This blog includes reflections, creative work and resources. It is a glimpse of one person's journey within the realm of inquiry, experience with the human body and spirit. Look for ideas rather than answers. No claims are made. Perfection is not implied. I write as inspired to do so. Take what works for you, leave the rest. If you share anything from this blog, either verbally or in writing, please do your best to give credit where credit is due. Thank you for visiting.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Siddhartha Film (1972)


"Nothing remains the same, everything changes, and everything returns."


Santosha means contentment.  It is a niyama within Patanjali's 8 limbs of yoga (see the November 3, 2011 "8 Limbs of Yoga" outline).  Lately I have experienced contentment.  There will be future opportunities to work with discontentment.  I know that.  Right now I treasure the experience of leaning back into life. From this place of relative inner-rest I can feel compassion for others.  We all struggle with dissatisfaction and ultimately it is our own to sort out, look at, grow from.  Of course there are tools and people who can teach and lead.  And, it is empowering to act on your own behalf.

Yoga Can Be/ Is More Than Just Physical Exercise

This past month more than one person has mentioned their recent realization regarding yoga being more than physical exercise.  The almost complete emphasis on yoga as exercise has obviously done little to educate the masses about the treasures found in all 8 limbs of the yoga path.  Let's hope we're seeing the caboose of the yoga-is-all-about-asana train!  It is always a delight to engage with people who are intrigued to learn more about yoga. 

Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda is recommended reading for yoga students.  570 pages of this yoga classic includes asana mentioned only 4 times.  Very briefly each time.  If you are interested in reviewing the framework of yoga please see my November 3rd, 2011 post "8 Limbs of Yoga".  There are plenty of resources available online and in books but my outline is a great place to start.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Letting go

In art class this morning a fellow student expressed discomfort with making a mess of her hands, clothing and surroundings.  In response our teacher relayed a great story. On the very first day of class at The Art Institute of Chicago, a professor picked up paint and splattered it on every student, primarily their clothing.  When he was done he said, "Get over it."  Part of being a teacher is to break the student's self-imposed limitations!

Moonstruck is a wonderfully romantic film.  These passionate words by Ronny Cammareri come to mind: 
"... love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit."

As long as it won't hurt anyone, where can you let go in life?

Next Yoga in the Park - Monday March 5th - 10am

Mindful, Gentle Yoga in the Park is scheduled for Monday March 5th at 10am, weather permitting.  If there is a change I will send out an email by 8:45am that morning with information about moving indoors or canceling.  If you will be joining class for the first time please let me know in advance so I can give you the particulars.  There is no class fee.  Love offerings are accepted.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Upcoming Class Series at Wells Therapuetics with Marsha Engle, MSW, M.Ed

I do not know Marsha Engle or anything about her but this series sounds good.  If you want more details I will give you the flier. 

Cultivating a Mindfulness Practice:  Stress reduction, Mood Enhancement
March 6, 13, 21, 27  6:30-8pm  $65/4 sessions

Wells Therapeutics (Across from Mt Trashmore): 319 Edwin Dr Suite 101, VB

Marsha Engle's contact number:  880-8713

2 Quotes Relating to Boundaries

Someone on Facebook posted this last week:
"I recommend limiting one's involvement in other people's lives to a pleasantly scant minimum." - Quentin Crisp
Someone replied to it with this gem:
"Three places we don't belong: yesterday, tomorrow, and in someone else's business" - HP

Quotes by Alan Moore, Author of V is for Vendetta (& other graphic novels)

Art and writing are transformative forces that can change a human being, that can change society.

It is not the job of artists to give the audience what the audience wants.  If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn't be the audience.  They would be the artist.  It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need.

When we are doing the will of the true Self we are inevitably doing the will of the universe.  In magic these are seen as indistinguishable: that every human soul is in fact one human soul.  It is the soul of the universe itself and as long as you are doing the will of the universe, then it is impossible to do anything wrong. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Personal Reflection Question

A quote by a visual artist has led me to rephrase it as a question.  She said being an artist is the 2nd best way to starve, the 1st being living the life of a poet.  What is your higher calling worth "starving" for?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Another on the "Exquisite Corpse" Art Game

