflect upon them. I'm just not sure what comment to leave.

I haven't been writing much here either. So it is. For now.

I came across this poem in my files today while looking for grant info. Thought it would be something good to post. Guess I'm letting other people do the heavy word lifting for me.

Love after Love

By Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

My New Favorite Song

I heard this recently and I am just captivated by it. Haunting...

It's Probably Something Good

I round the corner and drive past the vivid
orange warning "Tree Work Ahead."
I wonder what it is that the trees are working on?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Perfect Wholeness

I see a week has passed since last I posted.

Two things are simultaneously dancing about in my life and busying my days. The first is unqualifiedly positive. I've been blessed with quite a chunk of work for the near future. With each page, I evolve further into this new professional I am becoming.

Working through a draft proposal with my newest client yesterday, I was shocked by how he just wasn't getting it. He and I attended the same grantwriting workshop, where we met. He and I have the same useful textbook for reference. But it makes perfect sense to me and not to him. Weird.

Because I can, it always shocks me that other people either can't write or don't like to write. I just assume that people have basically the same skills that I have. So. Makes me feel good that I can be useful.

Difficulty has also shadowed the last few weeks. Several friends have had challenging situations crop up, and one is facing a severe, ongoing illness. He's been in and out of hospitals and bounced around in an exhausting merry-go-round of care. Doesn't help matters that he's desperately poor. Doesn't help that our social support systems are full of holes. Doesn't help that his primary supporters, his parents, are in their late 70s and exhausted. Doesn't help that my husband has some strong, legitimate resistance to me helping him.

But so it is. Those are the deterrents, but I'm focusing rather steadfastly on the positives. With balance, everything comes.

In class, we chant this mantra of Perfect Wholeness, also published in February's issue of Yoga Journal:

Om Purnam Adah Purnam Idam
Purnat Purnam Udachyate
Purnasya Purnam Adaya
Purnam Evavashishyate

Om. This is complete and perfect. That is complete and perfect.
From perfect wholeness, perfect wholeness springs.
If the perfect is taken from the perfect, perfect wholeness still remains.
So it is.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I am a successful and winning grantwriter.
I am delighted by how fun and easy this all is.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm in that weird expectant place where I'm just about to write something. You know?
Maybe a grant proposal or maybe a story. I feel very quiet and completely restless at the same time, and I'm just staying here, by the keyboard, and waiting to see what will come up.

(Although I'm trying to lean towards the proposal as I've promised to have at least two done by tomorrow.)

Just Hi


I don't have anything deep. I don't have a clear subject. I have bits and pieces of a bunch of things and no one thing that I must say either to the world or to myself.

Yoga was good today. It kicked my ass. That's usually good as soon as the pain stops. I knew I was being shockingly wimpy, but I just accepted it. So it is.

That's what I get for eating highly-processed food with low nutritional value. The body always knows.

Seeing my favorite yoga teachers P and H was uplifting. H teaches, P takes the class. H offered to let me teach the final relaxation segment of class any time I'd like, as part of my teacher training. That made me feel great. I may not be in optimal shape, but I have a soothing voice, a grasp of imagery. and a deep spirit.

Friday, January 9, 2009


The full moon limns the leaves with the clarity of ice.

Finding Work

We tend to think of work as our ticket to money. And we want money because we want all that stuff that we believe we can and should have. Some of that stuff is nice - nothing wrong with creature comforts. And money is nice.

But work, real work, not the drag-your-tired-ass-out-of-bed-and-sleepwalk-through-a-numb-routine kind, but the kind of work that fulfills you and challenges you and allows you as a person to contribute your unique skills and abilities to the world is not at all about money.

Often making money and engaging in your real work are at opposite ends of the life spectrum. I'm thinking of a friend who was strangely delighted to be laid off from his "real" job because it freed him to pursue his writing work. Or me, losing my beloved career and now getting on with finding another place to hang my productivity-hat.

As the new year begins, the closest I've come to a resolution in this area is to strengthen this belief: if something is worth my time, it is - whether I get paid or not.

That means that I'm willing to write grants for free or whatever pay they'll offer if I like the organization and believe I can help people. The bottom line is that I'll want to be writing SOMETHING anyway, and it's nice to have a purpose. It keeps me going; it sparks my juices; it connects me with society in a positive way.

I've had some really freeing salary negotiations where I just say, Okay, here's the rate I'd like, but pay me whatever you want. I'll write for you no matter what.

