Monday, January 18, 2010
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I have been 'home' in the United States. I studied yoga and ayurveda for many months, living in Berkeley. It was a language that I could relate to. The language of experience. Yet, I stayed in that bubble and didn't reach out to any buy my mother, sister and a very good male friend. Eventually, that male friend became my lover. I wouldn't allow myself to open up beyond my yoga mat for anyone but them, not even myself. I was grateful for a male energy with an ivy league law degree and a great passion for spinning fire and creating community. He, too, left his legal job to travel the world and explore. He returned in a state of flux, like me, and we understood eachother. He also studied female orgasms and was a blissful lover. He told me that he loved me again and again. And this was enough for me to be sated. I didn't mind so much that he had other lovers. I just ignored that. Until....he told me that one of them was a friend of mine. Ouch. I stopped. And then I missed his counsel. We started again. Yet, the sweetness was gone and I felt a portion of myself compromised every time. I began to resent him. And myself.
I volunteered for the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority in the taxicab division and deeply considered my eventual role as a taxicab prosecutor when funding came through for a position. I grappled and grappld with being inside a room with no windows, but relished the idea of stability and an income. I loved the idea of regaining my confidence in the legal world and finally being able to take credit for my own work, as opposed to earlier work where I did the legal research and writing and my boss (either firm partner or federal judge) affixed his name to the work. I experienced the pride that came from my intellect and keen legal acumen. I spent so many years honing these skills. They flowed out effortlessly, but the surrounding environment was stale beyond belief.
I studied Shadow Yoga with Scott Blossom and learned to transfer energy through the different areas of my body during my yoga practice. I convinced myself that I could study with Scott and balance the stagnation from a return to this type of job. I signed up for djembe lessons. I found a place to live in a conscious home. It was all lined up, even though I didn't resonate with the pulse of San Francisco anymore....nor the job. I promised myself that if I didn't get the job, I would leave San Francisco and trust Spirit just a little more to guide me in the right direction.
I volunteered in August and learned that funding wouldn't come through until September. The idea of volunteering without pay and living in San Francisco at an acquaintence's house where I did not feel comfortable didn't feel good. As I was walking home from volunteering in late August, I decided that I'd spend September in the flow. I wondered what to do about the room I was leasing. At that moment, the landlord, my housemate called me, and screamed in a rage about the fact that I had moved his drum set in order to lay down my yoga mat. I told him that he never used it and said repeatedly that he didn't even want it there anymore. I told him that I needed more space than just an 8x10 room to live in for $900/month and had previously asked to spread out just a little. He said he liked things as they were. So, in a fit of desire to practice outside of my 8x10 box, yes, I moved the drum kit, delicately, aside. I laid down my mat and my practice was beautiful. Well, he didn't get this and proceeded to scream. I suggested that I move out post Burning Man (one week away). He bellared his assent. I arrived home to his glaring face and crashing doors and boxes as he prepared for burning man. He was seething rage. It was crazy. I was scared. I called my lover and left a voicemail that I needed to be with him that evening. He texted me back to love myself that evening. I thanked the Universe: the job, the home and the man were clearly not working. San Francisco couldn't have screamed anymore to me, "Get Out!" So, I packed up my belongings the very next day and moved everything into 10x10 storage. I actually had more space in storage for $120/month!
I hightailed up to Tahoe to stay with an old friend, Cheri. And there, the healing continued. Fresh water, a compassionate friend, a reconnection to love that I'd isolated myself from before. We went to Burning Man and I had an amazing time: wide open. connected. blissful. radiant. powerful. creative. sexy. intelligent. inspired. loved. absolutely in my essence as shakti. I taught yoga, I played, I connected, I released and I bonded with people. I finally cracked that self imposed shell of exile and related to people again. Wide open.
Cheri, Shanti and I returned to her place in Tahoe for an additional week and I spent time with people who were simply laid back and happy, notwithstanding a very low income. I liked their vibe. It felt nice. Cheri and I decided to go to Bhakti Fest in Palm Springs the following weekend b/c we actually live Bhakti and this is who we are. So, I went.
In the bliss of the realization that I just needed to trust and surrender, I ran into friends from Thailand and India and NYC and parts of CA and my life. All of this through yoga. The bliss again came through yoga. It always has. I met a beautiful man from Mississippi there. I'll go to visit him. He feels good, very good. He lives a life of offering yoga to others in transition, in the pain of our western paradigm. He struggles himself. He's real. He's good. I like him.
After Bhakti Fest, I learned that I didn't get the job in SF. My ego was evicerated. My gut was relieved. I gave thanks again to the universe. I cried and cried and cried. I asked what felt good. Mississippi. That doesn't make sense. Then, again, it does. So, I go there and make no decisions until I experience for myself what it is that feels so nice. As always, I learn from experience. Yoga.
I went to another festival in Yosemite thereafter and saw the trimming culture of leathers and feathers and techno. Not my scene, but again, these people are relaxed and happy in their unconventional ways. I ran into another friend from Thailand. He invited me to join him and his girlfriend in the Tahoe hills for a few months of work. We can continue to do shamanic journeys and yoga. Another way...but, it doesn't feel quite right.
I moved stuff into my mother's place to feel some semblance of a home. I came up to Ukiah to work. Tanya and I are exploring me joining her practice. In working the land, I saw the many layers of existence and the many layers of protection/ignorance that I've laid over my identity. I finally allowed myself to molt the lawyer label and feel connected and grounded in the wonderful person that I am. I can do anything. I don't know what. I don't know where. This is a further discovery. But, I trust. I surrender. I will go further with the flow. The flow resonates sweetly with the man in Mississippi right now. That makes no sense. But, oh well. I'm looking into Costa Rica options since I'll be there in January for a wedding (Tanya and Tristan's!). There are people that know people. My call of yoga has a place there.
What will happen? I don't know. I'll head to Rusty's class today to celebrate with the teacher who taught me 'courage, not fear' so many years ago. Then, I'll head to my ayurvedic kula to celebrate the final day of Navaratri - the 9 day goddess festival. At the height and the low, in the confidence and the quivering, the yoga is always there - a light beacon within me that holds me steady and loving.
