Saturday, June 28, 2008

drink your tea slowly ...

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves
- slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future;
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.

- Thich Nhat Hahn

Like so many of us, I live a rather hectic life. My workdays are usually 10 hours, working against deadlines, juggling multiple projects, dealing with client expectations, which can change from day to day. Most weekdays, I'm not home until after 9:30pm, either because I go straight from work to yoga or I go to visit my daughter and family over an hour away. I never make dinner; there's no time and it's too late. With such a packed week, all the chores are usually crammed into the weekend.

Some weekends, though, I try to claim for myself. These are weekends where I feel the need to do nothing, despite my lists of cleaning and fixing and planting; of oiling the chairs on the patio, posting my excess on Craigslist, replacing the worn flap on the toilet. I just want to recharge my batteries, to decompress, to release and renew - and ignore the nagging of those lists. They can wait.

This past
Saturday was one of those days. I felt lazy most of the day, happily, contentedly lazy. I did a few little things after my morning walk and my yoga class - played piano in a contented reverie - but mostly I just hung out in my courtyard doing a bit of plant clean-up, reading, sitting and thinking – just being ... and just being happy. My heart was just filled with gratitude for everything: for the home that keeps me sheltered; for the courtyard garden with the white butterflies fluttering about and the little birds drinking from the fountain; for the water that comes right out of the tap just by turning a lever; for the ability to choose when and what I will eat, at whatever time I am hungry; for the washer and dryer that clean and dry my clothes with so little effort on my part. I am abundantly grateful for the abundance and ease in my life.

On my lazy Saturday, I felt very much "in the moment." No rushing about, no calls or e-mails to answer. I felt fully present to the air, the sun, the sky; to life.

We only really live in the present moment. We don't live in the future; it's not here yet, so we cannot live in it. And yet, we sometimes invest considerable stress and worry about an imagined future that may or may not come to pass. More likely than not, when the future becomes the present, it's very different than we imagined it would be.

Drink your tea slowly and reverently ...

We don't live in the past, either. Those hurts and disappointments, events and feelings are not in the present moment where our breath and our heartbeat are. Too often, though, we stuff our sorrows and our victimhood over past events into a big old knapsack and hoist the full weight of it all over a worn shoulder. Thus encumbered by events from long ago - events that are done and gone - we face the purity and freshness of our present moment burdened and stooped under the load, as if we've forgotten that it's our choice whether to carry those burdens forward with us ... or to release them and fly freely like an untethered balloon through the air of now, feeling how much lighter and clearer everything is, how the sunlight sparkles, how the white butterflies dance, and how our heart shines throughout our being.

Live the actual moment.

There really is only this present moment. And then it passes ... and now we're in this present moment. We are not past, we are not future. We are truly only present. It's good to take time to get off the hamster wheel that life can become and just Be; happily, contentedly lazy if that suits you in the moment, noticing each breath and each butterfly and filled with gratitude.

Only this moment is life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

suspicious minds ...

“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.”
~ Dalai Lama

Lotus Pond - Bruno Baumann

The other night after yoga, I was speaking with another student, discussing his hip problems and the spondylolisthesis of my spine and how yoga is so helpful. He told me of a therapist in LA who'd really helped him and that he'd give me the man's number. I thanked him but told him quite honestly that I probably wouldn't drive all the way up to LA and that a friend had recommended someone who was closer.

The man's response: "Well, you must not be hurting that bad if you're not willing to drive to LA."

I thought it was an odd comment at first, and then I gave it my full consideration, thinking about whether there was any truth for me in his observation.

Some might have thought his comment was insulting. This was the first time we'd spoken and he didn't know me or what I've been through with this condition, as well as other pain issues (from fibromyalgia, sciatica, scoliosis, transitional vertebra). Maybe he was being intentionally rude ... or maybe not. I don't know and really what does it matter if he was? The only one who knows the intention behind that comment is him. Any speculation on my part would be just that: speculation.

I'm not big on speculating about other people's motives for doing or saying what they do. I know of people - co-workers, family, friends - who often second-guess other's intentions: "I know that he did that just to spite me." "I know she did that because she wants his money." Uh, no, you don't know.

One person in particular is prone to spinning her theories and suspicions as if they're the absolute truth. When I gently counter with the fact that she doesn't really know, she insists that "well, it's obvious what she was trying to do. Anyone can see that!"

Hmmm ... I think I may be missing the "righteous indignation" gene ...

Have you ever had anyone misread your intentions? I've had a couple of occasions where I've said or done something with the best of intentions ... and later found that the other person assumed something entirely different than I'd intended. I would apologize for any hurt feelings and discuss the issue with a listening heart to both explain my intentions and also to better understand the other's perception.

Many misunderstandings arise from an incorrect perception. I could have perceived the fellow student's comment as rude and thoughtless, but that would be merely my perception, and not his truth, which only he knows.

