Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Too Tired

Today was long. I was up early, had a busy day at the office downtown, my bus was late, arrived home late to discover we were turning around to head out to eat, and then the dinner friends came back to the house for more conversation. Between co-workers and friends it seemed like the day was filled with talking, talking, talking!

I'm enjoying chatting with CK now; reading about the rest of her day, writing, blog sites, and how much unix rocks. AM is watching something on the History channel. I'm just so tired out it is hard to think of writing anything much in depth tonight. Doesn't matter how many interesting things I talked about with both CK and AM today, my brain is just too worn out to put the words together much more than this.

Two Restaurants Today

Today was long. Woke up at 6:15 went into the office, had lunch at Chaat House with CK. This is one of my favorite places to get Indian food in all of Portland. Quite often the two of us order the daily "Big, big, big lunch special" which is rice, dal tarka (most often), a veg curry, and another dish (like aloo saag, aloo channa, etc.) served with naan. It is easily lunch for two and always delicious. Their aloo gobi is wonderful. The channa bhatura is fantastic but I only indulge in that particular fried bread goodness once in a while. I used to say their samosa chaat was second best in town, but since Kumar doesn't make it commercially anymore at India-4-U it the one at Chaat House has taken over this spot.

After lunch I did some coaching, talked with co-workers off an on, then went to catch the bus home. Bus was 20 minutes late and when I got to the house AM let me know that we were going out to dinner with friends to Aladdin's Cafe.

We've not seen these friends in a long while and they also needed some input on an outing they are planning. Since the friends were running a bit late AM and I met them over at the restaurant.

First things first -- there's a post up on Yelp that notes that the fresh pita has dairy in it. I was pretty disappointed when I read this and immediately inquired about it. I was assured, twice that the pita is dairy-free and vegan. That done, I enjoyed dinner very much. Ordered the megadara and have a nice bit of it leftover for lunch tomorrow. Everyone then headed back to the house to talk until nearly 10PM.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Writing and Thinking About Yoga

I've spent some time tonight writing for my yoga teacher training class. It also aligns with some things CK and I've talked about over the weekend, writing content for a real web presence. I kept things very short for the moment, just summarizing things at a high level to share with two of my fellow students. After we've collaborated on what to present to our whole class on Saturday I'll expand into more detail about Ahimsa and Asteya. I'll eventually write short bits about each of the Yamas and Niyamas.

I didn't make it as far as I would have liked today figuring out a login page. Started building some things, but not 100% it is the best solution. I think I'm going to do some work tomorrow on the older, Perl based tool that needs updating. Will be nice to feel like I'm making some real progress! At times working on this rewrite stuff is fun, at other times it makes me want to find a way to not do development anymore! I ended the day feeling like I should have really worked on the presentation or the metrics report!

After dinner this evening CK worked on a flyer for the yoga class going on for the next few weeks at the Dharma center. MB had sent out an email with many details, the 3 classes will study the six paramitas. Paramitas are considered methods by which we perfect our practice and MB is offering yoga classes around them. I helped by coming up with a few words for the flyer and in doing so came up with an idea I suggested to MB.

I grouped the six paramitas in twos, thinking that's how a class would go. It put shakti and vriya together -- acceptance and effort, peace and courage. I immediately thought of some of the balance, deep and strength poses we use. The way we have to approach those poses with both shakti and vriya in order to not merely endure, but thrive in our practices. MB had asked if I might have some interest in co-teaching some of this short series with her, so I shared my thoughts.

It was nice just hanging out tonight. Watching things with AM in the background, writing things for my teacher training, and helping CK was just a nice way to spend the evening and I enjoyed it very much. For feeling like I didn't get much done at work today, it feels like a good day regardless.

Football, Sandwiches & Preserves

CK came over this evening and AM made bánh mì sandwiches, which are a real favorite. To make fully veganized ones we use Veganaise (AM likes to add a little Maggi in it to give that tangy bite that fish sauce creates in the non-veg variations). Add slices of tofu seared with mushroom sauce, mung bean sprouts, avocado slices, and pickled veggies (jalapeno & banana peppers, daikon, and carrot). Top the whole thing off with some fresh coriander (cilantro), Thai basil and a squeeze of fresh lime. Hold on with both hands, because if you try to put it down it will explode, and enjoy with friends (because they won't laugh, much, at the mess on your face).

I picked a pocket full of jalapenos from the garden, the one plant that has really produced a lot, and we made Dave's recipe for poppers. We all gathered downstairs to enjoy our delicious, messy sandwiches while watching the football game on DVR. The game wasn't very exciting, except for all the injuries, and the commentators were annoying (as usual).

All the while I worked on my experiment with apple preserves, based on the recipe I read in the NYTimes. Will make some notes on that in the cooking blog after I've tried it and decided what I think. I'm enjoying playing with making my own preserves, that's for sure!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yoga Workshops!

The alarm went off at 10 minutes before seven this morning. I'd been anxiety dreams, something about being expected to present in front of a large crowd. When the alarm rang I nearly sat upright with nervous energy before my brain registered that CK running around to turn them off meant it was, indeed Sunday. I had quite a lot of time to snooze before needing to get up.

Eventually, past 9AM I got out of bed and had a shower, some toast with almond butter, and tea. Chatted with CK, who was feeling especially fatigued and decided to stay home instead of going to Sunday yoga. We decided we'd go do something in the afternoon around town, take photographs and hang out. I suggested that while I taught CK decide where we would go. Then I rode on over to the community center and enjoyed teaching the 6 students who arrived.

On the way to my classroom PB, who is one of the teachers and facilitators in the Ecstatic Dance community in Portland, stopped me to talk. She has recently taken over some space over in the Hollywood neighborhood and asked me if I would be interested teaching yoga there! We talked about my schedule being very full at this time, but in the spring might be possible. She also was very interested in hearing me talk about doing workshops for women recovering from trauma as well as classes for the trans and gender queer communities.

I was really touched, moved, and absolutely giddy with the excitement over it. I ended up getting my class going a little late, although people were happy to hear that I might be teaching elsewhere around town. More of that kind of "ah-ha" feeling -- the feeling excited and complimented over this, it is appropriate to take pride in this. It was amazing to have recently been talking about what I want to do and, poof, there it is.


When I got back to the flat after teaching my Sunday yoga class CK had decided we were going to Sauvie Island to explore, maybe pick some berries, and take pictures. The day was warm, sunny and beautiful out. We snacked on the leftover tempeh and I threw together some of the barley, some balasamic vinaigrette CK had made, and fresh veggies so we had a salad. We packed a couple of apples as well as the salad into a bag so we could have a snack lunch later.

Time for a Snack!

We drove around, just enjoying the beauty of the day, and finally decided we'd drive across one end of the island and go to Columbia River beach side. We parked and walked around a pasture for a while, looking at the cows, a couple of snakes, a woolly caterpillar, and lots of birds. It was a lot of fun just to walk along talking. We discussed ideas about working with online writing, which is this wonderful meeting of our technology and creative interests. I really enjoy that CK wants to share this with me too.

Headed back to the little red truck and headed back around the loop we'd selected. We made our way to Columbia Farms where we decided to have our lunch/snack and got an empty half-flat along with directions to the rows of raspberries. After we finished our snack we got to picking berries for about 40 minutes.

I was surprised CK had never done this before. Mom and I would often go to u-pick places and farm stands for produce. She enjoyed that connection back to her childhood in the country as well as the inexpensive aspect. The bees, busy with the flowers and berries still thick on the canes, were a little unnerving to CK, but she gamely picked berries. Each of us stopping to eat a few as we went. Oh, raspberries just picked, still warm from the sun, and the half flat for under $5!

And we're done!

From there we went on to the Pumpkin Patch where we purchased half a dozen different winter squash. We also bought a bag of still warm kettle corn and sat on a bench watching all the birds in the sun flowers, munching and planning a future visit, closer to Halloween. Eventually, half a bag eaten, we made ourselves close up the kettle corn and headed back to Portland.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Teacher Training Break Day!

Today was a break from yoga study since it is JW's birthday. I slept in until 8:30 and stayed in bed until past 9AM, just moving slow. I wasn't as stiff as I feared I'd be after last night's asana practice. I found some of the poses so challenging to my hips, just burning at my sit bones and aching, that I felt my face burning with suppressed tears.

That anxious fear that resides in my first chakra clamors at the times when my back and hips struggle to stay with a particular asana. It is made even more painful because I feel that struggle, the vulnerability of it, the tears springing to my eyes, and I'm surrounded by people so I don't feel safe to sink into the feelings. It was less awful during the hip opening workshop because CK was there when I was crying, so I felt the protective energy of her presence.

I spent the afternoon writing about the concept of Ahimsa for my teacher training. I also did laundry and answered messages. It was a fairly quiet afternoon, which was a nice break and I enjoyed not having to rush around. Went over to CK's flat around 6:15 and made the dinner I'd put together in my head while shopping at the Farmers' Market earlier in the day.

