Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I fell back asleep this morning and woke up at a quarter before 8. After very little thought I decided to take the day off, just calling into the meetings that were most important and moving one until tomorrow. I felt better than Monday but still very tired, very sore.

Atari starting having UT problems again so I was suddenly available to take him to the vet. When we got news a friend's aunt had died this morning and the family could use some food, I was able to make a pot of soup. I looked at some vacation rental ideas for my birthday and worked on the piece I've started that reflects on over a year of maintaining the transfer of merit ("chant") list for ZCO.

In the evening I walked up to the gym and met CK there. We did some yoga, some abdominals some weights (I'm starting to be able to isolate and use my back & middle deltoids and triceps again) and then sat in the steam room. I felt so much better when we got done.

It was really hard to give myself a day of rest, but I realized this morning I really needed to. I'm glad I did, I enjoyed being home in the quiet, writing, cooking and taking care of things around the flat. I feel better on several levels after allowing myself this day.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Monday After

Not too much today. I was tired, poorly rested, and in a funk all day. Come down from finishing teacher training on Saturday on top of everything else going on. Spent most of my day feeling unworthy of living up to the positive things people said about me on Saturday. Heavy with the responsibility of that praise.

Yes, today my inner critic showed up right on cue so I would spend most of the day distracted with negative feelings. Generally a lousy and unproductive day. Feeling unproductive, when I'm not intending to be, it really irritating to me. I feel very impatient with myself when I have trouble focusing when I feel I should be.

CK and I made tacos, even picked up and enjoyed an avocado with it. Such luxury! We watched Wilde, which was as well written and acted as I'd heard. It has been a nice quiet evening together. I really was happy for it since she'll be at the Inner Critic workshop this weekend.

Today should be the official end of the 30 Poems in 30 Days challenge in my Sangha. I find that I have 28 poems at the end, which is pretty good. Given the day I've had I'm trying not to focus on not having 30 and to allow for a simple haiku to end on.
Moving Forward

An ending becomes
Just another step forward.
My way along the path.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

CK and I slept in and it was lovely, confirming for me that getting to sleep in is a true pleasure. Lie last Sunday we decided to indulge in brunch at Sweetpea Baking Company. This decision led to the delightful serendipity of joining several friends who were there as well.

It was wonderful to watch CK present her work on the new design of the ZCO website at the annual meeting this afternoon. I was so proud of her and so happy to see her get to take in all the applause and positive feedback from our Sangha. I know she believes me when I tell her she's doing great, but I also know that it is very powerful for a room full of people to express appreciation for her is incredibly beneficial. I felt very proud of her, happy for her accomplishment, energy, and integrity.

I shared with HB what JW had written about me, the words of commendation she spoke about me at our teacher training graduation. He commented on the responsibly it suggested. Not that he questioned my ability to meet it, just acknowledging it. He also picked up on her noting that I need to recognize the sacredness within myself, that it is as great as the sacredness of the sutras I feel so immersed in.

Talking about it, starting to put words to it and then sit silent in zazen for a few minutes left me feeling closer to the tears I was surprised didn't arise last night. I think the energy to finish is still ebbing and I may hit a point where the emotion settles down.

Later on CK & I shared a marvelous, delicious evening with friends up here from San Francisco. It was wonderful spending the time with them, chatting about life. I enjoyed that we did not so much "catch up" as just progress from the present and talk about what came to mind. We did get to get more detail, which I really enjoyed, about their trip to India last year, but mostly we just shared in one anothers company. It felt like a wonderful way to end the weekend.

I am still learning how
To have the compliment
And my view of self align.
The words of praise still
Feel heavy with responsibility
And I continue to question
My ability to carry them.
Yet to deflect them,
Minimize the words to
Fit into my comfortable view
Is to also make small the
Heartfelt words given to me.
It doesn't yet feel like
Those words are really mine,
Even though they were
Certainly given to me.
I am merely trying to
Allow myself to exist
In the same space as
These words of praise,
To try not to move
Away from honor,
To recognize my
Own accomplishment.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fourth Noble Truth

Tonight during the graduation ceremony for completing my 200+ hour yoga teacher training my teacher said that I was the Fourth Noble Truth. The way I teach yoga is one of the paths away from suffering.

I'm still just trying to be with this compliment. Trying to not listen to the voice of the inner critic and move away from these words. I'm pretty stunned, really and am just trying to stay with it being a compliment.

E said some pretty amazing things too and made a yoga octopus pendant for me. I so love the design she came up with and the meaning behind it. It has already crossed my mind that the design would be incredible on a t-shirt or as a tattoo. I've also wondered if CK could use it on the website we're going to come up with for my yoga teaching practice.

And then CK said wonderful things about me after being put on the spot because I forgot to warn her that JW would ask her to speak. I felt so happy to have her there with me. I mostly just focused on the flower in front of me and tried not to cry. She also brought these lovely, orange flowers for me and made awesome vegan mac & cheese.

I am actually rather amazed I wasn't crying all evening!

...thinking about all this stuff to keep from thinking about something else... keep from thinking about how I embody the Fourth Noble Truth when I teach... It feels big, too big to get my mind around, so I'm going to stop trying and rest.
Fourth Noble Truth

There is a way.

That is the simple
Beauty of the
Fourth Noble Truth.

All one needs is
Just the knowledge
That a path exists.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Another Check on the List

Tonight I finished my 46th asana class in the past 7 months. That doesn't count the 2 classes per week I taught during the majority of those months. My body aches, I'm tired, and I'm not sure my hoping that after 4 consecutive days my body would get used to the effort actually is true. Tonight my body feels as though it is clamouring for rest. I am so looking forward to having no class to teach or attend on Sunday and I really think I'd like to go swimming on Monday.

AM has keys to his studio and can even start moving some things over. He's trying to sell the camper he bought last year as well as some of the furniture we agreed was his to either take or put onto Craigslist. I'm relieved since it means in a few weeks I can feel like I'm not in this constant back and forth. Either missing my cats or CK and not feeling entirely settled either place. I am looking forward to sharing one space for both of us that doesn't feel cluttered.

