Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween 2008, Reflecting on Pain Noise

I spent much of the day dusting and organizing in the front rooms. It has been a while since I've done this chore and was helped by AM putting some boxes out in the garage. We've discovered a few boxes of things belonging to NB and need to get a hold of her to get her current address before we can send them on.

Not the usual way I'd like to spend a vacation day, however, it was nice to just have that time to take care of a task like that. I was happy to get things put into the shelves on either side of the fireplace. Moved the clustering, cluttering of glass bottles into the cabinets and other other shelves.

CK came over and also helped some with the cleaning, organizing. She and I carved a pumpkin by consensus (we did a peace sign and stars on it). Finished getting the filling for sushi rolls together. Every thing came together pretty smoothly.

At some point I was trying to get comfortable. CK asked how my pain was and I first said OK then realized that part of my pain was the pressure of my jeans. If the pressure of my jeans is too much on my legs and hips then my pain level is pretty high. I went and got pajama bottoms which felt immediately better. I had just been in such constant motion for so long I was moving past the pain.

One of the many problems with chronic pain. It is very easy for me to tune pain out. My brain is accustomed to the fact that it is given useless information all the time. There is always some level of pain that isn't anything new or worse, but I'm so used to tuning it out that when it really starts to hurt I don't pay any attention to it until it hurts to sit down, wear jeans...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moving With the Current

I've felt my inner critic ratcheting up the guilt this week. As each day passed without me writing I felt the guilt-o-meter creep up a bit more. Edging toward that place where I just give up because I feel so guilty for slacking I can't bear the thought of facing the reality of starting over.

When interacting with people and I feel as though I was mindless or unskillful in my speech I can feel overwhelmed by the guilt of it, unable to be present for feeling bad. I'm trying to get better and actually say something to the person, as soon as I am possibly able. In the past I'd feel so ashamed of my behavior that I felt incapacitated to even address it with the person I'd hurt or made angry. Since I've been learning to say something to the person, as agonizingly painful as it feels, I often find that the person really hadn't taken offense at all or if they had, not to the extent I'd built it up to be in my mind.

So I am writing tonight, finally, after many full days. I gave a very well received presentation at work. I should be able to glean things out of that presentation into a generic one I'm going to propose to OS Bridge, a free, "pre" OSCON Open Source conference that some folks are trying to put together for next summer here in Portland (in response to OSCON moving from Portland in 2009). I'm also considering proposing a "Yoga for Geeks" workshop there as well.

Suddenly my prospects of teaching more yoga have grown! Tonight I met with the owner of SomaSpace, a studio that features formal & ecstatic dance, body movement, and she's looking for yoga teachers. The space is convienient and lovely, very comfortable feeling. PB was not merely interested in the ideas I had, but enthusiastic and supportive as well.

We talked about my starting out by offering workshops and perhaps some regular, once-a-month classes. I said I'd like to do workshops on yoga and trauma recovery as well as a regular class for members of the transgender community. I think she'd be equally interested if I offered workshops for hospice workers and other pallative caregivers. I was just stunned by all the names of people she wants to introduce me to, ideas she had about marketing, and even the suggestion that I throw a party/fundraiser for myself to fund buying props!

Then I went to zazen and spent two sitting periods, plus the walking period, trying desperately to NOT plan everything now! Even as I tried to settle myself into my breath, I had to admit I was having very good ideas! One I really like is working towards doing a Metta Yoga workshop out of all I learn from Loving-kindness retreat in April.

For the present, I have the training to finish in March. PB and I agreed to keep in touch during the winter and as it gets closer to April we'll look at some dates. I am feeling that this may be a good arugument for making it to one of her dance evenings once in a while. It is a good way to keep that rapport between us supported.

If we as practitioners think of ourselves as entering a stream, I have this feeling of being moved along by the current. Not swept up, rushing heedlessly off. Rather being supported, bouyed up and moved along in the right direction. The current providing swiftness to my Way.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Essential Sound

Felt tired and disjointed much of the day, distracted. Got quite a bit done at work despite this. Home, dinner, zazen... Tried using the seiza bench to kneel again and felt very uncomfortable the whole first sit. I feel a resistance to standing up, perhaps I should have since it stirred up enough pain to be uncomfortable on my zafu during the second sit.

I had mentioned to my friend MP about being dilute before, in 1999 when he first got to meet me, in response to his saying how "concentrated" I seemed. He laughed and said he'd meant how concentrated I seemed in terms of Prana. I wrote back thanks for the clarity and told him that I'd liked thinking about being dilute in a sense of the self that was the way I interacted with the world.

He wrote back to me to say, " you have me thinking about di-lute and mono-lute... whatever those might be. Or even tri-lute. Hmm.

