Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A brief reflection on gratitude

I am thinking about gratitude today. Through the cloud of my many fears I am trying to feel what I am grateful for. There is really so much. And I am not terrified in that day in day out sort of way that I was in my childhood so I am daring to ask myself how gratitude feels in my body, so I can really get to know it better.

I am grateful for the tea I drink each morning that gets me going. The earth of the ceramic cup holds the water that has been boiled by the fire to bring me the fragrance and taste if the tea. It warms me. I receive it into my cells and the comfortable fire in my belly.  I look out at the sun and the trees. I feel the blood pulsing through my body. I sense the roots of the trees and I too can feel my connection to Mother Earth. I am grateful to the trees for reminding me of this. I feel this in my relaxing feet.

I sense the strength in the trunk of the tree and I know that I too can be strong to face what I am afraid of. My arms or limbs can reach out for what I need and this can create a favorable healing. I can reach out to others to try to sooth and support them. This helps me to feel warm in my heart. I am grateful to all my relations.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making the Circle Again

I have felt fairly lost lately and I am aware I haven't written in this blog for over a month. Lost is not necessarily a bad thing but it is not such a comfortable state of being. I realize that having my daughter far away has changed my whole life. She had been my organizing principle for more than eighteen years and while things don't look so different from the outside (except for the time I don't spend with her), things are very different in the inside.

I honor my work tremendously and love it as well my students and clients, and I do have wonderful friends. But choosing to bring a child into this world is an awesome responsibility and I have tried to follow through, structuring my whole day for the most part to meet her needs appropriate to her age and development. It helped me to know her needs were more important than the obsessive thoughts in my head. She did in fact develop herself all the way to college, so I am alone in a different way. It is good as we are each where we need to be, each transitioning in a different way.

Now I don't know what to put first. My whole nervous system is confused. I am also mourning. I am disorganized and I don't know what is to come. I can't seem to impose a structure on myself and that is difficult because I am studying Ayurveda and we are asked through our assignments to implement structure and I am finding this impossible. I can't seem to follow through with much of anything. It is as if my life energy is asking me to wonder aimlessly for a time. Some part of my soul is searching and I can't rush the finding.

I can't follow the clock as the Ayurvedic system recommends. I feel a bit of a failure. I don't feel like cooking. I want to sit in my apartment and watch netflix about families with protective parents. (I did not have protective parents but very much tried to be a protective parent.) I am aware that my home is becoming more disorganized and part of me is really frustrated with this and part of me doesn't care.

I find that I seem to be able to manage a very informal fifteen minutes of yoga on either side of my day, between waking and sleep and sleep and waking. This is the only formal/informal practice I seem to be able to get myself to do. But I felt a sense of true relief yesterday when I took my sacred objects from the window sill and put them in the circle of the Medicine Wheel. A lava rock my dear friend Leigh brought me from Hawaii went in the east, a beautiful spiky conch shell my daughter found me on a beach holding the sea of Cortez went in the south, a split rock that in its wholeness held the heat of the fire from a sweat lodge led by my friend Dennis went in the west, and a quartz crystal he had given me before his death went in the north.

There was something healing about seeing these objects in the circle rather than a line that brought me together with myself. I checked in with a part of me that has been feeling vulnerable and I tried to reassure it. I felt a sense of being rather than a sense of having to do. I am keeping this version of the Medicine Wheel on the table for now.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Another way of sensing

I can't believe it has been over a month since my last entry. I have actually been to a major learning center for ten days to take the first half of a Foundations in Ayurveda course. One would be able to study Ayurveda forever and would still just be scratching the surface. That being said I am glad I went because I learned a lot that has already found its way into my teaching.

It was hard for me because the hours of the course were long: 6:30am to 9pm, leaving no down time, something I really need. But I plugged away within this structure, a bit confused because I am sure downtime is part of a balanced life. I am still waiting for the "how to heal from trauma" course that doesn't further traumatized people. I will have to wait a bit longer. The blessing and the curse of the situation includes there being eighty people in the class: a blessing because this many people were serious about studying Ayurveda and a curse because a group half this size would be maximum for the kind of interactive learning experience I like best.

It's been a week since the course ended and I am still recovering. I'm still hoping that perhaps the course and the ancient truths I will learn will help me get out of the fog of grief I've been lost in for a few years. The loss of a good friend to a car accident and my mother's inappropriate estate appropriation left me with a heaviness it has been hard to come out from under. I have learned from Ayurveda that this heaviness may be called guru.

