Blue Bloods

Peter and I have been catching up on the series “Blue Bloods”. It’s fun to see how often we say, to the hot-headed Detective Reagan, “Awwww Danny.”

“I have such a busy day tomorrow”, I said, keeping my eyes peeled to the TV.

“Wait. What?” Peter’s astonished response was very satisfying, (Thank you Lord for allowing me yet another successful dead pan delivery.)

“Kidding. I just miss saying that.”

It’s just about a month now that we’ve been here together 24/7. Make that 22/7. We spend about two hours apart each day. One of us is looking for porcupines and the other is trying to find the daggone leak in the roof.

I do miss making detailed lists for the days ahead. I have a crazy fantastic schedule…had.

I teach…taught…Aerial, Yin, Vinyasa, privates, exercise, dance and classes for kids. Every day something different. I have a calendar on my phone and by the phone. It takes organization to keep track of who, what, where, when, and how I’m teaching. Add to that my regular life duties including crossword puzzles, reading, writing, knitting and day dreaming: Busy, busy, busy.

Lists are essential so that the pieces of my life are jostled carefully, ensuring that nothing and no one gets short changed. Least of all, me.

These days my lists are different. Daily lists give way to an ongoing one.

* Make a better face mask, preferably one that doesn’t make my ears stick out.

* Find the necklace that was choking me in class six months ago.

* Clear out desk drawers. Do I really need four packages of blank CD-ROMs?

* Develop a porcupine yoga sequence for prickly adults.

* Go through photos. Maybe before and after haircut shots through the years should have their own album.

*Take wheels off my scooter and use them to replace the cheap plastic ones on my grocery bag cart. Then use the friggin cart.

* Check eBay and see if anyone’s buying vintage trophies for first place in the lead line class at the Bull Head Pond Horse Show in 1964.

Actually, I am kind of busy, but it’s different. The schedule isn’t as strict or mandatory. Taking care of the animals and watering the kale seedlings is about it.

I’ve been given the gift of time, the opportunity to contemplate what is making me feel anxious, impatient, sad or irritable.

How do I react when I don’t hear from family or friends, when Peter says “Dinner might be a bit later than planned”, when I think of those who are missing out on society’s major milestones, or when I realize that vacuum cleaners were made for a reason?

I’ve been given the opportunity to investigate my emotions, and to challenge myself to react and respond differently. What’s really important here? What is urgent? Urgency is slowly giving way to calmness, patience, compassion and understanding.

Like yoga, it is and it takes, practice.

The other night I had ridiculous dreams. Each time I woke, I sang silently Mary Magdalenes’ song from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ, Superstar”:

“Try not to get worried, try not to turn on to

problems that upset you, oh,

Don’t you know

Everything’s alright, yes everything’s fine.

And we want you to sleep well tonight,

Let the world turn without you tonight.

If we try, we’ll get by, so forget all about us tonight.”

Make a list of things that you can take care of eventually. Make a list of things that you can’t do anything about. Note how you feel, how you react. Is it possible to let the world turn without you tonight?

If anyone should sing that song, it’s Danny Reagan. Talk about being anxious, impatient, sad and irritable.

Namaste- let’s try and stay calm today.

A Prickle of Porcupines

I’ve been watching this porky for two weeks now. It moves from branch to branch in a fir tree just down from the house. Last year I saw a prickle of porcupines (that’s what a group of them is called). Then again I never saw them all together. It could have been the same one. It’s kind of hard to tell them apart.

It’s a little bigger than a basketball balanced on slim branches. Big old tubby, without a care in the world. Calmly eating, moving, sleeping, and watching. When the wind is strong, it gets bigger, almost the size of 2 basketballs. The breezes lift up its quills. When the breeze stops, they settle softly against its back.

Baby porcupines are called porcupettes. They are born with soft quills (fortunately) that harden within days. After 4 months or so, they head off on their own. Porcupines are happily solitary animals. They do what they need to do and that’s that.