"There is something about lutes as embodying the duality of material existence I simply had not strung together."

When I saw this it first of all made me smile, discussions with MP nearly always do this. I am thinking that perhaps we journey towards mono-lute. We settle down all the other tones until it is just one, essential sound of clarity like a perfect Om. One tone that moves throughout several expressions, encompassing all of them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Recognizing Truth

I had a session with GM today.  Spent some time discussing the whole situation with DW.  I said what had finally settled in me was recalling how unsupported I felt at that time in my life, how quick my Mom was to get me out of the house and working even though I was clearly at a loss, depressed after breaking my ankle.  I remembered listening to a woman at the Dharma Center give her Way Seeking Mind talk to us, noting that when the memory came back to her that she'd been raped by her father she just shut down and spent six months just healing, crying, screaming, and coming to terms with it.  I recall feeling a little envious that her friends and mother and supported such a period of recovery for her and immediately felt a little guilty for it.

I'm not sure if it wrong or right to try and make up for something I wish I'd had.  After all, much of what I suffered from throughout my childhood was my mother trying to make up for what she'd always wanted.  I feel that my wish for DW to have space to recover without being pressured to hurry up and be an adult is more healthy than my mother's wish for me to have fancy dresses.  I'm equally unsure if this will work or will blow up in my face, in which case she's back to trying to find housing through the addiction counseling services she's using.

I talked to her about my discussion with HB around the shame that keeps bubbling up.  How to look at it, recognize it is part of my life but not mine.  It was left behind by adults who abused me, the shame they refused responsibility for so I picked it up instead, blamed myself.  She liked his instruction to check through the precepts validate that I'm fine, not doing anything to be ashamed of.

We talked around the topic of my Mom some before I finally admitted that finally using the word "abuse" around her behavior leaves me feeling even more estranged from her than I feel normally.  I feel myself flinch away from the word when I combine it in my head with my mother.  GW pointed me gently to the word and the hard truth of it.

More things I don't want to incorporate into the me I perceive myself to be.  The very things HB says I need to make part of me, treat with love.  I don't want to love this, I feel in equal parts the desire to throw things, yell and the desire to crawl into bed, hide.  I don't want to be pulled into and through this, it feels suffocating.  

GW says I will be able to, I'll learn the habit of recognizing the shame and fear as artifacts left behind by irresponsible adults.  Like litter across my psyche.  More time in discussion with HB about how to love this, how to sink into this without losing my breath.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Open to the World

Once again I slept poorly. I just couldn't seem to fall asleep, my mind was racing around. Not even truly anxious, just busy. I kept controlling the breath, trying to focus on it, but only would start to doze before I ached and needed to move or I felt my brain start planning work, planning conversations, planning, planning, planning. When my alarm went off at 7AM, which I had planned so I could get up at sit zazen, have a shower, and work for a little before we would take me to my office and DW to her appointment.

Instead I tried to sleep a little longer, getting up at just before 8AM to get on the daily status call. I found problems as I checked my mail right as the call started. Spent part of the day dealing with that, re-doing work from Saturday night, and sitting in on meetings. Around 2:30 I left to pick up CK at the airport.

She looked tired and I was so glad to see her. I drove us back to her flat and we looked at her photographs from the trip, had some popcorn and chai. It was nice just sitting with her, talking and being close. I rubbed her feet a little bit and then had to change to go over to the community center and teach.

I put up the picture of myself from October 1999 on my Facebook account. My friend MP commented to me how he'd been thinking "how concentrated" I had become. It made me laugh and wonder if I wasn't dilute before. Just aspects of personality filling up the space, not the whole me.

At times it begins to feel less awkward. I guess I'm getting a little more used to my skin, even the extra, leftover skin. It is that I feel any less exposed, like I'm just making it up. I guessed I'm getting used to being that way, being open to the world instead of only interacting with it through a narrow slice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Topic I Avoid

A little over a week ago I finally screwed up my courage to discuss a topic I've been avoiding. It was easy to avoid for several weeks while my teacher was traveling, but HB was back in town, I was going to be at the Dharma Center just before zazen teaching yoga on the day when sanzen is available. Months ago I had mentioned the feeling to him and he said I could not work on that for a while, to focus on understanding the anger and other emotions.

For the last several weeks I've felt shame very acutely. I am embarrassed by the passion I feel. On some level I've thought the intensity of my body's response to CK might settle down, but it has only grown as we go more deeply, feel more comfortable with each other. I feel like I'm being inappropriate, wanting too much, unable to control my body, and as though I'm 14 again.