Creating Dinner at the Farmer's Market

AM and I finally both got up, got dressed and went over to the Hollywood District this morning. I was on a mission to buy produce for us and CK. She was attending WordCampPDX so I had her list of produce to pick up. High on the list were more apples from Kiyokawa Orchards, Romanesco broccoli, greens, beets, broccoli, carrots, and anything else that appealed to me!

It was overcast and chilly out although the forecast called for warmer weather. By 10AM the sun was trying to burn through some of the clouds as I made my way through the people at the market and live polka music filled the air. I quickly stepped into the bustle of the market, exchanged an ATM card swipe for some wooden tokens to shop with, and got out my list.

Dinner for later came together as I purchased beets. The cylindrical type of beet is a little easier to work with for raw slices for salads, or so my bias thinks, so I was attracted to Persephone Farm's stall and the bunches of them, complete with greens. I also selected some beautiful broccoli being set out and two small heads of the Romanesco broccoli. As I stood in line to pay they were setting out lovely Lacinato, or "dinosaur" style kale. Long, sweeping leaves of it and I asked for a bunch. One dinner item down -- kale and beet greens braised in balsamic vinegar.

I selected carrots from a stalls somewhere midway to Kiyokawa's spot. Finally at the apples I got over a dozen Pink Pearls, about 8 Honey Crisp, as well as some Ginger Golds, Tsuguro, and McKintosh varieties. While in line I happily sampled slices other varieties they put out. By the time I weighed everything, for both homes, there were $30 in apples! I was utterly unsurprised and willingly handed over my money. We all wanted lots and I had intentionally bought extra apples to make a recipe for apple preserves I read in the NYTimes.

Picked up the last of the things on CK's list at her favorite vendor. I wish I'd waited to get Romanesco there -- they had enormous, amazing ones. I've never seen any get that large before. I also picked up a Delicata squash there, which finalized dinner for me.

CK and I both love squash so I planned to roast the small Delicata I'd just purchased. That served along with the beet greens & kale and some barley sounded just lovely. I figured I'd ask if she were more interested in vegan sausage or some tempeh and we'd be set.

I love putting together dinner around what looks most appealing at the market.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Small Mind

Chozen noted toward the end of her talk last night at the Dharma center that the small mind is like a very young child. When it sinks down to those feelings that bring suffering it needs to be picked up and moved to something like metta meditation. She said that the Buddha had taught that the mind either moves towards thoughts that cause us further suffering or those that move us towards happiness. When we pick up the mind as it spirals into fear or anger, turning it instead to something like metta, we are moving the mind purposefully towards happiness.

When we are able to do this we begin to reside in the space of the Big Mind. That place of boundlessness, within the heart of wisdom. Without judgment and able to contain everything. As Patantaji would say, the Essential Self.

There are nights I can't seem to shake the fear, the shame. Times that it is so close and I'll toss and turn, startling awake until dawn. Or rising up when I am struggling, aching in my back & hips in asana practice, and feeling tears springing to my eyes. Very certainly it is my small mind sliding down into an abyss. My skills at recognizing, stopping, and moving my mind are not strong enough. Yet.

I was editing some older posts in this blog and noted the times I've mentioned doing something like metta when I'm feeling anxious. When I've done this, it has worked and pretty well at that. I perhaps didn't drop off into blissful dreams on those nights, but I was able to more peacefully rest. I actually sleep. So, clearly it works.

Like everything else, this is practice. It is the same practice my therapist reminds me of, watching for the overwhelming shame, panic and fear. When I do recognize those things coming up, stopping myself so I can see that the emotions are too much, misplaced. If I add Chozen's direction it is at this point I should strive to do metta. For anyone at all, myself if I can keep focused on it. Just pick up my small mind, with deep compassion, and turn it an activity of the Big Mind, generating loving-kindness.

The Only Truth is the Only Refuge

During the Dharma talk tonight after zazen CB told us that in Zen we take refuge in the very thing that scares us, the truth of impermanence. The very nature of the unsteady ground upon which we stand, which is the very thing our small protective mind is fearful of, is the only truth we have so it is our only refuge.

I found myself smiling when CB said this to us. I've been discussing what the Truth is with someone and just last Thursday. I had said them that I still think the Truth is caught up in the uncertainty thing. Our only constant is change.

This had come t to mind last week as I was preparing to chant the Great Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra, reciting some of the chant aloud in the car. My mind and body really feeling the words, "Form itself is emptiness. Emptiness itself form".

Change is in the whole of that. It is because of the constancy of change that form is empty. Everything is in constant change, each moment, at some level therefore, that which we think of as form is empty.

Hearing CB say that this is where we take refuge was like coming around on this same treasure again, in full circle. Especially since change is truly so constant for me right now. The stillness of a home and mostly-certain career, the support of my beloveds, creates the container for the unsteady shifting in my soul. The memories and thoughts that come up, the constant agitation of them. They're able to be there, I'm able to be present (mostly) for them now. The stillness I've found helps me feel more capable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quick Picnic (no lunch)

Woke up feeling more rested and less sore, it was a nice break. I worked from home until about 11:30 then headed up to Washington Park for a team picnic. It was a nice time even though lunch was just salad stuff since in picking up veggie burgers they selected ones with eggs and dairy in them. I brought some of the apples from the Farmers Market and the rest of the grapes from KW, which many people commented on enjoying.

I was being so mindful of the time, trying to make sure I got to spend time at the picnic but get back in time for my 3PM appointment with my therapist. I kept checking the time, noting the minutes and at 2:35 took off to get across town, near Wilshire Park. I pulled up just at 3PM and parked... right behind the 2PM appointment!

In my diligence at making sure I'd be on time I hadn't paid close enough attention the hour hand on my watch, merely keeping track of the minutes. I was an hour early! I drove over to the house since I had the time and answered some messages from the office. I also had time to have some leftover soup.

AM commented on my getting home chilled and hungry that I should just always take a veggie thing with me to supplement the inevitable salad. Even if I end up not having it, the option is there. Hard to argue the logic of it, it is one of the many times something like this has happened. People mean well, but just aren't as accustomed as I am to reading ingredient lists very carefully.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I slept pretty well, hard, and woke up ahead of the alarm. Although I felt stiff, I could quickly tell that my hips felt a lot better from BM working on them. We needed to get going pretty quickly so AM would be able to take TE to an appointment. I was doing alright until I was in the shower and the first muscle spasm hit in my lower back. I tried to breath and stretch through them, but they were not letting up at all.

After seeing me standing there with a hand on my back AM commented that I should work from home again today. I didn't really argue, I knew I had many meetings throughout the day and it felt hard to stand much less sit. I went back upstairs and put on some warm fleece then came back down to make some tea & toasted English muffin. I didn't feel as bad as Monday, wasn't feeling nauseated, but still felt fatigued on top of the pain. A good look in the mirror revealed that I still had rather dark circles under my eyes.

As I had my breakfast I rang into the first of 4 conference calls. The day wore on, I tried to get up and move a bit more frequently so I wouldn't stiffen up too much. I had some of the lovely leftover soup for lunch. I've been oddly hungry today, on top of meals I have snacked on apples and corn tortillas (in the toaster oven, with jam). I've tried to make the meals rather small, so maybe it isn't so unusual I was still hungry.

I'm trying to CB's voice in my head, "Now don't get obsessive!" when it comes to eating and my weight. It was such long, hard work that I begrudge any pound put back on. I went from having to make sure I stopped eating before I stuffed myself to having to judge if I've eaten enough to not end up feeling ill. I have to keep reminding myself of the small sizes of the clothes I have and that they still fit fine.

I was thinking about talking to BM yesterday, how I told her that my therapist tells me I'm making rapid progress but I felt like I was still just spinning. The seemingly constant grinding of all the things coming up, new thoughts, old fears, and shame inappropriately put upon me.

Something came back to me from reading Thoughts Without a Thinker by Mark Epstein a couple of years ago. How our true nature, brilliant as a diamond, is obscured by things like traumatic events. Our psyche scraped and scratched until the surface is dulled.

Perhaps this work now, although it feels like it is chafing my heart and soul, is not further scratching but it the polishing necessary to restore the clarity and brilliance that we all begin with. Just the way stones are put into a tumbler to slowly polish away the rough surface so the beauty beneath shines.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Learning to Let Go

No post yesterday. I didn't really feel like interrupting a quiet evening to write, felt the guilt around it, and decided that really it is OK if I miss a day once in a while. Trying to let go of what my therapist tells me is a "Puritan work ethic" run amok. I just feel like I should have more projects DONE if I have such an out of balance sense of work! I just reminded myself that this is about practice, the practice of writing and not a practice of perfection (again).

