Monday, October 05, 2015

A Bit of a Bender

Maybe it was some pushback after my big (and yet unfinished) Konmari clean-out.  Or maybe it was just because I haven't actually bought yarn in about three years.  But whatever the case, I have been on a bit of a yarn buying bender.

Michele Wang, knitwear designer and owner of Gauge + Tension, the yarn store in Greenpoint where I have been lucky enough to teach spinning a few times, has developed her own line of yarn from Cormo sheep.  She is working with an indie dyer to make a series of gorgeous colors.  The result is yarn that is bouncy and soft and beautiful.  When I taught the intermediate spindling class, I asked for payment in yarn.

Let it be known that teaching at yarn stores is a dangerous thing!

On the plus side, I have the pattern picked out already.

Then, it so happened that Lucy spent ten days at Not Back to School camp up in Vermont.  I drove up to pick her up on Saturday, which was rather grueling - 12 hours in all.  Such a demanding trip required at least one reward (I mean, beyond having my daughter back).  

It so happened that the route to Vermont goes right past...

Yes, the Mecca of yarn stores - WEBS.  It is all that.

There is so much yarn there that it is hard to make decisions.  I found myself over near the Lopi section, thinking about how I have long wanted to recreate a sweater that my mom made me about 30 years ago that has entered the unwearable stage after so many years of service.

Enter nine skeins of lopi.  Not exactly the same colors but I think they will be gorgeous together (the dark grey will be the main color).

Now to seek out that missing element in this big adventure:  time.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Of a Tuesday Morning

For the past three weeks, I have been teaching yoga at the Manhattan Detention Complex (yes, the same one that used to be called the Bernard Kerik Complex). Every Tuesday morning, I meet up with my fellow teacher, Jaime, and we go up to the 7th floor together, after a good bit of complicated security measures are taken. We teach an hour-long class to the women in the transgender unit.

I have this privilege through a group that I have mentioned before, Liberation Prison Yoga. LPY advocates for teaching yoga in prison in a way is "trauma-informed". We don't teach with commands. For example, we wouldn't say, "put your foot forward and bend your knee." We might say instead, "For this posture, we step our foot forward and bend our knee." It's all about offering the students a choice, even in subtle or simple ways.

This past Tuesday, everyone seemed agitated and distracted. We practice in the communal space so there are televisions on and people wandering around in the best of circumstances. This week there seemed to be an extra number of guards and inmates coming in and out, extra noise and extra tension in the air. I was leading the practice and it was a challenge to keep the class together between the background noises, side conversations, giggling about farting, the freezing cold cement floors, and a host of other internal and external disruptions. My inner school marm was wanting to call everyone to order, to sit at their desks with their hands folded. 
Fortunately, I resisted that approach.  I used two other things: the experience of our breath and a bhavana or visualization/direction for our minds about the full moon , drawing inspiration from the beautiful moon that happened on Sunday night.  At the end of class, I read this poem by the 14th Century Persian poet Hafiz.
Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise
Someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a
Full moon in each eye that is always saying,
With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in
This world is dying to hear? 
I wish I could say that it settled everyone down and we finally were able to relax into our bodies and experience a moment of calmness, but it didn't.  They did seem a bit shocked that I had read something so openly vulnerable in what it revealed and what it asks of the reader.  Then, one new woman in the unit asked me if I knew about Buddhism since she was interested in that.  And another woman sat with me and Jaime and told us more of her story - even going so far as to tell us that she was starting to ask why she let herself go back to drugs whenever she was out of prison even when she knew it would end badly.  We didn't really have answers for her but we listened to what she had to say.

Make no mistake.  These women are tough.  They have had hard lives and they know how to survive.  A couple of yoga classes isn't going to suddenly make them soft and tender-hearted - although I see moments of softness and tenderness in there, alongside the toughness...and the strength and the brilliance.  I see a lot of brilliance.  I am not fooling myself that a few hours of deep breathing will make up for the years of whatever horror they have witnessed and experienced, and who knows, maybe even inflicted on others.  I don't think that is why we are there.

I do think, however, that showing up, caring, making mistakes and then having a laugh about it, moving around a bit, sitting still a bit, reading a poem, taking a deep breath, sharing a story - being there with a full moon in each eye - is a worthwhile way to spend an hour each Tuesday morning.

What is yoga practice?  It's in there somewhere.