When I've talked to GM about it we've discussed how it very clearly relates to a childhood of being told my emotional responses were out-of-control. A pattern that continued during my first marriage. That I also have a traumatic experience related to being caught naked with a female friend as a child only compounds the problem. Since I'd never been in a very deep, open relationship with a woman before most of this seethed below the surface.

GM said I needed to spot the shame, watch it come up and know that the shame itself is what is inappropriate. Know that when inappropriate feelings like the shame arise it is the voice of my Inner Critic speaking. Remind myself of where I am at, that CK loves me and, far from finding me inappropriate, delights in my passion for her.

Yet still the shame comes. I watch it, name it as wrong, say to it I know where it comes from. And there we sit in impasse, my shame and I. So off to sazen with the impasse.

HB first said that reflecting on where it all comes from is irrelevant, truly, since the events already took place and nothing can be changed about that. He said to use the Precepts as a touchstone, run through them all to be certain I am observing them. If I find I am in accordance with them then I clearly do not have to experience shame for being who I am.

I realized this is another way of exactly what my therapist wants me to do, only deeper. Not only do I bring myself to the present moment but I have my ethical guideposts to affirm that I am not making a poor choice. I thought about this a second and asked HB, "Then what?"

I went on to tell him that I have reached a point in my life that I feel I am living more honestly, true to my essential self, than ever before, ever. It feels exposed most of the time, fragile, I'm more accustomed to maintaining a persona. It is the truth, even when it feels hard.

He said then I need to work on drawing the shame in. Not to hate my past. It isn't that I have to love the trauma, but I should include the child I was in my love. I want to do this, it is why I have tried to mourn that child in ceremony. Yet when I try to process, touch these places that hurt so much, I feel myself recoil. The fear, the shame, the humiliation... all of these feel sticky, like tar, and I feel myself resist going into them.

"My pain." This is the answer I give when I see HB in sanzen and he performs the ritual of asking, "What is your practice."

Sometimes the practice is my physical pain, the fear and tightness around living with that. Other times it is the deeper, darker emotional pain.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fear, Pain, and Absence

Today was a busy day. I was tired out and slept until 9:30, which was a nice indulgence since I haven't felt like I've had enough sleep all week. It was interesting to compare notes with my co-classmates in the teacher training on Saturday; many of us have not slept at all well this week. JW, who also had slept poorly this week, told us that over the years she's noted that for the few days before and after a full moon people seem to have their sleep disrupted. Of course I find myself writing this past 11PM tonight so I'm not exactly getting back on track!

AM made us coffee and toasted an English muffin for me for breakfast. It was nice to sit with him and share breakfast together. Then it was a rush to take a hot shower, which was worth it as it helped the ache I was feeling after the yoga workshop yesterday. I got ready and went to taught my regular Sunday beginning yoga class at the community center.

Z waited until all the other students left to speak with me. She told me that she once again enjoyed the class, that she enjoys every class. The ability to enjoy my classes comes from the space I create; she said that it is because I continually remind everyone to have compassion for their bodies and selves. To move to the point of intensity, stay with it, breathe into it, but to resist pushing past it. Z let me know that this allowed her to let go of judging her body & its ability and just do yoga.

Once again I found myself humbled by a student, by their complimentary words. Compassion is the foundation for my practice and the thing I hope students learn. I know how judging I am of myself, how difficult this practice is for me to apply to myself. It is so common to struggle with the Inner Critic that my teachers offer a weekend retreat on the topic at least twice each year. In order to help me learn more about this for myself, I try to encourage my students to cultivate compassion. To have a student tell me this exact thing is what helps her is really very special.

After this I hung out with DW and AM at the house until it was time to head out again. I popped by CK's to gave Atari some food and love. Mostly he ignored me. Then off to the Dharma Center to co-teach the last class combining a physical asana practice with the contemplation of the last three Paramitas (perfections). Tonight MB and I read passages to call the students' minds to the Paramitas Sila (ethical, skillful way), Dhyana (meditation, concentration), and Prajna (wisdom).

Then sitting zazen in the chilly zendo; 61 degrees, Fahrenheit and falling tonight. I'd forgotten my dinner and wrap at the house. AM surprised me by bringing my dinner during asana practice, but my wrap was something I missed all evening. When it was my turn for sanzen I went downstairs and talked with HB about my fear around my pain during sesshin.

He gave me several suggestions, like trying seiza (kneeling, I've avoided because of the surgery in my right knee when I was 19), drawing my mind to all the places in my body that felt fine, and when all else fails just standing on my zabuton. Beyond that, if all those things didn't help during sesshin we'd just address it then. He did comment upon my fear over something so many months away. I noted in response that this fear has been eating away with me for two years and is truly the root of my resistance to sesshin.