Tomorrow night is our graduation party. I'm toying with wearing an outfit from India I bought a year and a half ago, have never worn. It is snug, especially on my arms and bright, I feel a bit conspicious in it. The feeling of tightness on my arms which makes me think about all the ugly, loose skin there after losing weight. I'm trying to remember how it brought a smile to CK's face when I tried it on to show her. I don't know, maybe I'll just wear my yoga clothes.

Sometimes I'm OK with my body and some days not so much. Tonight is really a "not so much" night. Perhaps it is feeling so tired and fatigued, that's contributing to feeling so-so about my body. I should be appreciating it, I was up in shoulder stand, in splits again tonight and it felt really good. This body I get so frustrated with did that pose.

I submitted a proposal to teach "yoga for geeks" workshop at Open Source Bridge. For some reason I feel very uncertain about the whole thing. CK reminded me that everyone I've mentioned it to in the local Open Source community has been very supportive and encouraging of the idea. She also pointed out how she doesn't have the same wrist and shoulder problems she did when I met her, all because she's doing yoga now. Besides being beneficial, healthy I think yoga practice really fits in the Open Source community. It is something people are encouraged to do themselves, to work directly with the shared knowledge of it, and even adapt it to fit each individual's needs.

As I drove to the flat from Prananda I was delighted to see lingering streaks of pink low, peeking through the clouds. The faintest hint of blue towards the top of the sky. It is so nice to not be in the dark, to feel like spring and warmth are not far.
Spring Evening

I know gratitude
For evenings streaked with last rays;
Sunlight lingering.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rushing, but Still Time for Flowers

Lots of back and forth today. Woke up late, with a start, on the phone all the way into the office. Rushed through meetings, rushed to catch the bus to the flat, more meetings, off to see my therapist, emails, then off to yoga.

Yikes, no wonder I feel tired! More warrior I in class tonight too. I said to CK a moment ago that I think if Joy does it again tomorrow night I may cry. I am actually interested to see how my body and pain are doing after 5 days with a yoga class in them. It would encourage me to have a more vigorous home practice, I have a tendency to do a lot of restorative things because I'm so tired.

Made a kind of casserole tonight with leeks, celery, garlic, carrots, fingerling potatoes, dill, tarragon & lentils. Turned out nicely, simple but tasty. We've been wanting split pea sop again but haven't had time to make it. Really just need to order a small pressure cooker for us to use more often.

Had a great time at Code-n-Splode last night, first time I've made it to one. I really liked the input I heard from other women working in technology. It gave me a lot of ideas to think about in working with my team. In all the years I've been working in technology I've never really formed a connection with other women in tech. Following the interview thing it was a really good way to spend an evening and I only felt hugely nervous a few times.

I also felt more encouraged to work on my proposal for OS Bridge, bringing a short yoga class that really focuses on maintaining the health of the hands, wrists, neck, shoulders and back. Truly hip work should show up, and I'm going to show a couple of simple standing stretches. Just things people could do at their desk.

Nice moment walking along 9th Avenue this afternoon. It wasn't raining or too windy, actually was warming a little. I was passing under cherry trees bursting forth into flowers and enjoying the delicate scent of them.
Spring Walk

Sweetness of flower
Scent hanging from branches as
I made my way home.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Further Words on Growth


Gathering my mind,
My heart,
Around the
Idea that changing
Is evolving.
Not giving up
Or losing respect.
Rather it is growing,
Moving forward,
Adapting towards
Instead of favoring

Inner Critic vs. Ada Lovelace

CK signed a pledge back in January to post a blog entry about a woman in technology she admired today, March 24, in honor of Ada Lovelace. The goal of the Ada Lovelace Day project is to get 1000 blog entries talking about women in technology. There's been a thing about it on her blog for weeks.

She surprised me by saying she wanted to interview me. Yes, I'm a woman who's been working in technology for over 12 years. I just never have thought of myself as worth interviewing over it. In fact thinking about it gets my inner critic all riled up noting how I don't do anything important, that I'm just a hack with a lot of what I do, there's so many other women who are better at technology than I am...

Yes, that list could keep growing, easily.

Part of it falls right in line with my having a very difficult time recognizing my accomplishments. I am so focused on moving forward, keeping momentum up that the very idea of stopping to appreciate, reflect seems very uncomfortable. I come from a very non-technical family and being the only child with a real passion for technology, learning and studying, my interest in these areas didn't really warrant a lot of supportive input. In fact, I never had a computer until I was in my 20s and on my own. The value of buying one for home was not something that I could convince my family of in the mid 1980s.

Here I was this morning, reading CK's blog post about me, and feeling awkward as all heck. Just noticing the awkwardness, where it comes from. Aside from all I've already said it occurred to me that it feels strange because I admire her so much, as a woman in technology and as a human.

In part I am just in awe of anyone who is successful in running their own business, doing freelance work. I've been in the situation of living with someone trying to do that and it was pretty hard. I've always felt a lot of uncertainty at my ability to do that and have let that drive me to try and find as stable as a job as possible. She works really hard for her clients and is concerned that her work be the best that it possibly can be. She has inspired me to think about leaving the corporate world and work for myself!

There is a large part of my admiration for her that comes from my respect for her integrity and intelligence. Those don't have anything directly to do with technology, but I think that they are so important. Combined with her openness, her want of learning, sharing knowledge and fostering collaboration is so important in any community. In the technology community I see her using these skills to find ways to support and encourage women more. CK also uses her time and technology skills to help non-profit organizations improve their online presence and make resources more accessible.

A lot of the time I think CK is a way more accomplished woman in technology than I am. She speaks with great skill about the specific tools she works. Her capacity and tenacity when it comes to learning is just amazing, she just sticks with topics, turning them from side to side until the solution becomes more clear to her.

I've never given a lot of thought to being a "woman in technology", it was just what I was drawn to and I spent a lot of time projecting a "tough" image to protect myself, playing "alpha geek" with all the guys who would be at events. I pretended not to notice and/or just played along with the "boys club" type attitude I'd run into on a regular basis in the NOC, in server rooms, in the cafeteria, and at conferences.

