Sunday, December 27, 2015

Family Circles

While in L.A., I went with my grandson, Oscar, to see The Happy Dinosaur. It’s a beautiful Pixar (I love Pixar) movie about a dinosaur family.  With the animation in Pixar, so much of what is said is presented through facial expression and body language.

Arlo, the youngest and runtiest of the family, strives to be like everyone else in his family. He struggles to achieve what he perceives as a demonstration of love and acceptance, and, ultimately, to ‘make his mark’ in his natural world, especially with the members of his family of origin…the world of his parents and siblings. He searches for ways to prove himself to others and struggles with the natural events in life that jeopardize that pursuit.

According to Developmental Psychologist Eric Erikson feelings of acceptance and love develop within the first 5 years of life. Initially, our relationship with mother determines our sense of trust vs. mistrust in the world. Both parents are influential from 3 months to 6 years for our sense of autonomy and our development of strong will.  Our relationships with mother and father, brothers and sisters, sometimes even grandparents and aunts and uncles, reflect the development of confidence and self worth that initially drives our psychological development and grows our sense of purpose and efficacy in the world. Virtues of hope, will and purpose are determined during these early years.

The Good Dinosaur portrays a graphic illustration of family. In the sandy terrain of the desert, Arlo and his new acquaintance and buddy, Spot, draw a circle around the members of their families. Within Spot’s illustration are two large branches representing his father and his mother. Himself, he shows with a small twig. Arlo places two large twigs and three smaller ones, each lined up according to size, with himself showing up as the smallest. Once Spot knocks over his two largest twigs, suggesting that they no longer exist, Arlo sadly does the same to his largest branch, his father, who had died during the latest storm.
As we sit watching this scene in the theatre, I feel Oscar’s little body leaning forward and I can sense his head twisting 45% until he’s looking directly at me. That I am uncontrollably weeping, I know, is not the only cause of his attention.

Rather, Oscar is remembering two days ago when he and I were sharing time together and talking. At that time, he asked, “Safta, do you always carry your journal with you?” “Yes, Oscar. I do. And if, for some reason I don’t have it with me, and I have something I want to write, I write it on a scrap of paper or a kitchen napkin, and when I am with my journal again, I glue it in.”

“What else do you have in your journal?” he asks with sincere curiosity. “Oh, lots!” I reply, and I go immediately to grab my journal to show him some of the things that are inside. Photographs, an admit ticket to see the Dalai Lama in Vancouver, a red autumn leaf that a friend gave me recently to remind me of the beauty of autumn. I showed him the lists I made, diagrams I created, mind maps and circle graphs and pictures. I showed it all to him.

“What’s this about?” Oscar asks as he points to a diagram I had just recently created. It was of 3 circles, each one within the other. The outer circle, I explained to Oscar, represents my family of origin. My mother and father and siblings are all part of that circle. The next inner circle, not far from the first, is me and all that I am. That means, daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, wife, friend, colleague, From there, all the way to the centre, I describe as my family of creation. Here are all the children who make up my offspring…all those to whom I have given birth, or adopted, and all their children too. That’s where you fit in, my Oscar!”

I tell Oscar, during our conversation, that I needed to draw this diagram because I was feeling something I could not describe in words. “What does it mean?” he asks.

“Well” I said. “Now that your great grandma (my mother) has died, I no longer feel sense of my family of origin. The outer circle is gone. I, now, am that outer circle. There is no one and nothing that tethers me to the outside now. It’s something I must do alone. I have my own integrity and morality to help me determine how to live and how to be. I have myself to attend to, with a heavy understanding of the effects that my behaviours have on my inner circle and beyond. I feel different now…less stable, less secure, more vulnerable and cautious. And alone.

At the end of the movie, Arlo recognizes his triumphs even before he receives his reward. It is Arlo, “The Good Dinosaur” who learns to appreciate himself, even before others do so. That is my struggle now too. Love begins from within, however we are able to initiate that process. Seeking approval and love from others doesn’t always work. I hope Oscar gets to learn that early, and still maintains humility, grace and compassion so that he can share what he knows with others. As for me…I’m still working on it. That’s my vision for 2016!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pushing Through

My Yoga practice informs me on ways that I can manage my life. At times, I avoid getting onto my mat. I’m too busy, not in the mood, waiting for an important phone call, too tired. When I push through my reluctance and ease in to some form of engagement, Yoga becomes my teacher. The inspiration it offers becomes the focus for the effort to engage. At times, simply forging into my practice provides the reward and satisfaction I need.

