Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My New Year's Eve Plan

A few weeks ago in the yoga teacher training program I revealed that I didn't have plans for New Year's Eve and that I wasn't going to be spending that time with my daughter and I am single and I really didn't know what I was going to be doing. I said it not to get invitations, but to share that not everyone may be having a "happy holiday" and this can be a hard time for people, including yoga teachers and other people who practice yoga!

To those of you who extended invitations to me - thank you! I really appreciate it! Please invite me again!

The number one thing I wanted to do was to go to visit a friend who lives far away but that seemed a bit crazy due to the sheer expense and distance. So I made alternative plans to take myself on a yoga retreat at the Sivananda ashram in Val Morin. The more I settled into that idea the more sorry for myself I felt.

So I revisited the travel option. My inner voice was clear about what to do - just go and bring your camera and shoot some yoga video footage in the warmth and have fun - but my rational voice was thinking about the expense and that's really about it. Everything else seemed to fit, it's just costly.

And now I'm really excited. I was going to be contracted and hunker down and sit tight and now I'm doing something a bit edgy, on the wild side, expansive and "yes" and that feels more like how I want to live.

I used to travel with open-ended tickets. I can't do that anymore given how I want to raise my daughter. I got clear last year that I wanted to travel more and I'd do it and return home. Which means remaining employed, productive, dependable and all of that. But that also means going away when I have time, even if that time is the most expensive time of the year to do it!

I just cancelled my reservation at the ashram. The good news is that my deposit is refunded to me in a credit note, so I don't lose the money. And I would like to go and sit and stretch and be in the quiet. Just not this weekend. (So I won't be there this Sunday like I said I would. Sorry guys.)

Saturday, December 26, 2009


This year I can actually write about Christmasasana because I didn't have to breathe into the sensations as much as I have had to in the past. I was able to witness the pose and even enjoy parts of it.

I hear so much about Christmas around Christmastime! People who love it but their partners don't. People who don't love it but their partners do. People who don't have partners and wish they did. People who avoid their families. People who enjoy their families.

Often in the past I'd watch my family do a familiar pattern that seemed to include my sister being sent into a tiz and getting close to boycotting the whole event each year. There'd be the mad scramble to get presents for everybody and make sure we all had enough in our stockings.

My family vacillates between who's hosting and what we're eating and what we're giving. Over the years I've had to split my time up between visiting a variety of in-laws and/or introducing my family to whoever was in my life at the time. This year I've been single at Christmas so I wasn't torn and I didn't have to suffer while my partner awkwardly endured my family or I put up with his family's interesting traditions or relatives. That may be the thing that made it the easiest for me. That, and the fact that we all agreed to forget the presents except for Remi, who's only 11 and who actually spent a lot of time working on making things for each person. We ate and played on computers and gave a concert and we were just spending some time with each other and I didn't have to worry about other people much.

Christmasasana tends to stretch the patience and compassion muscles and shows where there are weaknesses in the creativity and communication regions of both the physical and subtle bodies. It's a great time to observe where we are in our families, in our culture, as well as with ourselves. It's just a big pose we call Christmas Posture and it's one that we hold as a culture and there's nothing wrong with it. Some of us like it, some of us don't. Some years we do, some we don't. It changes. Just like a good yoga pose. Ahh.

Friday, December 25, 2009

If you think you're enlightened, go home for the weekend

When I lived at Kripalu we used to say if you think you're enlightened, go home for the weekend. Like a test. People's stuff comes out around their families, wouldn't you say?

So at Christmas, times are often difficult partly because we are so used to having thing our own way and then having to give that up to be with other people occurs as a big challenge.

I'm doing pretty good, I must say. No fights. No tears. Everybody's getting along. We're all getting stressed over our different things - my brother doesn't like Christmas music, the dogs' barking drive me crazy (there are 9 of them), my stepfather is just cranky - and we're still doing well. We even had a sleep over at my brother's last night.

I slept on an air mattress that leaked and left me with a sore back but I'm still okay. Woke up with a big headache on the left side (didn't even have a sip of wine yesterday) and now I have a bloodshot eye on the same side and I'm still okay.

