Rampage of Appreciation

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There is a little park in the neighborhood where our son goes to school. The school is about 30 minutes away from home. I drive all over the place teaching, and often there is a window, sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes two hours, where it does not make sense for me to drive home, and then drive back to get him. I go to the park. I went today.

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I bring my little beach chair, which is always in the car. I sit. Sometimes I close my eyes and meditate. I always have my Kindle. The cat tails sway in the breeze. I pay no heed to the “Beware of Alligators” signs. I just don’t think I’m delicious enough to worry about them. And I’ve never seen one there. Just iguanas. And ducks and pelicans.

There is public restroom at the park, which is vital.

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Today I was doing kind of an informal, open-eyed meditation. Just observing my surroundings and I couldn’t help but go into a rampage of appreciation. If you are familiar with the work of Abraham-Hicks, you understand the term. It’s an appreciation binge.

Suddenly, I was so very aware that someone(s) had planned this park. There were likely lots of meetings and red tape. Someone had the idea for it. Others built it. They cleared the space. They planted. They constructed. They mapped it all out and brought it to fruition.

All I had to do was show up.

They brought plumbing in for the bathrooms. They paved the sidewalk and the parking lot. They mow the grass and trim the shrubs. They maintain the dock that I sometimes sit and meditate on.

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And don’t even get me started on the natural beauty given freely from the Divine. Every leaf. Every ripple in the lake. Every bird song. The smell of grass and earth and blossoms. The cat tails in all their forms as the seasons change; the sound they make in the breeze. The cloud formations in the sky; a different show, every day. A pelican streaming head-first straight down into the water for his lunch. An iguana basking in the sun. The feel of a cup of warm tea in my hands, and the taste of a chocolate cookie, bought at a nearby bakery.

A quiet moment. A break in the day where I can take it all in.

We are surrounding by blessings.

“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

-Meister Eckhart

Play

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I stopped at the beach for 30 minutes and watched this man play yesterday morning, while drinking my tea, (before teaching my Soulful Sunday yoga class). Since living here in Florida, I’ve seen the kite surfers, and always wanted to try. But it’s a pricey hobby, and our priorities are on other things right now. At this point, I’m not sure my neck could handle it anyway, with the injuries from the car accident. My neck did not like a recent NIA dance class I was enjoying.

What do you do for fun? When was the last time you played?

Once, years ago, my friend and I returned home to find HT and our kids, and her kid, playing a card game. We didn’t discuss in front of the kids, but later, we talked about it. My friend and I both had childhoods that got too serious too soon. We didn’t play games. We couldn’t fathom how anyone could just sit around playing a game. What IS that? Who DOES that? WHY do that? Wouldn’t our energy be better spent reading a book, learning, achieving something, etc.? (orphaned at a young age, she went to Harvard, and is a kick-ass beautiful and successful human, btw). Intellectually, we knew it was a good thing, for children to be playing, we were appreciative that they were playing cards, but we didn’t exactly “get it.” Not really.  Not in our bones. Incidentally, some of HT’s favorite childhood memories are of playing Yahtzee with his family. He’s always been willing to play games with the kids.

When I think about having fun, about playing, my chorus in Cleveland comes to mind. It was work, but it felt like play. It was serious at times, but being there was playful. It was fun. I miss it. Walking on the beach is a blessing, it’s contemplative, it feeds the soul, but it isn’t play. When I used to practice martial arts, in my twenties, sparring was play. I often found myself giggling with joy during sparring. Taking swing dance lessons with HT was play. A lot of laughter went on with that, as our 4′ 10,”  80+  year old teacher whipped us into shape.

Now, I’m sitting here contemplating not playing. I seriously can’t think of anything that I currently do that is just for fun. (Watch me use the quest for play to stress myself out). And frankly any time I feel playful lately, I feel guilty about it. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket; who am I to be lighthearted? Who am I to have fun?

But my spiritual teachers assure me, you can’t get sick enough to make a sick person well. My sinking, does not help the collective. It’s okay to have fun once in a while. It doesn’t mean you’re burying your head in the sand. It doesn’t mean you don’t care.

~

I left this post at this, and went off to teach this morning. As I drove home, I was still thinking about it, about play.

You know what is fun for me?

Blogging.

Maybe I’m right where I need to be.