Friday, September 25, 2015

In Sum

She longed to travel. She longed to go back and live in a convent. She wanted to die. And she wanted to live in Paris. 
Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Trusting Trust

My camera cable has arrived but, as is usually the state of things, I don't really feel like talking about the show in Nova Scotia right now.  Maybe I will tomorrow.  What I want to write about is trust.

Someone asked me yesterday what I trust.  He meant it in a Big Picture kind of way.  In a "Do you believe in God" kind of way.  I don't think a lot about God as he/she/it is thought about monotheistic traditions.  So I told him that I believe there is a perfection to the Universe.  I trust that.  I also trust my practice.  And when I said that, I realized that I must trust myself on some level because...who else is practicing?

This came up because I have been thinking about my piece, To Stand in the Center and See All Around.  The piece that I fondly also call Bitch Slapping Richard Serra.  That title is not so politically correct, even to me who made it up, so I don't use it.  Except sometimes.

I made the piece with a pretty specific idea in mind, which was to create a wall of black wool that would absorb light and create a presence that could not be ignored.  I didn't really know what else it might create but that was my starting point.  I bought pounds and pounds of black Shetland wool and I spun it into a thick, single ply yarn.  I knit it up in stockinette stitch with some purl stitches here and there so that it would come out like a rectangle, not a parallelogram (it's a spinning thing).  I took it with me everywhere - to Nashville, to my friend's chemo appointments, everywhere.  And, as a result, it absorbed all that energy and started to have an unexpected presence and power, even as it sat on the needles.

But I didn't trust it.

For my BKBX exhibition, I added mirrors and sound and special lighting effects and even inflatable bladders.  I pretty much created a three-ring circus around it so that the piece itself was totally lost.  Truly, you couldn't even see it in the installation.  Not surprisingly, I was less than happy with how that all turned out.  Not exactly feeling crushed by failure but it has been more of a nagging sense that it just didn't do what I wanted it to do.

The good news is that I used the mirrored cloth in my installation for Starting from Scratch at Ithaca College and it looks great.  Totally works.  The knit piece, however, sat on my living room floor and became little more than a very large, luxurious cat bed for a few months.  I tossed it in the car when I left for Cape Breton, not convinced that I would even have the nerve to try to pass it off as art.

Then, it happened that there was a wall in the gallery that fit it perfectly.  A nook, even.  So I hung it up.

To Stand in the Center and See All Around, 2015.  Handspun, handknit wool.  Installed at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts, Inverness, NS.
Minus the three-ring circus, the piece is powerful.  In fact, it actually does exactly what I hoped it would do and more.  No one is more surprised than myself!  I didn't trust.  I didn't trust the process or the materials.  I didn't trust trust.

I paired this piece with my SpinCycle performance and I spun (with help from various people pedaling and storytelling) the same black Shetland wool that is in the piece.  I think the two go together quite well.  The strength of this piece is that it is full of all the stories and energy that it collected over the months in which it was made.  It is the antithesis of minimalism while still being very minimal.  So, I like that the SpinCycle piece is a kind of companion to it.  In fact, suddenly I saw my recent work in a new perspective and I could see a fresh direction for it.  It feels true, somehow.

If you were a literary type, you might see this as a metaphor for how one lives one's life.  Not trusting, we add all sorts of layers - call it a three-ring circus - around what it already simple and complete and powerful.  Trusting, we can let it just be what it is, which is always more than we can imagine.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Location, Location, Location

When I wrote that I had sorted through my books in my last post, I was not being 100% honest.  I hadn't sorted through my knitting/sewing/craft books, which I kept on a bookshelf in the basement.  It was more daunting than the other books (or so it seemed) so I left them for last.  But sort, I did, just after writing that post.

I weeded out about 2/3 of them - passed them on to other knitters - and those that remained were put on the bookshelf in the living room, which now had a lot more space because I had already removed all the non-joy producing books.

Could you call it double joy?  As I was putting my various knitting-related books on the shelves in the living room, I had a new wave of happiness sweep over me.  These books that have helped me with many an art project and many a domestic project didn't deserve to be sitting in the basement. They are important books!  They are all about what I love!  They should be upstairs, enjoying a privileged position on the shelves, not sitting in darkness underground.

Hint: the answer is Yes.  

Sometimes my teacher talks about "not having an inch of ground to stand on" in talking about practice.  This is not to be confused with not deserving to take up an inch of ground.  I get those two confused sometimes.  In fact, I think I have spent a lot of my life feeling like I don't deserve to take up an inch of space so I guess it isn't surprising that I would misunderstand that notion.