Over the past few years I've become more aware of the need to foster an environment where people do not feel the need to compete, especially for women. Yes, some competition is fun and can spark creativity, but it shouldn't be regarded as the only means to feel included in a group. Most importantly, everyone can benefit from being encouraged to go where the passion and curiosity for learning takes them, whether it is data visualization, neuroscience, baking, teaching, or writing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Remembering Dad

Kind of a heavy post today. These thoughts, the poem below, have been banging around in my skull for several days now. Nearly feels like the noise them make gets in the way of trying to write about things for my Zen community, a piece on my weight loss for Chozen to post to her blog site, or the poem that's lurking around in there (an homage of sorts to Neruda's Ode to Tomatoes).

The other day I was looking for a safety pin and came across my Dad's wedding ring. I've had it since the day he died. I very clearly hold in my mind taking the ring off of his hand and putting it onto my hand. For a while I wore it, when I was 130 or more pounds heavier. I was a bit sad when I'd lost enough weight that I could no longer wear it out of fear of it falling off.

That moment where I took off Dad's ring has been fresh in my mind now. The further away I get from his death, the more I am able to pull apart the frozen way I felt at the time. He's become a big part of the reason I changed my life, lost the weight and began steering my life always towards health. It hurt so much that he would choose alcohol and cigarettes over me. In some ways I now see more clearly how the nearly 25 years he was my step-father were never free of his addictions and that those addictions were closer to his heart than the love he tried to show me. It hurts to think about, but I try not to let that anger & pain completely obscure the ways he really tried to be a good father.

This December it will be nine years since his death. I still have some of his ashes in a glass jar in my house and his ring in a box in my room. I remain profoundly sad to have lost him and sometimes feel like I am one of the few people who actually remembers the ways he tried to be loving. He wasn't very good at it but he was the only one who tried to fill that "father" role in my life when I was a child.

I was reminded of all this during a final scene in the last Battlestar Galatica episode. It combined a couple of things I hate about crying (I have a very long list of things I hate about crying) -- crying in public (was watching with a crowd at the McMenamin's Bagdad) and crying because some television show or movie is written in such a way to tug at my pentiful heart-strings. I feel like a weepy sap and embaressed there are people there who might see it. No, it doesn't matter if other people are crying too.

It was a scene where a ring was exchanged between the living and the dead. I watched and felt the weight of my Dad's hand in mine. How I had to move his fingers to remove his ring. He felt lifeless, truly. His body was an empty shell and I knew my Dad was gone. There was only his ring left, heavy on my hand.

Dad, December 11, 2000

I stood there; still,
Silent, holding tears.
Mom gestured at me
To take his ring.

His hand was
Still warm
As I slid off
The ring and put
It on my finger.

The heavy gold
Didn’t really know
The change from
One cooling hand
To one cold with
Grief and anger.

He didn’t look
Asleep, at rest.
He looked dead.
My heart was filled
With the enormity of
This final withdrawal
And I didn’t know
What to say
Or do, aside
From putting
The ring on.

Nine years later the
Ring no longer fits,
My fingers are
All too small.
It sits in a box
In my room.
My heart still
Pulls tight
In my chest.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Just a Few

I'm really not feeling much like writing after another full, long Saturday at Prananda. I'm physically and mentally tired. It was a really good day, I even was working on my handstand (a pose I hate). The second to last free class was less crazy than the three previous weeks, for which I was really grateful. Even worked on the bio I'll use on my site.

Had a bit of a rough moment, watching the last episode of BSG no less. Reminded of my Dad's death, but it still feels a bit too sore to write about. That and I'm just too tired out to devote a lot of energy to it, and it deserves that energy. In part because I am just worn out by the combination of staying out late for BSG on top of the grief & anger that came up.

So I'm for bed early on a Saturday. I'm not teaching tomorrow and am looking forward to sleeping in, hanging out, maybe doing our grocery shopping. A Kundalini Yoga class at 2:30 then seeing Watchmen with CK and a friend at Cinetopia in the evening.

That brings me to today's poem. I was a little foggy and noticing how I felt resentful, petulant about coming up with a poem. I'm trying to be kinder since the poem I put together the other night when I felt this way someone really liked, commented that it was a kind of "word painting". I gave the irritation and blank screen a few breaths, then came up with something I actually feel alright with.

What is age?
This thing that
Happens to us
All, eventually,
If we're lucky.
The thing is,
I am just not
Feeling it aside
From a collection
Of physical aches
And emotional pain.
I keep moving
Forward into "age"
Yet feeling further
Younger and less
Certain inside.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Frogs

I woke up with a start when the alarm went off and seemed to stay that way all day long. Feeling anxious and drawn in tight. Combined with a day at work that felt both unproductive and frustrating it meant I arrived at the Dharma Center anxious.

I hate sitting zazen when I'm anxious. Near the top of "most uncomfortable meditation periods" list.

Instead I sat down, awaiting the racing of my heart, heard the bell ring 3 times, then silence, and a chorus of frogs reminding me something I love about springtime zazen! My mind settled swiftly and softly, occasional bursts of anxiety creeping in during the first sit, but then the frogs would sing again and I'd feel myself smile inside. By the time the second sit came I felt like I was in my body instead of my anxiety.
Vernal Chorus

Outside the zendo
A choir of frogs is singing,
"Wake up! Wake up now!"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Late March Sunset

Yep, I'm in a mood where I don't want to do anything. Don't really want to write, especially not a poem for the Sangha Challenge. A little zazen? Nope. I had a somewhat frustrating day, an enjoyable meeting with a group of folks that are all contributing to the PDX Pipeline site, and managed to help make dinner even though I didn't feel like doing that either. Didn't even make up a decent title for the post, just used the title of the poem I did today (which I don't particularly like). Bleh.

I want to curl up in bed with a novel or silly DVDs... sleep would be fine too. I am actually feeling better today. My neck still isn't hurting the way it was and my sinus pain was a bit better today too. Still taking decongestants and ibuprofen pretty regularly, but the pounding sinus pain doesn't resume immediately upon their wearing off.