It is also interesting being a beginner to Ayurveda and yet not being a beginner in some ways to some of the ideas because of my at least 25 years of teaching yoga and practicing shamanism. It is hard to know where to put the part of me that is not a beginner. For example, we have a great assignment this week about exploring the sense organs, becoming aware of our relationship to them and how we can connect with them to enhance our life, health and spiritual path. The usual sense organs are ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose.

So I had a dream about my proprioceptive sense and simply knowing, like a third eye knowing. My guides seem to want me to remember this sensing, even though it is not a part of the beginning Ayurveda that I am learning. So today I will honor this proprioceptive sense, leaving the rest of the week for the other five senses. It used to be hard for me to take a course and feel very entitled to hold fully to what I know. I embrace that I am both a beginner and not a beginner and spirit is speaking to me.

I had a dream about being part of a course and sometimes I was teaching and sometimes other people were teaching. We were all appreciating the different talents people brought to the table and celebrating the ways of knowing that everyone seemed to have. I was enjoying this appreciation. We were beginning to become teams of people with complementary talents rather than any one person being the expert. People were being healed by the way we were working with each other. We seemed to just know how to do this from a deep place inside ourselves...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Are we using yoga to regulate our affect so we can accept more unacceptable behavior?

I feel pretty peaceful after a yoga class and I know this is a good feeling for me to have sometimes, for my healing, for my well being. I teach so I can support people in getting to know their processes and so that they can feel peaceful like this sometimes. I see people everywhere carrying their yoga mats around so I know yoga has gotten very popular. I am hoping it has not become another opiate of the masses.

Bessel van der Kolk, MD, who has done the research, touts its capacity to heal trauma of all kinds more effectively than drugs or therapy. And I believe this is true: another reason why I teach it. But does it also increase our resilience in such a way that we have an increased capacity to tolerate behavior that is not yogic. In yoga we practice ahimsa or non-violence if we have chosen to contemplate the yamas and niyamas or ethical precepts first (before engaging in asana or postures) as Pantanjali suggests. In this way we may learn to have a nonviolent response to a violent behavior. Ideally this leaves room for more creative approaches to issues and problems.

But we must move on to Satya, which means truth. Practicing Satya we embrace the truth of our experiences which can include our own limitations as well as our perception and interpretation of the behavior of others. Hopefully, at the end of a yoga class we are relaxed and can see ourselves clearly and perhaps we have taken responsibility for our own stuff so we are not projecting it out onto others.  But hopefully we are not so calm that we ignore abhorrent behavior such as mistreatment and exploitation of the poor, classism and racism.

Since yoga has been more popular for twenty years, is it and it's relaxing effect contributing to how we are allowing Wall Street to rip us off, millionaires to buy politicians and resources to get plundered while the environment suffers? Yoga itself has become ultra commercial with the sale of products. When I started back in 1978 any old household towel or blanket would do for practice.

Are we getting stuck in the blissed out state at the end of the yoga class and not remembering Satya, bramacharya (balance) and asteya (non-stealing). Gandhi spoke about how when people have more than what they need they are stealing from people who do not have enough. I would like the yoga I teach and share to relax people so they can heal in their nervous and other organ systems but to also energize them so they will address, in a small everyday way most of the time, the challenges we all share as humans, on Mother Earth, Divine Mother Kundalini Shakti and all her beings, from whom all blessings come. If it continues to become another tool to release narcissist fear and guilt that is not so good.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I need to forgive myself for getting distracted from my blog for a week as my intention is to write at least every other day. But this week I brought my only child to college for the first time and I am still here finishing up last minute details, ready but not ready to leave her here today. Perhaps I will write about separation tomorrow.

But today I wanted to get back to where I left off last week about forgiveness. I think that it is a medicine wheel process involving all parts if ourselves. The child in us wants to be connected to people, sometimes even when they are not good for us, like an abused child going back to an abusive mother. It is the child in us that can sometimes maintain an open heart even when it is a tough situation. This part, in the east of the wheel, can sometimes move into the next moment without holding a grudge. It is a part that knows we are all Mother Earth's children.

The inner teen/young adult in us knows it needs social interaction and though it is idealistic, has started to learn that people have flaws that need to be navigated if one is to have connections. In this place in south of the wheel we are developing values, testing them out, finding other things out about who we are. This is an aspect of ourselves that could be unforgiving, more black and white about issues, holding people to ideal standards rather than human ones.

