Throw away the key…

One of the unexpected ways that my life has unfolded is that from time to time, I have the honor of assisting presenters at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

In this volunteer capacity, I’ve come to serve as a regular assistant to a few of my favorites, including the author Dani Shapiro whose presence is as lovely as her work…

Quieting.
Clearing.
Soul-quenching.

Though I have assisted this same program of hers a half-dozen times, I never fail to benefit from the practice of writing inside the nourishing container that she creates with her presence to the space between the words.

Sometimes I write from the center of my current writing project, which alas, has been the same project since I began assisting in 2014. Often I write from the center of the present moment, which is quite familiar as a memoirist and as an instructor of yoga.

It’s always a bit of a treasure hunt to see what comes on the page in a room full of others doing the same; and there is often gold at the end, no matter if one is a professional author, an amateur, or someone without any writing practice at all.

A favorite prompt Dani offers comes in response to a poem entitled: It Could Have Happened.

Here’s what I found inside it this past autumn…

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It Could Have Happened…
September 2016
Kripalu

it could have happened that I, like my traveling companions, did not hear the knock at 4 AM

It could have happened that it didn’t stir me or cause me to wonder:

Is someone locked out of the room?
The building?
A Relationship?

Was it a knock on the door?
The window?
The wall?

Should I get up?
Let her in?
See what’s wrong?
Make sure I’m safe?

It could’ve happened that Sting did not begin to sing in my head…

“If you love somebody, go ahead and throw away the key…”

It could’ve happened that he did not continue…

“Free, free. Set them free.”

It could have happened that the singing subsided, and I fell back into a deep sleep

That I didn’t ponder why…

Why me?

Why now?

Why this song?

Who needs freeing?

It could have happened that I didn’t feel the urge to rise and run down the hill toward the labyrinth before dawn…

It could have happened that I didn’t pause with the birdsong and the pale yellow petals and the mountain range as the sun began to rise…

It could have happened that once inside the labyrinth, it didn’t occur to me, that it was…

Me,

I was the one

The

One

who Sting was singing to

The one who needed

To Be

Loved

By me

Without a key
~

(5 months later and I’m still not sure what this means…)

Night, like Trump~A hormonal fable


Now that the days are shortening, like the days of my life, night comes, like a barge, toward my ship, and lurks ominously, like Trump, behind Hillary, at the Town Hall debate.

Sometimes night comes even closer, with an unwanted advance, and nudges my boat, just enough, to stir panic inside.

Other times, night enters more forcefully, and the impact is enough to tip my vessel to its side, and I feel the contents of my cabin slide across the floor, and then toward me, as the boat begins to sink, backwards, or sometimes nose down, and sometimes folded in half, plunging into the icy cold waters of death.

Night has been coming like this more and more.
I live in fear of that day in November.
No, not that one.
The other one; where we set the clocks forward
and night comes even swifter.

After that, comes the other night in November;
but I’ve taken care of at least my cabin
with an early ballot.

Last night, I gathered with women
to chase away the darkness,
but night found me even there, in the middle of the dance,
in the center of our power,
as a friend quipped: Nasty Women!

I’m typically buoyant after the dance,
but my ship could barely stay afloat before I docked it into the harbor of sleep.

I woke this morning, long before dawn, to the murky fear of death,
not just mine, but those I love.

I rose then, and began writing, this fable,
and soon, I found in me, an invincible light,
even in the darkness,
with the promise,
of a new day.

~

~

More musing regarding that second day in November:

after a weekend with tara brach

photo: October 2016, Kelly Salasin

This morning I woke with a dis-armored heart.
Which wasn’t as frightening or as fabulous as it might sound.
Only noticeably different.
A little achy perhaps.
With a burning sensation.

As Monday morning quickly unfolded–with obstacles–I recognized my availability to–what was–without wishing for something different. This lent a sweet softness to a time that is typically tense.

I realized then that my mind had been so clever.
Not only had it protected me from the depth of my pain and losses;
It kept me from the depth of love & greatest longings.

the gift of wildly fluctuating hormones

651d184b026fb7ecd9f9e6575e822f6bI want to talk about anxiety. And depression.

Do they always go together?

I’m new at this. Not new at experiencing them. But new at knowing I’m experiencing them.

It’s not only that I didn’t have names for my feelings when I was younger,
but that I didn’t fully feel them.
Until I had no choice.

Hormones.

Earlier this week, I found myself humming and singing what has become my tell-tale sad song (it knows I’m feeling sad before I do):

I learned the truth at 17,
that love was meant for beauty queens,
and pretty girls with clear-skinned smiles,
who married young and then retired.
And those of us with ravaged faces…

Oddly enough, I was one of those clear-skinned, pretty girls.
But still, this song comes to me more and more as I age, to the point where my youngest, at 15, hears it playing on YouTube for the first time and says: “I like the original better,” not realizing that he’s only ever heard it sung by me.

This is Janis Ian, I say. It’s her song.

I’m relieved when I Google her and find that she’s still alive: and 64, happily through menopause no doubt, even winning a Grammy in 2013!

Mid-life women inspire me. They are such warriors. So full-hearted.

This morning I wake with a crushing weight on my chest. (Well, maybe not crushing. But pressing.)
I’m unable to take a full breath. (I taught yoga yesterday.)
When I consider the day ahead, even the smallest part of the day ahead, I feel immobilized. (It’s a relatively straightforward day.)

I’m expecting my period. And menopause. (Soon, please.)

I stay put and feel into the sensations of weight and panic until they soften enough. I take a shower, pack my work things–while scaling the items shouting for my attention around the house–and I drive away.

I feel lighter.