I always remember the first time Sajee, my Yoga teacher in India, taught me how to get into a scorpion pose. I thought I would never be able to get there. “My balance isn’t good enough.” “My shoulders aren’t strong enough.”  “My body isn’t stable enough.”  “I’m too old.” “I’m too tired.” “I’m too hot and sweaty.” Sajee would hear none of it. He ‘took my hand’ and walked me through the journey. In days I was up in an inverted scorpion. It hurt some. I kept getting back up each time I toppled over. It was frustrating, frightening and humbling. I needed to persevere. And I did! Now I’m able to keep doing it years later. I’ve addressed it, faced it and accomplished desired results. My body remembers. I might choose one day to take it further, (putting my legs into lotus while inverted), but for now, I’m satisfied. I can live with it the way it is. I’m comfortable. When I’m not anymore, I’ll consider changes.

Sometimes intense changes in life happen simultaneously! Lately, for instance, I have been confronted with several life and death events, serious changes that profoundly affect my existence. My mom’s death, two grandchildren being born in two different cities, changes in primal relationships, easing into aging, adjusting to work responsibilities, these are all issues that I have had to integrate, all at the same time, over the last eight weeks. I don’t get to choose which ones I’ll deal with and which ones I’ll put aside. They are all necessary now! It’s how I choose to engage with each of them that makes the difference.

Much of the time, feeling good is easy! Giving thanks for the simple things in my life readily and often occurs.  The acuity of my senses, my connection with nature, relationships with my kids, social time with friends, my job and my openness to take time off, my extraordinary life partnership with Paul, and my ability to work through issues are all things I appreciate regularly. The challenge comes in finding the good even in the midst of hardship and pain. Settling in to the pain…accepting the hurt…welcoming the changes that come from growth all require different energy. Obstacles present an opportunity to push through, perhaps, or even just to accept that things aren’t always good and easy. Using recreational drugs and alcohol, keeping our selves busy, always having some event planned, socializing constantly, or clouding the boundaries between work and family, are all ways we evade having to soul search and connect to our inner child.  We try to run from discomfort, stuff the conflict, distract ourselves from the pain that we feel and just “carry on”. Ultimately these very obstacles provide the material to expand and grow and make us more resilient and stronger. Finding the gratitude in these toughest times, though way more challenging than ignoring them, allows me to become more of who I am.

My life is blessed! When I take the time to imagine how my life might be so different, I remind myself to appreciate that I do have what I have and that I am who I am! It could be different. Everything I have could be taken away at any time. The challenges I face sometimes bring me to my knees. I am not faultless. Not everything is laid out perfectly for me. I am meant to struggle and battle. Facing humbling experiences and rebuilding myself regularly reminds me to reflect more clearly about the kind of person I want to be. And through this work I keep coming back to the gentle lessons of forgiveness, compassion, respect and acceptance because, when it comes right down to it…. that’s exactly where I want to be. So today, when I approach my balancing postures, which are sometimes impossible, or my handstands, which require so much arm strength, or even my simple crow posture, which necessitates calm and focus, I welcome the challenges that these postures bring me. I identify, concentrate and struggle to achieve my goal. I can only try, and accept wherever I land…. for now.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Waiting For Death

The nighttime darkness has yet to lift even though the clock on the ceiling says it’s morning. The rain continues to pound on the roof and sides of our yurt. It’s been raining through my intermittent sleep. The crackling of fresh fire replenished from last night’s embers provide warmth, and flickers generously. I am about to face another day. My first cup of coffee. My new computer.  Fresh opportunity to receive what comes. My mother is still dead.
It’s been a challenge.  Remembering my 11-day vigil at Norwalk Hospital, being with her as she transitions from life to peace, has become a comfort and gift to me. Together, with my brothers, making a decision to discontinue artificial nourishment and hydration, meant the eventual demise of my mom’s living system. Without food or drink, the journey can take up to 3 weeks. In hospital, with incredibly devoted nurses, doctors, patient advocates and Hospice specialists, I too, want to protect her and comfort her as she passes away. I set up camp next to her bed, and engage in every bit of her activity.