The neti-neti (not this, not this) continues. Yet, before I discriminated with fear. Now, I remind myself again and again to discriminate constructively - with courage and gratitude. The flow is here. I'm part of it. I surrender. Jai Ma!
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I'm learning from ayurveda that the whole of life is composed of aspects of which we westerners have given little thought. While we try and control and organize and structure our lives, we ignore the very fabric of existence re. elements and flow and balance and wholeness. So, here, again, I listen and learn of these teachings. I acutely feel in my body how the pitta seethes with action and "must have now!" and the vata can't make it's mind up. It's only when I consciously STOP, take a breath, and THEN react, that I realize the kapha is increasing - it's steady, thoughtful appoach levels it all and balance can be restored. But, how many close calls must one make to finally realize that attention and grace are all that are needed to surrender and live sweetly?
One of my best friends from the age of 17 turned Kaliesque on me and raged at me "have you ever noticed that all of your friends walk on eggshells around you!?". She informed me in no uncertain terms that I am selfish and don't EVER put myself into the shoes of others. I initially wanted to run away - to leave this demoness, yet realized she was correct. So, I stayed. And I listened. And then I realized that I simply can't understand the ways of others. It's very, very, very hard for me to think of them when I'm dead set on my own agenda (which is regularly). "You have no idea how powerful you are!," she bellared. And I suddenly had 100 flashes of the way people respond to me - with humility, gratitude, appreciation and oftentimes relief. And then I remembered the 100 other times where people responded with pride, disgust, defensiveness and shrinking to me. As much as I didn't want to be that woman/monster at that time, I listened to my friend as she raged in truth and I heard her. She was right. To swallow that pill was a tough one, but a necessary one.
Since then, I've unnaturally placed myself in the shoes of my friends as often as possible. It is a practice that is unnatural for the way that I have learned, but it's necessary. So, I ask all of you: have you placed yourself in the shoes of others? It's a beautiful way to connect with others, to humble oneself and to relate to the connectedness of life. I invite you to look, really look at the way you interact with others...are you alone? Or do you practice compassion? The path in which I choose to continue on this life is through compassion. It's not natural NOW, but I am trying. And I am succeeding. Life is much, much sweeter this way.
A man from my past emerged and summoned me to him. He said "you were the one that got away" and apologized. I automatically went to a place of romantic revisionist history. Is he "the one?" Has he changed enough to finally appease me? And what do you know? I EXPECTED him to do exactly what I wanted...to ask me out, to show himself and to stand in all of his Shiva glory before me and say "feed me, Shakti!"....but you know that didn't happen. Men in the Bay Area don't "happen" that way. So, I shriveled, I retreated, and I felt very, very sad...for two minutes. Then, I realized this was my same instant replay feature. That feature didn't work in past relationships, just as my not thinking of others didn't work for my friends....so what?
It's time to practice compassion and time to practice measured awareness. My thoughts, as fiery and strong as they are, are NOT reality. My desires, wishes and demands are fierce as ever, but useless without the feminine aspect of love and understanding. So, what is missing must be cultivated b/c it IS natural. Women are the compassionate between the sexes. Softness is within us, certainly within me, and this is a beautiful quality to relish, live and celebrate. In shirking my prior life as a masculine litigator and choosing to practice yoga daily and to teach those that are seeking, I am becoming softer and softer and more open and loving. Yet, the path is not always clear as it's tangled with my breeding, my experince and my habits. So, I stumble, I offend, I learn and I (hopefully) make it right...
How blessed we are, indeed...
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I have a little story re. love and faith and destiny.
After three weeks of dead ends and frustration on the job market, I broke down crying. I woke up the next day and instead of rushing for the laptop, I did four hours of yoga. Then I blogged. I was reminded to be clear and in my body. So, in that state, I asked my body "what do you want?" Answer: "Yoga. Ayurveda. To know how to live this life." I reconciled myself to the fact that I DO have money - it's in an IRA. Although I don't like the idea of taking it out, I already lost 30% of it with the economy downturn and I need it now - not in the future...so what am I waiting for? I want to rest easy about money. I have that option. I want to do what I like and be with people that I like. And I want to study more yoga and learn about ayurveda. That's it. And hopefully, I'll find a paying job on the side...
If I'm clear in my mind and body, the right career opportunity for me will emerge when it's supposed to emerge. I can't force it. I immediately thought of a school I discovered online on my second day back in the U.S. (At that time, I breathed a sigh of relief to see that an Indian woman was teaching ayurveda and yoga in the traditional Vedic tradition, just as it had been introduced to me by Dr. Geeta in Gujarat during my last week in India, i.e. the yogic cleanse week. I noticed the classes had already started the week before and gave up on the idea for 2009. However, there was no hesitation in my mind that this was the school for me.) So, after doing yoga for four hours and realizing that I wanted to do this, I simply wrote an e-mail explaining my frustration with my return to the U.S., my desire to study yoga and ayurveda and I listed all of the huge steps of my spiritual journey that brought me to this point. I asked if I could join the course at this late date. I also asked if we could arrange a work study. The main teacher e-mailed me almost immediately and invited me to the weekend course on the Yoga Sutras.
The course was incredible and she was a funny, brilliant, gifted teacher. After the morning session, she agreed to let me into the program and said that all of the seva (selfless work) places had been filled but that she would ask. In the afternoon, I had a sudden gush of clarity again and I approached her. I asked if she had written a book. She said "yes, it's 2000 pages, is very esoteric, and has lots of citations to texts that need to be checked. Are you a good writer?" After I responded "I'm a great writer!" and mentioned that my legal training is in reading, writing, clarifying and cross-referencing cites, statutes and common law in support of a theory, she smiled broadly and said "I asked the universe to send me someone to help me with my book." I replied "I asked the universe to guide me on a spiritual path of ayurveda and yoga studies because this is the only thing I want to do...and write." And you know what? It's true. And now it's happening. The universe provides...