My yoga class yesterday was a lot of fun. Hip opening, sun salutations, and supta padangusthasana (1-3). There was great energy from everyone; the container of the class felt like it vibrated with positive, shining prana.

After wards CK and I ate leftover rice & mock-chicken casserole and finished off the purple cauliflower & Romanesco broccoli from the market. After hanging out chatting for a while we decided that we wanted to see a movie and settled upon Hamlet 2, feeling in the mood for something light.

We quickly got ourselves downtown to the Regal on Broadway, purchased tickets, decided to get popcorn, and only missed mere moments of the previews. They've changed the seats and we liked the tables that now appear between pairs of seats. We felt a little worried when a pack of young teens sat down directly in front of us, but they settled down pretty quickly.

The movie was very funny. I was cringing at Steve Coogan's portrayal of a lousy drama teacher in Tuscon, Arizona. Talking about it today with my massage therapist, BM, who has also seen it. She enjoyed it a lot too, the silliness of it and we both agreed it is very well done.

CK and I made soup once we got back to her flat. We had been talking about making an African peanut stew she has a recipe for, however, we didn't really much feel like leaving the flat so I decided we'd just make soup out of what we found in the kitchen. It was fun to do and we enjoyed getting it put together.

We shared some wine and one of the Pink Pearl apples I'd picked up from the Farmers Market. While the soup cooked I practiced doing asana adjustments with CK playing my student with improper posture. We watched another episode of Six Feet Under, which I've come to enjoy a lot.

After such a relaxing Sunday I woke up in a panic at 7:20 this morning. I'd tried going to bed while anxious feelings, old shame forced on me, swirled around incessantly. I tossed and turned, waking up with starts, and then unable to get comfortable. All night I did this until I opened my eyes, saw the time and sat up with a start. I felt disoriented and ill.

I got into my email for work, sat in on the daily status call, and had the toast & almond butter CK made me for breakfast. I ultimately decided I was not up to the bicycle back to my house and gave AM a call for a ride now that we have the right stuff to transport the bike on the Outback. He gave me a worried look when I got in the car, a second confirmation besides the mirror that I didn't look well.

The day was full of meetings, planning, and trying to work with people on determining the best process to use. I went through it in something of a haze, my mind feeling a bit blurry. CK got some frustrating news in the afternoon and I was glad to be working from home so I was available to message with. AM phoned me at about 2:30, as I was finally eating some lunch, to ask if I needed a ride over to my massage therapist's. I suddenly realized I had an appointment coming up in 30 minutes!

I finished just the toasted, whole wheat, English muffin topped with avocado. I didn't want to feel full while having body work done so I didn't have any of the leftover soup more than two bites. The little bit of bread, rich with the avocado was enough for the time being. I wrapped up a couple of things and rode on over to BM's house.

She and I chatted about how I was doing physically and energy-wise. After talking about the pain in the hips and back I told BM that I felt like I was just spinning my wheels in this old pain even though my therapist says I'm making progress. While she worked on me several times I felt energy moving through my limbs, pooling in my fingers until I felt myself shaking them as if to encourage the excess to leave.

After I got home AM and I put together tacos for dinner, finishing off the avocados in the house which were perfectly ripe. It was tasty and quick since he'd made nachos Sunday night; there was leftover taco filling and re-fried beans in the refrigerator.

After dinner AM headed over to BG's house to go through all the donations sitting there for the Burmese families our Sangha has been helping. I was going to go with him, but he asked if I really wanted to since I still apparently looked poorly. I ended up sitting downstairs writing and listening to music while he was gone.

It was nice to have that quiet. Mostly I wrote about food since DG had commented to me that the reviews of what I make sound tasty, but he wanted directions. It is very good practice for me to do this, really start breaking down what I cook. Since I've thought of writing a cookbook at some time this is exactly what I need to do.

Writing about food, really thinking it though, has been very grounding to me. After feeling such anxiety, uneasiness, and shame I should never been made to feel, the connection back to making healthful food feels healing. I remembered CB telling me about how she would bake when things were tough or she felt stuck, that merely turning on the oven to pre-heat would help.

JW made a comment during the hip opening workshop that there was a difference between "letting go" and "getting rid" of something. I have been thinking about this a lot, trying to check in with myself and the ways in which I would just like to get rid of all this nasty stuff. Moving from hiding it, denying it, pretending it wasn't there, to trying to just excise it from my life. I still need to move towards letting it go, embracing those terrible things and finally being able to rest.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Autumn is Nigh

Slept in until 8:30 this morning, which is pretty late for me. It was nice to sleep until I woke up, including waking up for a moment at a few minutes before 7AM and getting to go back to sleep. AM and I stumbled around, took showers, I got together all the stuff I'd be taking with me later, and then we made our way to the Hollywood Farmers Market so I could get more apples.

Once I got there I breezed past the Kiyokawa booth and spotted several new varieties since I'd been there two weeks ago. I was thrilled to spot the Pink Pearl apples were out. I got some wooden tokens from the info booth (can be purchased instead of getting cash from an ATM and used at any of the markets throughout Portland) and quickly made my way back to the apples where I picked out at least a dozen apples.

Back in the car I polished up one of the Pink Pearls and took a huge, satisfying bite. So worth waiting for, not that there is any choice about that. These apples only appear at the end of summer for a few weeks. Since they do not keep or ship well they must be eaten up and then they are gone with the season. They are not very showing, being a tan color but once they are rubbed with a cloth they practically glow.

We made our way on to the Bike Gallery to get a "tube top" for my bicycle. This is a bit of telescoping tube that clamps onto the seat post and the neck of the bike so it will hang on a bike rack. I also picked up a Pearl Izumi beanie to keep my head and ears warmer (I've liked the riding gloves I got from this company a lot). My head has ached a little in the morning because my ears get so cold. The same woman who sold me my bike helped out and was fascinated by the shockingly red apple I was eating so I took her in one before we took off.

Coffee and bagels at Seven Virtues, a nice bit of routine AM and I have been enjoying for a few weeks. We check emails, talk, and I work on homework for teacher training. It is a nice quiet time together before I have to dive back into my teacher training. Then we headed back to the house so I could load up.

It was a good class, again. I'm enjoying the depth of study on anatomy and adjustments. It is very much what my basic training lacked. I've not necessarily suffered for not having that since I had studied, but it is very good to get to spend this time on these topics. I feel like I am learning the asana and theory in far greater depth than before.

The ride over to CK's was long, although I was able to keep breathing through my nose and didn't feel quite as exhausted coming up the steepest part of the climb. It was good to have the movement in my legs and hips after sitting for so long in class, however, having sat so long meant I was fatigued and hurt quite a bit. It was really nice to arrive at CK's to the warmth of her company and the smell of dinner cooking.

It really feels like autumn this evening. The air smells of leaf fall and the leaves composting, breaking down on the ground. It is markedly cooler as well. When we popped out to go get cookies and chai I needed a fleece of CK's to be warm enough. I'm really happy to spend this time with CK, anticipating the anniversary of her move up here and getting to enjoy this time of year together.

Friday, September 19, 2008


A couple of weeks ago I was walking out of the Farmers Market, looking for where AM was waiting in the car. I wasn't easily spotting him in all the busyness. He hadn't waved at me or done anything to catch my attention. When I finally did make it to the car he remarked that he hadn't recognized me for several moments.

This is a strange, new milepost. AM has always recognized me even when friends, family members have done double takes upon seeing me after many months or years. I guess it is understandable since I sometimes do not recognize myself in the mirror and at times seeing my reflection go by feels as though I'm seeing the past. I more closely resemble myself at 16.

Most people at 39 would be thrilled to find that they looked so much younger would be reassuring, pleasing. It isn't that I'm not thrilled, it is rather gratifying to still be asked for identification when I purchase a bottle of wine. It is just part of the strangeness of it all, of letting go of the elaborate persona I must have started to craft from the moment I left Portland for college in Wisconsin. A bit of play-acting that become everything I was.

Online I've been been touching base with people I've not seen in years. None of them have mentioned the change so far. Maybe they think the photo isn't current or it just isn't as dramatic through an online photograph, but no one has said much. I can feel myself bracing for it, the questions.

CB and HB have both said I need to be proud of this and at times I almost think I can start to figure out how to do that. Then I run into the strangeness of not being recognized by someone who's spent a great deal of time with me these past 9 years or anticipate old friends wanting to know what happened. At those times I feel like I miss a step in embracing pride over the accomplishment.

Maybe it is the feeling of attention being called to it, to me, that leaves me a little uncomfortable. I can recall wanting to be the center of attention as a child, to be popular like my cousins. I would thrust myself into the center, yet was never quite comfortable there, the effort was always forced. By the time I was in college I was just starting to move from that kind of behavior, building the habit of staying to the sidelines that turned into kind of withdrawal.