The adult in the west of the wheel can differentiate between behaviors that are deal breakers in relationships and those that are not. In this direction one has accumulated enough life experience to have an idea of, in addition to having a picture of what life "should" be like, what works for them. This is also a place of acknowledging that one has also made mistakes and has been forgiven or has wished to be forgiven and so may be able to make this room and extend this care to others. Some dynamics may in fact be too much to forgive.

I know the least about the elder place in the north of the wheel. I sense, as I move into this stage of life, that there is more vata here, or in Ayurvedic thought, space and air. There is also ether, an element of creation and all possibilities. The elder has more wisdom and skill, perhaps to facilitate healing in situations that can be healed. And perhaps there is more room to accept and let go of what can't be helped.

As I am forgiving myself for all I have and have not done with my parenting, and as I let go of my daughter, I must acknowledge what I have done well. This includes what my daughter and I have done together in our partnership, together with the other influences in her life, especially what she has done for herself, all of which leaves her in a great position to be successful at school and in life.

Monday, August 18, 2014

I have pondered a great deal on my healing journey and in my support of others about what forgiveness is and what it is not, whether and how it needs to happen and in which circumstances. Needless to say it is a complicated topic of great concern to many. Perhaps I have more questions about it than answers.

It seems its purpose centers around releasing anger regarding a particular action or dynamic in a relationship so one can be more comfortable in their skin again. It's goal also seems to be re-establishing safety so one is positioned in the world in a way that is protected and functional. Sometimes people can forgive and stay in connection with people they have forgiven in a way that is similar to how the relationship has always been especially if there have been some new understandings such as attempts at better communication or respect for boundaries. Sometimes the relationship can not be maintained in its former form but the parties involved continue to be connected in some way, such as when people become more like acquaintances and less like friends because an action has been taken that has violated a trust. There is forgiveness in the sense that anger is no longer held but there is a wish for greater distance. When understanding and changes in behavior can't happen distance may be the only way to create safety. Sometimes the relationship really can't continue other than that the humans involved still occupy the same planet.  Sometimes forgiveness in this case means that the people involved wish each other well rather than harm as they keep their distance. Forgiveness does help people to be more comfortable and can help people to grow in understanding of our perpetual humanness.

Perhaps it is not always possible to forgive. Perhaps it is not always desirable to forgive. Most often forgiveness is an ongoing process rather than something that happens in a single moment if we are being honest with ourselves. I have been engaged in the process of forgiving my parents for a long time. First on my list is my step father who could be in prison for crimes of assault if the times were different and if his crimes happened outside the family. I can understand he was abused also but his ongoing crimes created so much damage they need to be re-forgiven when new triggering situations come up. My father was easiest to forgive since he had a serious mental illness and was a very moral person. My mother went along with my step father and although she wasn't aware of the sexual assault according to her memory, she permitted him to be abusive mentally and physically. Recently she adjusted the will regarding her estate to exclude me. I believe this was because I wrote honestly about my childhood. Apparently it takes more than thirty years of therapy to forgive some things. I can forgive my mother and my step father because they are no longer present in my life.

 I have learned through raising a child that it is not difficult to provide respect and decent treatment to any child. This highlights the reprehensibility of what they did to me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I wish to write about forgiveness with respect to shamanism, Ayurveda, psychological thought and my understanding of life so far. I am not the best at forgiveness, of myself or others. My mother and step father as well as the Catholic Church I was exposed to growing up seemed to emphasize the punitive rather than the dynamic of forgiveness. Rather than experiencing the people in my life growing up losing it on occasion and behaving in way that was less than acceptable, apologizing and making amends so we all could move on, they rationalized their perpetual unacceptable behavior, blamed me for it and continued to be abusive. When I was a child I learned to split off from myself or to dissociate to tolerate this. One part of me seemed to always know they were wrong and there was a better world somewhere. Another part of me absorbed the victim blaming and blamed myself and was self punitive. Yet another part acted tough, pretended none of it was a big deal and joined my parents in their convoluted world of life being a playground for drunk, arrogant exploiters.

