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Archive for October, 2009

It was raining again today, and I was downtown, after dark, trying to find my friend Christina, who was stuck in traffic, and I accidently called my nephew, because my eyes are not so good these days, and both Christina and my nephew have the initals CM. I believe I was able to take advantage of the moment only because even in the dark, wet, downtown filled with noise and traffic, while running late, the recent meditations had emptied the vat of anxiety that would otherwise have me worried about finding my way on time. So the nephew and I took a few moments and talked about Halloween, he is going to a concert, and then I went off , alone, to the event that Christina had invited me to attend, then to eat very good sushi.

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I listened to another talk by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. There are six weeks of Wednesday night talks offered by Sounds True. She talked about curanderismo, healing done by healers. She siad that the role of the curandisma is to be the conduit between the person’s soul and detrius that needs be cleaned out of the soul, that pools of trauma and grief and jealousy and rage can be emptied. Sounds familiar. Sounds true.

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Tired. The level of acceptance of tired is low. I must answer some emails, finish writing some objectives for a course outline, clean the rest of the kitchen. But I am tired. The level of acceptance of tired is low. I must read the book that I promised myself I would finish this week, sort through the piles of mail that sit on the living room floor. The level of acceptance of tired is medium. I must take a bath and soak my sore back, sort through old clothes and pack at least a third for Goodwill,  run to the liquor store and buy some single malt scotch before they close. Oh too late; they closed. The level of acceptance of tired is high. Sleep.

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There have been several drafts of this post attempted, one about a tray of drying herbs on the counter next to the stove, one about not learning that one can cook with green tomatoes until after the bugs had eaten large bleeding holes in their tough flesh and the first cold nights of the season had exploded their skins. Then there was the one about the woman who constantly trashed her husband, who stopped trashing her husband when he became her primary caregiver during chemotherapy, but who just transferred the energy to complaining about the patriarchy and telling others to shut up until she was done talking.

As of yet, I have not been able to successfully spin any of these objects into a coherent meditation story. Instead finding an entry point, then slipping in and climbing down to the depth needed for story, my mind keeps flashing past any potential entry point, and keeps racing. As a result each encapsulated, almost insight has been abandoned as I move onto the next, then the next, then…  

I am hoping that just like any meditation, success is putting in the time, ass on the mat, regular and repetitive no matter what the result. I have been taught that any meditation where you are trying is a successful meditation. So today is not about depth. Maybe I am attached to depth. Maybe flitting really is OK. Maybe today is about surface meditation as part of the meditation smorgasbord with green tomato apple pie and green tomato chutney with herbs from the backyard drying for the winter on a yellow tray with a gold border and large, painted irises.

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The tiny, lovely, and fabulous yoga teacher is going on a 30-day yoga intensive. I arrived at her 11 am class early because I knew it was her last class before leaving, and I knew the class would be crowded with students who did not want to miss their last chance at a class with her. I have a certain spot near the far front mirror where I feel safe. I was the first one to arrive. She was over near my spot stretching and moving in ways that I will never be able to approximate in this life.

I rolled out my mat and asked her if she was excited about her trip. “No,” she said and continued to concentrate on moving through a one armed side crow (a feat only available to those who can do the rings at the Olympics) and a series of upside down things that I have no idea what they are called. I often come to class early and have never seen her do a series of poses before class.

After a few moments and one anemic forward stretch with bent legs I said, “It’s funny, I’ve always found that a retreat starts the moment that I for sure decide that I am going. Right then, whatever stuff I am going to deal with during the retreat starts rising up. It doesn’t wait for the retreat.” We laughed through her recounting the torrent of anxiety in the previous 24 hours. “I should have flown. I should not be driving. I shouldn’t pack this. I shouldn’t pack that. I’m going to fail. I’m going to be fine.”

After class I gathered up my shoes and jacket. A group of good bye well wishers crowded around her. She parted the group and flagged me down as I headed for the door. “Thank you for talking to me before class,” she said. “It helps to not feel as though you are alone.”

 “Thank you,” I said to her. At that moment I didn’t feel alone either. Sangha when you least expect it.