Until I enter our Co-op grocery store. I decide not to shop first as planned, but instead take a seat in the corner of the cafe and get to work. I always feel good when I work. Almost always. It’s how I’ve kept ahead of anxiety and depression throughout my life, though I never knew that then. I thought I loved work. Until someone said these words:

What you love brings you balance.

Work never brought me balance. It brought me 100-hour work weeks at 20. And teacher burn-out by 30. So I decided to stay home. For two decades.

That didn’t fare well either. I found at-home-motherhood excruciatingly boring. Diapers, dishes, routines. Sitting down on the floor with the kids was the worst. I couldn’t still myself into their worlds. I thought it was play that I resisted, but now I realize that it was me. Without complexity to consume my mind, anxiety devoured me.

I had a window into those years when I went shopping with my son earlier this week. I noticed that if I kept my focus on items that engaged me, say the household aisle of TJ Maxx, then I could keep the anxiety at bay. But if he wanted to talk to me, or worse yet, show me something, particularly something that held no interest for me, my anxiety magnified.

I wonder when it all started.

Is it genetic?
Environmental?
Universal?
Trauma induced?

I remember a high fever at the age of 4 and the way the world grew too large and then too small and far away for me to handle.

I remember a fire at the age of 9–the one that took the lives of an entire family except for the boy who went to my school–and how I trembled with that news all night long.

I remember my arm in a sling at age 11, broken on the ice–the result of a mind game that I played often that year–counting down how quickly I could get from place to place–before I blew up.

Aha!
That would have been sixth grade,
the first year of my mother’s alcoholism,
the year that my father poured the bottles down the sink,
and said, “You have to watch your mother. She’s sick.”

My breath catches on this memory.
The weight on my chest returns.

I see this young girl, and go to her.
I rub her heart, and lift the weight from it.

I’m here, I say.
I’ll watch your mother.
You go play.

MINE

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Timothy Parker, all rights reserved, 2013.

I lie (asleep?) in a room full of beds…
A man (my uncle?) slips under the covers behind me.

Pulls me close?
Presses into me?

Is this a memory? A sensation?
Did I watch it happen to another?
Was the other, me?
Is she 4, 7, 11, 13?

I see the dark wood floors. The white ceiling. The door frame. The handle.
The hallway. The bathroom. The white porcelain tub.
The water running. My aunt in her nightgown.

The narrative remains unclear, but the ache in my sacrum is strong.
A pulsing. A defense. An outrage.

THIS IS MY BODY!

I lie on the carpeted floor. Knees drawn to chest. Feet pressing against my assigned partner. My job in this first chakra exercise is to push away, to claim, to say:

MINE!

But my voice, typically strong, cracks. Breaks apart.
I am struck by the absence of my own belonging.
Embarrassed.
Disrobed.

I return to explore my first chakra with the help of my therapist. Recover this violation. The foggy narrative.
Then narrow in on a clearer intrusion: spanking.

At 51, it’s hard to fathom that this trauma could still be lodged in my body. It was among the first that I consciously released with the assistance of healing practitioners some twenty years ago.

In fact, in my mid-thirties, I sat in this very cafe, drinking hot cider and enjoying a roll with jam, while writing the poem that claimed my body as MINE.

I’ve since lost my taste for sugary things, and now prefer everything bitter.
And yet, here I am, revisiting the same pain, in the same place, with espresso.

I sense the energy, once locked inside my sacrum, drain down my legs into the earth. It moves in slow currents like the flow of water beneath the ice on the river beside me.

Beyond the river is a mountain.
It defines and nourishes my view.
My strength.

MINE.

Farewell 2014

10309510_10152520651623746_3264191283948952743_n 2Sitting vigil with the last hours of 2014.

Excavating insights buried in life’s busyness before the year passes.

Presence:

You know how guys typically want to solve a problem rather than listen to it? How they prefer to fix it and move on?

I think we might be the same with our bodies, no matter what our gender.

I know I am.

When my body complains, whether with an ache or an illness or a tough emotion, I’d rather move the discomfort along as fast as possible rather than sit down and listen to what is being expressed through it; unless it insists, by refusing to depart.

Parenting:

Being “cool” was REALLY important to me growing up, but I don’t need to be the cool mom. In fact, it’s a red flag when my son tells me that his friend said I’m “cool.” Parenting isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a privilege and a vocation and a sacrifice–of coolness–every day.

Process:

I have learned so much, and I have so much to learn; and these two will always go hand in hand.

Just this month, I learned that although I practice conscious living (as a human being, a student and a teacher), I have a lots of anxiety.

I carry a large chunk of that in my stomach.

Instead of noticing that anxiety, and feeling into it, and listening to it, I distract myself.

51 one years and I’m still learning new things about myself.
That’s pretty cool.
(But how did I miss it?)

2014:

I danced a lot this year.
I helped launch a son into a semester break abroad.
I watched my baby grow taller than me.
I began co-teaching with my husband.
I spent 10 weeks away from home.
I endured an emergency root canal.
I missed Halloween.

I did not not finish “my book.” I took lots of stabs at it, from all different angles. I’ve despaired. There have been many more nightmares straddling the conflicting desires of privacy and expansion. The desire persists.

AND what about you?
What say you in farewell to 2014?

nauseous with vision

Hopper
Hopper

i see shimmering wood floors

i hear music playing

i move across the room

a bright silk scarf brushes against my skin

I dance alone

in my center

a center for learning and consciousness and connection

i feel spacious inside
at ease
offering all that i have to those who come through the door

they soften upon entering

sink into self-compassion,
self-knowing
self-celebration

returning home to strengthen their relationships

to nurture wholeness and integration and acceptance

to release their gifts into the world

this place is my home
my work
my family
my everything

but where–in the world–is it?

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ps. I think it’s some place a bit warmer than Vermont, but with the same good water, good people, good politics and community.