Category Archives: Healing

Downwind From the Crematorium

It flows from the top. Rogue winds carry the stench of decay. Trolls climbed on willing shoulders to the once hallowed house on the hill.  Now shoulders bow under the weight of our missteps. Some minds blown and others twisted.  Handcuff the free press. Release the free radicals. Banish charity. Dishonor agreements. Taunt, flaunt, violate. Ceaseless cycles of venomous discharge desecrate, devastate ravage and rage against the fabric of our country. That fabric that was flammable, flawed and fragile is being shredded and replaced with funereal shrouds.

Layla my dog and I head down the fire road toward the farm.

What’s that smell in the air? Chemical? Decay? The death of the E.P.A.?

Here at the Agricultural Center a group of four unlikely like-minded women from different worlds walk, talk and run their best buddy dogs. An unpleasant smell dismays me on this otherwise fine first crisp and dewy day of autumn as Layla and I round the lower field waiting for the others to show.

I smell disaster.

Bouncing between sleepless nights and stressful days, for the second time I’ve got symptoms of flu that disappear after a final collapse into a night of exhausted surrendered sleep.

It’s a virus that’s going around. Like wild fires, floods and opiates.  Warning bells toll in the ether. The force shields are down. We are subject to invasion.

Glenanne arrives with her dog Lucy. Christine is behind her with Chelsea. They want to walk the fire road I just came from. “There’s a weird really strong smell down there”, I tell them. I don’t want to go back.

Glenanne tells us the little red brick building down there is a crematorium for road kill. It’s not public knowledge. Carnage quietly turns to ashes under the ancient oaks amid serene white domed wooden barns and meeting halls. Moms gather to exercise, babies on backs and in strollers. Visitors amble among slave quarters and along paths beside the idyllic horse pasture that houses the police force’s tremendous and gentle beasts.

The surface is serene but listen to us as the dogs play and witness the rumbling underground.

We are all downwind from the crematorium.  The stink comes from the rotting head of a once youthful body that declared itself open minded, open hearted and democratic. It is clearly corrupted. It stinks.

On the other hand, under the oaks a group of friends share the rhythm of a turning season. There is a hint of new in the air. Change is always there and change cleanses the past. History is absolute but our impressions and focus shift. Rumbling leads to action. Action leads to change.

Here downwind from the crematorium, I smell decay but above me a lone hawk soars like a Phoenix.

 

 

 

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Is Your Relationship to Your Fellow Man Making You Sick?

Five thirty A.M. the reporters at NPR assault me with the news of the deadliest mass shooting in our history. I am awake.

My tired mind forces a memory scan. Who do I know in Vegas this week? It seems just yesterday my friend Holly said she is going there for something. Shit. Was it this week?

Disaster comes upon disaster, one shoved down as the other surfaces coming with more and more frequency.  The Trump disaster overshadows all. Hope is slipping.

The webinar I watched on Alzheimer’s hits my frontal lobe. The doctor listed the places on earth called Blue Zones where people have the least medical issues including Alzheimer’s. In the U.S. there is one place. It is Loma Linda California. He says it is not any particular diet as much as a clean diet devoid of alcohol and smoking that keeps them healthy but there is more than that. There is community. Love and charity prevail not instigated by crisis but on a regular basis. It is the basis.

We cannot thrive on a daily diet of grief. The stress is killing us as fast as fast food, climate disasters and drug overdoses. Stress corrodes the brain.

We live in a war zone. We are at war with each other. We are at war with our President. We are at war with our own failings.

My husband notes on shooting a documentary about Trump supporters that the commonality is the question, what about me? He perceives an overarching narcissism that trumps empathy.

Put on your own oxygen mask before your children’s. Who doesn’t know that? You need to love yourself before you can love someone else. That’s common knowledge too, right? Charity begins at home. We are advised to look after ourselves in order to become. But how do we know what is too much charity and what is too much self interest.

