Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Earth is Calling

The Earth is Calling and She Wants You Back

How the Earth created you in the first place:
Maybe there was some wine -
Grapes harvested, pressed, fermented with billions of bacteria.  Drunk!
Protein and hormones and enzymes, nourished by blood.
Truly born of this Earth.
It can’t be otherwise.

Now I squat over the ground
Watching blood drip, drip, drip
onto fallen leaves
The Earth drinks it up eagerly
How much longer?

When I rest my cheek on the cool, damp loam
Or shoot my arms through the ocean waves,
I remember how the next time might be as ashes.
The water lapping me back up -
Taking back what is rightfully her’s.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Equinox

I want to talk to you about power.
What I mean is:
That first robin to sing just before dawn.
A spring breeze across your cheek.
The crocus opening the day before a snowstorm.

You want to talk about tsunami-s?
Let me tell you about how every blade of grass
Is a full-on party of blade of grassness.
How the cricket sings among the leaves every evening –
Being 100% cricket.
No audience required.

Hurricanes, earthquakes, raging oceans?
How about the dark side of the moon
That has never once wondered
How you are doing.

Welcome, sweet lover.

Please – make yourself at home.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Layer Upon Layer

What the heck?
After losing my studio to gentrification in Long Island City, I developed the brilliant scheme to buy a fixer-upper in Ulster or Greene County, NY, as a studio.  On a very limited budget, I would buy a house that would serve as a live/work space that I could use three or four days/week.  It would offer me a place where I could get solid time in my studio and still be able to continue to teach yoga in the city.  It would be reasonably near the Monastery so I could organize my time around getting there once/week and it would cost less than what I was paying for my space in LIC.  Even the guy who is my financial planner thought it was a good idea, and hey - it isn't often that my ideas get the thumbs up from anyone with any financial know-how.  I have been trolling Trulia and Zillow ever since.

Let's just say that, within my budget range, one encounters a fair bit of squalor.  I have made two excursions upstate to look at places and it is clear that a good deal of sweat equity will be required.  I don't mind that - at all really - but looming large over this whole endeavor is the question - can I really own three houses?  It's absurd!

Added to the layers of possibilities is the fact that my nest is emptying and soon I will have total freedom to decide where I want to live.  That might happen as early as this fall.  My long-awaited dream of  living in Newfoundland could become reality.   But if that is so, why buy upstate?  And what about the Monastery?  Or the Temple in Brooklyn, for that matter.  Can I do yoga therapy in Newfoundland, or rather, would anyone pay me to do yoga therapy there?  And what about the boy friend?  (The what???)

So many questions.

Meanwhile, I started some new work that I can manage while I don't have a studio space.  It involves locks of Lucy's hair from when she was a toddler and old blankets.  It might be hard to understand but I am very excited about this new turn of events.  In the midst of all this coming and going, it feels like the perfect antidote.  As my friend Patti just said to me when I was blathering on and on about all the possible ways the future could play out, all will become the stillness, the answer will come.  I believe this wholeheartedly because I lived it, over and over again.  I have faith in it so much so that I don't actually worry (too much) about it.  My job is to create the stillness.  Likewise, I have faith in that little rush of adrenaline that I get when I start a new art project that promises to be Something Big.  Yes, right now it just looks like a pony tail and an old blanket, but please believe me when I tell you, there's something very exciting going on there.

One house?  Three houses?  Upstate?  Newfoundland?  Hair?  Blankets? Maybe I should just become a monk and ditch it all!  Or maybe I could spend my time looking at cute cat pictures on the internet, like this one:

Not conducive to stillness.

The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Loosen Up Already

Recently, I started working with Elizabeth Cunningham-Bossart, who is the Ayurvedic doctor who lead our third module of yoga therapy training.  Around the time that Senjin was actively dying and I was cracking teeth from the stress of it all, I thought that maybe I needed a little extra help.  She spent about two-hours asking me a lot personal questions (Ayurveda is very interested in your poop!) and then she gave me some recommendations for lifestyle changes, things to eat, things not to eat and a few other things like herbs, etc..

Some of what she suggested was easily added to my daily routine and some was a little more challenging.  For one, she wasn't too keen on coffee drinking.  Personally, I subscribe to what Pattabhi Jois is supposed to have said, "No coffee, no prāna."  In fact, I especially love a nice cup of coffee after I finish my Ashtanga mysore practice.  She wasn't so keen on my Ashtanga mysore practice either.  Both the coffee and the Ashtanga are vāta aggravating, which knocks my pitta out of balance.  Got that?