I felt better after talking to him, less helpless. I went back upstairs to my cushion and began to inspect my body for what did not ache. I found it very easy to settle into the area of my digestive system and notice that my stomach, liver, spleen, kidneys, small & large intestines and bladder all felt absolutely fine, good really. The next kinhin period I spotted a passed seiza bench on the shelf, snagged it the next time I went past, and set it on my zabuton. For the last two zazen periods I sat seiza and found that my knee was OK. Even through the padding I felt the hardness of the bench on my left sitbone, however, I was able to get through the sitting period. On Thursday I'll try using the bench with the gel pad I have.

Picked up DW after sitting was over and drove by CK's to take care of Atari. He was happy to see me and rolled around on the carpet until I rubbed his belly for a while. I gave him some kibble and his pill, right as I was leaving CK sent me a message. At the house I phoned her and told her about the day.

I miss her. I wish I were there with her or that we were just in our usual routine. I don't miss her like this, even when we're not together, when she's just a few miles away.

It isn't that I don't enjoy the time I've spent with AM and DW, time I'd usually be with CK, at her flat. I've really been glad to have the time with them. The time with them isn't a replacement for time with CK, it is just good time with them. There isn't some comparison or measurement. I just miss her. I feel the absence of her place in the humming and drumming of my daily life.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


In Yoga tapas is one of the Niyamas, one of the ways we live. It translates as Burning Effort or sometimes just diligence. In investigating the six Paramitas I hear the echo of it in the perfection of Virya. This also is sometimes translated as diligence, but also energy, courage, enthusiasm, and effort. There is at times a element of practice that is just gotten through using nothing but pure, raw tapas.

I had reflected on this idea after reading the phrase, "pure, raw discipline" in The Heart of Being in talking about Zen practice, that it is what gets some people through sitting zazen. Daido Loori Roshi had gone on to note that there must more than just that, there must be something else that draws you to practice in order to both sustain and go deeply into it. That phrase really stuck with me.

Today's teacher training included 3 hours of a core/abdominal (second and third chakra) workshop. I'd felt a little anxious about it since half of my back pain resides in the second chakra and I was still sore from Friday night's practice. It had occurred to me that is what got me through the Jivamukti inspired vinyasa that made everything about my hips, backside and legs ache!

It got me through to the end of the workshop. Towards the end my hips were aching, low-level spasms brought up some of the helplessness I'd felt a couple of weeks ago trying to kick up into adho mukha vrksasana. Tears were springing up in my eyes, smarting at the corners, and I felt demoralized entirely. I finished by doing things to open the hips, relieve them. I recovered a bit eating a snack afterwards, but felt entirely exhausted and was happy to go home.

To news that the hard drive may have given up life (music library!) which is frustrating on a few levels. For a time I just felt taut with raw emotion that I'd just breathed past while relying on raw discipline. AM graciously made dinner so I could go sit zazen for a bit. I wanted to make sure I did it, stop excusing myself from it for any number of reasons. I was exhausted and hurting, but I just sat with it and the emotion. After 25 minutes or so I felt better, quieter in the volume even if I felt the pain intensely yet still.

Tomorrow will be a long day. Teaching my class at the community center, lunch break, then co-teaching a second class at the Dharma Center. I'm going to talk to Hogen tomorrow after that, about my fear and the pain. I know that's what I need to do.

I miss CK, I'm glad she's having a good time. I was very happy she called even though she was tired out. I just miss her and the routine of our life together.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Resistance, Movement

Yesterday I was all excited to tell KH about planning to attend the loving-kindness sesshin. Then she told me that to take Jukai I have to have attended two sesshin! I really felt my heart sink. It has been so difficult to get to where I feel up to even trying one, but two in the space between April and October seems overwhelming. KH said not to worry, I could always take it the next year.

It has been so difficult to make this decision, well to actually follow the steps to make it happen since I've known I've wanted to do this for a while now. In my mind I really had come to tie taking Jukai after getting my teacher certification done. The two things so equally important, blending into one another, that I wanted that commitment to be done together.

Inside I felt clamoring voices. The amount of projects I'm involved with at work. A lifetime of feeling like I'm putting off until later. So many times I was put off as a child in what I wanted to do either by directly being told something wasn't possible to moving so often.

I was trying to explain it to CK last night after zazen. She asked if it felt like I had worked so hard and was being told it wasn't enough. I agreed that some of it was that. I went home feeling hopeless, small, and like a child (not in a good way). I explained my upset to AM who noted that he'll help make sure things work out for me to do the two sesshins. I slept poorly again.

Despite all of this I felt OK today, even more positive. It occurred me to today, throughout the day but it had time to settle while I was meditating and during asana practice, that my biggest resistance to sesshin is the pain in my body. I maintain my relationship with my pain through movement.