After all, for true self interest we should be concerned as much with the people around us as ourselves. They are our environment. They are the fabric of our lives.

There is a social implication of controlling others or overwhelming them which is described in the yoga text, Yoga Sutras as bramacharya. This does not define dictatorship versus charity but allows us to consider staying in our own lane either way. However bramacharya does not stand alone. It co-exists with a call to kindness, generosity and contentment with oneself and one’s lot.

 Insecurity is the enemy.

Are we stuck between those that wonder what about us and those that worry what about me? Do we rail against what seems an extreme of one or the other? There is so much need for those outside our pack and also so much instinct to gather the loved ones and shut the door.

A Pakistani Muslim friend of mine daughter started kindergarten this year. She invited the class to her daughter’s birthday party and only a handful of people responded and came. She found out another girl whose invitations went out later had a party the same day and that’s where most of the class had gone. They hadn’t invited her daughter and they hadn’t responded to her invitation though the policy at school is for invites to go through the school and to everyone. My friend had an emotional crisis. Why was her daughter shunned? And then she got sicker than she’s ever been. She tells me it’s the flu and she felt like she was dying.

I write this because it seems a metaphor for all our sickness, this social disease. This dis-ease.     My friend is used to a strong community. She is an outsider here. What does this do to our bodies?

Today another person went off the rails and unloaded bullets into strangers. We don’t know why yet. There will be demands for better mental health screening, for gun control and for tightening up against terrorism if they find any links to a terrorist group outside the U.S. I doubt any of it will successfully happen.

Human beings need a chance to work a job that allows them to care for themselves and their children. We need to be educated. We need to eat and drink cleanly. We need to have fun. We need time to have fun. We need to live a life beyond survival. We need time and space to be charitable. We need friends and family who are not crazy to care about us. We need to feel secure.

Tech life allows us to find new avenues of isolation and rudeness.  The benefits of information at a fingertip seem small compared to the disruption of our social lives. There’s no turning back but there has to be some measure of discernment and that is the problem. There is no true north. That star there? It’s fake. It’s that easy to dismiss something that is accurate.

We are untethered. Fact has become opinion even to its face. There is no moral anchor. Where will it come from? I don’t know. I know for a student of yoga the moral restraints and observances as described in the Sutras is a useful checklist, as useful as any commandment from the bible.

If it seems I’m saying that yoga will save us think again. I know lots of morally bankrupt yoga folks. No one is exempt from hypocrisy. This is a think piece. I’m thinking out loud. Hope it gives you something to consider about yourself as it does for me. And if want to read the basis of modern yoga’s moral system, this is a good place to start. And by the way, I don’t know that it was written so much as a moral system as a way to manage personal energy so that me, myself and I can find peace within whatever situation I’m in. If it is a way of separation, it is at least a separation that leaves room for inclusion. Now go figure that riddle out.

 

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Ask Alice How She Feels Right Now.

EAT  ME

 

My body is sensitive to drugs, to food, to thoughts and so is yours but you may not notice. So many of us have trained ourselves or been trained to disassociate from discomfort that when asked how we feel we have no words. Perhaps we realize we feel nothing but confusion. It’s a modern malady. But then in an industrial world resting or too much self care is viewed as self indulgent or weak.

 

I took CBD* oil (Phytocannabinoid Diol)combined with other hemp plant compounds for joint pain and began to notice I was mellow in the way I felt after yoga and bodywork.  I hadn’t realized how anxious I’d become. The nation is suffering from the effects of the last election and maybe that’s it but yoga wasn’t fixing it except for moments.

 

We live in a garden of plants that support the health and longevity of our human bodies. The fountain of youth is a dream or nightmare but there is some basis to believing in its existence.

