Ancient Meditations

I stand outside the Great Pyramid of Giza. The ancient blocks are taller than I, their surfaces perfectly hewn from weather and time, stacked on each other for support. The breeze cools part of the dry heat away, violently blowing hair across our faces.

Someone tells me to enter the pyramid. I do. Inside is ancient darkness, a sacredness, a stifling heat that sucks out the freshness of the world. I walk in darker, deeper, into the core.

There is a holed tomb, or according to the guided meditation today, a fountain in the shape of the Sphinx. I can hear the water drip on the rock, and am told that this is the pool of truth.

I am asked to find a question, a deep question, and pose it to the pool. “How do I grow up with kindness?” is what I ask. Not what is this pain, or is this worry worth worrying about, or am I worthy – all questions that plague me. But no, for some reason I ask “How do I grow up with kindness?” Although, I am 30. I “should be” grown up by now.

But we never stop growing. Just like life – there is no end goal. There is no destination of “grown up.”

The pool told me to give, and to trust.

I am instructed to walk into another chamber, filled with light, and open my eyes to the sand and the camels walking on the horizon.

I sat on a camel, one tattooed and chapped, as someone guides us around the shape of the pyramid. My father sat on one too, and my mother smiled at us.

The Pyramids, and a camel, during a family trip to Egypt in 2008

Sailing

This blog post is inspired by the new iPad Air commercial, aired sometime between women’s inaugural skiing half pipe and the epic women’s figure skating final during the Sochi Olympics.

It quotes a Walt Whitman poem, O Me! O Life!

“That you are here – that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse”

 

Here’s my verse.

 

 

A full desert and an empty ocean

Sweeping and falling

While the compass, reliable

Shifts in spinning; Rests in pause

 

Only always

 

 

Recontextualizing Memories

It’s that story that is told over and over again, since you can remember. It’s sitting around a table at IHOP visiting family, with a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, and a son, expanding the continuum of time and memory through a story’s recounting.

Young brother was always outgoing and rarely got mad. Older brother started a fight. He ran downstairs, closely followed by Younger. Mother saw it happen, secretly rooting for Younger brother. Older brother stopped. Younger pulled his leg back to kick Older. Older moved, and the leg went through the wall. Mother had to yell at Younger.

These are the simple stories that seem to last through time and generations, told and told again in different places and years, committed to our memory. Time resists its linear momentum for a moment, encompassing the past into the present and the future through a telling.

A Death Letter

Dear Death,

Hello!

I just wanted to let you know that you have been on my mind of late, especially since turning 30. I fear you, big time, even though I have been gifted such amazing moments and feelings in this world. It’s more real now, getting older, and after meeting my boyfriend I feel that there is more to be possible in this world, and I have “more” to lose now too – a future I wasn’t expecting (which will of course not happen the way I expect anyway, so perhaps a mute point there).

So, just in case something does happen any day now (like dad comfortingly says, “if it’s you’re time, then it’s you’re time”), here are a few thoughts.

Key to accountability: self-forgiveness.

Key to shame: don’t be ashamed of feeling ashamed.

You’re ego: give it a hug – that’s what it wants anyway.

Don’t forget to breathe. Don’t forget to love. Don’t forget to not be hard on yourself. Don’t forget that you don’t have to earn self-worth because it is there the whole time. Don’t forget to smile. Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to love.

We all know these things. But, I need the reminders in a book or a movie or a song or a laugh or a landscape that angles these thoughts in a new slant.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s love. It comes down and back to that: love. So why should death be any different?

Backseat Musings

I sat in the backseat, wearing pink OshKosh overalls and enjoying my own little world. My parents occasionally looked in the rearview mirror as I gazed through the frame of the windshield and the back of their heads, easily singing Baby Beluga with Raffi,* lost in my musings.

It’s a familiar view, even twenty years later, sitting in the backseat of a newer car with the same perspective, the same parents, the same connections (just no Raffi).

Road tripping with the family to Salt Lake City, a few months ago, I sat in the backseat of the car and felt safe, young, and free. On this trip I was knitting a baby blanket for my friend, The Ten Thousand Hour Mama, and her approaching baby. The blanket is a mix of extra yarns used for other projects: baby hats for other friends in Maui and Oregon; yarn purchased in Paris and Spain; extra threads from potholders my grandmother knitted for me that I now use in Kansas. It all weaves into one blanket, and one moment.

