Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Process and practice

Creating habit, changing course, all is process and process is slow.  Slow is a tireless teacher.

It is now 146 days since I began a practice of wheelchair yoga, inspired by and following this book:
Available at amazon.com.
When I first ordered the book, I showed it to the nurse practitioner who sees me at home.  A second floor apartment, very steep outside stairs and greatly diminished mobility have me, for now, playing the part of Rapunzel.  The NP was enthusiastic and encouraged starting to work with the book, "Ten minutes a week," she suggested.  For a time I resisted, claiming that I had a prior commitment to art every day, "or so help me."  And then one day it changed, as absolutes do.  And now, for more than the stated One Hundred Days, I have begun to build a practice of 35 to 40 minutes a day which equals about four hours a week and I am not the same as when I started.

A friend with whom I Skype from time to time, told me well before I reached the hundred days, that I had been "youthified," appeared thinner, she heard more life in my voice, more strength, she complimented my complexion and my consistence.  I feel that, other than in supernatural heat, my sleep is better, my desire to overeat compulsively is diminished, and an enhanced state that I will call balance of mind has crept up on me.  I am able to complete tasks in whatever increments they require, however long they take, making space for them with room for the unexpected.  If I will not make a deadline, I call and reschedule.  Process.

In a recent donation of books to a thrift store, I set a maximum number of grocery bags that would be included in this round of clearing. That allowed me to stop when the number was reached, knowing I could call them again for a return trip - or several.  I've pictured creating a map of what I want to accomplish in nest fluffing and may go ahead and draw it.  There may be "before" and "after" scenes with no life-or-death dates for completion of anything.  Rather than my old way of creating needless stress for my son and me, I have become more caring of our time, our physical resources and, much as I still have pipe dreams of being turned into House Lovely by some magic hand, a very gradual, wary acceptance of who I am and how I do things.

As I am still a newbie to such a practice, I know what has been revealed, what has been altered, is only the beginning.  Under life's umbrella of process in the act of surrender, over and over and over.  I simply await direction.  The best description I can give is that I show up every day for the series of poses and movements, complete them, and let go of everything else until the next indicated thing becomes clear, which it always does.  There are days with drawing and coloring, days of sorting and sifting, days of lifting and, after a fashion, muscling things about.  I remain seriously committed to a daily sharing of what I find beautiful, inspiring and encouraging on Facebook.  That assignment is clear.  I've gotten over the notion that such an intention is trivial, lightweight.  It is part of my work and part of my joy.  Beauty and love, optimism and humor are the antidotes to every pox and toxin that would knock us to our knees.

Being in touch with friends makes me happy, though I have yet to master being a timely and reliable correspondent.  Always process.  I trust what I do manage to send forth will be adequate, possibly welcome and not seen as falling horribly short of expectations.  Process is where we learn to major in patience.  Along with possibly quantifiable gifts of beginning a practice, I think I am finding those aspects of human existence which cannot be counted, which may not have any name beyond spirit.  For some years now I've felt that all life is an act of faith.  That feeling grows stronger.  Peace and trust help diminish the deadly stress-produced chemicals that claimed me for so long.  Because I have seen so many movies based on samurai and kung fu warriors, it is a metaphor that springs easily to mind, tremendous inner strength to withstand relentless outer forces.  I would like to be strong in every sense of the word, to be quiet and calm, reasonable, healthy (heaven knows!), resilient, clear and kind.  I would like to be steady, firm in mind and body, not practicing juggling in the way I once did.  Not teetering, no fancy footwork, yet flexible.  Some of you may be familiar with one of my RubberMoon stamps, "Impossible Things Happen."  Yes, yes they do.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Poetry for breakfast

Once I reached my worktable to begin the tasks of the day, I treated myself to a few pages from Bill Moyers' "Fooling With Words" as I munched the nuts that were breakfast.

In the book, Moyers' first subject is poet Stanley Kunitz.  He refers to Kunitz reading of his poem, The Lincoln Relics, at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.  He quotes some lines that sent me looking for the whole piece.  The Civil War, its monuments currently in question, also the subject of a recent inaccurate reference, always speaks to me.

This morning's experience has me vowing to begin my days with poetry, any amount, for even a taste, while a set-up for cravings, nourishes like nothing else.  With poetry under our belts, we are no longer running on empty.

Here's the link, a connection to the poem and access to additional information.

 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Word of the Week - 160

Spiritual practices help us move from identifying with the ego to identifying with the soul. Old age does that for you too. It spiritualizes people naturally.”    - Ram Dass

Word(s) of the Week:  SPIRIT ENCOUNTERS

Art by Lisbeth Zwerger.

Ram Dass also said, "Treat everyone you meet like God in drag."

I have come to believe that all encounters, human and otherwise, are spirit encounters.  Human to human, it is far too easy to slip into expectations, anticipating certain outcomes, making no allowance for the fact of spirits meeting - or colliding - and instead simply reacting.

Beneath the exterior, applied selves we may fashion to carry our often vastly different spirits from place to place are the grottoes, the hidey-holes where we truly live.  Spaces secret and safe where there is no reason to be other than who we are.  However deeply hidden, we are always at home within.  It feels wildly essential to me that I try and remember this, remember that we and our exchanges occupy sacred ground, the conversations beneath, behind the spoken words.

