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“When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better group harmony if you keep going back to it.”

-Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

…or in other words….

“I feel better when I’m dancin’! Yeah, Yeah!”

-Meghan Trainor

 

Dancing on the Beach 3

~*~

My little world has changed a lot since my last post. And the big world has too. One thing that hasn’t changed is my obsession with plants and flowers.  I’m still doing weird stuff like this…

Garden Journal

That’s my garden journal and bed mapping system.

There is a newly-tilled bed out front that I’ve mounded for a “Three Sisters” garden. I seeded it over the weekend with corn. This is my first serious experiment with a sisters garden. I will keep you posted on further developments.

In other news: nearly eight years ago, a friend gave me a small prickly, pokey yucca plant. A few weeks ago, quite unexpectedly – KAPOW! – this happened…

Yucca Bloom

For the first time ever she bloomed a stalk of soft white blossoms nestled in her fortress of spikes. It seems my yucca is not a little girl anymore. I kind of/sort of knew yuccas could bloom because my grandmother, Kiki, had a couple yuccas in her back yard and one year they bloomed unexpectedly.  Kiki was all beside herself about it in a way that I didn’t understand then, but that I totally get now.  It strikes me as odd that some part of me held this memory seed below the murky waters of consciousness. When I received this plant as a gift, I knew it was special. I also knew without looking it up that the plant was a yucca – just as well as I knew my own name, because that’s what Kiki taught me.  But somehow this plant needed to show its petals for the details of the memory to fully bloom in my own awareness and understanding.

The lamb’s ear in the sensory garden is also doing a new stalk-bloomy thing that it has never done before…

 

 

Lambs ear

 

How can you not love this plant’s architecture?  Just look at the symmetry, the geometry, and the texture! Every time I pass this bed, I want to jump in and roll around in it…which reminds me: I have sweet nothings to whisper into the little lamb’s ear.  Until next time!

Roots! Bloody Roots!

Roots! Bloody Roots!

Roots! Bloody

Roots! Roots!

Bloody

Roots

!

~Max Cavalera, Sepultura

 

Today I’m sharing another page from my yoga planning journal. This is one page from a series that revolves around the chakras. This page’s concepts were field tested and taught last fall. We spent several classes exploring the qualities of stability, solidity, focus, and form in the body. I am gearing up to revisit the topic in upcoming classes.  The concepts came from a workshop with Shala Worseley and from Anodea Judith’s Wheels of Life and from musicians  referenced in the playlist below.

Muladhara full.JPG

Muladhara is not an easy theme for me to teach as I’m prone to zipping and buzzing about in flights of fancy. Fortunately, I have a good friend in Yip, who is willing to sit with me and help me settle down.

Muladhara (2)

Mulahdara Playlist

The Mystery ¤ Michael Mandrell & Benjy Wertheimer

Beethoven Symphony No. 7-11 ¤ Beethoven ¤ Speaking Unto Nations ¤ Terry Davies

Earth and Sky ¤  Terry Oldfield

Shadow ¤ Tim Rayborn

Te Amo ¤ Armand Amar

Terra Di Siena ¤  Music for Deep Relaxation

Terra incognita ¤ Armand Amar

Patience ¤ Buddha Spirit

Travail ¤ John G. Elliot

The Suit ¤ Rachel Portman ¤ Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Passacaglia ¤ Secret Garden

Priya (Beloved) ¤ Michael Mandrell & Benjy Wertheimer

Like a Mountain  ¤ Peter Mayer

Gravity ¤ John Mayer

Lullaby ¤ Tina Malia

 

“The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.”

–John Muir

waterfall

Before I picked up this book, I’d never heard of Dan Harris, so I didn’t realize he was a big deal.  He anchors for Nightline, and is a correspondent for ABC News,  and a co-anchor on Good Morning America.  He’s reported for 20/20 and has interviewed all sorts of famous people like Paris Hilton, Ted Haggard, and Eckhart Tolle. (Who knew? I don’t completely live under a rock, I just haven’t turned on my TV in 4 years because of complications.)Now with his first book, 10% Happier, Harris is a best-selling author.  Juxtaposing self-help and memoir genres, Harris chronicles his career and coping mechanisms (from drug-use to meditation) in the highly competitive world of TV news. He does so in a beautifully authentic, warts-and-all sort of way.