I watch her as she lay on her comfortable, crib-like bed, slowly shifting one leg at a time to one side or the other. She seems to want to climb out. Where would she be going really? Doesn’t she know she doesn’t have to do anything? She can rest now. Death will be coming for her. Death will do all the work.

I think she does know. Mom lies in her bed engaged in 
animated and spirited conversations with her angels. With eyes wide open, a fine, cloudy layer of film separates her from this world. She
dramatically engages with others with whom 
she plans to be, arms gesticulating and hands waving freely towards the ceiling until, finally, in prayer fashion, she rests her clasped hands tenderly on her heart. She speaks continuously. It’s not language that I can understand. But, for sure, ‘they’ do…her angels. Together, plans are being made. Plans to finally let go…. release her worldly commitments…be free!  I promise to be with her until the end. 

Occasionally, the babble is interrupted with some familiar words. “Where’s the fire”? pops out in the middle of a babbling monologue. Or “Let me ask you a question” which startles Paul and me. That was something mom would say before dementia complicated her speech. Sometimes I think I hear familiar patterns like, “….just go through the kitchen…” or ….Moshe….”.  Moshe was her father’s name.  I laugh sometimes when I listen to her soft babble. Her intonation modulates as she reaches, and her tone changes depending on the plans she is creating with her angels. I am comforted by this. Mom is moving on to join her angels. She might even reconnect with my father!

Mom does not eat or drink. Her body and brain are no longer communicating. She lies in her bed, struggling to breathe. Her eyes are mostly open, staring up towards the ceiling, and I suppose right through to the heavens. She waits. So do I.

My 61 years with my mom haven’t always been easy. Leaving home at an early age allowed us to recreate a new relationship. From various long distances, over the years, we talked always, visited with each other often, fought and laughed and shopped and shared. There are some places in the world we explored together, sharing adventures and new experiences. It wasn’t always easy…but she was always my mother. No longer bottle feeding me, or doing my laundry or making my meals. She no longer takes me to theatre or grabs me for a quick movie. She hasn’t called me on the phone in 10 years, and she sometimes doesn’t even know what my name is. But…. my mom was always my mom. She changed. She no longer serves me the way she did in my childhood (maybe that’s actually a good thing). But Roberta Hirsh Block was my mother. Always! Right until the very moment she took her last breath.

I love you mom! And…crazy as it seems…. I miss you too!

The nighttime sky is still dark. The clock on my ceiling has progressed, but the morning light has still not arrived. Maybe today will be dark. Maybe tomorrow too. The sun might take some time to brighten my world right now. I will give in to this…to sit, to cry, to pray and to remember…at least until the sun shines again.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Cycles of Life

Life is an eternal cyclical movement between birth and death. Birth is deeply committed to newness and return. Death is final and absolute. Both are profoundly real!

My mother is dying. Yesterday we received a call from the doctor in Connecticut confirming that dementia has progressed and mom’s brain no longer connects with her body. She is never hungry or thirsty because her brain doesn’t let her body know these things. She has trouble swallowing and easily chokes when she drinks. She can’t walk anymore or talk either because the brain is completely disconnected.

Right now mom is joined to tubes to rehydrate her body and bring her sodium levels down from the dangerous stages of yesterday. Once at a good level, she can go home, but, without those tubes feeding her, she will undoubtedly return to the stage where she is now. Without further assistance, she will die. Mom is 91 years old. She’s lived for a very long time and right now, I think, she’s ready. I know that. It’s her time. For me, it’s still hard.

Simultaneously, two of our sons and daughters-in-law are having babies any day now. Our 3rd and 4th grandchildren are expected in the next two weeks, one in Toronto and one in L.A.