I'm not anxious to go home, I'm looking forward to dinner in a while. I notice when I'm feeling a bit irritable and then breathe a bit more. Everybody's doing it and we're having a good time.

Here's a video we made of our day yesterday. It's really for my grandmother and my dad so I warn you it will be 7 minutes of your life you won't get back if you choose to click on it. (Also it's widescreen but I don't know how to widen the blog column - so watch it at youtube if you're going to waste your time.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Feeling a Bit Rumi Today

Have you ever had a day when you're feeling a bit Rumi? Know what I mean? A bit lost but loving the feeling of surrender to the possibility of being found?

I think on the Solstice it's a fitting way to feel. The shortest day of the year. The beginning of the coldest, harshest months. The return of the sun and the promise to thaw us out again. The beginning of patience.

Here's a poem I clicked on that was long enough to give you the sense and short enough to post.

My Dear Friend
by Rumi

My dear friend
never lose hope
when the Beloved
sends you away.

If you're abandoned
if you're left hopeless
tomorrow for sure
you'll be called again.

If the door is shut
right in your face
keep waiting with patience
don't leave right away.

Seeing your patience
your love will soon
summon you with grace
raise you like a champion.

And if all the roads
end up in dead ends
you'll be shown the secret paths
no one will comprehend.

The beloved I know
will give with no qualms
to a puny ant
the kingdom of Solomon.

My heart has journeyed
many times around the world
but has never found
and will never find
such a Beloved again.

ah I better keep silence
I know this endless love
will surely arrive
for you and you and you.

translation by Nader Khalili

(I grabbed the image from here.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Paying for Prayers

Let me start off by saying I don't have much of a religious background and I don't have a lot of knowledge about religious stuff. So I also don't come with a lot of baggage about these things and forgive me if I am ignorant.

It seems to me that people who do praying and meditating and chanting and other things like that, even though they personally benefit, are also doing good for others and could be recognized for that. If someone prays for you and you believe in it and believe the prayers are helping, that would be worth something to you, just as an herbal supplement or a bit of medicine might be worth something.

I think we're rightfully in a place in our culture where we've let go of praying and developing strong mental practices but I think the time for the return of those things is coming. I say rightfully because obviously there has been an abuse of power in the past and when we think someone else has the power to heal us or to help us when we can't do it ourselves, then there's a risk of trouble.

On the other hand, having someone else support you in your practice by doing it themselves, could really inspire you to take your health, physical and mental and all of that, in your own hands by leading the way. I think that's what monks and nuns are doing, if they're doing it, when things are working as they could.

I think that type of practice would be like art and the person doing the practice is an artist. Really. Because with art, we are inspired, we are transported, we are pleased, and with prayers and chants, the same thing can happen. And just like with art, it's quite personal about what pleases us and what moves us, same thing with prayers and practices. Some things will work and others won't. Some cultures and governments will want to pay for it and others won't.

I think that the people doing that kind of work serve a valuable function in our society and are often overlooked in our culture. We don't provide space or accommodation for people who need a lot of time to meditate or chant or do stuff that others may consider "non-productive." If you've ever tried to sit for an hour or do a daily practice even when you don't feel like it, you'll recognize how hard it can be, how many years it takes to cultivate a strong practice, and how valuable it is to have someone else doing it to show it can be done, not to mention to help filter the space, the air, that we pollute with our materialism.

Just like artists could use patrons, I think spiritual practitioners (and I'm not talking about myself in any of this!) who may have in the past been in monasteries or convents but aren't associated with any particular religion anymore, could also use patrons. Their work is valuable but their work often goes unrecognized.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Wonder I Was Crying

I was in the car today on my way from Kanata, where I've been working on the iPhone app, which is going to be finished any day now, to pick Remi up from school, which is on the other side of town and I had some time in the car. I like to listen to the radio and so I tuned in to CKCU.

They've been playing some seasonal music over the past week and today there was a piece I was listening to that sounded familiar but so sad. I couldn't place it but I just sat back, drove slowly, and noticed the tears starting to stream down my face. Traffic was moving slowly too, so the tears in my eyes weren't that much of a hazard.