Such a simple thing - putting books on a shelf.  And yet it wasn't just books on a shelf.  It was me finally filling out the ground I stand on.  Finally giving credit and respect to one of the things that has been most important to me.  Down in the basement with the kitty litter and washing machine and cans of leftover paint?

I think not.

Monday, September 14, 2015

I'm Doing It

While waiting for my camera cable to arrive, I have not been idle.  Yes, teaching yoga (two new classes in Williamsburg starting at the end of the month!) (And teaching transgender prisoners at the Manhattan Detention Center starting tomorrow!).  Yes, teaching spinning (intermediate drop spindle in Greenpoint this Saturday!).  But also this:

Some friends were talking about it and it sounded so...liberating.  Own less stuff.  Not only that, but only own the stuff that brings you joy.  Who doesn't want to be surrounded by joy?  

I began last week and, as the author suggests, I started with my clothes.  I took all the clothes that weren't in the laundry and piled them in the middle of the living room floor.  One by one, I held each item and asked myself, "Does it bring me joy?"  Really, it was quite easy to decide after that.  I bagged up half of my wardrobe and sent it off to experience a new life with someone for whom I hope it does bring joy.  Then I re-folded the remaining items according to Marie Kondo's instructions and found that I have an entirely empty drawer in my bureau now.  The lightness of that feels lovely.  In fact, it is this lightness that I think is the goal of the whole undertaking.  Without knowing it, all that extra stuff (that doesn't bring joy) brings heaviness into our lives.  We carry it without even realizing it.  Only after it leaves do you notice the weight that you have been bearing.

Next up:  books.  This was more difficult because I have books that I would not describe as bringing me joy exactly but feel important.  So I just went with that feeling.  I eliminated an entire bookcase.  I gave the children's books to the local PTA and I set the rest outside on the sidewalk.  All but about ten were taken before it started to rain.  Again with the lightness!  It feels wonderful.

Marie says to slowly progress towards those categories that are more difficult because our attachment to those items is strongest.  Kitchen items are probably next but I am also looking at my yarn/wool stash.  I know there is a lot of dead weight there.

I think it is a very good system of decluttering but it is not for the feint of heart.  And it is not for the short of time.  I have had to set aside a day for each category.  There is a lot of work involved with gathering everything into one place, going through it, getting rid of the the rejects in a responsible way (the author says "throw it out" a lot but I hope she doesn't really mean that!).  Then there is reorganizing the remaining items.  It all takes time and energy.  

She claims that no one goes back to their old ways once they do this.  I can see why.  It feels good to live with your favorite things.  It also helps me to better understand what I actually need so I can buy or make new things that I will really use.  It is as if by having fewer things to care for, I can actually care for the things that I have.  And that brings me joy.

Friday, September 11, 2015


Still waiting on my camera cable so I can download the photographs of the installation in Inverness.  Meanwhile, The Ithacan, the student newspaper for Ithaca College wrote a nice piece about Starting From Scratch, in which they dubbed my piece "The Thinking Hut".  Love it!

And they used this great photograph of two people inside The Thinking Hut.

You Wanna Be There!

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Interlacing Conversations

 The exhibition is installed and open.  I have many pictures but they need to be downloaded and made pretty.  Meanwhile, here are some of the contemporary artist projects that are part of it.  I will post more later when I am less totally spaced out from all the travel.

Cast Offs, 2015.  Collaborative project created by Mackenzie Keey-Frere.  Knit pieces and rebar installed at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts.

Artsy shot of Cast Offs at sunset.

Patriarchy Has No Gender, 2015.  Embroidered apron by Barb Hunt (one of nine installed).

To Stand in the Centre and See All Around (revised), 2015.  Handspun and hand knit wool (my project in a new form).

While I was in Inverness, I stayed at the art centre director's house, which is one of the houses built for the coal miners (coal mining was the reason for the town).  She bought it from the family of a man who was born and died and in the house.  It still had many of his decorating touches and I found them deeply fascinating.  I took lots and lots of pictures in an attempt to capture what was so amazing about it.  Here are but two:

Many Lamps.  Inverness, Cape Breton.

Salt Air, Inverness, Cape Breton.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

More Strangers, More Kindness, More Coming Home to Roost

The Odyssey of Getting To Nova Scotia did not end at the Brooklyn Tow Pound, alas.