Animal symbolists describe porcupines that appear in life or in dreams, as signs to inspire us to face our weaknesses and vulnerabilities head-on. We then do what we can to protect ourselves from anything or anyone that wishes us harm.

First we ward off potential threats with warning sounds by rattling our quills. Just a reminder that we aren’t aggressive. Then we puff up, doubling our size as a visual cue that we aren’t going to be shoved around. Finally, when all else fails we run sideways or backwards into our tormentors. Maybe we don’t want to see the effects.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that perceived threats are just that. Thoughts, comments, or actions that aren’t meant to harm. There is just something in the air and it will pass. Down with the quills.

Porcupines also prompt us to rediscover the joy and innocence of childhood, remembering the days when our quills were soft. We are encouraged to leave the chaos and turmoil of our adult worlds and to honor our internal playful sprit.

Perhaps by sitting in a tree, calmly watching the world go by, repeating a mantra like “Polly porcupine and her prickle of porcupettes patiently picked through the prickers” will help.

At this time, many of us are living the solitary life of a porcupine. It’s an opportunity to practice equanimity.

“Equanimity is not insensitivity, indifference, or apathy. It is simply nonpreferential. Under its influence, one does not push aside the things one dislikes or grasp at the things one prefers. The mind rests in an attitude of balance and acceptance of things as they are.”

—Sayadaw U Pandita, “A Perfect Balance”

Picture yourself resting on a tree limb. Observe how you feel, your surroundings, the woman constantly taking your photo. Shake your quills if you think it’s necessary, then relax.

Namaste- this porcupette’s climbing a tree today.

The Elephant in the Room

There’s an old story about 5 blind men who have no idea what an elephant is, until they are given the opportunity to explore, one by one.

The first feels its tail and reports back, “It’s nothing but a rope”.

The second feels a leg and says, “No you idiot, it’s a tree”.

Third man feels the ear, “What are you thinking, it’s a fan”.

Fourth feels its side and says, “Oh for Pete’s sake, it’s a wall”.

The fifth feels the trunk and says, “What are you all, blind?! It’s a snake”.

What we believe to be true is made up by our experiences and perceptions. Often we don’t appreciate the thoughts or opinions of others because, we feel we know what is true and real, even when some of our senses are hindered.

Dee and I often wonder how people describe us, especially after we’ve made a comment like, “She’s so nice” or “He’s a dope”, about someone else.

“I wonder if anyone thinks I’m nice… or sweet?”, she asks.

“Do you mean as in a sweet old lady? It’s not like you bake or anything”, I reply.

“Christie does think you’re funny though”, I add to be kind.

“Well, Diane said someone called me aloof. Is that a good thing?”

“Probably better than a know-it-all. Do you ever have those times where everyone is talking but you? Do people think I’m a good listener or just stupid?”, I ask somewhat rhetorically, which is my wont.

Being sisters, we can, tirelessly, have this same conversation at least every 6 weeks and never really come to any conclusion.

It’s interesting to wonder how we could be described by others. Chances are the descriptions would be based on the way they know us, as family members, friends, co-workers, students, opponents, teachers, parents, or partners.

“The whole is greater than a sum of its parts” is often, incorrectly, attributed to Aristotle. He wrote something similar but more complicated. None-the-less, the simplified version makes for a nice bumper sticker.

We are all multifaceted and sometimes it takes a while for the big picture to emerge. Letting go of the pieces we believe to be true about a person or a situation can be enlightening.

Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for everyone to get it together and see that I’m not just the ass end of an elephant. “Would you let go of my damn tail and check out my ears? They listen. And the wall you think you feel is just a thin layer of skin making sure my innards don’t fall out.”

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.

Perhaps the solution comes by patiently paying attention to ourselves just a little bit more. Notice a consistency or lack there of, in thoughts, words and deeds, in all situations. When we shed light on the truth in ourselves, it’s easier to find it in others, no matter what the relationship.