Though I primarily use plants for medicine, this plant provided me a lesson in personal power. It is challenging to regulate how much I need of it day to day or even hour to hour by how I feel. In a world where even we yogis hand over the power to a doctor when our bodies concern and confuse us, this substance requires you to FEEL in order to self-regulate. This creates a healthy dynamic in the relationship between doctor and patient. This is personal power beyond moving the body or centering the mind without sickness. While I am a patient that goes to a doctor armed with information, I still have doubt about what does and does not work in many circumstances. The use of this oil demands I trust myself. (I am compelled to issue a disclaimer that if a person needs help and does not have the ability to self regulate, a doctor’s advice is essential.)

 

This is both yoga and beyond yoga where yoga binds consciousness to spirit and matter using the body as the vehicle. That vehicle is an energy system in a state of

Flux,

Imbalance,

Movement,

Motion,

Change,

IMPERMANENCE.

 

When we become sensitive to our bodies,

When we become intimate with ourselves in relation to other,

When we are able to sharpen our attention to choose happiness,

We may find ourselves living in yoga.

 

 

*CBD is a molecule in the hemp plant whose cannabinoid system like cannabis supports human receptors in the brain and body called endocannabinoid receptors. The plant and we share a genetic code in some way.

Please do not run out and buy CBD. Hemp is not very absorbable and you will waste your money if the product does not have a carrier for the blood system. Also, make sure you get a product where every batch is tested at a reliable lab. Organic does not mean clean.

 

 

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Go Ask Alice Why Yoga Isn’t Enough.

“This one makes you taller and this one makes you smaller.”

 

I began this post a month ago and like many of my projects it went the wayside. It was a view on taking CBD oil and personal power. I learned something I want to share about that. I will make that a separate post to follow this.

 

I picked this up because Michael Stone the Buddhist teacher, yoga teacher, activist died suddenly. I knew him from his writing and from reading a manuscript that was an intimate look into the soul of the man through his ongoing correspondence with a friend. I could feel his broken heart. He was so smart, so clear and yet lost. It’s hard to explain. I never knew him but I felt like I got him. Maybe I recognized something I knew from myself. Maybe I’m not alone. He had thousands of followers and friends.

He was broken for the last time and in trying to put himself back together seemed to make a desperate choice to take a street drug. It killed him. He had bi-polar disorder and apparently had tried many avenues of treatment over the years to manage it.

 

I write this now because this morning I recalled my first friend in Nashville who was a yoga teacher of great skill and lineage. I remembered her shock when I told her I was getting a massage which I did a few times a year as a treat. She asked me how I could do yoga and not get bodywork as she did every week. I was surprised.  Although I taught and led strong classes I didn’t feel like I wanted bodywork. I didn’t need it. And I wondered why someone doing yoga was so needy for outside help. That circle of yogis engaged in a practice of psychotherapy as well. They were upturning stones for answers at a time I was not questioning much.  I was content.

 

I eventually got hurt which lead to compensation that took me down a rabbit warren I couldn’t retreat from. I understood the need for help. I couldn’t see myself objectively. I just felt pain.

 

That pain correlated to what I felt was the degradation of the practice of yoga in a place that had been the Holy Grail here in Nashville.

My physical pain became tied to emotional pain that never resolved except through acceptance which in my opinion is limited.

 

So I’m publishing this with a different bias. My thirty years of experience working with people through movement and yoga revealed that people come to yoga to be unbroken. Yes, they come to be fit but in my experience, in my classes even in the day they were pure power, I found hunters looking for sustenance.

It aggravates me to see the sea of mainstream conclusions written about yoga and meditation solving the human condition. I do both and I advocate both. Yoga and meditation make profound shifts in our consciousness toward awareness. I’m a fan of awareness but it’s not always pleasant and a person who is awake can also be hyper sensitive.  Sometimes yoga is not enough.

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In the Age of Trump, is a Protest an Act of Sedition or Civil War?

 To resist a new regime is to revolt against the countrymen who unwittingly sold souls to create it.