Aside:  I tried three ways to get the document I needed from the DMV in Newfoundland to Brooklyn - in person, email and voice mail message - and in the end, they all worked.  They received three copies of my registration.  The system works!  And extra bonus:  the woman who faxed it from the voice mail message followed up with me the next day to make sure I was ok.  Does it get any nicer than that?  Score one for Newfoundland.

Anyway, I ended up stopped at the border for three hours while my immigration status was worked out.  It was scary and I had to do some quick work to find the place where I could accept whatever happens, including losing my status as a Permanent Resident.  Once I found that place, I could feel the shift all around.  Never underestimate the power of subtle energy!  If you think that is all woo-woo and new age-y, I am telling you that you are missing out on a lot of life.  Anyway, they let me in with my status intact on "humanitarian and compassionate" grounds.  Yet again, people I didn't know were going the extra mile on my behalf.  May I live up to their kindnesses and generosity!

And may I look closely at why all this happened all at once at this moment in time.

The installation at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts is about half completed.  I think the exhibition is going to be beautiful and provocative in the best way.  Local people are getting excited about it and, I think, it is doing what we hoped it would do, which is spur a conversation about the value of handwork on many levels.

More on that soon!

Meanwhile, this...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Coming Home to Roost (or The Kindness of Strangers)

Sometimes one can ignore one's faults and glide, swan-like, through life.  And sometimes those faults accumulate and come home to roost in a big way.  Friday afternoon was like that.

On the plus side, I was teaching yoga at a new place, which I am very happy to be teaching at - Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn.  More about that another time.  For this story, all you need to know is that I was teaching there on Friday in the late afternoon.  When I left the studio I discovered that my car had been towed.  Many times I have parked near the studio without problem so I didn't look too hard at the signs, which were right next to my car.  Fault #1 - thinking I know what's what.  In fact, there is no parking from 4 - 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Normally, this might result in a ticket (and it did last Friday as well), but the city has days when it likes to collect extra revenue so it sends out armies of tow trucks to take away cars that otherwise would just be ticketed.  Last Friday was one of those days.

Ok.  Having your car towed is a fact of life here, so I didn't get too upset and went to the tow pound to get my car.  My Canadian makes a difference.  Going through the bureaucratic hoops, I got my registration and insurance out of the car and used the ATM machine to get cash to pay for the fees, which are substantial.  But no!  The registration was out of date.  Huh?  I knew that I had renewed it so I searched my document folder.  Not there.  More bureaucratic hoops to go back to the car and look again...still no registration.  Fault #2 - disorganized.

Explaining my situation did not move the clerk very far, so no car for me.  The city charges $20/day to keep the car in their lot overnight.  I won't bore you with further details but suffice to say that other faults, such as procrastination and failing to respond to friend's communications also came into play.  Indeed, just about all my faults coalesced in this one moment.  It came home to me hard as I was frantically texting with Lucy, who is in Newfoundland now, about searching the house there and asking our friend to help out and she wrote back, "I am really not comfortable with this."  i.e.. doing my dirty work, and I couldn't deny that this is exactly what was going on.


Nonetheless, the car was still in the lot and I was planning to head to Cape Breton on Monday (that would be today).  These two things do not go well together.

On the plus side, years of Zen and yoga practice (not to mention parenting two teenagers) has given me a fairly good dose of patience and I mostly was able to stay cool and keep things friendly with the various people behind the counter in Brooklyn and Newfoundland in my attempt to get a copy of my current registration faxed to the tow pound.

This morning, I was not on the road to Cape Breton.  Instead, I spent four hours making numerous phone calls, texts and emails to people on both coasts of Newfoundland and Brooklyn.  At last, the deed was done.  But not without the assistance of four people who were willing to take time out of their busy day not just to respond to my various communications but to actually GO to the DMV in Corner Brook, wait in line, and deal with the bureaucracy there to get it faxed.

So many life lessons here but the one that really brings tears to my eyes is this one: We are not in this alone., it is real.

A huge thank you to Lucy, Olive, Hannah, Lisa and Phillip from the Corner Brook DMV for all their help!  I haven't actually gotten the car keep your fingers crossed that there isn't some new thing that has to be done.