I truly believe that when I approach the world and others with this attitude of loving generousity and trust that life will sustain me, work falls into place. And money follows behind it.
Let's all get down to work!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Two Items

One - Unbelievably, it IS actually possible for me to boil dry a tea kettle - even while it is steadily whistling. I was in the thick of writing and slowly became aware that the annoying background noise had stopped. UH OH! I thought, leaping from my chair to find a red-hot stove awaiting me.

Two - Yesterday, my husband finally let me make Thyme Tea for him! And he drank it!! (Although I think he tried to dump it out when I wasn't looking, but I was watching him like a hawk.)

He came home complaining of a headache. Instantly, I made The Offer. "How about some nice Thyme Tea?" I cajoled sweetly. "That should make it go away." (Yes, I know that those of you in even the twentieth century use this strange stuff called Tylenol, but not me. Nope, I'm a-gonna make my remedies out of Nature.)

I put two spoonfuls of black tea leaves in a pan of boiling water, Indian-style, and added a healthy sprig of Thyme and one of Rosemary for good measure (because Rosemary is an extremely potent, life-filled herb. Also it tastes delicious in roasted or fried potatoes.) Then I added milk and sugar because that's how I always make my tea.

It actually wasn't bad. The aroma and flavors were rendolent of a delicious stuffing, with the yeasty sweetness balanced by the savory spices.

It didn't make his headache go away. Darn. I'll have to keep experimenting until I find out what Thyme is good for (besides maybe a delicious bruschetta). Still it was a lot of fun.

Poor S gulped and got a bit pale when I started cackling with glee and rubbing my hands together while I stirred. But it's an herb right? People eat it all the time. It's not like it's some toxic shrub picked at random from the yard.

I'm telling you, the man is long-suffering. I'm sure he's had many, many moments where he would have preferred to be done with me and my fanatical, unwavering insistences on things. But I'm just so darn interesting to be around. Poor guy - seems to be stuck with me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Therapy and Happiness

Where shall I start?

I enter my therapist's office (come on, we've already talked about this) and kick off my shoes as is my habit. We go through the formalities of him offering coffee and me refusing as I settle onto his sagging leather couch in sukhasana (easy crossed leg pose). I take a deep breath.

"Hmm. I'm feeling anxious," I share. "That's interesting."

"Why do you think that is?" T asks. He's well practiced at his role.

"I think it's a conditioned response to this environment." My gesture takes in the painting of the muddy mountain river, the stuffed gorillas on the empty chair, the plastic statue of Freud next to the horrible decades-old brass lamp. "Plus there's the whole context of therapy, isn't there?" I pause and think. "I spend so much of my time in other contexts, like studying yoga, that this one feels very different."

I elaborate, "Therapy presupposes a lot, doesn't it? Just by walking in the door, it supposes that I have problems and that you have answers. I'm deficient somehow, or flawed, and you will give me what I need to be fixed. Also there's whole cultural concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, knowledge and ignorance. It invokes hierarchy, patriarchy, and authority. It stirs the part of me that wants to get the "right" answers, the A on the test, and win approval."

"Are you doing that?" he asks.

"No." I'm quite sure. "If I were trying to win at therapy, we would have begun very differently. I could easily be taking us down the road of here-was-my-problem-this-week. " I sigh. "But I just don't have enough pathology for that do I? We're doing something quite different, more relational, less fixed."

I pause and smile at T, acknowledging that most clients don't begin at this level. "Isn't this a great start? We're taking apart the whole structure of what you do with your life within the first five minutes. Didn't you miss me over vacation?"

During his holiday visit, my beloved brother offered a concerned observation. "You know, Sis, you're clearly unhappy."

I went through all the same reactions you would. First I was in denial. What does he mean I'm not happy? I AM happy. Then I got defensive. Well, how does he know? Is he the happiness expert? He shouldn't judge my life.

Then I went with his assessment and the panic set in. Oh my God. I'm not happy. What's wrong with me? What's wrong with my life? I must fix it immediately!

Of course, all of this occurred in split seconds while our outward conversation moved to some other topic.

It stayed with me though, niggling in my mind. Only about two days later did realization slowly creep over me, like the sun sliding through a morning window.

Who says that we should be happy? What's wrong with being unhappy?

In my case this particularly makes sense. I've had some horribly difficult experiences over the last few years. My life holds the possibility for tremendous tumult. Why should I expect myself to feel happy at all? Being unhappy is probably the only sane response actually.

Of course, the moment you give yourself permission to be unhappy and stop striving so hard for happiness, you relax. Then you notice that actually you're happy some of the time. In my case, a lot of the time. Just not all the time. My brother caught me in the frantic throes of holiday-guest-family interactions in an unhappy moment.