She is modern and Indian and very, very real. I have found my teacher and am honored to have the opportunity to edit her book, incorporate our classes into the book and at the same time, maintain my blog as a reflection of this unbroken wholeness in flowing movement. Oh yeah, I also found a great home in Oakland with an ayurvedic yoga practicioner (who is a former corporate person, not a vegetarian and is living the yogic path) and a physicist who wants to learn about yoga (I've been looking for a physicist to share yogic theories with since I read the Dalai Lama's book 'The Universe in a Single Atom') - three women, three rooms, my share: $500/month. Unheard of in a beautiful home.
I'm just thrilled and wanted to share with you. Here's a description of the course.
Self Heal with AyurvedaThe education in Ayurveda follows the following course:
In the First Year- Heal the Self:
The first year helps the student understand the basic principles of Ayurveda, its unique philosophy, spirituality and science and how the different aspects of Ayurveda integrate and work together to create the one of a kind Ayurvedic path of self healing.
More importantly, the student begins to understand how the different facets of Ayurveda apply to the personal, daily life of the student; and how everything fits together intimately in the scheme of things for the student, here and now in the 21st century in the modern lives with its typical challenges.
Sacred circles, class discussions, check ins, journal and dialoging with the teacher will facilitate enlivening Ayurveda beyond the text books and into the real life of the student, center stage amidst the drama of crisis and resolution; ill health and health; pain and relief; ignorance and wisdom...to lay path to well being, step by step.
Vedika Gurukula unfolds wisdom with love...so that the student begins to think, breathe, eat, live, talk, walk and be...inspired by the sage science of Ayurveda.
Important Features of First Year of Studies at Vedika Gurukula:
A stand alone foundational course to establish students in their own wellness practices and Ayurvedic life skills.
Guides students to overcome / manage personal wellbeing and lifestyle problems through careful study and application of Ayurvedic principles and regimens (under teacher's direct guidance)
The first year is as valuable to homemakers committed to understanding and living an Ayurvedic lifestyle as it is to students on a track to ultimately become Ayurvedic practitioners. It is as relevant to a serious student of Vedic Astrology, Vastu Shastra, Yoga or Indian Philosophy as it is to those who plan to practice Ayurveda professionally.
Complete introduction to the principles and practices of Ayurveda
Create a strong foundation for continuing students to become effective and insightful healers.
Prerequisite year for students going on to practitioner-track studies.
The first year of studies is not intended to create graduates who will begin to help others (but rather begin to help their own selves).
Exposure to Gurukula style of learning and its culture of seva, sadhana, and sangha.
Experience of intangible spiritual values of Vedic tradition.
Learning of classified knowledge, taught only inside in livingGurukula lineages.
First year Includes all the typical courses of introductory level Ayurveda, and more:
Philosophy. Cosmology and History
Basic Ayurveda Anatomy and Physiology
Ahara: Diet, Nutrition
Ayurvedic Lifestyle: Svasthavritta, Sadvritta
Subtle therapies including Pranayama, Mantra, Mudra, etc
Intro to Ayurvedic Self Diagnoses and Self assessment
Additional Topics (unique to Gurukula)
Introduction to Vedanta Text: Tattva Bodh of Shankracharya.
Introduction to Sanskrit: Devanagari script and pronunciation, recitation of Sanskrit shlokas, Ayurvedic vocabulary building.
Introduction to Yoga Darshan: Text-Patanjali Yoga Sutra.
Introduction to core Vedic values: such as Dharma, karma, Karma Phala, Yajna, Puja.
Participation in festivals and pujas of the Vedic tradition, and exploring their relationship with Ritucharya and Tattva Shuddhi.
Subjective Case management (unique to Gurukula)
In the first year, students are given themselves as the case to manage under the teacher's guidance.
Students learn and practice regimens such as seasonal and detoxifying diets (modified according to their Vikriti), lifestyle practices, consume herbals Rasayanas that they recommend for them selves with the teacher's approval, do pranayama, mantra, japa, etc. Students track their own case and report back in class and in writing.
The philosophy of Yoga as well as its applied aspect is covered under the topic "psychology" and under "Gurukula Classified Teachings" and in the first year students study in depth the text Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
A renowned Vedanta teacher from India is especially invited to Vedika Gurukula in Berkeley to teach the first year students Vedanta's foundational scripture: Sankaracharya's: Tatva Bodha.
Studies in Yajna Shastra
The fire ceremony of or Yajna ritual is at the heart of Vedic learning. The word "Vedika" itself means the altar in which the fire of transformative knowledge blazes. Students learn about the foundational principles of Yajna Shastra from India's leading Vedacharya who will visit Vedika Gurukula and all lead the students through an experiential passage through the fire altar in their own Upanayanam (initiation) ceremony. The students will chant Vedic mantras together and pour ghee and herbs into the flame, (insert coma) and understand the tangible and non-tangible benefits of the healing science of Yajna.Sanskrit Studies
Sanskrit studies are mandatory for first year students. The Sanskrit language classes have been arranged 3 to 4 weeks apart so that students can have ample time to review, revisit, internalize and memorize the information provided in the previous class.Constant Enhancement Not Examination
Gurukula tradition does not promote memorization of knowledge and the mechanical testing of this memorization; instead, Vedika Gurukula promotes internalization, contemplation, expression and dialogue of knowledge with peers and teachers. Therefore. (insert coma) there are no competitive, graded examinations or tests inside the Gurukula. Rather, there is emphasis upon Oral Q and A or dialogue in class and a formal oral presentation at the completion of the year in which the students presents to teacher and the entire class the essence of their learning and insights from the entire year (about their own case). The students will also turn in a hand written or typed presentation that teacher will review at leisure. All quizzes and homework have open book policy and emphasis is upon essay type questions to stimulate contemplation, understanding, imagination, and articulation.