The Man with the Cane

The line at the post office was long; people were shipping packages hoping to get them there in time for the holidays. A stooped old man with a cane was at the counter, a couple of spots ahead of me. It took an awfully long time for his transaction at the counter. I wasn’t paying attention as to why, as I was busy with the important business of scrolling Facebook on my phone.

When he walked back, out of the line, he stopped to look at a display of mailing envelopes. He pulled one out, and the stack fell over and scattered to the ground. Instinctively, I squatted down and had them almost picked up before he could bend all the way down to get the last one.

“I never do anything right,” he muttered under his breath, slowly placing the envelope back in the display.

My heart hurt for the man. I wondered if someone implanted that sentiment when he was little? Has “I never do anything right” been with him always? Or did it come with the process of aging, and losing the ability to do things as he used to?

Plenty of self-flagellation goes on in my mind. Less than in the past, but still that “voice” is there, telling me how much I “don’t do right.” What I should have done. What I didn’t do. How embarrassed I should be for this or that. How I didn’t handle x,y, and/or z in the perfect manner. I would never talk to my loved ones like this, but I talk to myself that way often enough.

I am 48(I think. It’s possible I am 49, but HT keeps track of these things). Do I want this to be continuing into my 50’s, 60’s, 70’s? My 80’s and 90’s if I should be so lucky to live that long? Do I want to be stooped over with a cane, still internally beating myself up for every little thing?

I don’t. It’s so tiring.

I feel like that little old man was a messenger, telling me to “watch the way you talk to yourself.”

Make mistakes.

It’s okay.

You’re human.

Be kind.

Forgive us our trespasses

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT works a second job, part-time at a small compounding pharmacy. The owner of the pharmacy is generous enough to treat his employees to a nice dinner around the holidays, his way of expressing appreciation for all they do. We were having a fine time Saturday night. People had a few drinks. Dessert had already been served, things were winding down. I couldn’t really hear much from the other end of the table, it was so noisy, but then it happened. The husband of one of the employees, started making fun of someone with Tourette’s. This guy is generally the life of the party, joking around; he has people in stitches with his stories.

I don’t know how it started, but he was suddenly mimicking the tics of a grown person with Tourette’s, someone that he knows. Like he was doing a comedy impression. It went on for a bit. Then he talked about how the guy he knows, with the Tourette’s, was abused as a child, insinuating this caused the tics, or made them worse.

I waited for my husband to say something.

He didn’t.

The man quickly shifted his topic to being a (his words) “deplorable” Trump supporter. He was loud and proud about it.

I looked at Todd and what I told him with my eyes was IT IS TIME TO LEAVE.

We got up and walked to the other end of the table, to the owner of the pharmacy, who seemed so happy to have everyone gathered. As we said our good-byes I stood inches away from the “deplorable,” and had a vision of flicking him in the head as we walked past. That vision seriously came to my mind. What would happen if I just picked up a cloth napkin off the table, and twirled it tight and snapped him in the head with it, like a towel in a locker room?

We stood outside the restaurant waiting for the valet, our eyes met and HT said, “What?”

“You know what! How could you not say something? Were you expecting me to handle it? These are YOUR people.”

“Do you want me to go back in?” he asked.

I glared at him.

The valet pulled up with our car.

Taking out my phone I pulled up a photo of our son. The one with tics. The one that can suddenly, overnight, look like he has Tourette’s when a virus or bacteria causes his immune system to over-react and attack the movement area of his brain.

Shoving the photo in HT’s face I asked, “Don’t you feel kinda like you just betrayed your child?”

Eternity went by in his one-second pause. He bowed his head and replied quietly,

“Yes. I do.”

His willingness in that moment to be honest and vulnerable, turned the ship around. Had he gotten defensive it would have been so much worse.

It was a long, 45 minute drive home, and we fought some more, (with me texting a friend for support behind his back) but the edge was off. We were getting back on the same team. Once home, around 11PM, we walked the dogs, and we talked more. I acknowledged that this was a big night for his boss. And that confronting the “deplorable” would have ruined it, especially so late in the evening when there wouldn’t be time to recover the mood. HT said he would address the woman who’s husband caused the scene, and tell her how hurtful it was, when he saw her on Monday. Not that it’s her fault, what her husband says, but she was giggling along with it, and so were some others. I forgave him for not knowing what to do in the moment. The truth is, I didn’t quite know what to do either. I was stunned.