Truly, never will I be so happy to pay the City hundreds of dollars as I will be today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Starting From Scratch


August 24–September 25, 2015
Handwerker Gallery, Ithaca College
Ithaca, NY
Curated by Mara Baldwin and Eleanore Kohorn ('16)
 The plot of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s utopian novel, Herland (1915), follows the travails of three male explorers as they stumble upon and are hosted by an enlightened and geographically isolated nation of women.  Utopian literature gained popularity by writers and readers alike over the course of the post-Enlightenment era, a trend reflecting cultural exposure of increased travel and trade to other social systems, causing many to compare, evaluate, and criticize previously-accepted standards of living.  Female authors in the genre almost exclusively write about more perfect worlds that are female-exclusive or devoid of gender altogether.  These novels, Gilman’s Herland included, are bereft with unapologetic severity, self-aware absurdity, unexpected humor, and bountiful ingenuity in the clairvoyant revisioning of a more perfect society. The artists in this exhibition share this radical impulse, of throwing everything out and starting over in pursuit of a new social order built on equanimity and a preemptive resourcefulness, rewriting history to include the lost stories, artifacts, and initiatives of invented feminist societies. 
Featuring work by Elisheva Biernoff; Angela Ellsworth; Robyn Love; Tara Mateik; Sophie Mörner; Rebecca Purcell, J. Morgan Puett, & Jeffrey Jenkins of Mildred’s Lane; and Amanda Wojick.
A little preview of my piece, Heaven is the Most Dangerous Place of All, 2015.  Hand knit and crochet yarn, fabric, mirrors, paper and tent frame.
The yellow stripe (formerly known as The Knitted Mile) runs through the entire gallery, eventually leading visitors to this alcove where they are invited to look in each envelope and pick a card.

There are six cards in total, each with a question or phrase designed to provoke.

The stripe leads into the tent, where there are cushions for sitting on.  And lots of mirrors.

A visitor contemplates his card...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

It's Gonna Be Great

Are we there yet?

My project for the exhibition at Ithaca College is titled Heaven is the Most Dangerous Place of All and it is questioning the whole notion of utopia - how do we know we aren't in utopia right now?  Why is utopia always over there and never right here?  It is part of an exhibition that is centered around the book, Herland, a novel by Charlotte Perkins Gilman written in the early 20th Century.  The book describes an all-female utopian society that is over 1000 years old (they reproduce asexually).  It is an ideal social order: free of war, conflict, and domination.  My piece is kind of the Doubting Thomas in the show.  Or maybe the Doubting Thomasina.  It asks all sorts of questions and then leaves the visitor to sort out the answers for themselves.

As per usual, creating the piece involves a lot of handwork.  As I still have work to be done on my piece for the exhibition at the Inverness Arts Centre up in Cape Breton, I am getting anxious to finish this piece.  Yet I keep coming up with ways to make it better (read: more complicated and intricate).  Today, as I am finishing up the last crochet stitches for the outside of the tent, I found myself totally immersed in how it will be when I am finished and on to the next step.  The stitches that I am doing right now?  Huh?  Am I making stitches?  But, man, when I am's gonna be great.

So, umm....why is utopia always over there and never right here? 

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Agni and All About It

Agni is a Sanskrit word for fire.  We talked about it a lot when we were learning about Ayurveda in relationship to someone's digestion at yoga therapy training in Nashville.  If your digestive agni is diminished or goes out, trouble will follow.  We have all met someone like this (or maybe been someone like this) - no appetite, low energy, generally not very engaged or excited by life.  They need their agni sparked up again.  The good news its that it isn't hard to do if you catch it before it becomes something more serious.  There were a couple of people who were experiencing low agni and, after making some simple dietary changes, they were perkier and happier and feeling much better by the end of the training.

But what about other kinds of agni?  I have been wondering if it is ok to let some fires go out.  Readers of this blog may have noticed that I tend towards doing a lot of things.  My motto usually is "Go big or go home" or, as George Carlin once said, "If you are going to play…PLAY!"  No half measures for me.  This has certainly been true with my art making.  Ambition has never been a problem for me.

Or has it?  For the past year or so, I have been reluctant to admit to myself that I just don't have that same burning fire of ambition about my art making that I once had.  This fire fueled many of my projects, allowing me to work long, hard hours to get things done.  It also fueled some less attractive aspects of myself - a competitiveness and jealousy about other artists' successes.  It doesn't make me happy to admit it because these are very small-minded places to live out of but, if I am honest, I see how they are inevitable partners with that kind of ambition.  The ambition that I am talking about is the difference between saying, "I want to be an artist" and "I want to be a famous artist."  For most of my adult life, I have leaned heavily towards the latter.