Last night I was given another one of the three exquisite corpse drawings.  It was the one described in the February 9th post:  I contributed the top drawing of a dream from childhood:  my father and me in the ocean holding onto a log.  He was looking at me with concern and trying to put me at ease.  The look on the little girl's face (my face) was of fright.  The woman next to me contributed a drawing of an emotional girl (but not crying) in a car looking out the window.  The last was a girl beneath a tree relaxing.  To me the progression was from danger, to rescue & processing what happened to finally relief at having come back to safe ground.  It turned out the middle artist's drawing was the memory of going to her father's funeral when she was a girl.  My father has been gone for a few years and as I was drawing his memory was alive.  Maybe it is one of those "you had to be there" sorts of things, but it was astonishing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Equinimity Within Struggle

As I walked with my dog in the woods this morning I reflected on how struggle is a part of life.  There she was, a little dog with bald spots from her continual struggle with allergies.  Yet she totters along happily in the sunshine.  Then I realized for nearly a year I've spent more energy focusing on the problem areas of her skin and have been overlooking the healthiest 90% of her integumentary (skin) system!  No wonder I'm frustrated with the ordeal.  I'm more out of balance with the situation than the dog's dermal layers! 

As Gilda Radner used to say, "It's always something."  Struggle is here!  And... there is beauty within it.  This is nothing original and certainly greater minds have presented the concept but I'm really starting to experience the duality of it all: a little yin within the yang, a little yang within the yin, light within the darkness, shadow within the light.  Drawing teaches me this.  So does yoga.  So does house painting!  Last month I was touching up the exterior paint from a ladder.  As a leaned left with the brush I grounded deeply into my right foot on the ladder rung as though in Warrior II pose.  Equinimity.  Balance.  A little hot in the cold, a little cold in the hot.  The rajasic, the tamasic: both within the satvic.

As part of my journey I spent a long time thinking being spiritual meant experiencing joy all of the time (even if I felt like crap), giving to & helping others (whether asked or not) and that things were always supposed to "improve" (whatever that means.)  Goodness gracious, I'm glad the next phase is here.  Living with those self-imposed expectations is exhausting. And I am grateful for having experienced all of it.  Finally I see how I'm pretty much responsible for my own growth and my struggles are mine, your growth & struggles are yours.  We can each feel our dissatisfaction and do our own work.  By doing so an appreciation for the process enlightens us and we can then relate to the pain of another with compassion.  That's about as strong as I am, at least right now.  Is there much more than that?  Maybe.  We'll see. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

All links within posts should be fixed

I noticed several links in need of tuning-up.  All should be fixed.  Clicking on the underlined link should bring you directly to the web resource.  If any were missed please let me know and I'll make the changes.

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski's 40-minute video on self-esteem

Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski provides examples, many of them personal, of how to grow beyond low self-esteem.  It really gets interesting 5-minutes into the video when he recounts an experience where he was somewhat forced out of his comfort zone and came face-to-face with a realization about himself. 


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

See the full article in the link below.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Loneliness, Aloneness, Solitude, Hermits - Part 2

Loneliness or Aloneness: finding solitude in oneness by Bruce Bischoff

In today's world, many of us live alone for numerous reasons.  Sometimes we share our lives with others and still feel painfully alone.

The challenge is to work through any loneliness or aloneness we feel with compassion for one's self.  If we can view the process as the soul's longing to reconnect with itself, we allow ourselves to grow in extraordinary ways.

Solitude is an opportunity to discover the strength of our own intrinsic wholeness.  For some, it is the time we set aside consciously from the chaos outside us to uncover and search out our authentic self.

Henry David Thoreau said it beautifully:  "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived."

So how can we minister to our own needs?

Tips for Self-Care

Be quiet.  Try being completely still for a specific amount of time each day.  Truth will often come in this space of silence.  This "stopping" or spending time alone with yourself will ultimately allow you to become more comfortable with who you really are and help you to access your own inner wisdom.

Be open.  The greatest of experiences come in many forms.  Develop a nonjudgmental attitude so you are open to the infinite possibilities within any activity, whether it is washing dishes or watching a basketball game.

Be receptive to your feelings.  They are valid whatever they may be.  Allow yourself to go beyond the initial feeling and get in touch with the feeling underneath the feeling (your initial reaction).  Getting in touch with your core self is worth the discovery of your uniqueness.  This can be done through any creative activity - drawing, sketching, etc.  Journaling also can provide an opportunity to record your feelings and for reflection.

Be playful.  Solitude can bring you joyDiscover what brings you joy and practice, practice, practice.  Celebrate with music, dancing or just laughing for the pure fun of it.

Be in nature.  Take a walk.  Gather flowers.  Lie under a tree and feel the cool breezes on your forehead.  Touch the Earth.  Acknowledge your connection to nature.