Culture of Seva (unique form of learning inside Gurukula)
Inside a Gurukula, students are encouraged to embrace the spirit of selfless service - Seva; as it is an ideal of conscious life (d Dharma). Vedika Global is run entirely on volunteer basis. Through the selfless service of the students (and teachers and board), a whole support and logistical system has been put into place. Even students who are busy with families and professions are recognizing the value of selfless service in purifying the heart and mind and enhancing quality of life and wellbeing. As part of the Seva culture, students will soon be helping out at Vedika's free / low cost ayurveda centers for at -risk and economically challenged communities. Rendering Seva, students are learning hands on about the Gurukula model and methods of education transmission.
Thus, the first year is dedicated to learning the fundamentals of Ayurveda in an experiential manner ... and then completely owning the wisdom in personal life. If a student wishes, they can, at the end of the first year, begin to illumine family and personal friends with the benefits of incorporating an Ayurveda based lifestyle and science of foods.
Other Relevant InformationCross Class refers to presence of more than one batch of students in the same class at the same time. Several batches of Vedika Gurukula will come together for special instructions, lectures, festival celebrations and other special occasions. Cross Classes may at times fall on non-class days; however, attendance in Cross Classes is mandatory to integrate Gurukula's experiential education - and requires planning ahead of time and special accommodation from the student's side.
Kula Meet refers to the informal gathering of teacher and students of Vedika Gurukula (all batches); and involve exchange of knowledge and energy; food and community. The word "Kula" represents the teachers family and in Vedika Kula. Students sit with teacher as one family; derive tangible as well as non tangible benefits from the sense of unity, community and closeness that are the hallmarks of Gurukula education. Attendance in Kula meets is optional; however attendance adds extra credit or hours to the student's portfolio. Attendance will be taken at the Kula meets. Typically, students enjoy Kula participation and Kula meets are memorable landmarks of the year long process. Students are encouraged to invite friends and family and usually bring an offering of food to the common table.
Kindly note all dates carefully:
85% attendance is mandatory to graduate.
Three day retreat attendance in November in Tahoe is compulsory for gaining your certificate as this is your final project where you will present your Self Healing Presentation that highlights your understanding of the information provided in the entire year. So please plan leave of absence from your work, school or other ongoing engagements ahead of time. Children are not permitted at the retreat, so please create baby sitting options. If student is taking care of an infant then presentations will be made outside the retreat during normal class hours and permission to not attend retreat will have to be obtained ahead of time with reasons.
Apart from the syllabus in Ayurveda, along with Yoga and Vedanta philosophy and introductory studies in Sanskrit language, from time to time, the students will also be taught Gurukula Gupta Vijnanam which is the internal classified teaching of the Gurukula tradition. The classified teachings increase in volume and intensity with each progressive year of study and immersion inside Vedika Gurukula.
Once, twice or thrice per month - quizzes will be posted on an online forum for students to complete online and post for the teacher to review. Students will also take a print out and file in a HW folder to show to the teacher at the end of the year at the retreat. Vedika Gurukula has an open book policy to promote a contemplative reflective study style. We encourage students to refer to text books and class notes to answer quizzes. Homework helps students review topics studied in class and internalize the information at deeper levels. Quizzes that will be completed on time, or display care and extra effort get extra credit. We recommend 6 hours per month in homework. Some months it may be slightly more or slightly less.
Vedika Gurukula promotes Svadhyaya - which means being with the wisdom in silent attention. Students are encouraged to sit quietly with closed eyes, and reflect upon knowledge transmitted in class, or pour over study notes, recommended books, and scriptures; or make flash cards and detailed self study notes in time allotted for self study with minimal distractions. One hour per week is easily managed by most students so the recommended self study time per month is 4 hours. Just being with the Gurukula knowledge by conscious effort, reviewing the written pages again and again, drawing inner conclusions and allowing the interconnections to occur with ease and flow and enjoying the sweetness of what this knowledge has to offer, savoring each piece and internalizing it through meditative contemplation is called self study or Svadhyaya in Gurukula tradition. There is merit in keeping ourselves surrounded by this wisdom that has the capacity to heal our bodies, enhance the mind based awareness and liberate our soul from conditionings and material restrictions.
Vedika Gurukula does not promote competitive model of education. Sage education at Vedika Gurukula is purely for the evolution of Self and that includes the celebration of all beings. That is why there are no tests or competition that are scored or graded in terms of numbers. In fact, it is every Gurukula student's sacred duty or dharma to assist a class mate who needs help with their studies or other matters. On the other hand, Gurukula rewards students who make sacrifices in material life and dedicate more time to the spiritual process of self education and self healing. By cutting out social time or TV time students who turn in excellent contemplative homework; or do self study, or offer more seva or self less service to the parent non profit Vedika Global that makes the excellent education possible; or help out inside the school Vedika Gurukula or assist other class mates in their studies and attend Kula meets (attendance will be taken) get extra credit as a symbol of recognition and appreciation from the Vedika elders. Vedika education is not merely about numbers (credits for credits sake) but an entire culture of self sacrifice for self transformation and global transformation. Hence students who display exemplary zeal and understanding of Gurukula culture, willing attitude, focus towards their studies and positive energy will be allocated credits by the Vedika elders (in each students file) and at the time of final graduation - student will pass with honors and additional titles and categories of recognition. More details will be provided at beginning of the class in January.
The daily immersion refers to the time spent in pursuing unique Gurukula curriculum which includes a spiritually energized curriculum, Gayatri sadhana, mediation, Yoga asana, Pranayama, Abhyangam, etc. Two hours are being allocated in lieu of such practices and it is recommended that students adopt these practices mindfully and go through them daily in the tradition of experiential education. When such practices are sincerely adopted and practices in daily life, the multi-dimensional healing tradition of Ayurveda gives fruitful results.