Had to be part of the decision to pull my project from the release this weekend. Will still be putting out part of it, but we've found a bug a couple of users can recreate but I cannot myself nor have I been able to get a truly clear understanding of exactly what they are doing. I also had to tell someone in the same meeting they couldn't ask for any more changes, at all since little last minute changes appeared to have introduced the bug. I think... and I'm back to the lack of clarity.

There is some tension around the finality of AM moving out of the house. Not bad, I think in part it is the usual tension of moving combined with the divorce finalizing earlier this month. Just an awareness of how the body and heart tighten up a little around it all.

I was pretty nervous about meeting all the Pipeline folks this evening. I was conscious of my mind trying to pick out clothing that would be casual but "cool" (whatever the hell that means). The whole meeting new people isn't always my best and I immediately felt how carefully I was about being open, the old habits of holding back, guarding coming up. Interesting to note how much easier it is to perceive that tightening happening.

I realized about 20 minutes after things got going that I was possibly the oldest person, which felt a little strange. I wonder if I would be so aware of it if I wasn't having a "milestone" birthday this year. Why is it we focus so much on the decade birthdays anyway, well most of them. 20 is kind of a wash since you're really just waiting for 21 to happen.

A note on venue: I liked the Goodfoot Pub & Lounge a lot. Nice art display on the walls, open space with a few nice pool tables. I heard there's some great dance parties in the downstairs (a place I seem to recall as being a lesbian bar I'd been to years ago when I lived in the neighborhood). Tom Waits came on while we talked, which is a good thing in my book.

And therein lies the difficulty. Great place to hang out, not so great for listening to details and getting to know people a bit better. I found it a little loud to actually hear people and a couple of times missed something because of it. Look forward to checking it out some evening with CK when we can play a little pool.

Poetry seems to be especially hard tonight. Like prodding Zonker to do much of anything. Ugh, this feels so, so, so very lame tonight. I don't even have the tingling of a haiku I could piece together... So here it is, purely the disciple of practicing poetry no matter what.
Late March Sunset

A break in the
Spring rain
Reveals sun
In pink streaks
Against clouds.
Lingering along
The green edge
Of the hillsides
As I head home.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Although They Are Only Breath

Today began my experiment with greater "word exposure" for myself. This morning PDX Pipeline posted a short piece I wrote about watching the series finale of Battlestar Galactica at the Bagdad Theater. Which is pretty cool and a lot of fun, plus good writing practice!

Seeing it published on the site reminds me a bit of when a piece I wrote for my Sangha journal came out. Looking down at a picture of myself next to my words. Today it is seeing something I wrote, with my name and little bio line there, on a very public site with a growing amount of traffic. Then there's this sharing poetry thing I've been doing, the Sangha Poetry Challenge. I think more people have read my poetry than ever before in my life, which is kinds strange and nice at the same time.

While chatting with the person who runs PDX Pipeline this morning before heading into the office we sorted out trying to arrange for me to do a phone interview of the guys behind a musical act I'm a big fan of as well a go to one of their shows next month and take some photos. I was just hoping for the show & photos bit, the interview thing... Wow! Don't want to write a lot of details about this one since it is still getting sorted out, but it is enough for me to be excited and nervous about.

Although I checked out another new yoga studio tonight, had a really nice class that even helped my neck feel a little better -- I'm not going to write about it. I'm just going to leave it at reflecting upon the interesting emotions, inner dialog that arises around writing, sharing my writing. Which brings me to my poetry offering for today:
My Words

“But, why?”
I ask myself
And wonder.

Why is it I even
Want people to
Read my words.
Why do I think
My words are
Worthy of the
Eyes of others
Taking them in,
Holding them.
Letting my words

My critic reminds
Me that I am
No great hand
With words,
Daring me to
Compare my
Crude lines
With those of
Other, greater

A defiant child’s
Voice, I barely
Recognize as mine,
Repeats with small
Words she’s heard.
My words may
Transcend darkness
To bring illumination.

My words are
Potent medicine.

**The title of this post is taken from a bit of Sappho someone from Dharma Rain Zen Center reminded me of when she saw today's poem for the Sangha Challenge.

Although they are only breath
these words of mine
will live forever

Monday, March 16, 2009

Illness Anxiety

I am tired, cranky and generally impatient feeling tonight. I am irritated with my slow-healing body and that the continuing headache makes writing feel like I'm swimming through black-strap molasses in winter. Usually when I feel lousy I'm still able to focus on some writing, but I have been just staring at the screen lately.

Still haven't done up a review of the M. Ward/Port O'Brien show at the Aladdin from last week. I started to write about the amazing discussion around generosity the Love Based Living group had on the 9th. Wanted to post some stuff about the Ashtanga Vinyasa class I took weeks and weeks ago. Trying to finish up the piece I've started looking back at the service practice of maintaining the Transfer of Merit list for my Portland Sangha. My teacher still wants me to write on my weight loss, and the way I came to see mindful eating as a practice of very literally "feeding peace" within myself.

My inner critic likes to make lists and point out how I skipped a day of writing practice yesterday, including failing to produce another poem for the Sangha Challenge. It doesn't matter to that critical voice that the decision was made to not write after teaching a class, running errands, attending a Sangha tea, and helping CK with the week's shopping. By the time all that was done I was exhausted and my head hurt, not that my inner critic cares about how I feel physically or emotionally. Instead of writing CK and I spent the evening making a simple dinner, talking, watching a DVD and attempting to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Honestly, what I think is underneath it aside from the thoughts that I should just be producing MORE, is feeling anxious that I'm still having a terrible sinus headache. Today it moved to the right side, including the pain in neck, and I am fatigued again. I took my last dose of antibiotics with dinner tonight and am worried that not feeling well is going to hit me with a thump later this week. I've been taking pseudoephedrine, ibuprofen and drinking lots of water. I really don't have the time to spare to be sick and will have 5 days packed with yoga classes next week to get finished with teacher training.
When the Self is Slow

I am impatient
With this body.
It heals slowly
And reminds me
That I am not
Comprised of
Limitless energy.
Even my mind,
Well, most of it,
Resists prodding
To make it go.
Instead it mostly
Ignores criticism and
Lingers instead
On thoughts of
Sleeping late
And spending
A day going

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Glory of Words

I wonder at the way I have a difficult time embracing the word, "Writer" when it comes to myself. How my inner critic bristles and mutters invalidating comments. How I feel the need to avoid this label, feel unworthy of it.