These kinds of assumptions can really damage a relationship, so I try to never speculate about the intent behind another person's actions. Well, that's not entirely true. I do make one assumption: I always trust first in others' positive intentions. And I hope that others trust in my positive intentions.

I believe that it's very rare that anyone would be intentially malicious and hurtful to a friend. Am I being naive? Maybe. I've been told that I'm too trusting of others. Do I miss signals when someone is truly intending to be rude or disrespectful? Probably so. But what harm is there in that?

If someone is being rude, that's on them and has nothing to do with me or my happiness. I'd rather be naive and trusting in my happy little bubble of bliss than be suspicious and hurt for no good reason other than my own misguided assumptions. I'm much happier feeling that everyone in my circle is a good, kind, loving person and that we all have one another's best interests at heart. It's a nice way to live.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

remember ... remember ...

I must be self-indulgent today and write for myself. I am filled with thoughts, feelings, experiences, triggered by my uncle's death. My thoughts have been ajumble with memory and sharing with relatives-seen-too-seldom for my taste. Time is such a thief. "I'd love to see you more, but you know ... so busy, so little time." Such a thief. And then the door closes and you realize that we gave Time our full permission to steal from us. Complicit in the crime, we just leave the door wide open and our wallet on the table. We're temporary; each moment is precious. Engage with those you love.

I'll likely be rambling through the rest of this, just needing to get my thoughts on paper*. Feel free to abandon ship right now and not read any further, if you wish. But be fairly warned if you choose to continue. I didn't make you do it. Thanks!

*I love expressions like "thoughts on paper" and "I'll cc you on that." We don't really often put thoughts on actual paper and when was the last time you made a carbon copy of a note? Adages that have evolved from their meaning when I was a kid make me smile.

photo courtesy of Tracy

I. Yoga of loss

Last Monday, at the beginning of yoga class, our teacher, Maureen, asked if there was anything in particular we wanted to work on. "Hip openers," I said. I needed to release some of the sorrow I'd been carrying all week and hip openers are designed for releasing emotion in a big way. Just what my body was craving. We did several hip openers throughout class (including a wonderfully long pigeon pose) and as I breathed through each asana, releasing on the exhale, I could feel these sticky bits within me releasing their hold and opening up, sometimes with a soft "pop!" sound. I could feel my breath become fuller, my clarity more clear. I really love hip openers, even when I'm not holding any deep emotion. Bonus: they're a wonderful release from the spondylolisthesis and sciatica pain. Great stuff.

At the end of class, as were guided to lie still and relax in savasana - that state of surrender without attachment, being aware but not engaged - I decided I would like to softly think of my uncle and feel blessings for him during this time. I relaxed my body, closed my eyes, opened my heart and aimed my love at an image of him in my mind. As soon as I saw his image, though, I felt this sudden rush of love coming from that image ... and then very quickly, I felt others rush forward with him - my mom (oh, Mom!), my aunt, uncles, grandparents, friends - and they all hurtled love at me like an uncontrolled flow from a fireman's hose. I was briefly unnerved at first, sputtering against the unexpected flood, then I relaxed and opened my heart ("receive what you have been given") and I could receive it all, feeling it fill the spaces just opened up by the earlier poses in class.

Amazing experience.


II. The Vigil-formerly-known-as-the-Rosary

Thursday night was the Vigil. Pre-some-change-in-the-church rules, we used to have a Rosary service on an evening prior to the funeral. Everyone kneeling, rosary beads in hands - some of those hands smooth and young, others gnarled with arthritis and wrinkled with time - the priest would begin each prayer and those gathered would complete it, in a call-and-response cadence. You do five decades of those - the prayers droning in a sonorous rhythm, buzzing in the chapel like bees on a hot summer day - and you're in such a wonderfully meditative state, feeling that interconnectedness with the Sacred within. (I can always use more interconnectedness with the Sacred within.)

Nowadays, though, it's a Vigil; you get a nice, small service and, for the Rosary part, it's one decade and you're on your way. Seems like my tio got cheated.

My mom had always said she wanted her full five decades when she crossed over, and my dad and brother made darned sure she got 'em when she crossed in 1990, by golly. My brother had to make a special request, but I'm so glad Mom got it the way she wanted. I have strong memories of sitting near her feet as a kid, with her sitting in the upholstered rocker (which now sits in my living room), her beautiful crystal rosary beads in her fingers, eyes gently closed, her lips slightly moving, the soft sussurous whisper of the prayers from deep within her soul. (I can feel the depth of her faith in those moments.)

At her rosary, we prayed every last prayer, moved through every single bead. After the service, several older women all gathered around Mom's open casket. In a bit of a semi-circle, they began to sing, a strikingly beautiful sound, a capella, with deep and powerful emotion. The tears silently coursed down their cheeks as they bravely sang for her. They'd been schoolgirl friends of my Mom and they all used to sing together in church choir. And now they gathered and sang for Mom, hands held together, arms around one another, singing her over to Heaven.

Amazing experience.