The timing of my mother’s demise is auspicious. There is something beautiful about the wholeness of the life cycle. One person leaves the earth. Someone new is born. Mom’s death is dramatically linked to the birth of these two new grandchildren. There is real spiritual symbiosis occurring. I feel that strongly and rely on my own trust in God that it is intended to be good. My new grandchildren will be born strong and wholesome and will live lives that clearly connect them lovingly with others with a strong regard and respect for our wonderful universe. I believe that! And may it be so. And may it be so.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bring on Winter

It’s raining! The pounding of the drops on the roof of our yurt is sometimes deafening! Living in a yurt keeps us close to the outside. The vinyl exterior protecting us from the elements allows us clear auditory access. Our wood fire keeps us toasty warm. In the winter, the challenge is everything else that makes it necessary for us to go outside.

When the rains come, slugs emerge! They pull their way up from underground. Slugs like moisture. Sometimes I frantically shake a fat one off my toothbrush wand, or cautiously avoid stepping on one as I walk.  I check my cup in the morning before I pour my coffee, and open up the towel hanging near the outside shower before I dry my face in the morning. Slugs appear anywhere!

Slugs are not my favourite creatures, although, over the years, they have unsuspectingly guided my transition to living in co-existence. I remember the first time I saw a slug. I was with my stepson, Josh. We joked about bar-b-quing them. They look pungent and meaty. I’m guessing someone, somewhere in the world must know how they taste!  I have never done it! I never will!

Cooking can be a bit a challenging when the wind blows and the air is wet and freezing. Sometimes I am pick pine needles out of our soup and dishes. Towels take forever to dry on their own, and the small ponds that accumulate around the kitchen platform can sometimes get quite deep.

The ground is very dry from this year’s lack of rain. With my hot pink gumboots I can go anywhere when it rains, as long as the ‘pools’ don’t reach my knees. Sometimes it comes pretty close. The interesting thing is, though, by the time the rain stops, the ground has absorbed the puddles. The earth is endlessly thirsty.

Above, the maple leaves are golden with patches of orange and green as they flutter gently and rhythmically to the ground. I sit and watch. Tenderly the trees release their tired babies to create a blanket on the ground. The gaps left behind opens up to sparkles of sunlight streaming through. Nature gently implies the change that is coming! Maple leaves surround the circumference of the outside of the yurt. We gather them to make a blanket for our flowers.

We’ve eaten the last lettuce from the garden. Soon, all the gardens will be put to bed. Layers of leaves, horse manure, seaweed and fresh compost that we’ve created over the summer months blanket the gardens before the frost comes. Today I planted 56 cloves of garlic. Our greenhouse is ready. For the first time we will be experimenting with seedlings and winter growth.

Mice find their way to warmth as the weather changes. Somehow they have discovered the blanket that sits at the bottom of our composting toilet. We finally discovered how they get in, and have fixed the situation with steel wool around the inside lid. I haven’t seen a mouse in a long time, but my previous experiences keep me aware! I keep a stick next to the toilet and I rattle the pail before I sit.

Most of the time I am in awe knowing that I live in such a gorgeous place. I never tire of the spectacular views that surround me. Deer wandering through the woods sometimes find themselves on the roads. I drive past them slowly. Sometimes I roll down my window and speak softly to them as they group their family together finding food and comfortable shelter. Seeing deer as I drive softens my day!

The process of collecting, washing and storing our outside artwork is underway. The Tibetan prayer flags are removed from the trees and the oyster shell garden receives a complete cleanse. Every one of the shells gets washed and dried. It takes me a week to complete, and every year I wonder,  “Why am I doing this”? And then I remember…it is my meditation for the fall clean-up. I persevere. All the vases and ceramic pots get put in sheds or filled with inside plants. Soon we’ll be hanging tarps around the outdoor kitchen to ward off the winds and rain while we cook, and also around the outside shower to make sure the winds don’t blow the stream of water from the spout anywhere else but on our selves.

When the temperature drops below 10o the refrigerator gets placed back inside the little cabin. It’s so convenient outside, just steps away from our outdoor kitchen, which includes a double stainless steel sink, cabinets and our main source of cooking - a barbeque with an side burner. But, the fact is, we have to protect the fridge from the freezing elements. This is our second fridge in 10 years. We want it to last, at least until we move in to our new beautiful house next summer.