I have found it somewhat difficult to have people understand this who don't have chronic pain. They think about their shoulder or knee aching a little and don't understand. If they're a long-time mediator they may think that just staying with the body and it will shift, often times go away. My pain shifts, but all the twists and turns of it are downhill into more pain. I move, literally pulling my body out of this spiral.

There's also some resistance to having it expose my pain. More bluntly put, I don't want to spend 6 days crying, weeping in front of people. I'm fearful that the insistence of IW and GM, my physical and psycho- therapists respectively, that I cry more, grieve what I experienced, will surface uncontrollably. I see myself crouched in the leaves in the Jizo Garden, sobbing in raw agony like I did this past summer.

Only I won't be able to try and sneak around the back of the monastery and hope no one sees me. Fleeing back to Portland without an explanation.

I explained this to CK after asana practice and she noted that even if it was as bad as I imagined it was finite. Sesshin is 6 days, and of that only 4 truly full days. You arrive ahead of dinner on Monday and leave sometime after lunch on Sunday.

MB asked me if I would co-teach the last class around yoga and the six Paramitas on Sunday. Since that will end at 7PM I believe I will again stay for sanzen. I've talked around this topic a little, but it would be worth being direct about it with HB. I already am feeling less overwhelmed this evening having recognize what the biggest contributors to the fear were. After talking to HB about it I'm sure more of my anxiety will be calmed.

CK is packing to go to California in the morning. This is the first of three trips over the next three months. I will take care of Atari and talk with her on the phone. It isn't that I won't enjoy spending tomorrow evening hanging out with AM, perhaps DW too. It is just that I deeply feel her absence when she goes. I miss our routine, her humor and her sense equally.

Unexpected Zazen Moment

I left work a little early and took the bus over to have my hair cut. AM picking me up so we could take care of a few things, but since I was done a bit earlier than expected I had some time to kill. I went around the corner to the Chan temple. When I got up the steps I discovered the garden and front gates were all open.

As it was beautiful and warm out so I made way into the garden, bowed to the Four-Faced Buddha there, and to the Guan Yin at the opposite end. I was delighted to discover that the Buddha's altar area was surrounded by benches with a flowing water feature complete with koi. I took off my sneakers, rolled up my jacket (too warm for it anyway), and sat zazen there on the bench.

The orange cat I've met before there, "Beelzebub", nosed around looking at me, peered into the water at the fish, took a drink and wander on. Later a squirrel wandered through and out the gate. The sound of the water was wonderful behind me. I heard voices in the neighborhood and up at the entrance to the temple.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Long Wednesdays

I feel a little better having resolved to go to the loving-kindness sesshin in April. I have many weeks to prepare and I know that I can rest in the knowledge that some way will be found to work with the pain. I even told my manager, KE today my plans and that I would want to work from home for the entire week following the retreat to move myself back into the noise of work after 6 days of silence.

Work was busy with people interactions. I showed the draft presentation I've been working on to the whole team doing a larger presentation to our directors on the 29th. I could feel myself sweat a bit in sharing it, nervous that people would find the way I used humor to be inappropriate. People liked it very much and when the humor transitioned to what we've actually done the past 2 and a half years someone commented that they hadn't expected to have tears come to their eyes at the meeting! It felt good to have something I had worked very hard on have a positive impact on people.

Then I walked with co-workers, our team building, for about an hour. Popped into the little snack shop run by retirees for a little bit to visit with NP, my friend who retired this summer. And then it was nearly time to go home.

CK & I rode to asana practice. It was a good class although some tough poses, the intensity of the pose being more the challenge. We enjoyed the ride home even though it had started to lightly rain outside. Put together a quick supper, although with the ride it still means we're eating close to 9pm. No wonder I feel like Wednesday is such a long day!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Loving-Kindness Sesshin

I'm tired tonight, fatigued. I still don't feel completely well, my throat hurts a bit. My brain feels like it is cycling in and out of stillness and throwing around ideas to write about. It felt so busy being back in the office today, being around several people again, that stillness is appealing.

I get tired of being at home everyday, working and sleeping in the same place. It is nice to get a break now and again. I suppose if we do find a large home, or turn some large building into a home, that has an office as well we'll have to really make it feel separate. An argument for having an office away from home, like CK does now.

Contemplating sesshin some more. I sent KH a message last night saying that I'd asked Hogen about Jukai and got approval. She sent back that we can talk on Thursday, she'll be at the Dharma Center, but that the immediate thing is to plan to establish my sesshin practice. I realize more than anything sesshin is the thing I feel anxiety about in taking Jukai. Those anxious feelings largely do to my fear around my physical pain.