In losing weight I never set out to be in the spotlight, to have attention drawn to me. I merely wanted to live a more healthful life. I wanted to be sure I would be here for those who love me, that I wouldn't suddenly leave due to heart problems or diabetes (two things that affect the women in my family quite a bit). Learning how to be in the center and have people truly interested in my being there feels awkward. Different from the forced quality of my youth, just awkwardness as I keep doing what I've been doing for the past few years; the behavior that has put me in the spotlight without seeking it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Change and Emptiness

The day was full and busy. I enjoyed my ride in. I found myself going down Flint behind a bicycle class from MLC. It was fun to see all the kids learning how to safely navigate through the downtown traffic to get to school. I was reminded of CK trailing me around on many rides while I got comfortable. It left me smiling, especially after I made all the lights on Broadway and flew up onto the bridge. I may have actually enjoyed going over the bridge!

Work included lots of running down issues for a good part of the morning. I worked on my database a little. AM came downtown and had lunch with me, dropping off my zafu & wagessa in case we didn't meet up at the Dharma Center later. Afterwards I worked with the newest teammate and coached her on database connectivity and Business Objects Enterprise. In between I tried to figure out the metadata when I suddenly realized it was time to go!

I was reading through the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra on MAX after work, hearing the sound of it in my head. Listening to the way the words move together, percussive, like the mokugyo only deeper, more resonant. I kept coming back to reflect on the words, Form itself is emptiness, emptiness itself form.

A few weeks ago I'd exchanged a message with someone about his comment of questioning anyone that said they knew what the truth was. I asked what if you knew that the truth is change. It is the true constant of the universe.

When I was looking at the words in the sutra, hearing them in my head and feeling them I came back to this constancy of change. Change underlies the whole of the sutra; it is because of the constancy of change that form is empty. Everything is in constant change, each moment, at some level. With this being the case that which we think of as form is empty.

So that's where my mind has landed with my practice tonight. Change and emptiness.

Actually, there's a whole lot more in there and my day was more full than that, but it is late, I'm tired and really feel the need for rest!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fatigue and Food

I had in mind to write about something else today, but I find myself as fatigued at the end of the day as I was when it started. I was up a little past 5AM, I believe Zonker was involved, I went down to the bathroom and came back to bed to finish a little more sleep. My whole right side ached, shoulder to foot.

I turned off my alarm and decided to work from home. The Outback was due back from the mechanic and it would be helpful to have me around when it was finished. I felt hugely fatigued even having gone to bed a little earlier on Tuesday. I also needed some quiet to work on the database I'm building. I drifted in and out of fitful sleep, uncomfortable, it was hard to drag myself back to fully awake a little while later.

Meetings all went far more quickly than usual and I was able to start working on the databases. It has been a long time since I've worked on databases and usually always worked with someone else. I do some research, make progress, stop, do more research, inch forward. That's how it goes. It is tiring and by 4:45PM my eyes and head ached from it.

I got my things together and rode over to Prananda. With the fires in the area the air quality is a bit poor and it has felt more difficult to breath. Sometimes the ride over is very energizing, tonight it was just the way I go to asana practice. I felt fatigued during the practice and by the end my body seemed very heavy.

Made my way slowly up the long climb on Denver. I was thinking how hard these climbs are, but when I finally turned on Ainsworth and could enjoy the flat for a while I was enjoying myself again. Simplistic analogy for the constant changes of life. When it is a climb, when we're having to really work and the breath strains we're often not so enamored of the moment. When there's a nice coast downhill or a flat surface to just enjoy the movement on, then it is easy to enjoy the moment, even wish for it to last longer.

I finally got to CK's flat and was out of breath to the point of coughing, which is how my asthma shows up. I sat on the sofa for several minutes just drinking water and getting my breath back. After a little bit I got up to neti and that helped with feeling like it was hard to breathe, somewhat. The ride here from Prananda is pretty taxing, especially since I'd already felt fatigued starting out. I'm thrilled to be able to do it, but it is pushing a little.

CK made us squash (zucchini and sunburst) sauteed with soy tempeh served along side a grain mix from Trader Joe's. I'd pointed her to this mix of Israeli cous cous, red quinoa, orzo, and split peas and was glad she enjoyed it as much as I do. It was a simple, hearty and very delicious meal. For dessert we had a nectarine and pluot sliced up with some walnuts. The rich, earthy note of the occasional walnut pairing so nicely against the tart-sweet flesh of the fruits. The whole meal is a good reminder of just how simple food can be yet be so completely satisfying. It doesn't need additives or fancy preparation/presentation.

Sometimes I believe this is one of the core things that has gone wrong with food culture in my country. The appreciation of simple food is either lost or considered elitist. Food must be fast, plentiful, and make you feel good about yourself (hence the surge in popularity in "functional foods" containing omega-3 fatty acids, extra fiber, green tea, etc.). If it isn't cheap, it must be fancy to the point of being excessive. And it should taste the same across the entire country.

It shouldn't be this way at all. The fruit we had tonight was succulent and bursting with intense, delightful flavors because it is the height of the season for it. It is whole, complete and perfect. It doesn't need any packaging or additives because nothing truly can enhance it. If I need more omega 3, or 6, fatty acids I'll have more flax or hemp oil. If I happen to need more fiber I have brown rice and more of those delicious fruits and fresh vegetables because that's what is naturally chock full of them.

There are times I worry about our society because the very building blocks of it, the food we consume, isn't truly recognizable as food anymore. Enormous companies spend millions of dollars telling people to eat this way, that it is convenient, economical, and completely normal. I'm left wondering how can we nurture our world when we have let ourselves become unable to nurture ourselves?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Before going to bed last night I looked carefully at all I'd written about myself, read the truth in it all, and I took another deep breath and wrote to the three members of my sangha who have found me, so far, on Facebook. I've known this was coming, I anticipated it weeks ago and that drove me to talk to HB and RP.

What I've come to see this as is my being authentic all of the time. In the past I kept separate circles. For a little while I tried overlapping them, work and social, but mostly that happened because the place I happened to be working kept hiring out of the same group of poly/queer geeks who all happened to be friends and/or involved with one another. Aside from that anomaly I grew to be more and more compartmentalized in how I interacted with people.

CK summed it up really well over lunch at Habibi today when I mentioned it to her. She noted that it sounded really hard to do. I had to immediately agree. It is difficult trying to compartmentalize myself and I am reminded of the ways in which I chose to put myself into compartments because I believed that's what I needed to do to have someone like me, not leave me.

It takes to much energy to remember all of that and it is not very compassionate to myself nor entirely honest, or at least authentic. When I read about the essential self in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras I was deeply drawn in. That when we still all the thoughts rampaging around in our minds we get to rest in our true nature, who we really are.

I find myself now wanting to always dwell in that place of authenticity. Honoring and loving who I am honestly and transparently regardless of the community I am part of at a given moment. The same person who works most days as a systems analyst is the same person that teaches yoga two days a week, sits with her Dharma community at least one day a week, and studies yoga three additional days a week at this time. I am the same person to my most intimate partners as I am to my friends, co-workers, students, fellow yogis/yoginis, and sangha.

This is the honest way to approach my life now, in keeping with my observation of the Buddhist precepts as well as the yamas and niyamas of Yoga. It is at once the easiest way and a most difficult path. Before I could hide parts of me that one group might find questionable, or I thought they would find questionable. Always shifting to make sure I fit it well, regardless if I really felt the fit inside. Now I'm fully present with the beauty and discomfort of not fitting in.

In truth I've never really fit it. I've always been forced to be something I'm not either by my family, lovers or myself. Playing up some bits, like the over-the-top sexy girly girl, while playing down other essential parts, the nerd who loves more than anything to learn about the world I'm in.

Now that I've just started being who I am all of the time I'm finding myself in circles where it is not only acceptable, but celebrated that I'm different. I've spent the vast majority of my life only revealing bits and pieces of myself at a time. To be surrounded by people & groups where I am safe to reveal my whole self and am still be supported is unsettling at times merely because it is new.

I find it a little sad that truly unconditional love and acceptance is an uneasy feeling for me. At least I'm feeling unsettled over something that is healthy for me. I am grateful for that and the hope that I will spend the rest of my life learning to be comfortable knowing support and love.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Walking Foward

Today seemed to bring a lot of news of deaths. In between trying to get phpMyAdmin running I updated the merit list for Thursday's service with the names that kept arriving in my email today.

I was happy that today brought the lovely news the George Takei finally was able to marry his partner of many years. It has been so beautiful to read news of so many people able to wed legally, even though at times there is great sadness mixed with the joy. It continues to astound me that people choose to be so narrow in their religion as to deny marriage to people, how this isn't so simple.