Come, let us dive into the magical ocean of Ayurveda ...the ocean will come live inside us...let us embrace each wave, cherish each drop and shiver withanticipation Blessed, the sun, moon, wind, earth and ether are frolicking withus in the ocean of Ayurveda...let us play....loving you,
Your teacher, Shunya Pratichi
...and so the journey continues...and the gratitude is even deeper than ever before.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I've been a headless chicken panicking, racing, networking, applying for everything and anything that comes my way. I've run around so often from the south to the east to the north bays, in and out of the city, that I'm always busy and always frazzled. The reason? I have no money. The bills for health, my phone and my future home are there. I've always had money and for the first time in my life, I have none. I can't find a job no matter how much I network and apply. This is the first time that my networking hasn't helped either. I can't join friends for dinner, dancing, lunch, events, classes, etc. I can't go to study groups where a monetary contribution and commitment is required b/c my priorities are survival - and although this is necessary for balance, I've lost that.
It was only today that I just stopped. Cleansed, meditated, did two hours of restorative yoga and grounded back into me. I was reminded just after meditation of my resolution theme for 2009: Clarity in my body. Where did it go? I forgot all about it. So, I'm inspired now to write that maybe there is a reason that I understand what so many people are going through. I hope, through yoga, to teach them how to deal. I'd like to offer it to them for free. This blog is the beginning.
I followed my heart and went to an ayurvedic center where I was given the name of a woman. She needs a roommate, has had a similar spiritual journey and is tapped into the east bay yoga world. Her place is looking for a teacher. Her place holds teachers from Nepal, Tibet and India. I'm meeting her today. The rent is cheap. I have my 401K (more like a 201K) to make ends meet temporarily, even though everyone panics about that prospect since my generation won't have social security payments. Then again, I'm living NOW. This feels right. Clarity. In my body.
I know that once I get more grounded, more situated, I will find the right path. I'm already on it. All these obstacles are enlightening me, guiding me. I've never been very effective with anything until I've felt it. Now I feel it. I feel the pain of no money. I feel the loss of identifying yourself with your ability to spend it. But, how about your own self? Your feelings? Connection with friends, with family, with theories, with philosophies that you believe in and can contribute to? Will this be the new paradigm that a struggling economy will find itself in? Absolutely. The more people that get this and can offer solace and power within oneself and the community, the better. This is supposed to be happening. I'm meant to experience this.
And, I'm still networking, but slowing down. I won't apply if it doesn't feel right. Simple. I am an attorney. I can volunteer somewhere to learn some skills and then start making my own way, if necessary. I think of billable hours and a stifling firm and it doesn't feel good. Simple. I think of networking or an alternative realm of law outside a traditional firm and it feels good. So, tonight I am meeting with a prominent criminal defense attorney who has made a reputation for himself defending medical marijuana and civil rights activists. His approach to the law is a renegade approach - it's not dry and mean. To work with a man like this would be colorful and hard and help me help people. I've applied to another that does non-profit establishment advice and trusts and estates. Again, this helps people. This feels right. So, it takes time. I say I have no money, but I have an IRA. Rather than freak out, just take a bit from my future, b/c this is the present, right. Get established, do what feels right and the money will come. Even a modest amount is all I need as I just get clear. In my body. Present. Alive. Thank God.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Is this just my perspective or is the anxiety of western life seeping back into my blood now that I'm home? I've found that I calmed down a lot on my journey and here I am: no job, no home, no man, vying for spirituality in an urban environment, no money, not sure where I want to live, not sure what I want to do for a living, and at least very sure of the kind of man I want - steady and stable, but how am I to meet with him if my own life is so externally chaotic? Will he see the calm within me - that giving everything up for surrender was precisely how I got to this calm? Surely.
Can I maintain my calm as I look for non-law jobs in an economic recession, manage my finances without an income and find health insurance coverage that I can afford, seek a worthwhile place to call home and try to visit about 100 people all over CA (and I'd like to visit my sister in Miami, too)? If I stick with my yoga practice, I believe that is so. But it's challengind. It seems as if everything is absolutely upside down/inside out from when I left.
Job: Many friends have been laid off and are losing their apartments and wondering how to go on with their lives. The economy is bleak. I read advertisements for litigation associates and want to cry at the idea of doing that again. But I apply anyway - just in case nothing else shows up. I at least know how to do this work. I contacted my old firm to suggest contract work and received a perfunctory response. I'm meeting with a man very soon who is starting a virtual law firm and am not sure if malpractice liability will extend to legal work that is outsourced to Manila and has my name on the papers as the licensed CA attorney.
I apply for other positions outside of the legal wall and see that my hard-earned legal credentials pale in comparison to the requirements and experience desired by prospective employers. The market is saturated with people looking. Not a good time to make a career change in the Bay Area. Or is it? I keep reminding myself to truly ask what I want. Make this next chapter a sweet one. Perhaps my reactions to legal work are a sign. If I don't get a job in this area, that's a gift. Look at that! What do you want? The idea of holing up in Pt. Reyes at a B&B (if I can find a live-in job) and writing my book and practicing yoga is a good one. It would be nice to have some contract work to make some money and pay off my student loans, too. Is this possible? Why not?
Instability: Sometimes, the freedom of being an individual is too much. I've had many lovely people write about how much they envy and admire my experiences and I can just as easily say I envy and admire their stability, husband, children, home, lifestyle and job. I chose to leave those prospects for this life. Now I'm back to where I should start these prospects up - where I should find stability - and I can't figure out what, where or how. This is truly a challenge. I try to maintain my calm.
My mother told me to say this mantra: "I am easy, I am easy, I am easy." It helps. She helps a thousand-fold. She's a law professor and can take days off. Yesterday, we drove 20 minutes to Santa Cruz and walked for hours along the beach clifftops. We compared the best ways for hopping up on a surfboard - she likes knees first; I prefer the hop-up. We sat and watched a hippy etch a giant 2009 peace mandala in the sand. We looked at million dollar remodeled homes and noticed sea otters, sea lions, pelicans, sandpipers and seagully roaming all around. My mom is easy and funny and settled. She and my stepdad love eachother. Super stable people. She is 100% supportive and tells me to give myself some time. She says I just need to settle back into the west and give myself time before I go full throttle again.