Well, and maybe some of my dislike of crying in front of people. Combined with how crying sets my body off into spasms it generally leaves me wanting to avoid the experience. That the physical pain, the intensity of it, sometimes leaves me off-balanced and like crying.

When I read the sesshin schedule I feel a clench of anxiety. The amount of sitting is so much more than I've done. I'm anxious about muscle spasms that leave me nauseous, crying that causes my whole body lock up. The silence is fine, I feel comfortable in the silence.

I made myself look at the calendar, just get it over with. In doing so I believe I have found a sesshin that fits well. In April, a few weeks after I finish my teacher training program, Chozen will be leading a sesshin on loving-kindness.

Loving-kindness, metta, practice is something that challenges me when I try and direct it towards myself. I believe it underlies the ability to incorporate the traumatic events in my life. Hogen told me that I cannot try to "get rid of" these things, that they are part of the whole of who I am. To do that I must be able to extend that love to those parts of myself that talk in the language of shame, feeling inappropriate, of fear.

It is daunting, it also seems like a sesshin destined to have me in tears, often. But perhaps a silent week of trying to generate loving-kindness for myself, for the child who was hurt and is still afraid, will be a week of worthy effort. I put it onto my Google calendar.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I happened to spot an old picture of myself from October 1999. When people ask me how overweight I was this is one of the images I think of. Nine years ago I loved this photograph me, I thought I looked lovely in it and used it for some of my online profiles. Now it is like seeing a ghost.


There was a time where I was entirely comfortable being that person. I weighed over 290 pounds. I could be loud, brash, imperious and over-the-top, knowing about sexuality. This was the person I became in response to a life filled with distractions; food, sex, video games, television & other media, trashy novels... really anything that kept me from thinking about why I was trying so hard to entertain myself at all costs.

Nine years later and I weigh less than half that and look much more like the person who graduated from Beaverton High School in 1987. Seeing 1999 Sherri, thinking of who I was then, is almost this sad experience. This larger-than-life personae I invested everything into. This facade who needed a substantial dose of anti-anxiety medication to keep her on an even remotely even keel. Who was avoiding the misery in her life, a long history of it.

I'm not sure what started to change first, video games I think. When I split up with my ex-husband, AP, he took all the computers so the LAN games were a thing of the past. I quickly grew bored with the Playstation games I had, which has always been the case with every console game I've owned.

When I started changing my approach to food it began to affect other things. I was vegetarian by 2002, not really intending to go that way but ending up there after meat began to taste very bad to me. It was my cholesterol I was trying to change, not my weight, so I'd started trying vegetarian dishes hoping it would be healthier and found them so good I just opted for them. In the end my cholesterol would increase (all the dairy), but I would fairly easily loose 100 pounds.

At that point, January 2003, I began to investigate hatha yoga. After only one year I wanted to teach and would spend another year intensifying my practice toward this goal. Three years ago this month I would teach my first class. Now I am intensely studying again, working towards certification through Yoga Alliance. Two asana practices a week in addition to the two beginning classes I now teach and six hours of theory, anatomy & physiology, technique, assists, modifications, and ethics.

In 2005 AM and I both began to investigate Buddhism. While trying out meditation one evening at the Ch'an temple I discovered that sitting caused intense pain in my legs, hips and back. The herniated disc at the base of my spine irritating all the nerves, tendons and muscles into constant spasm. I would seek out a cushion and would in turn discover the Jizos for Peace project in the summer of 2005. In considering my beginning to teach beginning yoga I was drawn to the Zen Community of Oregon.

Last night, during sanzen, I asked HB if I could receive Jukai, to take refuge, next autumn. To all my anxiety and nervous energy around asking that's been building for months now he answered, "Sure, I don't see why not."

Now months to finish tasks. Writing about the precepts, all sixteen of them. Sewing the Rakusu, a representation of the Buddha's robe. Attending sesshin, which worries me greatly since getting through half that amount of sitting last winter at the women's retreat I was having muscle spasms during the last meditation practice. I am sure a way will be found is what I try to remind that anxious voice.

Seeing that ghost me increased my resolve to set myself toward this next goal. I've known for over two years I have wanted to do this, I've just been afraid I'd never really fit in. That if I wasn't playing the role of "Good Zen Buddhist" I wouldn't be able to join the club. Again and again I've been shown I am a part, that even someone who finds their way out on the edges, in the narrow margins is just another person seeking to settle and wake up.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Moving Towards Health

I'm sitting down in my basement after a dinner of leftover, split pea soup with the rest of a loaf of multigrain bread from the Pearl Bakery. Although I have been feeling weak all day I was surprised at my stamina during asana practice tonight at Prananda. I actually feel in better health than before class, still coughing some, but the heat of practice (I was sweating) seems to be beneficial. When we got to bridge pose I felt very tired and used a block to support myself so I could just deeply feel the opening across the heart.