Like the uncertainty, downright dread of singing in front of people, I wonder if there is something underlying feeling like I don't deserve to call myself a writer. All the times I was told I was too talkative, too inquisitive, too argumentative (a prelude to my spending days at a time in my room, grounded)...

Anyway, in trying to keep up with the Sangha poetry challenge, which I've now missed a couple of days of, I came up with a poem tonight inspired by thinking about this.
Glory of Words

Just some words,
Any words, really,
Would do now.

As I child I was
Told I used too
Many words, but
Impossible to explain
Without opening
My mouth to
Share that my
Head felt full
To bursting
With the glory of
Words, of knowledge
Available, open to
Me in the long
Library stacks.

I find less words
Now, although the
Silence feels familiar.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

General Impatience with Illness and Napping

I never have liked naps really. As a kid it was absolutely punishment to say I had to go lay down for a nap. I'd offer to read quietly, anything but napping. I usually wouldn't fall asleep and on the rare occasion I did, I'd end up feeling groggy when I was awakened.

Napping is a sign of illness or extreme fatigue for me. Today I took a nap. I felt like I needed it since I didn't actually feel much better at all today. Although my head and neck feel better I was weak and shaky feeling from the moment I got up today.

Another day on the bed with the laptops. I worked on stuff until about 1 at which time I felt generally lousy. Cleared my afternoon meetings until tomorrow and Monday and had some leftover stew. Then I lay down and was surprised that I fell truly asleep for about an hour -- yep, definitely sick.

But same as when I was little, I woke up feeling groggy and not well at all. I made myself get up, drink some water, and put some split peas on to cook so we could have an early dinner. That helped me feel like I was back out of nap-land again so I did some dishes and got back to looking at a bug that had been found.

I stayed home from zazen tonight, something that provokes a few words from my inner critic about how I'm well enough to sit around at home so I should be well enough to sit in the zendo. I know though I'm making a good decision for my health, especially considering another busy weekend starts tomorrow. I'm just tired of feeling sick and fatigued.

I am discovering that writing poetry is harder when I'm fatigued. Writing anything really, even writing this blog post I feel like I've just gone through the motions and have come up with some boring nonsense about my day being sick. I'm getting started out with PDX Pipeline and told JC I'd write up the M. Ward show at the Aladdin this past Sunday, but even trying to put together 300 words about that seems like a tremendous effort.

Ugh! On that note, here's a haiku about trying to write with a sinus infection.

My eyes, just staring.
Seeing white space, waiting-
Wanting words to come.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


My terrible headache was diagnosed yesterday as a sinus infection. Today my physical therapist worked on all the headache points in the neck, top of the shoulders, jaw and cranium. She noted that I had nearly every trigger point for headache active, including the important muscle points around the glands and lymph nodes in the throat. She thought that nothing was probably processing effectively in that area which likely contributed to the infection.

So I'm on day two of a massive dose of antibiotics and taking ibuprofen regularly to help with the pain when I move my head around. After IW worked on my neck tonight I can feel it is released but everything is aching a lot. She warned me that I might feel a little worse this evening. Ugh.

I made a decision last night not to write for several reasons, being sick one of them. I then spent much of the time trying to get comfortable enough to sleep listening to the voice of my inner critic who sees the body it inhabits as inferior, weak and pathetic. Deriding my decision not to write a poem for the 30 day challenge, noticing how I can't even keep with something for 30 days.

Making space to be sick is really hard for me, in addition to being flogged by my critic for getting sick in the first place, I feel anxious. There is no space for compassion for feeling unwell. A grudging willingness to admit my head hurts so much that I want to cry. Then I end up crying, it makes my head throb and my critic goes off on how I'm acting like a big baby.

I was sick a lot as a kid and seriously so and felt like I caused my Mom a lot of worry, was a burden to her. When she started fighting cancer I especially felt bad for getting sick so easily. She felt barely well enough to look after herself much less me sick again.

As I became an adult I learned that if I was sick things would fall apart. In my early 20s I lost a job because I was sick too often. During my first marriage things I normally took care of around the house were just left until I was well enough to deal with them. I jumped from the guilty, semi-support from my Mother as a child to being entirely unsupported after leaving home.

Now when I get sick I feel guilty, anxious and burdensome. I feel driven to keep working on everything, not letting go. It is easy to look at the reasons and think they make sense, but harder to let go of the way they drive my reactions.

For now it is
Enough to watch
The voice impatient
With a frail body.
To observe how the
Voice drives the
Anxious fear of
Illness, of needing
Compassion and care.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Love Based Living

I had the pleasure of facilitating the Love Based Living group I meet with tonight. I haven't been able to in many months since I teach on Tuesdays and most Sunday evenings I'm overloaded already. Last month they changed one of the meeting days each month to the second Monday of the month -- a night I am free! Before I could think too long about it I offered to facilitate the group.

Facilitating means you keep the flow of the sharing moving as well as come up with a theme for everyone to talk to. I arrived with a theme centered around generosity. How we define and express self-generosity. How we engage our Inner Critic to work with self-generosity. The final round of discussion being what we'd take with us from the evening out into the world -- how we stay compassionately engaged with the Inner Critic and foster self-generosity in order to cultivate generosity towards others.

And that all said I'm going to devote more time later to everything that came up. In the past when I've gone we often wrap up the questions quite quickly, but much to my surprise this topic had such depth for everyone that we used up the whole two hours for the meeting! Mindful of the evening I am being generous with myself and accepting that I need to go to bed, I want to spend time with CK who was too tired to join us tonight, and I don't need to try and cram everything into one night.