While I was glad he planned on talking to his co-workers, I felt the need to say some things too, as a mother. I wrote an email, describing who our son is, and what his struggles have been. I attached photos of how little he was when his PANS started, and photos of him now, because I wanted them to see his face. I wanted them to know that making fun of someone for something they can’t control is ignorant and cruel. I sent it to HT’s boss asking him to forward it to everyone that had been there. I hoped that even if the “deplorable” didn’t take my message to heart, maybe someone else in the group would. Maybe it would be an opportunity for learning.

Driving to teach a yoga class the next morning, I thought about times I have inadvertently offended someone. When you know better you do better, and there have been times in my life where I didn’t know better yet. Maybe he didn’t know better. While I feel it was the right thing to do, to address this, I also have to look into my own heart and know, without a doubt, that I have been on the other side of this equation. And undoubtedly, there have been occasions I’ve offended people without even knowing it.

This passage from The Lord’s Prayer said over and over in my childhood, my grandmother’s voice, with mine mumbling underneath it in church,…and said every night at bedtime prayers…..repeated in my mind,

Forgive us our trespasses, 

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

HT’s boss called the next day to apologize for not setting the tone at the dinner. The “deplorable’s” wife apologized via email and in person to HT on Monday. Another colleague also apologized via email, and in person.

I have gone back and forth about whether it was necessary to address this, in this way, and if I let my ego get the best of me. Could I have been a bigger person? Would it have been better to take him aside and talk to him privately at the dinner? Perhaps, but I didn’t have that presence of mind at the time, because I was upset. Because I am human. Because I was stunned. HT was too. Some people think it is cowardly not to address a person face to face, but those are usually people that have the words, right there, in the heat of the moment. They are good arguers. Quick tongues, quick on their feet. I need to think first. As a special needs parent, I’ve come to respect different learning styles, and different ways of expressing. I express through writing.

Forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

In the heat of the moment, I freeze and can’t talk. Or I cry. I’ve gotta feel really safe to express myself when I am upset, and I didn’t know this guy. And he didn’t seem all that safe to me.

So, that’s how it all went down.

I felt like if we didn’t address it we were betraying our child and others like him.

Trump might have won the election, but it is still my country too. I don’t want my world to be a place where making fun of people with disabilities goes unchecked.

I didn’t flick the guy in the head. For now, that’s going to have to be big enough.

Yoga Stories- After the Crash

In March of this year I was driving home from teaching two back to back yoga classes on a gorgeous Florida morning. Traveling on A1A a, beautiful palm tree lined route that hugs the Atlantic ocean, I stopped at a crosswalk to let a pedestrian pass. She cleared my side of the street, and as I lifted my foot off the brake to proceed forward a car hit me from behind. There was not a skid mark on the road so it appears the driver that hit me did not even try to stop. My car was totaled. Ten months out I am still in pain from the neck injuries I sustained. I will likely be writing more about the accident and the aftermath here as I continue to process it. Below is something I wrote one week after the crash: 

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-1-09-51-pmA week ago my car was totaled, with me in it. At first I was happy to be alive. My back wasn’t broken! My pelvis wasn’t smashed! By day three, I was really hurting. The chiropractor sent me for x-rays at a walk-in clinic, and for an MRI.

With three herniated discs in my neck, one torn, I am able to teach, but not demo. Teaching takes my focus off the physical pain and a mountain of red tape we have to deal with. I teach, but then I need to rest. I keep it together for an hour, and then I need to go lie down.

The walk-in clinic where I went for x-rays was filled with sick people. I tried not to breathe or touch anything, but ended up with a bad cold anyway. Now every time I cough or sneeze, I have to brace my neck with my hands or it’s excruciating. My head hurts.

Today, I went to the outdoor yoga class my teacher Leslie offers on Saturday mornings. I’ve done gentle stretching since the accident, but have not been able to practice. The class is vigorous and I knew I wasn’t up for it, but I needed to be in the presence of my community.

Lying on my back I surrendered to just absorbing the yoga all around me. A big part of me wanted to get up and prove what a trooper I am. It was all ego. I stayed on my back, breathing.

Yoga teachers say all the time, “If you come to class and just breath, you’re doing yoga.” But do we mean it? Could I do it myself?

I inhaled. I exhaled.

My ego’s next attempt to hook me was this, “If you can’t do the practice, then you will visualize it. You will lie on your back, and see the whole thing, and you will study! You will improve your teaching by really listening to the cues! You will do, do, do, do, do!”