It has been a long couple of days. Wednesday night after asana practice and a warm dinner my coughing got worse. I ended waking CK up at 4AM Thursday with my coughing. I felt so awful when we work up Thursday that I called AM to come pick me up. I ended up sleeping most of the day on Thursday.

In finally admitting to myself I needed to stay home Thursday night, not go to the Dharma Center, I realized how important that night of zazen is to me. Even when things are on an even keel I look forward to the feeling of sitting in the zendo with everyone. Now, particularly, next to CK, hearing her breathing beside me. I feel deeply connected to her when we sit zazen together.

The week had been so stressful. DW had reached a point in her detox process that she was feeling very ill. I felt destablized and afraid, closing in on myself and into silence. I felt myself deeply resenting having to ask someone to take my place as Ino because I was too ill to be there.

I'd make a point later, at a point where I felt just taut with stress, I'd go and sit zazen myself. It near the time the sangha was sitting and I let myself setting into my breath, feeling the connection even across town. I was glad to be home and not disrupting everyone as every 5 minutes or so I'd cough deeply.

I felt better after sitting, back in my body and not flying around in emotions. I'd have dinner and nearly fall asleep sitting up afterward. AM would convince me to go to bed and I was dozing off in bed before I usually finished chanting.

When I woke up this morning I felt considerably improved. I got out my laptop and did some work. I felt well enough to zip over to CK's and have a sandwich with her. I really valued this quick bit of time since I'd been feeling how deeply I was missing our schedule of seeing each other while I was sick and helping out DW.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Resting in Silence

It has been a long day, several long ones actually. After the wrenching news of DW's heroin addiction last week I've felt taut with worry. I sense the way I've changed these past few years because I was able to be present for a lovely, wonderful day with CK on Sunday. Promptly feeling ill on Monday didn't help at all. Normally I'd have fought this off, but the stress of the hum of worry in the background has depleted those resources.

Yesterday, unexpectedly, DW phoned up and asked for a ride to an appointment. She'd explain in the car. AM & I quickly pulled ourselves together, left the house, and picked up a shaken looking DW. She'd made an appointment with an addiction counselor and hadn't been able to catch the bus in time to get there.

After the appointment and picking up a prescription to help her through the detox process DW came back to the house. She talked with AM on the porch, smoking. He left to run errands and we talked for a while. I decided to make applesauce and tomato sauce. It would give us something to do with our respective nervous energy.

So we talked. She talked a lot and I just chopped apples for a while, having her peeling them. When I felt myself starting to react too strongly inside to something she was saying I'd breath and let my mind focus on just the task in my hands. Resting myself in my breath and the act of cooking from time to time.

I felt hopeful but still intensely needing my boundaries. Too much hard, painful history and I've worked to diligently to quiet my life from the constant noise in DW and AP's respective lives. The effort of staying present, but largely non-reactive was great and I was relieved when AM left with DW to take to a friends. I immediately went into our meditation room and sat zazen, sinking into the silence until CK arrived.

Today I felt scattered and ill. My chest felt congested from the cold. I got on meetings and tried to focus on work. Touched base with SJ about the news and AP phoned to talk with me again. Contrary to my better judgement I made myself got to asana practice tonight. I desperately needed a feeling of my routine, to be grounded by a class.

I felt better once I got moving in class and although I still feel ill, I feel more connected again and less scattered by the intensity of it. CK picked me up after class and I made a tofu scramble at her flat. AM phoned to share what he felt was another hopeful conversation with DW. CK and I are sitting in the quiet and it feels like home.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Just a Cold

I've had a wonderful few days and I'd been planning writing about all of it today. The fun evening AM, CK & I had Friday watching the vice presidential debates we'd DVR'd while we had been at the Dharma Center the night before. My first real serious rain ride, with new Ortleib panniers, on Saturday. I also have wonderful pictures to accompany writing about the wonderful day CK and I spent in Hood River County on Sunday.

However, at this very moment I have a cold and feel rather puny. I've been trying to tell myself it has just been my allergies getting worse with autumn really settling in. On Saturday I was questioning if I was fighting something, but felt well enough to be at teacher training and ride to CK's afterward. Yesterday I felt a little fatigued, but better after CK & I had slept in some. This morning I woke up feeling pathetic and the effort of trying to pump air into my tires exhausted me.