A poem that for today that came out of some of the realizations I had tonight:

I feel my body
Pull away from
Kindness, the
Generosity of
Others, with a
Tightening of
Muscles and mind.
My heart prepares
For the withdrawal,
The betrayal,
Even before the
Offer is finished.

Even if wincing,
I try to offer
Gratitude and
Be present
To receive-
The offering.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Unexpectedly Free Afternoon

It has been generally quiet today. Wasn't sure how the day would go after I woke up at 5AM disoriented and aching. I got back to sleep, Phoebe tried to help by curling up next to me again and woke up later than I'd expected when my Mom phoned at 9AM.

She sounded terrible, had been coughing a lot, and there were 3 inches of snow with more coming down! She said that she thought it would be better if I didn't come out. I told her we'd figure out another time, although it would be very difficult for the next few weeks. I hung up and observed the ache in my sinuses, felt the relief of this cancellation.

Two students showed up to class today and we spent a long time in less poses. Going deeply, taking time for me to work with them on alignment. It felt really good to offer that kind of attention to detail with just two people. I was aware of how enjoyable it was to have the freedom to really focus like that.

With my afternoon suddenly free I took some ibuprofen my still aching head and decided to take a long hot bath, dozing off while I soaked. After I felt that kind of groggy, heaviness I get after a nap. Unfortunately my head didn't feel much better. I washed the dishes and decided to go ahead and make stew even though I'm alone. I've been making a stew or soup most Sundays but didn't think I would today with the plans to see Mom.

AM rang up while I was getting started. We chatted for a little bit about his experience at the Beginner's Mind retreat over the weekend. It was a good experience, made him see that trying to go into residency at Great Vow may not be the best choice for him right now.

After getting off the phone I decided to just be with the silence this afternoon, resisting the urge to put on music or NPR. I'm going to see M. Ward at the Aladdin later this evening and it seemed like a good idea to spend the afternoon being mindful in the quiet. I have come to really appreciate preparing food in silence, just being fully present for the act of cooking.

The apartment smells wonderful. I'm writing early on account of the concert and will wrap up in order to eat some of the stew. I miss CK a lot and am very grateful she will be back tomorrow afternoon. I sent her a message about the stew, something about having made it so she'll be able to enjoy it tomorrow feels comforting.
Stew Meditation

Under my hand skin
Comes off in
Long brown strips
Revealing jewel
Orange flesh.
The knife moves,
planes, strips, cubes.
The hands set aside,
Move to the next
To be made into
Small pieces.
Then into a
Humble pot.
The order a
Kind of ritual.
First lilies to
Soften, grow fragrant.
Then roots,
Stalks, fruits.
Water rushing
In to give depth.
Then sitting while
All ingredients join
Together in silence
And heat.

I am nourished
By the act
And result.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hearing Through my Mother's Ears

Joy had us working on the things we felt most uncomfortable, uncertain about teaching. She had all the trainees doing various Sun Salutations and abdominal series over and over. I may ache in the morning.

I hadn't volunteered for anything since I feel pretty steady with teaching all of those things. I've been teaching them for months, if not a few years now. When she put me on the spot about which one I wanted to practice I said really the thing that makes me most nervous is chanting and "Om" at the beginning of class, something I was doing today.

I practiced it with my training class and Joy was commenting about how to go beyond that nervousness. She was noting that she didn't want to "play therapist" but was alluding to the ways in which we're told we're too loud, etc.

I said that it wasn't all that hidden. That during childhood I was repeatedly told I was too loud, talked too much, and no one was interested. When it came to music I was told I "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" and, except for one embarrassing talent show (all my peers thought my performance was completely, laughably lame) was actively discouraged from any interest in music. It wasn't until I was in college, over 2000 miles from home, that I took some vocal lessons.

I never got comfortable with it. Never have felt like I could just sing and get over it. Chanting service after zazen at the Dharma center has been excruciating but I've gotten a little more comfortable with it. Chanting at the beginning of a yoga class feels closer to singing and everyone looks directly at you, unlike chanting service where no one really looks at me.

What I noticed was how I'd curled up into a protective ball talking to my teacher training class about it. I'd gone from sitting cross-legged, body open, to a tight posture with knees drawn up and into the chest and my arms wrapped around the shins. Several of my co-trainees and Joy noticed the incredibly protective, defensive body posture I'd moved into.

But I chanted Om at the beginning of class with 8 co-trainees, 1 teacher and 18 students looking at me. It was OK. Not comfortable, but OK. I felt better once I moved into teaching pranayama and a meditation on the breath.

And on that theme, today's poem:
My Mother's Ears

My voice sounds
Too loud.

The ears that hear
my voice belong
To my Mother.
Her ears that
Decide the voice
Is too much,
Too often,
Too loud, and

Not sure when
I began to listen
To my voice through
My Mother's ears.
When I talk about
Singing I hear
Pure tension and
My body curls into
The smallest
Possible ball.


CK is down in Northern California with family, attending to her uncle who is very ill. I dropped her off at the airport a little past noon. I start to miss her by the time I drive away.

My mind does all the reminders about how important it is that she see her family. How I admire her for spending this kind of time with her family. How it is only a short trip. How I'll email, chat, text message, and talk on the phone with her.

Blah, blah, blah... I miss her.

I cannot even be distracted by talking to AM, hanging out watching TV together. He's out at Great Vow doing his Beginner's Mind retreat. He was very anxious when he left this afternoon. He's also needing to rethink again on what he's going to do come June 1. I so want him to be well, be happy, to know some measure of pride in what he's done.

I don't think I mindfully filled this weekend alone with as much as possible, but it has worked out that way. Tomorrow is the first of 4 very long days at Prananda. I'll assist in the 9:30AM gentle class, then a break for a bite to eat, then a full afternoon of teacher training, teaching a class at 4:30... Whew! Sunday I'll teach, spend several hours with Mom, then go to the M. Ward show at the Aladdin. CK and I were supposed to go together, but when the need to be with her family came up we decided I'd still go with my friend EB.

Monday CK will be back, I'll run out to the airport to pick her up around 2:30. Until then I'll have the silence to appreciate the way she just clicked into my life. Having the quiet to look at this I can see the empty spot I just kept trying to bridge, work around, do anything but really honestly look at what was needed to complete it.