Decades of healing have helped with this fragmentation. From therapy I learned to be nicer to myself, forgiving, kind and even tender sometimes. I have learned there is no such thing as perfect, therefore not as much to blame myself for. My inner perfectionist can step aside and not take over because there are other parts of me with more reasonable standards. I have learned from indigenous thinking also to embrace imperfections and that there is a way that human interaction works when we are functional. In this value system we live in harmony with Mother Earth and we create a sense of safety and belonging for one another, encourage people to find out who they are and to master the tasks they need to learn to express who they are. We encourage independence with integrity and practice healthy reciprocity with others. Healthy reciprocity is one of my favorite practices because it means we are aware of the needs of others as well as ourselves and we are committed to practicing fairness.

So I am struggling with forgiving myself for making the same mistakes over and over again. And I am wondering how the elements and my doshas might interact to create healthy forgiveness for myself and others. Trust and safety seem to be my first concern. I didn't really get to grow up with a healthy sense of either and still struggle with both of these things. I feel that vata and the elements of air and space do support me with perspective and breath. When I breathe I can sense the whole picture of myself. Kapha and the elements of earth and water help me mother myself, so I can remember and endorse myself for all the good things I do and have done. I can bring into my consciousness how consistent I am in my work, always learning to enhance my skills, and how I have been a good mother in spite of mistakes I have made and continue to make. I can also make amends to myself by remembering that I have done a good job as an adult in spite of not having real nurturing support growing up, but trauma and abuse instead.

Then I can handle the pitta, the fire. In the fire I can see the issues I still have to work on such as continuing to speak up even though someone I am in an intimate relationship with seems to not want to hear it sometimes. As don Miguel Ruiz would say, I need to not assume anything, especially that I have been heard and understood until I get a real sign that I have been. It was so scary to speak up in my family. I often did it at my own peril. Other people aren't so scary now, especially the people I am choosing to be friends and family with and I am not so small and needy. But I am still asking, what do I do with my needs in a relationship and partnership when they seem to be at odds with the other person's? I only know I can't postpone them without consequence in the reality of my inner environment.

I can also work with the elements to see the whole picture of someone else, even when I am mad (vata) and therefore also see their good. I can express this to them and also be nurturing, enjoying the time with them (kapha). I can also use the fire (pitta) to work through the difficulty, the dynamics that are hurtful and are not working. My solidness, kapha, can help me to hold my ground around my needs as I mother myself while I also pay attention to another. It helps to have range within individual elements as well as embracing all of them consciously. Now I'm off to try this out in the real world...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Yesterday we went to the zoo for the last time before my daughter leaves for college. This was something that she felt was important for her to do with her best friend. As we observed all the animals I could see all the ages the girls had ever been and ever will be in this place that brings out the inner child and the sage, acknowledging ourselves and the magnificent beings we live with, with Mother Earth. (It is important to acknowledge that we live with Mother Earth rather than on her.) We all walked the collective nesting dolls of ourselves around this special place, sensing our so many layers, so many levels, so many simultaneous feelings, accomplishments and griefs.

I am so proud of her and I am accepting on most levels this necessary shift in our lives as she moves away and on, a natural flow to the next stage of life for both of us. But I am feeling more of my anxiety today about the profound shift in my sense of rootedness, my "family life" and I have been re-visited by a physical condition that is connected to my root chakra that has not presented itself in a long time. There have also been big shifts in the lives of many of my long term friends who I consider family, as well as changes and stress in some of the more recent connections I have made.

In an effort to feel myself more at peace with my changing roots I decided to revisit a meditation/journey taught to me by my Kung Fu teacher long ago of sitting with my roots extended deep down into Mother Earth, feeling them reach Her core. At the same time I feel the crown of my head reaching up to the sun/heavens. In this way I am connected to my spiritual Mother and Father and know I am not alone in the universe no matter what else is reconfiguring. I can trust the Yin and the Yang, the Kundalini and the Prana, to always be there. We are denying reality to whatever degree when we don't acknowledge this connection: without Mother Earth and the sun we would not be here in physical bodies. After doing this I feel a bit more spacious, open to possibilities of healing and a renewed commitment to minimize the stresses as much as possible at this busy, tumultuous time. Since my first chakra is about trust, I need to reassess what I can trust and then allow myself to lean on it a bit. In this meditation/journey I did connect to my Spirit Guides who support me in making sense of things and extend healing energy to me that I can then extend to others.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Modern psychology and psychotherapy discuss ego defenses, coping mechanisms, personalities, aspects or parts of the self. I am formulating some thoughts about the parts of myself and the elements they may contain and how these elements interact so that one part may dominate in a certain situation rather than another for better or worse. In Ayurveda I am learning that the elements I learned about in shamanic healing (earth, water, fire, air and space/etheric) also form doshas or biological, psychological patterns of energy. They are woven throughout the body and the psyche. I am beginning to explore how I sense these doshas impact my choices and behavior.