And then there's me. Married to a man, just what many of those same religious people would pray to come into my life. That I be "straightened" out by the love a good man. Only that isn't what happened at all. A good, even if flawed man, could see immediately I wasn't straight, wasn't even truly bisexual. He said to me tonight that one of the first times he really watched me look at a woman he knew I was a lesbian.

But here I am, I love my best friend but we can no longer ignore the (lesbian) elephant in the room. It is not the only reason he and I have drifted apart these past 4+ years, but my experience with it has changed and made it obvious the ways in which I've still be playing along. Maybe this time I've been doing it, working around my unhappiness, not because I'm tired of being yelled at. Still, doing it because I don't want to hurt someone isn't right either.

I have little hope that the people who currently would deny the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples would stretch even further to not judge me and my relationships. A lesbian married to a man in love with a woman. In a relationship with them both. Our middle way, but to the view of most people it was a path far out on the fringes. Regardless of that, I have to judge the way for me.

More people from my sangha finding me on Facebook. I am again reminded that I am not ashamed of my choices nor what I've written about, however, I am aware of the need to approach this with care. I never really entertained the idea that it would just be college friends, current friends (many in San Francisco) who I enjoy keeping up with. I am so glad to have spoken to my teacher some weeks ago now as well as speaking to the head of our community here in Portland. I am considering what steps I should take. Perhaps an email acknowledging that questions may arise and that I welcome them? Perhaps meeting with the Harmony Committee as was suggested by RP, progressing from there.

The biggest change for the house today was Bodhi finding a new home with a friend of AM's, J. This is a big relief and yet sad too. Bodhi was just too big for either AM or I with our physical limitations, he easily knocked AM off his feet several times. Because of it AM has felt himself growing into his depression. To top it off, Bodhi has just been unhappy. He loves us, but he loves being around other dogs more and has seemed to suffer being away from the kennel environment because of it.

J really loves big, playful, boisterous dogs. He stood there playing with a rope with Bodhi for several minutes, both of them looked utterly thrilled. He has a dog about the same size, but about 16 years old. J has apparently been quite at a loss at his dog's aging, no longer being able to play and get around as well. He's wanted to get another dog for some time now. It really seems to be a good fit.

It inevitably leaves me thinking of Juno, my last dog, an Alaskan/Siberian husky mix that was all energy. I have never been able to shake the feeling like I did the wrong thing by her and in the end she disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. I wasn't even there and, during a moment of pre-teen anger, DW once told me it was all my fault since Juno ran away clearly trying to find me. No matter how often I tell myself it wasn't my fault it is hard to really let this go.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oh, the hips...

Yesterday was a three hour hip opening, first chakra (Muladhara) workshop at Prananda. Last year during the Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy training workshop I ran into how intense getting into this chakra can be. I'd ended up in tears being assisted in holding a pose I feel is a true ally (supta padanguthasana). I was a little nervous about this but at least prepared.

In a couple of poses, holding them far longer than usual, I felt some tingling of the panic that shows up with IW works on the trigger points on my left sit bone. I was able to breath through these things. A few times it became so intense I would just lay down or do child's pose.

It was during savasana, resting with a flax seed bag over my eyes, that I felt the deep grief well up inside of me, mixed with some of the anxiety and fear. I felt very anxious and kept trying to just breath through it. When it got to be too much I turned my head to the side and let the bag fall off of my eyes. I stretched out my hand to touch CK's elbow as she lay in savasana next to me. She felt me and reached her hand out to hold mind.

I dislike crying to begin with, it awakens all kinds of fear in me that I'll be punished for it in some way. That's how I feel at home crying. In public it feels so much worse. After we sat up and offered three chants of Om I lay back down on my side, feeling the wetness on my face. I curled up in a tight ball, just feeling the grief and shame. CK stayed with me, helping me find my way back through.

JW came over for a moment, just to check in and be sure I was OK. After the workshop participants, including CK, left the teacher training students settled down to watch more of the DVD. I lay on my side, shawl over me, and just was present for the words of the DVD. Tried not to go back into the fear or grief.

After some DVD watching we went back to adho mukha svanasana. I think I may have done the pose 24 times in a couple of hours. Reviewed the respiratory system and assists for downward dog. CK came and picked me up. I had my bike but was so utterly exhausted I knew I couldn't make it to her flat.

We stopped at Dalo's on the way home, enjoying the usual vegetarian platter. Spent a lot of time talking that night and got to sleep a bit late. Both of us taking more ibuprofen before managing to get comfortable enough to sleep.

CK was yoga'd out after Saturday's workshop and stayed home while I taught my Sunday class. It was a good class, broke down downward dog further as well as some shoulder things. Another new student today, G, a man who seems to be in his late 40s/early 50s. Unsurprisingly his shoulders are very, very tight as well as his upper back. He left saying he'd be back next week.

CK had been busy cleaning and making yummy tempeh hash. We had that for lunch topped with tomatoes from the garden, it was just such lovely comfort food after teaching and the work on Saturday. We hung out for a while, resting and talking, then walked up to the library then on to Mio Gelato where we discovered vegan sorbetto. We each had a scoop of nectarine sorbetto which tasted just like late summer!

After getting back to the house, CK brought me and the bike home, AM and I talked for a bit before making wonderful pizza. Whole wheat crust, tomatoes from the garden, grilled eggplant & "cue ball" squash from the garden, and some Tofurky Italian sausage. We've hung out in the basement watching stuff on Discovery while I've done laundry and wrote.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The way is hard but worthy

I felt like I'd run face first into something when I awoke this morning. My eyes ached, my face ached, and my chest & throat still felt taut with hopelessness. I felt queasy and tight fear sent fingers down through my torso to my hips. I had not slept well at all after conversations full of hard truths. Although there are times when truth seems gentle and easy, this is a time when they the truth has a edgy hardness to it.

AM took me into the office, I wasn't really in any shape to ride in. Usually I'd have worked from home, but there was someone I'd worked with retiring today and I wanted to be there for the get together in her honor. I got through the morning, talking with people and trying to eat my oatmeal. When I came back to my desk for a meeting CK had sent me a text message.

She was coming downtown to look at a new office and asked if I wanted to have lunch. By the time she got there I'd finished a nearly two hour meeting to finalize some business requirements and my sinuses ached terribly. I was thinking of leaving early, trying to get my head around setting up the tools and building a database seemed impossible through the pain in my sinuses.

We walked down to Veganopolis. I ordered the African style peanut & yam soup and she got a pot pie. I was still felt queasy and picked at my soup. We talked a little, I felt the words coming haltingly, fighting up through the tension filling my torso. I felt some of the hopelessness lift as our words met.

I decided to take the afternoon off and we walked back to my office so I could let people know and grab my stuff. We took MAX over to the 7th Avenue and walked to her flat. One Zyrtec, two pseudoephedrine, two ibuprofen, and laying down on the bed close to CK helped to finally get the sinus headache under control. We kept talking, finding the way together again.

She brought my attention to my fear, the hopeless belief things are ending that bubbles up to the surface so quickly. It is an area where we run into each other emotionally. I withdraw into certainty that the end is here, the our relationship is over. I get lost in my fear and of no help to either of us.

It has been underneath things for me lately, that fear. When my relationship doesn't hit these bumps things are can be effortless, we just flow together. So much so that I have been having a undercurrent of fear that any moment now it will be taken away from me. I don't think I'd realized how constant that fear had become until we started talking about it.

Another rising, wordless, awful emotion stealing me away from the present moment. Like the others, this conviction that she is leaving me will have to be added to the list of emotions to monitor, to evaluate and re-frame so that I am able to stay present, able to see that I am OK. She spent a lot of time reminding me that she wants to find a way too, that she isn't leaving. Hearing it was like a balm.

We talked about finding a middle way in this. Sometimes we will need to regroup, maybe re-evaluate, maybe even sometimes go back a few steps to gain perspective. I laughed about our middle way, a way others find far out on the fringe and yet the practice for us is the same regardless. We observe the precepts, we look for markers of the way, we practice.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hard Work

The day started at 5:30 AM with Atari climbing over CK & I, repeated, meowing constantly and biting both of us. We had got to sleep late anyway having stayed up talking and being close in bed together. I woke up again at 7:30AM and made myself get out of bed to take a shower.

I felt bleary and unfocused, so tired and aching. CK offered to drive me in but I said I felt OK enough to walk to the MAX. I wasn't really sure of that, but was alright walking. My shoulder ached from my laptop by the time I made it to the office.

A day of rushing. Hurrying into the shower and into the office. Helping a co-worker get her laptop set up correctly to work on the VPN over a wireless network. Rushing out close to Tigard to attend a Business Objects user group meeting. Coming back through traffic to downtown to catch the train and walk to CK's flat. Quickly eating a little food, updating the merit list, printing the list and another update to the service chanting. Then off to the Dharma center.