It turns out I was listening to Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. I think I caught the third movement. When you hear the first part of the second movement you may for sure recognize it.

David at the station said he had put the show together in the theme "from darkness to light" for this time of year. How beautiful. He sent an email reply and we chatted on the phone after I called the station. Thanks again for playing it. So these pieces made up the darkness part of his show. The rest of the show was all joyful, but this was the part that sang to me and opened me up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

We've All Got Issues

We've all got issues. There isn't anybody that doesn't have their issues. Some people have identified and are so used to their issues that they may be able to manage and seem to hide them for some period, but they flare up eventually, because we all have them.

I'm old enough now to recognize some of my patterns. I am quite certain there are yet-to-be-identified other patterns, but I've got enough to know I've got some to deal with. If you aren't sure what yours are, ask someone who knows you well to tell you what you're always going on and on about and they'll be able to help you locate those issues.

It might even seem like karma. Like it's your "money karma" or "relationship karma," or whatever you've got. Like my sister, she's got relationship handled, but given the opportunity, she'll talk a lot about her business. I won't go on too much about my "business" but I will, if allowed, go on and on about my relationships or lack thereof. Other people have health issues but have other things handled. Some people can start relationships but can't sustain them past a certain point. Some people make money but are still in debt, other people don't make money and can't seem to figure out how to earn a living. We've all got something we're dealing with. My examples are general but you know what you're dealing with and it may be very specific.

It seems to me that this is all normal. And part of how we're going to spend our lives is trying to sort things out in that area that has been chosen for us. We're going to bump up against ourselves in that area where other people will seem to breeze past and all sorts of things will come up. "How come they can do it and I can't," not noticing that people are saying the same thing and they're looking at you as the one who's doing it, being successful or advanced in an area that they're not. It's just what we do.

There is of course, way more to the story, which reminded me of Rosanne Roseannadanna and although this clip isn't at all the one I would choose to play, it's one I could find to remind you that if it's not one thing, it's something else. (If you find the one on youtube with the "sweat ball hanging off of her nose," send it to me!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Green Bins

In Ottawa we have a green bin program about to start. I've been putting my scraps in the little bin on the counter and then into the big green one out on the porch in anticipation of the program starting up in a couple of weeks.

Just now I heard a noise as I was sitting here rendering my video again for yesterday's post. It sounded like someone was up to something on my porch. I opened my door (I have no fear) and there was someone digging through the big green bin. She had knocked it over and was pulling stuff out. And I'm thinking, "that's going to be a mess to clean up."

I told her that she couldn't be there and she had to leave it and she argued with me, saying she wanted the garbage. I told her she couldn't have the garbage. The shelter should be open in a few minutes for breakfast as far as I understand and she can get a proper meal.

It's something else living in this neighbourhood. I love the composting idea but I was aware that the reality of having food scraps in a bin next to my place would draw some kind of interaction with the neighbourhood. My daughter has already found beer cans and bottles left in the bin.

I hope the program works, but it's going to be a mess to clean up on a regular basis.

Right now we have such abundance. There are fountains everywhere. Fountains of food, fountains of stuff, fountains of homeless people. Seemingly endless supplies of anything we could ever wish for and many things we wouldn't if we stopped to think about it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Said Yes

I was thinking about how tough it is to be me sometimes and how I'm still in the same place I was just about three years ago when I started this blog and then it occurred to me that I have really said YES to life. I've said, "bring it on."

And Kat and I joke sometimes about this "path," and how really there's no choice. I know it's powerful to choose and I know that for me choosing is a super-important thing to do, but somehow I cannot imagine that I could have not chosen what I've chosen. The choiceless choice?

Torsten reminded me last night that I'm a writer and that I could probably write something people would want to read. I'm not sure. I think I'm normal and everyone's like me (read yesterday) and I don't have anything interesting to share. I forget that I've done interesting stuff and that some of what I've done may be entertaining or of value. And yet, I blog a lot.

I keep saying yes. I say yes to all kinds of experiences and responsibilities. I don't always do a good job just because I say yes. I'm open though.