It’s hard to say what I loved most about the book.  Harris has an excellent command of English, and knows how to weave a story that is funny, smart, and moving.  I enjoyed the “behind the scenes” stories about coworkers Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer and well as his skeptical views on various religious leaders he has met and interviewed. I smiled at the thought of the ambitious TV reporter and skeptic who found in meditation a practice that works as a way to live more happily and comfortably in his own skin. I appreciate that he’s extolling the benefits of meditating. There is so much good here.

If you too have jumped on the positive psychology bandwagon, this is a fun and informative book to take along on the ride. If you’ve already read it  you might also enjoy:

The Happiness Project

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

An Open Heart

The Power of Now

The Lost Art of Compassion

Here’s the resolutions progress report:

1. Cook something fabulous and complicated every other week.

I cooked three simple but tasty dinners and one easy lunch, which was way more cooking than I usually do.

But that’s not all!

Debra of Threading the Web shared her grandmother’s recipe for banana cake with caramel icing – it’s an old-school style recipe, which called for ingredients I had to search for in two different stores. It was worth the effort. This cake is seriously yum.  I made the cake for Nanook’s 75th birthday party and it received rave reviews from all party-goers.  And…then I made it again for my birthday.

Then there was a pasta dish that was semi-complicated. I used fresh basil, oregano, and cherry tomatoes from the garden, which made me happy.

I must admit, I am quite pleased with my performance this month on the cooking resolution.

I bumped the “Eat dinner before 7:00 p.m.” goal down to “Eat dinner before 7:30 p.m.” because 7:00 is still too hard and if I miss the deadline, I’m more likely to say “screw it” and eat at 9 p.m., which is part of the problem.  I was able to hit my 7:30 deadline 81% of the time in August compared to 67% of the time in July with the 7:00 deadline. Not perfect, but it’s progress. I’ll take it.

2.  Finish Inferno choreography.

I still haven’t finished it, but I’m getting closer! I spent 9 hours and 45 minutes working on it this month.

And here is where I will insert a gratuitous dance picture from last week’s performance at the Renaissance Faire.

Faire Dance

3. Write a book.

I spent 9 1/2 hours writing and researching this month, which only amounted to around 4,208 words. This is just sad. It’s not nearly enough if I want to get this thing written in my lifetime.

My resolution time was hampered by things like the need for sleep, busted water pipes, and walls being ripped out of the house in search for the leak.  A new semester started mid-month, so now I have a couple thousand preschoolers competing with everything else for my time and attention. I am getting better at saying “No,” to the time-consuming requests made by others, but I have a long way to go if I’m going to carve out enough time to get stuff I want to do done.

4. Tend the garden.

I spent 23 hours in the garden! Wowie. I had no idea it was that much until I just totaled up the time. Garden hours seem to pass on a completely different time scale. I logged most of this time in the first half of the month. I was a weeding and mulching maniac. Slinging mulch is great exercise. I planted oregano, cilantro, arugula, greens, chives, and lettuce. I clipped the amaryllis and hid them away until fall.  There is still so much work to be done!  I still want to plant spinach, garlic, kale and chard. The back beds need weeding. I want to plant mums and repot the house plants. And soon the leaves are gonna start falling. I am so looking forward to the fall and winter this year.  This is a brand new thing for me. I’ve always been a spring and summer sort of girl, but I’m ready to be cloistered inside with hot chocolate. I want to hide under a pile of blankets and spend hours reading books. I’m ready for soup.

5. Meditate 15 minutes a day.

I logged exactly the same amount of time this month as last month:  3 hours and 15 minutes.  This is a far cry from daily.  We’ll see how September goes.

This mind has a life of its own.