Living outside is definitely an adventure I love. And, it’s also exciting to know that this is our last winter without walls. By this time next year we will be settled into our new house. The progress is slow and solid, and we have a new home that we will love and  appreciate. It will be warm and welcoming! For now, though…bring on the winter!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Beam Me Up Scotty"

 Some of my kids say I’m a freak! When I walk down a street and someone walks towards me, I generally make eye contact with the person and say hello. Nine times out of ten the person is startled and surprised and, matching a smile to mine, responds with a similar greeting. People like to be acknowledged. Saying “hi” also says, “I see you.” And the response...any response, says “I am here!” Acknowledging others is at the heart of human connections. Human connection, neuro-scientists are discovering, is more basic than our need for food and shelter. Lack of human connection is more dangerous than smoking, drinking and overeating.

We live in an age of enhanced communication. high tech watches, Face book, Skype, Twitter, cellular smart phones, email, Face time - all contribute to our immediate access to information and possibilities for interconnectedness. Making contact from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world, any time of the day or night regardless of geographic location or time zone is more than possible. Nonetheless, our human connectedness is suffering.

I remember hearing about technology before I ever used a computer. Then, it was expected to reduce our ‘busy-ness’ in the world. Computers would make it more possible for us to have leisure time, since so much of what we were used to doing would be completed by technology.  Communication was supposed to be enhanced!
Most important to me is being face to face with people. Body language, facial expressions and proximity with option of touch are usually ideal. Next is telephone. At least then I get to hear a real voice, and clarifications in what we say is immediate. Voicemail, for me, is a great benefit. It allows me to be completely present with the person with whom I am speaking. If I get ‘beeps’ while I’m talking, I know the second caller can leave a message and I’ll call them right back.

 “Your call is very important to me”. If I’m not home or simply not available the idea is to leave a message so I know you’ve phoned. I will call back! In fact, listening to the message from people I know is, in itself, inspiration to make that return phone call.  Today’s practice, however, is that people don’t leave messages very often! Our son has said quite blatantly, “I don’t leave messages. It’s not my style.” What’s that about?

There’s a great deal of irony in the deterioration of communication. 30 years ago there was promise of great connections. “The world is shrinking” sociologists would say. Technology is advancing, we were reminded. Sending messages is immediate! I have a vivid memory of Leonard Nemoy lifting his wrist to talk into his watch “Beam me up, Scotty!” which precipitated his immediate disappearance. How come I don’t get to ‘beam up’ when I ask?

Anywhere we travel in the world, we find people walking the streets with their heads down and their thumbs thumping on devices. Whole groups of people sit around tables in restaurants communicating with other individuals somewhere else than where they are, neglecting those sitting with them. Our attention, too often, is on our devices, not on each other. We need to talk to each other, make eye contact, smile, even shout out “Good morning to you!”
Did you know that the word “multitasking’ originated in the field of technology? It refers to the computer’s ability to process several tasks or computer jobs concurrently. As a civilization, we respond to computer practice by modelling. Multi-tasking is an emotional high, not cognitively efficient. Alfie Kohn’s statement “Too much, too fast, don’t last,” reinforces this idea. In our busy, fast paced lives, where we fill our days ‘doing’ stuff, often we forget to stop and take the time to reflect on what we’re doing. “What did I just do?” “How do I feel about it? How does it affect me?” Instead we just jump from one ‘thing’ to another and fail to integrate the experience in our whole being.

Ironically, computers don’t really multi-task. They ‘time-slice’. Each programme runs for a millisecond or more and the operating system switches to the next programme. The computer’s use of time slicing is unnoticeable to the human experience. Our brains works like that too. Remembering can only happen when we take the time to process new information in our cerebral cortex. We prevent that result when we jump from one activity to the next and avoid processing the information.

I recently attended a conference that is sponsored by The Dalai Lama Centre For Peace and Education at U.B.C. The conference highlighted Human Connection in a Digital World. parenting, teaching and learning and enhanced socialization were all discussed within the context of our growing use (and abuse) of technology. Peter Senge, a leading scientist in Systems Thinking, gave the keynote address. He reminded me of the difference between machines (receiving information from the outside-in) and human beings (receiving information from the inside-out)

Humans have feelings and emotions, create originality, understand situations, think constructively, and behave with conscience. Computers don’t!!!

When did the word friend become a verb and not a noun?

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Accident

My angels have been around me, sharing important messages!