So what?

I mention this because an opportunity for this sort of acceptance arose again this afternoon.

Arriving home from errands, I stepped out onto my driveway and glanced up. The sun was streaming through the blue sky. The trees were perfect tree-green and waving in a breeze. This absolute gorgeousness stopped me in my tracks and convinced me to sit down on the brick retaining wall to soak it in.

I'm so blessed in this moment, I thought as contentment washed over me. Today I am happy. I'm feeling strong and determined. I'm feeling hopeful and loving. I feel good. Everything feels like it's heading towards balance and positive energy.

Instantly, I got clingy. How can I keep things stable like this?

Then I caught myself. Who says things need to be stable? I don't have to stay happy. I don't always have to be strong and content. I can simply be whatever I am in that moment. Life will cycle. It is inevitable; fighting that by trying to hold on to any emotional state is as ridiculous as trying to stop the sun from moving.

Pema Chodroen, a Buddhist teacher, explains that each moment is fresh, an awakening of realization. Even after decades of meditation practice, she still is learning to accept the awakening of each moment.

The state of life is flow and change. When we try to "create ground", to find something firm to hold on to all we do is create tremendous suffering. I think we all know this, but still we fight it. For some reason, the flow of reality terrifies us all, even those among us who are more familiar with it.

My happiness today comes from my willingness to be accepting - of my true self, of my desires, of my values, of others, and of the nature of life.

Yoga class today ended with my favorite benediction:
May our hearts crack open with love
May we be awakened to our true natures
May we be healed
May we be a source of healing to all beings

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A New Year Starts

Monday morning. A new start to a fresh week. A day of rebirth. Time to put the ultimate absorption of the holidays behind us and head forward into an unwritten year.

I like beginnings. They’re hopeful and I, a generally hopeful person, feel at home with that energy. I’m not that keen on endings, and transitions are tough, but give me a good, fresh start any day of the week. I love the reflective process of looking back to see where I’ve been and then looking ahead to see where I might want to go.

I’ve even come to love the surprise of life, the dreadful, wonderful inexplicableness of it. Even as I make my plans, I know that they’re likely to go awry in ways I can hardly imagine. I know from experience that I am quite capable of achieving everything I set as a true intention, but in an unexpected, slightly warped way. That’s how wishes always come true in the fairy tales, isn’t it? You have to be careful what you wish, and how you wish, because when it comes true the results are sure to be something you didn’t bother to fully conceive.

For example, I should have been writing this yesterday, if not last week. I thought I would be. But my husband was able to leave work early. Consequently all my good intentions of working went out the window. So it is. I enjoyed the extra vacation time with him immensely.

My husband asks me repeatedly why I don’t write about him more often. It’s complicated. Really, that says it all. I simply don’t know what to write, how to say the incredible mixture of emotions he evokes. He and I go so far back in each other’s lives that nothing between us is simple or clear or clean. We have love and anger, devotion and insecurity, faith and disappointment, often, like yesterday, all in just a few hours. I suppose I think maybe he doesn’t really want me to write what I might say, and I may not want to share it with the world. That part of my life tends to be private and guarded.

One of my intentions for 2009 is to embrace yoga more fully. That means more of the physical, of course, a more devoted practice of asanas. But I’ve also found myself focused on yogic spiritual principles – the Yamas and Niyamas. Sauca and Satya float at the surface of my mind – purity and truthtelling. I’ve done a lot of truthtelling over the last few years, and more over the last few weeks than anyone would expect. I seem to be burdened in life with an extreme need to be open and truthful with others, even while knowing that such a goal is a near impossibility because Truth as we think of it hardly exists. If it does, it certainly doesn’t exist in a way that we, with our small and active biologically driven minds and incredibly strong egos can access easily. So ironically, I live my life trying to respect Truth that I don’t even believe in. Yeah, that’s me.

Anyway, at this point in time, my life is as truthful and as open as I’ve been able to make it. That’s not easy for me (or anyone probably). Like most of us, I learned that lying and covering up unpleasant aspects of life would make everything easier. But I’m a terrible liar. I just don’t believe in its energy. Long term, secrets and lies eat your purity away. The insidious energy of the concealed becomes a potent obstacle. Thus.

Thus. At this point, I stand open and honest. For all my flaws of selfishness, stubbornness, inconsideration, insecurity (I could go on, but you get the idea), at least I honor others, Life and God by striving to adhere to a moral code. I want a foundation upon which I will build the rest of my life. I refuse to build that foundation out of shadows and sand.