Practice gratitude.  At the end of each day, be aware of each blessing and record at least five of them.  Try this for one week.  It will be an eye-opening experience.  You may even wish to continue.  Do it.  You will appreciate more in your life.

Choose to be positive.  As the saying goes, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  If you are going to worry about something, make sure it has happened first.  Being positive is a moment by moment decision to empower yourself in recognizing life's possibilities.  Invest in yourself in a sense of purpose and worth.

"Exquisite Corpse" Art Game

Last night in art class the teacher had the 9 of us play the drawing version of "exquisite corpse".  If you don't know what exquisite corpse is, please see this link describing the game:

We started by folding the paper in 3 sections, as though one would fold a business letter.  Each worked without looking at their neighbor, particularly the person to their right since the source of the next drawing came from them.  At the bottom of the section we worked on, we extended a few lines for the next person to pick up on.  

Out of the 9 drawings I would say 6 of them had a "consciousness quality".  It was as though the flow of the 1st artist was absorbed into the paper.  Two of the 3 I participated in were magical.  We worked from childhood dreams and memories.  It was amazing how the stories aligned.  The most outstanding example was one where I contributed the top drawing of a dream from childhood:  my father and I in the ocean holding onto a log.  He was looking at me with concern and trying to put me at ease.  The look on the little girl's face (my face) was of fright.  The woman next to me contributed a drawing of an emotional girl (but not crying) in a car looking out the window.  The last was a girl beneath a tree relaxing.  To me the progression was from danger, to rescue & processing what happened to finally relief at having come back to safe ground.  It turned out the middle artist's drawing was the memory of going to her father's funeral when she was a girl.  My father has been gone for a few years and as I was drawing his memory was alive.  Maybe it is one of those "you had to be there" sorts of things, but it was astonishing.  The middle artist took home that drawing.

Below is the one I kept, the bottom drawing being my contribution.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Loneliness, Aloneness, Solitude, Hermits - Part 1

Here are a few somewhat random reflections on solitude.  [I stress the word random!]

One cannot read about a spiritual master without noticing the value of time spent in solitude.  I suppose the value of time spent alone is determined by consciousness within that time.  Where is the mind, the heart, the soul, the breath?

If the mind is tide up in other people's problems and imagining how to solve those problems, won't the time be filled with loneliness?  If the mind is off within someone else who is within you?  No wonder it feels empty, there is no one present for you, not even YOU.  Come home to you.  Get grounded in yourself. I've had the good fortune this last year of "bottoming out" to a certain level with regards to care taking and helping others when not asked, which is in essence not minding my own business.  There is sense of aliveness and yet increased compassion in experiencing the truth that we are ultimately only responsible for ourselves.  [We cannot unburden others from their suffering and dissatisfaction.  The duality of the nature of things is beginning to show me how, with this understanding, I can actually be more helpful.  But that is all for another post.] 

In terms of activity it seems to matter less what activity is going on but the spirit with which the activity is carried out.  Can washing a window be as engaging and uplifting as anything else?  It's more about being a part of the nature and cycle of things:  love the smell of white vinegar, saying goodbye to the dirt, sending the dirt to its next destination and of course the satisfaction of more sparkling sunshine coming in! 

When alone with a scattered mind I turn to spiritually engaging audio recordings, videos and music.  Silence is preferred but some days a little help is needed.

Choosing consciously to be alone, as in the case of a hermit, is different from becoming a recluse due to emotional and mental problems.  Following periods of stress, pulling away to collect oneself is normal.  Clarity regarding what is behind intention is helpful.  Keep in mind personality type.  Don't expect extroverts to understand.  This is a generality but introverts fill their cup in periods of alone time while extroverts thrive in the company of others.  There are more extroverts in the world than introverts, so again, don't expect others to understand your need to be alone. 

I had a client who was a legal secretary when we met.  Toward the end of her career she began creating weekends of solitude, silence and meditation within her home in Norfolk.  She was a divorced mother of adult children and was able to arrange this by notifying the appropriate people, turning off the phone and unplugging devices.  When she retired she enjoyed a new chapter in life living in monasteries with nuns, dedicating herself to contemplative prayer.   To be clear, all was not perfect within the monastery situation.  As the nun told Maria in The Sound of Music, the monastic life is not meant to be an escape and indeed it is not.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Transcendent Visual Art - A Spirit Appears?

Left to my own devices I rarely draw or paint anything anyone would want to hang in their home.  I accept art as simply fun, a meditation and a way for the mystery to unfold.  While working from a still life with a skull, two small holes were created at the top center of the drawing paper by the clip holding the page to the drawing board.  One thing led to another and the holes soon became eyes.  As I worked an androgynous Shamanic spirit revealed her/himself. 

