Friday, July 18, 2014

Manhattan to medication to meditation….

We love Manhattan. It’s clear. If one of us has to go on a day off, we tend to make a date of it. Today for me was the gastroenterologist’s office as Tiara headed to yoga, sitting by the fountain at the base of Central Park…..delicious warm kale and quinoa bowl …. looking for parking…. inside the park…..seeing the police and trusting signs…... family conversations on text and story-telling….move-watching……conversations…writing. Here I am, feeling full and incomplete at the same time.

Doc gave me a diet chart / recommendations on how to reduce abdominal pain and discomfort and bloating. The medical system used to frustrate me a lot, even cause intense suffering. While that’s legit and still so many people’s experience, I have come to have a different attitude and approach that is infinitely more bearable. I am now patient and accept that this is steady, ongoing work. I don’t go to see a doctor with all my hopes in one basket, or a prayer-filled heart desperately seeking. Now, I write a POP (my desired outcomes from the visit) and make sure I share them during the meeting. I am better at gleaning relevant information, asking the necessary questions to complete my picture, and balancing my effort with gratitude for all that I am receiving. These days I am especially grateful for a robust health insurance, and going to town on it.

Earlier, I used to get disappointed when tests did not reveal anything because I had no further clarity, but now I see that getting the test done is actually the win. I have eliminated a potential root cause, or additional problem. So every test coming back either negative is a success, or positive adds to clarity and I am feeling so strong and clear and grateful and focused. I’m meeting competent healthcare staff who are also learning and changing from their medical experiences, just like me. So once I’ve eliminated all the options, I’ll be left with so many things still within my power to change – exercise, meditation, nutrition. I read that somewhere recently and it struck a powerful chord. I would also add self-love to that. Perhaps that happens in meditation already, or perhaps it happens through our exercise and nutrition choices. I don’t know, I’ve never been 100% disciplined about any of these.

The only thing I’ve ever had a 100% success rate for, was from the ages of 5 to 20 in taking medication and following medical treatments to the T. I did it out of a sense of conscience, my mom was investing so much heart and energy into my healing, I felt like my body was her body. And it was, it came from her. We are a part of each other. It took me a while to realize this, perhaps until now. We do contract together and bloom together, and there are others attached to our stems and leaves and petals. The family ecosystem breathes as a whole living organism. This family is heart and blood and choice and soul and many generations ago and beyond. This is the heart of the universe.

As I was saying, about medication, so after the age of 21, when I met Guruji, it was over. No more meds for me. And although I’ve even gone back and forth on that too over the years from then until 32/now, I could never again have 100% success rate at any of those life discipline things. The perfectly-following-a-set-of-instructions streak is broken. Who knows, maybe that’s a good thing, something that is my constant imperfection and humanity. And who else know, maybe that’s a terrible thing that I need to spiritually improve upon. I go back and forth.

Maybe I wasn’t perfectly following a set of instructions all that time. What if I was learning necessary anchors for living – routine and surrender? This could be just the mantra I need as I try to rebuild my connection to and practice of yoga.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Doing" Life

Things are different in today's era. Many of us don't live for the sake of enjoying life.  There's too much going on, and we are always doing too many things.

I have an imagination (which could be very limited and ill-informed) of a previous era where work was a means to an end - gathering life necessities. But now, work often is it's own large life-consuming category. Similarly, technology is not just a means to an end that will help humanity and the quality of life overall, like more precise heart surgery that saves more lives. Now, technology is its own end. Multiple gadgets are created everyday that have no purpose other than creating a new need - like more computer games.

This has greatly affected one of my core needs and enjoyments - relaxing. In my vision, relaxing is a stream of life that we all float in, enjoying each other's company and the beautiful waters and nature surrounding us. But now, relaxing has become another desirable category within which one can do a lot. It has become a space of doing, rather than not-doing. The options may be going to the spa, getting a massage, reading, watching TV etc. But in my life, these things aren't usually integrated. In order to realize my dream of curling up on the recliner with a good book, I will probably/ usually - research new fiction reviews online, order a book from Amazon, wait until it arrives, wait until I'm free to read it, and get life's pressing needs  (cooking, cleaning,  etc.) out of the way before I can finally sit down and give myself that break.