It invents infinite lists…
of tasks to do,
of whos to be,
of conversations to replay,
of facts to analyze,
of images to dissect,
of memories to revisit,
of futures to find,
of art to create,
of words to compose,
of dances to choreograph,
of stories to live…

of needs
of wants
of likes
of loves

and so it goes…
on and on.

I’m immersed in the mind as I sit with it all,
the time ticking by and I’m…
Impatient.
Anxious.
Hungry.
Thirsty.
Itchy.
Too hot.
No, too cold.
I’m entirely too dog-covered!

I need a cookie.

and I’m…
smelling flowers that are wilting.

and I’m…
waiting for this 15 minute self-imposed morning meditation to be over,
so I can go on with my *very important* day.

I have forgotten what the point is.

I try yoga-teachering myself, in an attempt to remember,
but the undone stuff calls, waits, looms, threatens, even.

Then, a subtle shifting.

A clicking.

Faint on the periphery
a thousand cicada tymbals vibrate
their persistent little stream of sex and magic.

The chorus swells
into a tidal wave of sound
breaking through
scattering the thought-sandcastles

the mind awash disintegrates like salt

and in the undertow…
the present.

El D and I had a play-date.

We went to see the play Red (it was great!) and now I can’t stop seeing the color everywhere.

There is something disconcerting about opening your eyes after a peaceful reverie to find a red octapus staring back at you smiling.

I know because that’s exactly what happened to me one morning this week.   I sat down and closed my eyes to an empty room for my morning meditation.

Fifteen minutes later, I opened my eyes and this was the scene that lay before me:

Sept 2013 001

Maybe this is how the Law of Attraction works? …like attracts like? …when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you…and all that.

…or maybe Moon Pie, my meditation partner, is slowly coming to terms with the fact that I ignore her completely every morning for 15 minutes.  She used to beat me with her toys, then deposit them in my lap and use my back as prop against which to practice her headstands. Now she just takes a bite out of my mat in protest and lines her toys up politely behind me.

Off the mat, still red, red, red…

Red is this giant, fuzzy brain growing obscenely larger day by day in my front flower bed…

Sept 2013 029

What IS that thing?! It’s ALIVE!!!!

So I plucked it from its stem and brought it in the house to better keep an eye on it.  There is no telling what shennanigans it plots beneath those convolutions.

Red is the swirly mess I made when slipping to take a picture too hastily…

Sept 2013 002

and red still, of course, when I finally got it right…

Sept 2013 007

The crab apple tree tapped me on the shoulder on my way to the mailbox.

“Excuse me, but did you say red?” she seemed to be saying when I looked up.

Sept 2013 027

And another splash of red in the food things popping out of the stuff growing around here…

Sept 2013 026

august 16 011

 

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.

–Henry David Thoreau

august 16 017

Nilla Bean

Negativity is like a virus.   It infects and spreads, creating more of itself.

 

If you can’t free your voice, how do you expect to free your soul?

–Yogi Hari

~~@~~

Working to cultivate joy is good for you and it’s good for the world. A natural by-product of cultivating joy is that it tends to spread to those around you. Lorne Lander refers to this as resonant empathy.  We have a natural tendency to reflect the emotional energy that others project.   If this language is too touchy-feely and woo-woo for you, hang tight while I couch it in different terms. There is empirical evidence at the cellular level that supports this idea.  In the 1980s and ‘90s a group of Italian neurophysiologists (Rizzolati, Giacomo , Lacoboni and others) discovered mirror neurons in both non-human and human primates. (Don’t monkeys make everything sound more scientific and cool?) These brain cells respond to observing behavior as if the observer is the one performing the action. In other words, if I watch you make a frowny face my own frowny face neurons fire automatically.

Now, I am the child of Nanook the Barbarian and the Angry Russian, whose battles rage as fierce as their names imply.  As you may expect given this lineage, I inherited a volatile temper.  I tend to bottle my anger and flee the scene so it won’t explode on anyone in a violent outburst. Sometimes I fail miserably and spew caustic nonsense.  Sometimes I keep it contained and the anger turns to resentment. Figuring out what to do with this surplus of negative energy has been an ongoing struggle. It may always be a challenge I have to deal with, but I think it’s worth finding peaceful solutions to the problem.