The goal of yoga is to lift the veil of one’s ignorance, to see, to feel, to know yourself. I am a yoga teacher but whose ignorance have I helped to lift?

Certainly not the guests I sat with at the last dinner party who were on the surface a like minded circle of liberals. When a millennial guest sitting beside his soldier partner told us that his sweet country mother voted for Trump because she was angry that Obama used the company plane to go to Hawaii, tongues clucked in sympathy. It wasn’t her fault that she’s a simpleton. Sighing empathy all round.

I wanted to slam my fist on the gloriously set table and scream. Fuck that. There is no excuse for that level of ignorance or pettiness. Your mother is an asshole and so are you for not shoving facts in her face.

Hell, I did it to my mother when he won the Primary and it took a week of arguments before she came to her senses blinded as she was by the glorious image of the sparkling Von Trump children gracing a stately White House. She has always been a cup full full kind of dreamer. She’s also a bit vain despite her social work background and was infuriated by the sight of Hillary Clinton’s pant suits. And she doesn’t realize she was raised to believe that men are men and there is no excuse for a woman who doesn’t learn to manage that situation with wit and she still believes that. She would deny all of this but I know it’s true.

In a new nation where facts are considered opinions by some and fake news has no rival for others, it is near impossible to have a rational conversation with someone who voted for Trump these days. In fact it’s even hard to have an agreeable conversation with anyone but the most like minded people. My dinner party hostess told me later she thinks it’s pointless to try to convince people of anything.  You can’t change anyone’s mind and it’s not your place. I told her to tell that to Martin Luther King.

mlk

No one was hurt when Clinton was loose with her mail. But Trump stole the tuition of innocent working folks at Trump University. In this, his defenders say Clinton is the crook. They know the word e-mail. They seem to think that’s enough.  Argue with them and you’ll want to put a bullet through your head. I had a client tell me that Clinton had people murdered and though I countered, look at the person’s history and judge if that is likely and by the way that was fake news, she was unmovable. She said the two candidates are equally bad. When I hear that I want to sling shit like a caged ape.

If half the country is the other halves adversary or enemy, is it an act of sedition for one half to march against the other or is that a call to civil war?

what-is-the-true-cost-of-war

He will become President.  A march in protest is a march against the people who voted for him and the people who didn’t vote. That is more than half the country but it matters.

I do have friends who voted for Trump. I love these people though I disrespect their willingness to deny facts and worse, to defend their beliefs with twisted logic. I have to look at what I love about them and stay the course. And I have to speak my mind and also listen to them or they are not my friends.

Still I know that my protest is an act of anger against them. Any protestor denying that is simply afraid to see the truth because it is painful to fight with the people you love. Maybe worse, it’s painful to think that the people you love don’t respect you either.

Trump has initiated a fight with the people who share his country and the countries that share our interests. He is a fighter. That is what he does. He describes it one step past that. He says he is a winner. We can stand down or express our concerns. Will that initiate a civil war? I’d say the war has already begun.

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Stupid, Useless, Guilty! A Tribute.

My friend died.  I hadn’t seen her in awhile as we travel in different directions most of the time. She had spent much of the last years caring for her sick mother and sister a few hours away in Birmingham.

I took a too rare trip to my yoga home a few months ago and she was there.

“It’s been too long, how are you?”

“I just found out I have stage four cancer! Can you believe it?” She waved her hand over herself. “Me!”

She didn’t whisper as people with horrific news often do. She shouted it out as if to dispel it by force. We are all friends there after all.

She was astonished by the possibility of a clean life fostering that disease. She is a calm and capable and happy woman. She teaches restorative yoga and heals students with singing bowls. She is a painter, an artist who lives an artful life. Who lived an artful life.

She had digestive issues and found there was cancer there that had metastasized. She felt so fine I think she believed she would denounce that cancer and send it running. I believed that.