Yet something inside me is eager for answers; eager for a life that I can call my own again. I feel so...irresponsible. I'm 35. I live with my mom. I have no income. I don't know what sort of job I want to do b/c I'm not ready to work full time again in any one area. Perhaps a hodge podge of yoga, writing and working - there, that's nice. But where? It is here that I must stop. Breathe. Choose courage. I responsibly chose to shift my life this way. I responsibly will choose the next shift. It may not even be in California. My mother is right. Take time. Feel. Breathe. Think about what will make my heart sing. If I trust and surrender, my spiritual path will unfurl. I believe that. And my spiritual path MUST have a professional, money-making component to it - at least enough to live on. Just pause. Be happy to have such luxury, time and comfort. Life is good. Just different. I chose this path. Might as well enjoy it.
Social Life: Before I left, I was THE girl about town. I realized upon my return that those invitations for fun and savvy events are still coming at rocket speed. I am welcomed easily and mirthfully back into the San Francisco social scene. That's wonderful and I'm glad. However, everyone is so...BUSY. I've tried to connect with friends and we have to arrange a time two weeks out to see eachother. They work so much, that only (some) weeknights and weekdays are available. That just seems wrong to me. Americans shouldn't work so much. In other countries, they enjoy time socializing and with family.
Flaking is standard in my community. In San Francisco, it is common to call at the allotted meeting time and say you're running late (from 30 minutes to one hour). I even had the hostess of my welcome back party tell me on the day of the party that she'd be 1.5 hours late. The friend at whose place I was supposed to doll up for the party advised me on the same day that she was going to dance class and wouldn't be home until 30 minutes after my party start time. The venue selected by my friend was too small and we got the boot to a different venue - so many friends who came couldn't find us b/c they couldn't see the little makeshift sign outside of the bar.
All of this "inconvenience" could've been foreseen and alleviated with just a little consideration. But, people are too busy with their own lives to just consider other people's feelings in this town. The intent is there, but the follow through dissolves. Perhaps I became spoiled in my travels. There, the people were kind and considerate and giving. They live with their families. The live in community. They treat a guest with graciousness. They treat eachother with respect.
As if I'm REALLY supposed to learn a lesson, two things happened the night of my party that really rocked my world (one friend, one man). First, the girlfriend who was going to drive me to her house after the party left me in a taqueria in the Mission District (not too safe) at 2:00 a.m. to go have a hot makeout session with a man she just met in her car. I kept calling and texting, but she wouldn't pick up. So, there I was - no car, no place to go, little money, totally reliant on one of my friends - and she simply blew me off. I called and woke up another friend and took a cab to a safe night's sleep. The next morning, I called the woman who blew me off to make sure she was alive. She gave me a perfunctory apology and launched into a monologue about how exciting her rampage was. I was appalled, told her I was glad she was okay and said goodbye. I still can't believe it. She doesn't think it's a big deal or is in denial. I'm not sure. But, I don't understand. I don't like it. I don't want this type of crazy, flaky, selfish society. Is this how I was to my friends before? On a smaller scale, I see very clearly that I fit in just fine with this attitude before. Not anymore.
Men: Clearly, living in the aforementioned social style made me a less than desirable girlfriend. I get that now. I'm humbled. Also, the men I chose to spend my energy on were really less than desirable. For instance, a man who wooed me one year ago - a real charmer - ended up being with two other women at the same time as me. He was a liar and a cheat and I told him so before I left. He agreed and apologized profusely. This year, I decided to give him another chance and invited him to the party. He was there, handsome, super attentive and flirty, lavished the charm on me and my sister, told my sister how enamored he still is of me and how much he regretted his behavior, but how he's grown, etc. My sister, who is a great judge of character, was convinced that he'd turned over a new leaf and regretted his ways of the prior year. So, I softened up to him only to find out that he has a girlfriend! He profusely apologized for being so base as to not tell me right away, but said he was so attracted to me, blah blah blah. I just told him not to worry and I won't spend any more energy on him no matter how charming or handsome. Why tell someone you've changed if you haven't? I don't get it. THIS is the type of man I was dating before.
Now, those are the bad friend/man experiences. I had several lovely, grounded, good people come to my party. They made a big effort to be there and were sweet, inspiring and very much on their paths. These are the people that I should spend more time with. I'm lucky to know them as I had previously been so busy and so flaky that I didn't see them much. What a lesson!
The Right Man: Where are you? You are stable, calm, honest, confident, fun, smart, handsome and easy. If you are him, how will I not scare you away by all of this fluidity in my life? I will have to make sure not to overburden you with my need for stability. You're just a person. But, now I feel lovable and calm and emotionally responsible. I want to make a history with one person now. Are you ready?
Yoga: I went to the class of my beloved yoga instructor to whom I devoted my practice every day over the year. I am sorry to report that I found it absolutely bhakti beautiful as always, but the pace was too fast for me to truly enjoy the yoga. The music was too loud for me to relax. The space was too hot and constricting for me to feel easeful and restful. The asanas were far too demanding for me to keep up. Yet, at the end of class, we greeted eachother with a huge warm hug. I was so happy to see him. He's a beautiful, beautiful person who gives his heart fully and completely to his class. He asked if I needed anything and I asked if there were discounts. He told me I could come to his classes for free for three months. Life stikes a balance.
Two friends are holding weekly satsangs for a select group of yogis that want to incorporate the Sutras and the Gita into their lives. Of course, they're in San Francisco. I'd like to go. This may be a perfect segue back into a spiritual life in San Francisco.
Do I want to teach yoga? Yes, but not multiple time a day. I'd like to get settled first b/c I can't apply unless I know where I'll live. I can take classes near my mom's house for $40 for 30 days, but that is the vinyasa urban style and I don't know if it's for me. Will I even be here 30 days? Is it best to get out and do yoga, see if I can teach this style happily, or just do my own practice for now and explore Pt. Reyes b/c it's still calling to me. I think the answer is obvious: I'll go do my own practice in a moment.