I started this blog almost three years ago to deal with my "mandate," and I've been reflecting lately about how much I am in the same place I was three years ago. I've travelled around, seen new sights, and circled back to where I started on more than one occasion.

I'm a bit older. I have learned a few new things. But essentially, I feel like I'm in the same place. So I'm probably not. I'm probably further along on my path. I know I've opened up and grown and I'm nicer and deeper and other things. But it feels the same. I know more. I can see bigger pictures. But it feels the same inside. And it's uncomfortable.

And I know now that it's more than normal to feel uncomfortable. And I'm more aware of my discomfort. And that doesn't make the discomfort more comfortable for the most part. I still want things to be different than they are a lot of the time. My own words ring in my ears about how it's important to allow myself to be as I am and that things are going to change. Some of the changes I'll like, some I won't like.

I know that being present with what is, is the way to go. I know that to allow the moment to be as it is, is the healthy, enlightened option. But often I don't feel that way. I want to manage things. I want to change stuff. I want to edit my life. I want to grow in areas I feel weak in. And that's just how I'm feeling.

Sometimes I don't feel that way and I feel grateful and lucky and happy and pleased with my choices. That happens for awhile everyday too. But just like it's that one negative comment on the feedback form that sticks with you, the "what's not working" seems to stay in my brain and repeat itself off and on through my day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Similar and Different

I keep thinking that people are more the same than they are different. I've always thought that for as long as I can remember. I keep thinking we're a lot alike. And I think that's probably true. We want to feel good, we want to feel important, we want what we want when we want it. We deal with sadness and grief and loss and disappointment and pain and all of that.

So sometimes I get surprised when it occurs to me that we're different. We're quite different. We want different things. What turns us on is different. We like different foods. We behave differently. Our likes and dislikes are totally different. What leads us to where we want to go is really different. And I forget that obvious fact all the time.

I talk to people like they're like me. I treat people the way I'd treat myself. But of course, that's missing the big picture. The big picture is we're alike in that we have differences that make us special. We have ideas we hold dear, we have theories we're working on, we have stories we're writing that are unique to us. We have ways of doing things that make sense to us and don't make sense to the people around us.

What gives me pleasure is to be really curious and listen to the people I'm in front of, not taking for granted our similarities or our differences, finding out what I don't know about the situation or relationship. It's not always clear where we're going to be aligned and where we'll feel some dissonance. Lots of times I'll think I'm talking to someone just like me and it will turn out we're from different planets in an area, and other times I'll resonate with someone I think I have little in common with.

This is all pretty obvious and simple, but as I take a closer look at some of the relationships that are important to me, I notice that I've taken for granted some of the similarities and have disregarded or underestimated some of our differences. I'm reminded to be open and curious and don't think I know before I go into a conversation. And know that my angle will be to think we're alike and to be aware of that bias I have when I'm dealing with people. I'm learning...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Living at the Thin Edge

Someone recently described to me something that happens in biology where things get moved to the middle and the edges are taken off and how sometimes things get taken away at the middle and the edges get bigger. He said that being creative and forward thinking gets you out in the edge and it can be lonely there sometimes. I think it's probably lonely to some degree everyplace on the curve, but out at the edge you're aware that you're alone.

It seems to me that when you want transformation or change, you are open to yoga and meditation and the Landmark Forum, which I would put in the realm of jnana yoga, and things like that. When you are not aware that you want transformation and you aren't aware of your suffering or the obstacles in front of you, you won't want to do those things. Or you'll think those things are stupid or perhaps just doubt their benefits and judge the people who do take on those practices.

When I was in India studying yoga a long time ago, I'd meet people in town and they'd ask me what I was doing in India. When I told them I was studying yoga they asked me, "are you sick?" Because for them, they only did yoga when they were sick, or they did it in school as punishment, like my math teacher used to throw chalk at us and make us do laps around the classroom or push-ups, and these guys had to do sun salutations.