Transcendent Visual Art: Post-Chemotherapy Art Therapy

Following the period of chemotherapy treatments I approached a drawing to summarize my feelings about the experience into a single piece.  The face represents how I felt and thought I looked like.  Originally the tongue was hanging out in illness but I changed it to not look so horrid.  The trees represent the 45 minutes spent walking briskly in the woods and sand dunes with my three dogs.  I went nearly everyday I could manage.  It was the most helpful and healing aspect of the 4 months.  The window or picture frame hovering in the tree represents future mystery and possibilities obscured from direct view.

Transcendent Visual Art - Another Regarding Chemotherapy

To explain this piece of art I have to go through a series of events.

I painted this a year or so before I went through chemotherapy which resulted in total hair loss.  The teacher wanted it in a student show so I had it framed. After the show I hung it on the wall in my home.  During chemo I came across a non-itchy Totes hat-scarf combo thing which I wore at daily home to keep my head warm since it was the middle of winter.  One day after a recent treatment I was sacked out on the futon, with bone pain and green with nausea wearing the red hat-scarf.  I turned, looked directly at this painting and it all came together.  I could not believe what I was seeing:  a green (& nauseous?) woman with a red scarf around her head.  I called to my husband in disbelief.  The moment of recognition was enlightening and healing.  Her tranquility put me at ease.  But I still have no explanation for the bird!

Transcendent Visual Art - Chemo

This is a drawing of a live model.  It's not a good drawing but I post it to explain how, for no good reason, I did not include her thick and beautiful hair.  My teacher asked why and I said I did not know.  It was not until a about a year later when I was bald and undergoing chemotherapy that I remembered this drawing.

My husband is a science, math, technology and mechanic kind of guy.  With his role as witness to these experiences he accepts the idea of mystery more than he used to.

Transcendent Visual Art - Cancer

This is what I came up with for a self-portrait assignment when I had cancer prior to diagnosis. Actually, most of the self-portraits from this period have a heaviness and almost an intense warning in the opened eyes.

If you draw, paint or write, pay attention.

Transcendent Visual Art - Satchidananda

I have a number of examples of transcendent visual art experiences.  As I come across pieces from the stack of drawings and paintings I will post them here. 

A number of years ago I was working on homework for an art class.  The assignment was to take something small and blow it up on a full page of good-sized paper in order to explore the work of Georgia O'Keefe.  I chose a little Buddha figurine.  To the left a small mark revealed a face, then a figure.  Eventually it became Satchidananda walking onto the page.

At some point after meeting him at Yogaville Satchidananda was in one of my most vivid and significant dreams. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"If only ..."

Yesterday a video on Yahoo Health featured Melissa Morris, a woman who lost hundreds of pounds.  Noteworthy are her words about things not being suddenly rosy and perfect just because she lost most of the weight.  How often I've thought or even said out loud, "If only ______" in the spirit of expecting perfection once that one aspect of experience changes.  Of course I do it less and less with each passing year. 

Last week a friend introduced me to the term "solutionizing" as a habit of trying (often and sometimes in vain) to figure out and act out solutions for everyone and everything.  The aim of solutionizing is the fantasy-based sense of relief at the end of the "if only..."

Here is the link to the Good Morning America video:


Life design to make room for meditation, reflection, growth

Buddhism states desire is not bad.  Just choose better desires.  

I have a full life and plenty of stuff, everything I need.  It is a continuous re-working and shaping to participate with better desires.  About 15 years ago someone suggested I prune and create space in life.  Certainly there is practice of "just being" within the busy part of life.  AND there is something to be said about knowing what "enough" means.  

Grace Is Aignment

When circumstances align to the point of being a miracle, I cannot help but get a sense of how experiencing alignment in asana translates to the understanding and recognition of grace as alignment.

Yoga & Injury

A few weeks ago there was news coverage on PBS Newshour about yoga and injury.  Moderation is key.  Like everything from sleeping, drinking, talking and eating, too much of anything can be detrimental.  Of course too little of some things can be detrimental too.  Most of us do not have to perform physical labor for a living.  Yet, the body needs to move and exercise.  Find balance!  My approach to asana is "no pain, no pain".  This does not mean muscles should never burn or breaking a sweat is bad.  It is about not hurting joints, not pushing to exhaustion and into a state of a lack of awareness. 