AM came and picked up me and the bike. I worked from home, catching meetings and checking into things. I'm going to go to bed early tonight and will write about the weekend. I'm trying not to resent being sick, I haven't really felt this ill in over a year which is so much better than my health at any time prior to the past 5 years. It was a stressful, upsetting week last week and that on top of an intense schedule really has left me a bit low.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Weight of Compassion

I was doing OK with things, even during a phone conversation with SJ about all he knew and the phone calls he's had the past few days. I felt sadness and grave concern for DW, but was feeling past the choking pain. The day was filled with busy work and a lunch out at Blossoming Lotus with CK and GK. I didn't tell GK about DW over lunch, didn't want to rehash it at that time.

In the afternoon at home I got the merit list ready, adding DW's name to it. At some point the mind that knew the only thing that can be done right now is to chant for her and the mind that is in pain got separated. The pained mind forgot about my being the one to chant her name.

Until I got to it on the list. My voice freezing up in my throat, feeling like all the muscles and bones around my heart were being crushed together. I didn't want to chant her name and my voice broke, stayed broken and raw for the rest of service. I kept going but felt my face burning in embarrassment and discomfort a top the choking pain.

Afterward I was given the most beautiful compliment and offer of gratitude. RS came up to me and said that as he heard my voice breaking it occurred to him the tremendous weight I carry for the sangha in not only collecting all the names of the suffering and deceased, but in chanting them as well. He said he hadn't appreciated the burden that I hold for all of them and that he feels deep gratitude that I do this. He told me that he hears me as the actual voice of compassion for the whole sangha. Struggling with my own grief I felt the tears springing to my eyes again.

I felt overwhelmed and so humbled by his words. Sitting here now I'm trying to remember these words so I can learn to replace the fear and shame I feel when I cry with them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


The morning started with my not feeling entirely rested and grateful that AM was driving me into the office. While getting ready I checked into to work email and found that the contract had not been ratified by the union. We're back under the threat of work stoppage and everything that entails. I've asked for a waiver for Saturdays since I have teacher training. Not working a contingency schedule yet, but just trying to plan for it.

After taking the 8AM call I was grabbing my last few things to head into the office, planning to make it there right at 8:30 for the team call. I noted to AM that we had a voice message, he checked it while I grabbed things and put into my bag. The message was from my ex-husband saying that he had very grim news about DW, his daughter. This person who still calls me "Mom".

I phoned him immediately and was told that DW appears to be using heroin. It is truly awful, grim news. I am trying to keep reminding myself that I wasn't a bad step-mother to her. AM, CK and my therapist have been reminding me as well, have been for some time. More than anything I am deeply concerned for her well-being.

It has brought up all kinds of painful memories of living with OM, going through her spiral down into identify theft (mine) and stealing gift certificates from DW herself who was age 6 at the time. I felt so violated by that happening and still occasionally have the horrible memory of trying to clean up the blood in OM's room after she left.

Went to work, had coffee with CK who coaxed me to eat most of a bran muffin, worked on some stuff, we went on a team walk, and worked some more. Taut with tension across the front of my chest all day. Except while I was walking very briskly I felt chilled to the bone.

When I got to my appointment with IW today I told her about my day, tears in my eyes. I felt like I was humming with painful tension despite having mindfully done zazen while waiting for her to finish with her earlier client. She did cranial work on me for a while after covering me up with a blanket. I felt some of the tension lessen up, my heart slowed down a little, and I warmed up some.

While she was working on me I told her about being paddled with hard objects as a small child. Something I'd never shared with IW, some part of my brain holding back because she is my physical therapist. Since IW does craniosacral therapy as well as therapy to address the trigger points in my back and hips, it is an important detail to share.

After I told her she confirmed what I've felt for a couple of weeks. That the abuse contributes to the constant tension and pain. That part of my body tightened up protectively around that pain and has never been relaxed. She told me she really thinks it would help some of it for me to be able to really feel that sadness and grief, to cry.

When we talked about it I was already crying more. She pointed out the constant war in my body when I cry. I relax then everything pulls in, I force myself to relax and it tightens right back up, constantly. When she commented on this I blurted out that I'd sometimes been punished for crying.

"Ahh." she said and noted that it was all the more reason for me to do so now.

After she worked so much on the cranial stuff she found the trigger points in my hips, tail bone and left sit bone. Far fewer of them than usual. IW said that she's going to swap this order from now on, work on the pent up energy first then the points. She believes even more that I can freed of some of the pain in my back.

And now, fed warm dinner and in my new PJs, I feel very tired. Not entirely hopeless as I did earlier today. Waiting to see if SJ is going to phone, he has some input on DW that he's not been able to connect with me on. I don't feel like I'm dreading that quite as much either. It is all just so very hard.