When I finish the blanket (any day now, right?), my friend’s beautiful baby may be wrapped up in it in the backseat of their car, feeling safe and young and free. She may feel connected to everyone and everything. She may even be singing to Raffi.

 

*I just learned Raffi is an Egyptian-born Canadian. That’s pretty cool.

Everything Changes, Everything Stays the Same

Last Thanksgiving Day – after the turkey and the stuffing and the rolls and the mashed potatoes and the damn yams – my family took a walk.

The air was chill, the sky cloudy, and the landscape the same as it had been most of my life. But so much had happened – moving and returning from Maui, going to graduate school, traveling to the Middle East – but the day felt the same as all other Thanksgiving Days.

“Everything changes, and everything stays the same,” I told my mom as we rounded the corner to the house.

“Yup, that’s the secret,” she replied.

It’s a dichotomy – a concept that has been rattling around in my mind the last six months.

You can’t have one without the other – yin and yang, perfect and imperfect, full and empty – but they are actually the same thing.

Here is an old school diagram to illustrate:

It is the same circle. It takes two opposite ideas to make it whole, using resistance and the law of attraction to keep it together.

Let’s look at the example of Hope and Fear. If we go far enough to the extreme edge of fear, it loops around into hope. I fear tornadoes so much, I hope I never see one (or, I hope that I do see one).

Here is another old school diagram:

It is the same circle, but our emotions and degree of opposites change proportionately to keep the circle whole. The change depends on multiple variables – the moment, the day, the feeling, the thought etc.

But, what if instead of the straight line of Hope and Fear moving, it’s the whole circle that actually moves. Meaning the line in the circle remains stationary, but the circle spins around – like it sits on a base of wheels.

Like Bubbles and the shopping cart in Trailer Park Boys (Warning: this link is very uncensored with many bad words – in both Canada and America), and the clip has nothing and everything to do with dichotomies.

All we need is already in us. The circle stays the same, it just spins around depending on our chosen perspective.

Because everything changes, and everything stays the same.

 

Opposite Day

A day of so-called self-enhancement started with watching a Sesame Street episode that re-taught me a handful of ethics and some forgotten self-compassion, as I babysat my friend’s 18-month-old daughter. A counseling session, a massage, a few hours of reading, and a Yin yoga class followed the #SesameStreetWisdoms morning. The day rounded out with meditation and a Dharma talk (sharing Buddhist teachings) in the evening. I returned home to catch the last 15 minutes of Dancing with the Stars, but I’m not convinced that is part of the so-called self-enhancement.

The day of personal exploration left me feeling more uncertain than enlightened, but that is all part of the process – and it is the process that matters, or the intention. Not the outcome.

Today, struggling with thoughts instead of clearing them up, I recognized a few lessons for myself. And, of course, they are also contradictory.

 

Share when you want to hoard.

“No sweet girl, that’s my phone,” I told the toddler as she reached for the cell phone. “My phone,” she replied. “It’s my phone honey,” I kindly debated.

The next words stumbled out of her mouth as if she didn’t mean to say them. “Our phone,” she responded. Yes, of course. Our phone. She relented some of her ground, she took the first step, and it made everything right. So I also relented and she climbed up on the couch with me and we took pictures of ourselves. Our phone.

When I don’t feel good about myself, I want to keep as much energy as I can because I think I need it to feel better. But when I share that energy – even if it’s just an honest smile with a stranger or letting a toddler mis-text someone on my phone – that’s when I really feel good about myself.

Open when you want to protect.

I visited my counselor after a substantial hiatus because I noticed some old patterns and reactions surfacing. Since we’re being honest here (first blog post), jealousy is a concern high on the list.

It didn’t hit me like it has in the past, but I noticed it twirling in the depths of the Macbeth witch pot. I saw it wanting to reach up and grab my heart, mind, and ego.

In the session, I told the counselor of this girl in middle school whom I admired and wanted to emulate. I started learning world geography and watching James Bond movies in seventh grade, because she liked them and I wanted to be like her. Our education and careers since middle school actually took parallel paths, and she recently achieved goal in her career that I really respect and envy. I began comparing myself against her, again, like in middle school.