Sitting was the first feeling of quiet I had all day. Chanting was easier, my being mindful of the percussive nature of chanting helped me in my flow. Afterward RC provided a couple of comments to me, noting something that all Ino's seem to do, a rising glissando on the names in the short lineage I chant. He thought BG and I chanted somewhat similarly the "heart" in Great Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra.

Afterward, surprising me because it came after telling CK that I feel very proud of her. I do feel that pride, she has worked so hard, continues to work so hard to understand herself and was faced with absolutely brutality for trying to express herself. I am quite often just amazed by her.

I do feel the desire to keep doing this hard work. Like the way I've kept doing yoga even though it makes me really hurt at times, same with zazen which at times makes me emotionally hurt too, and the same as keeping going to therapy to work on the old, ugly trauma. Those things have affirmed me and keep me going through the hurt. It feels the same way with my relationship with her.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Energy Work

Today felt productive even though I stayed in my PJs until 2:30! Hmm, maybe it was productive because I stayed in my PJs all day? Needless to say I worked from home and after the assorted Wednesday meetings finished up I threw myself back into the MySQL problems from the day before. Another bonus in being at home today -- I was able to instant message chat with CK and get technical advice on my problems.

At 2:30 I realized I needed shower and to get all my stuff together. I had a 4PM therapy appointment schedule with GM followed by 5:30 physical therapy with IW. It seemed like a tough combination but it really seemed to work well and I didn't feel too rushed. It was such a big help the AM did the driving, which was really quite a lot, but it made the whole thing go smoothly. Unfortunately my appointment with IW ended quite late, nearly 7PM (she is often running late by the time she sees her late afternoon appointments, but even still I was surprised at the time).

I remembered to talk with GM about the strange interaction with my Mom the day after my birthday. The joking, laughing about the paddle. GM just shook her head for a few moments and finally asked, "Does she really joke about that, think it's funny?"

I noted that my Mom, still within the past two years, tells a story of how I buried all of her wooden spoons after school one day because I was tired of being spanked with them. "Hah-hah, don't kids do the damnedest things?"

Of course in the past two years this whole thing, the absolutely desperation I felt as a child doing that. Crawling under the bushes surrounding the back yard, putting each one in a different place. And oh did I get it when she got home and discovered what I'd done. Funny, she always leaves that part out when she tells the story. GM noted to me that growing up not only were my feelings invalidated but the confusion that must have been caused by my Mom then joking about it all.

I was all over the place during my session. Moving from that, because talking about it felt irritating again. I also wanted to talk about my feeling the disappointment so hugely over the family trip then connecting that through to how things happened as a kid. That I would be looking forward to things, counting on them and find myself grounded over something trivial or at the mercy of Mom's decisions, especially around moving so often.

In talking about it, getting validation that this insight was valuable and that I was understandably hurt as a kid, it struck that since connecting the hurt around the disappointment to all the endless disappointments as a child I had felt better. There is far less the sensation of being minimized or unimportant. Yes, there is still disappointment, but it feels reasonable in proportion and not nagging at me in the same way anymore.

I was talking to AM about the Mom stuff while going to IW's studio, and he noted how my Mom's mental illness really makes it impossible for her to really be honest with herself, or anyone else about the past. I had noted that the rest of that day with Mom, after the incident, there was distance. I was stuck with the thought that I really didn't know what to say to her at all and she too was fairly silent. AM commented that if she gets too close to the truth she would have to admit that worse than not always being a good mother she was a downright abusive ones at times. I noted that when the truth gets too close Mom makes a joke. That's why she tells jokes about the things that still give me nightmares.

IW noted that my pain seemed more stabilized. She did what she called some fluid work before getting into my trigger points. She held her hands first on the top and bottom of my left hip, keeping one hand under the sacrum and sit bone. She eventually moved her other hand from the surface of the hip to the bottom of the top curve. It felt very tender, not awful, but intense.

Intense enough that it was difficult to just chat. I closed my eyes and tried to settle into the body. I breathed in and looked at the area that hurt, seeing the left edge of the sacrum glowing orange red, occasionally pulsing into the side of the hip and the top of the femur. I could feel the edge of the panicked feelings that showed up last month when she worked on a trigger point on the sit bone. I tried to breath through the leg, pulling in healing energy on the in breaths and exhaling out through the left hip trying to push out the panic, the hurt, move it down and out of the leg.

When IW finally worked on the trigger points there were far few than usual. This was what she had been hoping for by spending that time on the fluid/energy. The few trigger points left weren't quite as bad except for a couple around the left sit bone. She ended by doing more fluid work and cranial work as well. I felt the top of my head tingling and when I went to stand up I felt the room recede for a moment. Not dizzy, but a real spacey feeling.

I was having a some difficult reconnecting after being so focused on my breath, checking into the hip and noticing how much heavier it felt now, less tensed up. AM was a little frustrated it had taken so long, in large part because he'd been running errands in the car all day and his knee was hurting him. My spacey mind and his tired mind didn't mesh up well at first, I think it was largely my not integrating after therapy. Not that we were truly irritated or angry at all, I could just feel how we were not connecting up.

CK was just starting dinner when I got to the flat. We had lovely summer veggies with sprouted wheat pasta. It was very nice and not just because the tomatoes & zucchini came from our garden. She and I watched the first episode of True Blood after we ate, I'm interested enough to watch a couple more episodes to see how the story develops.

The books CK ordered on Sunday arrived today. I was laughing at the stack on the coffee table, Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero (a kick-ass vegan cookbook), a copy of Regular Expression Recipes, Urban Tantra by Barbara Carrellas, and Tantric Sex of Women by Christa Schulte. This combination is so apt, all it really needs is a book about Hatha Yoga and one about Zen and everything would be covered!

Bed soon, we're both tired and it has been a really busy week, especially for CK.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In the still moments before sleep

At times the still moments before sleep are a difficult ones, when I slip into barely remembered trauma, flashbacks surface and I don't sleep much the rest of the night. Sometimes it is the most productive analysis and programming I do for work. Other times some kind of ah-ha type of moment settles into the stillness.

That was what happened last night. I was settling into the stillness, feeling my breath and two things came to me. First was missing Bustopher terribly. Thinking about him outside on the front steps last autumn, how happy he was sleeping on the concrete in the sun. Just landed on me and I gasped slightly, tears springing to my eyes. And I breathed through it, accepting it.

Then I felt small and disappointed about canceling a trip. Inwardly I sighed with myself, impatient to have this come having felt like I'd put it to rest. But it was there so I tried to follow the part of it that left me feeling small, put aside. Lots of little things, small things over the years until college, adding up under my psyche. Events I would plan for, hope for, and find myself grounded, stuck in my room reading because I hadn't put my shoes away correctly in the closet, or someone changed their mind about taking me. Nothing huge, just many small voices together in disappointed choir.

What was common was the feeling of not having any say. Not being able to ask why or understand, just another thing, some party or outing just removed. Moving all the time fits in too, my opinion or wishes never part of the decision process. All that irritation awakened by what I'd hoped for not only being denied but having it cause some painful moments as well.

Realizing all of this, breathing it in and through it, was good. It at least brought some sense to why I felt so lousy about being a grown up, or what I think one should be. Part of me really didn't want to be saying those mature things, I wanted to say I was mad. I don't know, part of me also was likely running into the old mind thinking that if I argue I'm just going to get punished. Ugh, so much ugly stuff. Even when it is little things it is suddenly having the long view and seeing a long, long list of little things.

I nearly hopped out of bed to write about then but I was tired and the melatonin was starting to settle my mind down further. When I awoke, before the alarm, at 6:18 this morning this all came back to me with complete clarity, further indication of my being on the right track. I've had it there, in the background all day, and it hasn't hurt at all, I don't feel nearly the agitation around it either. I thought about telling CK when I saw her today, but I just let it sit longer, wanting to be able to word it well for myself first, which has helped me.

I was going to ride in and was up early enough to do so, however, my left hip was shooting pains into the leg and over to the tailbone; AM drove me in. I discovered this morning that somehow, once again the work I'd done on Friday was undone. I wasn't entirely sure I didn't cause the problem. Then I was onto a call with someone to explain database concepts. Then on to meeting with someone to complete requirements on a request I'll be programming on.

Suddenly it was 11:30 and CK was downstairs. We went over to Blossoming Lotus, but DID have different dishes this time. I finally tried the raw pasta, zucchini ribbons tossed with raw marinara, pine nuts, spinach and cherry tomatoes, topped with a raw cashew basil creme. It was delicious and very satisfying. CK had the Salud salad which was something of green salad with brown rice, black beans and half an avocado and a cilantro creme on top. I helped her eat the avocado and though the cilantro creme was very tasty, the rest of it didn't quite seem a salad or a grain-bowl type of dish.