Is it just me? Am I relaxing wrong? Is there anybody out there who is living a more relaxing life while working full-time and cooking and cleaning for yourself? I mean, I don't even have kids or pets! It could be simpler right? And I do live in New York, one of the most, if not the most, manic cities of all.

One of things I've been noticing recently is that relaxing is tied to simplicity. Having less material goods means less things to clean, tidy, organize, or even go through for purging. We went to IKEA today to get a desk and chair for my home office, and I am proud to say we stuck to the list and did not get consumed by all we could become consumers of. That's the materialism that capitalism feeds. More. stuff. to. buy. All the time.

Any other strategies out there for relaxing into oneself, into one's home, into one's community, without it becoming a project with multiple sub-tasks to do?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Poem - Butterfly Heart

Butterfly heart
One that exists because
it went through
Mush and stuff to let go of
Fluttering hard
towards life
towards flight...
Willing to shed
the dead of its skin
towards life
towards flight.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Top 10 Tips for Transitioning to a New Life in a New City

I wrote this a while ago upon request for transition advice, but never shared more widely. Perhaps this is useful to someone out there today.

1. Sleep sleep sleep sleep sleep. Sleep a lot, as much as you can, especially for the first 6 months, but ESPECIALLY for the first week, month, 3 months. During sleep, a lot of integration happened for me. The move had been desired for almost a year, in the works for 6 months, and planned for 6 weeks once I got a job offer. Still, things of this magnitude are experienced as life rushing at you, and I'd be really curious to meet anyone who has experienced this differently. So, once I was on the other side, I kept dreaming of the those last few months for the next few months - that is where I paused to notice my feelings and interactions with various people close to me in the process of the move. Hidden feelings emerged. I had time now to absorb them.

2. Ground your spirit. For me, that meant continuing a Thursday night practice of being in my faith community. Even though it was a new place, having a structure to rely on was so helpful. I listened to shabads (powerful, peaceful, spiritual songs), cooked langar and made chai prasad (blessings in the form of food), and marked out an hour to sit, with my Self, with God. Whoever you are and whatever your spirit-grounding practices are, nurture that on at least a weekly basis. Transition is not just a moment in time, we are talking about transitioning a life. So continuing practices that make up that life are what help to ease the transition. 

3. Energize your body. I don't usually like to separate the spirit and body because well-being is a Wholeness issue, but, I think of this one as multiple strategies for maximum benefit. With the support and motivation of a friend, I started doing yoga every morning. I mean, from never having had a physical movement routine or gym membership in my whole life, I started doing yoga every single morning. In 21 days, I was amazed at myself, and could already feel my body getting stronger and energy flowing through it. I heard somewhere that it takes 21 days to form a habit. A year later, I'm still doing it. This practice has become a fundamental part of the new me.

4. Embrace not-knowing as an opportunity to wake up. In a life routine, we get used to where things are how we do things - where the coffee mugs are kept, the commute to work, the view from your window. When you move out of state, you probably purged a lot, and will start fresh in a new place to live. You have to re-learn how to make coffee in this kitchen. Walk each step slowly with a new awareness. No autopiloting possible. You have to pay attention. And you can distinctly notice all that you don't know. It really slowed me down in a wide-eyed way, that I appreciated.

5. Prioritize, and take one step at a time. One day, one week, one month, one quarter. Prioritize what you want to focus on building first - physical home space, work / new job, community, exercise, cooking. Figure out what you absolutely need now, what you cannot do without, and focus on that. For me, in the first quarter that was apartment-hunting, settling into the new job, and a weekly spiritual practice. That took up all my available time and energy. Sometimes I managed to eat dinner with a friend, or go to a movie, or sleep enough. Twice I even ventured out dancing.  

6. Balance what you need to do with what you want to do. Hopefully there is some overlap already, but try to maximize the efficiency to joy ratio of the situation. Energy is fixed and so is time. Time is the same everyday, and yet it is a fluid magical creature. You cannot do everything,  and I tended to focus too much on what I needed to do. So I really struggled. In order to have peace, sometimes you need to surrender the struggle. In hindsight, I wished I slept and rested more and watched more movies.

7. Accept what is and let go of what you want/thought it would be. Accept the fact that you will not and cannot be settled in a fixed amount of time decided by you. I tried that, but the Universe has other plans. What I needed to learn to slow down. What I also learned and have grown so much from is the understanding that all things happen at the perfect time. Life is tastier at the ripest moments. Practice patience.