Jealousy actually stems from admiration. When we want to protect our ego, our vulnerabilities, our stories – we could actually open into them instead of hiding in them. When we open into what we are scared of and want to protect, that’s when we begin to heal.

 

Be when you want to flee.

I don’t want to be here. I laid in the yoga class, thinking this would be the perfect end to a perfect day, and it wasn’t. My mother and I had gotten into a re-occurring discussion, apparently an emotionally loaded dialogue for me, waiting for the yoga studio to open. I wanted to leave and be by myself; I was done opening and sharing for the day.

But, the yoga teacher showed up. I had grand dreams in my head of telling her that I was actually going to leave – that it wasn’t her, it was me – but I was just not in the “right” present presence for yoga.

Although, all of the presence is the right present. It is right, because it’s happening now. During the yoga class and the Dharma talk I resisted most of it, but that’s ok, because even though I didn’t want to be there, I was there.

For every moment (or at least most of them) I was there. Fully.

And for me, right now, I think that’s enlightenment.

Six Tears

Why was I crying? Why was my mother crying next to me? Les Miserables was not even an hour in, during the I Dreamed A Dream song, and I was already hiccupping breaths in efforts to keep control. But six tears unregretfully ran down my cheeks, four on the right and two on the left.

I like Anne Hathaway, but not that much.

So what was it? The violins reaching into a poignant and somehow familiar crescendo? The empathetic feeling of losing a dream? The well-crafted buildup to this one scene, shot from this one camera angle, capturing this one sense of rawness?

Nearly 15 years ago, on my first trip abroad, I sat in the audience with my mother next to me watching Les Miserables on the stage in London. I cried then too, at the exact same moment.

Surprisingly, some things never change. Genuine human emotions endure through lifetimes, through generations, through art, through Anne Hathaway. Some things, perhaps, actually stay the same.

Summer Beers

It has been two years since your death. Two years since I got the voice mail on my phone. Two years since I pulled over at a McDonald’s after surpassing a snowy mountain road. To sit. To cry. To uncomprehend what happened.

Tonight, I watched the sun set over your hometown mountains. I felt love – easy, pure, true love that comes from an unforeseen force. It is the same love I felt at your memorial at Kam III in Maui. When we all paddled out and circled the ocean. When we cracked Busch Lights in your honor. When we held each other and watched the pictured memories float by on a screen. When we forgave each other, and when we loved each other through your heart.

Dropping down into Fort Collins today, into your roots, tears sucked my breath as the radio stations picked songs that meant everything. Our first connection made over Summer Beers discussing Western mountain homes, staying up all night to witness a Hawaiian sunrise in the seamless ocean, capturing moments of laughter in a group of sun-wielding friends, and, of course, always, with love reigning down.

Your life taught me love. And your death taught me what it means to love.

Mahalo you, my friend. Mahalo you.

I miss you dearly.

(See Led Zeppelin, When the Levee Breaks; The Who, Love Reign O’er Me; Ke$ha Feat, Die Young; The Fray, How to Save a Life)

50-Year-Old Corsages

In the dead of winter, I was finally ready to clean out nearly 30 years of memories.

Following tradition, I inherited the packrating gene from my maternal line. The tendency to appreciate sentimentality and affection attached to different items has led to a collection of the past, manifesting my own fear of forgetting.

A misplaced memory of my first kegstand returned after I came across the keg’s label identifying the Black Butte Porter, throwing me into that backyard summer night surrounded by friends. And finding that maroon bra, which I continuously wore in middle school, evoked feelings of my first exploration into color.

Between math tests, baby sweaters, plane ticket stubs, ill-fitting concert t-shirts, and high school graduation cards with forgotten bills (and an elapsed check), I discovered a pile of my dress-up clothes that belonged to my mother and grandmother. Squashed between the 1950s matching shoes and bags, were two ziplock bags of corsages. My mother’s corsages were dried and brittle, but they still stood for something: for her youth, her vitality, her future.

In the end, I kept the keg label, threw out the bra, and returned the corsages to my mother.

There is still the fear of forgetting – forgetting how I came to be who I am. But somewhere I already know that my existence, right now, honors everything that came before.