As I have been working to finish the pieces for the two shows opening at the end of August, I have been somewhat alarmed to find that I can not conjure up that kind of fire.  I love my ideas and I think the work will be interesting and provocative but that all-consuming, obsessive energy around it is just…gone.  I keep looking and looking but honey, that fire has up and left.  The ashes are cold.

When I mentioned this to Elizabeth, the Ayurvedic practitioner who was leading our training, she immediately said, "oh good!"  I was puzzled.  Is it good?  It certainly makes meeting deadlines a lot harder for me!  Later I realized that, when you take away the "famous" part of famous artist, then you are left with just the artist part.  In other words, without the striving for attention and accolades, you are left with the work; you are left with (dare I say it?), the Art.

It feels a little like walking around in new shoes.  There are places where this rubs me the wrong way and I am getting blisters that hurt.  I think it is a positive thing but it is a big change after so many decades and that makes it feel uncertain and a little painful.  What I think will happen (is happening) is that all that agni that was fueling my ambition for my career and my art world status is now free to fuel the actual art.  You would think that this would feel so refreshing and wonderful that it would be a glorious thing.  But I am not finding it to be quite like that.  It isn't that simple.  I had a lot of my identity caught up in that striving, ambitious part of me and that makes it a little hard to let go.  Our faults, even when we know they are faults, can be very comforting on occasion.

All of this is has been dancing around in my head as I fill my living room with yet another huge crocheted piece.  At least that part hasn't changed.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Hot Stuff

Last week, I was upstate at the Monastery for sesshin - my first ever summer sesshin.  What's the big deal?  This is the big deal: student robes are made from 70/30 poly-cotton and they cover you from neck to ankles to wrists.  It was a giant sweatiest.

See?  Robe after sweaty robe...
When you are given a practice for your meditation, whether it is the beginning instruction to count your breaths to ten and then start over again or a koan or shikantaza, it is easy to think that anytime not spent doing this is time spent not practicing.  It is especially easy to fall into that thinking during sesshin where the whole environment and schedule has been arranged to be perfectly suited to doing your practice all day long.  What I have been learning - ever so slowly - is that those practices are designed as a means of noticing our minds and so we can begin to learn about ourselves and our habits and patterns.  The goal isn't actually to count to ten and then start over.  I think the goal (if there even is one) is to notice what comes up when we try to do that.  We live in a goal-oriented society and I am certainly a card-carrying member of it so the frustration of getting lost from my practice is usually interpreted as failure in my mind.  I suspect that I am not alone in that.

For reasons that I don't understand, when it was the hottest and most humid, I also experienced an almost non-stop series of hot flashes for the first 24-hours of sesshin.  I was cooking from the outside in and the inside out.  Truly, it was a special version of hell.  I wanted to run away.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to float in a cool lake and never step foot back in that zendo and I definitely wanted to toss that stupid polyester robe in the trash can.  And so like that, hour after hour.

Good times.

Finally on Tuesday evening, drenched and exhausted, I had a thought that maybe, just maybe, the practice I needed to do was not to fight what was happening quite so much.  Added to the physical discomfort and feelings of being trapped in a hefty bag were the feelings of failure that I was "not doing my practice" and frustration that I was so pathetic at this thing that I have now devoted myself to for years.  It's like a little extra special pain on top of the regular pain - a kind that I invented just for myself.  So, I thought maybe I could skip that extra pain that I invented just for myself and look at the regular pain, which in this case, was the heat coming at me from all sides, including inside.  I tried to be curious about what exactly was going on during a hot flash - they are quite curious things after all.  I noticed that they start in my arms and back simultaneously and, after one passes, there is a kind of beautiful moment of peace.  I am evenly coated in sweat but now it is cooling and the strange sensations are over.  It is a quiet moment of calm.  I am not sure it is worth the price one has just paid but it was nice knowing that it would appear at the end if I could just stay with what was happening and not go down the road of opinions and ideas about what was happening.

Oddly enough, or perhaps predictably enough, after that, things settled down.  The hot flashes were fewer and less intense.  On Thursday night, the heat broke and the rest of the week was warm but pleasant enough, even in our hefty bag robes.  On Sunday, a new monk was ordained and it was a time for celebration.  I still found ways of inventing new extra pains to add to any regular pains but - and here is the beauty of sesshin - I had the time and space to notice them before heading off into crazyland.  And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.