8. Do something significant to mark this time and direction of your desired transformation. Get a tattoo, write your self a letter, take a picture and frame it... something that is tangible for you to see/touch. I was walking in the East Village one day, and had been looking for a ring for a long time. I hadn't found quite the right one, but that day, it found me. Bold blue in silver metal. I bargained the seller down from $10 to $8 on the basis of shared ethnic identity and speaking the same language. That ring reminds of that day, when I was still new in NYC, and new to my newly becoming self, and was finding my feet while on the go.

9. Call a friend. I still remember spending hours laying in bed chatting with a friend on the phone, because my body was on a different time zone / life zone. It was surprising to me at times, who I was thinking of, or who thought of me and called. And we'd get to experience a long-distance hangout that we didn't get enough of before the move, or it was a new friendship forming as I was leaving.  

10. Know that you'll be lonely, and it's necessary. It's very isolating to move to a new city, even if you have friends there. You still have to form a community, and get into a life flow where you feel a sense of belonging and have a circuit of social events to attend. It's lonely. But remember why you moved - you're brave and bold and wanted to go after a new life, and in your deep inner self, you knew it would change you and your life needed that for its next season. The aloneness is where the change and opening is happening. Seeds of desire are being planted for the new life, aches are being felt and rubbed out of the old life, and being with yourself is an important part of all that. Try not to resist or hate it :) Try to appreciate it as the down time before you find your busy, happening groove. This is not just about a new city, it's a new life, and a new you. Make friends with your new self. Best advice I got here - Read "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke. This is how I learned to love my solitude, for the first time.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Have a Good Day / Do whatever it takes

It was my birthday recently and I've never been so un-excited about it. Which is fine, a birthday is a day in a year, it has a place in time and in season and in calendars, so chances are that it's going to more or less reflect the heart-season that the person is in. I've been up and down and medium, so that's how March 13 went too. It also involved birthday surprises (well, 2 kinds of surprises - the ones I liked which was people loving me with hugs and messages and cards/gifts, and the ones I didn't care for which was the terribly cold day and not getting to the things I had wanted to do and the absence of some people and and feeling lost and without purpose in life). I ended the day in faith community, and by that time I was totally distraught and consumed by my mind and feelings. As I sat there in silence listening to the shabads, I felt the concave emptiness in my chest and felt tears bubble up in my closed eyes. I was, at the end of it, once again distracted by cake and singing, fortunately.

Later I decided I didn't care about anything anymore. That was an excellent turning point.

Since the day I realized I don't care about anything and life is meaningless and I may not have a purpose or significance here, BUT since I'm alive and do care about staying alive, I can do whatever the hell I want. No more goals. No more deep seeking. No more anguish. Just have a good day. In each moment, I will not weigh multiple factors like the spiritual and emotional benefits of X action (like withholding coffee) versus the instant gratification of giving into a craving. Nope. No deep thoughts here. The only question is - Will this make me happy right now? Is this what I want to be doing right now? If the answer is yes, I'm going for it!

First I thought about quitting everything. I reflected on my job, but decided to keep it because I like it so much, and I like my coworkers too. It's actually a place that still has good meaning and a clear role for me. Then I thought about other commitments, and decided to feel things out. I decided to keep my volunteer board commitment too, it's extremely inspiring and energizing. I need more of that!

What I'm realizing now is that because of mental blocks, some things get twisted. I like to write and cook and dance and make art and perform, but I hardly do any of those things anymore. So when I have some free time, I think about how I "should" be blogging etc. That kills the joy and creates pressure. But right now, because I only do things I want to, I realized over and over that I still wanted to write and share all this right now.

This has greatly simplified my life.

Obviously, it's going to be harder moving forward because everyday I will still do things I don't want to (like commute), but keep in the mind that the rule is broader than that - I accept some of the things I don't like (i.e. commuting) because I like what I'm going to. Also, nothing is permanent so that takes the pressure off too. I won't have this exact commute forever, just for the coming 15 months. And having things be new and confusing is a great lesson in getting present and focused on "right now".