And when people tell me the Landmark Forum is a cult or scheme or that meditation is stupid, or my favourite, "I can't do yoga," it makes me bristle a bit inside. Sometimes it makes me bristle a lot. But what I have learned to do with that conversation is look at who's saying it. Where is it coming from? Usually it's first of all coming from someone who hasn't tried yoga or meditation or spent the weekend at the Landmark Forum. It's commentary from other people who also haven't tried those things. Where it's really coming from though is from fear. Fear of change. Fear of growth. Fear of responsibility.

When we're in a place of fearlessness things don't occur as threatening. And when we're on a path of fearlessness, we're also on the look out for other things that can help us maintain or grow our fearlessness. We resonate with things that bring on transformation and strengthen us rather than take us back to the middle. We may turn off our tvs, we may stop listening to so much news, take a closer look at our children, maybe meditate and listen to what's happening inside, perhaps have live conversations and spend time with people. We are invariably faced with criticism and judgement from people whose opinions we care about and may even begin to doubt our own path. But that's just another one of the obstacles on the path of yoga...

And if we are into transformation and we aren't into meditation, yoga - hatha, jnana or otherwise - and we've got another path (there are many, many) - we still recognize their value and that they are paths and we can appreciate them without having taken those particular paths because they resonate with our own inner wisdom. But that would mean we're living at the thin edge, sometimes remembering what life in the middle was like...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Stepping to the Right of the Left Side

Without going into too many wah-wah details of why I feel like I'm in a difficult position at the moment, just know I have been feeling a bit put on by the universe (so victim-like of me) and I even had my Facebook status read this morning, "Jamine has been enrolled in a mandatory training program in non-attachment," or something like that. I'm having to practise non-attachment in an area of my life that's important to me. Practising non-attachment in areas that are not important to me is easy - it's the areas that matter to me that make it challenging.

And because I've been enrolled by the universe in this training program, I'm currently interested in methods of letting go. I remember the "trying to let go" of a pen exercise in the Landmark Forum. To get it, pick up a pen and try to let it go. The only way to let it go is to just let go of it. Duh. Not so easy though in other areas. So I'm trying to let go. It's embarrassing, to be honest. Watch yourself try to let go of a pen and you'll get the idea. It's awkward and silly. It's much more graceful to just let go. However, that's not how I'm doing it at the moment.

This morning during my meditation I got some insight into another method that may already be obvious to many of you and again, forgive me if I'm slow in places you'd expect a yoga teacher to have mastery in. So yesterday I was at the TEDxOttawa talks, which are basically mainly live presentations a la TED. They are "ideas worth spreading." One of the non-live presentations was a repeat of something I'd seen more than once before, and that's Jill Bolte Taylor's story of watching herself have a stroke. I'll post the video here so you can see the whole thing, but one piece of her message is that the left side of the brain handles worry and memories and the right side of the brain puts us in the moment. There's loads more, so watch the video.

The part that got me really interested this morning was the idea of stepping to the right of the left side of the brain. Just step out of the left and into the right. So I tried that. And this morning, for me, at this time, it worked. I don't know how it will go later. Things just let go automatically. And it's not even that they let go, there was no action or anything really.

So for me, the new distinction is rather than letting something go, just move into a new space and different things will occur as important. I'm still working on it. But I thought I'd share it as it is :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Meaning Making Machines

On some level we're all meaning making machines. We all take things that have happened and we make them mean something. This is all in the Landmark Forum, by the way. Something happens (or we think it's going to happen) and then we make it mean something. That's just what we do. Sometimes we make it mean the same thing as a whole bunch of other people and then we have a "culture." But really, there's no meaning in anything. We put it there. It's just what we do.

And when something happens that we like and we make it mean something good, there's not usually a problem. It's when we take something that happened in the past (or something that's going to happen) and we give it a meaning that doesn't work for us that is where it gets interesting. Often the thing that happens and the meaning we give it have no relationship at all. So we can get all bent out of shape because of how our parents treated us or our bosses or life, and then we go on and think we're not enough or we're not capable, or we're not going to get what we want, and feel bad and go unconscious. Then we're not really present to what's happening at all, but we're stuck in our pattern of making meaning that's not true or good, and we're not being with who's in front of us.

We're not going to stop doing it. But if we can notice when we are doing it, we can snap out of it, come back to being present and then get on with things until it happens again.