Teacher trainer S interprets the Yoga Sutras for our class. He says that if something you’re doing isn’t working, you should do the Opposite. A very good idea, and one that makes strong intuitive sense to me. If only I could figure out which parts of what I’m doing don’t work, and then figure out exactly WHAT the opposite is. Then I would do it.

Time for Gifts

My husband surprised me with many wonderful gifts this Christmas season. A smooth tan rock inscribed with OM. A jaunty red tea kettle. (I think this was out of self-interest as he was quite concerned that I might eventually start a dry-pan fire). Jewelry that keeps coming at unexpected moments. Nothing expensive (we’re too cheap for that!) but quite lovely in its sparkle and bling appeal. My favorite so far is a seemingly hideous cocktail ring which I adore. 12 onyx and diamond (okay, cubic zirconia) petals poke off of its silver band. At almost an inch and a half across, it’s monstrous and reminds me of some bizarre sea anemone. I love it!

He bought me the entire box set of My So-Called Life DVDs. That’s a show he used to make fun of, probably because I watched it with fervor when I was well past my teens. I’m a sucker for narrated stories, what can I say? Plus, who doesn’t like a little angst in their day? I can walk away saying to myself, Hey, at least I can drive.

Oh, and S actually wore the blazer I bought him. Never-worn, tags attached, grey wool tweed by Claiborne bought in a thrift store for five bucks. Hey, I told you we were cheap. I’ve never seen him wear a blazer in our entire life together. But after initial resistance, he embraced the look, wearing it throughout New Year’s Eve. We had a wonderful celebration by dressing to the nines and then taking our daughters to the theatre, okay, we saw the Tale of Despereaux, then out for expensive Japanese food. (Our daughters are well cultured.) We liked to think that everyone was jealous of how elegant our black velvet dresses looked, and how much fun we seemed to be having. And it WAS fun.

We stopped by the Mission Inn to see the Christmas lights one last time and to spin around the glittering city in a horse-drawn carriage. Back at home, we had cake and champagne or sparkling cider by candlelight and then watched the classic black and white version of Sabrina. You can’t beat Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart for style and romance. We watched the ball drop on Times Square and made way too much noise.

It was a perfect celebration. I’m superstitious about celebrating occasions well, and I’m particularly superstitious about beginning the New Year with freshness and careful intention. For no reason besides intuition, I’ve been really into Thyme lately, and I burned a bundle of it just after midnight, concentrating on the fire’s glow and the smoke rising like prayer.
(All during the holidays, every time someone complained of any physical or emotional ailment I kept offering to boil them up a cup of fresh Thyme tea. “I’m sure it does SOMETHING good,” I’d say. Surprisingly my sister-in-law, my brother, my father, my husband, my daughters – they all turned me down. Oh well.)

(Here’s the story of Thyme. I was lying in bed one night when I suddenly thought, I need to get some Thyme! Like that, just out of nowhere. And the next day, at Farmer’s Market, one of the vendors had bunches of it fresh-cut. I’d never seen it there before so I bought it. The day after that, I found a pot of it on sale at the grocery store. So now I have that. It’s gone into a lot of our food since then. It just smells so… Italian.)

Speaking of Italian, we spent the first days of 2009 on vacation in Little Italy, San Diego. We stayed at this marvelous, underappreciated hotel with marble baths and luxurious rooms for under a hundred bucks. We walked the blocks of the city, inhaling the aromas of espresso and baking bread, and listening to the flow of Italian commonly spoken by the area residents. S delighted me by wearing the blazer throughout the weekend, just like the other spiffy inhabitants. All the ways he showed me and told me he loved me during this last week have been delightful. I’m happy to be loved. I’m happy when my family is together, doing interesting things. I’m happy here, writing. This is who I am. I am Marie, sometimes bitter, sometimes divided, living up to my name. More than anything, I am hopeful, optimistic, faithful and compassionate. I embrace life.

I say thank you for all of the gifts.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009 !

Thus begins the new year.

My birthday subscription to Yoga Journal finally arrived! I can't think of a better beginning to this year than this mantra:

Om Mahalakshmyai Vidmahe
Mahashriyai Dhimahi
Tannah Shrih Prachodayat

Om. May we understand the great power of abundance.
May we focus on that sacred power of prosperity, beauty, and giving.
May that radiant power inspire and motivate us.

Best wishes and new beginnings to you all.
May your intentions bring you joy.