Coming back to how I felt lost and confused about the meaning of life and my role within the grander scheme of things, the update is - that's still true, and I'm cool with that. It's both okay to be confused, or lost, and it's also okay if I can't relate to grander meaning. Maybe I was always looking too deep and need to be more present-day, and get better at day-to-day living. Life is right now. I am no longer thinking of it as LIFE or Life - Life is no one big thing. It changes too much and perhaps this is loosening my attachment to what I want LIFE to be like. It's shaking up the old ways of doing things, and some of my core beliefs. That's totally ungrounding and chaotic, but perhaps necessary for me right now for something new to emerge.

It's also helping me let go of expectations - of myself and other people. My decision to be happy, no matter what, means I take charge of my day, and I don't depend on others or hold others responsible for how I want to feel or what I want to do. This is freeing.

So, do whatever it takes to have a good day today, and tomorrow.

Friday, February 21, 2014

On the Other Side of Sadness

I have been wondering what would make me happy.

There are 5 things I can think of, actually, that would help get me to the other side in the short term -

1) Being in sunshine, warm weather and the magnificent, magical vastness of the ocean

2) Getting done with this never-beginning, never-ending housing move - the hunting is done, the lease is signed, packing is yet to begin.

3) Settling into a new home with space, sunlight, and people I like and care about in close proximity. Creating a space where I can write, smile, breathe, pray, dance, make art, heal, and cook with others.

4) My professional work continuing to go as bloomingly as it has been, thanks to many other people.

5) Making art - Although mentioned as a tidbit in #3, I am coming to realize the power and potential of this one in releasing my sadness and stuck emotions, and in healing and creating beauty and joy.

Obviously, some of these things are in my control, some are not. Some are inevitable even if I do nothing, some require intense labor in a short amount of time.Some of these things are about the absence of what's been hard, and some are about the presence and creation of what brings joy. Both require intention and effort. I'm willing to do those things, but I'd rather do them with an attitude of "I am fierce and badass in the midst of so much tough shit going on", rather than a more disempowered approach like "I overwhelmed and have so much to do I wish it was over". I've gone back and forth between these feelings, and I'm trying to remember more often that I am badass and can handle and accomplish a lot.

Note to self: Attitude matters. It matters a LOT. Not just because it can give one actual fuel (which is significant), but because then the doing is as strengthening and positive as being on the other side (the outcome).

I can think of tons more things that would make me happier, but I will leave them alone for now because I am too disheartened by the magnitude of those, and the limited potential for change.  Right now I'm trying to focus on the next 1 week to 3 months, which is another good strategy for keeping things manageable.

Good luck to you, if you are doing a lot and trying to stay afloat and perhaps even swim. My heart is bonded with yours in the yearnings of my prayers.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Powerful Collection of Quotes

The first pose is always breath. - source unknown to me

Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it. - Rabindranath Tagore

You are here so that someday you can look yourself in the eyes and bow to your own grace and strength. - source unknown to me, quoted on Syd Yang's blog

A dream is a poem the body writes. Even if we lie to ourselves in the day, the body is compelled to speak its truth at night. - Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo

What is to give light must endure burning. - Viktor Frankl

To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.-- Eckhart Tolle
Overcome any bitterness that may have come because you were not up to the magnitude of the pain entrusted to you. Like the mother of the world who carries the pain of the world in her heart, you are sharing in a certain measure of that cosmic pain, and are called upon to meet it in joy instead of self-pity. – Pir Vilayat Khan

Your body is not yours alone. It belongs to your ancestors, your parents, future generations and to society and all other living beings. Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude... if you are healthy physically and mentally all of us will benefit. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Forgiveness does not mean that we have to continue to relate to those who have done us harm. In some cases the best practice may be to end our connection, to never speak to or be with a harmful person again. Sometimes in the process of forgiveness a person who hurt or betrayed us may wish to make amends, but even this does not require us to put ourselves in the way of further harm. - Jack Kornfield
True forgiveness does not paper over what has happened in a superficial way. It is not a misguided effort to suppress or ignore our pain. It cannot be hurried. It is a deep process repeated over and over in our heart which honors the grief and betrayal, and in its own time ripens into the freedom to truly forgive. - Jack Kornfield
Hope isn't about believing that we can change things. Hope is about believing that what we do matters. - Vaclav Havel 

My body cannot withhold truth. - Nitika 

The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. - Audre Lorde

Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer - Rainer Maria Rilke

Meditation is the medicine of the mind. - Yogi tea bag