Observing my thoughts was painful.

If I can’t allow myself to rest, after a serious car accident in which I was injured, (and with a bad cold like a rotten cherry on top) then when can I? If I can’t cut myself a break, aren’t I the hypocrite, encouraging my students to be kind to themselves?

Quiet tears streamed down the sides of my face. A gentle breeze scattered leaves from a tree above.

Breathing in, I did my yoga. Breathing out, I surrendered over and over.

On the way home, sobs from the trauma that I’d been holding in for a week had out.

I went to yoga and barely moved.

It was the most challenging practice.

Yoga Stories – Tibetan Bowls

I love teaching yoga. There is a new story every day.

One of my playlists features Tibetan singing bowls. People generally respond well to them. One of the ladies in one of my classes LOVES them. Any time I play them for shavasana, she is so happy. She tends to set her mat down in the back of the room. Sometimes just for final resting pose, I move my portable speaker back there, closer to her, knowing how much she enjoys the sound.

But, it turns out there is a guy in class, that hates sound of Tibetan singing bowls. After I’d played them lots of times, he took me aside one day and told me they hurt his ears, making shavasana feel like fingernails running down a chalkboard for him. I was glad he told me, and glad I’d at least been moving my speaker to the back of the room, since he usually parks his mat more toward the front, and on the opposite side.

What to do? What to do? I don’t want anyone to be miserable in my class.

Being ever so helpful, I decided to gift a CD of the bowls to the woman that loves them. If she can’t have them in class, at least she could play them on her own. I told her only to play them at home, never in the car, they might relax her too much. Hardy-har.

It was a few weeks later, when I noticed them leaving together in the same car.

Turns out they are a married couple.

I inadvertantly sent the singing bowls home with her, to torture him at home.

Oops!

If you want to check out Tibetan Singing bowls to see if they resonate with you there are lots of sites on You Tube. Put some headphones on, and notice the effect they have on your body. Even closing your eyes for five minutes and listening to the bowls can give the worry- weary brain a needed rest or re-set. Or, try playing them as background noise and notice if they have a calming effect on your mood.

If you don’t like them, I promise not to send them home with you.

Have you prayed for him?

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So you know, when people act out, it is because they are hurting, deeply. When people lie, it is because they are afraid. When people can’t own up to a mistake, it is because their ego is so fragile, from lack of love and acceptance. When people lack a conscience about hurting other people, it’s because they have no connection to other people. When they say one thing one day, and another a different day, it is because they don’t really know who they are.

I can’t imagine DT has ever been truly loved. I wonder what his early years were really like. Who hurt him? Who was mean to him? Who ignored his cries? Who made fun of him? Was he passed off to nannies that hated his parents and therefore hated him?

Was he ever told no? It doesn’t appear so.  A loving parent stops an out-of-control child from hurting themselves and others. It appears no one ever helped him learn to regulate. Spoiling a child is not loving a child.

The bully always acts out of fear. The bully and the bullied share the same vibration. No one who truly knows their connection to the Divine would ever bully another. He is so disconnected, so lost.

My tribe is hurting right now. They are scared and with good reason. DT stands to take away our most fundamental human rights, and maybe even destroy the world.

Anyone can hate him. It takes nothing to hate him. Pile on. So what? It only makes him hate you back, stronger.  He thrives on revenge.

When I meditate I shrink him down to a baby and rock him. I rock him until he stops fighting, and the sadness leaves his body. I tell him I’m sorry, and that he’s safe. That he’s loved.

It feels like the most radical thing I can do right now.

 

“…no need for silence, no room for fear.”

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I’ve been feeling the call to blog again, but I am scared. I am afraid of giving too much of myself (and my family) away again. I am afraid of the lack of civility that has descended upon us as a human race. I am afraid to put my words out there. I am a sensitive person. My skin is not so thick. It used to be, or maybe that was just bravado. But now, not so much.

I’ve been rather inward over the last few years. So much transition and change in my life. It’s been a lot to process.

Part of me wants to curl up in a ball and hide right now. And another part of me felt strong resonance with this quote from Toni Morrison that someone posted the day after the election.

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

I do feel a real pull to get to work. To write. My hope is that in some small way, by exploring and sharing what’s in my heart, I might be part of a larger collective of healing. That is my intention.