In June I had a rather challenging scooter accident close to home on a gravel road. Skidding on the pebbles my bike revolved 180% and ended up on the other side of the road in a ditch facing the opposite direction. I immediately picked myself up, grabbed the scooter by the handlebars and attempted to pull it out of the ditch. I was unaware of the blood that covered my left side. I did not feel the pain. I thought nothing of any injuries. I just went into survival mode and attempted to get my self physically back on track. Imagine the scene.

Within minutes on the empty road, two friends drive past. Seeing me in this state they stop, insist I get into their car and drive me to the clinic on the other side of the island. There, the doctor thoroughly cleans the skin on my arms and sides. He carefully covers the abrasion with antiseptic cream and, using oversized bandages, covers the entire area. “Keep this completely covered for two weeks. Keep it out of the water and treat it as if it were a 3rd degree burn. You’ll be okay.”

I did exactly what he said and within 10 days the skin on my arms was healed and I was able to return to my swimming practice in the ocean. Other than some scabbing and dryness, the outer evidence of my trauma disappeared. That’s when the inner pain began to become apparent. My shoulder hurt and it was difficult for me to even lift my left arm.

I knew the pain was severe. I could identify the general area, but, really, I was unable to pinpoint the source. This made it challenging for me to target repair. Xrays finally proved a tear in my rotator cuff. Surgery was discussed, and, having helped my oldest son to recover from the same surgery, I knew that this was something I wanted to avoid.

A local physiotherapist and healer on the island easily tapped into the source of my pain. Discovering that my scapula was slightly askew, she gently moved it back into place and taught me how to reinforce its position gently and securely. Since that hour spent in her office, I have felt no pain.

I am convinced that my accident was a message from the angels in my life, and I have been working through this message all summer. As I get closer to the answer I feel a sense of ease and I surrender to confronting the obvious as it presents itself.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me, "Were you happy as a child?”

The short answer is yes. And upon reflection I ask myself how happy could I have been? I left home when I was 14 and finished high school in Israel. I never went back to the U.S. Instead I married a boy I met in Israel and moved with him to Canada. I’ve been here ever since.

I truly believe in the purposefulness of my angels and the profound connections between spiritual and emotional (and physical) energies. The Hebrew word for angel is malach. It is also the word for messenger. The idea that “things happen for a reason’ opens me up to the receptivity of the guidance made available to me through the events and experiences I have. What, then, is the message being offered by my accident?

Having reached this older age, I am no longer living in trauma. I have the luxury and the desire to settle into a peaceful existence. My surface injuries are healed completely with some evidence of scars, and the deep pain has subsided. I no longer need bandages, nor am I in ‘survival mode’ pulling my crashed motor scooter out of the ditch.

Instead, I am at a stage in my life where I have the time and clarity to devote my attention to me. I can embrace the childhood trauma and begin to put pieces together. I can clearly identify the source of the pain so that I concentrate on those areas, attending to them openly, addressing any soreness I might feel there, and grow the love for the child in me with unconditional affection and compassion.
Yoga, meditation, deep conversations with friends, and understanding my own development, have all contributed to my growth. Being a part of a meaningful, supportive and loving relationship for the past 25 years helps too! At 60 years old, the surface abrasion is cleaned up and healed. The inner pain is targeted and manageable. I am strong enough now to confront it with confidence, clarity and authenticity.  Only now am I really ready!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Little Girl Inside

My little girl
There’s a little girl deep inside of me. I know her well though we’ve not really spoken until now. I’ve seen her photograph periodically. I’ve never seen her smile. I recognize her though we’ve never met. I’ve heard her voice whispering to me over the years. She’s mostly afraid, demure and very lonely.

I am just now beginning to seek out the little girl inside of me and reassure her. It is important to let her know she is loved and cared about notwithstanding any imperfections she might have. I can do that. I’m the only one who can. She stays back still, unsure and insecure. But I persevere and continue to reassure her.

My dear friend, Naomi recently turned me on to the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi, the culturally acceptable idea that beauty is imperfect, impermanent, and ultimately incomplete. In essence, Wabi-Sabi is the art of imperfection.