One last thing: Finances. Everyone is consumed by it and it is infectious. The money will come. It will. I have a 401 K (more like a 201 K now) and I can take money if I need to. The last thing I want to do is to settle into a job I don't want full time and lose all of the clarity and calm I obtained from just being within. It is possible to balance work and health. It should be 50/50, really. How to do this and live in expensive CA? Is there a beautiful place where this is possible? Or should I go teach english abroad and live cheaply a little while longer???
It's all inside out again. Is this the natural flow of life? Spiral-like. Seems like it. Surrender...
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I joined a tour at 6:45 a.m. to go to the floating market outside of the city. It involved a 1 hour drive in a van and a 20 minute longboat tour. The longboat portion was fascinating as I sat alone in the front row and marvelled at the colorful, simple Thai river life. My mom, stepfather and I went there 13 years ago. Like everything else in Thailand, it changed. A lot. The market still had women with giant straw hats selling fruits and soup. The new addition included shops selling tourist junk and curios on the land surrounding the waterways. Rather than pay an additional 150 baht (approx. $6) to take a rowboat through the market, I sat alongside the waterways and ate some soup ordered from one of the ladies on a boat. I watched as the happy tourists floated past in their boats - polished and smiling - and I felt very, very different all of a sudden. I walked further through the market and joined another boat vendor at the water's edge and ate a mango. People were snapping photos, requesting her to paddle her boat into the sunlight for a better photo opportunity and looking askance at her when she offered to sell them dragonfruit or special apples. So many simply wanted nothing but to take her photo. She smiled the entire time and never tired of her sales pitch, but not much money or fruit changed hands. I marvelled at her ability to pose and smile while these people bought not much of anything from her. The whole market made me somewhat sad. I took solace in eating every bit of Thai food that I had missed and wouldn't be able to obtain back in the USA. That was the soup, the mango and finally hot coconut patties grilled over an open fire with fresh coconut milk glaze. On my way out of the market, I bought a picture of myself on a plate that was snapped by some tour association while I was on the boat. As this was my last day on my year sojourn, I figured "Why not?" I realized it would be the only plate that I owned when I got home and laughed at the idea of eating off of it in the near future. Ha ha!
I took a risk and decided to see the cobra show, touted as 'the greatest show on earth!' You know what? It was, indeed, one of the greatest shows I've ever seen of its kind. The showmen were talented, daring and terrifyingly close to deadly pit vipers. In the first act, a man was on his knees as he released an angry cobra from a cloth bag. He swerved out of the way within millimeters of the repeatedly striking cobra. I could hear it's menacing hiss each time is struck at the air. Another man did the same thing while a mongoose in a plastic cage attacked the striking cobra from below (the cobra was removed before the mongoose killed it). Two men brought the cobra directly to me (I was in front row center, no barrier) and displayed the venom of the snake as he spewed it into a jar. I writhed. They later brought a giant python to the audience for touching. It was cold. One man took on three snakes at once and captured the last one just above the head by diving on top of it and capturing it WITH HIS MOUTH! I wonder how these guys train for this job. The serpentarium was extensive and housed the fattest crocodile I've ever seen. I wondered what he'd just eaten to be so fat and was relieved when the driver told me it was time to leave.
I got back to the hotel and checked e-mail on my laptop that was part of the stuff Matt had stored for me. I wasn't sure how I'd get to the airport and sent up a wish for someone to share a taxi with at 4:00. As if on cue, the waitress asked the couple next to me, "what time is your taxi?" You guessed it, "4:00." I quickly asked if we could share and it was no problem. The young english girl was parting with her boyfriend and heading for India. She was terrified b/c she'd never been there before. This was precisely why she was going. I shared some of my experiences with her, my similar fears, my love of India and although she was nervous, she seemed a little more at ease. I felt like the magic of India was already happening for her by this coincidental meeting. Perhaps, the magic is always happening for all of us everywhere.
The plane ride home was uneventful, except that I met a lovely Thai lady who had left her home for three weeks to go on vacation to CA. Three years later, she lives in CA all alone and only just returned home b/c she had obtained her US green card and could return to the US without any problem. I admired the fact that she just left everything she knew and all the people she loved for a life in a new place. I thought about my family, my friends, my love of CA and doubted that I could be so brave. Or could I?
I flew into LAX on Thai Airways. They played Christmas Carols while we were waiting to dock at the LAX gate. I missed Christmas. In LAX, had to wait for four hours for the connecting flight to San Jose. It was no problem, as I could walk the six terminals over to reach United Airways. I walked along and noticed the usual LA way of people looking at you to assess whether you're famous. I said to myself "this is the last time anyone will look at me so regularly in the United States." And it's all because of television and ; not because I'm a solo white woman walking along.
Inside the airport, I was stunned at how fat so many people were. Just plain fat. And unhappy. Many people were arguing or complaining to eachother, the airport employees or on the cell phone. I tried to see things through a brighter lens, but could not. All around me were fat people rushing to get somewhere and doing many things all at once with scowls on their faces. I felt like I did at the floating market as I sat on the edge of the river watching the tourists go by: different. Yet, I was really, really, really happy to be home. I understood all the signs, I understood the culture and the visa man flirted with me and told me in response to our brief discussion about my bad timing arriving home during the recession: "you can get a job with us. Government jobs are secure. Mine is safe until a pretty girl like you comes along," to which I smiled and said "Well, thanks, sir, that sure is a nice way to be welcomed back to my country." And I meant it. I didn't know how I would be received. All I felt was different and relieved to be home.
So, I waited in the only place that wasn't blasting bad music and reeking of artificial food and alcohol in the airport: Starbucks. I paid $10 for water and a parfait of fruit and yogurt. It hurt to pay that much. Many people buzzed through with computers and cell phones and they all seemed so....busy. Of course, the very particular orders of the people at the counter and the follow up specifications requested by the employees was a spectacle to behold after all that time away. Nothing changed there, except for tazo tea added to the menu, but I quite literally FORGOT about this experience. I felt like I was in the twilight zone. In the meantime, I look just like everybody else (not as fat) and no one knows that there I am, observing it all from a table, and literally TRIPPING OUT!