Which brings me to a poem for Day 6 (technically this is 7, but I haven't been to bed yet so it counts).
Missing Piece

It is in the time
That fills with
Silence when
You are gone
That I can see
How you fit into
A space in my
Life I didn't want
To admit needed

Thursday, March 5, 2009

30 Poems - Day 5

Thursdays make for a long day for me. Work and zazen; usually I get home around 10PM. Today I met CK and DT for dinner at Laughing Planet on SE Belmont in between the two things, making for no real break at all. I'd realized that they would be the hard days to come up with a new poem! Mindful of that, the walk home from the bus stop inspired a new haiku:
Spring's Impatience

“Snow’s cold novelty
Has entirely worn off.”
Say Spring’s first blossoms.

A Letter of Gratitude

I did something I've always considered terribly silly and somewhat uncomfortable today.

I wrote AND mailed a fan letter to one of my favorite authors, Ursula K. Le Guin. I was introduced to her writing in high school in 1985 and have been a reader ever since. Novels, poetry, short stories, even commentary and translation -- her words just resonate with me. They made me think about the world in a different way as a teen and continue to inspire me. Even when I reread things I continue to learn from them and about myself through them.

I've never actually written anyone a fan letter before. I always felt kind of silly. Even meeting a handful of authors I really like* and once or twice a musician I felt painfully awkward. Not that I don't see these people as human or that I'm entirely at ease meeting people. I feel generally awkward meeting people in general, when I talk with someone who's art has deeply affected me the everyday uncomfortable feeling gets turned up to 11, as it were. To try and put it into words... well, I feel like some babbling fool.

It also feels as though I'm being a bother, an imposition. I run into this one a lot, actually. The feeling as though I'm worthy of the attention of someone I admire in any way.

Why write a letter? Well, there's a certain element of 'why not?' in the answer. A few other things too... I've never had the opportunity to meet Ms. Le Guin or even hear her speak. She's rather reclusive and even though I've been a fan for mover half my life & live in the same city, it just never has happened. As I approach 40 years it occurs to me that, since neither she nor I have halted the aging process, I should actually let go of feeling foolish and just offer my gratitude.

What I said to her in the letter that I had come to understand that in holding back from writing the letter, in listening to the voice of my Inner Critic, that I was denying both of us the pleasure of my gratitude. It isn't as if Ms. Le Guin will find it overly tiresome to receive one more letter thanking her for her writing. Even though it feels a little awkward still I am glad I took the time to share my gratitude.

*Of the authors I have met in person I must say that Neil Gaiman has always been the most cordial of them all and an absolute delight to chat with even if only for a moment. I've been very grateful to be present for hearing him read from his work -- wonderful, marvelous experience!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Distraction of Approval

I'd like to write about the charming fox sailing away in a golden walnut boat that arrived in the mail for me today, bringing me absolute delight. I kept trying to write about this and move into the comforting pleasure about writing about silly, happy, lovely things.

Instead I've been counting the days in my head since AM and I filed for divorce. I think today is 30 days since filing. We each received a slightly baffling piece of mail saying how a General Judgement was entered last week. I did some research and looking through the certified copies of everything. That's one of the pieces of paperwork that was in the filing. Once it is entered by a judge and 30 days had passed the divorce would be final. So I think it may well be today. Feels a little strange.

I think if we'd not done it now, to have just let things between us continue to drift, I think eventually it would have eroded our friendship hugely, perhaps irrevocably. Not rejection so much as a mutal willingness to look unflinchingly at what we've both avoided for years. My therapist pointed out to me last week that since I've been seeing her (going on 6 years) there has been this undercurrent of distance and a sense of my compromising on my authentic self for the sake of loving a friend so much. And now we both get to step off in very different directions, very different people.

Here I am, dropping another privilege of normalcy - this time all the things that going along with the shield, anonymity of "hetero-normal". I tried to hard to fit in as a kid, really throughout most of my 20s too. Moving who I was towards positive reinforcement, they ways in which I could be sure I'd be liked.

I feel exposed and notice reminders daily of how I don't fit in with society. How in some cases many people, if not several other countries, believe what I'm doing is abnormal and wrong, sinful and shameful. At the very best finding me extreme in my choices. It is kind of terrifying, much of the time really. Despite all of that, in the past 6 years I've come to know with certainty that to move closer to the Truth, to rest in the Essential Self, is to turn away from all the things I once distracted and comforted myself with.
The Distraction of Approval

Given sufficient uncertainty
The familiarity of bending,
Towards the false idol of praise
Felt as normal as breath,
More so.

At some point the stories
Lacked humor, especially to me.
The smile, merely pasted in place.
The laughter always sounded
Canned, a track stuck in a loop.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Gift of Unexpected Back Bends

I went to teach yoga feeling the same fatigue I've been fighting with for a week or two now. My throat never gets beyond a little "scratchy" feeling and I'm sneezing a bit (but the trees are starting to get leaves), but never really where I feel sick. Mostly just so tired out and my shoulders felt a little sore from the class I took at Exhale last night.

Three students showed up tonight and one of them, a returning student who has a more advanced practice, asked if we could play around with "wheel" pose. Really this pose is called "Upward Bow" and I had noted a couple of weeks ago I couldn't teach it because my shoulders were so badly strained. Tonight when she asked I realized I didn't have to demonstrate how to do the pose perfectly so much as I needed to be very precise in verbally teaching it. That and very mindful of my students.

I put together a class to work towards ending with upward bow pose ; opening the front of the legs, warming up the abdominal muscles, and waking up the strength in the shoulders. Not too vigorous so they would have the energy to lift up at the end of class. I got everyone set up with bricks against the wall for extra length and as I finished helping the two very new students I looked over to see the returning student, L, UP in the pose all on her own!

I believe we were both equally excited about her getting up into the pose when she didn't think she would be able to!

I then partnered with one of the newer students and we were able to cradle L through a drop backwards into upward bow! The two new students, having both seen and helped someone into the pose, felt brave enough to try it after that! Each of the three students did the supported back bend! There were many smiles, much laughter, occasional "oofs", and spontaneous applause.