Teenager me
Aren’t we all like that? Those of us who search below the surface of our daily lives digging into deeper territory, making sense of our existence, thinking (sometimes too much) about ways to improve our world, can only remain happy if we embrace the ‘Wabi-Sabi ness of life. We are each…every one of us on a journey of exploration, inquiry, self-reflection, and growth. And satisfaction can be realized once we accept our limitations. We remain…always…seeking!

For me, right now, appreciating wabi-sabi in my life simply means quieting my mind, becoming more present in my natural surroundings and opening up to accept things as they are instead of trying to change them. This depends on my ability to slow down, allow my self to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’, and lovingly embrace my fears with openness and compassion.

Years ago I participated in a workshop for “Landscape Design”. I saw various photos of garden beauty, heard about examples of what to do to create an accessible and practical garden, and was inspired about the abundant possibilities of how to make our land, in her natural essence, more beautiful and workable. And…the most important lesson I learned during that workshop is to remember how valuable it is to know when to sit back and enjoy your garden! I envision sitting back on a comfortable chair, at the end of the day, the sun is setting and the air is cool. I’m happy, and the weeds I see are part of the beauty. I don’t need to get up to pull them. Things are just the way they are…and that’s good!

At sixty I am meeting that imperfect child. I am realizing the losses that she felt and the mistakes that she made, as a child and even as a young adult and mother. I have to say, the journey, so far, has been adventurous and wild and I love the person who she has become. It’s wabi-sabi…loving the uniqueness and exceptionality of the life she has created. Now it’s time to enjoy her in all her imperfect beauty.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nothing's Wrong

I have just fallen off a whirlwind of activity. Finishing end of the year school responsibilities, preparing for next year and setting up workshops and conferences to attend, travelling and spending good time with friends all contribute to my ‘busyness’.

In the last two months I have journeyed to 9 different cities in the United States and Canada. I attended my High School Reunion in Ft. Lauderdale Florida (graduation 1972). And rode horses in the red rock hills of Sedona with my grand daughter, Stella. I dipped into L.A. California for lunch with my son and daughter-in-law and escorted my 8 year old grand son back to Gabriola for a week of visiting with myself and Sabba. I spent two days visiting with and reading books to my mother in Connecticut. I watched our (ridiculously strong) daughter, Jacquie compete in The CrossFit Regionals in Tacoma, Washington while sharing a ‘catch up’ weekend with old friends in the area. I have luxuriated in the Hot Springs of Northern B.C. with close friends from my childhood, and while there, we stayed on an old newly renovated boat complete with a collection of kayaks, canoes and row boats all available for our use. The owner, a wild, loving and generous gourmet chef who loves gathering groups of people together and serving, prepared our meals!

Paul and I have had at least 25 days of visitors in the past 2 months. We move ourselves into the tent to give our guests the experience of sleeping in our yurt. We’ve been loving the numerous reconnections with old friends and family!

The last two glorious weekends we’ve been involved with Music festivals (Vancouver and Duncan) where music, exciting people, good food and gorgeous sunny days prevailed.

When I reflect on my life as an observer, I am awestruck. My life looks so richso fullso exciting! So, how come I’m not feeling the joy? Why, when someone asks me “Was it fun?” I can’t answer truthfully, “Yes”?  I’m just not having fun. What’s going on here? The fact of the matter is. there’s nothing wrong!

Alfie Kohn, a prominent educator once expressed a wonderful concept that taught me something important about long-term learning. Alfie said, “Too much, too fast, don’t last.” He was describing the need to slow down when we teach and allow for, and even facilitate the learning to occur. Input of information can be varied and exciting and interesting, and, if we forget to incorporate the process of reflection, so much of that stimulus becomes lost.

From my Yoga practise I have come to appreciate the ultimate need for Savasana. Savasana is the Sanskrit work for “corpse pose”. It’s practised by lying flat on my back with as much of my body making contact with my mat as possible. My shoulders touch the ground, making sure that my heart remains open. Here I am totally relaxed with my arms slightly away from my sides and the backs of my hands on the ground. My palms open up towards the sky. My legs, also relaxed, open slightly.