I wonder after a night of vivid dreaming in which all visitors feel so present, whether others share that experience.  There have been far too many of these dreams for me not to believe they, too, are spirit encounters.  People long departed or perhaps merely distant arrive and I awake knowing we have spent those dreaming moments, during which much is always revealed, together.  There is a sense of needing to send spirit emissaries to communicate without disguise or armor, that this is the only realm in which such honesty can occur.  That I am capable of imagining these dreams are more than dreams I freely acknowledge, yet I know myself to be capable of recognizing the existence of unlikely events, of trusting what cannot be verified.

In spite of loss, pain, terror and occasional defeat, life is the on-going seance during which we become familiar with magic.  As I've been typing, Hummingbird has visited my window twice, checking to see that amnesia hadn't overtaken me, confirming that I continue as a student of its message of joy, lightness and love shared.

 



Monday, March 27, 2017

Wholeness

Poets Joseph Brodsky, left, and fellow Nobel Prize Laureate Derek Walcott.
A revisited post from March 22, 2011.  At the original post, readers have left their own experiences of being saved by poetry, a form which will forever unite us.  You will find the comments here.

In cultures other than mine there are ceremonies to restore balance, refit missing pieces into the spaces left by their exodus. My absence from self has been an itinerary of comings and goings for which no estimated times of arrival or departure were known.

Before poetry - appreciated and even studied long ago but not absorbed, not inhaled, no door opened wide enough for habitation, accommodating the bulky goods with which it travels - caught me, I assumed that my once-absent segments had all flown home. Now I find that what I took for life in full measure was more a silhouette. Poetry has a way of poking its fingers into vacant corners, eyebrows raised with the question, shouldn't there be something here?

Poetry, if it wanted to, could beat any self-help manual senseless. A poem is a far more believable testimonial: I survived to write this. Poetry doesn't tell you, it shows you. How is it that, over not so many months, a literary form, an art, has become teacher, guide, source of wisdom and the voice that keeps me awake at night (in a good way)? Painful shards of memory that used to steal my breath now look like material.

There is study ahead, there is travel. My fragments could turn up anywhere. They arrive in daily emails, my heart lurching in recognition. They emerge in posts and comments, they step shyly forward from links that have a telling glimmer: look here.

In a culture thought by some to be without shamans we are not lost or abandoned. The poets rattle and drum, they chant and dance. We are redeemed by words, their incantations point the way.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Word of the Week - 159

Art by Michael Sowa.
Word of the Week:  GIFT

I assume we each retain possession of a child's delight upon receiving a gift, especially when it arrives as a surprise.  What a bonanza this week when a friend sent not only the newest version of the FLOW BOOK FOR PAPER LOVERS (300 pages of paper-paper-and more paper, the subject of a future post) and her copy of SOWA'S ARK, a collection of creatures which inhabit the imagination of German artist Michael Sowa.
One of Sowa's many rabbit illustrations.
A Sowa snail of intimidating size.
Thank you, Elaine, for the multi-part joy, first the arrival, then the opening and now the ongoing enjoyment of the rich contents.  In my family, we called such surprises "Hi presents."  Thoughtful, generous and such fun to receive.

If you are interested, the book is available from Amazon, here.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Word of the Week - 158

Jeong Kwan, a South Korean Buddhist nun, is featured in an episode of the series, Chef's Table.

Word(s) of the Week:  TEMPLE FOOD

I will allow the links and the chef herself to tell what moved me so deeply about this program.  The most I can add is that my own sense of rightness about the world, a world in which peace, beauty, devotion, ceremony, sacredness, generosity, stillness, attention and love not only exist but are valued, perpetuated, feels greatly affirmed.  If you, as I, have felt estranged from long-held truths,  please permit yourself this accessible period of restoration.  And the pure art of vegetarian meals, called simply temple food by the chef.

This will take you to a New York Times article about Jeong Kwan.  Here is a recap of the series episode, available on Netflix.

To find the show, it is Episode 1 of Season 3 of CHEF'S TABLE, however you watch streaming programs.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Word of the Week - 157

Art by Lisa Kaser.
Word(s) of the Week:  HAVE I TOLD YOU LATELY THAT I LOVE YOU?

My family of origin was not much for saying, "I love you."  I actually cannot remember it being said to me or among the five of us as my sister, brother and I were growing up.  We siblings say it now, yes we do.  The words are spoken between me and my friends, me and my son.  Anyone who reads this blog or any FB posts knows that I love lots.  Lots of people, things, weather, states of being, colors, creatures and love itself.  I had a rubber stamp made, small, simple, that urges, "Fall in love with everything."

I was already thinking of this phrase for Word of the Week when last night I dreamed - for about the nine-hundred-and-forty-seven-thousandth time - of an old beau.  In the dream I had to turn down an invitation to be his date at a car show, his yellow dream Chevrolet beckoning, as I was already going with someone else.  The someone else said, "You know how much he's in love with you, don't you?"  My answer was, "Yes, but he won't do anything about it."  (Please excuse me for I know the dreams of other people are generally tedious.)  The dream caused me to ponder more than four decades speckled with memorable, treasured blurts of affection.  We are not growing younger, just like the rest of you.  I grapple with the still-adolescent parts of my mind that think saying those words to a man who has been a friend, uniquely, to me for more than half my life has to be "going somewhere."  What a twit I can be.  It has always been somewhere, everywhere.  It is a gift, as my sister might say, "A pearl beyond price," to have people we love, even better but not required if they love us back.