Back to the office and got MySQL up and running again. I have compiled and recompiled to add it to my PHP configuration but it just doesn't seem like it really sees it, when I call php_info() I get details from when I first compiled it and added to the server last month, it doesn't seem to reflect that I've done anything. Very frustrating.... and that's mostly what I did until it was time to leave!

Rode over to teach yoga, it was nice out and riding helped loosen up my hips. The shooting pains had got better at work but I was pretty stiff. It looked to be just two people in class when the door opened and CK popped her head in. She had been going to go to class at Prananda but was running late and stopped when she was riding by the community center and realized that she was right on time for my class! It was a great class, again lots of questions on how to really do the poses!

We rode to the house and I made up some impromptu, but very tasty sweet and sour. CK hung out for a while talking and then headed home. It was lovely to just get to kiss her, talk with her more, and feel that connection. Over dinner we talked about some differences that past relationships. She noted in the past always feeling the energy moving away from her. I had noted that in the past there would be a rough day, an argument maybe, and afterwards I felt drained. It isn't that I don't feel that, but it isn't the same. I feel like we have made progress, not just put a little bandage on a terrible wound, and I feel very connected to her. I finally got to a better way to say it -- I feel stillness afterwards and connection. In that stillness I can appreciate that I'm tired from the hard work we've done together.

This is hard work we're each doing, I keep reminding myself of that. It is difficult enough to do alone, that we have to work on some of it together is a little frightening and, yet such a help. As hopeless as I sometimes feel when we hit a bump I have always emerged on the other side feeling like we were further along the way.

And now to some still moments before sleep again. It is late for me, but since I am working from home tomorrow I can sleep a little later. Zonker is perched next to my left hip in the papasan chair, I can hear AM snoring a little from the other room, the neighbor (still drunk) has yelled a few times but at least has put down the harmonica.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Homework Again!

Although I'm taking notes in my notebook for yoga class I decided to keep a separate blog, Yoga Kuru Karmani (after a quote in the Bhagavad Gita), to track work there as well. I like being able to reference what I've written in an electronic fashion, especially being able to sort through all my entries about asanas by tag. I am able to read over what I've written even if I do not have my notebook with me. Besides, the multiple acts of writing help things stick for me.

Strange and good to be doing homework again. I have better tools, in college I didn't even have my own computer, did computer work in the lab, and typed most of my papers on an electronic typewriter I owned. My parents didn't really get the whole computer thing back then (uh... 1987). I have my old, iBook, which is steady if slow. I can journal and type up work online, much like the approach I took with the writing I did on the five grave precepts using the Google Docs application.

We do have an exam, but that paper bit will only be a part of how we're graded. In that sense this follows more the concept of transmission; knowledge being handed down along a long linage of teachers. There's only one area that is not something I know on the exam, more details about each chakra, so it is time to commit those to memory.

I didn't end up going to yoga class tonight. CK was absolutely exhausted after working on a customer's release all day, although we'd discussed going to class and her having dinner here it made abundant sense for her to rest. Since JW had noted that we need to be taking our 40 asana practices with either her or RM and DM was teaching the class we were going to go to I just decided to do an asana practice at home, sit zazen and work on homework.

It was a lovely evening out, a nice breeze was coming in through the window while I moved through poses. Zonker curled up between my mat and the zabuton, the wind wiffleing through his fur, and Phoebe lay along the top of the futon. I had a lot of stiffness in my hips, very little movement although it feels like it needs to pop in several places. I'm really glad I see IW on Wednesday, my tailbone is beginning to ache again (which seems to be the indicator that it has been around two weeks since body work).

Sitting was very difficult because I kept thinking of all the things I wanted to finish doing in the room! The block shelf, should it be put in horizontally or vertically? If vertical where does the photo print go (to the living room because it is an architectural detail like the photo of the Temple of Athena Nike at the Acropolis)? Instead of the two small tables I want to get rid of the light colored one and put the small statue of Shiva dancing on a floating shelf above and to the right of the futon. Maybe get rid of the small, black table too, just find or build a very narrow table to hold the lamp and glass of water for when a guest is staying in the room. Move the wreath of shells from SR's family (this I tried to do after sitting but the screw in the wall isn't far enough out to catch the loop).

And that's how the whole time went. I'd think of something I wanted to do in the room, return to my breath, think "floating shelf", and return to my breath. Over and over, it was pretty tedious. I know it is the energy of getting this room emptied out again and available to support our practice, but still I grew exasperated with myself. Which I then had to work on letting go so I could return to the breath, again!

AM and I had dinner then I returned back to homework while he worked with some photographs while watching the Packers game, mostly on fast forward so he doesn't have to listen to the commentators. I am feeling very tired out still from the weekend. I didn't get as much done at work today as I would have liked, although I did manage to get some things set up, commented upon, etc.

CK has been around online and it has been nice to have that option to connect with her via chat, I'm so grateful that we have all these options to connect with. I know if I just need to tell her something quick there's one method. Even on nights where we don't hang out I can leave open the chat client while I'm writing and still talk with her. I don't know, it is just so nice to have these different ways to connect, to share, even when we're not in the same space.

She was noting all the blogging stuff I'm doing now. I set up the two new blogs today and set up my Twitter account a little while back and that's on top of writing here nearly all days since the end of June. I noted that I really like using these methods, it has helped me write a lot more than I was doing longhand (regardless of how much I adore paper journals and the whole idea of writing longhand, very romantic).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunny September Sunday

Whew! What a busy few days. I feel really tired and energized at the same time. Mentally I'm zooming a little but I feel the physical intensity of the past few days. AM and I are watching Jools Holland, which we DVR, Toots and the Maytals played as did Jet, from Australia. We had the leftover pumpkin curry for dinner along with some flat crackers toasted with tomatoes, olive tapenade and some red onions. It was a nice, simple meal and we talked a lot while getting things together.

Today my class ended up running a little late, but no one really seems to mind and the class was a lot of fun. Two students from last year returned after a long break bringing two friends with them. One person completely new to yoga, one who remembered taking Kundalini yoga classes many years ago. Another returning student from this summer, R who gave me such a compliment a few weeks ago when I was having a very difficult, vulnerable day. And CK, something that brings me a great pleasure; I feel a rush of warm emotions when I see her on her mat.

The energy was very good, lots of questions, and I was just enjoying it so much I was surprised to find we were still doing standing posed and it was at the end of class time! I didn't feel too bad since class had got to a late start. R had asked for plank and side plank, which was great since I was really looking forward to teaching going up into adhomukha svanasana from plank pose. This was one of the things from teacher training that I really wanted to try with my class. I was pleased to see how much better each person's pose looked, even the brand new person!

CK and I rode back to her place afterward and were able to continue our conversation from a little better place. The yoga practice burning off some of the energy and grounding us both. It was easier although still deep and touching places that hurt. We had more soup and just hung out talking to each other. Occasionally taking breaks and talking on other topics, but still keeping connected.

We lay down together, just touching and talking. CK brought up an idea she had, that perhaps we investigate adding Tantra to our shared practices, to our relationship. It ties very closely to our Hatha yoga and Zen practices and might be useful in discovering how to feel safe in intimacy together. As she told me this I'd been laying there thinking that maybe before we go to bed we should actually sit together, meditate.

I mentioned this and she asked if we could touch. When she said that I was struck with the idea of sharing a cushion so we could sit with our backs completely touching. We tried this, each perched on one side of a flat, bed pillow. We slowly let ourselves lean into each other and sat for a few moments. It was wonderful feeling the warm length of her against the whole of my back, knowing the sensation of her breath as well as my own.

It isn't exactly a path through the rocky shoals of intimacy that shows up in anything we've read, but it is something I think valuable to explore. I recall one book suggesting an exercise to sit with you hand on your partner's heart, but the arm would quickly grow tired and it seemed a little awkward even though I like being able to lie next to CK with my hand on her heart.

There was something so deeply connected feeling in sitting with my back to her, and that was just a in the few moments of trying out the idea of sharing a cushion. I feel like it could be deeply intimate sitting for many minutes that way, in zazen. Our backs touching and sharing the movement of breath while our minds did the work of settling into the silence.

We lay stretched out on the bed after zazen together. Outside there was a block party with live music. It was a warm, sunny early September afternoon and we found ourselves enjoying each other while a jazz guitar and female vocalist came in through the open windows. CK noted, as we were lying there enjoying the day and the music that it felt natural to be together.

Sitting with my back to hers for those moments, feeling her so deeply, helped to ground me in how strong of a relationship we're building. That helped the feelings of desperation and hopelessness subside. When those things settle it lets the tension around intimacy subside.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

September is for Apples

AM & I both slept quite late for us, it was past 8:30 when we woke up. I wrote a little about what I'd had in my mind when I went to sleep the night before; the chanting entry. A discussion about going to Seven Virtues for coffee expanded to include a foray to the farmers' market to see if apples were there yet.