In yoga boot camp I learned a couple practices to deal with negative emotions. One practice is to replace the negative with its opposite on the emotional spectrum.  If greed is a problem, practice generosity. Give more away than you hoard.  If you find yourself depressed, work to cultivate joy. Replace the anger you have with peace.  Pretty simple idea. Trickier to do.

Two other practices we learned are raja and nada yoga. Raja yoga is meditation and I’ve written about it elsewhere (Be Quiet, Be Still). Nada yoga pertains to the power of sound. I’m a bit obsessed with this topic. I’ve devoted over a decade to studying the production of sound and resonance as it pertains to speech development, production, and disorder from the perspective of American linguists and speech-language pathologists. Nada yoga breathed new life into this discipline.  According to this belief system, everything in the cosmos is vibrating at some frequency. Even you. Pause a moment to think on that. It’s an amazing concept. There’s your own inner music, or anahata (can you catch the strains of your own personal tune?) and the vibrations that surrounds you (ahata). You can harness the energy of both through music, mantra, and chanting. If the terms mantra and chanting don’t work for you, then replace them with the metaphor that does. Mantra – what words do you repeat over and over to yourself? Are they protecting your mind from negative energy or creating more of it? Chanting  – whose words and tune are you singing?  Both will affect your mood. For example, if you’re feeling depressed then singing along to Reba McEntire’s For My Broken Heart may not do much to elevate you out of your funk. Try an inspirational or devotional song and make a joyful noise.  I’ve found U-2’s Beautiful Day works wonders for me.

How to radiate joy? First be responsible for the energy you project. Cultivate joy and it will naturally bubble over.

Nilla Bean, in a rare moment of stillness

 Ти́ше е́дешь — да́льше бу́дешь. 

 (Translation:  The quieter you go, the further you’ll travel.)

–Russian proverb

~~@~~

Be still and know that I am God.

–Psalms 46:10

~~@~~

To cultivate joy it is good to begin by tending the mind’s garden. How do you get rid of those pesky weeds? Meditation works.

For two weeks at the ashram we sat in silent meditation twice a day.  Shy person that I tend to be, I had no problem with the silent part. And I can sit still. I didn’t make a peep, but my mind was anything but quiet…

 How boring. What a waste of time. I had to get out of bed before dawn for this!? That lady is guzzling her water down like a Viking.  Shouldn’t she be meditating? I thought we’d be doing more yoga! What exactly is supposed to be happening here…? What is the point of this! When I get out of here, I oughta — was that a rooster?! Hamburger!

I’m a busy, buzzy person.  I like to be doing things. When I do sit down, I’m reading, thinking, dreaming, planning, remembering, creating, wanting, needing, hoping, composing…well, you get the picture. There’s a lot going in this head.

So what does sitting around doing absolutely nothing accomplish?

Well, nothing!  Which is quite a lot.

You can observe what’s going on in your own mind when the immediate external distractions, competitions for attention, and agendas of others are eliminated.

Consider how much energy is expended on the everyday demands of family, friends, work, and various other obligations.  Be sure to factor in the electronic (e-mail, texts, TV, radios, telephones, computers) distractions….

I discovered that my mental energy was being scattered all over the place in a myriad of unproductive ways.  Furthermore, what was on my own mind was not pretty. I was a grumpy, judgmental, out of control mess – and my ego was NOT happy to see itself. After the first week of regular practice, my mind slowly began to unwind and defragment.  The key word here is began.  It was enough to recognize the value of the practice and to make the time for it in my daily routine.

Note: Time is a funny little non-thing. If looking for time you will never find it.  If you want time, you will make it.  If the path of mastery is defined by where you direct your attention, it’s a good practice to take stock of where your attention is and where is it not.

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