It was just amazing working with them and receiving another lesson in the ways in which my inability to do a pose perfectly, or at all, matters so much as my mindful teaching. I found myself sitting bemused and filled with gratitude while they all lay in savasana at the end of class. How sometimes the manner in which I can be pushed outside of my own limits to realize another way is possible is a delightful experience.

Out of gratitude for the gift of the class tonight I wrote a poem for the 30-day Challenge about learning from my students.

I learn from them,
These people called "students".
That arrive each week
And call me "teacher".

I have learned that we forget
Self-compassion as easily and as
Quickly as we forget the breath
When experiencing a challenge.

I have felt how laughter helps
To release the deep, sharp
Intensity in a body overly
Familiar with tension.
And how a room filled
With that laughter feels
Warm and welcoming
Even on the coldest days.

A measure of the daring I
Possessed as a child has
Been reintroduced to me
Through people delighted to
Try something simply because
I offered instruction,
Encouragement and support.

Monday, March 2, 2009

About my Poetry (and my day too)

My day was filled with meetings with clients in which I tried to figure out what they're doing, what they need, and that I don't actually do "magic", I write code. Then I fixed bugs, caught up and generally went about my Monday.

Checked out a Hatha/Restorative class at Exhale, a new "green" yoga studio in the Alberta Arts District. Great class, enjoyed it a lot. Not as restorative as I was not-so-secretly hoping for, but not too strenuous considering I felt a bit tired and achy. Lovely space with a nice feel and a cork floor (which was kinda chilly to me). Would be a class/studio I'd considering taking more classes at definitely! Gave me little thoughts about having my own studio too!

After class, which got out at 8:30, I foraged around the kitchen and came up with a mostly leftovers dinner + steamed broccoli. Watched Q.I. while I ate dinner and chatted with CK a little. All the time in the back of my mind thinking, "Gotta write a poem for the challenge today..."

I used to write a lot of poetry. Angsty stuff when I was in high school and college. In my 20s I wrote a lot of steamy, sexy stuff of desire. In my 30s I pretty much stopped entirely except for the very occasional haiku that's popped up over the past 4 years.

Now putting thought into poetry, thinking about how some of my favorite poems used language and space, I find myself an even harsh judge than ever before. As though lines written without the fire of infatuation lack spark.

That the 30 poems in 30 days challenge is part of my Zen community... well, my inner critic gets very insistent that I try to write about being in the present moment, shining the light of Dharma... But that feels even more pretentious than anything else I try.

This evening I wrote about Portland. I guess in a way it is writing about the present moment.
Evening Commute

As the train turned
To cross the bridge
The city was drenched
In the last golden light
Of a late winter day.

I was watching gulls
Flying above the river
Turned into glimmering
Gems hanging in the
Approaching twilight.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

and Now for Something...

...a little different. I have retitled the blog, clearly.

Why -- This is actually what my blog was titled when I started out on this whole writing practice idea. The title is taken from a snippet of lyric in a Peter Gabriel song entitled, More Than This. The rest of the lyric goes, "Like words together we can make some sense." It fits with how I see my writing practice, my words together making sense of my life.

Sharing about myself, wholly, is challenging. In most of the relationships in my life I've compartmentalized myself - sharing various parts of myself depending upon the audience. Protecting and keeping hidden a lot of myself. Writing is a practice that helps bring all the parts together into the same space. As I was starting to learn how to write about myself and the interactions in my life, I hit a period where I started to chop things into smaller parcels again. Subconsciously I decided I wouldn't fully share the real me that wrote about struggles and healing.

Although my teachers say this is a voice worth hearing, a way to turn bitter past into "potent medicine" to help heal others, it is hard to be open in these spaces most of all. Since one of my struggles is around being open with others, it makes for difficult practice to try and share my voice. Ultimately what I did make public where things that were less revealing of more tender places.

What this means aside from the title change? More posts will show up in the archives as I import things in and bring my pieces back together again. New posts will explore things like my inner critic, dramatic weight loss, and other more personal, deeper topics further.

Each Word a Rock

I don't recall the title of the poem, but the words have stuck with me since high school. I'm fairly certain it was David Wagoner, a poet who settled north of me in Washington. Somewhere in boxes of old papers maybe the writing project I turned in at 15, or was it 16... My own poetry, some artwork of mine, and poems I felt a connection to.
Each word a rock
The size of a fist.

I throw them one by one
At the dark window.

That was all, those thin, unadorned lines. I cannot find reference to this anywhere on the Internet and will dig around at the library this week to see if I can track it down to confirm. Maybe I'll be posting later this week I have the writer entirely incorrect or someone will correct me via a comment. What is important is how these words stuck with me through the past couple of decades.

The image of each word being a rock has especially stuck with me. My mind goes to how some of our words are tiny pebbles, a vast scattering of "and", "or", "the" and countless "ahs", "ums" and "ohs". Vast stone crags of Hope and basalt columns of Courage. Bits of jagged words like Shame and Fear, cutting like obsidian.

Today started a little writing challenge in my Sangha - to write and post a poem a day for the next 30 days. The goal is to just write, not to judge not to weigh and compare, just to share this practice together.

I started with an homage to this spare poem that has stayed in my mind all these years. Funny how writing poetry brings my inner critic front and center, loudly. Writing the occasional haiku has felt easy, but there always has been something about free verse that feels more revealing than anything else. I found myself looking at the first poem for the project finding it lacking in grace and style, excessive and pretentious. Feeling the anxiousness brought on by the harsh comments of my inner critic I posted a new poem to the site dedicated to collecting the works of this friendly challenge to go deeper into the practice of writing.
Stone Words

“Each word a rock…”

Another poet’s words
Read when I was young.

My words,
Now grown older,
Are like the geology
Of this place.
Shaped by water
and by fire.
Explosive energy
And cold, silent rain.

Words like the shoreline which
Reaches out to meet the
Constant change of ocean
With fingers of stone and
Pebbles strewn high and low.
A trove of glimmering
Words murmuring together.