The plane landed in San Jose. I stepped onto the open staircase from the plane. It had frost on it! The familiar scent of pine and cold air wafted into my nose and I became nostalgic about all those times I'd return to Northern California from my Southern California university for Christmas break and smell that same intoxicating scent of Northern cold and pine. I loved it! I smiled ear to ear as I wrapped a scarf around my neck and proceeded to the airport.
When I saw my mom, stepdad, sister and nephew, it felt like I had seen them only yesterday. They were cheering and smiling. My mom had roses and a "Welcome Home" balloon. My sister had a gift box of pajamas for me "so I wouldn't be cold" and I realized immediately that nothing had changed with my family. I have travelled thousands of miles and lifetimes, and they are the same with regard to me. I am the same with regard to them. We're a well travelled, sweet, loving family (most of the time) and no matter what we do, where we go, or what we experience, the family arms are always open and loving. How lucky I am!
We returned to my mom and stepdad's house in the Los Gatos/Santa Cruz mountains. There was silence and trees all around us. My mom left every single Christmas decoration (including the tree!) up so that I wouldn't miss Christmas. I love my mom.
I slept until 1 p.m. the next day and my mom took me hiking to see a beaver dam built inside Lexington Reservoir (the lake that my folks' live on). The air was brisk and cold, bu the sun was out. I wore a hat and gloves and my mom laughed at me, saying 'it's not that cold, Kyra,' but I felt cold as we trumped along the greens and blues and reds and yellows of the moist trees and soils surrounding her house.
The following morning, I woke up in time to see Obama being inaugurated to the Presidency. He spoke of moving on in times of trouble, just as George Washington had commanded his troops when it seemed they might not win the battle of independence. He's a brilliant man who believes in love, understanding, collaboration, courage, responsibility, dignity, diversity and tolerance. I revere this man. I'm so proud to have him leading America. Our nation needs it in these trying financial times. Many people have lost their jobs and are, just like me, looking for their next meal ticket to continue their lives. We're all in this together, no matter how different I feel. And there's no better man to elevate us all than Barack Obama. How lucky we are, indeed!
That evening, I finally left the house with my mom and Eric and went into town. I felt kindof frail and didn't want to be overwhelmed by the affluent beauty of downtown Los Gatos. We entered the ritzy apple store and I bought an i-phone, so that I could get in touch with people right away. We walked past the Lamborghini store with polished bright orange, red and yellow cars flashing in the window displays and past $400 toasters on display at Williams Sonoma to a Thai food restaurant and it was nice, but American Thai. I sent a little prayer of gratitude up into the sky for that last bowl of Thai soup I had at the floating market --- spicy and authentic. I'll miss that, but am lucky to have had it at all!
The next day, my pal Jodi invited me up to San Francisco to go to the Museum of Modern Art with she and our other friend Kelli. I smiled as I drove up Highway 280 in all of it's green beauty. The horses and cows grazed upon the undeveloped rolling hills that cascaded into the San Andreas . The pine and redwood covered Santa Cruz mountains rise up and over to the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Francisco Bay extends on the other side. The clouds were silvery bright as the sun peaked from behind. I love Northern California!
I drove into San Francisco and the skyline took my breath away, per usual. I marvelled at the neatness of the pastel high rises with steel and windows, surrounded by water. I felt that familiar sense of wonder with the city and realized I'd rather live in this city than any other city on earth. Slowly, my phone started ringing, as one by one, my long lost friends called me and we began to make plans for a reunion. I floated along the streets to meet Jodi and Kelli on the busy commercial street and when I saw them, it was as if I'd just seen them yesterday.
We decided not to go to the MOMA and instead to have bananas in the park and talk. We discussed the possibility of me writing a book and my experiences in India, with yoga and romance. Jodi spoke of how she was laid off and her love life. Kelli spoke of teaching yoga and admitted that she burned the $80 teapot that I entrusted to her to a crisp. "I can't believe I spent so much money on a teapot," I thought.
That night, I went on a date with a man that I had dated several times before I left. He moved to NYC about the same time I left. He moved back to CA (after being laid off) on the same day that I did. Again, it was as if I had seen him yesterday. He told me I seemed calmer. Kelli and Jodi said the same thing. We went into the jacuzzi at his apartment complex and it was HEAVEN to be submerged in popping hot water! I loved it. We had a very nice evening and I found myself seeing him differently than I ever had before. I saw so acutely how unavailable I had been one year before - emotionally. I was always too busy to make any plans with him and brushed him off again and again and again as I juggled so many things with the little personal time that I had. Now that I was able to just relax with him, our conversation took a deeper path and I saw him for the first time as a genuinely good guy that emigrated all the way over from Serbia on his own to start a life in the United States. I respected him for that courage - all I can say is I finally SAW him -- and I believe it was nice for both of us. I felt calm in his presence and he felt calm in mine. We relaxed without tension.
The next day, I helped Jodi prepare for her dinner party. I walked her dog to the grocery store. I was bundled in a hat, gloves and a leather coat with fur collar and cuffs, jeans and black boots. Within one day, I morphed into a San Franciscan and I loved being right back there. I saw that San Francisco, here I come, was my immediate future. But it's not going to be easy to find a place to live and a job, perhaps. Jodi has a fabulous industrial loft downtown that is too much money to pay for someone with no salary. Yet, she genuinely knows that she need not worry. How she has this wisdom is beyond me, but I know she's right. I feel the same way unless I choose to travel down the stressed out route. I see the beauty in her calm amidst all the stress and I gained a newfound respect for her, too. Suddenly, I'm seeing all of these people that have been close to me as really good, courageous, brave, brilliant beings and I feel so lucky to be their friend. The dinner party was a success and the women that came were the typical San Franciscan women: 30ish, attractive, well traveled, sophisticated, funny and sassy. All unmarried, but 50% were in serious relationships resulting from online dating! I can't imagine dating online again, but that's precisely how I met the man I went on a date with two nights ago over one year past. The circle rotates again. What a strange life. What a strange city. And I love it. It's great to be home.