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The day was a meditation of cleaning and puttering around the apartment. Like a slow body sweep, I walked through and quietly scanned the apartment until I found a spot where I sensed it needed attention. Then I stayed at the spot and slowly gave it the attention it needed. I picked up books and papers off the living room floor, swept dust bunnies under the bed, reattached a button on a sweater, threw out lists and hung the laundry piled on the dresser, dusted the dresser with the lists and laundry gone, fixed the clasp on a purse. I switched sandals and leather eyelet shoes into the boxes from which I removed boots and dark mules. Each of these tasks were done without planning, without lists, without a goal of how many tasks to complete. I just kept scanning, attending, and resting, whatever seemed appropriate for the moment. At the end of seven hours I felt clear. I felt quiet. I went to a movie with a friend. We saw Coco Before Channel. It was beautiful and reserved.

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The interview went well, at least I think so. We talked about experience, philosophies, working with students who have complicated and demanding lives outside of school. We laughed, wandered through examples of exercises and assessment tools. They asked if I saw myself teaching long into the future. I said that I naturally gravitate to teaching, and tend to teach in other parts of my life.

I told a story about being asked to teach a meditation class to the kitchen staff at a retreat. We were at a 10-day silent meditation retreat that had never hosted a silent retreat before. We had the entire facility which included a 3 or 4-star restaurant (amazing food). The chef was interested in meditation, but did not have much experience. He decided he was going to run a silent kitchen. Several days into the retreat, it became apparent that some of the restaurant staff were having anxiety about all the silence. It culminated in one young wait staffer yelling, “How can I serve them if they won’t speak to me?”

The retreat manager and I decided that they would most likely be more comfortable if they better understood what we were doing. So at 10 am each morning, she and I taught a meditation class for the kitchen staff. For the first class, first exercise, we did a standard slow head to toe body scan. About when our attention was focused on our thighs, someone in the kitchen dropped a plate on the tile floor. We were in Arizona, and everything was tile. The sound shot straight through into the tile dining room where we sat. Every single person meditating felt the plate hitting the floor vibration pass through their body. Note to mediation teachers. Have someone drop a plate during the first exercise.  

The interviewers laughed at the meditation class story and we continued on with their list of questions. At the end of the list, one of the interviewers leaned back and said, “I am very excited to hear your presentation.”

“I was supposed to have a presentation?” I asked.

“Didn’t Juliana tell you? Didn’t I tell you?”

“No,” I said. But I could pull out one of my samples and do an impromptu presentation. That would be fine.

“Actually,” the other interviewer said. “I feel as though the way you have answered our questions was a presentation. I want to hear more about meditation.”

So I asked, “Would you like a guided meditation?” I asked. “We could make the presentation about meditation.”

“Yes!” they both said.

I led them through the head to toe body scan. I did a fast one because I knew we were running late and the other interviewee was waiting.

When we were done, I opened my eyes and tears were running down one of the interviewer’s face.

“You are crying,” I said.

She apologized. I reassured her it was OK and common. I told her that we store trauma and conflict in our bodies. That in vernacular English we call it stuffing. That the emotion associated with the trauma has an arc that we can also watch as an object of meditation. I said that many times people are aware of which part of their body triggered the tears. She said she knew exactly where, the right side of her neck.

I thought, “Oh my. At the beginning of the scan. Maybe I should have kept my eyes open.”

She said that she couldn’t follow the instructions after the triggering point. I told her that was common, and that if I had been teaching a full-blown class, I would have explained that if something very strong arises, it is OK to choose to switch objects and follow the arc of the emotion. As the emotion has an arc, and it does have an end.

After we talked for a few minutes, I could tell that she was not quite fully back in her body, or in the moment, or whatever you want to call it. I had her press her thumbs to her fingers. Still not quite back. I had her press her thumbs into her palms. Still not quite. I told her that I could see that she wasn’t quite back, and that I didn’t want to leave her off-kilter as I knew she had another interview to do. She thanked me. I had her stand up and shake her head and shoulders. She popped back.

So they unwittingly got to see how I handle problem solving with students who run into trouble.

We’ll see if I get the job.

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