Apples are one of my favorite types of fruit and when they start really coming into season it is wonderful enjoying them. Every year I look forward to a particular family orchard bringing apples to the market.

We picked up a few things at the market, including apples, before heading home. I hopped into a quick shower the loaded up my bike and headed over to Prananda. I was thrilled to get to chat with CC when I got there, what a treat!

I'm enjoying getting to spend so much time on anatomy and physiology! It is a pleasant surprise to discover just how much of this I remember. We also spent a great deal of time on adhomukha svanasana. Funny moment when everyone came round to feel my collarbones -- I was the only one who'd broken one and it can be felt. More of the DVD, I particularly liked the way Georg Feuerstein commented that, "Suffering has to do with how we relate to pain."

After the first really full day I'm feel much more grounded in this decision. It will be a tough 27 weeks and at times it will be really stressful. However, it is the next logical step in my growth as a teacher. The energy of the class feels good so far and I know I'll progress a lot in the time.

Nice, although tiring ride over to CK's after class. Lovely evening, again nice temperature and not too much traffic out even for just past 7PM on a Saturday night. The tomatoes from the garden got a little squished. CK made a yummy zucchini chowder that has cashews, nutritional yeast and tahini blended into it.

September is for Apples

I headed to the Hollywood Farmers' Market today on a mission -- apples from Kiyokawa Family Orchards. I found the apples were in and immediately stuffed several in the bags along with a couple of pears that will ripen in a few days. I asked about the particularly delicious, but very short seasoned, Pink Pearl variety, they usually are only in for a couple of weeks at the beginning of September. I was told another week, week & a half. The season is off to a late start with our cold, damp year.

I rubbed off a small Gravenstein and ate it with absolute pleasure on the way over to Seven Virtues. The incredibly talented, and cute, barista made up my hemp latte and drew a blue heron in the foam. It was very lovely and totally recognizable. It almost seems a shame to drink it, but it makes the foam images closer to the sand drawings that are meant to be destroyed. Impermanence in foam?

Then we picked up a few things at the market before heading home. I hopped into a quick shower the loaded up my bike and headed over to Prananda. I was thrilled to get to chat with CC when I got there, what a treat!

I'm enjoying getting to spend so much time on anatomy and physiology! It is a pleasant surprise to discover just how much of this I remember. We also spent a great deal of time on adhomukha svanasana. Funny moment when everyone came round to feel my collarbones -- I was the only one who'd broken one and it can be felt. More of the DVD, I particularly liked the way Georg Feuerstein commented that, "Suffering has to do with how we relate to pain."

After the first really full day I'm feel much more grounded in this decision. It will be a tough 27 weeks and at times it will be really stressful. However, it is the next logical step in my growth as a teacher. The energy of the class feels good so far and I know I'll progress a lot in the time.

Nice, although tiring ride over to CK's after class. Lovely evening, again nice temperature and not too much traffic out even for just past 7PM on a Saturday night. The tomatoes from the garden got a little squished. CK made a yummy zucchini chowder that has cashews, nutritional yeast and tahini blended into it.

Chanting is not singing

Something that has settled into my mind the past few weeks around my Ino duties at the Zen center is that chanting is not singing. It surfaced a couple of days after HB told me I was doing better, still slow down, and to put spaces into the words, savor them.

I loved to sing along to the radio as a kid, to myself even if there was no radio. I was constantly told to be quiet, no one wanted to hear me, and I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. Therefore there was never any support for me wanting to be in a choir or anything like that. At college I finally broke free of this and joined the college choir, the community masterworks choir, and took voice lessons in the music department.

And I learned how to sing, how to carry the sound as a constant through the words, flowing. Ways to end words that end with Ms, Ts, and Ds. How to sing in Latin, German, Italian, and Spanish as well as English. Despite prompting by my vocal teacher I never became comfortable with solos, only performing them when forced to by the requirements of the voice lessons.  I did love singing in the choir and have particularly lovely memories of performing Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

In approaching chanting service I've used the lessons about breathing and projection from singing.  I also used the way lyrics are vocalized, especially in the classical, Western approach.  However, chanting isn't singing Verdi, it is chanting.  The words flow in more of a rhythmic fashion, closer to percussion than the way a voice may be trained to move like a string instrument.  

I've been mindful of the feel of the words more than the meaning.  The feel is important in singing, the movement of a word.  In chanting sutras the importance is the meaning of the word, what the sutra is teaching us.  In chanting names, transferring the merit of our practice to the suffering and deceased, it is especially important to be mindful and hold each person in the heart as their name is recited.

I may still rush, I'm learning to be slower in chanting.  I feel like this realization will help.  There is such a distinct difference between the type vocalization I've done in the past and Zen chanting.  I'm still not used to the sound of my voice, loud in the quiet of the zendo.  It plays into my feeling like I couldn't yell, really make noise in the zendo during the women's retreat over the  New Year.  

I so deeply feel, in my bones the quiet of the zendo.  Something about chanting, being loud brings up old ghosts.  The obvious moments of having distinctly heard my Mother's voice telling me I couldn't carry a tune.  Ghosts of my grandmother admonishing us for being noisy, laughing during Mass and disturbing the quiet of the church.  Or any number of ghosts raining down disapproval for making too much noise.  Slowly I'm trying to replace those old voices with the new ones from my sangha telling me how much they appreciate, enjoy the sound of my voice ringing out in the stillness.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Yoga Teacher Training Begins

The day did not start well. At 12:47 one of the suction cups holding the thingy which holds the family tooth brushes and toothpaste gave loose and the two tubes of paste crashed into the tub. AM & I both sat up in bed with a start and he got up to investigate.

At the top of the stairs Zonker hissed at AM as if to say, "Did you hear that, I'm not going down there!"

AM came up told me what it was and we tried to get back to sleep. I'd been barely sleeping, uncomfortable and my mind just awake. Not lots happening, just awake and achy. Should have taken a melatoninin, perhaps if my mind was settled with that help I wouldn't have been as mindful of pain.

So I decided to work from home. Good day for it, had my monthly one-on-one call with my boss. Nice to be home for those because I don't feel like I need to walk off to talk privately somewhere. I had a good kick-off meeting for a project I'll be doing most of the code for. I tried to get PHP to work with the MySQL test database I set up but I'm still stuck on errors about the connection not working.

Then off to Prananda for my first teacher training class to start! As usual for me I felt anxious about it. The ride over there helped with some of the nervous energy as did the asana practice for 90 minutes. By the time we were doing two hours of sitting down and talking about the next seven months I felt much calmer.

I knew I wouldn't be the youngest, but I'm not the oldest either. There is quite a age difference between all of us, which is really cool. One solitary guy and 9 women, plus Joy. Again in a group I'm interested to hear how many people move to Portland. I'm one of a few with a meditation practice. There's several of us with back and hip problems, chronic pain, and muscle spasms.

We watched Yoga Unveiled for about 30 minutes. I was really enjoying the deep history of yoga. There were seals from Harappa discussed and shown which show people in early yoga poses. Tracing yoga back closer to 5000 years! Not sure if anyone else was as into this bit as I was, I know a few people were finding it a bit deep to follow. I'm looking forward to the rest of this DVD.

One of my fellow students has just moved here from Hood River and had rode to the class. She lives on the way I take home from the studio and hadn't put her light on her bike yet. She also hadn't known the best way to take back to her neighborhood so she followed me to her street. It was interesting to be the person who know something about bicycling in Portland!

Riding over I5 at night

It was a great night for riding home after the first meeting of my yoga teacher training. Not a lot of traffic at all, not too cool or hot. It was nice riding through the neighborhood to the pedestrian bridge on Bryant. It struck me how much changed in the last 10 years. Here I was, 39, riding home at night from yoga teacher training, 150 pounds less. At 29 I'd pretty much given up on riding a bicycle a few years prior, had not notion of taking yoga (although I was still swimming then), and spent a lot of my time distracting myself from all the messy emotions I had inside, which is what I had been trained, forced to learn to do as a child.

I was quiet, just my breath and the appreciation of change, the late summer night. I enjoyed the noise over the freeway. Even at 9:45 or so the traffic was still rushing both north and south so there was a constant hum. The loud, present roar that is the buzzing hum in the background of my bedroom. I peddled up over the rise of the bridge then coasted down the other side, mindful of the changes, the feel of the night air on my face and the drone of I5 in my ears.

After that it is an easy, pleasant coast to my house. I quickly rode across Albina then turned to coast down the hill on Commercial. Standing up on my peddles, leaning up into that feeling of flying, and coasting along until I braked at the house.

There were frogs singing as I stopped. I stood on the lawn for a moment just listening to them; so beautiful.

AM had pumpkin curry waiting for me when I got inside. Spicy and sweet, it is warming after the ride home (my legs get cold quickly). I'm tired, but feel more grounded in this commitment than I did earlier today.