Zen & The Process of Wardrobe Minimizing

By American standards I do not shop often or spend a lot on clothing yet have what seems like a lot of it!  It is time to get real, take stock, sort, donate and enjoy a little more simplicity.  To appreciate ebb and flow it feels alright to let the tide go out on the clothing, see it sweep away to somewhere else.

Let's visit examples of successful minimalist people I've known over the years:

- A woman who has a wardrobe in four solid colors:  white, khaki, black, denim.  Hanging in her closet are perhaps a dozen pieces all together, at least two pieces in each color with the most pieces in black.  Her clothing is carefully selected, a perfect fit and high quality.  I've known her to go to New York for a shopping trip once a year.  She always looks good.  If she wears cosmetics the effect is subtle.  She keeps up with her figure, hair and skin.  This woman is a yoga instructor so in addition to the hanging items she has a little folded stack of workout clothes.  Obviously if your occupation requires business attire more pieces would be helpful.

- At the home of another yoga instructor I discovered she owned just a few pairs of socks when she sent me to her room to borrow a pair.  Her closet was much like the previously mentioned woman:  no more than a dozen pieces.  And she always looked great.

- Another time a fellow shiatsu practitioner directed me to her room to borrow shorts for a session.  [Rest assured, if I come to your home chances are I will not have to borrow your clothes.]  The drawers were nearly bare and she had all she needed.

- I know a man who owns only a dozen pieces of everyday clothing.  He basically has a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, a swimsuit, a few t-shirts, a sweatshirt, a few casual collared shirts and 2-3 jackets.  He has a reasonably sized high quality business wardrobe for his occupation which he must have.

- In college there was a student from Bermuda.  All his clothing would transport on his body and in a knapsack between Bermuda and Long Island.  Not including education related material his personal belongings consisted of a sleeping bag, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, 1 towel, deodorant and a surfboard.  I can ask an old college friend but he may not have even owned socks or a pillow.   

- My husband's cousin has been a world traveler for twenty years and had boiled down his needs to the very basics.  He came to visit for a week one summer with a pair of white pants, a pair of red polyester basketball shorts, a black t-shirt, a white "A" undershirt, a short sleeved colored button down, a pair of sneakers, a pair of black shoes, some underwear and socks.  Everywhere we went and everything we did he had the appropriate attire, from running, going to the beach, out to dinner and seeing a band play.  Indeed, he was attuned to my daily laundry cycles as he would always have two to three pieces to run through.

These six people are an inspiration.  If you're wondering, their choices were not out of being cash-strapped either.  In fact, all of them are/were financially quite alright. 

My husband and I recently finished a floor-to-ceiling wall cabinet in our bedroom.  It holds mostly clothing but also occasional linens, extra blankets and off season apparel.  When I started moving things into it a funny thing happened once the bursting closet started to gain space.  I came to appreciate space over unneeded items!  As I go through the decision making process it is peculiar.  Why did it feel hard to allow for an ebb cycle?  I do not demand the ocean have only a high tide.  Interesting!  I'm over it now and ready to tackle the job.  A charity can make a little money, someone can wear these things that have been hanging around and I gain a clearer mind.  Ebb & flow, ebb & flow, ebb & flow...

Something to consider is "shop therapy".  The show 'Til Debt Do Us Part on CNBC featured a busy, overwhelmed, in-debt-to-their-ears couple.  One of the several reasons for the debt was the woman's habit of shopping in order to have some time to herself, to "fill her cup".  With some help gaining perspective on her reasons behind the shopping, she joined a health club and used the time there to enjoy a break from her husband and children in order to attend to herself.  She was overweight so this solution addressed two aspects of her life being out of balance. 

Never in my formative years did I intended to live in a city of any sort.  Over the last 18 years there have been times of grappling with being in a densely populated area with all its noise and activity.  One period of time I noticed being drawn to garden art, bird feeders and statues in the stores.  Now, there's nothing wrong with buying a big cement toad.  But for me I noticed what was behind the desire to buy.  It was a desire for nature.  With the new awareness I simply started spending more quiet time outdoors.  This is off the topic of clothing but touches on "shop therapy".  Desire is not bad.  It may be helpful to look at desire from different angles in order to learn about yourself and to nudge and shape your decisions surrounding desire. 

A few final words in closing now.  In the 25 years I've been donating clothing to charity I have never once regretted a piece of apparel being gone.  And one cannot overlook the way of spiritual masters such as Jesus, The Buddha, Mother Theresa and Peace Pilgrim.  In the wisdom of a not-so masterful Tyler Durden in Fight Club, "The things you own... they own you."

All this said and yes, my dog has a coat...