Then there’s this:

Five blind elephants were discussing what a man was. They plainly had no idea. One day they decided to investigate.

The first elephant went into a tent where a man was reported to be. When she came out she said, “Men are flat”.

The other four went in and after they came out they said, “Yes, you were right”.

Give it a minute.

Namaste- move that blindfold out of the way.

UPS Brings More Than Packages

Although Georgia is almost stone deaf (unless she’s faking it), she knows when the UPS truck pulls into the driveway. Then again, maybe her vision has become much more acute to compensate for hearing loss.

She spots Sean, the driver, at 500 feet away. I spot him at 480 feet. I recognize the UPS bark.

Yesterday I went out to meet him, leaving Georgia inside barking in front of the sliding door. He went to the back of the truck, where she often follows him. He handed me the package while Georgia continued to let us know she was there, watching.

“I’m glad to see she’s still out and about”, he said , lifting his chin in the direction of the house. “I haven’t seen many tracks and I was afraid she’d passed on.”

“Nah, she’s an old codger but still gets around. Funny, she’s as deaf as a post but always knows when you’re coming up the drive”, I said.

“Good to hear”, he grinned and drove off.

I started crying as I went back inside.

Such a simple conversation that offered so much: an observation, a concern, an acknowledgment, from someone not quite a stranger, not quite a friend.

Sean has a place in my heart now.

How often does that happen to you or because of you?

Namaste- the UPS man made my day!

Word Salad

I thought I had a book in me ready to print until this past week at the Institute for a Whole Bunch of Cool Things in Rhinebeck, NY. About 35 of us sat with the book we were born to write on our laptops, in spiral notebooks and binders.

There are educators, entrepreneurs, parents, preachers, therapists, teachers, life coaches, life savers, strivers, survivors, even a couple of lawyers.

People from every walk of life, with all kinds of stories, baggage, dreams, and hopes gathered together in an attempt to help transform lives.

How often does this happen?

Wait, what am I saying? This happens in the yoga studio all the time. Classes are filled with individuals on journeys hoping to change themselves and ideally the world at large.

Maybe change isn’t the right word. Understand? Expose? Enjoy? Accept?

How hard could it be to write a book to assist in this transformation?

Sure is a lot harder than I thought.

I found out I don’t know much about putting a book together. Don’t get me wrong, I understand basic rules of grammar and sentence structure but; developing a hook, crafting a book proposal, establishing a platform, these are all things that are so jumbled together now that I can barely remember my middle name.

It gets worse with this simple question:

“What is your book about in three sentences?” Now I’m f*cked.

It turns out I don’t know much about anything these days, much less what I’m writing about. I’m not sure I can explain the difference between yoga and yodeling.

The only way I can describe my new vegetative state is by the phrase “Word Salad”, a somewhat disorganized string of incoherent ideas.

Yoga, kids, creativity, teaching, dancing, telling stories, humor, sins, virtues, acceptance?

I pride myself on tossing together some pretty good salads but there is little chance Panera will put them on the menu.

Before anyone thinks I’m upset, in a funk, depressed or miserable, fear not.

Three years ago, I’d have been so discouraged I’d have skipped the tenth vegetarian buffet at the workshop and gone out for a burger and a Bud.

This time I stayed put.

This is where I am in my writing career, right here, right now.

Breath in. Breath out.

People spend years putting together recipes for restaurants and cook books. They know kitchen tricks that a lot of us don’t. It’s their profession, bailiwick, forté.

Just because I want to join in their professional circles doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen when I want it to happen.

We have to know what we don’t know first. Then we get back to work, measuring, mixing, adding, whisking, beating and learning.

Acceptance of where we are right now, is the bowl holding all of the ingredients. Let the feelings of inadequacy or disappointment hang around until the meal is over and then toss what’s left into the compost.

Learn from the aromas and flavors around us. Good or bad, they don’t linger long.

Namaste- it’s okay, time to play, it’s not a bad day, thoughts ricochet, come what may, just might end up with a book someday!