Most importantly, Savasana is an opportunity to ground myself, gather together the energy around me, including that energy I have used, and bring it within. I begin my practise in Savasana and end it there too with many opportunities to settle into the pose after asana flow. It’s a time to integrate the postures and allow myself to settle them within to better become a part of who I am.  If I just flowed through my practise, I would miss the chance to allow my body to embrace the moves and make sense of the postures.

My life is full. It is rich and exciting. Some times it can get a bit overwhelming. I want to enjoy every moment and be intentional about taking the time to do just that. Being quiet, allowing for time to absorb, and being in and with each moment as much as I can is essential. I always want my heart to remain open. There is nothing wrong. I just have to make the space to remember that!

There is nothing wrong.
I have strength and love inside.
Time to discover

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Collaborative Competition

Competition usually implies one winner and many losers. I like the idea that “there’s enough room at the top for everyone”. That way, more people become winners!

Paul and I just spent 3 days watching our daughter Jacquie compete in the CrossFit Regional Games in Tacoma Washington. Qualifying for this event is not easy, requiring hours and hours of daily training and a focus on healthy eating and clean living. Just qualifying for the Regionals is an extraordinary accomplishment!

CrossFit is a fitness program that is inclusive and uses everyday life activities as a guide to the exercises. The CrossFit culture considers the heaviest loads we carry in our daily lives and training is determined with the idea of “the more work you do in the least amount of time, the more intense the effort.”  Practicing CrossFit, then, is considered to be the ‘sport of fitness’.

Jacquie has been practicing CrossFit for 5 years. She has always been a physically strong girl, involved in gymnastics in her childhood and dance as she grew into her teens. Competition was something she avoided. She seemed to love the sport, and, traditionally lost interest when competition became the ‘next step’.

As a teacher, I acknowledge and honour the need for including competition in planning my lessons. The challenges provided by ‘performing better than’ someone else often inspire better performance. A little bit of stress could sometimes enhance results.  I am mindful too, that too much stress can also jeopardize performance. Fear of failure often supersedes the desire to try. I am convinced that many young people don’t even attempt to learn something new because they are afraid that they won’t be successful. (“I sure would like to be an accountant, but the exams are so difficult”, or “I’m not good enough. I might as well go into retail”)

Years ago while attending a Franklin Covey seminar I was introduced to an exciting model for healthy competition. The scenario described is of a tennis match where all levels participated and no one was ‘eliminated’. Scoring lower than others simply shifted the match in which a participant played but everyone played until the end. There is a winner, and, I suppose, a loser, and the point is that ‘everybody wins because everybody gets to play’. Malcolm Gladwell, (Outliers) also reinforces the idea that, when the focus is redirected from ‘winning’, everyone continues to be part of the game, and each player improves in her/his sport. Simply practicing improves performance. How ironic that those who need the most practice are eliminated from that opportunity.

“There’s enough room at the top.” That’s an idea I believe in strongly. On our island of Gabriola there are many people with wonderful progressive ideas. So much of what is promoted here focuses on similar concepts… inclusivity, health, mental wellness, mindfulness, participation, and appreciation. These are ideas that so often come up in workshops, meetings and other places of gathering. We all want similar things, we simply do it in different ways. That’s a good thing because the more ways we do something the more apt we will be to connect with a diverse group of people. That’s what we want - to have everyone involved.

In CrossFit there is awareness that natural camaraderie, competition and the love of the ‘game’ constitutes enough inspiration to play. Fear of failure defined by one person performing better than another, creates unnecessary stress, even absolute fear, which often leads to nonparticipation. In CrossFit, competition happens only with self. Use of white boards as scoreboards, recording information, clocking performance, and clearly outlining and defining rules and standards increases motivation and, ultimately, performance.

Jacquie is a winner simply because she is playing at The Regionals. I love watching the way she concentrates on what she is doing. Her deep breaths, inhaling slowly and completely with both hands spread wide over her knees as she hunches over her folded body, eyes directed to nowhere, Her deep focus and meditative stance during each activity reinforces her ‘being present’. She never gives up… not even when her performance is slower and/or not as great as she would have wanted. She cares about her self. And she is also there to support and root for others. Her skill and physical endurance continues to grow. When the weekend ends, there are many highlights and accomplishments, and apart from the joy that is evident, the tears that are shed are only tears of joy. Everyone this weekend is a winner! What a wonderful feeling for all!