III. Losing my stories

My mom came from a family of ten children. Growing up, we had a lot of tios and cousins that we'd visit with very regularly, some were on the same block when I was very little. All the family was very close and we cousins grew up together.

From those ten, there are now two uncles who remain on this side. Gathered together for my Uncle Art this week, we all shared a lot of "remember" stories -

"remember that time with the garter snake?",
"remember driving through those fields to tio's house?",
"remember how we used to ..."

remember ...
remember ...
remember ...

These are the only people who know my childhood stories first-hand, who have known me from my beginning on this side. As each one ages and moves on, they take my stories with them, one by one. Each one has a different piece of my story, various bits of my life's narrative ... each unique piece making a "pop!" sound as it is released and disappears. Pop! Fifty years from now - likely, less than that - there will be no human alive who knows my childhood stories first-hand. There won't be any memory of them left on this side.

Amazing experience.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

golfing in heaven ...

Thank you for the gift of allowing me to see how you see me in last Sunday's blog post! I found the comments so interesting, so insightful, so revelatory. If you live with someone, there's a constant feedback that you're always getting: comments, opinions, conversation, the give-and-take of living with others. I don't have that since I live alone, so to get your feedback was very enriching to me. Thank you for holding up a mirror and letting me see myself through your eyes. (I really do like my cool aqua kitchen, btw.)

On to other things, things that are weighing on my heart and thoughts right now ...

My godfather (my "nino" in Spanish), one of my uncles, crossed over this week.

Uncle Art was 85 years old, one of my mother's brothers, very fit, still playing golf, still with his thick, gorgeous head of hair. He owned a number of successful car dealerships in his lifetime, and did quite well for himself and his family. Playing golf was his big passion and he played as often as he could. All my mom's brothers were/are very handsome men, full of the devil (as my dad would say), very sharp dressers, fabulous dancers. There are only two siblings left out of the ten original kids now; my Uncle Alfred crossed over just last October.

I love so many things about getting older except the fact that those who have loved us since we were born get older, too ... and then cross over. It’s sad to lose those who have been a part of our lives forever. They’re part of our identity, you know? These are people who have been part of my entire life's journey. People who have known me and have been forged into my DNA. When I am with these people, I am not a successful careerwoman, a homeowner, a mother and grandmother; I am a niece, a cousin, a small part of a large family. I am part of them, they are part of me.

At Uncle Alfred's funeral last year, I was speaking with my nina (Uncle Art's wife), and told her of my memories of the year when I was about 5 and she and my nino bought for me a rabbit fur stole, handmuff and hat, in the softest white fur one could imagine. I loved that set. My nina threw her head back and laughed. "Well, you said you wanted a fur coat and so we had to get you a fur coat." Sharing that story with her, I was her 5-year-old goddaughter again, delightedly (and perhaps a little too proudly) wearing her white fur.

And now we're to say goodbye for now to another of my uncles, my dear nino/godfather, Uncle Art. (He's on the far right in Mom and Dad's wedding photo above. Uncle Alfred is on the far left.) So difficult for my nina, for their son, for my remaining uncles, for my cousins. I'm sure my mom, aunt and uncles all welcomed him joyfully into heaven. I really hope they have a very nice golf course there for him to enjoy for Eternity.

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord ...
... and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

just a little bit ...

I had it all planned to write this week's blog entry about my little courtyard, a labor of love that has evolved from a bare slab of concrete when I moved here almost 10 years ago to a pleasant little courtyard filled with sights, scents and sounds that I find so pleasing.

But I've been working most of this weekend, it's nearly 11:30pm and I have to get to work early as I'm working against a deadline ... and we're already behind. Breathe ... breathe ...

I've been working a lot of late nights and weekends the past few months; a 6-month redesign project that launched last week went into crunch mode the last two weeks and we were really putting in the hours to get it launched. As soon as it launched, I was asked to pick up the project I worked on this weekend, which was behind and needed a lot of late nights and this weekend if we're to meet the deadline. I just wrapped up working on it for tonight - knowing that tomorrow will be hectic - and now am heading to bed.

But first, I do want to thank those of you who visit, and those of you who comment when you visit. When I started my blog several years ago, I really did it for me, wanting to get the thoughts that fill my head and heart onto paper, perhaps to be able to better examine them, turn them over for a good look, and sort through them, to better understand my life, my truth and my path.

I didn't really write for an audience and hadn't really considered that others might find me, might actually visit more than once and be interested enough to comment. Imagine my surprise and delight! As I've received comments, I've come to truly treasure them; words and snippets that encourage and enlighten, that delight me and bring a smile to my lips and a joyful bounce to my heart. So I want to thank you for your thoughts, for your links (loved the angel link, Amber!), for taking the time to visit, for the friendships that have developed (love you, Lynn!). I find myself grateful for these connections from you to me and me to you; you honor me with your time and your words. Thank you so much!

And now look, it's nearly midnight and I really must get to bed, to dream happy dreams from a happy and grateful heart.