The long and short of it seemed to be that movement is good for my kapha (I am almost tri-dośic, meaning having almost equal amounts of all three of the main dośa-s but that annoying pitta wants to be in charge, as any good pitta worth its salt would!) but she wanted it to include some unstructured dance.  Apparently my leaning towards Ashtanga and ballet further revealed my pitta nature's need to control.  Hey, I like a few rules so that my vāta nature can break them.  (Are you getting all this?)  And this is how I came to be in a room yesterday evening with about 50 other people for my first experience of 5Rhythms.

I gave myself permission to do some things (jeez, more pitta) so that the possibility of having a good experience would increase.  I allowed myself to: 1. suspend judgement.  I knew there would be a fair amount of writhing and whatnot that normally would have me cringing and running in the opposite direction.  So - suspend judgement.  2.  Allow myself to have thoughts about looking good or bad  (possibly related to suspending judgement).   I thought that I had to allow myself to just have those thoughts - not necessarily get caught up in them -  but also not scold myself for having them.  And 3. I told myself that it would be okay to keep my eyes lowered.  I thought that I might find it too hard to maintain #1 if I spent much time watching other people in the room.

Was there writhing?  You betcha.  Did I think, "I am the greatest 5Rhythms dancer ever!" and "this is horrible, get me the hell out of here pronto!"?  Yes and yes.  Did I occasionally regret looking up?  Oh yes.  Let's face it, 5Rhythms is pretty high on the list (or should be) of Things White People Do and it is like shooting fish in a barrel, if one were of the inclination to mock it.  But you know what?  For all its being whoo-whoo and kind of pseudo-spiritual, it was fun.  I did find a kind of freedom and release in just moving around without any rules and without having to be doing anything specific or engaging with anyone else.  It turns out that dancing in a roomful of strangers for two hours is pretty liberating.  And did I mention that it is fun?  My vāta, pitta and kapha also approved.

Sometimes it is ok - or even more than ok - to do things that might make you cringe.  I mean, so what if we all looked totally absurd?  Looking absurd and having fun sounds a lot better than standing stiffly on the sidelines making snarky remarks.  And I say this as a world class expert at standing stiffly on the sidelines making really excellent snarky remarks.


Friday, March 04, 2016

Here We Are

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

 Excerpted from The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Taking Space

Losing my studio and a comment from the beloved Jan has got me thinking about how we occupy space, particularly us women.  The power I felt at being able to close the door to my studio back in 1992 still resonates with me, if anything, even more deeply.  Obviously, I am not the first to make note of it.  We are most fortunate to have Virginia Woolf's extended essay A Room of One's Own to look more closely at what this is about.  It might be time for a re-read!

Not too many years after I moved into my studio in LIC, I attended my first artist residency up at the Vermont Studio Center.  It was a month-long residency and each week a different artist would visit and offer critiques, both individual and group.  I remember one artist who came who was a painter (I have forgotten her name, sad to say) and, after visiting each of our studios (there were probably about ten of us there at the same time) she made the observation that women often accept the space they are given and make accommodations around whatever is there, whereas men will come in and shift things around to suit their purposes.  I have thought of that observation so many time since, particularly when I find myself making a painting or drawing and reaching for my materials in some awkward way because I haven't actually set myself up to best support what I am doing.  Making a drawing need not be a game of Twister and yet the number of times I have found myself doing just that has been many.  Many.

I think too about a time when my Zen teacher was talking about the notion, frequently mentioned in Zen, of fully occupying the ground under your feet.  A woman in the sangha raised her hand and said something like, "I am happy to occupy any ground you tell me to occupy - really!  Just point it out and I will go stand there!  But to take up a space myself..?"  And she started to cry.

Even more recently, in Nashville, I was assigned to teach a group class for people (three women, as it happened) with SI joint issues.  I wish I could say that I based my class on my deep anatomical knowledge of the pelvis and its surrounding muscles, etc., but instead, I woke up one morning before class with the clear sense that what I needed to do as to offer safety and emotional healing and an encouragement to take up space.  It was a little unorthodox but fortunately my mentor has faith in my intuition, even when I sent him away while he was observing the class so the four of us could talk without men present.  There was a kind of gasp in the room when I directly told the class to situate themselves in such a way so they could occupy as much space as they wanted.  Indeed, I think I said, "Take up space!  Take as much room as you need!  Don't accommodate anything!"  Stuff happened in that class.

As I begin my search for a new space in which to make art, I feel downright unapologetic about it.