For example, the last few years for a few reasons, I have watched a lot of netflix. I think of this as my kapha taking over, the part of me that tends to be more sedentary expressing primarily earth, but also some water. I have experienced a couple of major losses in the last couple of years which have created grieving and a need to be planted, in stillness and regroup. There is also an element of pitta or fire to the netflix watching as I have a passion for stories, which are healing as I have learned from Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona. My viewing time consists of about 70% cop shows and I am thrilled when they focus explicitly on issues of sexual violence, sometimes catching perpetrators, always acknowledging its "heinousness" as in Law and Order: SVU. These shows and their points of view did not exist when I was growing up, so I grew up very confused, with Lolita and Freud and other such pedophilia justifying or practicing rationalizations. So my fire of pitta drives me to watch (fueled by emotional water) as my kapha keeps me still to engage in this activity. (I really hadn't been watching any TV since I graduated from high school at 16.) So I heal in the part of me that needs this seemingly endless validation for what was endlessly invalidated as I was growing up, while I waste an enormous amount of time with respect to my other parts that are intellectually curious and want to spend time in rooms with real people.

I am left to ask what dosha would have to be activated to do this in moderation? Perhaps vata, air and space. I could breathe and see this in some perspective. I could receive the abundance I have taken in, deeper into my traumatized cells. I was abused for over ten years. I'd hate to think I need ten years of daily cop shows to heal it. This pursuit of understanding Ayurveda and integrating it is good because I read more, and am expanding my thinking. We all have parts that take over some times and this may provide insight into this dynamic and knowledge about how to help myself and others make healthy shifts into balance.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

There have always been a couple of days each week when my daughter sleeps at her dad's so I have not been unaccustomed to waking up in my apartment by myself. But I have always known that she would be back soon and I'd see her later that day or at the very latest the next day. But the day she is scheduled to leave for college is a little over two weeks away and I awoke this morning with a feeling that my skin doesn't quite fit my body anymore and there is an emptiness in my chest. It is a part of me, calling out in an echoing tunnel, for the old that has past...the sleepy baby, the curious, giggling girl, the awkward pre-teen who is now both confident and overwhelmed by change. These aspects of her live within her cellular memory and mine. They live in a dimension in the present but have stepped into the periphery of the room or into deep almost untouchable recesses.

I have chosen to attempt to plug up this enormous hole in my heart with something I have been interested in studying for quite some time: Ayurveda and it's application to the yoga I have been practicing for thirty five years and teaching for twenty five. I will have the time now as she goes off to pursue her dream of of learning how to teach elementary school. She is moving on with the work of her stage of life on the Medicine Wheel: mastery leading to independence with integrity. I am struggling with my first assignment from the Ayurvedic program which seems to be related to my teenage self: what dosha or doshas am I primarily and how is my Agni? These seem like identity questions. This may be a stage of life to revisit the identity question. Who am I beyond being my daughter's mother? She has been my life's work for nineteen years if I count growing her in the belly. This time nineteen years ago I learned she was growing in there...such a sweet discovery.

I am also feeling the stage of life related to my elder self. I know there is still much mothering to be done but it will be different long distance. I will have more freedom to study and work and teach, grow in wisdom and share this wisdom. I hope to share more about this in coming posts. It is just something I am feeling, trying on today.

Lastly, I wish to say a few words about trauma-ism. As I had to get past old trauma to become a social worker as my step uncle who abused me was a social worker and family therapist, I have to get past old trauma to study Ayurveda. As I read the text books they are loaded with Sanskrit words. My step father who abused me frequently said grace in Sanskrit before meals. He practice Vedanta and was something of a Sanskrit scholar so these words are very triggering to me. I am perplexed by how people aspire to compassion and evolution and yet can allow very dark parts to take over causing great damage. I will work through the trauma to get to the soul enriching, but I know it won't be easy. I will speak more on all these topics I have introduced in future posts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Birth of this Blog


The arch of the ancient building that houses The Hudson Valley Writer's Center is the birth portal for this blog...overlooking the waters of the river that was home to the Algonquin for many cycles of the sun. The cycle of my life is radically changing as my only daughter and love of my life embarks on her next chapter and adventure. As she begins her next phase I begin my new studies in Ayurveda, flowing along as my soul is frightened, excited and evolving at this sacred time.