She suffered through chemotherapy, lost her hair, kept going to the studio and kept teaching her own classes. Her hair grew back. She had another art show.  She had departed from her signature work to something more formed, brighter and simpler. She offered a spread of the same favorite foods she always served. Other than the show being in her yoga studio rather than the usual gallery, all seemed status quo. She was lively, resplendent.  I thought she was mending.

A month or so went by that we didn’t cross paths again.

I got the news by a group mailing. At first it seemed untrue. Surely I would have known a different way. She and I had shared yoga time and painting time and healing time together. My bookmarks are all the birthday cards she made me over the years.

She had been on my mind daily as it’s the Jewish holidays and she is an observant Jew, one of my few Jewish friends who feel what I feel right now. This is a heavy holiday as it heralds a week of reflection and forgiveness. I can’t say why I felt it portend to something heavy with her but I did. She died on the Jewish New Year.

I chanted all I could remember of Yizkor, the Mourner’s Kaddish for the dead. Yizkor means remember. I lit a candle beside a wool basket she had made me filled with her signature painted sculptures.

I called a friend who was her student to tell him. He already knew.

I said, I don’t know what to do. I feel stupid and useless and guilty.

Chris, always a wise guy said, hey that’s a great hook for your business card.  

I was grateful for the laugh.

And the perspective.

I have the flu. I thought I was past it but a night of grief and memories left my lungs with lead weights and a brain sodden and spongy. I will blame my self deprecation on that.

I am not stupid or useless. And maybe I’m guilty of not living a life as full of potential as she did and as she saw in me. And maybe I was guilty of believing she would live and not sending her flowers or cards as I did my last friend that died in a similar way. I had a heads up with that friend that she was not for this world. I had heard Kaaren was challenged again but I knew she was still teaching and wrongly assumed she would go on.

It’s still hot in Nashville. There’s a dry breeze in the slowly dying trees that tells us things have changed despite the temperature.

I slowly walk my dogs on fully stretched leashes. The puppy is pulling me forward. The elderly dog holding me back. This feels like limbo and I note the irony of my observation.

So much more time is behind than before me. To move directionless is wasted time. It is a prison.

What could be crueler than to be a being conscious of your own inevitable demise? We are all on death row. We know the history of death. But all of nature screams keep moving and to scorn that is to scorn life itself.

When loved ones pass they leave us the gift of gratitude for each free breath. Yizkor also upholds that the soul gains additional merit if the memory of its, of her, good deeds spur loved ones to improve their ways.

Kaaren Hirschowitz Engel, you continue to inspire me as you always did. Though life ends, the legacy of you who nourished everyone you touched lives on with us.

May you rest in peace.

 

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Wonderful and Terrible

I teach yoga to the veterans and when they don’t show up I hang out in what stands for their lobby given the coffee maker and odd array of stained chairs.

I chitchat with the mostly old guys who come to Operation Stand Down for companionship and shelter.

 

A radiant sky turns black. Gale force winds swiftly strain branches and rain ricochets to the sky from the murky pavement in waves. A roomful of heads turn.

Wire rimmed granny glasses and a head of brown curls frame the face of an ageless fellow with an unwavering grin. He regards the storm and me.

“It’s wonderful and terrible! “

 I concur.

“I want to get out in it”, he says.

I agree though neither of us makes a move toward the blitz.

 

And then it’s over as quickly as it began.

I’m left with the joyful resonance of wonderful and terrible.

 

Our unavoidable political process

My youngest son

The yoga business

The animals that eat and get eaten

We people that love and hurt and hurt each other

Abundance and the fear of loss

Poverty and the hope of redemption

The rush tinged with terror

A placid pond with vicious mosquitoes

The lightning bolt in a purple sky

The earth’s thirst quenched and the choking flood.

 

From my singular position to the macrocosm I suddenly realize it’s all the same.

At once and always

 

This is the beautiful wonder-filled life we were handed

This is the one we were born to love

To want to get out in it no matter its nature, is ours.

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